Making It Better. By CpSingleton © 2017
She killed herself.
One year to the day, after surviving the attack by The Golden Path, she did what those bastard terrorists couldn’t.
The world of media and social platforms, who played a part in goading her to that final act, should be ashamed of themselves. And prosecuted.
Though that would never happen, would it?
I was the head of the bomb squad sent in that day, a year before her death.
There she sat, in the empty boardroom, strapped with enough C4 to level the city and she just shrugged at my arrival. It was as if all she’d done was lose her door key and was waiting outside her front door for us to let her in.
Such strength and dignity that belied her young age.
‘You okay, love? Don’t panic. We’ll have you out as soon as possible,’ I told her through the muffled voice of my protective suit.
‘I’ve had better days,’ she grinned.
It wasn’t the answer I’d expected. I’d seen bigger men reduced to snots of tears, begging for me to save their lives, and here was this young woman, as calm as cheese.
As I edged closer to her, I saw she had indeed cried at some point. Her bloodshot eyes and ruined makeup told me so. Whatever had pulled her back was now emanating from her bright smile.
‘You’re very brave,’ I told her.
‘Far from it,’ she replied. ‘I just want to hold me daughter again, and screaming like a moron won’t get my baby back into my arms, will it?’
‘That’s the attitude,’ I told her, smiling through the visor I wore. ‘What’s your name, love? I’m Dougie.’
‘Karen Mathers. Nice to meet you, Dougie. I’d shake your hands, but, well, you know…’
She indicated to her binds.
‘It does seem that they’ve done a good job of tying you up, doesn’t it?’
‘Kinky, eh?’ She quipped.
I laughed as I looked at the amount of rope they’d used on her. It was almost a signature for The Golden Path.
They followed the same M.O. each time: kidnap an unsuspecting victim with a child; bound the victim beyond necessity; inform the police of their intentions and where to find the unarmed child; wrap the victim in a stupid quantity of explosives; and then leave them in a high profile location to wait for the bloody fireworks to go off.
The only thing they changed each time was the detonation device. Some were mercury switches; others were pressure switches; with this little lady they’d gone old school and fitted a timer.
You’d think that should make it easier for me to diffuse, wouldn’t you?
If only life was so simple.
I shuffled behind Karen to take a closer look at the device. But straight away I noticed they’d fitted it with several bogey wires that might trip the bomb, speed the timer, or both.
In other words, the timer said three minutes, but it may be phoney, along with any of the wires.
It may sound weird for me to say, but I their craftsmanship impressed me.
‘Right, Karen,’ I began, slowing my breathing. ‘I’m gonna need you to stay as calm as you are and take my mind off things by telling me all about yourself.’
It was a usual trick of mine to focus the victim away from my work.
‘There’s not much to tell.’
‘Then make stuff up,’ I told her, before leaning around her shoulder and flashing her a reassuring grin.
‘Can you switch it off?’
‘Do you want to see your daughter?’
‘More than anything.’
‘And I need to visit my mum in hospital. Does that answer your question?’
‘I think so.’
‘Good. Now what’s your daughter’s name, Karen?’
I sought out the red wires as she spoke. They were hard to follow, but were most times the ones to clip first on such a set-up.
‘How old is she?’
‘Four. You definitely have her safe, don’t you? Please just tell me my baby is safe?’ She asked,
in and out of the other colours the red wire weaved. From fuse to timer, to… damn.
‘I’m assured by my colleagues she is safe and well. That’s how we found your location,’ I replied. ‘You married, Karen?’
The red wire was wound as tight as a boa constrictor around the brown to disguise its final position.
‘No,’ she told me.
I gave the brown wire a gentle tug with my long nose pliers, to check underneath…
the timer clicked into life and sped down from two minutes twenty to one minute nineteen. I let go of the brown in a heartbeat and followed the green wire…
‘Just split up. He’s a bit of a psycho.’
‘So there’s hope for me yet, then?’ I called over her shoulder.
‘You get me out of this and I’ll gladly go for a drink with you.’
‘Incentive,’ I laughed. ‘Done.’
And there it was: jammed between a dummy green and brown; the red I needed. I took a long, deep breath.
‘What do you do for a living, Karen?’
I placed my pliers in a careful position to snip the correct red, whilst also being sure not to move any other wire.
‘At the moment I talk to you for a living. Or is that for my life?’
‘You’re a funny girl, Karen.’
The timer accelerated. Along with my heart.
And then stopped on 10 seconds.
The cheeky bastards.
‘I’m nearly done here, Karen. Carry on talking to me. What do you want out of life?’
‘Peace and happiness for my daughter and my limbs attached. You?’ She asked as I began cutting her free of her ropes with deliberate caution.
I could have told her I had finished, but I’ve been down that road before.
A while ago, many years previous, after thinking I was done and dusted, I missed a secondary device. I won’t make that mistake again.
‘Similar,’ I told her. ‘Less stress would be good.’
‘Then I think you’re in the wrong job, Dougie.’
My worries were for nothing. Within five minutes she was out of the bomb and ropes and crying. I mean really crying. There were tears, snot, hugs and kisses: the works. Karen Mathers: the first Golden Path bomb victim to survive.
We never did get that drink. Procedures and rules like to block happiness. I wish now I’d ignored bureaucracy and gone with her, anyway.
To what I hear, the dumb fucks in the social services had given little Amelia Rose to dear daddy that morning. He, being the psycho Karen said he was, threw the poor kid down the stairs, breaking her little neck, before hanging himself.
The press and social media went from loving Karen one minute to blaming her the next.
They hounded her and dredged up any piece of sewer shit they could to blacken her name. They even said that she’d sold herself to The Golden Path to get herself publicity.
I only knew her for a short time, but you can see into a person’s soul when they are going to die and hers was pure. Any game playing, all the cowardice, any ounce of nastiness will pop out under threat. She seemed scared, but brave, proud and thought only of her daughter. You heard it in her voice and saw it in her eyes.
Due to the official fucking secret’s act, I couldn’t tell anyone this.
25 years is a long time to wait, but I promise you, Karen, I will make it better.