A/N- After three times as many chapters as I was planning on, it's done! (Though I should mention that this is just a prequel supplying backstory for my other fic, Vault of the Oracle, so 'done' doesn't exactly mean the story's over... by a long shot.)
Thanks so much for all the reviews and encouragement, and sorry about the wait... enjoy!
Ben had no idea how difficult this was, Riley mused. Go get a house. Right.
It wasn't his fault; he'd made a good point. Ever since the discovery of the treasure, Riley's phone had been ringing almost constantly, and he was getting only a fraction of the attention Ben was. Under the circumstances, a permanent address would probably be a good idea.
Despite the obvious logic, Riley had resisted. He happened to like his van, thanks very much. The thought of staying still for that long made him twitchy. Ben claimed to understand, but kept trying to convince him to move into something that didn't have a license plate, even though he was getting nowhere.
And then Riley had seen the car.
He'd never really thought of himself as a car person. Perhaps he wasn't. Maybe it was just that one car... the Ferrari's siren call pointing out to him what no real estate ad quite could. You've got a lot of money now, you might as well do something with it. Rather like Ben's suggestion of a mailbox, the logic was hard to argue.
It had occurred to him to buy the car, find somewhere to park the van, and keep living in the van—if only to see Ben's reaction. His better judgment had decided to ruin his fun, though, and so the van went into storage. He couldn't imagine just getting rid of his old home. When things calmed down a bit, he'd see about getting the bullet holes fixed.
So here he was, sprawled out on his bed and feeling vaguely nervous for reasons he couldn't quite explain. The car was his concession to vanity; the small apartment he'd picked out was more practical. He didn't need or want so much space. He needed something, though... he wasn't sure. Time, certainly. A way to ease his mind at this sudden lack of mobility.
The improbable odyssey was over, but...
Sapphire eyes widened in horror. "Oh... oh shit." He didn't usually let words like that slip, but the nagging unease had abruptly crystallized in his guts. Closure? Like hell! Forget the treasure, forget Ben—he still had cops on his tail!
God, how'd you get that distracted?!
Fame was absolutely the last thing he needed. Of course he'd covered his tracks well. Records would show that he'd lived in DC his whole life, so clearly the Denver police would be looking for a different Riley Poole. But no amount of hacking would change his appearance, and the discovery was all over the national news. They'd see. Someone would remember. They'd know...
He was going to have to run again.
He grabbed his laptop and quickly thought better of it. He couldn't just email Ben... no, he'd have to at least say goodbye in person... and that had the added bonus of leaving less evidence. But he knew that wouldn't work. After all they'd been through, could he really just bring himself to leave? Especially after speaking to his best friend one last time?
Trying to put off that decision, he started typing. How much time did he have? Bailing on the investigation and falsifying a few records probably wouldn't call for SWAT teams and helicopters, at least... operating almost on autopilot he started working his way through networks he hadn't seen in years. The Denver police had improved their security. It didn't matter.
But something had to be wrong, he determined as he located the proper files. The case didn't appear to have been revisited. In fact, it was no longer under investigation at all. It had been closed with a lengthy interview with one Riley Poole, just before his release to live with an aunt in Wyoming. The department was satisfied; no further follow up was recommended.
"...He made it up." It was the only possibility—not logical possibility, it wasn't the least bit logical. But there it was, in all its digitized splendor. He'd been questioned to the law's satisfaction. He knew nothing.
He was free.
Which meant... closure? He stared at the laptop's screen for a minute, frowning. Then his expression shifted to a grin, and he started to type.
The story of the Templar treasure was old news by now. Not too old—the New Release display at the bookstore got plenty of interested glances as it went up—but old enough. Only one person was there specifically waiting for the book: a dark-skinned man in a police jacket. If anyone thought to wonder why, they probably figured law enforcement was interested in the book's other selling point, a surprisingly careful index of lesser-known conspiracy theories.
Maybe some other officer, somewhere else in Denver, would be buying it for that purpose. Not here.
Sergeant Damien Ross watched the news.
He picked up the first copy of The Templar Treasure to be set out, opened it, and glanced at the picture of the author in the back. Yes, definitely him. The kid really didn't look so different from when he'd been burned into the officer's brain... it was good to know. He'd turned out alright.