The Paul Series pt. 2

short story, writing

Here’s what Paul sees after Jacob’s conversation with Angel…

 I missed the last quarter of the game. So that was great. My wife also burnt the meatloaf, so I spent dinner scrapping the blackest bits off and crunching on the less black bits. My son refused to talk about anything other than macro- something or rather or whatever the hell he’s learning in that fancy collage we spend twelve grand a year on.

I don’t know this Jacob kid, but I hate him. I watch him from around the corner, behind a giant shrub. He’s bugging that girl he’s sick for. They talk for a minute, and she stands inside, hidden behind the door the whole time. He’s itching to come inside, I can tell by the way he leans forward, shoulders hunching. He must say something the girl doesn’t like, because the door slams shut, leaving him frozen on the porch.

He just stands there for a good two minutes before he slowly turns and descends the steps. He stops at the sidewalk, glancing both ways, his hands balled in the pockets of his denim vest. His face is screwed into pain but shifts quickly into a smooth plain of nothingness. He starts quickly down the street, heading downtown.

Man this kid couldn’t tell rejection from an invitation to a dinner party. Either he’s stupid, or just a gluten for punishment. That girl looks way out of his league anyway, all blonde and beautiful.

I follow him discreetly for six blocks before he enters a coffee shop. Some fancy place where they serve you your drink in a ceramic mug instead of a Styrofoam cup and put root extracts from Mongolia or some shit in it.

How hard is it to sell straight black coffee?

I shake my head in disappointment and pull at the tie I’m wearing. It’s tight around my neck and choking me. My wife gave me this god-awful tie two years ago for Christmas and I have to pull it out of the closet every few months to make her happy.

The door rings a little bell when I push it open and one of the baristas smiles at me, a young girl with shiny eyes. It’s crowded in here, everywhere expresso drinking hippies with their laptops and barets sit in upholstered chairs. Jacob stands at the counter, ordering. I slip in line, three people behind him, and manage to catch the last bit of the conversation.

“I’m sorry sir, we just ran out of that brew twenty minutes ago,” the barrister says. He’s a young guy with glasses and zits who probably spends his weekends studying instead of getting laid.

Jacob’s hands curl into fits on the counter. “That’s the only brew I like. Go find some in the back and make me some.”

“Again, I’m sorry,” Glasses says. “Our shipment of that brew was delayed, so we don’t have any in store after we run out.” He laughs nervously. “Which we just did. Could I interest you in our featured brew?”

Jacob’s jaw clenches and he lashes out, knocking a container of straws off the counter. Glasses’ eyes go wide and he starts to look a little nervous. Jacob grabs his head and shakes it. Damn, that girl’s got him riled up.

“I’m sorry about that,” Jacob says, struggling to calm his tone. “Fine, I’ll just get a large of whatever that featured brew is.” He tosses a five dollar bill down on the counter. “Keep the change.”

Without another word, Glasses grabs the money and pours Jacob’s drink in record time. His hand shakes as he hands it over, liquid spilling over the edge of the mug. Jacob frowns, but takes the drink and heads over to a table in the corner.

The line disappears and I order a bagel, a whole wheat one with butter instead of cream cheese. I’m trying to lose a few pounds. “Does that guy come here often?” I ask Glasses.

He glances over to Jacob’s table for a second, his face getting a little red. “Yeah, he’s a regular.”

“Is he usually that pissy?”

Glasses hands me my bagel. “No, he’s usually pretty nice. But he does say weird stuff sometimes.”

My interest peaks. “Weird stuff? What kind of weird stuff?”

“I don’t know. He once asked me if I had a sister. My co-worker over heard him talking to himself about his ‘angel.’ Weird stuff like that.” He leans over the counter a little. “I think he’s crazy.”

“Thanks.”

With that, I take a seat at the long bar along the window. I watch Jacob out of the corner of my eye. So really all I still know about this kid is that he’s love sick and unstable. Creepy, even. But I still can’t how he could be capable of murdering anyone. I shove the bagel into my mouth, ripping it in half in one bite and chewing roughly. This is such a waste of my time. What am I supposed to tell the Chief when I get into work on Monday? He’s going to chalk up my lack of evidence to lack of conviction for this fucking job.

Jacob shifts in his chair, leaning forward so that his elbows rest on the table. He spins the half empty mug idly with his fingers, his attention on something else, or someone else. I follow his gaze to a middle-aged man across the shop. He sits alone at a table, eyeing a group of teenage girls. They laugh obnoxiously and toss their hair. Most likely going to grow up to be a bunch of little teases. They get up to leave, tossing their garbage in the trash. As soon as they leave, the man gets up, leaving his garbage behind. Jacob gets up a second later and crosses the shop quickly.

I abandon my half eaten bagel and follow after him. The man ghosts behind the girls, getting closer and closer. He’s about to clap one of the girls on the shoulder when Jacob grabs his shoulder and whispers something to him. The man turns his head, his eyes shoot open, the blood vessels in them popping out.

Then, midsentence Jacob stops speaking and turns around suddenly. The man doesn’t wait around and flees across the street. Jacob narrows his eyes at me. “Why are you following me?”

“I’m not. I’m a little turned around here and I can’t find a cab. I was gunna ask that guy if he knew where I could get one, but you scared him away.” I hook a thumb through my belt loop and try to look relaxed. I haven’t had to act undercover in years, but I think I’m pulling it off.

Jacob’s face is plain again, no trace of agitation or suspicion. His lips taught across his face into something resembling a snarl. “Cab’s that way, now piss off,” he says gesturing lamely down the street.

I watch him slide silently out of sight around the corner of the coffee shop. Rude little bastard.

I think back to the pattern of what the disappearances had in common. That guy was going after those girls obviously. Now, whether that was to ogle them, or to try and rape them is the question. If Jacob thought the latter, was he trying to exact his own kind of justice? Suddenly I’m not so sure this kid is what he seems.

-Collins

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