The Handsome Man

The plan suddenly made sense.

At least to him. They were oblivious. If only they’d realized when they’d looked at his sweet smile. A smile that seemed to light up his pale blue eyes, like the pallid sun on a winter’s day.

By God, did he know how to use that smile!

With the turning up of his lips, he charmed the pretty ladies who wandered by. A polite nod of his head to hurrying husbands loaded down with groceries and a wide grin to shy but laughing children, filled them with confidence and calm. Yes, he knew how to charm.

He sat with his broad back leaning against a heavy, brick pillar. The fashion in which he sat, with one leg lazily crossing the other, suggested that he was a carefree man, with nothing important on his mind. His left eyebrow raised. His lips sneered slightly. That was certainly a sign.

Yet no one noticed. To everyone strolling through the sunlit plaza, he was just an attractive man, a family man perhaps, soaking up the sun.

No one, not even the ever-curious children who frolicked nearby, would have guessed that he in fact did have a purpose that day, a reason that gave him the right to be out on one of those glorious, hot summer days. Even the way that the wind ceased, leaving a choking heat, was an ominous enough warning.

A warning that went unheeded.

Perhaps it was the mirthful time of the year that blinded them. July 4th. Independence Day. Or were they simply blind because they knew that here, in their safe, predictable town, nothing deplorable could happen? Either way, they were oblivious to his nether side. They saw only what he seemed to be. Undeniably handsome, a little too gaunt to be stunning, but attractive nonetheless, he sat and rested…and waited.

It was his calm demeanor that distracted unwanted attention. Attention to the thick, black coat that he wore around his body. Attention that might arouse questions.

This was a man that didn’t care for questions.

A whispered breeze ever so slightly ruffled his hair, which had been respectably tied away from his face. A small droplet of sweat formed on his forehead. The heat? Or nerves?

But despite his black clothing, the beading perspiration on his brow and his calm to a fault manner, he smiled on. The cheekbones in his face began to ache, such was the force of his smile, while his lips dried and cracked.

A glow seemed to radiate from him and his smile. Some that passed by, saw him as more than just another husband or father. These people felt their spirits uplifted when they looked into his smile.

But they couldn’t see what the lurked in the depths behind his smile, couldn’t see how he mocked them. In the eyes of passers-by he was simply an average, jovial citizen. Oh how wrong they were. Fatally wrong.

The golden clock in the centre of the plaza, tolled a final warning to all. The hour of three had come and now the clock struck, once, twice, thrice.

Like a death knell, the clock called to the man.

His smile slipped. Shattered.

A cool breeze stirred.

Those in the plaza, over one hundred people, felt a dark cloud shadow them. Eyes turned to him as he stood. Mothers’ instinctively reached for their children, while men stiffened in alarm.

Finally, they saw him for who he was. For what he was.

Standing tall in what seemed the centre of still bodies, a scowl now upon his once smile-tainted face, the man removed his coat. Slithering off his lithe body, the coat fell away to expose what he had been hiding.

A series of wires, red as blood and yellow as roadside warning signs.

The wires connected to what looked like red candlesticks that had been bound to his body with black electrical tape. In the man’s sweaty palm he held a crude plastic box, connected by a wire to the red candlesticks. To the dynamite. On the black plastic box was a rubber button, red like the wires, sitting impatiently, aching to be caressed.

The breeze died.

He pressed the button.

Silence was broken, blue sky blackened and breathing ceased. The bomb exploded in a shower of orange flame, abruptly cutting short the lives of many.

Men died, women burned, children were crushed.

And the man, the handsome man, met death quickly, more quickly than all the rest in the face of his bomb.