Fiction Drama

It had been twenty four years since she’d last seen it, but the place looked exactly the same. A wrought iron table, graced by two swirled iron chairs. Even the kiss of the sunlight filtering through the flowering hedge was inarguably a mirror image of the one she’d seen years prior. 

However, most paintings tended to stay the same, no matter how many years they stayed in a museum, so that wasn’t of much notice. What made this painting exquisite, irreplaceable, was not just the level of details and brilliant paint colors; but the people. Lounging upon the chairs were two women, a ghost of a smile hiding on one’s lips behind her raised teacup as she met eyes with the other. Her gown, cascading to the ground, was the most arguably phenomenal piece of clothed artistry ever painted. Tiered, each layer was a shining golden, painted with real crushed flakes that sparkled in the light and sewn with dark blue strokes almost tangible through the canvas. Her pale skin, framed by curls of pinned white hair, flushed with life. Opposite her sat a woman made almost entirely of plants. Her dress appeared stitched together with flowers, and she glowed with light from her dark exotic skin to the moonlight lacing of her silver sandals.

“Persephone’s Tea Garden with the Sun”, ~Alexandra M. M. Halen.

Mariah Abernathy pressed her heels together, peering over her short spectacles at the art. It had faded slightly between the hundred years spanning its lifetime, but the color was so captured it felt like a portal into the other world. 

Well. Mariah had little time or need for feelings.

“Jadyn,” she said, not moving her eyes from the painting. A girl at her right stiffened, jolted to attention, and glanced back at her. “I want this museum upon the highest level of security possible for this week’s duration.” 

Jade noted in her clipboard, slowly returning her gaze to the painting. “Ma’am, how much exactly is this piece worth?”

Mariah didn’t move. “More than our entire wing of ‘Charletomones’. I have seen this painting only once before at a gallery, when I was a young girl. And while our brother museum makes their renovations-” Mariah clasped her hands behind her back- “they have entrusted us with its protection.”

She turned her head, her eyes falling onto a clock ticking over the doorway. 6:07 P.M., or approximately 18:00 hours.

“Shall I call for your driver-?”

“No.” Mariah pursed her lips, breathing in the colors cast across the canvas like smears of liquid gemstones. “I stay here, for the entire duration of this painting’s stay.” She clenched her jaw, raising her chin with a fierce glint in her eyes. “And if needed, I will protect it with my life.”


Mariah De Bronx sat at her desk, dark eyes firmly set on the screens flickering before them. A dark hallway stretched across a small patch of her cams, the historical armour winging the corridor glinting in the low light. On another camera, the art pieces pinned against the walls became reduced to mere shadows. 

For the past four nights, the painting had sat firmly on the wall, protected by bulletproof glass, safe and sound. The Alexandra M. M. Halen section of the brother museum had almost finished construction, and the borrowed painting would return to them at the end of tomorrow’s work day.

If anyone could attempt to steal the famed painting, tonight would be their last night to do so before it was placed into the highest security museum in North America.

Mariah hadn’t blinked in two minutes. Sitting tall, her perfectly pressed pantsuit and coat matching her dark rimmed glasses, her graying hair pulled back into a tight bun, she appeared to be a very proper statue. 

Her office glowed in the bright lights from the screens, a table lamp the only other lighting in the small room. While her office had a small refrigerator and a circling fan overhead, Mariah gave no notice to anything except the screens in front of her, pursing her lips.


Jadyn Abernathy watched her through the security cameras, frowning. “Is- is she breathing?” 

“Mariah doesn’t need to breathe.”

Jade tipped her head towards the security guard in begrudging agreement, distracted.

The guard said nothing else, sighing to himself in a bored, regretful way. 

Jade pushed back from the table. “I’m going to get some food. Just to get out of here for a couple minutes and try to wake up. Call me if anything happens, okay?” 

Godric didn’t look back at her. 

“Jade. It’s a painting no one even knows is here, nor cares that it is. The only reason I’m here is but because Mariah is paying me overtime. It will be fine.”

Jade held in a sigh, clenching her jingling keys in her palm as she headed for her car.


Mariah sat tall, and as much as she hated it with a burning passion, her back was starting to burn as well. She adjusted her position, not taking her eyes from the screen. The long, slow ticking of the clock dragged to grow even slower. She glanced down at the few digits glowing from her screen, snapping up her gaze.


Twelve more hours until the museum’s opening, when the extra day-officers would arrive.

Twelve more hours was a mere blink.

Mariah widened her eyes, forcing them to remain open. Tiredness pressed heavy hands on her shoulders, dragging her down in its grasp. 

Jadyn and Godric are watching the security cameras, just as diligently as I am. If I falter, there will not be a blind spot. Slowly, Mariah raised her head, taking a breath for the first time in minutes. Multiple guards are posted along the walls; and even if they should fail Godric will see.

Jadyn won’t fail me. 

Mariah tensed her shoulders, leaning back as she finally let out a long breath. She could use the restroom, at least.

She started to rise, turning-

The barest flicker of a shadow made her stop. 

Mariah’s head whipped, looking at the screen just in time to see a black flutter vanish out of the corner of her screen. 

Mariah’s hands clenched on the edge of the desk.

Furiously clicking, she switched to the next camera, catching the last glimpse of a black shape melting into the blind spot. 

Her blood went cold. 

Following the glimpsing path of the cameras, it was headed right for-

Mariah snatched up the walkie-talkie, manicured fingers slamming for buttons as she jerked it to her mouth. “On floor two there is a figure. I have seen it on multiple cameras, it is headed for the painting. Jadyn, phone the police immediately- Godric I need your team sent to this floor post haste!”

She slammed down the device, stepping back, eyes flicking to the wall where hung a decorative, painted machete. 

“I- I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” A crackle of silence. “Mariah, Jadyn’s gone, half my team went on a break five minutes ago-”

A single, terrible headline filtered through her head.

A flutter of darkness flicked through the cameras, and Mariah’s heart seized. They were on this floor. They were after the Alexandra M. M. Halen.

“Send in your team!” Mariah ordered, then hurled the walkie talkie to the desk, snatching the machete off the wall. Before Godric could manage to sputter a single other word, she charged out the door.


Jade’s car smelled of cold, bundled sandwiches and artificial air conditioning. The rain dripping onto her windshield was less-than-adequately being wiped away, smearing the traffic lights into colored blurs. 

She let out a long sigh, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. Steaming coffee settled in the cupholder, but she doubted it would do anything to wake her.

She hadn’t been this tired since college.

Jade took a single glance down at her phone and nearly swerved off the road.


Mariah sprinted down the hall, the click of her heels shrouded in the muffling walls. Clenched fast in her fist was the machete, held fast in her palm as she ran down the hall. Mariah De Bronx did not in any way know how to use a machete.

But nothing, not even logic, could stop her from saving that painting. 

She stopped against a wall, muffling her heaving breaths. Mariah raised her knife, ducking around the corner to see an empty corridor.

Her heart hammered, adrenaline drowned out from the ferocity of her anger. It had been well over three minutes.

The painting’s temporary exhibit was right through the next room.

She ran for the arched doorway.

Minutes before, she had only glimpsed the dark shape flitting through the cameras, but it settled deep in her heart like a spike of fear.

Mariah screeched to a halt, stepping onto a glass floor that showed the main lobby two floors below. Her eyes fell onto the painting. Set into the wall, hidden behind a veil of bullet proof glass, was Persephone’s Garden Tea With The Sun. Multitudes of emotion tumbled through her. She let out a long, long breath. They had not made it here yet.

Mariah brandished her weapon, taking a stance. Most prim, petite late middle aged museum directors would have a hard time looking dangerous, but Mariah De Bronx was not someone you typically chose to cross.

Seconds ticked by, even slower than before, the only sound echoing through the corridor her own controlled breathing. 

Suddenly, a swash of colors burst through the lower room below her, the glass tiled floor glowing with red and blues beaming from the tall windows. “Exit the building with your hands up!” 

The police had arrived.

The thief had no way to know they were onto him; he wouldn’t have had time to escape.

He was still here.

Mariah took a shuddering breath. Judging by her calculations, if the robber continued at the same pace it had been going on the cams, he would appear in few seconds-

She gripped the machete with all her might as an army of footsteps burst into the lobby three floors below-

A single, low sound came from the shadows around the corner, and out stalked a cat

Mariah stared, the black feline shamelessly rubbing against the muralled walls, casting her a glare. 

Her heart faltered. 


That shape on the cameras-

She had only looked at this floor, assuming it had been an intruder and acting accordingly. 


More sirens built outside the museum, a slam of a door joining them with another loud call-

Mariah heard none of this. Her eyes stayed trained on the cat, machete frozen in her hands.

“A cat?” Mariah’s knife dipped, and she leaned back. The heart inside of her chest fell from her lungs. Thundering footsteps filled the room below, police filing into the entrance hall.

Her eyes flitted to the doorway to her right, her reputation and everything she had worked for going with them. 

Hurried footsteps stumbled into view. Godric Mason loomed far in front of her, leading a squadron of vested officers, his eyes wide with panic. “Mariah-”

She sheathed her machete, locking eyes with the head of police beside him. She allowed herself one long, deep breath before speaking. 

“I believe there has been a misunderstanding.” 


Both of them turned, seeing a young man muscle his way through the ranks. 

“We found two suspicious characters hiding on the first floor. Two late adolescents. They said they had heard of the painting, eluding the final sweep and staying after the day hours to take it at night." He tensed his jaw. "We are still working out the details, but they confirmed they were attempting to steal it. They have been taken into custody. We are in the process of contacting parents to come get them at the station.”

Mariah’s eyebrow quirked, but no one noticed her.

“Thank you, Jonas. I will be down in a second.”

The young man nodded, raising his radio to his mouth as he moved back to the stairs. 

“We are going to sweep the entire building and around it, to make sure there are no more accomplices.”

Mariah barely heard him, the wheels spinning through her head.

She had only watched the cameras on the third floor, solely focused on the prized painting. If they had not moved from the first floor, then that meant.... the single form she had glimpsed through the security cams would have been the cat. She would never have caught sight of the would-be thieves before it was too late.

If not for this unknowingly heroic feline who had appeared. 

The officer moved a hand on the radio strapped over his bullet proof vest, frowning with sharp gray eyes. He tilted his head. “I am wondering, why didn’t your security apprehend them in the first place?”

Mariah inclined her head at Godric, who had the good graces to look very, very uncomfortable. “That is a valid question.” 

She looked away from him, back to the officer, who was actually smiling. “It’s still under investigation, director, but I believe you’ve caught us some art thieves. Thank you.” 

Mariah glanced down at the cat rubbing against her leg, knowing someone else had played a very valid part. 


Mariah De Bronx sat in her office, clicking through her computer. A small buzz, a message from her assistant Jade, lit up her phone, but she ignored it. 

Her fingers danced across the keys, and she paused, eyes flicking over her work. She allowed herself one exhale before submitting the email. 

Mariah cast a look around her office, settling her eyes on a small cat bed laying beside her desk. The dark cat was gone at the moment, mousing around the museum, but she knew he would be back. 

He always was, scarcely leaving her side since that fateful day.

Although she had mistaken his small, stolen form for an intruder when they were first introduced, he had assisted in the apprehension of two genuine would-be art thieves, who were now serving time in community service. 

After that, Tyler the cat had well earned a place in her museum. The celebratory plaque settled on the wall above her desk, congratulating Mariah’s capture of the intruders, belonged just as much to him as it did her.

Mariah stood, resting her eyes upon the plaque with a small, rare smile.

In its original museum, the newest exhibit for the Alexandra M. M. Halen painting would be unveiled soon. Mariah and Jadyn were invited to the first viewing. While it had been an honor to care for it in the little time she had, the stress that had come with it was more than enough for her lifetime. 

The painting was safe; and that was all that mattered.

November 21, 2020 00:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


FJC Montenegro
02:35 Nov 27, 2020

Great story! The twist where the police find the thieves is great. And the cat! But I would also like to offer some constructive feedback. I felt a little confused in the beginning because the place was the painting and I wasn't sure who was looking at it. Who is this woman? Why is she here? Is she visiting? By the way, as this is a short story, I would add conflict much sooner --- if possible, in the first phrase! I know the first sentence was from the prompt, but I feel you could've introduced a bit of the conflict in the first paragraph,...


Violet Waters
02:14 Nov 28, 2020

Thank you SO much for the suggestions! I really appreciate the help. I will definitely look into these things. Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.