Chapter Seven: Tibo
Tibo sat across from her, wrapped in a thick fleece blanket, his shivers finally slowing from bone rattling. "She was twelve."
"That's not possible."
Meerah's tail twitched as she turned the screen for Tibo to see the equations. "Do you know what this is?"
"Sure. I traveled all this way and froze my ass off walking in so you could tell me something I already know."
"Don't be a smartass, Tibo." She growled as she turned the screen back. "This is advanced magical theory. Little girl shouldn't have happened across half of these concepts until postgraduate research."
Tibo wasn't as shocked as he should have been. Living with Shandi's presence hovering around him had instilled in him the idea that she wasn't quite a regular girl. "What's it all mean, though?"
"I haven't the faintest idea."
"But you're—" Tibo flailed in frustration. "You're like this magical sciency expert person!"
"Yes. That's exactly right. I have a doctorate in Magical Sciency Expertise." Meerah sat back and sipped her tea. "Given enough time with her notes, I might be able to unravel these. But it's difficult without a starting point. Without knowing what her variables represent here."
"Why is this so important?"
Tibo got up to shuffle around Meerah's kitchen. He couldn't pace since he wore her several-sizes-too-big slippers. "Someone killed her. I don't know why I'm so sure, exactly. But the longer I think about it, the more sure I am. That wasn't a fucking accident. I keep thinking about how that car came out of nowhere. How it had this non-existent plate. How I didn't even hear it before it came around that corner. Someone killed her."
"Someone murdered her, you mean. It's upset you. I can see that. But it doesn't quite explain why you've brought this to me."
"Yeah. Murder." The thought that had been gnawing at Tibo's hindbrain finally gelled. "The car! That damn car was shadow blanked. That's why I didn't hear it, why it wasn't there until the second she fucking stepped off the curb. Why go through all that to murder a kid who's still in school?"
"Hmm. Yes. Puzzling" Meerah's green eyes narrowed. "This laptop should be with the police, Tibo. Not here with me. And you should be home forcing new notes into barely consensual relationships with each other."
"The cops don't give a flying fuck, Mee. They just shrugged and gave up."
"Sometimes that happens. It is unfortunate."
"Mee, come on! Don't be like this." Tibo hated the whine in his voice, like he was about to have a tantrum or something.
She sighed and put down her tea. "You want justice for the innocent. It's admirable, Tibo. Truly. I'm a little surprised at the noble feelings, but it's nice to see. This, though. This feels bad. Something you shouldn't put your paws in any farther. You don't have the skills or the qualifications for this sort of detective work."
"So everyone keeps telling me," he said on a snort. "I can't let it go. Just because she's a goblin girl from a poor family, nobody wants to bother. You can bet if it was a banshee girl or a pretty selkie, the newshounds would be all over it, screaming for investigation. Not a peep. It didn't even make it into the police blotter or on the local news. Nobody cares."
He slammed both hands on her rough-hewn table. "I care. I was the last person she saw before she died. I can't sleep. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't just pretend this didn't happen."
She stood and stalked toward him. He backpedaled, sure he was about to get slapped, but she wrapped her arms around him instead, purring. "Tibo, Tibo, I'm afraid for you, you stubborn little bastard."
"But you'll help me?"
"As much as I can." She pointed back to the laptop. "You need to leave that with me."
"It's dangerous. You drag that all over the globe, you're asking for trouble to find you." She set him back, smoothing his hair from his face. "Show me the picture of the license plate."
Still huddled in the warm circle of her arms, Tibo fished out his phone and pulled up the pics from the day. Backstage. Backstage. Backstage. Rolly looking fine. Someone's boot. Ah.
"This one." Tibo handed over his phone. "It's not a great shot, but the license plate is bright white. You can see the numbers."
"Did they run this through Interpol?"
"How would I kn—wait. Why?"
"Because this isn't a US plate. It's most likely European."
Meerah padded to her bedroom at the back of the cabin. "Stay with me tonight, Tibo. It's late. In the morning, I'll give you a name in London. Keep this off the internet. Off your phone."
"Like someone's gonna be rifling through my email. Please."
She stuck her head out a moment, her beautiful features darkened by a frown. "You need to take this seriously. Take precautions. You want to stick your button nose where it doesn't belong? You better understand how to keep it from being bitten off."