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How to Save a Life

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I knew you were
You were gonna come to me
And here you are
But you better choose carefully
'Cause I’m capable of anything
Of anything and everything - Dark Horse - Katy Perry

"Harold...this simply will not work." The dark, gravelly voice rumbled from the shadows. Harold Cooper sat at his cluttered desk. A file lay open on the top of the strewn memos and sticky notes. A lone desk lamp cast a small pool of light in the cramped office space.

"You don't even know what we're dealing with here. You need to give her a chance." He shuffled a few more papers around searching for a piece of paper lost in the stack. He looked into the shadows, past the theatrics trying to make out the outline of the figure hiding within. A brief pull of his cigar lit the area where his face should be in a red glow. The smoke curling around in space to the ceiling. Cooper detested it but learned to let it go. They had a deal after all.

It was way past working hours and Cooper should have been home hours ago. They had been pouring over their latest case, one that had not only piqued the FBI's interest but the top brass themselves. The Director personally insisted that Cooper look into this particular "Blacklister". That meant that he had to take a more than minor involvement with the "Shadowman". A hand reached out and picked up the tumbler of scotch that rested on the edge of Cooper's desk. It had left a ring of condensation behind in its wake. The ice cubes clicked and settled against each other as the face finally emerged.

"This was not a part of our deal, Harold. It never was!" Raymond "Red" Reddington leveled his cold gaze upon the man he only more than tolerated as of late. Harold Cooper was a man to be grudgingly respected, if not admired. Since Reddington had "volunteered" to be a part of his ragtag team of misfits, questionable agents, highly incompentent by comparison, in the area they all lovingly referred to as the 'Post Office', he knew what cards would need to be played if his goals were to be accomplished. He had an agenda...he always had a plan, even when he was "caught" by the man he was now facing. They were in the middle of nowhere and even though Reddington knew the way in, it was often difficult to find the way out. He bit the inside of his cheek and shook his head.

"You well know by now, Reddington, that there are always exceptions to the deal. We do whatever we need to get the mission accomplished. I know in this case you are going to need a handler...someone believable that can pass off as a person of interest. You need someone on your arm. A distraction. We've gone over this before." Cooper laced his fingers together and rested them on the desk. He was unmoving in his opinion.

"I have every capable resource available in handling this situation on my own, Harold." Reddington stared down the man in front of him. His eyes not moving, not blinking staring at the Assistant Director with his most menacingly glare. His left eye twitched subtly when he finally looked away. He swirled his drink and finished it in one gulp. He pulled his chair into the dimming light and refused to see reason. "A girl...barely out of Quantico...what do you take me for? He shook his head and huffed a toothy laugh, "I've had more experience as a criminal and as a straight-laced, by-the-book officer before she was even a twinkle in her daddy's eye."

Cooper looked down at his desk. He picked up the placard he was searching for and presented it to Reddington. "Her name is Elizabeth Keen. She starts this assignment on Monday...and believe me she is quite capable." Reddington reached out a well-manicured hand and accepted the card and gave it a dismissive glance.

"I've worked with this team for almost a year now and I don't understand what this girl has to possibly bring to the table, especially in this particular case. Do you understand, Harold, that these are some of the most dangerous characters that very few have survived the world over...That they need to be eliminated and scattered by the most calculating minds that you possess in the FBI, CIA and all of your intelligence agencies combined? What am I to do babysitting a fledgling recruit straight out of the box who probably has only heard of this faction in passing? I told you, I would only work with the FBI under my own conditions and contract. I could easily disappear back into the woodwork and let your "fine team" handle all the dregs of society. I have nothing to gain from childcare..."

Cooper slammed his hand on the desk. "That is about enough. I won't have you tear our agents down. Indeed you did seek us out and indeed we have been grateful for your services. And yes, you have bested us thus far until you turned yourself into the FBI a year ago. You're right, we would never have caught you, but we were close. Agent Ressler was on your tail and I think you knew that."

"Donald was NEVER going to catch me..." Reddington chuckled incredulously. I had him going in circles and running into himself and I was never in the picture. Now you want to saddle me with this novice...with what to gain? I ask again."


Across town at the Community Gym- Washington D.C.

She is currently doing her 20th lap around the regulation basketball court. There is a track encircling the court and there are maybe one or two other people in the gym with her. Sweat has beaded, dripped and fallen annoyingly into the valley of her breasts, but she ignores it. She ignores the screaming of her leg muscles as she continues to push. As she runs, her face is a mask of determination.

"She has graduated first in her class, mastered every course with high marks, Her area of expertise is profiling. She can read anyone like a book. She has analyzed countless cases batted to her and has even assisted top agents in live field work during her tenure at Quantico." Harold smiled proudly.

"Do you think she will be able to handle the mental and psychological abuse that is about to be thrown her way? I will not hesitate to let her fall when or if things go south. She will simply just be a casualty. Make no mistake, Harold...she will be in a lot of danger."

She has run over to the side of the gym where equipment such as jump ropes, basketballs, medicine balls, hand weights are waiting and selects a jump rope. She stares at a pinpoint spot on the wall opposite her and begins skipping the rope. She gradually gets faster and focussed, incessantly counting the number of skips she has made, not erring once in her push to go faster. Until she can stand no more, she tosses the rope away from her with a primal scream, thankful there are only a few concerned glances in her direction. People in the gym are used various grunts and groans. She does not stop and yet heads for the punching bag at the other side of the room. What drives her is unimaginable...the incessant need for achievement...the unattainable high that she strives to reach every day.

"Harold...I implore you one last time. I have not allowed myself to be locked up in that box in the dungeon of this place for countless months on end just for you to let me be a teacher of some sort. You know I am a criminal...The Concierge of Crime...I feed you the cases that most suit and benefit my needs. Throwing someone new and inexperienced in the mix leaves me in a really bad position. I'd rather go back to the box...truthfully how do you know you can trust me at all?"

He looks back at Reddington the side of his mouth twitching to a smirk. He has him. He has never seen Reddington try this hard to get out of something. "We gave you a are free to leave whenever you like. I don't think you'd even allow that if you didn't think that we weren't here to protect YOU from something. Care to get into that now? Why did you so willingly offer yourself to us? I have still to get that answer from you. I think you need us more than we want you. So we just add an extra clause to the deal. We need to have Agent Keen as your partner in this mission. There is no one else better prepared or suited for this assignment in our area. You will need to brief her on specifics and I will make sure she has the necessary files to get started. You meet her tomorrow at 0700. And now, if you will excuse me, I have a wife to get home to that I know is threatening to have me sleeping on the couch again. If there is anything further?"

Elizabeth mercilessly attacks the punching bag with every ounce of strength she has left in her body. Her muscles stretch and pull and ache with each blow. A trainer has stopped by to monitor her progress and encourages her for one more punch. Just one more. Fire dances in her eyes as she gives every last fiber of her being over to the force behind her punches.

"HEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!" Is her battle cry. She falls to the mat underneath her. Her body heaving, panting, arms out at her sides. Euphoria sings throughout her system. She is there.


Back at the Post Office -  Harold Cooper's Office.

Reddington stands up, prepared to leave. He grabs his hat, a fedora, the trademark symbol of who he is, and places it on his head. He tugs the brim once, settling it over his forehead. He stubs out his cigar in the ashtray that Harold keeps in the room just for his sake. He pockets the unused portion in the inside pocket of his tailored midnight blue suit coat. Cooper stands up and grabs his briefcase. He heads toward the door.

Reddington stopped Cooper who now had his hand on the doorknob, opening it to the world outside. He smiled showing a full set of teeth a sinister gleam in his eye. "Con permiso, Capitan. The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It's now time to see if you can dance."




But don't make me your enemy...