Alligator Smiles

A Tale of Romance & Hidden Crime Under the Florida Sun

Part One

Chapter One

People along that particular coastline didn't go out much at night. They had moved to Palmetto County, Florida, for the tropical climate, but something about its primitive nature made them uncomfortable. The sounds of alligators mating in the moonlit canals next to their homes frightened them. The strange pre-dawn cries of unusual birds made them uneasy. The newest inhabitants of what used to be a swamp played bridge at night, or watched television, or went to their development's clubhouse once a week to play bingo.

Highway 19 was almost deserted at night. That's why it was easy for the two men in the black sedan to follow her. They had been watching the office building for four hours before she came out and got into her car. Their instructions were simple: terrorize the woman in the BMW. Get rough if necessary.

She saw the headlights coming up fast from behind, but she assumed the car would just speed past her on the empty highway.

Probably just some kids with a lot of beer under their belts, she thought.

When the car braked at her rear bumper and stayed right on it, she was angry.

"Okay, hotshots. I'm driving at the speed limit. You want to go faster, you go around me," she muttered.

The car stayed at her bumper, nudging it occasionally, for a mile. She refused to go faster. She was a woman not easily intimidated or frightened. People knew her as a tall, strong woman of middle age who was naturally optimistic with an easy laughter, even after the early death of her beloved husband.

Dammit. I'm not going to play this game. She put on her turn signal when she saw an intersection ahead on the right.

Just then the car pulled off her tail as if to pass. Instead of passing her car it moved alongside. When she turned her startled face to look at the car she saw two men — perhaps Cubans, was her impression — in the front seat of a battered black sedan. The dark man on the passenger side grinned at her and mouthed an obscenity that communicated his intent even through closed windows.

She missed the intersection and her chance for escape. Scared, she began to drive faster. She said a frantic prayer aloud, "God! Make them leave me alone, please!"

They kept dangerously close.

She was frightened now and not thinking clearly. She floored the accelerator to eighty miles an hour. Possible escape routes flashed by her. The black sedan stayed abreast, toying with her, nearly scraping the car.

Then they came at her hard, not worried about any damage to their car. Feeling the impact and hearing the grind of metal on metal, she swung the steering wheel sharply to the right. Her last thought as her car flew off the road at over eighty miles an hour was, This can't be happening!

An elderly man, getting into his car in front of the all-night pharmacy, saw the BMW hurl toward him. It hit the telephone pole fifty feet from where he stood. The sound of the crash stunned him. He saw the black sedan slow down momentarily and then speed away. It was ten minutes before the help he summoned from the pharmacy’s telephone pulled the woman from the burning car. By that time the Cubans were already south, past Port Pompano. They were arguing about which restaurant in Miami served the best black bean soup.

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Alligator Smiles

Alligator Smiles...
A Tale of Romance & Hidden Crime Under the Florida Sun