Chapter Sixteen: Tibo
Tibo figured it was one of the more attractive places to live. If you liked that sort of thing. He liked his cities a little less…tidy? He’d probably never feel comfortable living there. The borrowed house was gorgeous, though. Tibo stood out on the master suite’s balcony with the city spread out below him, and wished it really was a vacation with Rolly. That would’ve been the perfect time to admit they loved each other, not while they were hiding from shadow assassins.
Rolly lay sprawled on his back, thick red hair spread over the pristine pillows like some Pre-Raphaelite god. Tibo didn’t want to wake him or wanted to wake him to see if Rolly’s morning wood was especially for him. Now wasn’t the time. They were here, rested, and needed to find this Emil person.
It was hard to face the darkness in his life when he felt so damn content. Happy. When was the last fucking time he’d felt so happy? It wasn’t fair.
“And now you sound like you’re five,” he muttered to himself. His phone buzzing in his pocket cut his self-lecture short. No ID on the number, but things were weird these days. “Hello?”
“Tibo. Don’t say my name. Don’t mention anything about where you are. Just listen.”
It was Meerah, no mistaking that purring, growling voice. “Got it.”
“Go out and get a prepaid phone. Call me back at this number. Delete it from your phone.”
She hung up and he hurried over to the little desk by the window to write the number down before he deleted it. Someone’s always listening, Pearl had said. He got that now. With a sigh of mixed admiration and exasperation, Tibo climbed onto the gigantic mattress to kiss Rolly’s forehead.
“Rolls? I have to go out for a few minutes. Be right back.”
Initially, Rolly swatted at him and rolled away. Then his eyes snapped open and he shot upright, the blankets falling from his body. His perfect, naked body. Not now, Glent. Not now.
“Feckin’ hells, Glent! You’re not going out alone. Two minutes.” Rolly stumbled from the bed and groped around on the floor for his jeans. “Whatever’s so bloody important, you can still give me two minutes.”
Tibo pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged on the bed. “I’ll wait.”
Struggling to get the second leg on, Rolly nearly toppled. “You...who are you and what have you done with my Tibo?”
“Hey. I learn. Like you said. I’m not completely stupid.”
Rolly was ready in a minute and a half, finger combing his hair as he pulled on his coat. “Where are we headed?”
“Nearest phone store. Meerah wants me to buy a…what do they call it in spy stories? A burner?”
“Don’t start getting airs.” Rolly threw an arm around Tibo’s shoulders while he searched for something on his phone. “Just two streets down. They don’t open until nine.”
“It’s after ten.”
“Ah.” Rolly grinned and stuffed his phone in his pocket. “You wore me out, Glent. Won’t deny it.”
Tibo gave him a little hip check. “I was good, wasn’t I?”
Rolly laughed as he’d hoped, that rich, melodic sound scattering some of the shadows over Tibo’s heart. The outside air was chilly, but the sun shone. The city residents weren’t overly friendly, but they were polite and no one batted an eye that Tibo had tucked his hand into the crook of Rolly’s elbow.
“We’ve never played Switzerland, have we?”
“Hmm, not that I recall.” Rolly nodded toward the electronics shop. “I’d have to ask Sean.”
The phone purchase was easy since the human behind the counter spoke English and Rolly spoke some German. They continued over to the park and found a quiet spot before Tibo called Meerah back.
“Mee? It’s Tibo. On the super stealth phone as requested.”
She hissed in answer. “I need you to be serious or this conversation goes nowhere.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry.”
“Tibo…I wish you would go home.” She let out a long breath. “But I know you’re not ready to. So in the interest of scaring some sense into you, I’ll tell you what was on Shandi’s computer. That child had independently stumbled on magical theory so advanced that many of the leading universities have called it impossible. Flawed. Even a hoax. It’s all very complicated and has to do with bending dark energy around strong magnetic fields, but the theoretical result is holes in reality.”
“Yes. Which, again, in theory, would mean that a powerful manipulator of dark energy could travel instantaneously from one point to another. Physical distance would no longer be a factor.”
“Exactly like. The ancient sphinxes were said to have been able to do this, but no modern sphinx has ever been successful. It’s always thought to have been legend.”
“But Shandi figured it out?”
“Her research ran parallel to several theoretical magic scientists working around the globe. Hiro Komagata. Ngina Barmasai. Emil Bach. Shandi came perilously close. Tibo, someone killed her for coming too close.”
“I’m figuring that out.” Tibo wrapped his coat closer, the sun no longer warming the day. “Emil Bach. That’s the man we’re here to see.”
The silence on the other end stretched on far too long. Tibo finally said, “Mee?”
“Emil Bach is dead,” she finally got out in a choked whisper. “The news sites say he committed suicide this morning.”