Mandy Rose Chapter 2: Cleithrophobia @kaealeah
A Professional Courtesy

A PROFESSIONAL COURTESY

Mandy emerged from the strangulating darkness of the catacombs and ran full-speed towards the gate they first came in at. She pushed it opened with all her might and hastily marched out into the open streets, stepping to the side and waiting for John to follow her out. Once he was clear, she slammed the gate close and had to take a moment to lean against the cold bars. Her lungs clenched and it was hard to breathe from the trembling shock of adrenaline not wearing off fast enough. Every part of her body was still shaking even after exiting the tombs.

"You good?" John asked but Mandy didn't answer him, which caused him some concern. He turned around and grabbed her shoulder to get a better look at her. "Mandy. Are you good?"

"I…called it. I so fucking called it," she said breathlessly before abruptly pulling him in for a hug. "I knew they were gonna corner us in there. I fucking called it."

John wrapped her body tightly in his arms and dropped his head into her shoulder, taking in the unique scent that came from her clothes and hair. A mixture of gun smoke, coconut shampoo, and his own cologne. "Yeah, you did. You did." He brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her forehead. "Come on. We gotta go."

Mandy nodded. "Yeah. I'm right behind you. Go, go," she ushered.

They began to make their way back to the Continental Hotel through the empty concrete streets. It was dark outside, saved for a few street lamps, but there wasn't any traffic on the road. They could still hear car horns and distant sirens though, amongst the gloom of midnight that surrounded them, but it couldn't help to be an eerie type of white noise silence. The kind that made the hairs on the back of Mandy's neck stand up.

John looked to his left to the sound of a humming engine and saw the bright headlights of a speeding car heading straight for them. He reacted quickly and pushed Mandy out of the way before diving to the side to avoid the crashing car. Cassian jumped out of the driver's side and immediately opened fired at John while Mandy was down, hoping to take him out first before she could get up and react properly. John managed to hunch down low though behind the surrounding cars and avoided getting hit by Cassian's rapid discharge.

"Not having a good night, are you." Cassian slid across the hood of his car and began to follow after him.

Mandy pushed herself off the floor and looked up at Cassian. Her eyes honed in on him like a missile and she jumped up in a blink of an eye. She ran up behind him quickly before leaping on the bumper of a car and tackling him to the ground. She wrestled with the gun in his hand and tried to pin his arms, but he was far stronger than her and managed to pull out a knife. He raised it to stab her but John came up behind and intercepted the blade, catching it with his hands.

"Damnit!" Mandy stomped down hard on Cassian's knife hand before reaching over and yanking the gun out of his other. She pulled her arm back and threw the weapon far into the night where it disappeared down the street. "Quit trying to dance with him and let's go!" She kicked Cassian away from them before sprinting down a corner street with John.

Cassian wasn't down for long though and jumped to his feet, taking chase like a Shark smelling blood in the water. He was nearly on top of them as they made it to the flight of stairs. John got to them first, but Mandy didn't even make it past the first step before Cassian threw each other down the stairs, striking every rough step to the bottom and bruising their bodies every shade of purple and blue.

Once on the ground, Mandy and Cassian got up at the same time and immediately started to throw punches at each other, but no matter how many times Mandy got hit, it didn't even look like they fazed her. Her eyes were cloudy and dreadful, fully focused on the fight as she wrapped her fingers around his throat like they were sharp talons, digging into his skin and drawing blood. Cassian tried to get her off, but she was practically unmovable. Her legs were firmly rooted to the ground and weren't going anywhere, no matter how many times he tried to trip her up.

John got to the bottom of the steps and rushed at the two, taking all three of them and smashing through a glass door that was to their left. It didn't stop Mandy or Cassian though and they were still at each other's throats.

"Gentlemen!" A voice called out but neither of them could hear it over the struggle and murder clouding their vision. "Gentlemen! Ms. Rose!"

It took a second, but they gathered their bearings enough to glance up and see the extravagant style of the Continental lobby, as well as the sharply dressed workers that surrounded them slowly.

John quickly recognized the situation they were in and pushed Cassian off. He pulled Mandy to her feet and wrapped his arms around her to stop her from doing anything that will worsen it.

Julius slowly stepped down the stairs and approached them. "Do I need to remind you that there will be no business conducted on the Continental grounds?" he warned them.

Cassian stood up and nodded his head. "No, signore."

"No, sir." John looked down at Mandy and saw how tense she still was. A lot like a wild animal. "Mandy," he called gently

Mandy huffed and held her hands up to signal surrender, only then did John release her. "No…we're good."

"Good. Now, may I suggest a visit to the bar, so you can calm yourselves," Julius suggested to them.

John nodded and took in a deep breath. He looked over to Cassian. "Gin, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Cassian said with a calmly composed voice. "Bourbon and vodka, right?"

"Yeah." John gave an appreciated nod to Julius. He grabbed Mandy by her shoulder and walked off towards the bar with Cassian following behind.

There were no words spoken between them after they sat down and were given their drinks. Cassian's face was set in cold stone and John didn't even know where to start to begin explaining himself. They just sat silently beside each other and took small sips of their drinks.

Mandy couldn't handle the silence anymore and was the first to break it. "It was a Marker, Cassian. If you really care for the reason why." She rolled her eyes in a mocking sort of way and downed her vodka in nearly one gulp. Her body was so battered from the constant fighting that the burning sensation down her throat hardly even bothered her.

"Whose?" Cassian said in a steely voice.

"Her brother," John answered back.

Cassian paused for a moment for the recognition to wash over him. He tightened his jaw and lowered his head. " I see. You two had no choice."

"He wants her seat at the table."

He groaned and picked up his drink. "He'll get it now."

"Yeah."

Mandy reached across the bar and grab the full bottle of Grey Goose vodka. "Yeah but…what does that say about us? What does that say about me and John?" she said while pouring herself another drink.

"Are you free?" Cassian asked, turning his head to the side and meeting Mandy's narrowed amber gaze.

"Does it look like we're free?" she said to him sharply. "It doesn't take much for a leash to become a noose. We're not free…not even close." She picked up her drink and brought it close to her lips. "So…what is it that you want to say to us?"

Cassian stared into Mandy's eyes that made his body feel like he was swimming in icy water. He didn't look away though and stood his ground against her silent intimidation. "You two…killed my ward. Someone I was close to. And eye for an eye."

"So…it's either Mandy or I, right? One of us has to go down for this to be settled." John said. He looked over to Mandy and saw the grip on her glass tighten to the point that he thought she was going to break it. He reached up to her shoulder and gave it a couple of squeezes to calm her down, hoping to stop her from doing anything that will compromise the peace of the Continental.

"I'll make sure it's the both of you," Cassian said. "I'll make it quick too. I promise."

John nodded his head. "I appreciate that. We'll try to do the same."

Cassian finished his drink quickly and stood up. He reached into his suit and placed a gold coin on the table. "This round's on me. Consider it a professional courtesy." He paid for their drinks and walked away from the bar.

Mandy's face turned up into a perplexed sneer while replaying Cassian's words in her head. "Professional what?" she called back over her shoulder, but he was already gone. Her sneer didn't disappear though and only worsened when her eyes landed on something else. She saw Ares sitting in the corner on one of the couches, watching them with a quiet smirk on her lips. "Oh, shit."

Ares waved at her and began to gesture. "Having a tough night? Can I buy you two a dri-"

"The fuck are you saying?" Mandy blurted out loudly. "I don't know sign language."

"She's asking if you want another drink," John conveyed to her.

Mandy turned to him, then looked back to Ares. It took a little bit for the words to sink in, but once it did, she scoffed with an unpleasant scowl on her face. "No," she bluntly said before picking up her drink and walking out of the bar. "Fuck no."

Mandy stepped out into the lounge and sat down on one of the chairs. She leaned far back until her face was staring up at the ceiling. She breathed in softly and slowly let her body succumb to the pain that has been held at bay because of the adrenaline high. Balancing her glass on her knee, she sat in her silence and mulled over everything that happened up till now. She can't say she was surprised that it ended the way it did. She predicted as much, actually.

"Well…this is screwed," she muttered while ducking her head back and finishing off the last of her drink. She nearly choked on it though when the old-style telephone beside her suddenly began to ring. She groaned loudly and picked it up, not saying anything and only listening for the moment.

"Hello, Mandy." The sound of Santino's voice suddenly speaking against her ear made Mandy's whole body cringe up like a dry sponge. "I understand if you are upset. And I know it might feel personal. But what kind of man would I be if I didn't avenge my sister's mur-"

"I'm gonna stop you there, Santino," Mandy cut in while sitting up in her chair. "Do you know what you can do with those excuses? You can write them down with the fanciest pen and paper you own, wrap it up in a ball…and shove it down your throat, you fucking spineless prick!" She slammed down the phone and sank back into her chair. "Dickhead."

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