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The Eye of the Storm

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Neal was seated on the Burke’s couch watching live television coverage of the latest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast and pummel Louisiana. Of course, that featured the usual intrepid reporter in a rain slicker being buffeted by high winds as palm fronds and other debris skittered past him like frightened figures trying to outrun a zombie apocalypse.

“Ever been in a hurricane, Neal?” Peter asked nonchalantly.

“They’re called cyclones in Australia,” Neal remarked just as casually.

Neal saw Peter’s sudden interest flare, but then he quickly tamped it back down. The con man suspected his handler would tuck this little nugget of information away until he could investigate it more closely. Well, Peter could dig all he wanted but he’d never be able to pin down Neal’s whereabouts years ago on the Great Barrier Reef. He and Mozzie couldn’t get a flight out of Cairns ahead of the oncoming storm, so they had hunkered down for the duration. It had been eerie to hear the winds take on an almost inhuman keening, and listen to cocoanuts landing like bombs onto rooftops. At one point, there was an unnatural quiet, and Neal had dared to venture out into the calm. He realized he was standing in the eye of the storm, and unbelievably, the sun was shining above in a serene blue sky. It was but a temporary aberration—a brief lull until the tempest continued on its destructive path.

Sitting here in a Federal Agent’s house was like being in the eye of the storm. During his whole criminal life, there had always been danger, mayhem, and damage, and Neal knew there would be more to come. It was just the nature of the beast. But for now, he’d bask in the sunlight.