Chapter Twelve: Tibo
The License Plate
A pillow ambushed Tibo and smacked him in the face. “Wurgh?”
“Ah, the eloquence of the songwriter. C’mon, Ti. Join the living.” Rolly plunked his tight butt on the side of Tibo’s bed, jostling him. “There’s coffee. And a note.”
“A what?” With a muffled grunt, Tibo flipped onto his back.
It had been a late night, sitting up talking to Rolly. They’d returned to Larchtop and Tibo had told him everything. What he knew, what he suspected, and why he had to find out where the trail led. Rolly admitted that Tibo’s reasoning made no bloody sense, but if he were bound and determined, Rolly would have his back. There might have been whiskey involved and possibly Tibo’s head ending up in Rolly’s lap.
Disgusting that Rolls could look so alert and not-at-all-hungover.
“A note. It’s generally a set of words written on a piece of paper meant to convey a message from one person to another.”
“Jackass,” Tibo grumbled as he fought free of the blanket that was determined to eat him.
“The thanks I get.” Rolly smacked his hip. “Sit up. Lazy little shit. Coffee. Note. Before I die of curiosity.”
Tibo slouched against the pretty but bumpy and uncomfortable carved headboard and took the offered mug. “You didn’t read it?”
“Not my note, is it? One of us has to be ethical.”
“Gods, you’re an asshole sometimes.” Tibo opened the folded piece of paper and squinted at the carefully printed words. Cavalry Memorial. Noon. “Huh. I guess Pearl has something. Did someone give you this? Like a girl with brown hair?”
Rolly squinted at him. “Mrs. Doncaster handed it to me with the coffee. Not liking this, Ti.”
“What? I’m just going for a walk in a public park.”
“You don’t know bollocks about this Pearl person. You don’t know where the bloody note came from. Someone might be after killing you, and you just want to go meet them?”
“Meerah trusts Pearl. That’s good enough for me.”
“And you’re so sure this message came from Pearl because…?”
Tibo sipped his coffee to give himself a moment. Damn banshee had a point. He didn’t know. “It’s how I got the first message. And how else am I gonna find out anything?”
“This, Glent, this is why you need supervision.”
With Rolly badgering and scolding through breakfast and Tibo returning to some semblance of social competence, they agreed that Tibo would go to the meeting while Rolly kept him in sight.
Mrs. Doncaster, as expected, had no trouble deciphering the cryptic meeting location. “Of course. That’s old St. George’s statue in the park. He’s not sat far from Achilles. Just a tad to the west. At least he has armor on.”
The day was warmer than the time before, either that or Tibo was better prepared with a good coat and gloves. He left Larchtop first, with Rolly following a half block behind. All the way to the park, Tibo had to fight against looking back to check if Rolly was still following. Acknowledging his shadow would put Rolly in danger. Maybe. No taking chances.
Achilles served as an excellent landmark. By turning right at the “poor old dear” as Mrs. Doncaster called him, Tibo soon had St. George in sight, heroic and shining atop his battle dragon, Veracity. Probably lots of stories about them swooping down and saving towns.
Tibo wished he knew one. St. George was just sort of a vague figure for him. Some guy who did good stuff with his dragon. A nice bit of lawn surrounded ole George, with benches along the path. Tibo walked around the memorial like a tourist and even took a few pictures, but he didn’t spot his contact.
After one more fruitless circle around, he chose a bench far away from other park-goers and plunked down with a huff. Tibo nearly leaped out of his skin when a soft voice spoke near his left ear.
“You have a shadow.”
“Holy mother of crows!” He twitched around to find Pearl sitting beside him. Today’s hat was a sapphire beret with yellow trim, no less fetching than the top hat. “Don’t do that!”
“I will go just as swiftly if you don’t account for your lurker.” Pearl seized his chin. “Don’t look. Don’t you dare look. Tall, handsome ginger banshee. He’s been following you since you entered the park.”
Tibo swallowed hard as he stared into those violet eyes, suddenly hard with suspicion. “That’s my…Rolly. Rolly McFarland. My band mate. He’s just looking out for me. Making sure I’m okay.”
“Settle back. Look without being obvious. Be certain it’s him still.”
Pearl released him and Tibo bent over to tie his bootlace, sneaking a look to where Rolly leaned against a tree, apparently enjoying the sunshine. “It’s him. Who else would it be?”
“My dear, you can’t be that naïve.”
“I get it, all right? There’s bad shit happening here. I’m not stupid.”
Pearl patted his thigh with a little stroke, just enough to be ambiguous but not quite teasing. “I suppose that’s not fair. You’re most likely quite shrewd in your own environment. But this…” She sat back, seemingly relaxed, watching the squirrels. “Your license place is from Switzerland. The car is a staff car owned by the Feegruppebank in Zurich.”
Tibo choked out, “A bank killed Shandi?”
“A bank owned the car.” Pearl shrugged. “A car that was reported stolen two weeks ago.”
“I don’t know anything beyond that. Though there is a contact in Zurich you might check with.”
“Zurich. Huh. Well, it’s a pretty town, right? Someplace I haven’t been.”
Pearl leaned in so their shoulders touched. “Go home, Tibo. Forget this whole business. That’s my last advice to you.”
Zhe got up from the bench, walked toward St. George, and vanished.
Grumbling about djinn and their ridiculously easy command of dark energy, Tibo waited a few minutes before walking back the way he’d come. As he exited the park, Rolly caught up to him.
“So, can we go home now?”
Tibo shot him a sidelong glare. “You can go home whenever you want, Rolls. I’m going to Zurich.”
“Oh, to Switzerland is it now? And you thought to send me packing? Not bleeding likely.”
They crossed the street, headed back toward Larchtop, when a strange crack and whine sounded near Tibo’s head. A sliver of masonry flew off and clipped his ear. Puzzled, he was about to ask Rolly if he’d seen what had caused it when the banshee seized his arm and shoved him into a doorway.
“Someone’s shooting at you, ye daft mooncow!” Rolly shouted in his ear. He’d put his body between Tibo and the street. “When I say go, you run back to Larchtop, hear me? I’ve got your back.”
Still reeling from the bullet that had barely missed his head, Tibo could only react when Rolly shoved him down the sidewalk and roared at him to run. The sound of a banshee shriek filled the street as Tibo pelted for the relative safety of the B&B as Rolly attracted attention to himself. He was halfway there before he realized Rolly was doing exactly what Tibo hadn’t wanted him to do.
He raced back, grabbed his banshee, and ran to safety. No more shots rang out, but the thought hammered in his brain--someone’s really trying to kill me.