Thompson slid the disks across the table.

“This is it, then?” Jacobs asked, “Everything’s on there?”

“That’s all of it,” Thompson said, as he stood to leave.

Jacobs stared at the disks on the table in front of him in disbelief. The whole thing had been so anti-climactic. After all the hard work he’d put into this, he was expecting the actual exchange to be a little more…dramatic. At least they should have met in a grimy, low-lit diner rather than a Starbucks. Hell, even high school kids buying beer from a friend of a friends’ older brother had more gravitas.

Well, Jacobs thought, I always did have more imagination than was good for me. Still, he knew that if he got up and left right after Thompson, he’d draw suspicion. Exactly whom he’d draw suspicion from was a little uncertain, as the only other people in the Starbucks were a soccer mom, a businessman on his lunch break, and a hipster with the most ridiculous facial hair Jacobs had ever seen. Of course, he knew that it was quite possible that there was someone sitting in the parking lot watching him. Quite possible. Very possible. Most likely. Definitely. He sighed and sipped his coffee, trying not to let his impatience and anxiety show. After what seemed like eternity, he finally drained the last of it. Stuffing the disks into his briefcase, he left. As he drove home, Jacobs glanced up in the mirror and felt a twinge of fear that quickly grew into panic. Hadn’t he seen that grey Toyota before? Was someone following him? He glanced at the speedometer, careful not to accelerate out of fear of alerting his pursuer that he had noticed anything unusual.

I can’t go home, Jacobs thought, I have to lose this tail. He didn’t let himself consider the fact that anyone following him probably already knew where he lived.

Jacobs decided that the best way to shake off suspicion was to act as frustratingly normal as possible. He made up several errands to run, and spend the rest of the day visiting the grocery store, the barber shop, the hardware store and even an ice cream parlor, but he could never get away from that grey Toyota.

As the sun went down, Jacbos was desperate. Not only was he dying to take a look at what was on the disks, but he was afraid that whoever was following him might do something drastic once the sun was down and there were less people on the road. Taking a desperate chance, he took a wild left on a red light across two lanes of blaring traffic. Glancing in the rear view mirror, he was satisfied to see that nobody was following him. He quickly turned down several side streets and back lanes and finally arrived home.

Glancing around carefully to be sure that he hadn’t somehow been followed, Jacobs slipped inside. Bolting the door and drawing the curtains, he heaved a sigh of relief as he sat down in his computer chair. He took the disks out of their cases and loaded them into his computer.

6 thoughts on “Paranoia”

  1. The reader expects you to say what’s on the disks at the end (and expects it to be something ridiculous to justify the title “Paranoia”). I don’t know if the way you ended the story plays off on that enough or makes enough of the fact that you’re not saying what it is. But I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Yeah, I didn’t feel exactly comfortable with the ending, but I feel like I rely too much on the “oh it seemed like it was this but it was totally something else gotcha” endings, so I left it open-ended. I probably could have done it a little better, at least made it less abrupt.
    Thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

  3. To me, as a reader at least, the great thing about your writing is that it hasn’t seemed like you’ve relied too much on “gotcha”s. I understand your fear of being formulaic, but I think you’re safe since your endings are so original and stand alone from eachother. And also, I guess twists-at-the-end are a hallmark of your genre (suspense) so seems abrupt if they lack one.

    After all of that, I demand a sequel – Paranoia 2: Ringo’s Not Dead.

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