The May Contest is still underway. You still have until May 15 to write an ending to my story “Mayday” and enter.
In the meantime, all this week I’m sharing the finalist stories from the April Contest. Today’s featured finalist is Ruxandra Niculescu.
Rux took a different approach than most writers in the contest, which I love. Our clever cat burglar finds a surprise at the bottom of the slider tube and a nefarious plot!
If you have already read the story beginning or the winning version of the story with a beginning and ending, then you’re ready to read this different ending by Rux. Remember, in our story, the bold cat burglar has broken into the Lasones’ penthouse suite, nabbed the lavalier from the safe, and hidden it inside her catsuit, hanging from a hook on her necklace.
In my pack, I have a party dress that slides easily over my catsuit. I also have a cat mask. A little inside joke. But the costume serves a practical purpose. It hides my real features from cameras, whether they be security cameras or cameras carried by partiers. After all, I’m still on parole and I can’t be seen at this party.
I also have five mailer pouches in my pack. When I reach the party outside, all I have to do is find five of my plants wearing orange vests. There should be ten people wearing orange vests, so five should be easy to find. Then all I have to do is hand off my envelopes and make my exit.
The slider tube is in M. Lasone’s smaller closet behind a parquet door. I type in the code, step in, and glide down the brightly lit tube for 16 floors.
by Ruxandra Niculescu
The pillows at the bottom of the chute are softer than expected. Rich people.
Straightening my party dress, I assess the safe room. It looks like a Renaissance painter took psychedelics. Ready to be out of here, I’m almost to the door when a chain rattles and I freeze. The noise repeats and I turn, eyes straining to see past the barriers imposed by the mask. I dare not take it off. I can still feign being an errant party goer, lost on the way to the bathroom.
“Finally made it?” The muffled question comes from a dark corner and I step back toward the door.
“This isn’t the bathroom? Those drinks went right through me,” I lie, adding a giggle that would be the envy of any girl on campus.
“They know you have it.” A girl in a ruffled crimson red dress steps forward. The cascade of cloth leaves one shoulder bare, complementing her cinnamon skin. She’s wearing an elaborate phoenix mask.
“I’m just looking for the bathroom.” I stall, my hand fumbling, finally finding the latch. I turn to make my escape.
“They wanted you to take the lavalier.” I have one foot out the door. This could be a trap. Scratch that. It probably is a trap. But curiosity always was my weakness. Cat burglar. Heh.
I turn to look over my shoulder, and the phoenix nods, lifting her hands to brush a feather away. It’s only then I see the manacles chaining her wrists together.
“It’s an insurance scam,” she continues. I’m sure her voice is familiar. “The Lasones have been watching you all along, ever since your capture. I’m shocked you didn’t see through it, honestly.” There’s a hint of derision in her tone and my temper flares.
“What are you talking about?”
Silently, she lifts her hands up, removing the mask and revealing the unmistakable features of Marcy, the daughter of the very people I came here to rob. “I’m the one that’s been feeding you the info,” she finishes. “My repayment for a job well done is being shipped off-world to a convent colony.”
“Why?” I blurt incredulously. I thought my sentence was bad.
“Oh, tricking you into stealing the lavalier was how I avoided a much worse fate. But I’m not interested in joining a convent. I’m interested in revenge.” I look at her dubiously, though she can’t see behind my mask.
“Why should I believe you?” I drop the façade and she shrugs. Her eyes burn with an anger I feel smoldering inside myself.
“Because we want the same thing. I need your help and you need mine. Trust me. This time, they don’t plan on having you go through the court system.” There’s something about the way she says it that makes me shudder. In that moment, I make a decision. We may be from two different worlds, but maybe if we work together . . .
“Ok.” I step forward, pulling out my spare lockpick. “Let’s get you out of here.”
Ruxandra Niculescu is the author of Balancing Wonderland and other fantastical tales. You can follow her on Twitter at @CallMeRux and see more of her writing at ruxtheauthor.com . Please send her some congratulations in the comments below and let her know what you liked about her story.