Deanna didn’t want to go to Miami with her father. She lived in Key West and liked to stay there. Tom was in the accounting business on the island, but he would take her to the orthodontist in the city to check her braces every month. She realized the importance of the visit, but she wanted to go to school to see all of her friends. It was a better age then, in the l950s—1958 to be exact. Her mother had coaxed her by saying that she would be prettier and have more friends if she just had her teeth straightened. After she spoke briefly to Deanna, the mother again became engrossed with her favorite child, her baby two-year-old son who was her pride and joy.
“Sit down and have breakfast, Deanna. You don’t want to take the one hundred fifty mile trip on an empty stomach,” said Tommy. He was a man in his late forties with graying hair at the temples. He had naturally wavy hair, which his wife found to be his most attractive physical attribute.
“Honey, be sure to dress nicely,” Tommy continued. “It is always important to make a consistently good impression.”
“Don’t worry, Daddy. I will.” It was true that Deanna doted on her father. No man could possibly live up to him. “Miami is nothing but a bunch of traffic and parking lots, anyway. I will go to please you.” Deanna had her naturally blonde hair pulled back from her face. It was a perky pon tail and bounced when she walked, talked or moved her head. She was dressed in a sissy blouse with long sleeves, a finely pointed collar, and ruffles on the front, amplifying the small bosom Deanna was beginning to develop. She wore a pink dirndl skirt with the appliqué in chenille of a black poodle with a dog collar and chain fashioned from silver sequins. The chain ran clear to her waistband. The skirt billowed with the puffing support of at least three crinoline half-slips.
While Deanna and her father were eating their toast and drinking their tea, they both noticed an article in the paper titled, OVERSEAS HIGHWAY US 1 CONSIDERED DANGEROUSLY NARROW. The road had been built in the path of Flagler’s railroad which ran down to Key West. It was built on coral rock and had train trestles for the foundations of the bridges. Deanna generally experienced butterflies in her stomach when they drove on these bridges. In fact, she experienced butterflies and flip-flops in her abdomen as she looked down at the water from the window of the car.
“Be careful, today,” she told her father.
“I will be, Honey,” he said dabbing the tea from his lips with a white napkin embossed with little daisies.
Deanna knew that this was not necessarily true. He father had been a World War II bomber pilot and was inclined to fly down the roads at the controls of the car, rather than meander at the correct speed limit. Tommy got up from the table. Deanna took the hint and gulped down her last sip of prune juice her mother told her to take for the good of her bowels. She shuddered and set the glass down on the top of yellow fomica topped kitchen table. She rose and followed her father outside.
“Bye, Maxine,” her father said to his wife. Deanna said nothing because she knew that the words would fall on unheeding ears. Her mother was busy making airplane noises to the little boy in the high chair. The spoon was the airplane, and his mouth was the hanger. Mother had the food on the utensil zoom in through the hanger doors.
It was early; the light of the morning barely dawned. Father and daughter walked toward the sky blue Ford which had fins at the back and a sign in red which read “Ericson’s Accounting at Your Service. Call 392-5601.” Tommy took every advantage to advertise. They began their trip by pulling out of the drive way and heading down the small artery of US 1 which was called A1A. They went in the lane indicated by a sign that read North.
As they drove over the road, Deanna began to doze. She listened to the car’s radio blasting out the tunes of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” She was not aware of the time, but the sun was brighter than it had been when they pulled out of the drive way at the little white clapboard house in Key West.
“Honey, I’m going to pull into Stuckey’s here in Key Largo and have a cup of coffee. I’m a little sleepy,”
“Okay, Daddy. Can I have a Coca Cola?” asked Deanna.
“No. Take a Vernors’ Gingerale. Have them put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.”
Father and daughter were served their beverages, and sat quietly sipping them at the counter which had a line of red plastic covered swiveling metal stools. The clock on the wall read seven. It was still early. They would have time to make their nine o clock appointment at the orthodontist. They finished their drinks, got up from the counter and headed out the double swinging glass doors. It was a quiet morning, and the dew was just beginning to form on the grass that remained green even though it was the month of October. The earth was warming up from the cool autumn night. It was a guarantee of a day of pleasant weather. They got in the car and drove. The father pointed out the few sparse businesses that employed his services. Deanna focused her blue eyes on the foliage: palms, mangroves, seagrapes. The sky and the water seemed to blend together. They were lucky; the traffic was light, so far. Only tourists would be up this early to make their way to the resorts on the Keys.
Tommy sweated in his blue cotton short sleeve shirt. The car’s air conditioning was not at its peak. His hands were damp on the steering wheel. As they approached Lake Surprise, they experienced no other traffic. Deanna, awakening from her reverie, looked up and gasped. There was the wreckage of four cars. Two cars in the north bound land and two in the southbound lane. She and her father were the first on the scene.
“Come on. Let’s take a look,” said Tommy. “You are old enough to see this.” Deanna was a mature thirteen. With the mind of an accountant, Tommy began to estimate the cost of wrecked cars. He hadn’t counted on the human factor. The first car they went to was a red Chevrolet, and the driver was pinned in the seat and not moving. The second car had its front end smashed into the trunk; its make was indecipherable. The couple—a man and a woman—in the car was also unidentifiable. Blood was running everywhere. The third car was a Plymouth which had its front end crushed. The driver had his head over the steering wheel. He looked like a teenager, a dark-haired youth whose face was covered with gore. Deanna and Tommy moved to the fourth vehicle which was a late model black Cadillac. The passengers’ side had been ripped open, and the cracked shell revealed the bodies of three gray haired people. None of them stirred. There was only a slight moan from an old woman in the back seat whose silver blue haired scalp had been pealed back from her skull. Her head looked like an oozing pomegranate devoid of its outer peal. Her plastic beaded necklace had broken, and the small beads were scattered all over the road. The beads were black and glossy with a coat of red blood.
“Daddy, do something,” said Deanna with a touch of panic in her voice. The flip-flop in her stomach elevated in its intensity and the butterflies turned into dragons. She turned her head away and wretched the contents of her stomach onto the highway. The ice-cream and gingerale were splattered on the road. Her father held her head.
“We can’t do anything, baby. We have to wait for the authorities. Anyway, if we do the wrong thing, we could get sued.”
They heard the purr of a vehicle in the southbound lane. Then all was quiet. Two men got out of a dented John Deere green pick up truck. One was tall and thin. Dressed in jeans and a red sweat shirt. He must have been at least six feet four inches. The other man was short with his dirty green short T-shirt exposing a belly that lapped over the top of his grimy khaki work trousers.
“Thank goodness you are here,” said Deanna to the men.”
They did not respond. The tall one looked at Deanna and her father through dark brown eyes which had as much expression as two lumps of coal. “Well, Doug, looks like we fell right into something here,” he said.
“Sure looks like it,” Doug responded running his hand over his brown balding hair.
What did they mean? Deanna wondered.
Then her father said, “Let’s make ourselves scarce around here.” He grabbed her hand and headed back for the blue Ford. From the short distance of their car’s location, they could observe the activities of the two men. “Look! They are helping those people!” exclaimed Deanna.
“Hmmm,” said her father, “I am not so sure.”
Doug and the dark hared man whom Doug had called Art were pulling at the bodies in the wreckage. Deanna said, “What are they doing?” Her own question was answered by what she saw. Both men were first at the Cadillac and then on to the other vehicles. The blue Ford was close enough for Deanna and Tommy see the men removing the diamond rings from the fingers of the woman with the bleeding scalp. They had dragged her body out of the car. They took from the others rings, earrings, wallets, shopping bags and luggage of sundry items—all taken from the cars. They worked quickly looting the wreckage and taking the goods to their truck.
“Smokey will be here soon,” said Doug. “What are we gonna do about them two?”
“You mean the ones in the blue Ford?” retorted Art patting an object in his pocket.
Deanna didn’t know what he was doing. Was he touching the newly gleaned booty or what? she asked herself.
Like snakes slithering across the road, the two men headed the short distance toward the blue Ford.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Tommy.
As he and Deanna opened the door to the driver’s side and slid out, the fat man bellowed, “Stop right there, you two.”
“Git down on your knees,” the coal black eyes demanded of them.
“Don’t hurt us,” Tommy cried. “We saw nothing.”
Deanna’s stomach was in her throat. At her tongue. She heard a shot ring out and then another. Then all was silent.
“The bodies? What’s the plan?” Doug asked.
“We sure don’t want their car. It’s got some kind of sign on it. A dead give away. Let the meat wagon take them with the others.” reasoned the man called Art. They retreated to the green pick up, made a U turn and headed north on the Overseas Highway. Sirens and motors began to roar in the distance. On the road, their truck’s tires created smoke and made tread marks on the asphalt.