The International Writers
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 lakes 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 werent
odd enough, it was a bright yellow Porsche 911 floating not more than
a few hundred feet from his back door. He couldnt believe his eyes.
What should he do? Its gotta be a mirage. Hed 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 hadnt 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, its 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 didnt dare call the Coast
Guard. Theyd 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 moms 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 couldnt 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. Theyll stoop to anything, he thought, and it could happen
only in Florida.
Thats what he finally decided was the only rational explanation
for a car floating in the lake and he wasnt going to fall for that
trick no matter how ingenious it was. Let it sink or blow away into someone
elses 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 cars 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
It didnt 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 drivers 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 sheriffs helicopter hovered above the quickly developing
sink hole, which was also consuming a Winter Park frame house along with
some of Hanss 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
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, Sheriffs 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 cars 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
Lucys 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 generatorssomething
she learned in high schoolwhich 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.
Hanss 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 Royces 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 didnt 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
Now, as Hans looked on, one of Jorges Porsches was following Lucy
Sparks 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 Jorges 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 waters
surface. Jorge was relieved as it finally disappeared beneath the floating
debris of Lucys 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
In a few days the sink hole stabilized, fragments of Lucys 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 Jorges 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 youre 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 its 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.
But, but, is all Terry could get out of his mouth before Jorge
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 Hanss import car shop.
Jorge called and said to expect you, Hans spoke impatiently
before Terry could do more than introduce himself, Heres 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 youll have a great car.
Hans signed the title, handed it to Terry, who was by now in complete
shock and couldnt speak. Youre lucky to know someone
like Jorge. Call me when youre 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 Miamis 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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