Morning after the Fire

Deleted Scene from CITY OF GHOSTS

So, hopefully you can see why I went with the slaughterhouse instead of just a building on Mercer. (By the way, in UNHOLY MAGIC, when Oliver Fletcher is at Chess’s apartment telling her the locations of the buildings he owns, there’s a bit that came from that very first scene: he tells her he understands the building on Mercer burned down recently. It was supposed to be just a little nod, but of course it didn’t really have much meaning once that scene was cut. However, I did think that it was a good way to show how often buildings burn down in Downside, and it didn’t feel like an error, just a comment he made. So I left it in.)

The other big problem with the “burning building” scene, as opposed to the slaughterhouse scene, is demonstrated in this scene. Remember how I said when discussing the previous scenes that they didn’t advance the story enough? Yes. They served no real purpose in the story, and left me trying to figure out why the Lamaru would go through all that trouble. Obviously we understand in the end, because they wanted to play with her and freak her out and study her, but Chess doesn’t know that, and you as a reader don’t know that, so certainly it would occur to you to wonder what the hell the point of all that was. And of course Chess had to wonder about that too.

So she thought about it the following morning, before Terrible showed up. (In the published novel, of course, this is where she’s thinking about what would happen to the world if the Church couldn’t use psychopomps.) This scene also reflects the book’s original timeline.

Why the hell hadn’t they killed her?

She surfaced from sleep to the kind of dull pewter light that told her it was either raining or about to; so much for the glorious early spring of the day before.

She didn’t pay attention, only noticed it, just as she didn’t pay attention to the vague memory of Lex throwing her tattered blanket over her before he left. Her thigh ached; her jaw ached where Vanhelm had hit her, but not as bad as she expected.

But why hadn’t he killed her?

The thought hadn’t occurred to her when she was actually trapped inside the burning building; why the hell would it? It had certainly felt like a dangerous and deadly situation then.

It was only now, after… wow, ten solid hours of sleep, that she realized what a strange and stupid murder plan that was. Vanhelm had been there in the abandoned apartment with her; he could have killed her. Well, maybe he couldn’t have alone, at least not without her putting up one hell of a fight—a grim smile came to her lips when she wondered how his balls felt at that moment—but if he’d had a gun he could have.

And he hadn’t been alone. She was no match for an entire gang of dark magicians. Even Lauren with her gun wasn’t, apparently.

Not to mention, that building had been their headquarters or ritual space or meeting place or whatever it had been.

So why? Why this elaborate and rather silly scheme, with steel panels and ghosts and fires? Why torch a place where they’d spent time, where they still kept some of their equipment? What the fuck was the point of all of that?

She stumbled to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. Her throat burned and ached from smoke inhalation; her entire body felt gummy and dirty.

And it was Wednesday. She’d have to visit the City the next day. Ugh. Didn’t even want to think about that. Or about the look on Lex’s face when he’d realized she was ending their relationship, such as it was. Or about how she was going to have to visit the tunnels with him.

Or, especially, about whether or not she—of all people—would actually have the willpower to keep from falling back into his bed at some point, especially in the face of Terrible’s… He’d changed his number. And he’d done it recently; the last time she’d tried to call had been, what, ten days before? Nine?