The lure of the lottery is simple: A couple dollars buy a shot, however long, at millions upon millions. The unspoken promise, of getting rich quick, is older than the republic.
A penniless day laborer in Central Florida named Abraham Shakespeare was seduced by the promise in November 2006. When the delivery truck on which he was working stopped at a mini-mart in the tiny town of Frostproof, Shakespeare bought a couple Quick Pick Lotto tickets.
Shakespeare's numbers -- 6, 12 , 13, 34, 42 and 52 -- won the $30 million jackpot. He settled for a lump-sum payment of $16.9 million. After taxes, he was left with $11 million. Not bad for the son of a citrus picker who had made his living working garbage trucks and washing dishes, and who had served time in jail for a series of petty crimes.
But now, three years later, most of the money is gone, and so is Abraham Shakespeare.
"We have no idea where Abraham Shakespeare is," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "And we need to know that very badly."
Shakespeare, who would be 43 years of age, has not been seen since April 2009, Judd said. The Sheriff's Department wasn't told about his disappearance until November.
"In the beginning, we thought he was missing, that he was hiding away," Judd said.
"As the investigation continues, the evidence mounts that he could have died because of sinister means."
Somebody might have wanted that money, Judd said. And murder might have been their means to get it.
Indeed, a lot of people wanted Shakespeare's money. A man who had spent 40 years living on the margins was suddenly besieged with requests.
Shakespeare's mother, Elizabeth Walker, now a cafeteria worker, remembers what it was like in the months after her son became a millionaire.
"If someone asked him for help, he was always trying to help them," Walker said. "I had been with him in his car. They called him on his phone, and he trying to drive and trying to talk to them and they asking him for money.
"He said his phone would be constantly ringing. Even when I called him, he'll say -- he'll talk a few minutes and then he'll say, 'Hold on, I got a call. I'll call you back.' And sometimes, he wouldn't call back. And he said he was just getting phone calls, one right after another one. People just asking for money."
Shakespeare couldn't -- or wouldn't -- say no. He gave his stepfather $1 million, his three stepsisters $250,000 each. He paid off a friend's mortgage for $185,000. He paid off mortgages of $60,000 and $53,000 for two men he didn't know. He gave his brother's son's best friend $40,000.
"I would just like to say, I can't see how anybody being a human themselves that could take advantage of somebody else the way I see somebody done take advantage of my son, Abraham," Walker said. "Abraham was good-hearted. He paid for other people's funerals and he paid people's electric bills for them. He paid people's rent."
Then there was the court case. The man who was driving the delivery truck that stopped where Shakespeare bought the ticket insisted it was really his ticket. After a drawn-out trial, the jury sided with Shakespeare. But he was beginning to realize that money was not always a blessing.
"I really would like my old life back, where I could walk the streets like a normal person, without people coming and asking for money," Shakespeare said after the trial.