Chapter Nineteen: Tibo
Tibo glanced up sharply from where he was studying a street map. “Why would I need that?”
“For when you get us all arrested.”
“Ha! Rolls, come on. I used to do this all the time when—” Tibo broke off suddenly. He hardly talked about those days with Rolly, shame keeping the words locked away. It would’ve shocked Rolls, would’ve made him pull out that look of pity Tibo hated so much.
Rolly held up a hand and leaned back against the sofa. “No need for details. I know you’ve been places I never have. Still…”
“It’ll be fine. Trust me.”
“I seem to recall you telling me that about a certain club in New York, too.”
Tibo tried to stifle a snicker, which turned into a choked cough. Sure. It had been a dryad club and one of the regulars, drunk off his ass, had taken exception to Rolly since he was banshee, from out of town, and a foreigner for the cherry on top of the sundae. Any excuse, really. The dryad was spoiling for a fight. Yeah, there was a kerfuffle, as Rolly called it, and he’d come away with the whole front of him bathed in red, but it hadn’t been blood. It’d been the dumb-ass local boy’s sap punch.
Ashe and Jaxx returned soon after with curry from a place down the street and Tibo outlined the plan, such as it was, while they ate.
“Look, it’ll be easy.” He pointed to the Dragon Maps aerial picture of Dr. Bach’s house on his phone. “There are houses on both sides, but big trees in the back. We hop the little fence, go around back, and you guys hang tight while I get us in.”
“What if there’s an alarm?” Ashe’s forehead crinkled in a way that managed both concerned and skeptical.
Tibo rolled his eyes. “The professor guy died. There’s been fucking cops all over the place. No one’s gonna have reset any alarm yet.”
They went to their separate rooms and napped, meeting up again after one in the morning.
“Should we wear black?” Jaxx asked.
“Yeah. Go ahead. We’ll all wear black and spend the walk over there screaming, Hey! We’re gonna do a break-in!”
Rolly cuffed him. “No need for that, Glent. He wasn’t serious.”
“I wasn’t either,” Tibo muttered, rubbing the back of his head. “Mostly.”
Two blocks away, he had them split up. A group of four people would arouse more suspicion than isolated ones. He sent Rolly around the back way, to come through the neighbor’s yard behind the house, Ashe to come in from behind the house at the corner of the street, and Jaxx to follow a couple of minutes behind Tibo at the front gate.
Cute little townhouse but knowing the owner had died made Tibo shiver. The front gate was open, a utilitarian blue bicycle leaning against the fence beside it. The professor’s bike, sitting there waiting for him. Fucking sad, is what it was.
He shook off morose thoughts to concentrate on what the fuck he was doing. People were counting on him. Just in case, he tried the back door. Locked, of course. Then he stood back far enough to examine the windows one by one. There, on the third floor. One of the windows had been left open a crack.
The dark figure coming around the corner of the house startled him, but it had horns. Jaxx.
“Are you going to pick the lock?”
Tibo snorted softly. “I’m not that good.”
He yanked off his shoes, stuffed them in his coat pockets, took a running leap and launched off a stone lion guarding the back door. That got him up onto the little overhang above the back steps, balancing precariously as he reached over to grab the casement of one of the second floor windows and get his toes on the sill. From there, he had just enough to hold onto to half-climb, half-scramble up the bricks and get his fingers on the third floor sill.
“Are you crazy?” Jaxx whispered from the garden. Tibo didn’t even have enough concentration left to flip him the bird.
Toes crammed into spots where the mortar had broken away, Tibo clung to the back of the house as he got out a knife he’d swiped from the kitchen of the guest house. Tongue protruding from the corner of his mouth, he jimmied a corner of the screen off. Limbs burning from the unnatural things he was asking of them, Tibo managed to bend the screen far enough to shove the sash open and crawl into the house. He tumbled to the floor, listening, but all was quiet.
He opened the back door to three shadowed figures, though his nocturnal eyes quickly parsed through the shadows to identify them. Everyone had made it. “Ta-dah!”
“Stop grandstanding, Glent,” Rolly murmured as he made his way into the house.
They were quiet, all of them, listening for sounds, startling at small things.
“Where’s the study?” Ashe asked.
“Don’t know yet.” Tibo started through the kitchen to explore the rest of the house. “Why?”
“If I was a professor and I had notes, I’d probably have them in a study, right?”
“Oh. I guess so.”
There was no study on the first floor, but the search was short. They found it on the second floor facing the street. Whoever had investigated the death had left it a mess.
Rolly closed the curtains and got out a penlight, keeping his body between it and the window.
“You sure you haven’t done this before?” Tibo asked him.
“I don’t have to have done it before to still show a little sense,” Rolly said at his driest. “Look through papers for anything that sounds like the dragon project or equations that look like complete poppycock to you.”
They each took a corner of the room and began to sort through ragged piles and scattered papers while Jaxx tried the professor’s computer though the files there appeared to be photos and household accounting. After a few minutes of searching, and finding nothing, Tibo was getting twitchy as if the inside of his skin itched.
“This is probably stupid,” Rolly finally admitted. “Why would he keep anything out in the open?”
That. That right there was the itching under Tibo’s skin. Hidden. Something metallic was hidden…
“Tibo? Are you okay?” Ashe asked, closer than Tibo had remembered him being.
It was a slave thing, finding metals. Something humans and other Beings had forced goblins to do for hundreds of years. Hidden metals, deep underground, sometimes even to find other Beings’ hoards. He wasn’t going to do this. He couldn’t--
Rolly’s arms folded him close. “Ti, you’re shaking.”
“There’s a thing hidden...it’s close. Metal thing.”
“Ah.” Rolly kissed the top of his head. “Ti, no one here will make you find anything. You know that.”
“It’s shameful.” He couldn’t help it. He’d already been reaching into the dark spaces without conscious thought. His companions stumbled back from him as he broadcast his revulsion, needing to throw some of it away from him. But he was free, not wearing the choke collar they used to leash goblins with, not hobbled and sometimes blinded as his ancestors had been. One time. He could do this one time. To get us out of here faster. To keep Rolly safe.
Now he reached, pulling dark energy to him in great strands, weaving it into nets to cast about the room, searching, feeling, listening to the pull of hidden silver…
“There.” He pointed to the floor beside the desk. “Pull up the rug. It’s there.”