Tom spoke into his headset to Mike who was behind a wall of sand bags. “Speak to me Mike. I’m recording. What are we looking it at?”
Mike cleared his throat. “It’s just what we thought. This bomb has the signature of our bomber all over it.”
“How so?” Tom asked.
“Well, it has the standard timer with a feedback loop. If we cut off the timer; the bomb will detonate. It was armed when it was set down and any attempt to move will also detonate it. The C4 and blasting cap are rigged so any attempt to remove them also detonates it.”
“Shit!” Tom whispered. “How much time do you have?”
Mike looked at the timer. “Twenty-four seconds.”
“Okay, you know how to handle this,” Tom said, trying to stay positive. “You’ve done the last two. Plenty of time.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m on it. I just have to cut this blue, black and green wires simultaneously. Piece of cake.” Mike looked at the green wire. It reminded him of his wife, Mary. The wire was the same shade of green as the shoes she wore when he fell in love with her. His mind flew back to the scene at her house so many years ago.
It was the night of the senior prom. They had dated all through high school, but it was during the senior prom that he knew – knew for sure she was the one. As she descended the stairs, the first thing he saw were those green patent leather shoes. Then came that green dress and finally Mary’s beautiful face with those gorgeous green eyes. Her hair had a matching green ribbon. Mike knew then that Mary was the one he wanted to marry, to bare his children and to grow old together. He was smitten. They married right after college.
Mary thought about those green shoes too. She loved those shoes and wore them even after they were married. She wore them for two baptisms and two confirmations. The dress didn’t fit well after the first kid was born and not at all after the second, but the shoes still fit. Mary wondered whatever happened to those shoes. Then she recalled putting them in a shoe box, stuffing newspaper around them and placing them in an old trunk in the attic. She decided to look for them later.
Bang! Mary was startled by the Honor Guard firing their rifles in salute of their fallen comrade. Mary’s mind snapped back to the present. A bugler started to play taps. A second bugler, hidden behind a small knoll played the echo. Mary started to cry when she saw Tom walking toward her with a tri-folded flag.
As Tom approached Mary with Mike’s flag he thought she still looked as beautiful as the day he first met her so many years ago. His mind wandered back to freshman year of high school. Tom and Mike had been best friends since grade school. They did everything together; sports, homework and even cheated. Finally, their math teacher caught them and tried to keep them separated by seating a girl between them. That girl was Mary. That didn’t work as Mary became part of their team. Teachers called them the three Musketeers. When Mike married Mary, Tom was the best man. They have been best friends forever. Now Mike was gone. Tears streamed down Tom’s face as he presented Mike’s flag to Mary.
Later, at the reception, Mary managed to corner Tom alone. “Tom, did you figure out what went wrong?”
Tom hung his head to avoid her eyes. “The investigation is still going on.”
Mary stuck her face inches in front of Tom’s and used her hand to raise his chin. “Tom, it’s me, Mary. Don’t give me that bullshit. He was my husband and your best friend. We’ve been friends since high school. Now tell me what you know.”
“Okay, okay. It’s not conclusive. We found what was left of the bomb. Mike knew what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to cut three wires simultaneously. But those wires weren’t cut -- none of them. He was talking to me and then he just went silent. I don’t know why. He never cut those wires.”
Mary stepped back and let Tom’s words sink in. “What happened? Why didn’t he cut those wires?”
Tom shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Well you must have a working theory. What do you think, Tom? Tell me the truth.”
Tom thought for a moment. “To tell you the truth, Mary. I think he had a flashback that lasted too long.”