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.

The Doll

This was originally published on my blog on October 5, 2018

The Doll

“Mama!” Lily yelled. “Mama!”

    All Lily wanted was to go camping for her 10th birthday. Her family usually went camping in the summer, but seeing as it was an unusually warm fall, they agreed.


    “I know it’s your birthday, and you’re in the double digits now, but don’t wander off alone.” Her mother’s words echoed in her head. But she hadn’t wandered off alone. She met a girl. Lily had been in the campground’s general store with her mom when she saw another little girl standing near.

    “Hi, my name is Rosie.” The girl said.

    “Hi. I’m Lily.”

    “Do you want to see my doll collection?”

    “You bring your dolls camping?” Lily asked.

    “I have a lot of them. Do you want to see?”

    “How far away is your campsite?”

    “Not too far.” Rosie answered.

    Lily looked to her mom who was chatting with an employee.

    “I’ll be right back!” Lily yelled. Her mom seemed too engrossed in her conversation to notice, so Lily left with Rosie.

    “So, why do you bring your dolls camping?”

    “They’re my friends.” Rosie took Lily past all the campsites, deeper into the woods.

    “I should go back.” Lily said. But Rosie didn’t answer. Instead, she grabbed hold of Lily’s wrist, and ran. Eventually, Lily lost track of how long, and how far they had been running. They just kept going deeper into the dense green woods. They stopped at a light blue tent. Lily looked around and didn’t see any other campers.

    “Where are your parents?” Lily asked.

    “My dolls are in this tent.” Rosie said, and unzipped the door, and sure enough the tent was full of beautiful dolls. There were porcelain ones, fabric ones, big ones, small ones. Lily couldn’t count them all.

    “Let’s have a tea party.” Rosie said, and sat in the middle of the tent, surrounded by dolls, at what looked to be a plastic tea set.

    “I should really be going.” Lily said. “I told my mom I’d be right back.” But when Rosie handed Lily a steaming cup of tea, she couldn’t resist. The tea smelled sweet and warm, but when Lily drank it, she became sleepy.

    “You’re going to be my friend forever.” Rosie said, clipping a small white bow into Lily’s hair.

    “I have to go.” Lily said. She left the tent and started running in what she thought was the way they came. Eventually though, her legs couldn’t carry her. She felt as though her bones were turning to plastic. She fell onto the forest floor, stiff and unable to move.

    “Mama!” She said.

    Back at the campsite, Lily’s mom paced, wrapped in a blanket, damp with the new rain.

    “Mrs. Cartwright?” An officer said, walking over to her.  

    “Have you found my daughter?” She asked.

    “No. I’m sorry. We did find this though, was this your daughter’s?” The officer handed her a doll – it was wet and dirty. Mrs. Cartwright adjusted the little white bow.

    “She’s pretty.” Mrs. Cartwright said. “But she’s not my daughter’s.” She pulled the string on the back of the doll.

    “Mama!” It said. Mrs. Cartwright handed it back to the officer.

    “Mama!” It said again, this time on its own.

    “Well, it seems to be broken. What a shame.” The officer said. “We’re sending another team out to look for your daughter. We’ll keep you updated.” the officer walked toward a group of officers, tossing the doll in a dumpster on the way.

Babysitter Wanted

This story was originally published on my old blog site on October 8, 2017

Babysitter Wanted

Eddie wasn’t much of a career man.  He preferred the spontaneity of the occasional odd job.  Sometimes he’d be cleaning houses, or watching someone’s dog – the next week he might be watering a lawn or cleaning up a construction site, and some weeks he might not be working at all.  It didn’t matter to his landlord so long as his rent was paid on time. At this point, Eddie hadn’t had a job in a week and half.

Thankfully, there had been an ad in the paper for a babysitter. He drove up the gravel driveway, past a moving truck and parked in front of the home. He was ten minutes early, so he sat for a bit, admiring how the shadows of the trees reflected on the large front windows. With five minutes to go, he decided to knock on the front door.

“Hello!” Said a dusty blonde haired woman.  She looked tired, and her arm was in a sling. “You must be Eddie. I’m Mary, we spoke on the phone.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Eddie said. Mary led him inside.  There were piles of bags and suitcases next to the door. “Wow, they sure pack a lot for a weekend.” Eddie thought.

“I’m sorry this is such short notice, but we really appreciate it.” Mary said. “Honey? Are you ready to go?” Mary yelled up the stairs.  Mary’s husband came down the stairs with a trot.

“Hi there! You must be Eddie. I’m John.  Thanks for agreeing to watch our daughter on such short notice.”

“Oh. It’s no problem.” Eddie said.  John took Mary aside and they spoke in hushed tones. Eddie looked around at the sparse furnishings. From the sight of the moving truck at the end of the driveway, Eddie assumed the rest of their furniture hadn’t arrived yet.  Eddie had only spoken to Mary briefly on the phone.  She stated that they needed to go away for the weekend and that they needed someone to watch their special needs daughter.  Eddie agreed and he came the very next day. John rubbed his temples.  Eddie noticed that he was missing a finger on his right hand.

“I’m going to take our stuff to the car.” John said. “It was nice meeting you Eddie.” He said before taking an armload of bags outside.

“Your check is on the counter. We really must go.  Thank you again.” Mary said.  She grabbed the last of the luggage and went outside.

They never said goodbye to their daughter.

Eddie went upstairs to introduce himself. He went to the room at the end of the hall. The door was open just a crack.  “Hello?” He said, and pushed open the door.  It didn’t look like any little girls room he’d ever seen.  Newspaper clippings covered one of the walls.

“Local Family Mauled by Unknown Animal.”
“3 Teen Babysitters Die Within a Month”
“Several Campers Slain”

All the papers were from different cities – different counties – different states.  Eddie remembered again how Mary’s arm was in a sling, John’s missing finger, and how eager they were to leave.  Eddie ran to the upstairs window facing the driveway.

The moving truck was gone.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

He heard a giggle…

                            …and then a growl.

Form B

This story was originally published on my old blog site on October 21, 2016

Form B
“So, is this treatment going to be painful?” Moira asked.
“There is a very mild discomfort.” Dr. Webb said, leaning back in his office chair. It creaked under his weight. “Some say it is like  slight burning sensation.” He smiled. “It’s nothing you have to concern yourself with.”
Moira had been seeing Dr. Webb for the last 6 months for treatment for her eczema. She had spent thousands of dollars on other doctors, creams, and homeopathic remedies all to no avail. Dr. Webb had contact her on a web forum. She was part of a message board community for people with skin conditions. He told her that he could cure her.
And he had.
His method was a combination of medicated baths, pills, ointments and even meditation.  Her skin was glowing. She couldn’t remember the last time her skin was this clear.  Today was her final session. A heat treatment. She wasn’t sure exactly how it was supposed to help, but Dr. Webb had yet to disappoint.  
“So, can you briefly explain this procedure to me one more time?”
“Of course.  First, I’ll inject you with a mild sedative to relax you.  This is because the treatment requires you to be in a confined space and it will reduce any anxiety that may arise from that. It also makes it so you can’t move too much.  The treatment works better if you are still.”
“Small space?”
“Yes. Think of it almost like an enclosed tanning bed. But don’t fret.  I’ll be in the room with you the whole time.”
“I see.” Moira said.
“Do you have any other questions for me?”
“What exactly does the heat do?”
“It kills bacteria on the skin and just awakens the new skin cells that are developing.  Anything else?”
“No. I think that’s it.  I am a little nervous though.”
“That’s perfectly normal and the sedative should help with that.”  Moira nodded.  She was ready.
“I’m going to administer the sedative and then have you sign a few things while it kicks in.”  He walked out of the room and came back with a syringe and a clipboard. He gave her the sedative. She winced as the needle went in. “Okay. I just need a few quick signatures at the highlighted parts. It’s just a waiver, but I promise you’ll be safe.”
Moira’s vision was already starting to blur. She tired to read the waiver, but all the letters melted together.  The only thing she could make out clearly was the title of the waiver:
“Um…I…” Moira started, but she couldn’t quite get the words out.
“I see the sedative is kicking in already. Please finish the form quickly.  I’d hate for you to fall out of your seat.” He chuckled.
She scribbled onto the form, hoping it looked something like her signature. She moved into a wheelchair and he wheeled her down the hall.
“Go ahead and dress down to your undergarments.” Dr. Webb said. She undressed, wobbling the whole time.
He helped her to lay down on a narrow, cold metal table. 
“This table will move into the machine, like a drawer, and I’m going to close you in. But don’t worry, I’ll be in the room the whole time.”
She stared at him from over her feet.  Something didn’t feel right, but the sedative was so strong, she couldn’t protest.  He pushed and a door by her feet slammed shut. She could just barely see Dr. Webb’s silhouette outside the door.
Dr. Webb walked away and turned on the heat.
Immediately, Moira could feel blisters bubbling up on her skin.  She couldn’t breathe.  She was so suffocated by the heat that she couldn’t scream.
Dr. Webb turned on the second column of flames and sat back and watched the fiery glow through the door. 

A Day in the Life of Harold Abrams

This story was originally published on my old blog site on October 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of Harold Abrams

“It’s supposed to rain today.” Laurel said to her husband, Harold who sat in his armchair on the other side of the living room.  “Good thing we are staying in today.” She said, putting the newspaper down onto the table beside her.  

A whistle came from the kitchen. “Oh, looks like the kettle is done, I’ll get us some tea.” She stood up slowly and carefully and puttered her way into the kitchen. Harold stayed in his armchair. Laurel came back with two steamy cups of hot tea.

“I got you some Chamomile. It was the last box in the store, you sure are lucky.” She placed the tea cup next to Harold and then went back to her chair next to the window. There, she sipped her tea as she did the crossword puzzle in the paper.

“Do you know a 5 letter word for a clearing in a forest?” Laurel asked her husband.  Harold sat in his armchair on the other side of the room.

“Yeah, this is a tricky one. Very unusual for a Wednesday.”  A moment later, there was a knock on the door. “Were you expecting company?” Laurel asked, looking over to Harold.  Harold sat in his armchair. “Me neither.” She said, and stood. She opened the door, keeping the chain lock locked so the door would stay mostly closed. “Yes?”

“I have a delivery for a Laurel Abrams. Is that you?” It was the parcel carrier.

“Oh how nice!” She exclaimed. “Is a signature required?”

“No Ma’am.” 

“Then would you mind just setting it there on the porch.  I’m not quite decent you see.”

“Oh of course.” He said, setting the delivery on the porch. “Have a good rest of your day.” He went back to his truck. Once he was gone, she went out to retrieve the delivery.  It was a vase of flowers. They were big and bright and beautiful. 

“Oh look at this, Harold. Someone sent us some flowers. Let’s see who they are from.” Laurel read the card.

“To my dearest friend, Laurel on this, the anniversary of Harold’s death. May he continued to rest in peace and you continue to live in it.
With love, 

“Oh look at this, Harold. Connie sent us some flowers.  How sweet.” She went back over to Harold who was still sitting in his armchair and placed the vase next to him.  “Oh dear, you have a little something.” She said, and brushed a cobweb off of his face, right near his left temple. “There. Much better.” She went back across the room and sat.

“Now lets see if we can finish this crossword.”

Til (Un)Death Do Us Part

This story was originally published on my old blog site on October 7, 2016

Til (Un)Death Do Us Part

He looked at her with a hunger.  He had always though she was beautiful, but today, there was something about her that made him crave her even more.

They were High School sweethearts. Neither of their families thought they were going to make it together, but 6 years later, they were going strong.

They had survived post High School retail jobs together, college together, and even living in their tiny one bedroom apartment together.

They had hoped to survive The Outbreak together.

And for the last 9 months, they had.

He had managed to kill the zombie and secure their apartment once again, but not without injury.  An hour later she had locked herself in the bathroom, hoping he’d get tired and move on. It wasn’t long before he was able to break through the door. 

As he stared at her, he remembered their love, but it was fleeting as he focused more and more on the blood he could smell coursing through her veins, as he craved the feeling of her flesh between his teeth, the brain that he knew held so much knowledge, but that would also keep him alive, in a sense.  
“You promised.” She said, as she stretched out her arm.  “You promised we’d go out together. No matter what.” That was true.  And as he placed her soft pale arm in his mouth, he kept his promise.