Butcher Bird: A Novel of the Dominion - By Richard Kadrey



"This whole world's wild at heart and weird on top."

— Barry Gifford, Wild at Heart

"They say that when your head gets chopped off, it can still see and hear for a few seconds, so I'll have to go with beheading," said Spyder Lee to Lulu Garou.

Spyder Lee was drinking shots of Patrón Añejo tequila with Lulu, his business partner, at the Bardo Lounge just off Market Street in San Francisco.

Lulu looked into her empty glass and thought for some time, took a drag off her Marlboro Light and winked at the woman tending bar. "Being beaten to death," said Lulu. "Badly. I don't mean like with a baseball bat or rebar so you're out cold, but something small." She crushed out her Marlboro in the ashtray the bartender slid in front of her. "An eight ball in a sweat sock. That'd give your killer a good workout."

"Not if the guy hit you in the head right off," said Spyder.

"My mama was pretty free with her hands. I'm a faster ducker," Lulu replied. She grinned. Spyder could tell she was unimpressed with his argument.

"Burning at the stake," he said.

"Drawn and quartered," Lulu countered.

Rubi, the bartender, took their empty glasses away. "Exactly what are you two rattling about?"

"Worst ways to die," said Spyder. "Being covered in honey and staked out on a red ant hill."

"Dying of thirst. Like right now," said Lulu.

Rubi slid her hand across the bar and took hold of Lulu's left pinkie. "You parched, baby?"

"I'm drier than Candy Darling's cunt."

"Candy Darling was a man," said Spyder.


Rubi leaned forward and kissed Lulu's pinkie. "I'll get you both another round. On me." As she left to make their drinks, Lulu called after her, "That ain't all that's gonna be on you tonight." Rubi stuck her tongue out at Lulu.

"Being crucified. That's supposed to be horrible," said Spyder.

"You're only saying that 'cause that's how they talk about it in movies. You ever known anyone who was crucified? Or even heard of one? Hell no. Maybe being crucified is great. Maybe it's a fucking hoot. Maybe it's a blow job and ice cream on your birthday." Lulu took out another Marlboro Light and lit it with a pink fur Zippo. "Know what would really suck? Being force fed a bucket full of black widows."

Spyder made a face, half frown and half smile. "Jesus, girl," he said. "You're upping the ante on me."

It was the end of another day at the tattoo studio and piercing parlor Spyder and Lulu ran together. Spyder did the ink while Lulu handled the metal. It was a pleasant business. It let them both pretend to be artists while making money and getting a lot of tail on the side. Rubi, for instance, had been one of Lulu's earliest and most regular customers.

"She's got about five pounds of me on her at all times," Lulu liked to tell friends.

Rubi brought back their drinks and set them on the bar. "What time you getting off tonight?" asked Lulu.

"Early," said Rubi. "'Bout an hour."


"Being eaten alive, Night of the Living Dead-style," said Spyder.

Lulu turned to him. "You mind? We're having a moment here."

"Wait, better than that," Spyder went on. "Being starved to death, but given topical anesthetic and surgical equipment, so the only way you could stay alive'd be to amputate your own limbs and eat them."

Rubi said, "You two ought to get married. Move into the Bates Motel." She went down the bar to serve other customers.

"Now you ruined our surprise," Spyder called after her.

Lulu took a long pull on her tequila. "Flayed alive and drowned in pickle brine."

Spyder looked at his hands. The back of one was covered in an intricate black tribal snake pattern while the other hand sported a cartoon red sacred heart. MANS RUIN was tattooed across the knuckles of both hands. He'd gotten the letters while doing a year in reform school for car theft. They were bullshit tats. Kid stuff. But they marked a period of his life, so he never bothered to have them lasered off. From his neck to the tops of his feet, Spyder Lee was an explosion of images and pigments. He'd never felt normal until he'd been tattooed for the first time. The ink felt like some kind of magic armor. His tattoos, even the stupid ones, made him feel bulletproof.

He was one of those lanky Texas boys you see working on cars in oil-stained driveways, a cooler full of Coors, his only concession to the summer heat. A perpetually