The White Lady by Joe Janicki

Splash! For the first time in a couple of hours my eyes are actually wide open. As a paralyzing shiver rolls through each and every one of my veins, I ask myself, why am I not on my boat? Why don’t I have a drink in my hand? Just a moment ago I was partying my brains out with people I consider my best friends, alongside the closest thing that I have MACALLANfound to true love in the past 7 years, which I pay through the nose for—sometimes literally. In all directions, except for one, I see nothing but darkness. In the direction of the coast, I can see lights. We must be 5 miles, give or take, from the harbor. Man, is it freezing! What the hell happened? I must have leaned back a little too far on the railing along the starboard side of the bottom deck. Cigar in one hand, drink in another. Shit. The yacht is not turning around. Nobody saw me. They couldn’t have. They were all two stories above me while I was enjoying a few moments alone.

My special place is out here ON the water—not IN the water. When I’m relaxing on my boat, The White Lady, which is really more of a big-ass yacht (a 109-foot Esterel), all realities get pushed aside. Out here, I don’t have to worry about business, money, and clowns trying to take it from me. Wouldn’t you know it? Now, even The White Lady is turning against me, like my countless previous girlfriends; she just kicked me out on my ass. The water current off the Pacific Coast can be even more brutal than the water temperature. How the hell am I going to make it? I can’t seem to shout loudly enough. Even if Captain Brad does turn around in the next five minutes, they probably won’t find me. It is freakin’ black out here!

Money is all I know, and it turns out, money is all I have. Too bad money can’t act as a flotation device, like an airplane seat cushion, or a rescue crew, for that matter. As if anything that I have done in my past mattered now; this might be it. All I can ask myself is “How?” How the hell did I get here tonight? What chain of events was put into place that leaves me stranded in the damn freezing Pacific off the coast of Santa Barbara? Fuck.

Well, let me see here. #1) I am a banker. My five branches are all in the county of San Diego, and they cater to the public’s needs. My motto is to help me help you. I approve anything; #2) My company credo is as legitimate as my moonlighting, which involves a drug cartel money laundering contract, and leaves me to handle in excess of 250 million dollars cash split between my five bank branches at any given time. You could say those foreign bastards get hit with some hefty interest rates; #3) If I didn’t accept the contracts…and the bribes…and the drugs…I wouldn’t have been inhaling powder off of the chests of various “employees” and slurping down shot after shot of Macallan 55-year-old, single malt scotch from their belly buttons; and #4) And, if it weren’t for 1 through 3, I wouldn’t have my beautiful boat so appropriately named The White Lady. Where would I be? Would I still be with my ex-wife? Nah, no way. She loved me equally as much as Porsche, who is so gloriously enjoying my yacht right now with all of my buddies. Do those fucks even know that I am basically dead yet?

Dead. I can’t die. What the hell is that? What actually happens when you die? I’m not answering that question. Not tonight I’m not. Where would all of my money even go? What about my houses? What about my cars? Oh god, not the cars. I don’t even have a will written out yet. I am only 43, for God’s sake! What about the drug money? How good will my name look after that’s uncovered? Lucas C. Sinclair, he left behind a legacy of banks illegally allocating drug profits. Lucas C. Sinclair, the drunken idiot drowned because he fell off of his yacht. Lucas C. Sinclair is not even my real name. My birth name—Pete Gibbs—I had to get rid of that shit. Not only is it plain as shit, my beloved father had spoiled the family name long before, so I made one up that the “authorities” might not be interested in. Fuck this! I’m not dying. To think all that I have accomplished and all that I have built in these past fifteen years is going to slowly descend into the deep of the Pacific—that’s bullshit!

The White Lady is totally out of sight now. God! My arms are burning from treading water. Maybe I should just float for a bit. What am I thinking? I can’t keep still; I’ll go under. I need to head for dry land. It is a long shot, but I have to try. I have slowly dug myself a hole these past seven years. I am now hovering right above that hole, ready to be sucked in–exhausted, soaking wet, and, worst of all, sober. But is this what it has come to? Is this some kind of fucking message from the universe? If I make it out alive, I could write a check to make those cartel fucks go away. Right? It’s all going to be all right. Right?

Jesus! Yes! The wind is blowing onshore. Why would the odds favor me now? As shitty as my situation currently is, I know that it could get much worse fast. I am sucking air like a disturbed vacuum. I gotta swim for it like a mad fucking man. “Keep it together, you fuck…” I keep praying. Gasping for air and trying to relax, I shut my eyes. I keep my arms and legs on autopilot…

Slowly, I open my eyes to the sound of muffled voices. One voice is finally clear. “Sir, you’re all right; you’re in a hospital.” I try to focus my eyes. Forgetting completely how I got here, I think this must be the worst hangover in history. Everything settles slowly as the man repeats himself several more times. I finally stutter out, “Where am I?” Then, I remember. “Am I alive?” I ask briskly. “It appears so, sir; it appears so,” he replies. Then, I ask him, “Where’s my check book?”

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