BY: FRED SHACKELFORD
Channing Booker, a compulsive gambler, drug abuser, and philanderer whose marriage is failing, finally gets lucky and wins the Mega Millions lottery. Expecting an imminent divorce, and hoping to hide his new fortune from his wife Susan, Channing devises a scheme to have a friend claim the $241-million jackpot and secretly return the money to Channing after the divorce is final. But Susan flees with all of her possessions, including the rare book in which Channing hid the winning lottery ticket. With time running out before the lottery ticket expires, Channing launches a desperate search to find Susan, but she’s covered her tracks well, fearing his retribution. In need of money to fund her furtive new lifestyle, Susan begins selling off her worldly goods, including her rare books, unleashing a chain of events that puts not only her life in danger, but that of her new love as well…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Ticket by Fred Shackelford, Channing Booker is a crooked attorney, an unfaithful and abusive husband, and an all-around cad. When he wins $241 million in the state lottery, he thinks his troubles are over. But it is not to be. Channing arrives home to find his wife and all of her things gone, including the book in which he hid the lottery ticket. Frantic, Channing begins searching for Susan, not because he misses his wife, but because she has his ticket, and thus starts a chain of events that neither Channing or Susan anticipated. While Channing and his unscrupulous friend search for Susan, she starts selling her possessions to gain enough money so that she can stay hidden. And the first things she sells? Her rare books, of course.
The story is fast-paced, tension-filled, well written, and full of unexpected twists and turns. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Ticket by Fred Shackelford is the story of a scumbag attorney who hasn’t got a scruple in his whole wicked body. Having spent most of his money on gambling and cheating on his wife, he buys a lottery ticket at a convenience store and wins $241 million. Instead of doing the right thing and splitting it with his wife, he plans to have a friend cash the ticket and then give the money back once Channing’s divorce is final. But the joke turns out to be on Channing. When he arrives home the next evening, after a date with his girlfriend, he discovers that his wife has left him, unknowing taking the lottery ticket with her, since Channing hid it in a rare book that Susan owned before her marriage to Channing. As Channing and a local thug search desperately for Susan, she quietly remains hidden, selling off her rare books on eBay. Will Channing find her before she sells the one that holds the ticket?
The Ticket is a suspense-filled thriller that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat turning pages as fast as you can.
Channing Booker’s hand trembled as he held the slip of paper. Bleary-eyed from a Friday night of drinking and revelry, he wasn’t sure if what he saw was real. In the darkness of his study, he stared at the Virginia Lottery’s web site in the pale glow of a smartphone screen. Slowly he read the six winning Mega Millions numbers one more time. He had been playing the lottery for at least a decade but had little to show for it–until now.
Glancing back and forth between the winning numbers on his smartphone and a row of digits on the slip of paper, he confirmed that his ticket was a winner. Tonight’s projected jackpot was $239 million, but with a flurry of last-minute ticket buying it may have inched up another million or so.
Knowing he had beaten odds of 259 million to one, Channing hoped his luck would hold when the final results were announced. Surely no one deserved a windfall more than he did, and he pondered the injustice that would befall him if someone else held a lucky ticket. His elation began to ebb as he considered the possibility that he might have to share his jackpot with another player. It ebbed even further as he realized that his new fortune, in whatever amount, would have to be divided between him and the woman who was sleeping upstairs.
Channing began to contemplate the radical changes that his sudden stroke of luck would bring. He was almost certain that Susan’s lawyer would be filing divorce papers soon, and until tonight he had dreaded the monetary implications of being single again. His few remaining assets would be snatched away by an irate wife, a greedy divorce lawyer, and a hostile judge. But they can only take what they can find.
He would wait until the divorce was final before cashing in the ticket, speeding the litigation along with magnanimous concessions and generous settlement offers. At least they would seem generous coming from a man whose apparent wealth had dwindled. Without children, there would be no protracted fight over custody or child support. He could wrap up the whole sorry process in a couple of months, grab his lottery winnings, reclaim his Mercedes, and retire with his favorite girlfriend to an island in the Caribbean.
As he leaned back on the couch, his pulse rate gradually returned to normal, and the shock of seeing the winning numbers on his ticket subsided. Minutes passed as he reveled in his vision of a carefree future. The house was silent, except for the gentle purr of Tony, the resident Siamese cat, who was curled up in a ball at the other end of the couch. Unfazed by the silent drama that was unfolding before him, Tony watched placidly as his master stared at the ceiling. A sliver of moonlight peeked through the curtains and cast faint shadows around the room. Channing set the winning ticket on the small mahogany table at the end of the couch and gazed at it for several minutes.
His thoughts turned to the practical implications of his plan. He knew that when he cashed in the lottery ticket his win would be a matter of public record. Virginia’s lottery rules required jackpot winners to appear at a press conference, shake hands with an official, and accept an oversized replica of a check. Although he had no expertise in family law, he suspected that Susan’s lawyer could reopen the divorce case and seize much of his new fortune. His precarious legal position called for a more sophisticated plan to preserve the money until it could be secretly deposited in an offshore bank account.
He assumed that he could count on help from one of his drinking buddies, Sully Pendleton. A local attorney who practiced out of a small office downtown, Sully was Channing’s closest confidant. The two of them had collaborated on a commercial fraud case some years ago, and a friendship developed and grew over time. In addition to drinking and pursuing women, they shared an interest in professional football and often attended Carolina Panthers games together.
In fact, Channing was planning to leave with Sully the following Sunday morning to see the Panthers play the Falcons. On the way to the game he would ask Sully to safeguard the ticket until his divorce was final, and then wait a decent interval before cashing it in, as if Sully were the lucky winner. Sully could take a percentage off the top, plus enough to pay the taxes that would accrue, and then quietly wire the balance to an account that Channing would open at a bank in the Cayman Islands.
Channing hoped his friend would accept a share of eight to ten percent for his trouble, but if he wanted more, the additional expense would be worth it. A matter of this delicacy required the sensitivity and discretion that only Sully could bring to the task.
Having spent years perfecting the art of calculating odds, point spreads, and payoffs, Channing was able to do the math in his head. Taking the lump sum payout would reduce the $239 million pot by about half. Federal and state income taxes, which would be assessed to Sully, would eat up a portion of the balance. He guessed that Sully’s fee, plus a deduction for taxes, might siphon off about forty-five percent. Assuming there was only one winning ticket, Channing would be left with roughly $66 million. He was confident that this would buy a nice piece of real estate where he could park his Mercedes and girlfriend du jour, even at the inflated prices that prevailed in the Caymans.
Although he thought he could trust Sully, it occurred to Channing that his friend might develop amnesia and claim the ticket as his own. Perhaps in Sully’s mind a lottery jackpot would be fair compensation for the loss of Channing’s friendship. Channing would need some insurance in case the plan went awry–some proof that Sully was simply holding his ticket for safekeeping.
On the shelves behind the couch was a row of rare books that Susan had collected over the years. Channing picked up the ticket and carefully placed it on one of the shelves, letting it rest upright against a row of rare, limited edition Charles Dickens novels. He quietly slipped into an adjoining room and groped in a closet until he found a camera, thinking that its picture quality would be superior to what his smartphone could produce. He returned and pointed the lens at the ticket, leaning over the couch until he was about a foot away from it. The flash blinded him for a moment, but as he looked at the camera’s display screen he could see that the image was clear. All the numbers on the ticket were in sharp focus, and now he could prove that the ticket was his, without having to sign his name on the back.
He set the camera in the mahogany table’s open drawer and eased it shut. Picking up the winning ticket, he pulled one of the Dickens novels from the shelf. Its ornate leather jacket protected a fragile binding, and the title was printed in elaborate gold lettering. He opened the back cover and slipped the ticket behind the jacket, pushing it all the way in for a snug fit. He turned the book over in his hands and read its title several times until he was certain he would remember it. Placing the book back in position, he turned around and silently crept upstairs to the bedroom.
Susan was under the covers, facing away from him and apparently in a deep sleep. He slipped into bed without disturbing her, smiling as he thought about his incredible luck. He had often dreamed of winning a lottery jackpot, but, in the past, the big money had always gone to some undeserving factory worker or senior citizen. He decided to delay his celebration, as he had already arranged a date with a recent acquaintance, Melissa Sorensen, for tomorrow’s Baltimore Ravens game. It was a Saturday game near the end of the season, and he recalled that the Ravens were favored by six points over the Bengals.
As Channing drifted off to sleep, Susan opened her eyes and glanced at her bedside clock. It was one-thirty-five a.m.
Channing woke up six hours later and crawled slowly out of bed. Susan was still curled up under a thick blanket, her head buried in a pillow. Showering and dressing quickly, he headed downstairs to check point spreads in the morning’s Washington Post.
Walking with a newfound swagger to his Volvo, he nestled into the driver’s seat. The palm of his right hand slid across the fabric upholstery that covered the passenger seat. Soon he would be sitting on fine leather seats, the kind he had grown accustomed to before a creditor repossessed his Mercedes. With an air of satisfaction, he started the engine.
As the car headed down the driveway, Susan sat up in bed. She reached for the phone and placed the call that would change her life forever.
© 2016 by Fred Shackelford
Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award:
“In this gripping, clever novel, reminiscent of Scott Smith’s bestseller, A Simple Plan, the author takes what begins as a reasonable path to riches and shows the many ways a sure thing quickly can devolve into uncontrolled chaos. Attorney Channing Booker lives and works in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he spends most of his free time betting on various sporting events and cheating on his wife, Susan. Channing has lost most of his money on bad bets, until one day he buys a lottery ticket at Wally’s Quick Mart and finds he’s just won $241 million. You’d think he’d be overjoyed, but Channing is such a sleazebag that he’s annoyed that he’s going to have to split it with his wife, who he is planning to divorce. He decides to entrust the ticket to one of his drinking buddies, Sully Pendleton, and have him cash it in and then secretly turn the money over to Channing after his divorce is finalized. After all, what could go wrong with that plan? Obviously, everything. But the author’s genius is in eschewing the obvious plot arc and supplying readers with all the many other things that could possibly go wrong, most of them completely unexpected. Threaded within the plot twists are other stories of secondary characters, some hapless, some heroic, that in the end knit together to create a terrific, satisfying read.” ~ As evaluated by Publishers Weekly for the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award)
Author, Marshall Jevons:
“I know it is a reviewer’s cliché, but The Ticket is a page turner. Once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down until I learned the fate of 2, 6, 9, 17, 55, 12. Economists are not great forecasters, but I predict that readers of Shackelford’s first novel will demand that he supply more titles in the future.” ~ Kenneth G. Elzinga: aka Marshall Jevons, author of the Henry Spearman mystery novels and Mystery Writers of America Edgar judge for the Best Mystery Novel of the Year
Author, John Jebb:
“The hunt for the lost lottery ticket is exciting, dangerous, and fun. Fred Shackelford juggles a cast of characters who are resourceful, driven, complex, potentially lethal, and always entertaining. The villain, Channing Booker – the name is a great pun — is both amusing and frightening in his evil ways. The author works insights about the law into the quick moving plot, and he keeps readers tense about impending dangers. For fans of thrillers and of legal novels, Fred Shackelford artfully marries both genres in this superb début.” ~ John Jebb, author of True Crime: Virginia
Author, Janet Martin:
“The Ticket takes you into the mind of a true sleazebag. Channing Booker wins a jackpot lottery ticket one day and loses it the next. This blunder sets off a captivating chase, keeping the reader guessing at every turn. Fred Shackelford, the author and a keen legal mind himself, weaves obstacles throughout, confronting his protagonist with colorful characters who thwart Channing’s progress and confound his oily maneuvers. Channing is a jerk, no doubt; so why do we keep hoping he’ll win? Maybe, we want a sequel! Beware! The cunning suspense herein will disrupt your sleep. A breathless read! ~ Janet Martin, author of The Christmas Swap
The Daily Progress:
The novel is a fast-paced thriller that also will be enjoyed by those who love mysteries. ~ David A. Maurer, The Daily Progress READ FULL REVIEW
This is a breezy read that is well-plotted, with more than the requisite number of twists to keep readers entertained. Shackelford, a lawyer by trade, lives in Charlottesville. For a first novel, this is a wise choice for the setting, because of his familiarity with the area and, more importantly, the legal system, specifically divorce laws. ~ Lawrence McConnell, Roanoke Times READ FULL REVIEW
“‘Unless the ticket had fallen out of its hiding place, somewhere in the country a moving van was hauling the most valuable bookmark in the world.’ Channing Booker is a gambler, liar, compulsive cheater, and abuser. His gambling habit and general recklessness have cost him a literal fortune, and it seems a foregone conclusion that they will soon cost him his wife, as well. No longer able to maintain his high-roller lifestyle, Channing’s luck has just about run out when he miraculously wins the Mega Millions $241 million jackpot. But there is one significant hitch. His wife has finally had enough and has left him in the middle of the night—with the lottery ticket unknowingly in tow. Channing knew this day was coming so he isn’t nearly as concerned about the well-being of his soon-to-be ex-wife Susan as he is with finding the ticket before the 180-day claim window slams shut. Channing now must find both Susan and the ticket quickly without any leads, and this thriller soon becomes a race against time with life-threatening consequences. Although the pace of the novel flows quickly, Shackelford made sure to take the time to develop the minutiae with specificity. Whether it is the precisely descriptive prose that allows readers to smell and feel the wind of the ocean blowing gently on their faces while digesting Channing’s plans to retire to an island or the thoughtfully developed characters that are introduced at a break-neck pace, there is genuinely no portion of the book that is without meaning. Each multi-faceted character is presented with purpose and in some way will play a vital role in pushing the narrative further into an interconnectedness that concludes with a shocking climax. If you’ve ever wondered how much your life and the lives of those around you would change if you won the lottery tomorrow, this tale will give you something to truly think about. RECOMMENDED by the US Review.” Brittany Smith, US Review