|Excerpt from PANDORA'S BOX
The white Lexus raced south on Semoran Boulevard toward a night flight from Orlando International
Airport. It flew past fast-food shops, gas stations, and shopping centers that lined both sides of the
multilane road, and it gleamed in the glare of their lights. The driver, a young woman, caught a scent
of hamburgers, but her mind was on the clock. Minutes were ticking until her flight, the last to Los
Angeles, left without her. As a whiff of pizza entered the car, she floored the accelerator and dodged
The night was Florida-sultry, but cool air from the car's vents blew across her. She glanced at the
speedometer's orange glow and noted that the odometer showed fifty miles. The dealer's sticker was
still on the window, and she inhaled the new-car odor.
At a red light, headlamps of a pickup truck behind her lit the interior. She used the glare to fluff her
brown curls in the mirror and brush a speck from her mint-green suit. Her hand caressed the sleek
fabric until the stoplight turned green. She shot away from the halted cars, sped through the aroma of
tacos, and soon left thinning traffic behind.
Abruptly, the road plunged into darkness, bordered by black woods and distant apartment buildings
behind walls. Despite her speed, headlights moved up close behind her. Her mirror showed the pickup
truck. It sat on big wheels, a redneck special. Her eyes searched ahead for lights and people.
Without warning, the truck loomed to giant size in her mirror and banged into her car. She screamed.
The truck dropped back, as if expecting her to stop.
"Oh, God, that was deliberate!"
Fear gripped her. The Orlando Sentinel that morning told of a woman raped and beaten by two men,
after their pickup truck intentionally caused an accident.
The truck lunged forward, growing huge in her mirror. She braced herself. It hit harder, staggering the
car with a loud BANG and tinkle of breaking glass. She fought the steering wheel while she looked
desperately for a police car, but traffic had become sparse. All she saw in the gloom were remote
apartment buildings and dark offices. The few drivers in other lanes ignored her. She was sure the
young man driving one car saw what happened. He stared at her when she waved frantically.
"Please help me!"
He turned his head and zoomed away. The truck dropped back. Its engine roared. She saw smoke
puff from its tires.
"Don't!" she shrieked.
It grew gigantic in her mirror and smashed into the car, slamming her against the steering wheel. Pain
shot through her chest. She sobbed with fright and pushed the accelerator to the floor, but the car
whined, slowed, and trailed smoke. She smelled burning rubber and felt the engine strain. The steering
wheel vibrated in her grip.
They jammed the rear tires, she thought. It's going to stop.
Then, she saw deliverance a half-mile ahead! Brilliant lights of a car lot around a sign in blue and
white: WORLD CHEVROLET. If she could reach it, everything would be all right. She shook so
hard that she could hardly drive, but she willed the dying car to struggle on until she could pull into the
haven of lights. The stench of burning rubber filled the car. Smoke billowed from beneath the hood.
The truck hovered just behind, like a python stalking a doomed rabbit.
Refuge was a block away when she heard the truck roar. She braced for another hit. Instead, it swung
into the next lane and came up beside her. She was too terrified to look, but the clamor of its engine
beat against her, and she felt its massive bulk. It cut toward her, banging into her car. She screamed as
it shoved her off the road. A concrete pole raced toward her and a white cushion exploded against her
as the car crashed into the pole. The engine quit. The air bag deflated. Frantic, she tried to start the
engine, but it was dead. The car was a smoking wreck, its hood crumpled around the pole. Dust filled
the air like a desert sandstorm. It reeked of burned metal and leaking gasoline.
Through the dust she saw the truck stop just ahead. Its doors opened, and two men swung out. Both
were bearded and clad in denim, with long hair in ponytails. One yanked an iron bar from the truck
and ran back to her. She moaned with fear, then screamed and ducked as he smashed the window
beside her, showering her with glass. Reaching in, he unlocked the door and pulled it open.
"No, please!" she cried.
He grabbed her by the hair. She squealed in pain as he dragged her from the car.
"I got the bitch," he yelled.
The other man came up and clamped her arm in a grip like a steel vise. She shrieked while they
rushed her toward the truck.