During those days of shooting film, Mason was becoming a big-time cocaine addict. He bought more and more of the drug through a new connection at the movie studio. For a long time, he had no longer counted on escorts to supply him with coke. Mason remained high on the drug 24/7. His nose was constantly running with mucus flowing out of his nostrils. Blowing his nose so often, Mason told everyone that didn’t know he was addicted to cocaine that he had a severe cold. He carried a snot-filled handkerchief on him wherever he went. Mason soon had a partial perforation of his nasal septum. He ignored the condition and kept snorting cocaine. He couldn’t help himself as he was hooked badly on the narcotic.

Mason’s dreams of being a big-time cocaine dealer never materialized. Instead he remained a hard drug user along with Charlotte. Time was running out financially for Mason. He couldn’t cut back on expenses and the weekly allowances he gave the two women in his Hollywood life.

Each early morning upon waking up Charlotte had a cigarette in bed before she got ready to go to the studio. This time she put the smoldering butt into an ashtray on the bed stand and cleaned up in the bathroom. The alarm rang and she rushed over to it, turning it off before waking Mason up from his deep sleep. She inadvertently knocked over the ashtray without realizing it during her rush to get to Welling’s studio. Then she left the mansion to go to work, unaware of the lit cigarette on the carpet while Mason slept soundly.

It took some time but the cigarette finally caught the bedsheet on fire. Smoke rose into the air, filling the bedroom with a grayish-blue color. Mason continued to sleep in the master bedroom until he finally woke up to the sound of a loud smoke detector. He climbed out the bed and call 911 on his cell phone. The smoke in the master bedroom was significant. He went inside the kitchen to get a fire extinguisher. By the time he returned, the master bedroom was completely filled with smoke. Mason tried getting the extinguisher to work with great effort but he could not operate it successfully. He didn’t know how to use it and eventually gave up trying to get it to work. Meanwhile, smoke totally filled the master bedroom. Mason began to cough hard.

A red fire truck with lights flashing and a siren on reached the mansion within minutes. Firemen rushed inside the bedroom and used commercial-grade extinguishers to put out the flames. Mason sat outside on the porch, suffering from smoke inhalation, coughing. A fireman put an oxygen mask over his mouth and Mason took deep breathes, slowly recovering. The fire was completely out within seconds of their arrival to the mansion.

Once Mason started breathing regularly, he telephoned the Dri-Rite Restoration and Smoke Cleaning business on South Garfield Avenue. He offered the owner a bonus if the company came over to the mansion that day to clean up the mess in the master bedroom. The company van arrived soon thereafter and started the process of returning the bedroom in its original condition.  

When Charlotte came home, she was surprised to see the van in the driveway. She met Mason, who was snorting cocaine beside the swimming pool.

“What happened?” Charlotte asked him, concerned.

“A fire broke out after you left for the studio. No more smoking in bed. You almost killed me. You should cut back on cigarettes anyway. They are bad for your health,” Mason said to his mistress, upset with her smoking habit for the first time.

“I’m sorry,” she told him. “I’ll be more careful next time.”

Mason accepted her apology and dropped the subject. Then both of them continued to abuse drugs, sitting by the swimming pool getting stoned. That night they had to sleep in a spare bedroom. The next day, movers brought a new bed and mattress to the mansion and things returned to normal. Charlotte never again smoked in bed in the morning despite her wishes to indulge with Virginia Slims before getting up and going to the movie studio. 

One evening, Charlotte collapsed and blacked out in the casino from an overdose of Quaaludes. An ambulance rushed her to Hollywood Community Hospital. Mason got a telephone call from the ambulance personnel and went directly over to the hospital to see what was happening with Charlotte. She was ill from all the Quaaludes she had consumed.

Once Mason arrived at the hospital he immediately went to Charlotte’s private room. She was sitting up in bed but had a vacant stare on her face. Mason asked his mistress if she was feeling better.

“Yes, I am doing fine but I want out of here. I can’t stand hospitals,” she said, finally focusing her eyes on Mason.

“Charlotte, are you a compulsive gambler?” Mason wanted to know. “I never knew you spent time in the Hollywood Casino.”

“No way. I just over did it with quads before I went to gamble,” she replied, lying to Mason.

“I think you are spending the money gambling; the money you told me you were sending to your mother,” he said, confronting Charlotte and getting in her face.

“No way. I love my mother and would never to that to her,” she said, lying again.

“Well, it’s just a thought. If you are a compulsive gambler you need to cool it with my money or I’ll kick you out of my mansion,” he threatened.

“Mason, you can be so cruel. I don’t have a gambling problem and I promise to avoid the casino in the future,” she said.

            “Okay dear. I’ll trust you this time but if it happens again you will need help with your gambling addiction and will have to get some counseling. I’ll pay for it,” he said.

“I told you, I’m not a compulsive gambler,” she insisted, becoming upset by Mason’s hostile conversation.

 Mason said good-bye, kissed Charlotte’s cheek, and left for home. He was not convinced that she didn’t have a gambling addiction.

            An anxious Eric Northland, the director of the movie, visited the hospital the next morning to see his lead star and Mason. They both told the same story to Eric. Charlotte had fainted due to fatigue and being overworked. Northland had his doubts and was suspicious, but accepted the explanation. Charlotte recovered but missed three days of filming at the studio. Mason forgave her, but insisted that casinos would be off-limits from that day forward, something she didn’t agree to do forever. For the time being Charlotte honored his request. Unfortunately, she never went to a counselor and remained addicted to gambling for the rest of her life.

            On the next Saturday afternoon in Traverse City, Albert drove Samantha to the base of the peninsula for an Old Mission Wine Tour. They climbed into an eight-passenger van with two other couples and a chauffeur.

            Once inside the chauffeur said, “My name is Nate Young and I’ll be your guide today for your winery tour. I have a question for all of you. Has anyone made wine before?”

            Nate turned around in the driver’s seat to see if anyone answered yes but no one raised their hand.

“Okay. Let me tell you about the process of making homemade wine. The wineries we will visit today follow the same steps but with a larger quantity of grapes or cherries and water. They prepare the fruit by cutting it up and busting the skins. Next, they add some wine-making ingredients and collect the pulp in a fermentation bag. They add water and crushed campden tablets in a fermenter vat, much larger than used during the homemade process, which uses a five-gallon jug. Then the wine-makers wait for twenty-four hours.

During the waiting period the campden tablets are sterilizing the juice with a mild sulfur gas. After twenty-four hours, they sprinkle yeast on the surface of the juice and let it ferment for five to seven days. Then they remove the pulp and discard it. The next step is to attach an airlock and allow the juice to ferment for up to six weeks. Once the wine has cleared completely they stir more campden tablets into the liquid and siphon off the sediment again. Finally, the wine is ready to be bottled,” explained Nate.

The tour guide went on, saying, “Look at all the vineyards scattered across the Old Mission Peninsula. The trees have blossomed white during the spring. From atop of this hill you have a bird’s eye view of Lake Michigan and West Bay. Our first stop is at the Chateau Chantel. The Chateau is a winery and bed-and-breakfast. In the tradition of a European chateau they offer wine dinners, classes, and seminars. On Thursday nights during the summer they serenade customers with music from the Jeff Haus Trio. A tasting room and a tour of the winery are on our agenda this afternoon.”

The van stopped in front of the Chateau and everyone got out of it. The group entered the winery and went on a tour of the facility. After the tour of the winery they spent time in the wine-tasting room. Albert paced himself and bought a bottle of Pinot Noir. Samantha drank all the wine samples. Afterward they climbed back in the van.

The tour went on to the Bowers Harbor Vineyard, the Chateau Grand Traverse Winery, the Peninsula Cellars Winery, the Black Star Farms, and the Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery. At each stop, Albert only sipped a small amount of wine because he had to drive later that day. He bought a different bottle of wine at every location they visited. Samantha drank freely and enjoyed all the wine samples, becoming somewhat intoxicated.

After the tour, Albert tipped Nate and thanked him for a good afternoon. They went to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for dinner that evening. The glass elevator went up to the top floor of the resort’s tower and the view was impressive. Going inside the Aeerie Restaurant and Lounge they were seated at a table near a large window looking out to Traverse City and Lake Michigan. They ordered surf and turf off the fine dining menu. The lobster and rib eye steak beat their expectations. At dinner, they drank Cabernet Franc wine and Charlotte got even tipsier.

“After dinner let’s spend the night here at the resort,” suggested Albert.

“Good idea,” agreed Samantha, slurring her speech while walking back to the elevator.

They went back down the glass elevator to the lobby, and then Albert secured a room for them in the tower. Once inside the room they kicked off their shoes and lay down on the king-size bed with several soft pillows. Taking his time, Albert seduced Samantha and they made love on the bed.

            When they had finished having sex and caught their breath Samantha put her head on Albert’s chest. He said, “I love you sweetheart.”

            “You never said that to me before,” said Samantha, caught off guard.

“Well, I mean it. I love you,” he said again.

Samantha didn’t reply, not knowing her true feelings about Albert. She was confused by her emotions and eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, a Sunday, Albert and Samantha went down to a restaurant named The Grill near the lobby of the resort. They ate eggs Benedict together for breakfast. Then Albert took Samantha home to her mansion and said good-bye.

Samantha drove her Cadillac to her mother’s house and they went to the First Methodist Church located downtown. During the service, Samantha prayed for her mother’s health and a cure for her lung cancer. She also prayed for Mason and Albert, trusting in God to protect them from evil. She recited the Lord’s Prayer to herself, feeling good about going to the service and worshiping God.

After church Samantha dropped her mother off at the Senior Center to play cards with friends. Her mother planned on taking a taxi home after the card game had finished. Samantha drove back to the mansion and sat around the pool in her swimsuit. She thought about the previous night, making love to Albert. He was so gentle and kind to her, unlike her husband Mason.

The next Saturday Albert and Samantha thought it would be fun to take the M-22 State Highway along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Due to the heat they wore shorts, T-shirts, and sandals. The temperature had risen to over ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit and Traverse City was experiencing a heat wave.

Albert drove his Buick along Grandview Parkway, north of Traverse City to Greilickville. M-22 runs just off the sandy shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay. Traveling north past sailboats and marinas they reached the community of Suttons Bay, located on a small bay of the same name. Continuing north, Albert and Samantha passed through the Reservation of the Traverse Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, to Paeshawbetown.

The Indian reservation is the home of the Leelanau Sands Casino. They did not stop to gamble. Still heading northward on M-22 they traveled to the quaint village of Northport. To get to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and Museum they took M-201 north and traveled eight miles to the Leelanau State Park.

Parking the Buick and getting out of the car they toured the lighthouse. It had an office, kitchen, dining room, and an upstairs bedroom where twelve Coast Guard members had used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The nearby museum was full of interesting nautical artifacts. Samantha and Albert thought the history of the lighthouse was interesting.

After their lighthouse tour, they drove back south, passed Northport again, following M-22 by scenic Lake Leelanau. Once they arrived at the village of Leland they stopped at a location named Fishtown. Walking among the weathered fish shanties, which had been converted to tourist shops, they bought some hats to wear in the sun. Leland is also the home of ferries traveling to the Manitou Islands off the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula. They continued south on M-22 and came to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

“I can see why ABC’s Good Morning America named the Sleeping Bear Dunes the Most Beautiful Place in America,” said Albert.

“So can I,” said Samantha, agreeing with her loving boyfriend.

They traveled south on M-109 and followed signs to Glen Haven and the Maritime Museum. After visiting the historic village and museum Albert and Samantha went south again and came to the Dune Climb. The Dune Climb is a pure windblown, huge, sand hill. They climbed up halfway to the top before becoming exhausted. There were views of the blue Glen Lake from atop the dune. Rolling down the sand dune to the picnic area Albert and Samantha laughed hard. They had fun at the Dune Climb and brushed off the sand that was on their clothes.

Getting back into the Buick, they drove south on M-109 to the Pierre Stocking Scenic Drive. This roadway runs through a forest and past sand dunes, providing overlooks of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Albert and Samantha stopped a several overlooks and took pictures of the rolling dunes. A few miles south they returned on M-22 to the village of Empire and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center. They went inside the visitor center and Samantha bought a book that had colorful pictures of sand dunes in it.

            Next, they followed signs on M-22, past the Platte River Campground. Albert parked the Buick at the Riverside Canoe Trips building and they went inside. Both of them wanted a canoe trip down the friendly river that had a gentle current. They rented a canoe, took off their sandals, and launched it in the river with paddles. On this hot summer day, they saw many canoes, paddleboards, kayaks, rafts, and inner tubes with canvas bottoms along the Platte River. People were having fun going down the river, splashing water on each other and drinking beer.

            The scenic river flowed through Loon Lake and ended up at a sandbar outlet to Lake Michigan where the warmer river water united with the cooler lake. Nature photographers were eager to shoot pictures of deer, muskrat, beaver, turtles, geese, swans, ducks, herons, hawks, and eagles.

            Samantha and Albert put their canoe ashore. Both of them striped down to their swimming trunks and lay down on colorful beach towels. They put on sunscreen and sunbathed on a sugar sand beach for an hour. Their deeply tanned bodies glistened in the sunlight.

            Samantha started the conversation. She said, “Albert, you never told the grief group members about your late wife. What kind of women was she?”

            “Her name was Jessica or Jessie for short. She died unexpectedly from a massive heart attack at the young age of fifty-one. I was in shock when I got the news one day at work that she had died. I felt numb and later was told numbness is a self-defense mechanism that allows you to survive emotionally due to the immediate aftermath of a loss.

            “During the second phase of grief I had a yearning for her to return and fill the void created by her death. I had many emotions such as weeping, anger, and anxiety attacks. Then I withdrew from other people in my life. I felt depressed and lonely. During the third phase of grief I got angry at God for my loss. Now, recently I’ve made peace with myself and accepted her death as the fourth phase of the grief cycle.

            “Jessie was a blonde and hated dumb jokes about the color of her hair. She had a sense of humor and used to tease me about my own hair turning gray. We never argued or fought with each other. Our happy marriage lasted twenty-five years. My wife was a remarkable woman and we shared many happy times together,” he told Samantha, in a soft tone of voice as if he was struggling to talk about Jesse.

            “I was just curious to know a little about your late wife. Thank you for telling me things so personal,” said Samantha, grateful for having heard Albert’s sad story about his late wife.

            “No problem. You never get totally over the sudden death of a spouse like I experienced. I still miss Jessie but I have moved on with my life. Enough serious talk for one day. I don’t want to discuss much about her again if you can understand that,” said Albert, sounding sincere.

            “Okay, I’ll respect your feelings” agreed Samantha.

            “Let’s go back to my Buick,” he told his girlfriend.

            They returned upriver by way of a shuttle service. Once they arrived at the Buick, they put their sandals back on. It turned out to be almost a three-hour canoe trip.

            Then they continued on along M-22 to the Point Betsie Lighthouse. Once again, they stopped and took a tour of the old lighthouse, climbing up its tower to view Lake Michigan. They held hands, looking at the expanse of fresh water, and kissed each other.

Traveling south on M-22, they came to the village of Frankfort and stopped at the local A&W Root Beer Restaurant for a late lunch. After ice-cold root beers, cheeseburgers, and curly fries the happy couple drove through Elberta and on to Arcadia Lake. They went past the village of Onekama and viewed Portage Lake. Then they went twelve miles to Manistee and stopped at the Little River Casino. Albert won $500 on a slot machine and he gave half the money to Samantha, who he said had brought him good luck. They had a good time at the casino. After their visit to the casino they drove back north, fifty-eight miles to Traverse City.

What a wonderful road trip. Albert opened up to me about his late wife. I had an enjoyable time with him again today. He likes to do fun things like lighthouse tours, a canoe trip, and gambling at a casino. Unlike Mason, he is fun to be around. My husband was boring compared to the good times I’m experiencing with Albert, thought Samantha to herself on the way home.

Once back at Samantha’s mansion, they sat around the swimming pool with Prince and drank refreshing glasses of chilled lemonade. Pamela stopped by on her bicycle to say hi. Samantha introduced Albert and Pamela to each other.

“Albert, I would like you to meet my best friend, Pamela Spencer. Pamela, this is Albert Oldfield, my new boyfriend.”

They shook hands and smiled at each other. If Pamela was surprised about Samantha’s new boyfriend appearing older she didn’t show it. Samantha told Pamela about their M-22 circle tour and canoe trip that they had taken that day. Pamela said she loved canoeing and the Sleeping Bear Dunes especially the Dune Climb.

Samantha got up off her chair and went into the mansion’s kitchen for a bag of Purina Dog Treats. Prince was released from his dog pen and walked outside with his owner. He had been recently groomed at Petit Pooch Salon on East Eighth Street. His trimmed, pure white fur looked good on him. Samantha returned to the swimming pool and said, “Prince, let’s show our guests the new tricks I taught you recently.”

The young woman stood before the puppy and held a treat in front of him but slightly out of his reach. She commanded Prince to “high five” while gently tapping one of his paws. The puppy raised one of his feet off the ground and gave the guests a high five. Prince immediately got praise from his owner and a Purina treat.

“Let’s show our friends the “army crawl” trick.” Samantha led Prince ten feet away from her and told him to lie down. He obeyed the command. She held the treat in front of the dog’s nose and slowly dragged it along the concrete. “Crawl,” commanded Samantha, backing up and sitting in her chair. Prince crawled along the concrete for ten feet and received a treat award with lots of praise from Samantha and the guests.

“Now the salute trick,” she announced. She commanded the puppy to sit. The young woman said, “paw” to Prince and the dog gave a paw to her waiting hand. Samantha gently raised it over his head. As soon as it was over his eye she said, “Salute” and Prince lifted his paw up, saluting the guests. She immediately gave him his puppy treat and showered the dog with praise. Albert and Pamela clapped their hands together, applauding his trick.

“One more. This one is a hard trick he is just learning to do.” She stood up and started walking toward her puppy, holding the treat over his head. “Back,” she commanded, walking toward Prince. She gently nudged him back using her legs and body. The puppy obeyed the command and started walking backward toward the swimming pool. She rewarded him enthusiastically and gave him another treat.

“Good boy,” said Samantha. “You finally learned how to do that trick. It’s a useful skill when getting your dog to back away from dangerous items or other animals. End of show. What do you guys think of Prince’s new tricks?”

“Amazing,” said Albert.

“He is a smart puppy,” commented Pamela.

Prince lay down in front of Samantha’s legs as she petted her puppy on the top of his head. He rested and panted after performing for the two guests.

Samantha said, “During our early morning walks on the beach Prince will retrieve a stick every time I throw it into the bay. It’s good exercise for him. When he comes out of the water all wet, he shakes off his fur and gets me soaked. I don’t mind and have to laugh. Silly doggie. We are going to work on some more difficult tricks in the future,” said the proud owner.

There was a pause in the conversation while they lounged around the swimming pool. Then Albert thought up a new activity that the two young women had probably never done before. He suggested, “Let’s go on a hot-air balloon ride tomorrow afternoon over Grand Traverse Bay.”

“I’ve never been up in a hot-air balloon before. It sounds like an adventure,” said Samantha, shaking her head yes.

“Either have I. I’m game,” agreed Pamela, thinking it would be fun to ride in a hot-air balloon.

“Okay, I’ll make reservations for two o’clock with the Michigan Hot-Air Balloon folks. The balloon ride starts at Old Mission Baseball Field so we don’t have far to go tomorrow. We’ll meet here one o’clock and take a spectacular ride over Grand Traverse Bay,” said Albert, pleased the two women had agreed to fly in the private hot-air balloon the next day.

“Okay with me,” said Samantha. “Why don’t we meet here at the mansion.”

“Good idea,” said Pamela.

Samantha waved good-bye to her close friends and put Prince in his dog pen.

At the agreed-upon time the next day Albert returned to the mansion, driving his Buick. Pamela had ridden her bike over to Samantha’s home. The two women hopped inside the car. Albert drove through the countryside surrounding Grand Traverse to the baseball field for their hot-air balloon excursion. He parked his Buick in the lot next to the baseball diamond.

“Oh look,” said Samantha, “there is the balloon waiting for us in the outfield!”

“Let’s not waste any time and make tracks to the balloon,” said Albert.

Three men stood next to the wicker basket suspended beneath the red-and-white balloon. The pilot, Grant Dillard, greeted the three people, introducing himself to the passengers.

“My name is Albert. These are my friends Samantha and Pamela. We have two o’clock reservations for the Grand Traverse Bay tour.”

“Happy to meet you folks. I’m the pilot today. My name is Grant Dillard. These other two men are my ground crew. I want you to meet brothers Bruce and Roger Gefvert. They inflated the balloon before you three arrived so it would be ready to fly.”

The hot-air balloon passengers and ground crew greeted each other.

Grant asked, “Have any of you ever had a ride in a hot-air balloon before?”

“No,” answered Albert.

The two women shook their heads no.

“Okay, that’s fine. Before we go up let me give you guys a crash course about balloon flying. The balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft consisting of a large bag or what’s called an envelope, which contains hot air. Air is heated with an open flame by burning liquid propane from cylinders. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the cold air outside the envelope. The envelope is made of nylon fabric. The hole at the bottom or what’s called the throat is closest to the burner flame. The throat is made of fire-resistant material such as Nomex. Mounted above the wicker basket is the burner. This basket can hold five people. We have a much larger basket that can accommodate twelve people at a time.”

He went on saying, “A pilot light is used to ignite the propane. The burner injects a flame into the envelope, heating the air within. These cables, often called flying wires, are connected to the basket. The wicker basket carries a handling line that is thrown by the pilot to the ground crew when landing. There are skids on the bottom of the basket for protection when landing. The top of the balloon has a vent, enabling the pilot to release hot air to slow an ascent or start a descent, usually for landing.

“The basket is outfitted with instruments such as an altimeter used to measure the altitude of the balloon and a vertical speed indicator known as a variometer. In this balloon basket there is a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket, and a first-aid kit.

“The pilot of the hot-air balloon must have a pilot’s certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. Any questions so far?”

“Have you ever experienced an accident?” asked Samantha.

“No, I haven’t had a single accident after 5,000 flights. My safety record is completely clean,” said Grant with pride.

“What has been the worst hot-air balloon accident?” asked Pamela.

“In 2013 a balloon carrying tourists ignited and crashed near the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt, killing eighteen of the twenty-one people on board. It’s the deadliest balloon accident in history. Accidents are rare. Enough talk about accidents. Let’s go for a ride,” said Grant.

All four of them used a small ladder to climb up into the basket. Once inside Bruce and Roger released the line. The balloon started to climb in the air. There was only a light breeze that day. Grant let the hot-air balloon go up and they took off slowly, gaining attitude. Soon they were able to see the countryside below them, which surrounded Grand Traverse Bay. It was a beautiful.  

“This is really cool,” said Samantha. “How long will we be up here?”

“An hour, give or take a few minutes,” answered Grant.

“I can see little people on the sandy beach,” said Pamela.

“I can too,” Albert told them.

The hot-air balloon floated higher and higher over beautiful Lake Michigan. It was a smooth ride. They all had fun. After an hour Grant started a descent. Slowly the balloon floated to the ground. Grant threw out the guide line to Bruce and Roger. They grabbed, it wearing leather gloves to protect their hands, and pulled the basket down to the ground.

Once they’d landed and stopped moving, the four of then climbed out of the wicker basket. Samantha and Pamela were grateful that the ride had ended safely. Albert felt the same. All three of them thanked Grant for the hot-air balloon ride over Grand Traverse Bay.

“Sometime,” said Grant, “you three will want to take a sunrise or sunset excursion with me.”

“That idea sounds great,” said Albert.

“Thank you for the balloon ride,” said Pamela.

“Albert, thank you for the treat this afternoon,” Samantha told him.

“You’re welcome. We will have to do it again,” offered Albert.

They went back to the mansion and hung out at the swimming pool with Prince. After a few minutes Albert excused himself, saying that he had a business appointment with a real estate customer who wanted to look at a lakefront home. He said good-bye and left the two friends sunbathing at the swimming pool.

After he was gone Pamela said, “Albert sure is a handsome gentleman. You two make a great couple.”

“He is so sweet. I haven’t told him but for the first time in my life I’m truly in love,” said Samantha to her best friend.

“Good for you,” said Pamela, not passing judgment about Samantha’s extramarital affair.

They talked for an hour, drinking lemonade, with Prince laying by the pool. Then Pamela said good-bye and rode her bike back to the college dorm room. Samantha rested for the entire afternoon thinking about how much fun she’d had with Albert and Pamela. She didn’t miss Mason at all.

Samantha turned on her TV in the mansion’s den and watched some comedy show reruns. The six o’clock national news announced a story alert. The broadcaster said, “In Kalamazoo, Michigan a hot-air balloon pilot and five passengers crashed into an oak tree. Witness Hope Schell was taking this video of the balloon on her balcony when there was a loud bang. She said the sound was like fireworks going off. Pilot Audrey Huff said one passenger was killed. The other passengers stayed calm and no one else was injured.  

“The balloon hung for five minutes up in the tree. The pilot got people on the ground to help free it. They were lifted off the tree and the balloon’s basket hit the ground. Shortly thereafter an ambulance arrived at the scene. The incident was reported to the Civil Aviation Authority because a death had occurred. The pilot’s license was suspended for a year. The name of the female victim will be announced later after her next of kin are notified.

“In other news tonight . . .”