We went out onto the nearest ledge to hail a bird, but there were already several mice in line at the pigeon stand.
One mouse shivered beneath his black, speckled coat. “We’re freezing our whiskers off out here!” He shook his head. “Busy night. The pigeons are all taken.”
Pigeons were another part of urban wildlife that realized their lives depended on human prosperity. As such, they were the Council’s natural allies. Unlike mice, unfortunately, they weren’t very organized.
Dell Grim scowled at the line. “Let’s go. We’ll have to talk a crow into giving us a ride.”
“A crow? Really?” In addition to practicing black magic, crows were just plain spooky.
“Don’t knock the crows too much.” Gretchen led us down to ground level and we headed toward Parliament Hill. “They make the flyknockers for us.”
It made me feel a little uncomfortable to know that I had some black magic in my bag, but what did I think was powering a dead fly? Angel dust? “Can’t we get an owl?”
Dell removed a large piece of lint from the hole leading outside. “They have better things to do than ferry us around on routine missions!”
As we emerged into the darkness, a gust of wind sent us tumbling into the snow. We huddled on all fours, gripping the snow with our paws until it passed.
“I hear a crow.” Gretchen’s ears twitched south and she got up. “Follow me.”
The crow found us first. The big black bird almost landed on top of us.
“Micean Council!” Gretchen and Dell shouted, showing their red bead necklaces. The crow dropped his talon into the snow with an audible “plop.” He stared at them, then jerked his gaze to me. I hustled my necklace out too.
“Know where any of your non-council conspecifics might be? I’m hungry!” The crow’s black eyes scanned the snow around us.
Dell Grim ignored the tasteless request. “Are you Reginald Crazywing?”
The bird cocked his head. The only times I’d ever been this close to a crow before was when I was running for my life. I could feel my heart pounding, and reflected on how there was just a little red bead between me and that beak.
“Well, well, well,” Reginald cawed. “If it isn’t Dell Grim.”
“We’re on a Council mission. We need a flight to Little Italy.”
“I’m busy. I’m hungry,” Reginald opened and closed his wings, scattering snowflakes, and made ready to fly off. “There’s a teenager eating a baguette near the centennial flame. If I go now, I might score a few crumbs before the pigeons get them all!” He stamped his talons in the snow.
Dell stepped closer. “Way I see it, you wouldn’t be nearly as fat and healthy if the Council hadn’t been delivering you scraps from the Parliament cafeteria all winter.”
The crow cawed, shrilly, and shook his head, swirling dark magic around his eyes and beak.
All three of us scampered back. Humans and birds are the only creatures that could manipulate magic, and I’d never seen it before.
“Fine! Get on! But write in your little tit-for-tat notebook that the Council owes Reginald Crazywing a baguette!”
Dell helped Gretchen onto the crow’s back and reached for my paw.
I hesitated. “Why do they call him Crazywing?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Dell grumbled, “Just get on.”