Chapter Ten: Tibo
Invading the Local
“It’s okay…” Tibo tried to say he was fine, she shouldn’t bother, but his voice shook and she’d already bustled off.
The workmen tripped over each other to apologize, though none of them seemed to be able to figure out how the ropes holding the heavy armoire could have broken. Tibo could only stare at the splintered antique that had dented the sidewalk and the too-clean frayed edge of the broken rope.
Should he have called the police? Maybe. But the workmen had been so relieved when he refused to. Whatever had happened, they were just trying to do a job. Tibo didn’t want them in trouble for…whatever was going on.
Though the incident had sure as hell left him shaking as he came down from the adrenaline surge of panic. Shaking, uncertain, and horribly alone. What was he doing here? What did he think he could do?
Except he had to do something. Shandi’s spark had been stomped out just as she was beginning to catch tinder. She could’ve been so much. Done so much. Now she was just a strange hole in history, a shadow of might-have-beens, as if someone had removed her picture from the wall to leave behind a rectangle of darker paint and a spackled speck where the nail had been.
He answered Mrs. Doncaster’s questions absently, refused her offer to call an ambulance, and thanked her for the tea. When he could feel his shock-numbed fingers again, he took her advice and went up to bed.
For several hours, he hid in a cave constructed from the duvet and blankets, clutching his phone. He wanted desperately to call Rolly, but knew he would sound like a brainless maniac trying to explain things he couldn’t begin to fathom. Eventually he felt warm again, and even stupider. The furniture accident had been just that. His imagination, jittery from lack of sleep and suspicions, had supplied conspiracy.
Freaking paranoia. Probably the jet lag or something.
A thought hit him, the reason his brain was so off kilter. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him. No band, no Rolly, no instruments. He’d never felt the lack of casual random chords strummed or a voice to harmonize with so acutely before.
When the sun came down to squat on London’s rooftops, he washed his face and brushed out his hair, staring at the hollow-eyed face in the mirror. Finally, he changed into one of his new shirts and meandered downstairs.
“Mrs. Doncaster?” He offered the landlady his most charming, boyish smile. “Is there a place, a bar or something, where musicians go? Close by?”
Her mouth set in a little moue, she appeared to consider quite hard. “Well, now, I don’t know as there might be proper musicians hereabouts. They do have an old piano at Trillby’s, but that’s a bit rough there. No place for a proper gentleman like yourself.”
“Thank you for that, ma’am, but I’m really not considered a gentleman back home. I’ll be fine.”
With a little more negotiating, Mrs. Doncaster gave up the location of the pub—around the corner and down the stairs under the bakery, which apparently had the loveliest scones. Dressed as casually as he could manage, in jeans and a black button-down, Tibo wandered over to Trillby’s. The bell over the door rang a bit too loudly in the sparsely populated pub. Too early in the evening for a boisterous crowd, the after work pub goers turned as one to glare at him as if they were connected by a hive mind. Local. It’s not just slang. They all know each other and you’re invading.
“Oi!” One particularly large human elbowed his companion. “It’s the little bloke we near squashed today, innit?”
His companion squinted across the L-shaped bar. “I do believe it is, Alfie. All right, there?”
The charge bled from the atmosphere immediately as Tibo grinned and climbed onto the barstool beside the furniture movers. He had been recognized and was acceptable. “I’m not squashed, so I’ll take it.”
Alfie and Bob introduced him to Grell, the kobold barkeep, and bought Tibo his first half-pint since a whole pint was a bit much for someone Tibo’s size. After a bit of small talk and Tibo returning the favor with the next round, he finally thought it might be safe to ask.
“The piano in the corner, does anyone play it?”
“Oh, ay.” Grell nodded to the banged up little upright. “Though most we get in here are total pants at it.” He shrugged. “Be my guest.”
Tibo took his drink and coaster with him and slid onto the piano bench. Though it didn’t look like much, it was an old Siren and Sons model, though the lettering over the keyboard cover was worn down to only hints of letters. Steeling himself for a soul-gratingly out of tune instrument, he started with a soft C-major chord progression and laughed in delight. The damn thing was ugly and beat up as sin, but someone kept the innards working beautifully.
He started with an old selkie sea shanty to warm up, one his first music teacher had taught him and thought he heard a couple of voices singing bits here and there. Then a couple of old Bowie songs, with more voice joining in on the choruses. That rare being, a London banshee, Bowie was obviously well known here.
Eventually he eased into one of his own songs, one he’d written with Eck. Black Hoof Blues was angry in spots, but mostly fun and fast paced. After the intro, he couldn’t help singing while his fingers danced over the keys.
It’s a six o’clock morning
On a ten o’clock head
You wish to all gods you could
Drag your ass back to bed
For the first chorus, the pub fell silent, and Tibo wondered if he’d made a mistake. He soldiered on, afraid to look around, shoulders tensed as he waited for someone to throw something. But when he reached the end of the second verse, a dozen voices roared out the chorus with him--
You gotta dance, you gotta move
You gotta keep rolling, rough lanes or smooth
You stop and you die, you find your own groove
You just gotta keep tapping those black hoof blues
He belted out the rest of the song in full voice, with the entire pub joining in, the gray pall of the last few days lifting from him in the sheer exuberant joy of sharing music. When he finished, he was laughing and some of the pub goers were patting him on the back when someone from near the bar called out.
“Bob, you wanker! You almost squashed Tibo Bloody Glent today!”
Silence slammed down over the pub. Not even a glass clinked. Bob and Alfie’s eyes had gone wide with terror.
“Almost only counts in horseshoes and sex, gents,” Tibo said with a crooked grin. “No harm, no foul, as us uneducated Yanks say.”
There was just the slightest pause, then a goblin near Alfie slapped the bar top and double over with laughter. Soon most of the pub joined him and Tibo went back to playing, happy to tell himself that everything was going to be just fine.