Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, and their kids Theodore, Johnny, and Susie, were spending the weekend at a hotel in Austin, Texas. Theodore was a smart kid with glasses and red hair. Actually, his hair was orange, but people called it red. Johnny was a regular, fun-loving 10-year-old boy, and Susie was a little girl with long brown hair.
Late one afternoon, the Jacksons were in their hotel room when the phone rang. They looked at each other in surprise. They weren’t expecting a phone call. Mr. Jackson answered, “Hello?” As he talked on the phone, he gave the rest of the family an exciting look and made the “thumbs-up” sign. When he hung up, he explained why.
“That was a man from the Hartwell Insurance Company,” Mr. Jackson explained. “A distant relative of ours died a few weeks ago. He had a lot of money but no family. The insurance company has been looking for any of the guy’s distant relatives who could inherit the money. And guess what? It’s us! We’re going to inherit almost $100,000,000 dollars!! Whooo!”
“Oh my God, are you serious?” Mrs. Jackson was stunned.
“Oh wow, $100,000,000 dollars now that’s a lot of zeros!” exclaimed Johnny.
“Eight zeros, to be exact,” stated Theodore.
“That’s more than enough zeros for me!” cheered Mr. Jackson happily.
The whole family started cheering and jumping around the hotel room.
“I can’t believe it. This is the best”, said Mrs. Jackson.
“When we get the money, I say we put all the dollar bills on the ground and roll around in it,” cheered Johnny.
“Now, calm down, son. We still have to get the money first,” said Mr. Jackson.
“It’s just a shame that one of our relatives died,” said Susie. “Don’t worry, dear. The man on the phone said he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He is in a better place now,” said Mr. Jackson kindly to his daughter. This satisfied Susie.
As the night went on, the Jackson family grew more and more excited at the prospects of the idea of their new fortune. “We’re rich!” yelled Theodore and Johnny. Everyone started talking at once about what they were going to do with the money.
“A big, new house with four bedrooms,” said Mrs. Jackson.
“A convertible,” said Mr. Jackson. “Red.”
“A new computer,” said Theodore.
“A cool, new bike,” said Johnny.
“Lots and lots of pets. Dogs, cats, birds, hamsters . . .,” said Susie, “all girls.”
Mr. Jackson looked at his watch. “What time is it? We should get to bed. I have to meet the guy from the insurance company first thing in the morning.” “Tomorrow morning?” asked Mrs. Jackson. “Can’t it wait till we get home?” Mr. Jackson replied, “The insurance company only has a certain number of days to find the family members or the money will be forfeited. They’re almost out of time. That’s why he tracked us down here at the hotel. He said he’d like to get the paperwork started right away. We have to pay him some fees so they can start processing the claim.” “How much are the fees?” asked Mrs. Jackson. “They’re $1,000.” Mrs. Jackson looked alarmed. “I don’t have a check,” Mr. Jackson continued, “but he said we can pay him in cash. I know it’s a lot, but I’m sure there’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of court documents to straighten out this type of inheritance. And to get $1 million, it’s worth it!” he said.
Susie started counting on her fingers, “Isn’t it kinda weird that we’re paying money just to get all of it back and more?” she said
“This insurance stuff is very complicated, dear. You will understand it when you are older,” said Mr. Jackson.
Susie looked confused and a tiny bit frustrated but nodded anyway.
“We’re millionaires! We’re millionaires!” chanted the kids.
The next morning the Jacksons went downstairs to meet the insurance company man.
As the Jackson family began to walk down into the lobby, the three siblings discussed what they were going to buy first with their new fortune.
“When we get the money, the first thing I am going to buy is a new chemistry set,” said Theodore.
“I’m actually not sure what I’ll buy first,” said Susie, “I’ll either use the money to buy a pony or to pay for bare-knuckle boxing lessons.”
Johnny and Theodore looked surprised at their little sister.
“What?” said Susie.
“Well, what I’m going to use the money for is bribing my schoolteacher, so I don’t have to do work in class anymore,” smiled Johnny.
“Not on my watch, you won’t,” said Mrs. Jackson, who was listening in on her kid’s conversion.
Just then, Mr. Jackson pointed to a man who was waiting in the lobby.
“That must be him!” said Mr. Jackson.
The man was a serious-looking man wearing a trench coat. and he was carrying a briefcase. “You must be the Jacksons,” he said. “Congratulations! I’m glad we were able to locate you in time.” The insurance man handed Mr. Jackson a business card. Then he pulled a stack of typed papers out of his briefcase and sat on a chair near a coffee table. He handed a pen to Mr. Jackson. “Sign here, and here,” he said, flipping pages, “and here . . .” Mr. Jackson spent a long time signing and initialing the documents, with the kids fidgeting around him.
“Thank you,” the man said. “Now, with respect to the processing fees . . .” Mr. Jackson handed the man an envelope filled with money. Mr. Jackson grinned sheepishly. “I feel like a mobster giving you an envelope of cash.” The insurance man frowned and looked stern. “I can assure you, Mr. Jackson, we at the Hartwell Insurance Company are not mobsters. We would ordinarily insist on payment by check and have only agreed to accept cash because of the unusual circumstances here.” Mr. Jackson looked a little embarrassed and apologized. “Sorry. I was just joking. I guess we’re still trying to get used to the idea of being millionaires.” Mr. Jackson put his arm around Mrs. Jackson and smiled at the kids.
“Of course,” said the insurance man stiffly. “I can understand your excitement. Now, let me give you the papers you’ll need to present to the bank to claim your inheritance.” He searched through his briefcase without success. “I must have left them in the car. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll get them. I’m parked right outside.” The insurance man picked up his briefcase and walked out the automatic front doors toward the hotel parking lot. The glass doors whooshed closed behind him. Mr. Jackson high-fived Theodore and Johnny. Mrs. Jackson said fretfully, “I wonder whether we should open a new bank account for the money?” Mrs. Jackson wondered fretfully?”
Meanwhile, Susie drifted over to the glass front doors and looked outside. She wanted to see the man get the papers that would make them millionaires. She saw the man standing next to a brown car in the parking lot. The brown car didn’t look very nice; it had holes and ugly rust spots over the tires. As she watched, the insurance man took off his trench coat and stuffed it in the back seat of the car. His shirt, under the trench coat, was wrinkled and didn’t look very clean. To Susie’s surprise, the insurance man got into the driver’s seat and started the car. Twisting around to look behind him, he sped backward out of the parking spot. She watched as he drove out of the parking lot, past the front of the hotel, and down the road.
Mr. Jackson looked up just as the brown car drove by the front windows of the hotel. He turned to Mrs. Jackson and the boys, “Was that the insurance guy?” he asked, puzzled. “Susie,” he called, “can you see the insurance guy?” Susie walked back to the rest of the family group. “He left,” she said. Mr. Jackson looked at the business card sitting on the coffee table. The card was for the Hartwell Insurance Company and listed a toll-free phone number but not the name of the insurance guy. Mr. Jackson pulled out his cell phone and dialed the toll-free number. Even the kids could hear the tones that came before the message, “The number you have called is no longer in service.”
“Uh-oh,” said Mr. Jackson, giving Mrs. Jackson a panicked look. A short time later, two uniformed police officers walked into the hotel lobby where the Jackson family was huddled together, each looking more worried than the next. “Mr. Jackson?” asked the first officer. Mr. Jackson nodded and shook the officer’s hand. “John Jackson,” he said. “Officer Nixon,” the policeman replied.
Mr. and Mrs. Jackson explained to the officers what had happened. “What’s the name of the relative who died?” asked Officer Nixon. “Herman Miller. He was Julia’s relation on her mother’s side,” Mr. Jackson answered, nodding toward Mrs. Jackson.
“What?” she said. “I don’t have any relative named Herman or any relative named Miller. I thought the guy was your relative.” “No, I said he was on your side of the family,” retorted Mr. Jackson. Officer Nixon shook his head. “O.K., let’s talk about this insurance company guy. Can you give me a description of him?” “Yes, yes, of course,” said Mr. Jackson. “He was about average height, with black hair, wearing a trench coat and glasses. He didn’t have black hair, it was light brown,” said Mrs. Jackson. “And he wasn’t wearing glasses.”
“Yes, he was,” answered Mr. Jackson. “I definitely remember glasses. I think they were sunglasses,” said Mrs. Jackson. “So, you admit he wore glasses!” said Mr. Jackson triumphantly. Officer Nixon looked impatient. “What was his name?” he asked. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson looked at each other and then looked, dismayed, at Officer Nixon. They shook their heads, “We don’t know,” said Mr. Jackson. “We never got his name.” Officer Nixon looked at his partner and shook his head. “Let me get this straight. You gave $1,000 in cash to a man whose name you don’t know and who you can’t describe.” He flipped his notebook shut. “I’m sorry, but this is going nowhere. If you don’t have any more to go on than that . . .” Susie, who had been standing next to her mom, interrupted, “I remember something,” she said. Mr. Jackson looked quickly at her, looking a little desperate, “What do you remember, sweetheart? Did you see him outside the hotel?”
Susie nodded. “I remember his license plate,” she said. Now she had the police officer’s attention. “Can you remember what it was?” asked Officer Nixon. Susie nodded, “It was 5FHL496.” The officers nodded approvingly. “Good work. That’s very helpful. Can you remember what kind of car he was driving?” Officer Nixon asked.
“It was black!” said Mr. Jackson. “No, it was dark green,” contradicted Mrs. Jackson. “It was an older model brown sedan with rust spots over the wheels,” said Susie. Her family looked at her in surprise. “What’s a sedan?” asked Johnny. Officer Nixon picked up a microphone hanging from his belt and spoke into it. “I have an APB for an older model brown sedan, license number 5FHL496.’ He looked at Susie and winked, “We’ll get him, little lady.”
Later that night, the police called the Jackson family and asked them to come to the police station. They asked Mr. Jackson to go into a room and look at a group of men to see if he could identify the insurance man. When Mr. Jackson was done, they asked Susie to step into the viewing room. On the other side of a window, the insurance guy was standing in a line of men. The police asked Susie to point out which one he was. It was so easy! They even got their money back.
As the Jackson family was leaving the police station, they passed by a holding cell where the insurance guy was sitting, looking angrily through the bars, with a group of other prisoners. The kids walked up to the cell. “Excuse me, Mr. Insurance Man,” said Theodore. The fake insurance guy glared at them and muttered something under his breath. Theodore motioned to the man to come closer. Reluctantly, he stood and walked up to where the kids were standing on the other side of the bars. Theodore looked the insurance guy in the eye. “One of your very distant relatives died the other day, and he left you this.” Johnny pushed a plastic bag through the bars. The man reached inside. Susie smiled as he pulled an orange prison jumpsuit out of the bag. “Enjoy your inheritance,” she said.