|Angie sat staring at nothing, her water bottle in her hands and her
mind in turmoil over the events that had just taken place. She glanced
at Mira as the detective walked up to her.
“You okay?” Mira asked.
Was she okay? She didn’t know. Rather than answer the question, Angie said, “Sometimes, he’s like a big kid playing with his toys.”
“Yeah, and sometimes he’s not,” Mira replied, putting into words the thoughts that were filling Angie’s mind.
The detective walked away, Angie barely noticing her departure. She heard the woman tell Mangela that he was free to go, but that there would be more questions. The Aborigine replied that there were always more questions, that it was the nature of life. Angie then heard Rollie and Mangela walk toward the exit. As they passed her, Rollie’s hand reached out and gently brushed through her hair. It was just a simple, brief touch, but it said a lot to her. It was his way of letting her know that he was there and that everything was going to be all right.
Angie finally lifted her head and watched as Rollie left the building. On the outside, he was the same man she had known over half her life, but, today, she had come to see a part of him that she’d never known existed. Today, she had discovered a darker side of Rollie Tyler, a side that was far removed from the mischievous, funny, almost brashly confident man who often worked with the police like it was a high-tech game of cops and robbers where he got to play with all the toys. This time, it wasn’t a game to him. This time, he’d been deadly serious. He was a man who, alone and unarmed, battled with his enemy to the death. That fact was changing the way she looked at him.
For as long as she lived, Angie would never forget the sight of Rollie slowly rising to his feet on the top of that mountain of his creation, his mortal enemy from childhood hanging dead below him. Later, she had heard him recount to Mira what had happened, how he had eliminated Luther Cale’s men one by one, then went up against Cale himself. She could tell that there were details of the battle that Rollie wasn’t revealing. She had seen something in his eyes, a deep, almost haunted look. Angie wondered what really happened between the two men in those final minutes.
With a soft sigh, Angie rose and headed outside. She saw Rollie standing with Mangela a few yards away.
“Your Dreaming has been fulfilled, Rollie. The Eagle has returned the Soul Stones to the People. It is finally finished,” the Aborigine said. “And it is time for me to return home.”
“You can’t stay a while longer?” Rollie asked.
Mangela shook his head. “The People have been without the Stones for too long already. It’s time that they are returned.” He laid a hand on Rollie’s shoulder. “But we will see each other again. This I know.”
Rollie nodded rather sadly. “When will you leave?”
“There’s a flight out in the morning. If there is a seat on it, I will take it.”
“You’d better make sure that’s all right with the police. They may need you to stick around.” Rollie smiled faintly. “You know. More of those eternal questions.”
“They can ask their questions today. I have already told them all that needs to be said.” The Aborigine looked at Rollie closely. “The rest of the story is not for their ears,” he added quietly.
Rollie stared at Mangela for a long moment, some silent message passing between them that Angie could not understand. Rollie then nodded faintly.
Mangela turned his head and saw Angie, his dark eyes focusing intently on her. “I think I’ll be spending some time at the park. Could be that I’ll be hanging around there for a good hour or two,” he said, his words directed at his spiritual son.
Rollie followed Mangela’s gaze, meeting Angie’s eyes. When he turned back, the Aborigine was already leaving. Rollie walked up to Angie.
“Let’s go home, Ange,” he said softly.
They returned to the loft in silence. Angie headed into the kitchen and absent-mindedly began fixing some breakfast. Rollie rubbed his hands over his face. It had been a very long night. He felt bone tired, both physically and emotionally.
He looked over at Angie. He could tell that something was bothering her. Obviously, Mangela has seen it too, and it didn’t take much in the way of deduction to figure out that the Aborigine thought Rollie and Angie should talk. That was clearly the reason for the man’s sudden departure.
The Aussie came up behind Angie, who was buttering some toast. “Ange?”
“Hmm?” She continued buttering the toast, not looking at him.
Rollie laid his hand over hers, stilling her actions. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Angie was silent for a moment, then, “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Rollie shook his head, even though Angie still wasn’t looking at him. “I’m not buying it. Something is bothering you. Are you mad that I went off and faced Cale alone?”
Angie sighed and finally turned to him. Her eyes scanned his face as if she was searching for something different there. “That was pretty stupid, you know. You could have been killed.”
“Yeah, but I also know that it was something I had to do. This has been waiting to happen for a very long time.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me about Luther Cale?”
Rollie moved toward the couch. “It was something I didn’t like to talk about. Too many bad memories.” He turned back to see Angie settling on the chair. “But there’s more to this than you being pissed off that I went up against Cale alone, isn’t there.”
Angie shrugged. “I just . . . I guess I just didn’t think that I’d ever see that.”
Rollie’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. “See what?”
“You, like that. It always seemed like you helped the police as if it was a game. You loved it, the risk, being on the edge, using your talents to get the bad guys. But . . . not this time. It wasn’t a game to you this time.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Rollie admitted quietly.
Angie stared straight into the Aussie’s eyes. “Did you want him dead?”
An expression of shock and hurt flickered in Rollie’s eyes. “No. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want this to happen,” he said, his voice strained. “How could you think that I would?”
Angie suddenly felt terrible for saying what she did. “I’m sorry, Rol. I know you wouldn’t want something like that. I don’t know why I said such a thing. It’s just that I never thought that . . . that you could be so . . . different.”
Rollie came forward and knelt beside Angie. He gently took her hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes. “Ange, it’s still me. I’m still Rollie. Nothing’s changed. Yes, things were different this time. It was a lot more . . . personal. But just because the situation was different, it doesn’t mean that I’m different.”
Angie searched his eyes. They were the same eyes that she’d looked into a million times before. It was the same face that she’d seen almost every day of her life since she was a child. Angie berated herself silently. He was the same Rollie she’d known all these years. How could she think otherwise? She’d simply seen a facet of his personality that had never been fully revealed before. But he was still her best friend, and he always would be.
Seeing the expression in her eyes change, Rollie gave Angie a faint smile and brought his lips to her forehead in a long kiss. He then gently hugged her. As they drew apart, he rested his brow against hers.
“Are we okay?” he asked quietly.
Angie smiled at Rollie. “Yeah.” She forced the smile off her face. “Though I’m still pissed that you went after Cale without help. That really was dumb, Rol.”
Rollie grinned. “Mira probably thinks so too . . . and I’m sure she’ll let me know that.” He stood, stifling a yawn.
“You’re beat, Rol. Why don’t you go get some sleep? The work can wait.”
For a moment, Rollie looked as if he was going to refuse, then he nodded his head. “Maybe you’re right. I am pretty tired. You should go home and get some sleep, too.”
“No, I’m okay. I want to take care of a few things here.”
Rollie nodded. He headed for the staircase. As he set his foot on the first step, he paused and looked back at Angie. “You’ll be here when I get up?”
Angie smiled gently. “Yeah, Rol. I’ll be here.”
She watched him as he made his way upstairs and through the door to his
living quarters. “I’ll always be here,” she murmured, then turned
to begin the work of another day.