The Haunted Mansion and all its characters except Mara, and Shrike, are owned by the Disney Corporation. This is a work of fanfiction .)
Mara closed her eyes, and grimaced. She didn't like being shaken, and she'd had quite enough of being spoken to as if she was less than nothing. With one swift, hard push of Maras hand against her shoulder, Constance Hatchaway lost her grip, and was sent flying backwards into the side of a nearby settee. She started to berate the girl, until Mara finally looked her in the eyes. There was no anger, no hatred, not even contempt in Maras gaze.. just a kind of implacable resolve, and a soul that was tired of everything .
The older woman sat down, and puzzled out how to get what she needed from someone who obviously didn't much care.
"Mara, I know he's been a complete bastard toward you; I have eyes," Constance said.
Mara sat on a low stool, staring out of the window.
"Mara, you have to get away from here."
The girl flinched.
Good..progress, thought Constance. She slid to the end of the settee closest to Mara. "I can help you; but I need to know what Shrike did with Georges body."
"It isn't here..I told you, Mara said quietly.
Constance reached toward her, then restrained herself. "What did Shrike do with my husbands body? The insurace adjuster is coming tomorrow, and I need a body to show him."
Mara took a deep breath, and replied as though she was reciting the obvious. "Shrike told me to do some initial preparation on the body. Then we put it in the wagon, and he was going to hide it in a mausoleum in the cemetery until you agreed to marry him."
Constance sat back heavily, and stared off into space. Shrike was a bottom dweller of the first order, but this was beneath anything she could have imagined.
"Let me help you, Mara," Constance said, affecting concern. "We can help each other."
Mara stared at her, trying to make sense of what she knew of her , then of what she had come to expect from Shrike. She didn't like her options..she sensed that something had gone wrong with her employer, and here before her sat a murderess, asking for her help. She suddenly let her head loll back; her shoulders shook with a brief bout of bitter laughter.
"Mara, what is it?" Constance asked, irritated. The girl was of no use to her if she was going insane.
Mara lowered her head, dabbing her eyes with her sleeve. She looked Constance dead in the eye. "I'll take you..then you leave me be ."
The ride to the cemetery was strained. Constance kept talking at Mara, hoping she wouldn't slip into some unresponsive malaise. She promosed her money, shelter, freedom..she would have promised her the moon . Mara sat silently, looking at anything, focusing on nothing..trying not to think of what they would find, and cut cold to the core at having to aid a woman she neither liked nor trusted.
The cemetery used to be beautiful, an oasis. But hard times had fallen on most of the town, and the dead were not left unscathed. Weeds and saplings had invaded, and an ineffectual iron fence lay here and there in great pieces on the ground. Only three large mausoleums had managed not to fall into disrepair.. even in death, the rich had managed to prevail.
Constance stepped down, taking a lantern from the side of the wagon with her, and crossed to Maras side. "Mara, I can't do this by myself."
Mara stepped down, and took the other lantern. "It's the second one," she said, pointing the way.
It had rained, and the already damp ground had become slippery in places. Gnarled roots caught at their shoes, threatening to trip them. "Keep watch, Mara," Constance said, tugging at the tombs ornate grill. She lifted her lantern, and disappeared inside.
..but not for long.
Within moments, she had staggered out, her coat covering her nose and mouth. She doubled over in front of Mara, shaking, her eyes watering.
"I thought you said you'd prepaired the body!" she hissed.
"But I did! " Mara protested.
"What's on that slab is of no used to me now!" growled Constance, fighting for air.
There was a splash from the little creek that ran beside the cemetery.
"It's just a toad.. look at me, Mara," Constance glowered.
There was another splash.. and both women froze.
Constance picked a sturdy branch from the underbrush. Anyone taking an interest in what they were doing , wouldn't live to tell of it.
The two women passed a childs grave, a shovel was standing upright from some recently disturbed soil. A lamb statue lay broken near the head of the grave, and there were marks as though something had beed dragged toward the creek.
Although Constance tried to hold her back, Mara stumbled quickly ahead.. then suddenly stopped.
When Constance caught her up, she saw what she was staring at.
There on his back, lay Shrike, a huge half-clotted gash over his eye. He had evidently fallen, or been attacked, and had crawled to the creek to try and revive himself. Hid lips had a blueish tinge, and he was gasping for air.
Constance set her lantern down, kneeling beside him, and gently raised his head so he could breathe. He stared up at her, then down. She followed his eyes, and saw that her coat had fallen open, and he was staring at the tops of her breasts.
"Oh you poor, dumb bastard," she breathed, lowering her face to within inches of his. "Mara told me about your little plan.."
Shrike widened his eyes, and looked to Mara. She had raised her lantern so he could see the complete indifference on her face.
"We went to get Georges body, but it's too far gone." Constance sat back up, studying him thoughtfully. "You know, I can use a man like you after all," she said casually waving the branch at him , "just not in marriage. I'm afraid I can't, you see.."
She dropped his head into the water, and grasped both ends of the branch, pushing it against his throat until his head was fully submerged.
"You're beneath me."