Tommy hurried through the crowd with the long green duffel bag thumping against his thighs. He had an appointment. One he could not afford to miss. He needed to deliver his bag, with its contents intact, by 3 PM sharp. Even one second late could bring dire consequences, which he was not prepared to face.
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Having serpentined his way through the pedestrians, he stopped at the street corner and waited for a break in the traffic. He breathed in deeply and his lungs desperately sucked up the air while he glanced down at his watch. “2:51” blinked on the digital display.
“9 minutes,” he thought. “That’s not a lot of time.” He pulled the bag up to his chest and he could feel the bag’s hard lumpy prisoner. Or was it prisoners? He could not be sure and in fact, he didn’t really care. The only thing that mattered was time and he was running out of it.
He glared at the streetlight that refused to change colors and decided he could wait no longer. Ignorant of caution, he stepped off of the curb...
“Hold it right there!”
Tommy looked back and saw two men pushing through the crowd. He barely avoided being hit by a cussing, irate driver as they swerved their car around him. Crossing against the light, and maneuvering around several more horn blaring motorists, he arrived safely on the opposite side of the street.
Not wanting to draw more attention to himself than necessary, he continued on at a normal pace, wondering at his luck of not being run over. That elation was soon driven from his thoughts. The two men were still following him. They didn’t care how much attention they drew as they shoved people roughly out of their way.
Tommy knew this area quite well. The next alleyway offered him hope of escape. Another glimpse at his watch told him he had seven minutes to reach his destination. It was only a few blocks away.
He turned the corner in front of a flower shop, knowing it had a side entrance as well as a front entrance. Pushing through the side door from the alley, he immediately walked towards the front where he could watch for his pursuers to pass by. Obscured by plants with giant flowering foliage, he watched them run by, turn the corner and disappear down the alley.
“May I help you?”
Tommy practically jumped out of his skin as a woman had quietly walked up and surprised him from behind. Instinctively, he clutched the duffel bag closer, wrapping both arms around it.
“Uh, no, I’m fine... thank you. I was looking for some... roses.”
“Ah. Well you ran right by them when you came in the side door.” The Lady pointed them out with a sweeping open hand, inviting him back to have a look.
“Yes, I did, didn’t I? Most impressive display. I have to be going though. Wrap them up, I’ll come back later.”
The Sales Lady, in a unbelieving, sarcastic response retorted, “All of them?”
“Certainly, I’ll be back.” Tommy left the shop, not even realizing what he had been saying. He did know time was slipping away. 2:54:52, five minutes left. Should be adequate if nothing else happened.
He peeked down the alley to make sure he was unobserved by the two men, and then crossed over to the next block. He was so intent on watching for his pursuers over his shoulder that he bumped into an old blind man with his duffel bag, knocking him down.
“Oh shit!” Tommy apologized as he helped him up. “I didn’t see you, I’m so sorry!”
“Dumb ass! Didn’t see me? You blind too?” The blind man yanked his elbow from Tommy’s grasp. “Whatcha’ in such a hurry for anyway. You afraid that duffel bag is gonna blow before you’re ready?”
“What?” Tommy asked dumbfounded. “How do you know...?”
“I can smell it. The canvas, I can smell it. I can smell everything.”
Tommy looked at the duffel bag. He sniffed it. He hadn’t noticed before. Sure enough you could smell the distinct odor of canvas.
“But you couldn’t possibly know it was a duffel bag.” Tommy’s suspicion of the blind man increased.
“Boy, you don’t know what you have until you loose it. People take everything for granted. I’ve been blind for twenty years. I notice more things now than I ever did when I could see.”
“You were carrying the bag on your left side,” he continued. “It could have been a canvas knapsack, but it hit me in the shoulder and knees, so it was to big for that. Pretty simple when you think about it. Whatcha’ going to blow up?”
“What are you talking about? I’m just delivering...”
The blind man cut him off. “Tick, tick, tick. Can’t hear it can you? Can’t hear, can’t smell, knocking down blind people! You’re in worse shape than I am.” Then, tapping his cane as he went, he walked away.
Tommy watched him go, totally distracted by what the man had said. He lifted the bag, listening intently for any sound from within. A sudden commotion at the alley interrupted his concentration. The two men who had been chasing him just ran out, knocking the blind man to the sidewalk once again.
He took off running, holding the duffel bag with a little more respect than before, not sure what to think about the contents. “Oh my god!” Tommy’s eyes bulged at the readout on his watch. 2:57:48, two minutes left. He looked back at the men in time to see one of them talking into a radio or cell phone. He seriously began to wonder what he had gotten into.
His cousin knew he was unemployed, and told him he had something lined up for him. All he had to do was deliver something to the address he had been given by 3:00. His cousin stressed that his boss said it was imperative that it was delivered on time.
He heard distant sirens approaching. It was 2:58:22.
Tommy knew his cousin was hooked up with some shady characters, but delivering a duffel bag seemed harmless enough. He made it to the building the delivery was to go to. He looked up at the ornate carvings over the entrance, and the name chiseled in the granite keystone below it.
“Stop right there or you’re dead!”
The crowd had scattered like flies and left a clear path between Tommy and the gun wielding men. His watch read 2:58:57.
He could see flashing lights approach through the traffic as he let the bag slip off his shoulder and bounce to the sidewalk. The two men cringed as he did this, and the reality of what was happening hit him. It really was a bomb. The building he stood before was the ‘Taylor Executive Plaza’. The Taylor accounting firm was cooperating with a federal Grand Jury investigation against the Rossini crime family, his cousins employer.
The arriving emergency vehicle screeched to a halt. One of the men had pushed him against the building and the other was scrambling for the duffel bag. It was 2:59:17.
The explosives team driving the bomb squad truck jumped out and opened the explosives containment vessel. The plainclothes detective gingerly carried the duffel bag to them and they carefully deposited it inside the Golan 10 explosives containment pod, clamping the door securely shut. Then they ran, yelling for everyone to get down...
The Golan 10 could contain 22 lbs. of exploding TNT, but it strained at the seams as the duffel bag exploded at exactly 3:00.
As Tommy was cuffed, he thought about how his cousin had set him up. Afterwards, he found out that his cousin had actually saved him, informing the police about the bomb when he found out what Tommy was actually ‘delivering’.
Tommy was loaded in a police cruiser. He noticed one of the plainclothes men questioning the blind man and wondered what the guy could possibly tell them, being blind and all.
The cruiser drove past the blind man. Tommy saw him take off his sunglasses, cleaning them with a tissue. He waved at Tommy as their eyes locked for a brief moment in a knowing stare...