Chapter Six: Tibo
Dieter finally saved them when he returned from a shopping trip. "No, no, you hef no idea vhat you do here. Moof." He hip-checked Dave out of the way and plunked his cute little kobold butt in front of Shandi's laptop. "I do not condone this. But at least do it correctly."
An electric prickle ran over Tibo's skin as Dieter pulled dark energy to his fingers, dainty and careful in his streams as his fingers raced over the keyboard.
"D, don't go crazy there," Eck murmured as he combed his fingers through Dieter's spiky green hair. "Puking isn't a good look for you."
"It is not a good look for anyvone. This is a small thing. Almost finished." One more crackle of magic and Dieter sat back. "There, Tibo. You are in. Vhat you do now is your business. I vash my hends."
Tibo blinked at him. "I didn't know you could do that."
"It is an unusual telent running in my family." Dieter shrugged. "Ve try not to edvertise."
"Though the feds come for help sometimes." Eck scooped Dieter up and deposited him on the far end of the couch so Tibo could take the laptop back.
"Seriously? I wouldn't want the feds on my doorstep," Tibo muttered as he stared at the screen.
This felt so wrong, pawing through a dead girl's private life. But she'd been so scared, running from something. The cops didn't give a shit. Just another gob girl dead. Callous and incompetent, they weren't even trying.
He was still hesitating when Rolly leaned over the back of the sofa to ask, "Ti? Why do you care?"
"A kid got killed!" Tibo sputtered.
"Yeah. That's a terrible thing. But the Tibo we know would've said so, too, before he told us that's the way our sludge pool of a world is and left it to the cops."
"I don't—" He kept seeing Shandi's eyes, that last spark of life, that last moment of recognition before her light extinguished. Her mother's words. The little room. "I can't—"
"Ti." Rory kneaded his shoulders. "I get it. You saw something awful. It shook you. You're not as heartless as you pretend to be. But you can't suddenly pretend to be a superhero detective."
"Hey! Vigilante superhero detective. Get it right." Tibo leaned back to look up at Rolly. "She was a good kid, Rolls. Smart. Might have been somebody someday. This asshole cuts her down in the street and doesn't look back. No one's gonna care. Someone has to care."
"So hire a PI or something." Rolly held his gaze for a long moment, then threw up both hands in exasperation. "Sweet mother of storms, Ti! You're not qualified to handle shit like this!"
"What would I tell a fucking PI?" Tibo grumbled as he began opening apps and folders on Shandi's computer. The kid had no social life. Barely any messages except for school. "Hey, Mr. PI, there was this kid who was hit by a car and I have a bad feeling about it?"
He opened a folder labeled "M4" and discovered files of…gibberish. Occasional cryptic notes punctuated lines of symbols. Tibo didn't even know how anyone would get a keyboard to type those symbols. He cleared his throat and asked plaintively, "Any of you geekier sorts know what this is?"
Rolly leaned back over his shoulder. "Equations."
"I can see that," Tibo snapped.
"Calculus," Paulie offered in his soft, soothing voice. "But too advanced for me."
"What was a twelve-year-old doing with crazy hard calculus stuff?" Tibo scrolled through, opening file after file of the same crazy symbols, hoping for some note that said, these are star chart equations or something to that effect. Nothing.
Some of them were better educated than others, but no one here was qualified to figure out stuff like this. Rolly's degrees were in history and theater. Dieter had some weird economics thing. Paulie was bugs. Tibo could never remember what they called that science.
"I don't think I'm going home with you guys tomorrow," Tibo said, still staring at the equations.
He looked up when all he got was silence. Everyone watched him with varying degrees of suspicion and annoyance.
"Tiborishandelac Glent," Rolly growled. "We cut the damn tour short so you could rest."
"This is resting. I'm going out to the woods."
* * * * *
Okay, fine, so this trip hasn't been restful at all. Tibo tried not to grumble as he tripped over another root. The flight out to Minneapolis-St. Paul had been choppy, the passenger dragon struggling to keep level in the crosswinds, and the private flight to the smaller dragonport out here had been worse. Then the hired car had refused to go down the dirt road to the cabin, so Tibo was left to hike the two miles in, his backpack heavy with Shandi's computer.
It was fucking cold, too, and he sure as hell wasn't dressed for hiking in the frozen north. He tucked his hands under his armpits and trudged on, stumbling in relief when he finally reached the clearing with the cabin in sight. It wasn't entirely off grid with the satellite dish out front, but the owner preferred privacy.
He trudged up the gravel path, careful of the ice around the stairs. A huge feline sat in a patch of sun on the porch, washing her paws. She blinked green eyes at him, stretched and flicked her fluffy gray tail, then vanished through the cat door.
A moment later, a beautiful Cat, dressed only in a diaphanous scarf, opened the door. Unlike some Cats, who preferred to shift completely when they took human form, she retained her cat ears and tail. "Hello, Tibo."
"Hey, Meerah. Can I come in? It's freezing out here."
"Poor little furless goblin. Did you bring me something?"
He knew better than to come unprepared. "I have catnip. And tuna."
She stepped aside and opened the door wider. "You may come in."