The Long Con

This story was originally published on my blog on October 14, 2018

The Long Con

“How are you two feeling on this, the fifteenth anniversary of your daughter’s death?” Marjorie looked over at her husband, John. They sat next to each other on their cream colored couch, surrounded by flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals. John grabbed Marjorie’s hand and looked back at the reporter.

     “Our day to day is easier, but when the anniversary comes around, it’s like she died again.”

     The reporter wrapped up the interview by reminding the viewers that a candlelight vigil would be held that evening in what would have been Maisy’s high school.

     Marjorie and John Burns’ daughter went missing in the early summer of 2003. She had been playing in the front yard with her favorite doll, a Raggedy Ann doll, when she just vanished. The Burns, with their entire community, searched for weeks. The small town had never experienced such a tragedy. And then, in the fall of that year, after 4 months of searching and praying, their worst suspicions came true. Maisy’s body was found in a shallow grave in a park just outside of town.

     The whole situation had been tragic and baffling. Police, Search and Rescue, and the Burns’ themselves had scoured that park thousands of times. This led everyone to believe that she had been held somewhere and then dumped. The medical examiner couldn’t find anything that would help. Maisy was found with minor scrapes and bruises, and though her death was caused by strangulation, no fingerprints or other important clues could be found. Also in the shallow grave was her favorite doll, but it also didn’t have any clues.

     Maisy was buried in a white dress, with her doll. Her tombstone read:

     “To our little angel, we’ll see you soon.”

     This had been the biggest tragedy to happen in this small town, and one that they remembered and observed every year.

     That night, the Burns came home late and tired after the candlelight vigil. They had bags of gifts and flowers. Marjorie sat at the dining room table, opening cards, while John finished bringing in the last of the gifts.

     “How’d we do?” John asked.

     “$100 less than last year, and someone gave us an Applebees gift card.” Marjorie answered, frustrated.

     “Looks like a dead kid only pays for 15 years.” John said, grabbing a beer from the fridge.

     “I guess it’s time to relocate and try something else.” Marjorie said, shoving gifts into a big black garbage bag.

     The truth was, Marjorie and John were con artists. For years, they had farmed sympathy, money, and gifts from people all over the country. John had had, and then gotten cured from cancer on multiple occasions (and had even died, allowing him to create a new identity for himself). Marjorie had suffered multiple fake miscarriages, but when she really did get pregnant, they knew they could make a fortune. They just had to wait a few years first.

     The doorbell rang.

     Marjorie set down the black garbage bag and went to answer the door. All that was on the step was a single wrapped gift.

     “We got one more!” Marjorie yelled to John in the kitchen. She opened it, and immediately dropped the box to the floor.

     “What is it?” John asked.

     Inside the box was a dirty Raggedy Ann doll.