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"And this man? He checks out?" Harold Cooper's eyes darted from the screen to the agent standing next to him bathed in light from the TV screen. The younger man's gaze was focused on that screen, and his own hand in the film footage.
Donald Ressler looked at his boss after half a second of distraction, eyes still on the screen, and the clip filmed earlier in the day, in an interview room. "Him? Absolutely. He's been working for the FBI for a few years now, never any issues. Near-perfect accuracy with his work. Nothing's ever followed him home before...until now. He called to report the activity at 2 am this morning.
"He's shook up. Says the spirit won't leave him alone - started knocking things around in his house. They called me in when this guy was in the middle of a sentence and started repeating three codenames for operations we had suspected Red was involved in. Like a loop for five minutes straight, no stopping. These are operations that have never seen the light of day and have never been spoken of in public before."
Cooper noticed the movement then, just at the corner of the screen; even as he continued to talk to the Medium in the clip, Ressler's hand had begun to move the pen on the legal notepad. The movement was slow, barely noticeable really, but when the pen drew a long line underneath a word and flew out of the agent's hand, it got the attention of both men, and they clamored to push up and out of their chairs, staring at the pad.
Harold Cooper looked down at that notepad, now on his desk, and the words on the page.
"Alright. Let's find her, and see what he wants to say."
The page in his grip had six words in large, capital letters, crudely sprawled.
I SPEAK ONLY WITH ELIZABETH KEEN.
It was Hudson's frantic barking that woke her up, and not her alarm; it was easy to see in those few seconds alone that it wasn't going to be a good day.
She hushed her dog, a useless act, while she rolled over to check the time on the alarm clock, fully aware from the sunlight in her room it had happened again.
The alarm clock was unplugged.
"Babe, what time is it?" Liz made a frantic grab for her husband's wrist to check for herself on his watch. "Oh shit!"
Beside her, Tom mumbled as he sat up, immediately alert but bleary eyed. "What time do you have to-"
Liz was already up and out of the bed, dashing into the bathroom as she frantically tried to gain control of the morning. "It's my first day! The clock-"
Tom moved around the bedroom behind her, just in her peripheral vision in the mirror - he was late for the school day as well, and Liz knew there'd be an awkward fight over the car keys in the next few minutes. "Again? I made sure it was plugged in again last night. I used the wall outlet instead of the strip thinking that was - Hudson, buddy, give it a rest. There's nothing in the corner."
"Maybe you should call the electrician?" she suggested as she buttoned her blouse.
"Yeah. I'll have him look the wiring," her husband replied, appearing in the bathroom doorway, cleaning his glasses and enviously, entirely dressed. "The lighting keeps flickering no matter how many times I check the bulbs. Maybe the subway runs under the house? That might cause vibrations."
Liz brushed her teeth and jumped into her pants, trying to focus on what she had to do to get ready. She thought she'd left this kind of stuff behind in New York. When he moved in ahead of her, settling in for the start of the school year while she finished her time at her job before her transfer, Tom had assured her this house would be their home, a good home, and there weren't any 'creepy vibes' like they had at their city apartment.
She wasn't about to tell her husband that Hudson spent a whole lot of time barking at nothing when it was just the two of them in New York. Or that unplugged alarm clocks were nothing compared to furniture being moved, and items missing and reappearing elsewhere.
This was their creepy-free, new chapter of their life. Complete with a baby, if the meeting with the adoption agency later today went well.
They were out the door in record time, and in the end, Liz cajoled Tom into letting her have the car since it was her first day.
About halfway through her drive, she realized she wasn't recognizing the streets - well, she recognized them, but they weren't on the trip to the building she was supposed to be reporting to for orientation. The GPS informed her she'd reached her destination on the right when she stopped at the parking lot for the J. Edgar Hoover Building.
The light was red, so she grabbed her phone off the seat next to her to check her calendar and immediately worried about how lost in her own thoughts she'd been in the last few days - she'd updated the calendar and programmed the GPS without remembering it.
"Get it together, Keen," she muttered as she pulled into the parking lot.
After one last look in the rearview mirror and a steadying breath, Liz put the morning behind her and stepped inside the building, feeling a small thrill as she stepped over the FBI's seal on the floor.
"Hi," she greeted the officer in the security booth, giving the woman the sunniest, friendliest smile she could muster. "My name is Elizabeth Keen. I have an appointment with…" she looked back down at the phone. "Mr. Raymond Reddington? Could you let-"
Liz never got to finish her request; the TV behind the officer flickered and dimmed for half a second, just as a SWAT team came sweeping into the lobby. Just like everyone else in the space, she looked around to see what had triggered the response.
Except for a blonde man just beyond the guards. He was staring directly at her, the smallest of smiles on his lips. Hairs on the back of her neck rose, and her stomach jolted unpleasantly.
She hadn't felt that in years, but she knew what it meant, and silently prayed it was a fluke; this was supposed to be a fresh new start for her. That was all done and behind her.
Liz dragged her eyes from the blonde man - she could see now that his suit was old, mid 80s, judging by the jacket - to the one addressing her. Strawberry blonde with the stern-cut features of a Ken doll, but his hand was on a very real gun at his waist.
"Agent Keen, my name is Donald Ressler. I'm going to ask you to come with us."
The dead blonde man in the corner laughed.