While they attempted to recover from the shock of winning the Powerball jackpot, Mason suggested they go house hunting with a realtor.
“All I want is a modest three-bedroom ranch with a large kitchen and a new economy car,” Samantha told Mason.
Mason vetoed her idea, saying, “No dear, we should get the best lakefront home available on Lake Michigan’s shoreline. I want it to be a huge mansion with a sandy beach out back. After all, Samantha we’re rich.”
“I don’t want to clean a mansion,” said Samantha. “It would be too much work and we would have a big yard to mow.”
“Like I said, we’re rich. We could always hire a maid and gardener,” Mason told his wife.
“I don’t want a mansion,” Samantha insisted.
“I do,” said Mason emphatically.
“You always want it your way instead of mine,” said Samantha with a terse lip.
Tension filled the air as they battled.
“I need a home that projects that I’m a successful author,” he told his wife.
“But you haven’t published a book yet.”
“It’s just a matter of time. I’ll be famous.”
“Don’t count on it,” said Samantha, who started to cry.
It was the first of many fights over the lottery money that they would have. Mason won most of the arguments. Samantha would become totally quiet, finally giving in to his demands despite feeling bad and crying.
On the way home Samantha again listened to Mason’s idea of going to Hollywood and producing a movie based on his book entitled The Love Affair. He wanted Samantha to join him on the adventure. Samantha told Mason she didn’t want to move away to California and be away from her sick mother. She was beginning to realize that the large sum of money was definitely going to change their lives.
Samantha thought to herself, Mason has big ideas. I hope he isn’t getting in over his head with his grand movie fantasy. Maybe my mother was right. We could unfortunately be bankrupt in a year.
The three weeks that they had to wait for the money went by slowly. Mason quit his job at the 7-Eleven. Samantha decided she would stick with the hairdressing salon at Walmart as a part-time employee and try not to let the lottery winnings change her life completely. All Mason could talk about was flying to Hollywood and producing a movie. Samantha got bored listening to him go on and on about his desire to create an expensive film production. It seemed to be an outlandish idea and maybe just a fantasy, Samantha told herself. Perhaps Mason would come to his senses eventually and consider abandoning his movie plan. She certainly hoped so.
The next day Samantha met with Pamela for lunch at the Bum Steer Restaurant in downtown Traverse City. They went inside and sat down at one of the tables, ordering beef vegetable soup and French dip sandwiches off the menu. Like Samantha, Pamela was twenty-two years old. She had been a lifelong friend of Samantha’s and they had gone to the same elementary school together years ago. They’d both played volleyball at Traverse City Central High School. Now Pamela attended Northwestern Michigan College studying to be a nurse in a program that had demanding classes. She lived alone in a dorm room on campus. A dedicated student, she studied hard to be a nurse and did not date men.
Pamela had known Samantha’s father for years before he’d died. She drove an older Ford Focus that her parents had bought her when Pamela graduated from high school. Blessed with a trim body and a nice smile she worked out three times a week at the Planet Fitness gym on South Airport Road West. She dressed like a hippie and occasionally smoked marijuana. Although she didn’t particularly like Mason, she remained cordial to him because of her friendship with Samantha.
The Bum Steer waitress served the two best friends lunch as they talked.
“Samantha, I think it’s incredible that you won the Powerball prize. I bet you’re unbelievably happy with your jackpot winnings,” said Pamela.
“Yes and no. I think the lottery money will change us, especially Mason,” said Samantha, worried. “He has big plans to go to Hollywood and make a movie based on his unpublished novel. It’s going to cost us big bucks. I’m not happy with his idea. My mom says we will be bankrupt in a year. I believe she’s probably right about us going broke because of Mason’s lavish spending. He’s not good at saving money. I think Mason is going to go on a big spending spree once he gets his hands on the jackpot cash.”
She went on, saying, “He already quit his job at the 7-Eleven and he has big ideas to go to Hollywood. I don’t like him to act out his expansive fantasy with our money from the lottery jackpot win. I’m going to stay working part time at the Walmart Hair Salon at least for now. I don’t want the money to change me completely.”
“I never realized winning the lottery could be such a burden,” said Pamela.
“It’s so much money I don’t think Mason can handle it,” Samantha told her best friend. Changing the subject, she asked, “Are you going to the Florida Keys again with your college friends for spring break?”
“Yes. The weather is always gorgeous. It’s one big party down there. Do you want to come with us?” asked Pamela.
“Not until things settle down in my life. We will be buying a house and I’ll stay in Traverse City hoping my mother’s poor health improves. Maybe next year I’ll go with you and your friends to Florida,” said Samantha.
“Is that a promise?” asked Pamela.
“Yes, it’s something I’ll do with you and your college friends next spring vacation if I’m free of family obligations,” she said.
Chitchatting about Pamela’s difficult nursing program they finished their meal, agreeing to go out to lunch again soon. Then they said good-bye and went their separate ways.
I’m fortunate to have a friend like Pamela to lean on, thought Samantha as she walked to the wreaked car in the street. She’s wonderful to be around since I can’t talk with Mason about some things going on in our life without arguing with him.
Mason and Samantha did get a call that week from their financial advisor.
“Hello. This is Robert Nelson of BIFT Investments calling for either Mr. or Mrs. Rossman.” He had a perfect telephone voice.
“Hi, Robert, this is Mason Rossman speaking. We have been looking forward to your call.”
“Good. Let’s get right down to business. I would recommend you invest the money in the New York Stock Exchange. I have selected top performing stocks for your portfolio. How does that sound to you, Mr. Mason?” suggested Robert.
Manson told him, “No, I veto that idea of yours. I don’t want any of my assets put in stocks or bonds. I want all the money to go into short-term certificates of deposit at a nationally recognized bank for quick access.”
“Mr. Rossman, I can’t believe you want $800,000,000 in low-rate-of-return CDs. I caution you against that idea.”
“I’m emphatic that I wish to have the money invested in ninety-day CDs. Now either honor my wish or I’ll look for another financial advisor,” threatened Mason.
After discussing the money situation at length, the financial advisor finally yielded to Mason’s demands for quick cash. He told Mason that when the time came after accepting the winning prize of money, he would have the Powerball jackpot check wired to a large New York bank. Then he would make the necessary deposits into multiple certificates CDs. The financial advisor was disappointed because he wouldn’t be making nearly as commission on CDs, as compared to stocks and bonds.
He also told Mason he would set up a $20,000,000 cash flow for them as soon as the prize became awarded. Samantha was left out of the conversation. Mason said good-bye to the advisor and clapped his hands, happy he had gotten his own way with the jackpot money.
Now I can go to Hollywood and make my book into a movie. To hell with Samantha’s concerns, thought Mason. It’s my dream come true.
Three long weeks later, at the appointed time, they drove to Grand Rapids again for a press conference. Once they pulled up their wrecked car in front of the Michigan lottery office, a group of TV and newspaper reporters outside mobbed them with questions. It was a media circus. Mason told them to wait for the press conference for a statement and they all worked their way into the lottery headquarters.
The official looking lady who had told them they’d won the jackpot had a team of three men surrounding her to help control the various reporters and onlookers. She smiled at them. The lady gave them a large oversized check six feet long with Samantha’s full name and $800,000,000 written on it. One of the men made the prize announcement and everyone clapped. Photographs were taken of the smiling couple. Reporters took pictures of the wrecked car they had driven to Grand Rapids. It was a rags to riches story. The owner of the 7-Elevenwould receive $50,000 for selling the winning ticket, which pleased him greatly.
One of the reporters asked, “What are you going to do with the money?”
Mason answered the reporter’s question, saying “I’m an author. I want to go to Hollywood and make a movie based on my recently completed novel entitled The Love Affair. That’s my initial plan for the prize money.”
Another news reporter on TV asked Samantha about her plans to spend the money.
“I don’t want many changes in my life. I’ll continue to work part-time as a hairdresser at Walmartin Traverse City. Obviously, we need a new car. I want to buy my sick mother a new bed and a bathrobe,” said Samantha, who unlike Mason was ultraconservative with her ideas about how to spend the lottery prize money.
“Will you give some of the money to charity?” asked another newspaper reporter.
Before Mason could say no, Samantha said, “We will be doing background checks on some of the well-known charities. Then we will make our decision on which ones to give money to later. My mother has lung cancer so perhaps we will give to the American Cancer Society.”
“Will you travel?” asked a television reporter.
“Maybe after the movie is finished,” Mason told him, “but not before then.”
The reporters asked a few more general questions about their background and family. Then they rushed back to their offices to prepare the human-interest story for newspaper publication and TV broadcasts.
After the ceremony, the official-looking lady took them aside and asked if they wanted yearly payments or a lump sum payoff. She explained, “The lump sum payoff would be nearly half the $800,000,000, which would come to approximately $400,000,000 before state and federal taxes. If you choose the smaller payments over twenty-seven years, the payoff will be the entire $800,000,000. Either way you two will have to pay hefty taxes on your prize.”
Samantha didn’t wait for Mason to answer. She said, “I want to have the money paid out over twenty-seven years to pace ourselves and not spend it all too fast,”
Mason got into a disagreement with his wife over the payout issue. He told Samantha directly, “The movie project will run about $50,000,000. I need the lump sum payoff to finance my film. I’m not going to wait twenty-seven years to go to Hollywood.”
To avoid an ugly scene at the lottery office Samantha gave in to Mason’s demands. She wasn’t happy about the decision but finally agreed without arguing any more. People were listening to them talk it over and their argument embarrassed Samantha. They signed off for the lump sum payment. When the reporters had gone back to their newsroom desks, Mason and Samantha drove their old car with its poor tires back to Traverse City.
Still smarting over the lump sum payment arrangement Samantha hardly talked at all on the ride home. Tension filled the air. Both started to raise their voices as they discussed what to do with all the Powerball money.
“You’re awful quiet, dear. Aren’t you happy about winning the Powerball lottery?” asked Mason.
“I’m upset about your decision to take a huge one-time payment. You should expect me to be worried about the cost of your movie project. I hope you won’t burn through the $800,000,000 after taxes quickly,” said Samantha.
“I’ll be frugal and not spend the money too fast,” promised Mason, trying to convince her he’d show good judgment with their jackpot prize.
“I don’t call spending $50,000,000 in the first month after receiving all the money as being frugal,” said Samantha.
“Look at it this way, it’s a good investment. You know I do want to become a famous author. Now I can afford to self-publish my book and get my name in print. My idea of making a movie out of my novel is a dream come true,” he told Samantha.
“Your unpublished novel isn’t good enough to make into a movie,” she told her husband. “My mother says we’ll go bankrupt during the first year of our winnings.”
“What the hell are you saying? Your mother and father never liked me in the first place.”
“I think she’s right,” said Samantha. “We will be bankrupt within a year.”
“You can be a bitch.”
“Don’t verbally abuse me, Mason.”
“I’m just making the point that you can be difficult sometimes in our marriage,” he replied.
“And you can be a bastard. I’m mad at you,” she shouted.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve had money. Why don’t you let me spend some of it without complaining?”
“Your movie idea is a misguided fantasy. It will never be produced.”
“I don’t know about that comment you just made. It will be a box office hit.”
“It will be an expensive flop.”
Mason backhanded Samantha on her mouth, causing the young woman to taste blood on the tip of her tongue. He said, “Shut up, woman. I disagree with all your asinine comments. It will be a great movie and probably win an Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year.”
“No way, Mason,” said Samantha continuing the fight as the tension between them mounted. It was the first time he had hit his wife during their unhappy marriage.
“You’re wrong bitch,” he said. “Watch and you will see my movie break box- office records.”
“Mason, if you ever hit me again, I’ll file domestic abuse charges against you,” she warned him.
“I’m sorry I slapped you. I just wish you could be reasonable,” he told his unhappy wife.
“Slapping my mouth was a cruel thing to do. I never thought you would physically abuse me. Our marriage has hit a new low point,” she said bitterly.
“Don’t make such a big deal about it,” said Mason as if he didn’t care about what he had done.
Samantha felt miserable and began to cry. Mason ignored her all her tears and sobbing. He drove over the speed limit in their wreck of a car along US 131 North. Samantha was concerned that Mason would get a speeding ticket and be arrested for driving with a suspended license. The want-to-be author didn’t care when she warned him to slow down. They headed home, speeding in silence after their heated argument, all the way back to Traverse City.
I’m hurt by Samantha’s lack of support for my idea to make movie based on my novel. What a terrible wife, Mason thought to himself. Why can’t she see I’ll make over $200,000,000 in profit on our initial $50,000,000 investment? I’m sure my film will greatly increase our wealth. We will be even richer than today. Plus, it’s my dream come true. I’ll be a famous author after all my struggles to get published. Samantha can be so dumb and stubborn sometimes. Maybe after the movie project is finished, I’ll divorce her ass and become a Hollywood playboy. I will have lots of hot girlfriends. I’ll be generous and all my money will get them in bed with me. I always wanted to have two women make love to me at the same time. That would be a cool thing to do. I’ll have to consider splitting up with Samantha sometime soon after my movie becomes a hit. I’ll have even more money than her share of the Powerball jackpot. I will have to put up with my bad marriage until such time as I can divorce her, thought Mason as he drove home.
When they arrived back at their apartment they saw the parking lot was full of television vans and a crowd of people was waiting for them.
“Look at that mob of people in front of our apartment. No way am I going to meet with them and answer more questions,” said Mason.
“I agree. Let’s go somewhere else, like a motel or hotel,” suggested Samantha.
Mason quickly turned the car around and left the crowd of people in the dust. They went to a nearby downtown hotel named Park Place, completely avoiding the media and money-hungry well-wishers. Samantha was upset she couldn’t go home. She missed their apartment. All she wanted was to go home and sleep in her own bed. She was beginning to realize just how much their lives would change after having won the lottery. Once in the hotel room, Samantha lay down in the king-size bed and felt restless.
Excited, Mason watched their press conference highlights on the evening news. The next day they were front page news on the Traverse City Record Eagle, The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and USA Today. The reports made sure to feature the wrecked car that the Rossmans had driven to lottery headquarters.
Samantha’s mom, Alice Ridgeway, wasn’t ever impressed with Mason’s movie idea. She told Samantha again that Mason would blow all their money and go bankrupt within a year. Samantha knew her mother’s words were probably correct and that caused her to worried even more deeply about Mason’s desire to make a movie in Hollywood. The movie idea sounded so expensive and outlandish. Samantha didn’t tell her mother or Pamela that Mason had slapped her mouth, drawing blood. She kept their fight a secret.
It took a few more days, which seemed like forever, for their financial advisor to inform them the prize money had been deposited in the New York bank. Mason urged Samantha to agree to purchase the lakefront mansion he wanted so badly. They argued some more and then Mason came up with the idea to split all the money in half. Samantha didn’t like the idea, but went along with it as she would get have the $400,000,000 to invest in the stock market instead of earning low interest rates on CDs. She did demand the deal be put in writing with a lawyer’s input.
They had a lawyer make sure the arrangement was legal and sound if tested in court. Later that week they signed the paperwork, finalizing their arrangement. Each would get $400,000,000 after taxes and Samantha would have the mansion put in her name. She promised to let Mason pursue his Hollywood movie project without protesting again. It seemed to everyone to be a fair deal despite Samantha’s reservations.
Mason made an appointment to visit the Coldwell Banker Real Estate office with Samantha. They met with Pat Hansen, the franchise owner, who was a realtor himself. Samantha was left out of the conversation when Mason told him he wanted to purchase a $5,000,000 mansion. Pat took them on a video tour of three mansions in Traverse City that had lakefront property. Mason narrowed these homes down to one out on the Old Mission Peninsula. The real estate broker told them he would call and make arrangements to see the mansion. Once he had set up a fast appointment Pat took them over to look at the property the next day. It was a home that met Mason’s needs, not Samantha’s wishes regarding a place to live. Samantha used her share of the jackpot prize to buy the mansion, putting the title in her name.
For the next week, Mason went on a spending spree. He bought a thirty-foot yacht, a new red Corvette, an expensive Rolex watch, gold jewelry, fancy clothes, furniture for the mansion, and a digital camera and cam recorder among other exorbitant big-ticket items. Against Samantha’s wishes, he bought her a new Cadillac Escalade. She would have been happy with just a regular economy car but he insisted on an expensive Cadillac for her to drive as a status symbol to display their wealth.
Mason decided to pay off his grandmother’s credit card bills. He bought her a three-bedroom Port Traverse condo on East Bay. The expensive condo abutted on Lake Michigan and had a sandy beach out back. She appreciated the help Mason gave her as she was struggling financially. Then she sold her small house. It was her retirement nest egg that she didn’t actually need anymore, because Mason had made arrangements for her to receive a nice monthly allowance from his New York bank. He also bought her a new Cadillac ATS-V Coupe for over $60,000 and took her on a shopping trip to the Grand Traverse Mallfor new clothes.
Once back at Eleanor’s condo she said, “Thank you, Mason, for all you have done for me. When I read in the Traverse City Record Eaglethat you won the Powerball lottery, I knew you would be kind and generous to your grandmother. My neighbors here at Port Traverse condosall know you’re rich. They have been wonderful to me. It’s like one big happy family and I’m seldom lonely. The newspaper article said you plan on going to Hollywood and making a movie. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is true. I plan on making a film about the book I wrote, which is entitled The Love Affair. SoonI’ll be going to Hollywood to find a movie producer to be my partner,” explained Mason.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said sincerely. “Thank you for the new Cadillac. You’re such a good boy for taking care of me.”
“Before I fly to Hollywood know that I love you,” he told his grandmother.
“Okay, I love you too. I’ll look forward to seeing you again. It’s been so long since you stopped by for a visit. I worried about you,” she told Mason.
“Sorry. I was working sixty hours a week and writing my novel at night. Time just slipped away,” said Mason.
“I understand. Take care of yourself, Mason. Good-bye for now.”
“Good-bye,” he told his grandmother.
Mason left his grandmother’s condo feeling good about her new home. He drove his new red Corvette around Traverse City without a driver’s license, which infuriated Samantha but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Mason hired a part-time maid named Ellen Baker who worked on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. She was a widow and she began to immediately clean the mansion spick-and-span. Mason also employed a borderline mentally retarded gardener who called himself Jose Sanchez. Jose worked at the mansion as the groundskeeper. He was probably was an illegal migrant from South America. Mason didn’t ask him what country he was from. He didn’t care where Jose had come from.
Jose kept the large estate’s lawn well groomed. He worked in the extensive gardens planting and weeding the beautiful flowers through every season except winter. Mason thought Jose could rake leaves in the autumn from the twenty-five trees. He kept and maintained the lawn machines in the four-car garage. There were six water fountains on the estate grounds that he cared for and kept clean. During the winter he would plow and shovel the deep Michigan snow that fell in the area.
All this upkeep meant that he was employed full-time at the Rossman mansion. Both the maid and gardener were well liked by Samantha, who treated them with respect. She especially enjoyed Ellen’s company. They would drink iced lemonade while sitting around the swimming pool in the late afternoon when the maid’s shift was about to end. Mason didn’t interact with the maid or gardener much at all, leaving their supervision up to his wife. In fact, he ignored the help.
While Mason spent his winnings like there was no tomorrow, Samantha was much more conservative with her money, spending only a few dollars. She was content to buy her sickly mother a new bed and bathrobe. Her only other goal was to purchase a puppy to keep her company in the large mansion when Mason went to Hollywood.
Mason went to court with a high-priced attorney to challenge his drunk-driving ticket. The Traverse City prosecutor wanted him to do jail time, at least a month or two. However, this was Mason’s first offense. His attorney secured a plea bargain for him in order to avoid a trial and time in jail. The charge Mason faced was reduced to careless driving. He would have to visit a probation officer every six months for a year. Mason was happy with the situation’s outcome and hugged his attorney, who didn’t appreciate the sign of affection at all.
After a spell of warm weather Mason put his yacht in on Lake Michigan. It was still chilly on the water, but he nevertheless sailed for a week along the coast of the Old Mission Peninsula. The peninsula had a lighthouse at the end of it. The land had turned white with cherry trees blooming in a sure sign of spring. Mason cruised endlessly up and down the sandy coastline while he drank Jack Daniels and Coke, one after another.
Mason and Samantha started receiving unwelcome visitors at the mansion; all were seeking money. One day when Samantha answered the door, a poorly dressed man asked, “Does this mansion belong to the Rossman family?”
“Yes, it is the Rossman residence. How can I help you?” replied Samantha, knowing she was about to be hit up for some cash.
“My name is Pete Buchanan and I have leukemia. You’re rich and I’m poor. I’m homeless and in desperate shape. I can’t afford medical treatment for my disease. My health has been ruined. I’m broke and have a family to support. My doctor only gives me four months to live. Can you spare a few dollars to help with my doctor bills?”
“No, we give to charities, not individuals,” explained Samantha, trying to be nice to the man but firmly telling him no.
“But you have so much money, surely you can afford to give me some,” said the man, persistently requesting some cash.
“No, you’ll have to leave,” said Samantha. “Good-bye.”
“Be that way then, bitch,” the man told her, waving his middle finger and making an obscene gesture. She quietly closed and locked the front door.
The demanding man unnerved Samantha. It seemed like every day someone approached their mansion asking for money. She was afraid of some of these people. When she complained to Mason about the ongoing hassles with visitors, he suggested putting up a wall around the mansion and having a security gate out front to keep people out.
“Mason, I want a home, not a fortress,” Samantha told him, dismissing the idea of a wall and security gate. “This mansion is like a beacon to the riff-raff and homeless people who are asking for financial help. We get good-deed doers seeking money for their charities nearly every day. When we won the Powerball lottery, I just wanted a regular middle-class home in a quiet neighborhood, not a mansion. I guess I’ll just keep shooing them away because I don’t want to live in a concrete block house as you suggest.”
“If you don’t want a wall and security gate then don’t complain to me again about unwanted visitors,” Mason told his wife. He was unsympathetic about her concerns for he thought the problem was a security issue and was dismayed that she didn’t see it that way too. Samantha vowed to no longer complain about the many people who were showing up at the mansion. She also thought Mason had been rude to her again. He could be so thoughtless and mean.
One late night while in a deep sleep Samantha and Mason heard the loud buzzing of the burglar alarm sounding off loudly in the mansion. Afraid, they got up, put on their bathrobes, and went into the living room to investigate. Samantha looked out the front window and saw a man dressed in black, running away into the darkness. Mason called 911 to report the incident to the police.
A few minutes later a patrol car, with no red and blue lights flashing or siren wailing, drove up the mansion’s driveway. The quiet vehicle stopped and two uniformed police officers emerged from it with their flashlights turned on. They came up the sidewalk and rang the doorbell. No longer afraid, Samantha and Mason opened the front door and let them in.
“What happened?” asked the tall cop.
“The burglar alarm sounded off and woke us up. I went to the front window and saw a man dressed in black run away into the darkness,” Samantha told them, trying to stay calm.
“I’ll search the grounds,” said one of the officers, turning and walking away. He turned his flashlight on, which guided him in the darkness.
The other cop said, “They damaged your front door lock trying to get in. Don’t touch it. We’ll have a detective dust it for fingerprints in the morning.”
“Oh, my goodness, we almost got robbed,” exclaimed Samantha loudly, almost in a panic.
The officer then said, “You’re safe now and no longer need to worry. We will patrol the area looking for the burglar until dawn, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.”
“Thank you so much,” said Samantha, relieved.
The two cops went back to their patrol car and drove away, searching the neighborhood with a spotlight.
Samantha thought to herself, I’m sure glad I insisted Mason put in a burglar alarm for our new home. I don’t want to buy a handgun for protection for fear I’ll discharge it accidently and shoot someone other than a thief by mistake. I’m scared the criminal will return and try to rob me or even do something worse like rape me.
She stayed awake in bed for the rest of the night, scared to close her eyes and fall asleep. At seven a.m. Detective Foster came by the mansion and dusted the front door for fingerprints but couldn’t find any with which to solve the crime.
Four weeks after the accident Mason went to the local hospital and had his forearm cast removed. His arm was still sore but had healed. His head felt better and he had no residual pain from the accident at the 7-Eleven.
Mason soon announced to Samantha that it was time for him to fly to Hollywood. He planned on trying to secure a movie agent who would introduce him to a film producer who had access to a studio. Packing a suitcase full of new clothes Mason also took a copy of his manuscript with him. Samantha saw him off on a flight to Chicago; she was nearly crying. His flight would connect with another flight to Hollywood, and he would land at the Hollywood Burbank Bob Hope Airport. She continued to worry about Mason’s plans to make a movie and if he was getting in over his head but there seemed there was nothing she could do about it. Feeling concerned, she prayed for his safe return from Hollywood after a short stay away from home.