Lizzie Keen has never visited the secret operations centre known as the Post Office, never met a master criminal, never seen anyone handcuffed on a chair inside a bulletproof glass container in a floodlit basement.
She does not know the name Raymond Reddington, or his face, and so she studies him as she waits for his prison to be opened.
He wears a suit the colour of rainswept slate, the coat cut loose so that it will swirl as he moves. The coat lining teems with winter trees against a silver sky, and the buttons on his waistcoat are pale glass domes with tiny whorls inside, like half marbles, or snowglobes.
As Reddington’s cage is unlocked Lizzie focuses on those buttons, imagining a tiny world captured inside each one, a button world, of which this man alone is the master. Master and protector.
What an odd thought. Lizzie has read Reddington’s file, and he is not a good person. He is a highly trained and dangerous former federal agent. He is brilliant, devious, careful, powerful and ruthless. He kills without hesitation or remorse when it suits his purpose.
Yet the first moment she sees him, she thinks of him as - a guardian of the secret worlds in his buttons?
She has had way too little sleep. And the coffee here is obviously laced with something crazy. She tears her gaze from the waistcoat and looks at Reddington’s face.
"Agent Keen!" comes Cooper’s voice in her ear. "Are you ready?"
Reddington’s face is as smooth as a boy’s, only the lines around his eyes and the silver in his severely cropped hair showing him as a man in his fifties. He looks relaxed and refined - like a bank executive or an art collector - but the intensity in his gaze makes him anything but ordinary. His eyes, the colour of an Atlantic storm, are steady, and directed only at her.
Lizzie frowns. For a second there she smelled woodsmoke. She gets a grip on herself. This place is climate controlled. Focus. That man in the box has a grisly history
She sits on the chair set out in front of the isolation cell and determines to meet a monster.
And the cage door springs open and Raymond Reddington smiles.