The wind and rain are beating against Liz’s windshield with a fervor as she drives carefully down the unfamiliar road.
“517, 517…” she mutters, squinting through the blurry windshield at the house numbers as she passes.
She is on yet another mission to find Red. How many is this? She can’t remember. At least 800, or so it feels like. She doesn’t think he’s in any danger, no, not this time thankfully. Just refusing to answer his phone. Even for her.
(This hurts more than she cares to admit.)
But Liz has a foolproof way of finding Red, even when he doesn’t want to be found. And it’s located in the side of his neck.
That’s right. She had Aram look up the location of his tracking chip and give her an address. Because she’ll be damned if he’s going to hide from her.
“Aha!” Liz announces triumphantly.
517. There is it. Quite an unassuming little house, white with green shutters and pretty flowers up the walk. But no doubt it’s the home of one of Red’s many money launderers or forgers.
She pulls into the short driveway behind Red’s Mercedes and turns off the car, trying to muster the courage to leave the dry, warm interior and enter the downpour.
But she doesn’t have long to deliberate because right then, the green front door opens and Red emerges, quickly closing it behind him, hurrying down the sidewalk to her car.
She grabs her umbrella and opens the car door, climbing out to meet him. He hurries over to meet her, almost getting hit by her opening umbrella in his haste.
“What are you doing here, Lizzie?” he demands, rather rudely.
Liz blinks, a little taken aback.
“Um, finding you? You wouldn’t answer your phone and we need help with number 12. I had Aram look up your chip.”
“And it didn’t occur to you to just wait for me to get back to you?” he snaps.
“That’s not how this works, Reddington, and you know it.” Liz snaps right back, getting irritated now. She drove all the way out here, into the suburbs of D.C., in the pouring rain, to make sure he hadn’t gone and gotten himself kidnapped or something equally Red-like when she wanted nothing more than to just call it a day and go home and snuggle with Hudson. And talks to her like this?
But they don’t have the opportunity to argue anymore about his decidedly self-destructive tendencies and her disturbingly frequent urges to check up on him because suddenly the front door opens again and a small, white-haired, old woman leans out.
“Raymond? Ray! You forgot the cookies I made you, sweetheart!”
Liz frowns, peering at the woman curiously from under her umbrella. There was something oddly familiar about her.
Red swears and starts jogging back up the walk but not before Liz gets a glimpse of his suspiciously red face.
“Raymond! Bring your friend, don’t leave her out there in the rain, you know better!”
What a strangely chastising statement from one of Red’s associates. They usually have more self-preservation than that.
Red stops and turns back to look at Liz halfway up the walk, glaring unhappily at her, rain dripping off the rim of his fedora. Her eyebrows raise, unused to that kind of animosity from Red. She opens her mouth to tell him off but he speaks before she can.
“Well, come on then, Lizzie, don’t just stand there.”
She frowns again, now thoroughly confused, but follows him slowly up the walk anyway. As she gets closer, she hears Red speaking quickly to the old woman.
“… and I don’t know why she’s here, I’m sorry, Mom, I’ll get her out of here as soon as I can, don’t worry.”
“Oh dear, stop, you never bring friends by, you know I don’t mind, and if she’s a friend of yours, I’m sure it’s fine, I don’t – Hello there, dear! What’s your name?”
Liz blinks, taken aback by her friendly manner and did she just hear Red call this woman “Mom”? Surely not.
“Um, I’m Elizabeth Keen, ma’am. You can call me Liz.”
She offers her hand to the older woman but she doesn’t take it right away.
“Oh my dear,” she gasps, “You’re Elizabeth? Oh, it’s so nice to finally meet you!”
And before Liz knows it, she is being pulled with surprising strength by her proffered hand into the woman’s arms.
After a moment of awkward confusion, Liz can’t help but mutter into the woman’s shoulder, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t think I know who you are.”
The woman pulls back from her abruptly.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, dear, I nearly forgot.” She laughs a pleasant-sounding laugh. “I’m not as young as I used to be, after all. I’m Ruth Reddington, Raymond’s mother.”
Liz stares stupidly at her. Red’s mother? Red has a mother? Oh, what a supremely dumb thought, everyone has a mother. But Red’s mother? What a strange concept for some reason. Why? Liz can’t exactly put her finger on it but then something else hits her like a ton of bricks – that is why the old lady looks so familiar – her and Red have the exact same shade of green eyes.
But now the old woman – Red’s mother, she forces herself to think – is looking slightly worried because Liz hasn’t actually said anything and then Red not-so-subtly pokes her in the back.
“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, I just, ah, Red’s never really talked about you, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Reddington chuckles warmly, instantly relaxing again, “Well, he’s not supposed to dear.” At this, she leans closer to Liz. “I’m in witness protection, you see.” She stage-whispers, glancing side-ways at Red.
Liz laughs out loud, surprising herself, suddenly wonderfully comfortable with this woman. Of course, she is Red’s mom and of course, she is the kindest, warmest woman Liz has ever met. Of course. How could she expect anything else? She is related to Red, after all.
The man in question takes that moment to speak up.
“Okay, Mom, I think Elizabeth and I should be on our way.”
“Oh, of course, of course, dear. How silly of me. Let me just get Elizabeth some cookies, too.”
“No, Mom –“
“Oh, no, please don’t –“
But she is already bustling back inside, humming to herself. Liz laughs again, unable to help herself. What a dear woman. No wonder Red was so upset when she got here. He is protective of her. Of course.
“Here you go, dear. They’re homemade and still warm!”
And Mrs. Reddington is pushing a large baggie of chocolate chip cookies into Liz’s umbrella-free hand.
Liz smiles. “Thank you so much, ma’am.”
“Not at all, dear, not at all.” She suddenly puts an arm around Liz and gently pulls her closer. “Maybe you’ll come visit me, now that we’ve met officially! I’ve heard so much about you and the only one that comes to see me anymore is my dear Raymond but even he can’t get here that often.”
Liz nods, despite spying Red’s tight jaw and clenched fingers.
“I would love that, ma’am.”
“Oh, how wonderful! Well, now, off you go!”
And she is pushing her into Red’s arms with a knowing smile and Red is pulling her hurriedly from the doorstep and down the walk with pursed lips while Mrs. Reddington waves merrily at them before shutting the door.
“Red,” Liz protests, as he opens her car door and very nearly pushes her inside, “Red, stop, it’s okay. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
He stops and looks at her. They are standing very close together under her umbrella. She looks into his eyes and smiles, trying to convey the sincerity she feels. He seems to see it and, rather suddenly, Liz sees all the tension drain out of his shoulders.
“Thank you, Lizzie. Thank you.” He breathes, obviously relieved. “She is… very dear to me.”
“Of course, Red. She’s your mom.” Liz says quietly.
He nods and turns to go to his Mercedes.
“And Red?” she calls after him. He turn, his handsome face shining in the rain, looking at her.
“I really wish you’d told me your mother was right here in town.” She says, a little teasing, and little honest, because all she can think is that Mrs. Reddington would be the best mother-in-law.
And isn’t that another strange thought.
He looks at her for a minute and then nods, smiling back at her and shrugging a little.
She grins and gets in her car, as Red does the same ahead of her in his Mercedes. Liz starts the car and turns the heat on high. As she pulls out of the driveway, she sees Mrs. Reddington waving from a window in the white house with green shutters. As Liz waves back and drives away, with Red’s Mercedes not far behind her, she decides that this long drive in rain was worth it after all.