Wings of Mayhem

I whistle a jaunty tune as I waltz up the sidewalk toward the gym. 

It’s a good day, nice and warm. Blue sky, glittering roads, and rebel bugs. A little old lady passes me, giving me a kind smile as I move aside for her, sweeping my arm out dramatically. 

She giggles like she’s twenty-two again. “Aren’t you a gentleman?”

I tip an invisible hat. “Good day, ma’am.”

Leaving happy colors in my wake, I continue on my journey, dipping down to pick a purple deadnettle that’s climbing from a crack in the pavement. Even our weeds are badass. West End is the best in the summer, from the laughter of the kids playing in the newly restored park fountain, to the way the metal roofs of the warehouses reflect the sun like diamonds. 

Also, Lavinia walks around the clock tower practically naked.

Summer’s where it’s at.

When I step inside the gym, I whip off my shades and am immediately greeted by whistles and hoots. 

“Getting another one, eh?” Kaz gives my shoulder a brotherly punch, grinning from ear to ear. “There’s only reason she’d call you in on a weekend.”

I spread my arms wide, not bothering to batten down my grin. “What can I say? Mama B knows what’s good.” 

Weasel snorts. “Maybe try not to get stabbed in this fight.” 

Holding up a finger, I explain, “Stabbing is a radical exaggeration. It was a cut, and frankly, my Duchess cut deeper.”

“I bet she does,” Kaz laughs. 

I flip them both the bird as I saunter toward the back. Usually, a Duke wouldn’t be assigned a Fury so soon after his last one, but Mama B called me in and I’m going to do my Dukely duty. 

Can’t hide talent.

On the way past the training area, I give a punching bag a little taste of what my opposing Royal is going to get, jabbing it with a series of lightning-fast, effortless punches. Will it be South Side? Fuck, a match between me and Rathbone would decimate this city with the flood of ensuing wet panties. I’d beat him. Naturally. But then again, maybe it’s East End. A rematch with Pace would be just the thing, and I practically get drunk on the thought of feeding Dicker Ashby a few of his sparkling Prince teeth.

It doesn’t matter, though. Either way, it’s going to be the match of the goddamn year.

Pausing at Mama B’s door, I smooth down my shirt, hiding the deadnettle behind my back before rapping on the wood. When I hear her greeting, I sweep in, presenting her the purple flower. 

“Mama B,” I say, whistling. “You look fine today.”

Still behind her desk, she gives me—and the flower—a not altogether flattering look. “Boy, you’d better not be on drugs again.”

Undeterred, I lean over the desk, tucking the flower neatly into her cup of pens. “I’m high on life, Miss B. Well, and the promise of glorious, crimson violence.” I bring my hands together in a resounding clap, giving my palms a rub. “So who am I fighting?”

Pushing to her feet, she reaches down, lifting something heavy from behind her desk. “This little fucker.”

I pause before leaning back, totally baffled at the sudden appearance of a cage. The strange little creature inside of it inspects me in much the same way, like I’m similarly as unexpected. Looking at Mama B, I point at the cage. “That’s a bird.”

Dumbass,” it squawks, wings giving an abrupt, clattering flutter. “Suck my balls.

I lift a fluttering hand to my chest, giving it an affronted staredown. “That’s a shit-talking bird.”

“Yes, she certainly fucking is,” Mama B says, bracelets jangling as she struggles to balance the cage. “I have a little eye procedure that’s going to put me out of commission for a hot minute, and since getting my daughter to trust me again hinges on the welfare of this shit-talking, little ass-fuck bird, I need someone to watch her for the day.”

I stare at it, totally at a loss. “And your first thought was me?”

“My first thought was Simon, but he’s still taking his finals. My second thought was Greta, but same issue. My third thought was Sara, but she’s with a client all day. My fourth thought was your Duchess because she managed to take care of a cat, so she has more chops than most of you, but she’s escorting Nick to something in North Side.” This goes on for quite a while, and it’s actually a little impressive how many people Mama B knows who are just too busy to play birdysitter. But then it keeps going. And going. And going. “My thirty-fifth thought was that hobo down at the end of sixteenth. You know, the one who always smells like fish and cinnamon? Go down that list about a dozen more, and then there’s you, Remy.”

I blink. “I’m inspired by your confidence in me.”

“You’re inspired by the threat I’m about to make.” She all but shoves the handle of the cage into my hand, jamming a pointed, glittery acrylic nail in my face. “If anything happens to this bird,” she growls, bracelets clinking with every punch of her finger, “I will cut your balls off and shove them down your throat.” 

“Suck my balls,” the bird screeches. And then a pretty, trilled, “Wiiiicker.”

“Wait.” My eyes narrow. “Whose bird is this?”

Mama B starts looking a little shifty. “She belongs to Pace Ashby.”

My jaw drops in outrage. “I’m not going to watch his bird. He stabbed me!”

She rolls her eyes. “Don’t exaggerate, you big baby. He cut you.”

“It was a stab!” I grab the hem of my shirt, tugging it up. “Look at this, he messed up my frat letters! I’m lucky he missed my liver!”

She gives me a look, like I’m an idiot. The nerve. “Your liver’s on the other side.”

“Then my gallbladder,” I reply.

“It’s also on the other side.”

“My appendix!”

She pauses, brow furrowing. “Weirdly enough, that’s also on the other side.”

I gape down at the stab scar. “Jesus fuck, do I have any organs on the right side?”

“Just the organ where men store their baby tears.” She walks to the file cabinet and grabs the bag sitting on top of it. “You call yourself West End, but you can’t take a little competitive stabbing? Here.” She thrusts the bag into my chest until I cradle it with my free arm. “Feed her this. I’ll come to your place to pick her up at eleven tonight. No sooner—no later.”

I heft the cage into the air, peering into black, beady eyes. 

Orange beak. 



Setting the cage on the counter, I take off my shades, tucking them into the neck of my white designer tee, then I cross my arms. 

It’ll probably be fine, right? 

I’ve taken care of a little bird before.

“I’m not going to hold you to the sins of your father,” I decide—really magnanimously, I think. “Although, you should know he’s a giant dick. But so is mine. I mean, my father.” After a second. “Also my dick.” 

The bird—Effie, Mama B called her—cocks her head to the side. “Gentle,” she coos. “Gentle, gentle.”



Sighing, I uncross my arms, reaching for the door clasp. “We don’t cage little birds around here. So you’re just going to have beha—ah, shit!” 

The bird zips out of the cage and onto the counter, and the thing is, I’d been prepared for flying. But her little legs are fucking Usain Bolt levels of fast, and before my morning brain can catch up, she’s clear across the kitchen. 

Fucking orange shenanigans.

“Hey!” I bark.

Dirty bird,” she squawks, snatching a magnet off the fridge and flinging it to the floor. “Effie is a dirty bird. Suck my balls! Dumbass.

Normally, hearing a bird cuss me out would be the best thing that could happen to me in a day, but she’s going fucking crazy. With a screech, she flings Sy’s breakfast plate onto the floor, shattering it to pieces. 

Dirty bird!” 

Next, she zips to the other side of the counter, and I fling my hands out in alarm, because Vinny’s amassing a little collection of weapons by the toaster, and this fucking bird…

“Whoa!” I yell. 

She’s got Vinny’s knife in her goddamn beak. 

Her little head is too small to lift it, so she’s ducked low, barely able to waddle around with the weight of the blade. It was a gift from Nicky, so it’s understandably a little overboard.

This bird looks like she wants to stab me. 

“Let’s just think about this,” I say, advancing on her slowly, cautiously, like a man trying to talk a crazy person down from a ledge. Effie’s got a shifty look about her, like she’s one frayed thread from snapping, and I think I might recognize that wild gleam in her eyes.

It’s not that she looks scared.

She just looks so fucking angry.

“You’re mad, right?” Of course she is. She was taken from her home, and then given to someone who gave her to someone else. If West End’s own little bird has taught me anything, it’s that it can be hard being shuffled around, lost, adrift in a strange place with strange people. “You miss home,” I’m guessing. Effie gives me a cagey look as I advance. “There’s no need for all the red, pretty bird. You’re gonna go home soon, I’m sure.” 

But I stop in my tracks when I notice him. He’s sitting between the railings of the loft, his yellow eyes narrowed in on her with all the focus of a stone-cold killer.

The Archduke.

“Everybody just stay chill.” Stepping between them, I throw out my hands and give Archie the eye. “I know you’re her natural predator, but she’s East End. We’ve already started one war on account of a little bird.” Archie has gone completely still, his eyes trained on the bird, who’s too focused on me to realize she’s become the prey. “Look, guys, Mama B and Verity will castrate me if the bird gets hurt.” I swallow. “And Archie, you know Vinny will never forgive me if anything happens to you. What we need here is a truce. We’re all mature, rational beings, aren’t we? Let’s get blue, guys.”

Effie bobs her head, the knife stabbing out. I hold my ground because even if I run, this little bitch can fly.

Over my head, Archie lets loose a long, spine-tingling hiss, and Effie’s head twists, the blade slashing as she moves. 

What happens after that is a blur of white fur and black feathers that propels me stupidly into the conflict. Wings flutter. Archie cries out. A claw slashes my neck, and then a talon swipes at my arm. The bird shrieks a long, shrill war song, but finally uses her wings to sail away.

At the end of it all, I’m peering up at where she’s perched in the rafters above, Archie’s claw mark slashed into my neck, and panting like I’ve just done eight rounds with Payne in the ring.

The cat skitters away, a gleam of purpose in his eyes. 

“Honestly?” I growl, ripping a paper towel from the roll beside the sink. “I’d rather have fought a fucking Royal.”

Above me, Effie emits a trilled, “Suck my balls,” and for a moment, I get this notion that I just have fought a Royal. 


“Bring that back!” 

An hour later, I’m shouting up into the eaves like a fucking maniac. I really try to sell it, though. I give the menacing finger wag and everything.

On the wooden crossbeam above me, Effie parades her spoils, head held high as she zips across.

With the cap to my marker.

It’s the fourth one she’s taken. 

“All my markers are going to dry out!” I whine. I’m in the middle of a piece I’m thinking of inking on Nick, and this bitch is really putting a damper on my plans. “Where are you even putting them all?”

Undeterred, she struts toward the clock face, howling, “Meow!

Yeah, that’s going to be hard to explain. 

Balancing precariously on the railing around the loft, Archie gives a long, plaintive howl. The bird has somehow absorbed it as her own, just meowing back at him. I can’t explain why, it just feels incredibly fucking emasculating. For him, I mean. 

Well, also maybe a little for me.

Growling in frustration, I snatch a green marker from the pile and turn back to my canvas, trying to get back in the zone. 

Meow!” Effie howls. “Dumbass!

By three in the afternoon, I feel like every last nerve has been wrung dry. 

Suck my balls!

I mostly try to ignore her, scowling down at my sketch pad as she flutters from one end of the tower to the other. The weird thing about her is that she never goes far from me or Archie. It’s almost like she’s enjoying annoying the shit out of us. 

Meowww!” she mocks. 

Archie curls at my feet, already bored with the whole damn thing. 

I reach down to give his head a little scritch. “You and me both, buddy.”  


“Come on,” I coax, watching her hop from beam to beam, those beady eyes fixed on the little tray of birdseed. “I know you’re hungry, pretty girl.”

She looks very skeptical. “Pretty bird?

I perk up, agreeing, “Yeah, you’re a pretty bird. Don’t you want some yummies?”

She kinda looks like she wants to stab my eyes out still. 

But she’s hungry, too. 

So she falls for the bait. 

A couple more hops and a startling flap of her wings bring her back to the kitchen counter, scurrying toward the little feeding tray. 

“Ha!” I crow, victorious as I shut the cage door behind her. Then, aggressively, I show her both my middle fingers, “Fuck you!”

She’s too busy eating to care much. 

I collapse on the barstool beside the counter, feeling way too tired, and strongly reconsidering my stance on the caging of little birds. 

But not really. 

Picking up the cage, I make a decision. “Hey,” I ask her, “you wanna see something cool?”

She cocks her head in my direction, trilling out a low, “Suck my balls.

I nod solemnly. “It’s a date.”


I bring her up to the belfry at the perfect time. 

It’s half past seven, so the sun is still an orange glow in the distant sky, painting the little wisps of clouds with reds, magentas, and golds. Violent colors. But the city is already alive with its ground-stars, lights blinking on along the avenue, in high-rises and headlights, speckling the landscape with its exciting cosmos pinpricks. It’s the best of both worlds, this little patch of day-dusk. 

I set the cage down next to me and produce the joint I’ve been saving for the perfect evening. This is not the perfect evening because my Vinny isn’t here. But I’ve still got a sad, little bird, and it makes my chest ache for her in a way I’m not expecting. 

“Sorry I can’t let you out,” I say, flicking the flame on my lighter. “If you were my little bird, I’d set you free and hope you came back. But your little fuckhead Prince would probably stab me again, eh?”

When I turn, I see Effie staring out over the city with wide, black eyes. Her head is jerking from side to side, like she’s struggling to take it all in as fast as possible. A gentle gust of wind arrives, stealing the tendril of smoke I exhale, and I’m startled to watch her extend her wings. 

The feathers on her underside flutter in the breeze.

Sunlight,” she trills.

“Not much of it, I’m afraid.” I take a draw from the joint, watching her closely. She has an odd teal about her all of a sudden, completely different from the fuschia she exhibited downstairs. It’s as if it took seeing the sky for her to understand what she is. For her to be at peace. Quietly, I muse, “It must be pretty cool to be a bird. To never fall, only glide.” I follow her gaze to the skyscape, watching as a flock of geese drift by in the distance. “Well, I guess it sucks if you’re always in a cage.”

There’s a long moment of silence, which I use to puff on the joint. 

Until she croons, “Effie loves Pace.”

I give her an affronted look. “I wasn’t making any moves. I’ve already got a little bird, and to be honest, she’s a lot less complicated than you.” Huffing, I concede, “You’re a cute little fucker, though.”

She agrees, “Little fucker.” 

Cute little fucker.”

She cocks her head in my direction, and I get an eerie feeling that she’s analyzing me. “Little fucker.”

“Cute,” I stress.

Maybe it’s the weed, or maybe it’s just her, but she looks me in the eye and I get the impression that this little bird has too big a soul. It’s the same feeling I get with Archie sometimes, like there are corners of his destiny I’m just not qualified to quantify. 

For a brief second, I think about freeing her, despite the fact it’s not my right.

And then she spreads her wings again, cooing, “Cute little fucker.”

I give the cage a pat. “That’s a girl.”

A bird like Effie couldn’t make it in these bleak Forsyth skies. She needs sunlight and voices and the bluest of blues. 

And only her Prince can give them to her. 


“Watch this,” I press the rewind button and restart the TV. On the screen, two fighters circle one another, jabbing and ducking punches, until one kicks out, leg and foot arcing through the air. It lands, foot slamming into his opponent, knocking him back three feet. “That’s an epic roundhouse kick. See how clean it is?”

Effie’s on the back of the couch, marker cap in her beak.

“Your legs are too short,” I mention. “Which is probably why you’re so quick to use the talons–which is illegal, by the way.”

Archie sits across the room, tail flipping in annoyance. “Look,” I tell him, “I gave you the dry food Vinny says is perfectly acceptable. If you want to wait for Sy to feed you something more bougie, go for it, but don’t give me that pissy look.”


 The whir of the elevator echoes up the shaft and Archie perks up, back arching. The doors slide open, and Vinny and Mama B step out.

Archie trills, running over to his mama. Traitor.

“Remington,” Mama B’s using her scary tone as she surveys the loft through a pair of those flimsy but dark eye-doctor shades. “What the hell happened here?” Snapping off the TV, I stand and she takes in my wounds. “What the hell happened to you?”

Yeah, they got some licks in. The slash on my neck has stopped bleeding, but it’s red and vivid. The talon cut on my temple is deeper, but smaller. 

“I just did what you asked me to,” I say, lifting my chin proudly. “Watch the bird.”

She glances at Vinny, and says, “The next time you talk to Verity, make sure she knows to never let Remy babysit.” 

“Hey!” I squawk. 

Hey!” Effie also squawks. “Suck my balls! Cute little fucker.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, always grateful to have someone on my side. “We’ve had a very enriching time, actually.”

Vinny drags both hands down her cheeks as she inspects the toppled bookshelf. “How the fuck, Rem?”

Mama B adds, “Why isn’t she in the cage? You can’t just let a bird loose in a loft with a cat!”

“First of all, you’re underestimating this bird.” I gesture to where Effie is looking all innocent and very unlike a bird who brandished a knife at me twelve hours ago. “Secondly, I’m, like… building bridges between houses here.” 

Mama B doesn’t seem to care about that much. She rolls her eyes and goes to get the cage. Most annoyingly, all she does is let out a sharp whistle, and suddenly Effie is fluttering into the goddamn thing, happy to have the door shut behind her. “Thanks for your help, Remy.” 

She even sounds about halfway sincere.

It isn’t until she reaches the elevator, shutting the cage, that Effie leaves us with one parting jab.

Meow!” she says, the elevator door sliding closed between us.

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