Chapter Eleven: Tibo
The regulars at Trillby’s brought instruments the next evening—a mandolin, which Tibo played well, and a fiddle, which he ceded to Bob, since the mover wasn’t half-bad. Folk tunes, traditional music, pop songs old and new, the barflies had wide-ranging tastes and were pleased to teach Tibo songs he didn’t recognize. They teased him that the big rock star should know these things.
After a roaring rendition of Whiskey in the Jar, Alfie clapped Tibo on the shoulder. “It’s a good thing we didn’t squarsh you!”
“Ha! Yeah, I appreciate it.” Tibo set the mandolin across his lap a moment. “You know, I was thinking about that today. Who was the guy up top when the armoire fell? He was the one who screwed up, right? I mean it wasn’t you two.” He pointed between Alfie and Bob. “You were on the sidewalk.”
Bob shifted his bulk in his chair. “Coppers asked us the same. Name was Hack or something, but I never laid eyes on ’im before.”
“And that’s the barmy thing, isn’t it?” Alfie chimed in. “None of us knew him, really, and the bloke scarpered off minute that bloody big cabinet fell, didn’t he?”
An ice spike lodged in Tibo’s gut, dread ratcheting up to constrict his lungs. Of course he did. It couldn’t have all been coincidence, could it? “Guess he had priors or something. Dropping that thing probably scared him more than it did me.”
“Could be.” Hari, the goblin plumber, narrowed his shrewd little eyes. “If it’d been some common bloke he dropped it on.”
Tibo forced out a laugh, probably sounding as fake as it felt. “Fuck off. I’m as common as it gets.”
“May have come from common, but it’s your money what ain’t,” Bob said with a frown. “You think maybe it weren’t no accident, Hari?”
Hari shrugged, sucking on the stem of his unlit pipe. “Don’t know one way or another. Saying the whole thing’s dodgy, is all.”
“You just be careful out on the streets, Mr. Glent,” Bob said with a nod toward the pub door.
A tall shadow stood there, silhouetted against the last rays of late afternoon sun. The bell over the door hadn’t chimed and the timing of the stranger’s appearance couldn’t have been more ominous. “The blasted little git’s never careful. Determined to make me gray.”
Half the pub’s occupants had risen at the bitter drawl. Bob even seemed to be growling. But Tibo’s heart raced for a reason other than threat.
“Rolls!” Tibo’s chair clattered to the floor as he launched himself across the pub and into Rolly’s arms. Long arms wrapped around him hard in return, Rolly’s citrus and earth scent surrounding him as he buried his face against Rolly’s shoulder.
“Miss me, did you?” Rolly chuckled.
“Maybe. A little.” Tibo pulled back with a scowl. “How the fuck did you find me?”
“Banshee magic, of course.”
The pub denizens were standing down, settling back in their seats with murmurs of “that banshee bass player of ‘is” and “you know, McFarland. Plays in the band.”
Tibo smacked Rolly’s chest. “Don’t give me that special magic crap. You so fucking did not pull out a crystal and scry for me.”
“No, I checked the credit statement, you wanker.” Rolly shook his head on a snort. “You know, the one we share for band expenses that you charged your room to?”
“Oh. Um. That. Right.”
“And then I asked that nice Mrs. Doncaster where you were, didn’t I? She couldn’t resist the McFarland smile.” Rolly produced his best, white-toothed grin to demonstrate and Tibo smacked him again. “Hey! This is the thanks I get for coming to rescue you from yourself?”
“Why are you really here, Rolls?” Tibo backed out of reach, suspicions mounting.
“Well, I’m not after coming to fetch you home, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Rolly leaned against the bar, pretending to ignore the muttered bloody Irish from someone nearby, though Tibo saw him twitch. “You need a chaperone, Tibo Glent. Someone to look out for you. Tell me you don’t. Mrs. Doncaster said you already had a near miss.”
“Aye, that he did,” Bob said, his jaw jutting out stubbornly when Tibo glared at him. “He’s your mate, ain’t he, Mr. Glent? Better not to be alone an’ all?”
No, no, no, no, no… I’m just starting to figure out that there really might be bigger shit going on and Rolls shows up all handsome and clueless. He’s gonna get hurt. I can’t…I can’t…Rolly can’t get hurt ’cause of me. Or worse, squarshed. Squashed.
He slowed his breathing and relaxed into the strange sideways twist that allowed him to reach in between, pulling a small pool of dark energy from the spaces that weren’t spaces. If he could make Rolly just angry enough, he’d stomp out in a huff and go back home. With Tibo’s own anger gathering, he spun the dark energy into an echo of building rage and pushed that little bit at Rolly.
“Fuck off, McFarland. You take your high-handed ass back to the states where you belong. No one asked you to come and no one wants you here.”
Rolly eyes narrowed. His jaw tightened. For a moment, Tibo thought he’d won and he pushed the anger just a hair harder. Then Rolly smacked the bar top, let out a bitter laugh, and swore a streak that could’ve stripped paint, his accent thick in his anger. “Get on wi’ ye, feckin’ little chancer! I’m right there at every feckin’ concert, at every bloody feckin’ practice, and you don’t think I know what you’re after doin’ here?”
“I’m trying to get rid of a nosy banshee motherfucker who can’t mind his own business!” Tibo yelled back in a last, desperate attempt, but his throat constricted and the threatening words squeaked.
“No. Oh, no, Tiborishandelac Glent.” Rolly stepped toward Tibo again, took him by the back of the neck and shook him gently. “You don’t get to drive me away like that. Not after everything we’ve been through, right? C’mere, y’bloody eejit.”
Tibo fisted both hands in Rolly’s jacket and shivered in his arms, furious that his ploy hadn’t worked, and riddled with anxiety that something bad would happen. But, yeah. A little sun peeked through the shadow on his heart. Rolly had come for him.