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Floating Porsche

Oil Slick
Richard Corwin

Whatever it was that popped up into Lake Wanautta, like a bubble, Terry was startled, mesmerized and watched from his kitchen window as the mysterious thing floated and bobbed, like an enormous yellow fishing lure, on the lake’s calm surface. Then it began to drift slowly, his way, across the small lake. The closer it got the more it looked like the roof of a car. He took another sip of coffee, which by now was cold, and continued to stare at the strange thing. It began to float a little higher revealing it was, in fact, a yellow sports car.

Terry wondered how in the world it got there and looked around the shoreline for anyone screaming in a panic that their car was drifting away, but he saw no one. ‘How odd can that be,’ he thought, ‘only in Florida would this happen.’

Then the car began to float higher in the water. And, as if that weren’t odd enough, it was a bright yellow Porsche 911 floating not more than a few hundred feet from his back door. He couldn’t believe his eyes. What should he do? It’s gotta’ be a mirage. He’d seen a lot of strange things, including a bale of marijuana, a leather, water-logged barco lounger and pieces of lumber floating in the lake before but nothing quite as exciting as a Porsche. He hadn’t moved from the spot from where he first spotted the yellow car.

Go back to bed and start the day over seemed like a pretty good idea. But what if it would disappear, like a dream and be gone when he woke up? Just in case, though, it’s best to keep an eye on it and not go back to bed just yet. He continued to stare with an open very dry mouth.

Then he thought maybe he could claim the same salvage rights on an abandoned Porsche like an abandoned boat? Nah. He didn’t dare call the Coast Guard. They’d think he was nuts. It was a real dilemma. Subconsciously, though, he hoped it would keep floating his way. What a story to tell his friends, where he worked, at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Then, staring at the wayward car, he remembered how he felt when driving his mom’s old Toyota Camry. Guys driving their fancy sport cars would race past him with beautiful women; their wind swept hair waved mockingly at him. He always wanted to own such a car, like the one floating in the lake, but he couldn’t even afford to trade the old Camry for any car and, besides, it would take more than six months of his donut shop salary just to pay the insurance on a Porsche 911.

Then the cloud of doubt lifted from his mind and a simple, clear explanation for this strange affair occurred to him. It had to be a very creative and clever used car salesman to come up with such a fantastic gimmick; float a car from lake to lake hoping to cash in on the publicity. What a stunt. They’ll stoop to anything, he thought, and it could happen only in Florida.

That’s what he finally decided was the only rational explanation for a car floating in the lake and he wasn’t going to fall for that trick no matter how ingenious it was. Let it sink or blow away into someone else’s yard. He finally turned away and tried to ignore the car. He walked from room to room in his studio cottage, shaking his head in disbelief. He stepped over a sleeping cat, sat down in an old frayed chair, stood up again, spilled some hot coffee on his now wide awake cat, and nervously returned to the kitchen. What a cheap, low down and dirty trick. The car’s headlights had now risen above the water and it was coming closer and closer.  

Startled gray herons and alligators looked just as puzzled; quickly disappearing as the foreigner drifted close to them. Then the yellow sports car slid easily onto the shallow sandy bottom, rolled to a stop, only inches from his yard and surrounded by a shimmering, rainbow colored, thin film of motor oil.

It didn’t move any more and remained parked. Terry imagined he heard it calling to him; ‘open my door and drive me away.’ Whoever the ingenious salesman was, he thought, the trick worked. He cautiously stepped outside, into the hot Florida sun, dressed only in his Sponge Bob boxer shorts, which he noticed matched the cars yellow paint, and walked slowly to the driver’s side of the car; now only hub cap deep in water, and cautiously opened the door. Then he remembered.

Three weeks earlier, on the other side of town, Hans Schleiter was desperately trying to save his foreign car repair and luxury import auto sales business. Without warning the earth and his parking lot started to disappear behind his building; everything falling into a great hole that suddenly opened. Overhead a sheriff’s helicopter hovered above the quickly developing sink hole, which was also consuming a Winter Park frame house along with some of Hans’s auto inventory, as television crews, newspaper reporters and city officials looked on helplessly.

Near the spot where her family home had been for many generations, Lucy Sparks screamed and cried in frantic grief as she and her daughter watched their house slowly vanish while medics tried calming the two, hysterical women.   

On the other side of the large hole Hans stood precariously close to the collapsing rim of the sink hole watching, in despair, as three Porsches, a Mercedes and one Toyota pickup camper that belonged to a traveling Swiss couple, were being hopelessly swallowed up by the expanding hole.

In the bottom the water began to slowly rise. Fragments of the house and its meager furnishings began floating to the surface. Like a sinking ship the house upended, the front porch raised high in the air, with a groan and then slowly disappeared into the boiling water. With loud cracking and gurgling sounds of a final death rattle, it left behind a fountain of rising bubbles, pieces of furniture and broken timbers.

Like a scene from a Stallone action movie, Sheriff’s deputies dangled from a helicopter suspended from twisting and swaying ropes, trying to quickly attach towing cables, from a nearby tow truck, to the rapidly sinking fleet of cars; succeeding to extract all but one yellow Porsche. It was the only car they wanted to salvage but it was quickly sliding out of reach into the growing muddy hole.

Hans looked on; his long blond hair blowing wildly around his head from the turbulent air as the helicopter hovered over the sink hole with the frustrated men dangling from the ropes. He was hoping the car’s owners would see the six o-clock news. It would save him from having to make excuses for how their expensive cars came to be covered in mud and slime.

But most distressing is what to tell the owner of the Porsche, and his best customer Jorge Oliveri, as his car was sliding down the muddy slopes of the deepening hole. The rising water was nearing the car. Then with a final gulp, to the dismay of the police on the ropes, the Porsche followed Lucy’s house; a rude end to such a noble car. Hans watched as the red taillights sank from view, into the brown water, before turning away from the depressing scene. He went to his office and called his insurance agent then he called Jorge.      
Most lakes in Florida are connected by hidden streams and underground rivers that can flow for miles connecting waterways throughout Florida. Above ground boats can travel from lake to lake, known as the chain of lakes, along a scenic route, under moss covered trees, that line the canals. Most lakes, in Florida, were created as the earth collapsed into underground, water-filled chambers. If one were fortunate enough to have a lake develop on their property the land could be sold as costly lake front lots making the owner instant wealth.

Swiss born Hans Schleiter had moved from New Jersey, where he had been living with his Polish girlfriend Julia in Cape May. With Julia they began their small foreign car repair and import car sales business shortly after arriving in the affluent central Florida town of Winter Park.

Julia was quite good at rebuilding automobile generators—something she learned in high school—which gave them extra capital to invest as their business grew. Hans began buying, and selling, expensive luxury imported cars. Several local drug dealers, with boxed cash stored in climate controlled storage units, became his favorite clients because their cash transactions provided an almost untraceable and un-taxable income. Hans was very happy.

Hans’s best customer, Cuban immigrant Jorge Oliveri, had an enviable collection of a dozen Porsches, three Lamborginis, including a Lamborgini SUV traded in by Tina Turner, and several custom leopard skin upholstered Rolls Royce’s kept at his gated and guarded home in Lake Mary not far from Orlando.
Jorge had come a long way, since the day he floated ashore, from Cuba in 1994, on a raft made from Styrofoam boxes and coolers. Landing on the sands of Delray Beach, late one night, after eluding the Coast Guard, Jorge abandoned his raft, swam ashore and headed south.

It didn’t take him long to make contact with a cousin in Miami, who imported cocaine packaged inside fine, hand carved furniture from Peru. Jorge then set up an import business in Winter Park soon after. There he discovered his best clients among the wealthy, successful insurance salesmen, arrogant stock brokers, their bejeweled girlfriends and a few bartenders working in the better bars of town, who were anxious to be his salesmen.     

Now, as Hans looked on, one of Jorge’s Porsches was following Lucy Spark’s wood frame house into the murky water and then sinking to God-knows-where. Hans was rightfully nervous. The police missed their opportunity to retrieve Jorge’s yellow Porsche. Knowing there was incriminating evidence inside the car, which could implicate Jorge as a prospering drug dealer, the police stationed themselves around the rim of the new lake in hopes the car would resurface. Had they been able to get the Porsche out of the sink-hole it could have saved months of tedious investigative work to put Jorge away for a long time.

Jorge got the call from Hans and rushed, in a panic, to the now crowded scene. The muddy water had covered the yellow car. Only the dimming pink reflection of its taillights could be seen deep below the water’s surface. Jorge was relieved as it finally disappeared beneath the floating debris of Lucy’s home.

The helicopter landed, in the nearby park, where city officials were already planning a park expansion around the new lake. Film crews, newscasters, police cars, street crews, traffic control personnel, parks department employees and loitering public gave the otherwise quiet neighborhood a circus like atmosphere amid the flashing police and emergency lights and growing crowds.

In a few days the sink hole stabilized, fragments of Lucy’s house and furniture was removed from the lake, the water continued to rise slowly and the police continued their vigil for several days. Finally, giving up hope when Jorge’s car refused to reappear, they removed all the yellow tape, sent the helicopter back to the airport and went back to the station. The events of that day continue to be a mystery. What had the police hoped to recover from the sinking Porsche?
The door opened easily; easier than Terry thought it would, given the car had apparently been in the water for a while. The roof was slightly scratched and there was surprisingly little water inside. The door and window seals were exceptionally tight, which accounted for the way it bobbed to the surface of the lake, and the tires were fully inflated giving it more buoyancy. The interior of the car was in pretty good shape, considering where it had been. There was nothing in the glove box but some soggy papers and business cards belonging to a Jorge Oliveri, president of High Spot Import Furniture and Accessories.

Terry found and pulled the trunk release; curious about the many exciting features of such a car he had only dreamed about. The front hood popped open slowly and he peered cautiously inside. Now he was really scared. Call the owner, his first reaction. Terry ran inside, card in hand, and nervously dialed the number. He remembered the news account of the disappearing car and its’ owner.
“I don’ know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout,” The accented voice answered in rapid fire. “I don’ own no car like dat and if you found it in da lake, den I know it’s not mine. You keep it. I don’ wanna’ see it and don’ you call me again and don call nobody ‘bout it. OK? You go see Hans for da title. OK? Goobye.”
“But, but,” is all Terry could get out of his mouth before Jorge hung up.

Now he was really scared. He got a chain and pulled the car out of the lake and into his yard with the Camry; the last act for the old Toyota. He then removed five soggy, heavy cardboard boxes from the Porsche, covered the luxury car with a plastic tarp, slipped the wet boxes into plastic bags, put them under his bed, finished dressing and walked the three miles into town to Hans’s import car shop.

“Jorge called and said to expect you,’ Hans spoke impatiently before Terry could do more than introduce himself, “Here’s the title and if you need some work done on the car, I can have it towed it in, fixed up like new in a week or so and you’ll have a great car.” Hans signed the title, handed it to Terry, who was by now in complete shock and couldn’t speak. “You’re lucky to know someone like Jorge. Call me when you’re ready for me to pick it up.” Hans said goodbye, turned and went back to the shop and Terry left, dazed.

A few weeks had passed when Terry drove through the take out window of Dunkin Donuts and ordered coffee and a donut to go. That was the last time anyone saw him. Later there were rumors. Some claimed he appeared on Miami’s South Beach in his shiny yellow Porsche 911, with a young, beautiful Irish girl with long, red hair that whipped and flew in the wind. They added that they saw on his key chain a brand new safe deposit key flashing in the sunlight.

Where else but Florida could this have happened?|

© Richard Corwin March 2007

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