Deleted Scene from CITY OF GHOSTS
I really liked parts of this, but as the plot changed it just no longer worked, and the dialogue felt a bit stilted. So I changed it, obviously, although a lot of the dialogue did stay. Plus I still like the “oooh-I’m-so-slick-and-creepy,” line, so I’m including it here. Because that’s the way I roll.
A figure stepped in front of the door. They were halfway up when she saw it was Maguinness, smiling gently, his arms folded before him.
He raised a pale, long-fingered hand; the noise around them ceased, left only the ringing of her ears.
“I know you.” His gaze ran up and down Terrible’s body; his hand in hers tightened almost imperceptibly. “Work for the lord, you do.”
Now that beatific smile, horrible in its emptiness, fell on her. “And you work for the other one. Why have you bothered my children?”
She cast her eyes away from him, couldn’t keep looking at his waxy visage. Above him toads danced on strings, rows and rows of them. Guarding the door. Guarding the inhabitants of this room. His children?
His children. She gagged; tried unsuccessfully to turn it into a cough. The glint in his eye told her she hadn’t fooled him.
Terrible spoke. “Looking for aught else, is all.”
“Oh, no…no, I don’t think so. Methinks you wouldn’t have entered here by mistake. You, witch. You destroyed my door.”
“I’m sorry” was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t bring herself to utter it, much as she knew she should. Terrible had calculated their chances pretty well; between the two of them they could handle a lot, but an army of inbreeds—quite probably cannibalistic inbreeds, if the skulls on the floor were anything to go by—was too much. Their odds of fighting their way out of this wouldn’t attract even the most desperate lost-cause gambling addict.
“I thought it was connected to something else,” she said. “The Church will pay damages if you want to file a claim.”
Not that she expected him to. But perhaps mentioning the Church would cause him to rethink whatever murder-and-devour plans he was formulating in that rats-nest head of his.
Of course, not that she really expected that either. But it was worth a try.
He blinked, slowly. Like a toad. “The Church…ah. I see. Followed them, you did? The other witches.”
The Lamaru? Had he seen them? “Do you know something about them?”
“I do not believe I do, no.”
“But you know they exist.” And he was smiling, a smile she didn’t like at all; it raised nervous prickles up her spine.
“I know many things. I know they have dark plans which should be stopped. I do not know what they are.”
“Then how do you know—”
“I see them. Bothering me. Bothering my children. You waste our time, witch. Catch them. That you should, I do know.”
“What about Madame Lupita? Do you know something about her?” Shit, she shouldn’t be doing this, not now. Not when his horrible “children” licked their lips on the steps below her and she could feel their hungry gazes on her body.
Their hungry gazes…his children. The Lamaru, bothering his children. Had they killed them? Left their bodies—parts of their bodies—in the vacant lot? Were his children the half-ghost bastards that report described? They certainly looked like what she’d imagined; certainly made her skin tingle the way ghosts did, although not as strongly. “Wait. They bothered your children?”
His eyebrows disappeared into the tangled mass of his hair. “Said it, did I not?”
“What do you mean, bothered them? How did they bother them? Did you see them?”
“Not your business.”
“I think it is.” Bells rang in her head, deafening bells. If the Lamaru had killed Maguinness’s children, if he’d seen something… The first body, the one by the docks. That had been a Lamaru, Garret something. Had Maguinness done it? Had she stepped into some kind of war between users of black magic?
Crossfire could be a real bitch; her skin went colder than it already was.
But whether he was a witness, a victim, or a murderer he clearly wasn’t going to tell her, and she didn’t have the authority to do anything about it at the moment. Sure, she could ask Terrible to step in, but even if things between them hadn’t been totally and completely fucked up she didn’t know if he’d be too eager to do the stepping in while a horde of half-ghost lunatics filed their teeth into points behind them.
And either way, she had to account for the information. She was well within her rights to be out wandering the streets with anyone she chose, and to stumble across Maguinness’s hidey-hole in the process, but to actually bring him in for questioning she’d need Lauren. Unless she could get him to talk on his own. To come in on his own.
“We can stop them, you know.” She looked him dead in the eyes, wished she hadn’t when the contact jolted down her spine. How was he so powerful? “If you tell me what you know we can—”
“I don’t think it’s your business.”
“Yeah?” He was really starting to piss her off. Accidental break-in and destruction of property or not, she was asking him legitimate questions in the course of performing a legitimate investigation, and he could fucking suck it if he thought he was going to get away with this oooh-I’m-so-slick-and-creepy routine. She was trying to help his sick ass. “The Church says it’s my business. The same Church that’s trying to find out what happened to your children and catch the people responsible. So how about we make a deal, Maguinness? You tell me what I need to know, and I make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m trying to help you.”
“You threaten me?”
“I’m not threatening you, just offering a deal.”
He grinned. “So you think.”
He stood before her; she hadn’t seen him move, but there he was, on the next step up. Closer than he’d been a moment ago. The stink of him was almost as bad as the realization of what sort of family he was raising; sweat and smoke and greasy, bloody filth.
His eyes were worlds in his face now, swirling orbs of color and darkness. “Yes,” he whispered. “Look at me. Let me see…let me see into you, little witch…”
He grabbed her arm, flipped it over so her wrist was exposed. She gasped. A stab of pain flew up it at his touch, but she couldn’t look away, couldn’t focus on anything else. Terrible’s hand in hers tightened even more; she felt it without it actually registering in her mind, like watching him squeeze someone else’s hand.
“Hmm.” His fingers crawled spider-like over the black scar of her binding while his gaze still kept hers trapped. “Interesting.”
His hand closed over the scar like a vise. Power shot through it, searing power that stole her voice, stole her thoughts.
“Arteru niska,” he whispered. Her arm hummed; her tattoos crawled and itched. She tried to scream but nothing came out; he’d taken her breath along with her will, and her vision went black around the edges.