The private elevator deposited them on a quiet lower level. Daood had apparently called ahead, because they encountered no problems with the security guards stationed near the doors. The guards silently led them to a ramp that deposited them on a quiet side street next to the consulate.

Neal pulled the wheeled case behind him toward the corner of the building. From there, he could see the main street where all of the arrivals had occurred.

He turned to Raquel. "Good job."

She smiled, holding up the bottle of champagne. "Admit it, Neal, you thought I was going to ask for asylum after all."

He gave a single nod. "The thought crossed my mind."

"Crossed my mind too," Raquel admitted. "But I really wouldn't do well under Saudi law."

Neal smiled, reaching to brush the hair away from her face. "No, you wouldn't. Nothing should hide this face."

Her hand reached for his, holding it against her cheek. "Ever the silver tongue."

"Just the truth," he countered, tensing as her hand found his inner thigh.

"You could prove it," she whispered, her voice almost a purr.

"A quickie in the alley, Raquel?" He carefully, but firmly, removed her hand. "Is that really what you want?"

She sighed, very dramatically, as she took a half step back. "Six years!"

Neal smiled, closing that half step again. He clicked the recording on the watch off, and depressed the top of the eagle pen. "What if that scarab could provide you with a nest egg for when you get out?"

Her eyes sparkled in interest. "You have a way to fence it"?

"No, it's still too hot. But it turns out the Egyptian government is offering a substantial reward for the return of the stolen antiquities."

"And you have a way…"

"I'm working on a safe way for someone to return it and collect the reward."

Raquel's arms were suddenly around his neck, her lips on his. When she finally pulled back, she said, "We really could have done amazing things together."

Neal smiled, nodding. "Probably."

She sighed. "If it wasn't for Matthew Keller putting me on the FBI's radar…"

It was probably against FBI rules to share the information, but Neal found he didn't care. "If it helps, Keller is in a Russian prison."

"Really?"

"Really. And he won't be getting out any time soon."

Raquel seemed to consider that for a moment, and then nodded. "Good. And when you can return the scarab?"

"I'll set your share aside. You trust your attorney, right?"

"Almost as much as I trust you."

Neal smiled, squeezing her hand. "Then I'll let him know the details when it's done."

"You won't come and tell me yourself?"

"I'm on probation, Raquel," he said gently. "The only reason I was approved to see you this last week was because of the case."

She sighed once more. "It's going to be a very long six years."

Neal glanced up toward the main street, watching as Larkin got out of a limo at the curb. "Our carriage awaits, Cinderella," he said, holding out his hand. "Ready?"

"If you were really Prince Charming, you'd be carrying me away to live happily ever after," Raquel complained, finally taking his hand. "Let's go," she said, then held up the champagne. "But we're still drinking this in the limo."

Neal grinned. "Absolutely," he agreed.


Neal walked slowly out of the conference room, folding his tie neatly as he moved. He'd already shed the tracking watch and the eagle pen, and signed his life away that the security case he had turned over to Agent Larkin was the true treasure, the complete treasure, nothing but the treasure.

He leaned against the railing overlooking the bullpen. Raquel was near the door, with Diana and two Marshals. The witching hour had obviously struck – gone was the silk gown and (fake) Nekhbet necklace, replaced by prison orange. She looked smaller somehow, and he wondered absently if the color had had the same effect when people looked at him.

He felt someone come up beside him, mirroring his pose, leaning against the railing.

"She'll be okay, you know," Peter said.

Neal nodded, without any great conviction. "She fulfilled her part of the deal, right?"

Peter nodded. "That's what I'll be reporting to Josh on Monday morning."

Raquel looked up just then, her eyes meeting his. She gave him a small smile, and a wave truncated by the shackles from her wrists to her waist. Neal nodded in response, a poor excuse for a good-bye, but they'd already had their private moment.

Both men watched silently as she was led out of the office, and then into an elevator.

Diana came up the stairs toward them, carrying the dress and shoes Raquel had worn. "Paperwork for the transfer is done," she reported, pausing to lean against Neal's shoulder and remove her own heels. She wiggled her toes, sighing in contentment. "That's so much better. Why are men's dress shoes so much more practical?"

Neal shrugged. He was playing with fire, but he couldn't help it. "Just lucky, I guess!"

"Next time there's a party, you get to wear the heels," she countered, swatting at his arm. "Luck," she grumbled.

"Sounds fair to me," Peter offered.

"You're both comedians," Neal replied, making a show of rubbing at his arm.

Diana just rolled her eyes. "I'll get the property paperwork ready," she said, heading back into the conference room.

"Thanks, Diana," Peter said, then resumed his pose leaning on the railing. The two men were silent for a long moment. "So," Peter finally started, drawing out the word. "Saleh and Gulf of Oman. Anything you'd like to share?"

Neal pretended to consider the question, then shook his head. "No, not really." Noticing Peter gearing up for more questions, he continued. "It was a job, a long time ago. No one died, and it was well outside of your jurisdiction."

Peter just nodded, seeming to accept that… for now anyway. "What about al Saud? Do you think he had more artifacts at the consulate?"

This time Neal actually did consider his answer before speaking. "I don't really think so. From his actions, and from what Raquel said about their past dealings, when he gets ahold of something like this, he wants to move it as quickly as possible."

"Still, I'm afraid you won't be going on a desert vacation with him, once the money disappears from his account."

"Probably not," Neal agreed with a shrug. "Gary always preferred fast sports cars to camels anyway."

"Think that alias is blown?"

"Probably depends on how busy Daood is fending off the Omanis. I'll make sure Mozzie listens for rumors."

"In the ether?"

Neal grinned. "Exactly."

"And what about Raquel?" Peter pressed. "Think there are more genuine artifacts yet to be discovered amongst her collection?"

"Things she hadn't moved yet?" Neal shrugged. "Maybe. We'd have to examine each piece."

"It's all in evidence now," Peter said. "Things got a little busy there after we closed that case."

Neal just nodded – busy was certainly one way to put it. "She wants to go straight when she gets out."

"Raquel?"

"That's what she told me."

"Think she can do it?"

Neal shrugged, sighing. "It won't be easy to find a job in her specialty with a record," he admitted. "But yes, if she wants to, she can do it." Especially with a little financial nest egg as a back-up…

Peter nodded, seeming to think about that for a moment before softly voicing one more question. "What about you?"

Ah, the question of the hour… But Neal knew that, after copious amounts of champagne, he was in no position to talk about the commutation hearing or future plans that evening. "Me?" He shrugged. "It was a long day, and I'm tired. I just want to go home, grab a glass of wine, and unwind."

Fortunately, Peter seemed willing to let the question slide.

For now…

"I have about an hour's worth of paperwork to finish before I can leave," Peter offered. "If you want to wait, I'll give you a lift."

Neal shook his head. "Thanks, but I'll grab a cab," he said, heading for the stairs.

"I'm going to need your report on Monday morning," Peter called after him.

Neal lifted a hand in acknowledgement. "Monday by noon," he promised.

He could still feel Peter's eyes on his back as he stopped by his desk to collect the garment bag. But then he noted movement out of the corner of his eye, and turned to see the agent going back into the conference room.

He briefly considered changing out of the tux before heading home. Then again, his dress shoes were practical, and the sooner he got home, the sooner he could have that glass of wine.

And think about that unanswered question – what did he want for his future. Maybe the desert sands were hiding that answer too…