Dembe checked his watch for what felt like the hundredth time. He was at the landing strip that Smokey had built using two elephants three years ago. He had contacted Raymond's pilot when his calls to Red kept going to voicemail and Douglas had assured him that they were in the air, but Reddington had arrived at the jet almost two hours late with his coat and hands covered in blood.
"He's hurt?" Dembe had asked.
"I don't know," Douglas replied, "He's not talking and he knocked my hands away when I tried to check him. He didn't seem to be in physical distress, so I figured the best thing to do was get back East ASAP."
That had been almost three hours ago, so they were due any minute. There was no air tower he could contact for information; a liability one accepted when flying without a logged flight plan. He had contacted the closest medical personnel to alert them to the possibility of setting up a warehouspital ™ in the event it was needed.
He sighed in relief when he saw the landing lights of Red's jet. It touched down lightly and taxied to where he was standing. He approached it just as the door opened revealing Douglas. "He hasn't said a word since he came aboard."
"I'll have him out in a few minutes and then you can head back to New York," Dembe said before moving past the man to enter the main cabin. Raymond was sitting, bloodied hands resting on his thighs. His coat was unzipped revealing his shirt, which Dembe noted thankfully was blood – free. "Raymond? Raymond!" Slowly, Red's eyes moved to look at Dembe and widened slightly as if surprised to see him. He appeared to be in shock. Alarmed, Dembe put his hand on Red's arm and said, "Are you hurt?" When Red shook his head no, he straightened and gently pulled the older man to his feet. "We have to go. Douglas has to get the jet back to New York."
He took Red's hand and led him to the door. He nodded to the pilot as they passed him on their way to the car. Dembe opened the passenger door and guided Red into the seat. He was pleased to see that Raymond had fastened his seatbelt when he got behind the wheel. It made him think that Raymond was coming back from wherever he had gone mentally. "I initiated Protocol 8."
"No! No doctors, Dembe. Please, I just want to go to the safe house. I'm fine, physically. I just want to go to the safe house." He started as something occurred to him. "Are we going to one of the ones that Lizzie knows about?"
"No, no. This house is off the Hold List." He called the medical staff, thanked them and told them to stand down.
"Good. I can't see her right now; I don't think I could control myself," Red sighed.
He dared a glance at Raymond who was slouched in his seat. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Yes," he choked out, "I do. After we get to the house."
Dembe nodded and they rode in silence until he pulled into the driveway of their safe house. When they got out of the car, Red removed his coat and threw it in the trash before entering the house. "I have to wash up and change," he said.
"Your bedroom is at the top of the stairs."
"I'll be back."
In the meantime, Dembe got an old – fashioned glass from the cabinet, put ice in it and pulled a bottle of single malt Scotch from the liquor cabinet. When Red returned, he handed the filled glass to him and said, "Raymond, I know something terrible happened. Tell me: Why were you late leaving Kansas?"
"After I got off the phone with you, I thought about what Anne had said to me; that if she was in danger anyway, whether I was around or not, then why couldn't we be together? I decided that I could protect her better if she came with me, so I turned around to go get her. When I got there, Liz was holding a gun on her."
"Which she then turned on me. Anne began to struggle with her for control of the gun and she…Liz pushed her and she fell and hit her head on the corner of her coffee table. Oh God, there was so much blood! I dialed 911 for an ambulance…I was begging Anne to stay with me…"
"What was Liz doing?"
"I don't know. I didn't care! I heard the siren off in the distance, looked around and she was gone."
Dembe had moved from the chair he was sitting in to sit next to Red on the couch. He put his arm around him and asked, "How is Anne?"
Raymond's face contorted with grief as he tried and failed to speak. "I don't know!" he was finally able to get out. "Part of me wanted to go to the hospital with her, but I knew that was a fantasy. I would have been arrested on sight for daring to show my face back in that town. It killed me, but I left right before the ambulance arrived. She might be alive; she might be dead. I don't know, Dembe, I just don't know!" he wailed before collapsing into tears. He allowed Dembe to gather him into his arms as he broke down completely. He cried for Anne, for himself, for the atrocity his attempt at a "normal life" had become.
"I'm so sorry, Raymond," Dembe kept repeating as he rocked the man he considered his father figure, brother, mentor and best friend; rubbing his back in an attempt to comfort him.
The sobs eventually slowed down to snuffles until Raymond sat back and wiped his eyes before taking a deep draw from his glass. "Thank you, Dembe." His "son's" answering smile warmed his heart.
They sat in comfortable silence as full night turned the room they sat in so dark, Dembe leaned over to turn on a lamp. "Raymond," he said, "do you think Elizabeth feels remorse for what happened to Anne? Or do you think she has gone too far?"
"All I know is: She had a clear opportunity to shoot me and didn't. I don't want to read more into it than that; her mindset is changing. I don't know what she's capable of doing or condoning. She had to have known you were being tortured by that psychotic doctor, but she did nothing to help you." He sighed heavily. "The worst thing she's done to me is shatter my dream of normalcy, the idea that I could have a home with someone I love. I don't know if I can ever forgive her for that."
Dembe nodded his head. "It has been a long emotional day for you; perhaps you should try to get some sleep."
"You might be right," Red replied though he made no move to stand.
"Raymond, I want you to know: This life that I live with you is at times chaotic, serene, heartbreaking and painful, but it is never dull. When you took me out of that brothel, you took me from the only home I had known for eight years and ever since that day, you are my home, no matter where we are. I hope you know that I am your home always."
Red placed his palm against Dembe's face. "I do know and for now, that's enough." He looked from Dembe to the TV sitting opposite them. "Let's watch. Maybe we can find a movie."
"All right, Raymond."
Twenty minutes later, Dembe was watching "The Manchurian Candidate" with a small smile on his face while Red slept peacefully using Dembe's lap as a pillow. I'm glad you're home, ya akhi.