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News & Features » February 2015 » “The Girl Who Died Twice” by Sharyn Kolberg

“The Girl Who Died Twice” by Sharyn Kolberg

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Sharyn Kolberg is no one’s savior.

Sharyn KolbergThe Girl Who Died Twice
by Sharyn Kolberg
La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

They say she was buried alive. Rufina Cambaceres was a great beauty on the eve of her nineteenth birthday when a friend whispered in her ear a terrible secret: Rufina’s beloved fiancé was having an affair with Rufina’s own mother. Rufina collapsed to the floor. Three doctors declared her dead; they did not know her heart still beat, however slowly.

She was interred until a few days later, when workers heard her scream. When they unburied her there were scratches on her face and on the coffin lid from her attempts to escape. They were too late to save her. Her mother then had her laid above ground in a white marble mausoleum, her coffin behind a glass wall so that if the lid should ever rise again, everyone could see.

*

The tour guide finished his speech, and the crowd moved on. Only Magdalena remained, watching for the polished coffin lid to move, listening for a muffled scream, an echo of hope and fear. Nada. Not long ago, she too had been a tourist, wandering the wide treelined walkways and maze-like side streets of the cemetery. Searching, like everyone else, for Evita’s tomb. But when she discovered the tomb of Rufina Cambaceres and learned her story, she returned daily to stand and stare and wait for her return.

This was the place that she had first met Nelson, not long ago. It was raining then, and chilly. She saw him first as a reflection in the rain-soaked glass of the mausoleum, a fedora pulled down low on his forehead, halfway hiding his face.

“I’ve been watching you from a distance,” he said, suddenly close behind her, his warm breath on her neck. “You are beautiful standing there.”

Every day since, she watched as the glass reflected his subtle movements through the crowds, as he picked a gentleman’s pocket or plucked a wallet from a lady’s purse. He was nimble and graceful, all but invisible to everyone but Magdalena. They began to work as a team. He taught her his tricks; she was a quick study. Nelson would brush past a woman’s shoulder, knocking her purse to the ground. She would inevitably cry out. He would run away, dropping the purse in his haste. Magdalena was there to pick it up, to save the day. El turista would be so grateful, she’d never notice the money Magdalena had slipped out of her wallet. Or if she did, she’d assume that it had been stolen by the distinguished-looking gentleman in the fedora who had run off and disappeared.

Their biggest hauls were made just before closing. The tourists would be distracted, rushing back to their hotels to nap before unaccustomedly late dinners, encouraging their companions to hurry along, to get out before the iron gates shut firmly for the night. Not until they reached into their purses or jacket pockets at the end of a bumpy taxi ride would they register the loss of their carefully guarded dollars and pesos.  No, their vacations were not ruined, Nelson had said. They now had an adventure to recount to their friends at home. We’ve provided them a service; it’s small price for them to pay. Just a warning to you, Magdalena, he had said: Don’t get caught; I am no one’s savior. He grinned, and her heart stopped beating.

Today, Nelson had his eye on a slow-moving trio of gray-haired ladies. One had her handbag over her shoulder, the edge of her map sticking out the top. Nelson squirreled past her, swiftly sliding the handle down the woman’s arm and onto the ground. “Oh,” she squealed. “My bag!”

Magdalena scooped it up and returned it to the gray-haired lady, who thanked her profusely, not realizing that she was minus her cash and credit cards. Her companions, though, was not so unaware.

“You took our money,” one yelled.

Policía, policía!” cried the other.

Fear crept up Magdalena’s spine and paralyzed her limbs. One officer rushed toward her from the front and another one came from behind.  From the right, a sharp pain in her side. Red droplets stained the sidewalk. People gathered ’round; they were too late to save her. A stately gentleman wearing a fedora disappeared into the crowd as Magdalena collapsed to the ground. As her heartbeat slowed and slowed, the tourists stood and stared as if waiting for her to rise again, leaving just enough room so that everyone could see.

***

SHARYN KOLBERG has ghostwritten/edited more than twenty-five nonfiction books, including a New York Times number one best seller. Her fiction writing began with a short story published in Literal Latté, and continues with this move into noir and mystery. She is working on her debut novel involving bundt cakes, yapping dogs, and mah-jongg.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 23, 2015

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , , , ,



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