Chess meets the Bad Guy in the Market

Deleted Scene from UNHOLY MAGIC

I think it’s pretty obvious why this one ended up getting cut; the plot ended up changing! At this point in the first draft I didn’t know who the bad guy was, and was thinking it was a small group of people funded by Oliver Fletcher. But after the Lamaru I didn’t want to do another “bad magic group” kind of story, so I ended up scrapping that—and this scene, along with it. Although I did keep the implication that the bad guys were following Chess.

The chase scene and the aftermath of that will show up in the deleted scenes for CITY OF GHOSTS; I rewrote it for that book, and then rewrote it again, so I’ll probably post both versions.

After such an eventful night, she hoped the day would be easier. She was wrong. By the time she’d extricated herself from the Pyle house, stopped by the Church to fill out some reports and pick up some other reports, taken yet another shower, and forced a few mouthfuls of food down, she was ready for more sleep.

Not a chance. She raided the baggie Bump had given her instead, and headed off to the Market.

Her hand kept slipping into her bag to check her pillbox was still there. It was. It was, and she was never, ever going anywhere without a stash again.

Despite the cold the Market was jumping—or rather, because of the cold. Extra fire barrels sat by almost every booth, even the non-food ones, and bodies shuffled around them like piglets trying to find a teat. Smoke hung in the air over the booths in a translucent roof and wound its way up the aisles.

Chess passed racks of moth-eaten sweaters and reeking shelves of tallow candles, looking for Edsel. If he arrived early enough he took a spot near the center, but today a seller of rusty electrical equipment and homemade weapons occupied his spot, glaring at everyone like he wanted a chance to try out his inventions.

At least, glaring at her. And perhaps it was her imagination, but he didn’t seem to be the only one.

Most people tended to ignore her, thanks to the tattoos identifying her as a Church employee. But it seemed even people who knew her weren’t giving their usual nods. She tried to shrug it off—just because the Market was busy didn’t mean money was changing hands, with the exception of the candlemakers and the two booths selling small oil heaters, which were invisible behind crowds—but as she kept walking the feeling of being snubbed didn’t abate.

She found her answer when she found Edsel, in a lousy spot by the food vendors. The smoke was almost impenetrable there, the bleating of sheep and clucking of chickens barely muted by it. Blood stained the sawdust.

“Hey,” she said, blinking her stinging eyes and peering into the gloom. “Edsel?”

“Hey, baby.” He appeared in front of her, his pale hair sticking out from beneath a black wide-brimmed hat which had obviously started life as a Church hat. The buckle on the front was tarnished almost as dark as the fabric itself. “Got me a lousy spot today, huh. Slept in, me and Galena did. She don’t feel right herself these days, but the midwife say she all up, so…”

“I hope she feels better.”

He nodded. “Guessing she will, just gotta let the time pass, if you dig me. I’ll pass the words on, though, make her smile. What you need?”

“Is it just me, or are people staring at me?”

Edsel looked down. “You see the new bags? Galena made em by hand, powerful strong with her condition.”


He sighed and flipped a strand of white hair over his black-clad shoulder. “Aye, well. Guessing there’s some don’t think you doing what you can with the Cryin Man and all.”

“Fuck. Edsel, it’s not the fucking Cryin Man, that’s not—”

“You don’t gotta tell me, baby. I know. And some others know. But Cryin Man some powerful words here, you know that. Lots of em scared to go out at night, figure you oughta be the one taking care of it.”

“I am taking care of it, what do they want from me?”

He smiled, his colorless eyes crinkling at the corners. “You know what they want, baby. Want they Churchwitch wave her wand, say her words, make the bad go away.”

Chess folded her arms over her chest. Edsel’s smile and understanding weren’t helping, not when she felt stares from the crowd drilling into the back of her head. Almost three years she’d lived here, almost three years of coming to this Market almost every day, and they thought she was fucking around instead of doing what she could.

Or maybe they just expected too much of her. Surprise, surprise—Chess Putnam, letting people down.

“Hey, now. Don’t you let them crowds make you feel wrong. It ain’t all of em. Most we all know you doing what you able to. Bet you get an answer any day.”

“Yeah. Sure I will.” She rubbed her forehead with the palm of her hand. The last thing she needed was a mob of angry Downsiders staring at her everywhere she went. “Hey, you don’t happen to have any cornsilk, do you? And, um, some neutralized black powder?”

“Got the silk. Powder might be a few days. What’s the need?”

Fake death curses were the need, but she wasn’t going to say that, not with all those ears around. “Just working on something.”

He bent down, shuffling through the boxes and jars in the back until he found the cornsilk. Stretched with a knife it would curl and look just like corpse hair—at least, close enough to fool Bump, she hoped.

While she waited she scanned the rows of merchandise set out on black velvet. Edsel’s products never ceased to amaze her, everything so carefully crafted. And lucky him, he’d be able to raise all his prices. People would pay extra for items handmade by a pregnant woman; the additional power was worth it.

A new set of carved black bonerunes caught her eye, and she picked one up. Nice. The cool slide of energy up her arm made her heart give a cheerful jump in her chest. Maybe she’d come back for those when she got her bonus for the Pyle job.

After she bought a new car. And a new heater for her bedroom.

The thought cheered her so much she decided to walk around a little more after paying Edsel for the silk. After all, he had said there were people on her side, right? People who knew she was doing everything she could?

She fingered a few sweaters and decided to splurge on a particularly thick pair of arm warmers and some matching furry socks. This was fun. She so rarely bought anything for herself that she couldn’t swallow, smoke or snort, but the certainty that she’d be able to crack the Pyle case made her feel like she deserved it.

So she wandered, grabbing a Coke, smiling at the hazy sky, until she managed to almost run into a small crowd gathered in front of a fire barrel.

She wasn’t the only one. Two men collided on her left; one of them carried a heavy bag which split, scattering candles and seeds everywhere.

One candle rolled up against her foot. She retrieved it, handed it over with a smile that froze on her face when the owner’s hand touched hers.

Seeds. He was buying birdseed. And when his skin touched hers her tattoos burned.