Resident Evil: The Prelude to Horror

A Day at Work

Wednesday July 22nd, 1998
Downtown, Raccoon City

Mid-summer days in Raccoon City were comparable to hell. Surrounded in three directions by mountains, the breeze which came in from a narrow break in the mountain chain to the south was then broken up and dispersed by the thick forests before it reached the city. The resulting dry air, combined with the heat, turned an otherwise short walk to work from school in the afternoons into a death march across the Sahara. The only reason Kenny was clad in a T-shirt and shorts was because there was a law against being naked in public. Two blocks to go, and Kenny counted every car passed, every concrete sidewalk slab stepped over. One block to go, and the sun seemed to beam down even brighter and hotter, trying to beat him into dehydrated submission before he could reach the paved cobblestone path at the Raccoon City Precinct's front courtyard which led to the entrance, and more importantly, shelter. It did not succeed, although by the time Kenny had reached his destination, his face was flushed, and his forehead, upper lip and the underneath of his jaw were coated with sweat.

Stepping through the twelve-foot iron gates that were left open during the days led him onto the path in the precinct courtyard and into the shadow of the three storey, concrete and glass building which dominated the otherwise apartment-crowded landscape with its pseudo-Gothic silhouette.

He walked through the main doors and was hit with the relief of air conditioning and, as usual, with a wave of the old building's musk. Kenny was greeted by bustling officers and secretaries, papers in their hands, going in and out through the numerous doors flanking the perimeter walls that made up the main lobby. The entrance platform was raised, and he stepped down a short flight of steps onto the glistening marble floor where in front him, the Raccoon Police emblem had been painstakingly carved into the surface, at the foot of a fountain sporting a statue of a woman bearing a water jug. Kenny made his way around the fountain and with the creaking of a well-used swivel chair, took a seat at the giant oak desk alongside the secretaries, plopping his backpack beside the computer tower.

A blonde, pixie-cut female officer looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. "Good afternoon, Kenny." She swept her arm across the surface of the workstation and rose from her computer, one hand holding a coffee mug, the other tucking a folder into her armpit.

"Good afternoon, Rita," Kenny replied, tipping his chin at the folder. "You're drinking fresh coffee, so the delivery arrived on time this morning and I just saw you wipe crumbs off the table so I know the bakery order did too. Patrol reports were compiled and delivered to Chief Irons last night, and yesterday's fingerprints are filed and sorted, so ... what's that?"

"Book club application forms," she sighed. "Bernice has piqued the interests of more than a few of our finest in blue. She's running late and asked me to help her gather them, and I foolishly agreed without even thinking how many people are in this building, unless ..." Rita narrowed her blue eyes at Kenny, the task delegation plan forming in her mind and across her pretty features.

"Oh, don't you even dare!" he retorted, before Rita could even blurt out the request.

To his surprise, she let out a girlish giggle instead and patted him on the shoulder. "You're lucky today, Kenny. There will be none of that. But I do have a task for you that I think you'll enjoy."

Kenny loved the bustling activity and the atmosphere of the old building that was now the Raccoon City Police Precinct, but had a hard time narrowing down any particular tasks that he enjoyed, from delivering coffee doughnuts to the senior officers, to prepping meeting rooms for presentations, if it weren't for the people he interacted with performing those tasks. His curiosity aroused, he gave up at trying to guess and asked, "Oh yeah, what is it?"

"You heard about those cases of the missing families in the Arklay mountains, right?" she asked, lowering her voice a few notches. Of course Kenny had, after sorting and organizing reports and witness statements from all over the city. The occasional missing hiker call would come through, which wasn't uncommon in the community. But they were rising with alarming frequency as of late. It sounded like a zombie B-movie, with claims of rabid dogs and the occasional monster. And last week, an emergency meeting was called in the west conference room which he remembered having to struggle to prep in thirty minutes. It wasn't until the meeting began that he was excused by Officer Neil Carlsen and on his way out, overheard mention of the Arklay forests in passing.

As an intern, Kenny was a paper-pusher and part-time janitor. The case material did not involve him, and this emergency meeting was no exception – that is, until Rita elaborated.

"Well, it turns out they're sending Bravo in to check out the situation tonight."

"They're sending the STARS into action?" Spearheaded by Captain Albert Wesker, the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad, otherwise known as the STARS, Raccoon City's local, elite equivalent of the SWAT Team was divided into two branches: Alpha and Bravo. Both teams consisted of combat and weapon-trained survivalists and were the envy (or idols, depending on who you asked) of the RPD. Being one of the precinct's errand boys, Kenny's duties included attending to the STARS members as well, though he found them to be mostly absent, or low maintenance when they weren't, mostly requiring coffee and snacks to fuel their metabolisms.

It was obvious to everyone at the precinct, from the Chief all the way down to the janitor, that the missing hiker reports were increasing in frequency, but nobody anticipated the decision to involve the STARS – and clearly, going by Rita's excitement inability to contain in her whisper, neither did she. The STARS were only ever sent in for the most dangerous missions, and Kenny struggled to wrap his mind around how missing person reports and some cases of animal attacks would concern them. What did Chief Irons know that the rest of the city didn't?

Rita nodded, with a smile on her face. "Yeah. So I've got a few things for you to prepare for them. First of all," she held up a perfectly manicured index finger, "there's a rookie on Bravo team and this will be her first mission. She's supposedly a chemistry whiz from Raccoon University, not too much older than you. Her equipment should be arriving sometime this morning and I need you to get them delivered to Captain Wesker at the STARS office upstairs the moment it arrives."

Kenny's heart raced with excitement. Rita was right, this was going to be a task he'd never forget. Beyond delivering snacks to the STARS office, his interaction with the team was sparse. Now he was being asked to carry their equipment! Specially crafted, field-ready, designed and custom made with knowledge and experience far beyond what a fifteen year old could have accrued by this point. But then it dawned on him – at just under under five feet five inches tall, and 130 pounds soaking wet on, and with a full stomach, was he able to carry everything to their office on the second floor west wing without damaging anything, himself included? "How big is the package?"

"Oh, it shouldn't be too big for you," Rita said, her gaze traveling the height of Kenny's teenage frame. "It's just some first aid sprays, bandages and whatnot."

Kenny nodded and stood up, ready to head down to the parking garage to receive the equipment, but Rita stopped him, holding up a second finger.

"Secondly, there are some firearms that need to be picked up from Kendo's Gun Shop for the mission tonight. They were sent there for customization last week and we just got word they're ready to be used, just in time for the mission. You remember the way there, right?"

"Out the side exit, right down the street, another right through an alley, around a fire escape, through a basketball court …"

"I mean the LEGAL way," she reminded sternly, "one that doesn't involve trespassing on private property."

"Yeah, I remember," Kenny said, a little disappointed. "But do I get to go alone?"

"Of course not. You'll be accompanying Officer Ryman."

RPD Precinct Garage

The air in the subterranean precinct garage was as cool as the rest of the building, with the one exception being that it didn't feel artificially generated by air conditioning. The old building's musk blended with a hint of gasoline. The east end of the space was where the entrance ramp was located, with the top at ground level, and it was down this ramp which Officer David McGraw steered the navy blue armored SWAT vehicle. From outside the vehicle, Kenny guided his parking job; open palms for "slowly", thumbs up for "perfect" and frantic jumping and waving for "stop." Kenny made a mental note to ensure that the vehicle was not parked obscuring the door to the kennels where the K9 units were housed; a common error the officers made, regardless of experience with the force. The day shift was in full swing and the garage was at half capacity, with all patrol units making their rounds around Raccoon City, which allowed Kenny and Officer McGraw ample room to maneuver.

No sooner had the ignition been turned off, the door swung open. Officer McGraw leapt out of the vehicle and slammed the driver's side door behind him. He made his way over to the rear of the vehicle, unlocking the titanium armored doors which granted him access to the contents inside, brown wavy surfer locks bouncing at the back of his head as he went. Officer McGraw began speaking without pausing for eye contact.

"Thanks for helping me out with this, buddy," he said, clambering into the rear of the vehicle. His voice became muffled as he entered into the dark abyss. Kenny approached the rear bumper to assist, just as Officer McGraw popped his head out and dropped a reinforced plastic box which Kenny scrambled to catch. His knees buckled under the force of weight of the box. "Got some priority equipment specially ordered for the STARS newbie joining us today. The order's late and Rita's got her panties in a knot worrying about whether the new recruit will get her equipment on time."

Officer McGraw dropped another box, identical in size and weight, on top of the one Kenny cradled in his arms, without pausing for breath. "Umbrella Corporation. Damn corporate conglomerates, am I right? Distribution houses are all the same." Officer McGraw reappeared again, holding a third box in his hands, about to drop it on him when he noticed Kenny was struggling with the two he already held. Sweat condensed on Kenny's forehead, knees bent and shaking.

"Officer McGraw," Kenny called from behind the wall of boxes in his arms, almond Asian eyes barely peering from above the top of the wall, "my hands are full."

He winced in sympathy. "Sorry about that, buddy." He tucked the third box under one arm, scooped one from Kenny with the other and held them against his ribs for stability. "There's a much smaller box in here," he said, reaching into his breast pocket. "I'll need you to carry that for me." Kenny placed his large box on the ground while Officer McGraw's hand reappeared from his pocket holding a much smaller, very different kind of box - one with a velvety red surface with gold trimmings - and placed it comfortably into the palm of his hand. Curiosity got the better of Kenny and he opened it. The inside of the box was lined with fine gold coloured satin. Sitting on a cushioned pedestal was a small gold ring set with two emeralds and a diamond that gleamed with an unearthly brilliance, even in the dim lighting of the garage. Amongst all the Umbrella brand first aid sprays, bandages, ammunition and riot gear, the ring seemed very out of place.

"What is something like this doing here, sir?" Kenny asked, bewildered.

"Hold onto that and don't lose it," Officer McGraw warned sternly, "or Frost is going to have my head on a platter." Frost, or rather, Joseph Frost, was a name Kenny was familiar with as one of the STARS Alpha team members. "That ring is for Officer Berstein. He's going to propose to her tomorrow night in front of the entire squad, but he doesn't want her suspecting anything, so he got me to collect the ring."

"How did he hide an engagement ring purchase from Officer Bernstein?" Kenny asked. Officer Amber Bernstein was close to Rita and Officer McGraw, and he knew her by association. She was a slender lady with long, red, curly hair and pretty in a simple way, down to her personal style; not a woman he'd assume was accustomed to purchasing jewelry, so she would have surely noticed something like this.

"He convinced Bernice to create a pseudo-expenditures account for the RPD and threw his own money into it," he explained, shrugging. "Hid his own money in the RPD equipment budget. Genius, he is."

Something still didn't add up. Kenny had spent enough time pushing the precinct's paperwork with the resident secretary / part-time accounts manager Bernice. And if there was one thing he learned, it was that even though one was depositing money and not withdrawing, didn't mean they'd be in the clear. Budget imbalance would be investigated, especially in law enforcement.

"His money would have been included in our expenditures reports and they'd find out that we had more money than our budget if we ever got audited," Kenny cautioned.

"Bernice was in on it," Officer McGraw reassured him, "and it wasn't a hard sell for her either, considering the department's expenditures dealing with the attacks in the outskirts. We've been spending hundreds upon thousands with the growing number of incidents. Nobody's going to notice a few extra thousand dollars. Bernice knows what she's doing and besides, since when did you become the Chief's personal errand boy? Last time I checked, you were ours!" He socked Kenny lightly in the shoulder.

Dropping the topic, Kenny snapped the box shut with finality and quickly shoved it into the pocket of his shorts. "So what do you want me to do with the ring?"

"Sneak it into Frost's locker," Officer McGraw advised, "But make sure Officer Valentine doesn't notice. She and Bernstein are tighter than a virgin's ..." he trailed off, but picked up again, "they're best friends, so just don't let her see it."

And it was in that moment that Kenny couldn't help but beam with pride - he was being entrusted with the secrets of the STARS members' personal lives and an actual engagement ring! At the rate he was climbing the social ladder here, he felt confident that they'd be giving him a real job in the precinct by next year, and he wouldn't have to settle for becoming burger artist at any of the city's fast food restaurants. Kenny tucked this point away in his memory banks, to be used for ammunition at the next social gathering one of the uptown parents would undoubtedly throw to celebrate whatever news they had to gloat about. He reached into his pocket again to ensure that the ring was where he had placed it, and grasped the velvet box tightly. "You can count on me, Officer McGraw!"

Officer McGraw began heading towards the exit. Kenny hurriedly picked up his supply box off the ground and followed him in line. He wasn't the biggest cop at the precinct, but beneath a modest build lay immense strength, as he carried two supply boxes between his arm and ribs, keeping the other free for opening doors while Kenny, by comparison, struggled with one using both hands. He didn't talk about it much, but rumor had it that Officer McGraw was a former Marine, having registered for his first tour of Iraq during the 1991 conflict as soon as he turned 18. For reasons a civilian couldn't begin to understand, he later opted for life as a police officer in a relatively peaceful town like Raccoon City.

They trudged up the stairs leading to the main floor in the east wing, down a narrow corridor lined on the south walls with windows facing the open street where cars uncharacteristically never broke the speed limit. From behind the glass in the comfort of the air-conditioned building, heat waves could be seen rippling off the sun baked pavement. The corridor led to the east office, where Officer McGraw acknowledged every passer-by with a tip of the chin or a head nod. Kenny occasionally received a clasp on the shoulder or a passing compliment or joke.

"Hey McGraw, how much ya paying the kid?"

"Wish my son had even a fraction of your work ethic, Kenny!"

The east office was a vast space of work stations bordered by walls trimmed with exquisitely carved wood. The only source of light came from overhead fluorescent bulbs which bathed everything in a faint white glow. A single propeller fan provided the only visible air circulation in the room. The southeast corner was blocked off by walls, reserving the encased area as a private office for Senior Officer Marvin Branagh. Double teal doors at the north end led into the waiting area and out to the main hall, where Kenny spotted a petite, doe-eyed girl clearly in awe of the grandeur of the building. She was looking around with a gaping expression, partly taken in by the decor, and also by not knowing where to go. Officer McGraw walked briskly past her, but the girl was able to catch Kenny's attention.

"Um, excuse me," she said softly, reaching out an arm toward Kenny, stopping short of making physical contact. "I'm a little lost and I was wondering if you could direct me."

"Officer McGraw, wait!" he called out, eager to drop the heavy box. "Yes, where do you need to go, Miss?" As he spoke, Kenny noticed that she was not dressed in civilian clothes, but rather dark green khaki pants rolled up at the ankles and a similarly coloured T-shirt over which lay a white bullet-proof vest. This girl was no civilian here to make another report. Her large eyes and round face, framed by short cut, boyish brown hair, showed a look of relief and she reached out for a handshake.

"My name is Rebecca Chambers," she explained gratefully, as Kenny took her hand into his, "and I wasn't due to start with the RPD until tomorrow, but I got a phone call this morning from Rita, requesting an early start and to come in as soon as possible. It sounded like an emergency but she told me more would be revealed in a briefing."

"Hi Rebecca, my name is Kenneth Feng, and I'm an intern here at the RPD. My companion here," he motioned for Officer McGraw, who was steps away from the west office doors, to come over, "is Officer David McGraw."

"Pleasure to meet you, Rebecca," Officer McGraw said, shaking her hand with his free arm. "We're actually on a run to deliver your supplies over to the STARS office so if you'd like to follow us, we can escort you to your desk."

"Thank you so much!" Rebecca said, clasping her hands together with excitement and relief. "Can I help with any of the lifting?"

"Oh, that won't be necessary …" Kenny began, but was promptly cut off.

"The kid could use a hand," Officer McGraw said, and Rebecca wasted no time in relieving him from the burden of the supply box.

"Thank you so much again, I've got this now," she said, smiling.

Kenny took a moment to shoot McGraw his best "What the hell do you think you're doing?" expression.

They continued their journey to the second floor of the west wing towards the STARS office, with Kenny holding doors for Rebecca and Officer McGraw. It wasn't much farther from here - past the War God statue into the next corridor where the STARS office awaited them. The shades on the west windows were drawn, but allowed small rays of sunshine to pool in. Potted plants rested on the sills, livening up an otherwise dull, old wooden space. Kenny grasped the knob to the STARS office door and turned it slightly, to find it unlocked. He let the door creak open, knocking loudly to announce their arrival.

"We have a Rebecca Chambers, reporting for duty," Kenny called into the room. "Are we interrupting anything?"

He opened the door fully to reveal a large room, fitted with workstations for each of the STARS members lining the walls. Captain Wesker's desk was placed so that it gave him a view down the length of the room, at the opposite end of which sat the weapons locker: the soon to be hiding place for Officer Frost's ring. The desks were cluttered with the STARS members' personal belongings - save for one, across from the locker which was bare and pristine save for a First Aid kit mounted on the wall. He took the educated guess that this was to be Rebecca's workstation.

We were greeted by the gargantuan Kenneth Sullivan, from Bravo team; he seemed to be the lone occupant in the room. Officer McGraw was not the biggest officer on the force – that title went to Officer Sullivan, an Afro-American man standing 6'2", their first names being the only thing he and Kenny had in common. Outweighing Kenny by double, he was a literal wall of muscle; His appearance was where the intimidation ended though; Officer Sullivan was a gentle soul housed in a tank of a body. He rose from his desk and beamed a warm smile at them, crossing half the length of the room with just a few thundering steps.

He scooped up the supply box from Rebecca's cradled arms, took a hand and planted a gentle kiss on her knuckle. "Welcome to the team, Rebecca." He motioned with an open palm towards the immaculate workstation which Kenny had correctly guessed had been assigned to her. He then took the remaining supply boxes from Officer McGraw and stacked them against the wall flanking her workstation. With Officer Sullivan's back turned to them, Officer McGraw silently nodded at Kenny and he sprang into action, simultaneously sneaking open the weapon locker and extracting the ring from his pocket. He slipped the ring on to Officer Frost's shelf and closed the door as quietly as possible, while Rebecca looked on in silent confusion. Officer McGraw held a finger to his lips, signaling for her silence.

Kenny had just closed the locker door with the gentlest of force, hearing a soft click that the latch had been secured, when Officer Sullivan turned back around to face them. "We apologize for the short notice," he continued to Rebecca, "but something came up and we were caught off guard as much as you probably were. The others should be en route. We're ..." Officer Sullivan paused, noticing Kenny was in their presence. He looked at Officer McGraw and cocked his bald head at him.

"Kenny," Officer McGraw spoke, "Captain Wesker will be holding an emergency briefing in just over an hour for Bravo Team. We need the presentation loaded up on the projector in the West Meeting Room, and the space needs to be prepped for six and one presenter. The projection slides are in his outbox." He tipped his chin in the direction of Captain Wesker's desk.

"Refreshments, sir?" Kenny asked.

"Not for this, no," Officer Sullivan clarified. "Thank you, Kenny."

Kenny headed over to Captain Wesker's desk and took the miniature reel from his outbox and headed for the exit. Officer McGraw clapped him on the shoulder as he passed, his show of gratitude for successfully hiding the ring. Not another word was spoken until Kenny had left the room, closed the door behind him and was out of earshot.

RPD Precinct 1F Meeting Room
2:55 pm

Kenny did his best to prepare the stuffy meeting room for Captain Wesker's presentation. Rows of seats with table-top surfaces that could be folded down, reminiscent of college lecture seats, were stick-straight and horizontally offset so that those in the second row would not have their view of the projection screen obscured by the back of a colleague's head. Due to the potentially sensitive nature of material being reviewed, adjustments were made to the building so that the room was windowless and as a result, always gave him a slight feeling of claustrophobia. Waist high ledges ran along the perimeter wall, perfect for extra attendees in the event that there were no longer any seats available. That would not be the case today, so Kenny set up a coffee station. Officer Sullivan had said no refreshments, but he wasn't fooling anyone. Kenny would never be allowed to deliver snacks to the STARS room again if they realized he'd forgotten to provide coffee for a briefing. There was no creamer as the Bravo team tended to like their coffee black; although he was unfamiliar with the preference of today's new recruit, Rebecca; and that made him nervous.

Otherwise, with hands on his hips, Kenny looked around the room admiring his handiwork. All this, and it had taken him under an hour to prep everything. The only unchecked item on the list was to test the projector and make sure it ran the slides accordingly. But for confidentiality reasons, Kenny left the slides unchecked, instead placing them beside the projector for Captain Wesker. And right on time, he head the approaching footsteps of the STARS Bravo team.

Kenny opened the doors to greet the team, beginning with, "Good afternoon, Captain Wes-" and immediately leapt out of the STARS Captain's way. Captain Wesker entered the room keeping his pace, one hand patting down his well-gelled blonde hair. He headed towards the front of the room while the rest of the team followed in line, with Rebecca among them still looking lost but with brows creased with determination to match the professionalism of her colleagues.

"The table-tops are blanketed in dust, Kenny," Captain Wesker said without turning his head to face him, shades hiding any indication of emotion. The feedback came as a surprise, as Kenny watched the STARS members file one by one into the strategically placed seats. The room wasn't perfect, and his mind wrestled with the blow to his morale. The desks, the coffee, the tidiness of the room - but it didn't matter to the Captain. Kenny had forgotten to dust.

"But sir," Kenny began, wanting to save whatever shred of dignity he might have had left, "On such short notice, I couldn't have possibly …"

Captain Wesker sighed deeply and interrupted. "Do you know why these officers are a part of the STARS unit, young man? Because they give me results, not excuses."

Officer Sullivan was quick to apologize for the Captain's brisk comment with a subtle thumbs-up in Kenny's direction. Officer Richard Aiken, Bravo's young, cheerful communications specialist, gave Kenny's shoulder a sympathetic squeeze as he entered, whispering under his breath, "Don't let it get to you. You did good, kid." They did their best to offset their Captain's words, but Kenny was still dismayed by Captain Wesker's disapproval. Wesker didn't care about what Kenny had done - only about what he didn't do.

After shuffling some papers in his hands, Captain Wesker paused and directed his attention to Kenny, not noticing the actions of his subordinates. "You have your feedback, Kenny, which means you are dismissed."

"Y...yes, sir, duly noted for next time," he replied nervously, spinning on his heels and heading for the doors at a speedy pace. The last view of the room Kenny caught before closing the door with finality was Rebecca, sitting straight up with perfect posture, swallowing a lump in her throat.

RPD Precinct, Alleyway
3:13 pm

Kenny took a couple of minutes for a short cigarette break in one of the alleyways across the street from the precinct. Though it was well past noon, the sun hadn't even begun to set yet and the pavement radiated with its heat, baking the trash in the garbage bins lining the alley and magnifying the resulting stench tenfold. Not the most ideal place to relax and gather his thoughts, but after Captain Wesker's brusque critique, he needed a change of environment to assess, even if it meant a change of environment to this.

Three months of working at the police station and he'd never once seen the man smile. From his own recollection, it was clear Kenny wasn't the only one on the receiving end of his remarks. Captain Wesker wasn't an unreasonable man from what he'd gathered, but rather a perfectionist. Success was earned, but for one thing gained, there were 5 obstacles that came with it. And you didn't succeed again without overcoming them all. Armed with that kind of mindset, he would hate to encounter Wesker on the battlefield. It was little wonder how Wesker had come to be the leader of the STARS unit, though his soft skills left much to be desired by everyone around him.

Having put his mind at ease, at least for the moment, Kenny returned to the main hall - and his workstation - and was met with the sound of flirtatious giggles. Rita was leaning on the desk , her upper body weight supported by her slender arm, hand planted on the desk's wooden surface. She twirled locks of her hair between her fingers as she listened to the story being told to her by a male companion.

He stood facing Rita, arms folded across his chest, occasionally raising a hand to make an animated gesture while she punctuated his sentences with her giggles. It wasn't the man's trademark lengthy, unkempt brown hair nor his perpetual scruffy five o'clock shadow that gave away his identity - it was voice, the way with which he spoke, the rise and fall of his tone as he told his story and his blatant disregard of the decibels of his voice.

Kenny brought silence with his presence, however, as both parties noticed his approach. But it was short-lived. "Well if it isn't my favorite intern!" Officer Ryman declared happily, draping an arm around Kenny's shoulders and he pulled the intern to his side for one armed, one sided hug.

"Nice ... to see you too ... Officer Ryman," Kenny wheezed as Officer Ryman unintentionally crushed the air out of his lungs.

Rita wiped a tear from her eye with a finger, left over from whatever hilarious story Officer Ryman had just finished telling her. "Let him go, Kevin," she said. "He's the only intern I've got helping you out with Kendo's shipment today. You break him, and that's it. No more interns."

"Man, what are they feeding kids nowadays?" Kevin replied jokingly. "Or NOT feeding them, I should say. Have them join us for our training exercises and that should fix 'em up good, am I right Kenny?" Another squeeze and Kenny found himself gasping for air again.

It wasn't up until that point that he noticed the senior secretary Bernice; an older lady past her prime but still carried herself with the class and grace that she undoubtedly had in her younger years. She was seated at her workstation, glaring over the rims of her spectacles at Officer Ryman disapprovingly as she typed.

"Need I remind you, Kevin Ryman," she said, "that our interns are not screened for the same physical fitness that our candidates for police work are. They are civilians, and any injury sustained from your wild and crazy ideas notonly fall outside their roles and responsibilities, but are a liability which we absolutely cannot afford, especially now, of all times. Now, release the poor boy."

Seemingly deflated, Officer Ryman did as he was told and took a step closer to Bernice. He stopped a foot away from her and flashed a shit-eating grin. "Why couldn't we afford it?" he asked with mock innocence. "Word around here is that we've got a surplus of funding for the equipment budget this quarter." He ended his sentence with a wink, and the gesture had silenced Bernice, telling him that she understood his point. Without missing a beat, Officer Ryman called over to Kenny. "Come on, kiddo! Kendo is waiting for us!"

They left Rita and Bernice starting a new conversation beginning with Bernice's gratitude for her efforts in rounding up the book club applications. Officer Ryman and Kenny continued towards the east wing, heading for the parking garage where Kenny had picked up the supplies for the new recruit, Rebecca Chambers.

"I don't think that was called for, Officer Ryman," Kenny chided him as Rita and Bernice's voices faded into the distance.

"Sorry about that, buddy," he replied, half paying attention. "Didn't mean to hurt ya if I did."

"No, I mean threatening Bernice."

Officer Ryman stopped in his tracks, causing Kenny to scramble to avoid crashing into him. Officer Ryman peered over his shoulder at him, bushy eyebrow cocked. "Why would you read into that as a threat?" he asked, after a moment.

"I found out about the ring today," Kenny explained. He knew that what Bernice agreed to do for Officer Frost would have got her into trouble. Having worked at the precinct longer than Kenny had been alive, she knew the risks and carried that with her every day at the office. She did not need to be reminded, and after spending many hours with her training me in administration work, he'd developed a deep sense of respect for Bernice and felt a little offended on her behalf.

He sighed, and continued walking towards the garage. "Seems like everyone and their dog knows about Frost's intentions," he said. "We're all happy for him, but I hope Amber hasn't caught wind of this yet. Word of advice, Kenny. Try to refrain from getting involved in RPD politics. We're guardians of the law but before that, we're human too. I like Bernice as much as the next guy but as humans, you're flawed, I'm flawed, and so is she. And back there," he nodded in the general direction of the main hall, "I think she just forgot about that for a sec."

Kenny agreed with Officer Ryman's advice. After dealing with Captain Wesker today, the last thing he wanted was starting some kind of feud, and he decided to drop the matter, but not without wrapping it all up in a politically-correct bow. "I'm sorry, Officer Ryman," he apologized, "it's just that you're right. I am flawed too. I screwed up today, prepping for a meeting and it ... well, it doesn't feel good. I didn't mean to lash out like that."

He shot Kenny a sarcastic grin. "If that's all you fucked up on, I'd say you're doing pretty good."

"That's a relief ..." Kenny began but got interrupted, not for the first time today.

"Speaking of threatening Bernice," Officer Ryman began, "while you were showing around the STARS rookie, someone came to the precinct looking for you."

Naturally, Kenny's mind went through his internal rolodex of tasks, racking his brains for what he could have possibly forgotten. He was all caught up with his summer school history projects – expecting to deliver ahead of schedule at this rate, in fact. Rent for the month was paid in advance and he had RSVP'ed to the welcoming soiree this weekend for the new neighbours in Coburg district. Giving up, he had to ask. "Who was it? And what does that have to do with threatening Bernice?"

"I wasn't there at first," he replied honestly, "but I was just headed over to the west wing for some doughnuts our other intern Isaac delivered, and I caught her waving me down. There was a dude at reception, on the other side of the counter. Big dude, yay tall," Officer Ryman horizontally positioned his palm a few inches above his brows. "Suspicious looking, mid to late twenties, easily over two hundred pounds, red hair and jacked as hell. If he had been assaulting Bernice, I'm not sure I could've stopped him alone."

This description was definitely not in the memory banks, and the fact that Kenny couldn't pin down an individual he knew fitting it was alarming. He needed more information. "What did he do to make Bernice escalate this to you?"

"He was agitated," Officer Ryman elaborated. "So I approached him and tried to defuse the situation, but it turns out he just urgently wanted to see you, with such intensity that it scared Bernice. Something didn't feel right so I just sent him away without paging you on the intercom. I'm not sure if I made the right call but Kenny, from the way he was acting, it felt like a threat to me too. I was surprised he actually obliged when I escorted him out."

"Officer Ryman ... " Kenny started, but the fear that suddenly gripped him had a hold on his throat as well. "I don't know anyone fitting that description."

"Think hard," he advised carefully. "Because this guy described you down to a T. That, combined with his aggressive insistence on seeing you, concerned both Bernice and me."

"What?!" Kenny was speechless otherwise. The only words he could manage were, "What ... who ..."

"He didn't leave us with any contact information. Look, Kenny, if you can confirm our suspicions that this guy is bad news bears, then we might be able to open up an investigation. So I'll say it again, buddy. Think hard. Do you know a man fitting that description?"

Kenny looked back at Officer Ryman, fear and paranoia reading all over his features. "No, Officer Ryman. Nobody..."

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