Terrible and the tunnels

Deleted Scene from UNHOLY MAGIC

One of the main plot points or conflicts in the book was originally the idea that both gangs blamed the other for what was happening to the prostitutes, and someone was taking advantage of their suspicion and setting them up. I don’t want to say too much more about that, because I do plan to use that at some point, but in a different way!

This is immediately after Chess arrives home to find Terrible there, and the dead girl around the corner from her apartment.

“Been thinking something. You know them tunnels?”

Oh, this is not good. “Tunnels?”

“Aye. Them tunnels you used back before, you recall? When you got chased down into them from the Church. Slobag using them tunnels, all the when. Maybe he got one around here.”

Slobag did have one around here. Lex used it all the time. She’d used it with him, used quite a few of the tunnels. A rabbit-warren, like an underground city in themselves, they reached almost every part of Downside and even connected to the Church grounds. Good thing they did, as she probably would have died once without them, but not so good if Terrible and Bump knew Slobag was using them. Especially when she herself—dumbass—had told them about them.

On the night Terrible was talking about, she’d been chased by a fellow Church member onto the train platform beneath the Church, the train that led to the City of Eternity.

She’d managed to escape into the tunnels and make it home… She folded her arms over her chest. She did not want to think about what else happened that night, in the red-lit hallway of the bar, with Terrible’s body hot against hers. The night she fucked up.

“You think the killer’s using them to do the murders? And to escape? But—but do they really go to all those places? Out on Forty-fifth, and the docks, and everything?”

“Ain’t knowing that, but we find out real easy, aye? Get us down there have a lookaround.”

It actually was a good idea, one she hadn’t thought of before. Just because Slobag and his crew used the tunnels didn’t mean nobody else did—she’d seen an old junkie spiking himself down there twice. A lot of people knew about them.

But Slobag knew who went into them, who used them, and so did Lex.

He misread her hesitation. “I know you ain’t like the downs, but you ain’t need to worry none, aye? You bring whatall you use, and I bring mine.”

“No, I know, I just… Can we get into them?”

“Guessing so.”

“So if we can use them, anyone can, right? It doesn’t have to be Slobag. I mean,” she hastened, “I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just—we’re trained not to limit ourselves to a particular suspect early, you know? Sometimes it’s not the people we’re investigating., well, most of the time it is, but it’s not unheard of for it not to be, and I don’t want to miss anything because we’re not—”

He held something up. “Got this offen her body, aye? Just set on her chest when I get there.”

It wasn’t hard to see, but Chess stepped closer anyway, reached out and took the piece of card from his hand. The back was gold leaf, smooth and expensive under her fingers. The front…

On the front was a large Chinese character, heavy black against the vivid scarlet paper. She recognized the symbol, as well she might. She’d seen it often enough, riding the back of Lex’s left hand as it caressed her body. The tattoo that identified him, identified his gang.

Slobag’s gang.

“That fucking li—” she started, but caught herself in time. Lex. That son of a bitch. How could he stare her right in the eye and lie, about something like this? She’d thought she could at least trust him when it came to—no. No, unless he’d somehow managed to set up last night’s little amusement himself—which there would be absolutely no point that she could see in doing—someone else had to be committing these murders.

Okay, maybe he hadn’t lied before. Maybe he hadn’t had anything to do with the others. Maybe he didn’t even have anything to do with this one. But she still wasn’t sure exactly how high up the chain he was or how much influence he had, so it was entirely possible he didn’t know what was going on. If his gang had done this…here, on her street, on her corner. In her car?

Terrible waited for her to continue. When she didn’t, he just nodded. “Aye. Well, Slobag a lot of fucking things, aye, but what he ain’t is getting off clean from this one.” He tucked the card back into his pocket.