Under the cover of pale moonlight, Mandy brought out the catacomb keys she got from Marie-Laura and stuck them into the old steel gate leading into darkness. She pushed open the door and it made an ominous creaking noise, loud enough to alert the whole world of what they were doing. Mandy groaned under her breath and yanked the door open fast so the noise wouldn't be dragged out. She and John were about to head inside but made a quick scan around the area to make sure they weren't being watched. It was a faint glance, but they did see someone in the distance, a faceless person watching for a second before sliding back into the shadows. They both quickly assumed that it was Ares though since Mandy has seen her around a couple of times. Mandy clicked her tongue before she and John walked inside. John closed the door behind them and turned back around quickly, just in time to catch the keys that Mandy haphazardly tossed over her shoulder.
"Alright. So where are we heading first?" she said while breaking out the map and flashlight. She shinned it down the dark tunnels, but it didn't do much to help. She could see how easily someone could get lost down here and freak out. "Damn, this place gives me the freaking creeps."
"Marie was right about it though. It seems to be the best place to be if something were to go wrong," John said.
"Correction. When things go wrong."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." John maintained his pace with Mandy and kept his eyes pinned on her back as she led the way through the catacombs, careful not to lose sight of her. They walked through the tunnels for a couple of minutes until it finally dawned on him that she hadn't spoken a word in a while. "Are you okay?"
Mandy looked over her shoulder and cocked a brow. She scoffed a little before smirking. "Now why on earth would you say that?"
John shrugged. "It's because you're hardly ever quiet. I'm not used to it."
Mandy rolled her eyes and looked back down at the map. "Jesus, you're cheeky today." She took in a deep breath and could taste the musk in the air. "Nah, don't worry about it too much. We're doing this tomorrow night, so I guess I just got a lot on my mind."
"Like what?" John quickened his pace so he could walk beside her.
"Future things. Like what's gonna happen once...Gianna is dead. What's gonna happen to us?" Mandy fumbled on her words for a second and tried to gather somewhat of a cohesive sentence together. "Average people, I guess, tend to think 5 years ahead in the future, but for me...I find it hard just to think about what I'm gonna do tomorrow." She smiled but not in the way she usually does. It seemed sad and remorseful this time.
John patted Mandy's shoulder and could feel how thin she actually was. She wasn't like this in the past, so the stress really must've been harsh on her, living with anxious thoughts and doing God knows what for 10 years. He's not surprised she lost weight. "We're going to be fine," he said to try and comfort her anxiety. Truthfully though, he wasn't sure himself what will happen. The thought of a sudden and unexpected death did occur to him, but what really worried him about dying...was not having Mandy there beside him. He understood that it was cruel to think that way, but Mandy said it herself...that she didn't want to be alone anymore. The last thing he wanted to do was break that promise.
"Mm, yeah...I can totally hear your voice brimming with confidence," she said with every bit of dry sarcasm. She shinned her light over the map and took a sharp turn down a different tunnel and stopped after a couple of feet. She pointed her light down at a corner. "Put the AR here. If I can get to this first, then I can buy you some time to get to the Benelli. If we can pull this trick off, then the rest of the night can go smoothly. You'll have to cover me though so I can get to it."
"I can do that." John nodded and unloaded the AR and the ammunition that goes with it. He placed it right at the next corner so it would be out of sight. "Where are you gonna put the Benelli?"
"Somewhere down the last stretch of tunnels before the exit. With the AR, I'm kinda thinking of doing a little spray and pray to weed out the crowd a little before getting more precise with the Benelli near the end," she explained.
John sat back up and appeared a little surprised to learn how much she thought their escape route out. She knew exactly what tunnels to use and what corners to take advantage of in case of an emergency. "You actually thought this through?"
Mandy's eyes twitched. "When the fuck do I not think it through? I don't wanna die in some spooky-ass catacombs!" she shouted so loud that her voice could probably be heard throughout all the tunnels, and just the sharpness of Mandy's voice was enough to make John's ears ring. "Just gotta make sure we don't lose each other, or we're screwed."
"I don't see how that's possible." He pressed his hand against one of his ringing ears and looked down the tunnels, still somewhat hearing her shouts echoing off the walls. "You're too loud to lose track of."
"Shut up, John," Mandy grumbled with a blushing red face.
The following day came fast and faded away in an instant, releasing dark blue skies that bloomed wildly out into the cold and hollow world. The air hummed with music and the ground quaked from the ridiculous amount of people gathering together to celebrate Gianna's coronation. The woman in question was mingling with the crowd and wore a sparkling silver dress that was exactly how Robin described it to be. She wasn't alone though and had Cassian beside her, sticking close to her side like glue in case things went wrong.
Gianna was enjoying herself and smiled at the hundreds of blurred faces passing her by. There was one oddity though, as everyone walked past her in a constant motion, a woman without a blurred face stood perfectly still on the other side of the courtyard. Gianna immediately became aware of her presence as time seemed to have slowed down long enough for her to make out all the features on this woman's face.
Her skin was cut up and bruised as if she had been in a fight, but her eyes were a sharp deep-set golden-brown She had this copper brown hair too that was pulled back into a high ponytail and wore pitch-black clothes. The thing that really stood out the most though was this woman's red lipstick and the crimson lining of her leather jacket.
Time resumed after Gianna realized that it was Mandy Rose who stood there, totally going unnoticed by both Cassian and his men guarding the area. You'd assume they would've taken notice immediately because of her reputation, but then again…why would you notice a ghost who had been dead for 10 years? In the fraction of a second it took Gianna to notice it, she thought up a hundred different questions on why Mandy was even here in the first place, but the main one though…was why she was feeling such dread from looking into her cold golden-brown eyes
Gianna swallowed hard and turned to Cassian, struggling to get her words out calmly. "Why don't you go entertain our guests...while I go freshen up my makeup," she suggested and waited for Cassian to leave. Unluckily, he didn't question her orders and left soon after they were given. Only then did Mandy finally approach. "I thought you were a ghost for a moment...seeing how you haven't aged a day in all these years."
Mandy's smirk faded somewhat once she spoke. "I wouldn't be surprised if I am. In fact...I would be so much happier, unlike now." Her tone had a dark undercurrent that was as sharp as her molten gold eyes. She looked as if she had a million things to say but was reluctant to even speak in the first place.
Gianna swallowed hard but kept the conversation civil. "How did you find me in all this?"
Mandy said nothing at first and gestured her head down to Gianna's beautiful silver dress. "You got that dress from Marie-Laura's place, yeah? I can tell because it looks beautiful on you...but also makes you stick out."
That made Gianna stiffen immediately, unbeknownst to her that she practically drew an arrow on herself. "I see...but why are you here? You've been gone for so long and now you appear in front of me? You're not one for parties and have always gone out of your way to avoid them if you had a choice."
"Believe me when I say I don't want to be here, but as always..." she reached her hand out and linked her arm with Gianna's, "the universe just has a bad habit of fucking up my life," she said in that same dark tone from before as they began to walk away from the party.
Mandy's grip on her was strong and the look she had in her eyes said all Gianna needed to know without the words even being spoken. Death blanketed Mandy's very existence, just like a reaper getting ready to collect. Gianna began to shake the longer she looked into Mandy's cold and disconnected eyes and could do nothing more than hold the arm of the woman who was escorting her to her death.
They walked together in silence through the mostly empty house, passing by people that Gianna didn't even bother to ask for help, so none of them knew she was walking to her grave beside a ghost who was once her friend.
Mandy released Gianna's arm and led her towards a bathroom and close the door behind them. Gianna took a couple of steps in but stopped when a cold sensation washed over her body. She turned her head to the side and saw that they weren't alone. There was a man in there with them, dressed sharply in a black suit that had never looked so dangerous before.
"John," she spoke smoothly, not at all surprised to see him. She just knew if Mandy was there then John wouldn't be so far behind.
"Gianna," he greeted with a rough and remorseful voice.
Gianna tightened her jaw. "You know...there was a time I considered us to be friends." She took a quick glance over to Mandy who said nothing and didn't move away from the door. She wasn't even looking at them.
"I still do," said John.
"Yet here you are. What brought you back, John?"
"Held by?" Gianna turned perplexed but her answer was given by Mandy this time.
"It was your bastard of a brother." Mandy turned her head up and narrowed her sharp brown eyes that burned with an anger that Gianna never once saw from her until now. "The only reason why we're fucking here."
Gianna didn't really appear surprised to know that the one who betrayed her was her own blood. "Now I get it. I have to say this. I do pity you two. Your partnership curse Is something never taken lightly. 'If one shall fall...then so shall the other,' as the saying goes. No wonder Mandy stands here before me...nothing more than a ghost of the past," she said through gritted teeth. "Tell me, John. This marker...Is it how you got out?"
John confirmed her suspicion by nodding his head. He gave Mandy an uneasy glance, but it looked like she had totally disconnected herself from the situation.
"let me tell you what happens when I die," Gianna spoke and walked right up to John. "Santino will lay claim to my seat at the table. He will take New York. And you will have been the one who gifted it to him." She stepped away from him and pulled her fur coat off her body.
Mandy lifted her head when she heard an odd rustling noise and was taken back to see Gianna stripping herself down to nothing but her skin, now standing before them with not even the slightest bit of shame. She opened her mouth to ask what she was doing but shuddered when she saw her take a knife and slice it all the way down her wrists. "The hell are you doing?" Mandy exclaimed, eyes wide and bewildered.
Gianna stepped up into the large bathtub and covered herself with her arms. Warm blood slid down her skin and dropped into the water below. "I lived my life my way. And I will die my way," she said breathlessly as the warmth began to leave her body. "John...do you fear damnation?"
It took a moment for the question to process through John's mind and get over the initial shock of what Gianna had done. "Not as much as I should be if I'm not alone."
Gianna sucked in a final deep breath and sat down in the bath. The water instantly began to turn red and surround her. "I guess...this makes you the same species as Mandy. A ghost. Fitting for both of you. Don't you think?" She closed her eyes for a brief moment and opened them back up when she heard someone approaching. She stared up at the high ceiling but only saw Mandy's golden-brown eyes. She was crouched down beside the bath and was cradling Gianna's head in her hands. "You know, I always thought I could escape it. That I'd see it coming. That I'd see you." As the words left her mouth, Gianna finally closed her eyes and didn't open them back up.
Mandy gasped sharply but quickly bit down on her lips to stop herself from crying. She caressed Gianna's face with her trembling hands and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. She lifted her eyes to the water and stared intensely at it as the blood pool grew, filling her vision with nothing but red. Mandy stood up after a couple of minutes and leaned her head all the way back until she was looking at the ceiling.
John approached Mandy cautiously since her calm attitude was quite unusual. He also didn't expect her to pull herself together this quickly. "Mandy?"
"We're done now, right?" she asked, still not making eye contact with him. She reached down to her holster and pulled out her pistol. "The deal is complete now, right?"
"So we don't have to follow Santino's orders anymore, right?"
The deep redness of rage faded away from Mandy's eyes but was rapidly replaced with something dark and sinister. "Great..." She turned the gun down to Gianna's body and pulled the trigger.