The Big Time
Short story by Iris Carden
I was tired of quick scams, the things that get you the next meal but not much more. I wanted to hit the big time, one glorious scam that would either leave me set for life or locked up for life (or at least a long time.)
That’s when I saw the news story. It was one of those unsolved mystery things. Eric’s daughter had been missing since she as a toddler. She would have been my age. My first thought was that the kid was obviously dead, get on with your life. It seemed his wife had got on with hers, divorcing him. But he, poor lonely billionaire he was, had kept hiring private investigators, hassling the police and media, all to get his little girl home.
I paid a bit more attention. Kirsty would be about my age if she were still alive. She had dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes, like me. Who could say what she would look like if she lived, apart from those basics?
The scam was simple. I dumped everything, all my fake IDs, any possessions, just kept the clothes I was wearing. I wandered aimlessly in Eric’s neighbourhood for a few days, made sure a few of those rich people and their staff saw me. The plan meant sleeping rough and missing meals, but I’d done that plenty of times before.
Eventually, I approached one of Eric’s security staff. “Can you help me?” I asked as pathetically as possible.
“What do you want?” the man asked.
“I want to know who I am.” I said. “I don’t know who I am or how I got here.”
He called the police, of course. It was OK. I didn’t have a record. I might have been living off my wits, scamming, as long as I could remember, but I’d never been caught.
I answered their questions, I didn’t know who I was, how I got there. I didn’t remember anything, but I saw that house and something told me I knew it somehow. Maybe I worked there or something? I didn’t know.
I could fake amnesia easily. Arthur taught me very well. Arthur’s the guy who raised me. He was my uncle or something, he was always vague about who my parents were. But right through childhood Arthur looked after me and taught me to look after myself. I never went to school. I was “homeschooled” in a way no other homeschool kids ever were. I never had any real ID, but over the years I developed a lot of fake IDs. I had a lot of names, but Arthur had always called me Kay.
Eventually, of course, Eric heard about me, and came personally to the police station, exactly as I had planned. He insisted on seeing me.
He wanted to know if I could be his long-lost daughter. I told him I didn’t know who I was. I repeated the story about seeing the house and having a feeling it was familiar.
The plan was to slowly regain my memory over time. I needed Eric to become emotionally invested.
Then he did the one thing that could make the whole scam go wrong. He asked if I would do a DNA test to see if I was his lost daughter.
I had to agree. It would have looked fishy if I didn’t. He put me up in a hotel to wait for the results.
That left me stuck. If I waited for the results, I could possibly brazen it out, and hope at best for a quiet little holiday in a mental health unit being treated for whatever they attributed my amnesia to. Maybe Eric would give me some money thinking that his daughter could be somewhere in the same situation. Or I could run, and everyone would know it was a scam, and the police would be looking out for me.
I chose to wait it out, to stay in character and wait to be found to not be the rich guy’s long-lost daughter. I’d never said I was her, only that I couldn’t remember.
I was having a nap when I heard the frantic knocking on the hotel room door. That’s when I realised I should have run. He’d clearly come with the police to have me charged over something.
When I opened the door, there was only Eric there, with a piece of paper in his hand. He suddenly grabbed me in a huge bear hug.
“I didn’t doubt it for a minute.” He said, “Of course it was a match. I don’t know what happened to you all this time, but you’re here now. Come home Kirsty.”