Slaughterhouse/Maguinness’s Child

Deleted Scene from CITY OF GHOSTS

Okay, I think it’s going to be fairly obvious once you’ve finished this scene why it was cut: it’s frankly lousy. I wrote it looking for a way to connect the Lamaru—in the person of Erik Vanhelm—with Maguinness. And as such I guess it works, although it’s not very good and has an awful abrupt ending. It also made Maguinness’s little family look even more revolting, and revolting in a way that felt a bit gratuitous to me. As you know, I have pretty lax standards in that department, because I’m generally kind of a sick, bloodthirsty little bitch, but this felt like too much even for me.

Plus, this came late in the story. In my original draft, the connection between the Lamaru and Maguinness wasn’t understood until very late in the game, but on rewriting I decided the whole thing just moved too slowly, and having read the book (I assume, or you likely wouldn’t be reading deleted scenes) you know I sped things up considerably. Also, obviously, I wrote this is before I decided to torch the slaughterhouse.

One other thing about this scene: there’s a mention in here of the Erik/Aaron question. Originally they were twins, both posing as Erik, which was how Erik could have died in the beginning (which he did in the original draft) but still wandered around doing evil. So that’s why that’s in there. I warn you, though, it really isn’t very good, and I only include it because I want to give you as much extra stuff as I can.

This originally took place right after the scene with Chess and Terrible in the tunnels, when Lauren is waiting for Chess outside her apartment.

An hour and three Nips to counteract her post-coital, post-narcotic, post-rage drowsiness later, she jiggled softly on the balls of her feet and tried to ignore the stench of the slaughterhouse around her. Tried to ignore the sounds of it; Ben Carlyle, the manager of the place, piped loud music in to cover the frantic cries of the animals, but she still heard it.

She stood beside an eerily calm Lauren at Erik Vanhelm’s desk, empty since the week before.

“He was a good employee,” Carlyle said. For the eighth or ninth time since they’d arrived. He was a rabbity-looking man with twitchy hands; his voice was thin and reedy. “Never gave any impression that he was doing anything he shouldn’t. He dealt with the Church as well, during the monthly inspections? He was the one who led the inspector around.”

Chess glanced at Lauren; Lauren’s gaze was fixed on the wall. She didn’t appear to be paying any attention at all, in fact.

Still, this could be useful information. She made a note on her little pad to find out which inspector usually came to this particular house; Compliance was a different department, government rather than Church, although of course it was all under the same umbrella.

She should get the inspection reports as well. Maybe Lauren would help with that. Debunkers had access to all of that in the course of working a case; were the slaughterhouse haunted—or suspected of being so—she could poke into every detail of its operations, every detail of the employees’ personal lives.

But this wasn’t a Debunking case. Usually when she did these inter-departmental jobs all the information was handed to her upfront and all she did was help with the actual work; like at Lupita’s, where she’d been the one undercover. This was different. Anyway, she’d see if she could—

“I’m sorry, what?”

Carlyle blinked. “He quit so suddenly, said his brother was ill.”

“Brother? Aaron?”

“Yes, I—I think that’s what he said the name was.”

“Did he ever talk about his brother—do you have an address or anything?”

“Hmm. Can’t say as he did, but maybe one of the—excuse me a second.” Carlyle crossed to the door and opened it; the second he did the animal sounds and the whine of the killing machines pressed into the room, beat against Chess’s oversensitive skin.

Carlyle waved his arm at someone in the plant itself. “Warren? Can you come in here, please?” Then to Chess, “He’ll be here in a minute. He’s one of our line workers, but he seemed to have some kind of relationship with Erik. I used to see them talking sometimes. Don’t know why, really, Warren’s not…well. He’s a nice young man. Very friendly.”

“What do you mean, not well?”

Carlyle shuffled his feet. “He’s—well, you’ll see. He’s not the smartest man in the world. Good worker, though. He’s only been here a month or so but he—ah.”

The energy hit her before Warren entered the room; slithering tendrils of it wrapping around her chest, her throat and legs. Capturing her, not with force—it wasn’t the strength of it that bothered her—but with the oozing quality of it, the certainty in her mind that whoever—whatever—this Warren was, he was not going to be good. Her hand dropped to her pocket, finding the reassuring bulge of her knife. Technically Debunkers weren’t supposed to be armed, but Chess knew where she lived.

And she knew what Warren was. The black hair growing thickly down his forehead, the squint of close-set eyes, the looseness around his mouth. He was one of Maguiness’s children. Had to be; he didn’t just look like them, he felt like them.

So Vanhelm had known him? They worked together? What the fuck?

Warren smiled, an uneasy sort of grin like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t, which he probably had been. He rubbed one bloody-gloved hand over his gore-covered apron; a blob of something fell from it to the cement floor. “Aye, boss? Help you summat?”

The words were high and thin, the impression of a voice rather than an actual one.

“You talked to Erik a lot, didn’t you?”


“Did he ever talk about his brother? Do you know where his brother lived?”

Warren stroked his chin, leaving a smear of red on his waxy skin. “Ain’t can say so, surely. Know he brought the brother up, oh aye, sayed about him. But where he livin, nay, got no memory of’t. We talked bout dogs, see.”

“Dogs?” Chess cut in. She glanced at Lauren, who finally seemed to be paying some attention.

“Aye, gotta dogs. Liked em, did he. An I like em.” For a second the grin flashed feral; Chess’s skin crawled a warning. “Usedta raise em, did me, train em up an all, surely did. Dogs is special.”

“What did you train them to do?” Lauren asked. Her hair looked uncombed. Guilt prodded Chess with rough fingers, looking for a place to pile on to what was already there. She really should have called Lauren.

“Allsorts.” Warren’s dizzy smile widened. “Be a guard, be a pet, do they business inna yard not them floors. Likes dogs, I do. Good dogs.”

“And Erik talked to you about this?”

“Erik friendlylike. Likes the dog too. Ast me on it, how I done em. Makem do the all.”

Why would Erik be training dogs, though? Psychopomps didn’t require training; it was instinct. Not even that. It was simply part of what they did, what they were. As humans were capable of rational thought—most of them, anyway—so were dogs capable of retrieving souls and taking them to the City. Sure, the Church bred dogs for it, but that was simply to have a supply accustomed to working in ritual, not because they needed to be trained per se.

“Did he talk about any specific breed of dogs?”

“Like all kindsa dogs. Me too, likes em all. You like em too? Like the dogs?”

“Sure, I like dogs.”

Lauren, she observed, was poking around the empty drawers of Vanhelm’s desk, looking under them, sticking her hands into them.

“What kindsa dogs you like?” The smile turned into a leer. His energy, that twisted rope of bizarre energy, rolled around her. “You like big dogs? Big dogs like pretty ladies, likes em aye. Maybe you likem too? My sister do. She likes the dogs…likes the dogs alla time…”

“I think that’s enough, Warren,” Carlyle cut in. Thankfully. The implications of Warren’s sick little singsong had just hit her. Shit. Even the hideous excuses for parents who’d treated her like a combination blow-up doll, slave, and whipping post all her life had never thought of that.

She never thought she’d be grateful that all her molesters had been human—well, at least physically. But damned if she wasn’t, watching Warren shuffle out of the room with his bloody apron and bloody hands. He stopped at the doorway, looked back at her.

“Sayin he train dogs down below, surely. Down, down, down. Gots alla dogs he’s needing, down down down…”

“Wait! What?”

But they couldn’t get anything more out of him, even after Carlyle threatened to fire him.

Down, down, down… In the underground spaces. In the tunnels. She was going to have to call Lex.

(See? I told you it wasn’t very good!)