An important reminder that this story is RATED M. This chapter contains scene(s) exploring themes of non-consensual sexual interaction. Readers under 21 years of age, and readers sensitive to this type of material, PLEASE HIT THE BACK BUTTON ON YOUR BROWSER. This author does not condone activity of this type in any way, shape, or form.
Thursday, July 23rd, 1998
Apple Inn Hotel Bar, Downtown Raccoon City
Barbara Wade was seated at the counter of the Apple Inn’s hotel bar. It was luxuriously decorated; a rarity in this part of the city. But still, the surroundings made her feel more at home, just a few districts north. Her vision was swimming, her mouth felt dry and her head throbbed with pain. But the whiskey on the rocks sitting in front of her still have a gulp or two left in it. So she curled her manicured fingers around the cold glass and downed everything in a single gulp. She relished the burn traveling down her esophagus, as she could feel the her pain slide down into her stomach along with it.
Tonight marked the thirty-third consecutive night for the search of the Lascelles Family, who had mysteriously vanished overnight. They were among the heads of Uptown Raccoon society, along with the Lonsdales, the Barretts, the Wilberforces, and the Hartleys. Had it been any other family, Mrs. Wade doubted there would be a search of this magnitude organized for their safe return. Robert and Julianne Lascelles, a former RPD officer turned Private Detective and an professional gardener respectively, were partly responsible for establishing the safety and beauty of uptown Raccoon, particularly the Winterton and Whitchley districts, where the cream of the crop resided.
“Julianne was also my friend,” Mrs. Wade whispered, staring at the construed reflection of herself in the now empty glass she held.
The Lascelles were well known in the community and continued their work even after meeting each other and falling in love and the young age of seventeen. Their daughter Charlotte attended Raccoon City Secondary School and was good friends with her daughter Luanne. But one month ago, they mysteriously vanished. And as luck would have it, tonight was also her night to lead the search in Coburg for the ill-fated family.
Mrs. Wade could imagine the cries of outrage coming from the searches, and she ran them through her head even though each one caused her pain to worsen.
“Of course she’d be leading the search in Coburg. This filthy district is probably where she grew up.”
“You’d think she’d want to be successful in finding the Lascelles. They’re the only reason she and her daughter have a place in Winterton.”
“We should probably just leave her in Downtown. Maybe the cannibal attackers will do us a favor and get rid of her.”
Mrs. Wade held up a finger at the passing bartender with the slicked back hair, who nodded to her in acknowledgement. He got to work right away in pouring her another whiskey on the rocks. She rested her head in a hand while she waited, feeling the return of the headache. Her vision wasn’t getting any steadier. In fact, it had worsened and she felt her stomach threatening to throw up her contents. Perhaps she had drank too much for tonight. Perhaps it would be better for her to take the upcoming drink to go and save it for tomorrow night.
“Mrs. Wade,” a young voice called, to her left. She looked sleepily at the direction of the voice and spotted the blurry figure of Kenneth Feng, another one of Luanne’s friends. Shit. Struggling to regain her composure, Mrs. Wade straightened her back and folded her hands on the counter. But even through her inebriated state, she could tell that the kid wasn’t buying it.
“Oh hi, Kenny,” she said weakly. “Thank you for taking over the search for me. I’m afraid I wasn’t quite up to the challenge tonight.”
“I didn’t,” he admitted. “Mrs. Hartley did, after Lisa told her you had left.”
Double-shit. Word of her abandonment had now reached the Uptown parents. Of course it would have. News traveled at light speed in this community, and she’d hear more about her actions tonight at the next Parent-Teacher Advisory Council next month, Mrs. Wade as sure of it. Kenny took a step closer.
“Everyone’s worried about where you are,” he explained. “They’re not looking for the Lascelles anymore. Now they’re looking for you. You have to go home and get some rest. I’ll spread the word that you’re safe and everyone can go home.”
“Are they really looking for me, Kenny?” Mrs. Wade asked. She attempted to hide her cynicism to avoid upsetting the poor kid. She thought to continue her sentence, and explain that aside from the Lascelles, nobody from Uptown would care if she lived or died; nobody except her daughter, Luanne. The young teen nodded earnestly in response.
“Fine, I’m just finishing up here,” she said. “You go on home first.” She already had in her hand the freshly filled glass, plopped down in front of her by the bartender just a few moments before. Unfortunately for Kenny, the bartender had taken notice of his presence.
“Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re going to ask your young friend to vacate the premises,” he said. “No minors are permitted here after 8pm.”
“He was just on his way out,” Mrs. Wade assured the bartender, and signaled for Kenny to leave with a flick of her wrist.
“I’ll let everyone know you’re safe,” Kenny said, turning around to leave. “Just make sure you’ll get home to Luanne, Mrs. Wade.”
Kenny made his brisk exit, nearly bumping into a newcomer to the bar, a tall red-headed man who glared down at the young teen. They stood facing each other for an awkward moment, his broad musculature dwarfing Kenny’s modest stature. Mrs. Wade felt her legs tense and fists clench, ready to jump to Kenny’s aid should he need it.
Instead, the teen bowed his head politely and mumbled an earnest apology before continuing on his way out. The stranger continued to stare after him, even after Kenny had exited the building. After a few moments, he picked up his pace and swaggered into the bar, glancing at Mrs. Wade on his way in. The man had a moderately handsome face, and although appeared to be at least twice Kenny’s age, even through her drunken stupor, it was clear to Mrs. Wade that he was far too young for her to elicit any interest.
She refocused on the drink in front of her and finished the thing in one gulp, while shouldering her handbag in one swift motion. Mrs. Wade reached into her breast pocket and produced a credit card, placing it down on the counter as the bartender retrieved it, inserting it into a handheld machine before handing it over to her. She signed the resulting receipt and marched out of the bar, looking forward to the warmth of her bed.
The cool evening air felt refreshing against her skin as she walked through the threshold of the Apple Inn’s lobby doors. Mrs. Wade’s eyes scanned the road for the familiar lineup of yellow taxi’s usually parked outside awaiting potential clients but for the moment, she saw none. Perhaps she’d just missed the last cab, but there would be another in a matter of minutes anyhow. Just as she had settled into a comfortable standing position to await the next taxi’s arrival, Mrs. Wade felt a cold, slimy hand trace a path along the name of her neck, causing her to shudder with uneasiness. She turned her head to face Brian Irons, Chief of the Raccoon City Police Department. He grinned at her from beneath a thick bushy mustache. His slicked back hair gleamed subtly in the moonlight.
“Chief Irons,” Mrs. Wade gasped, surprised. “What brings you around these parts?” It was a stupid question, she recognized. The precinct was only a few blocks away with the only other nearby bar being J’s. And even sometimes, the place left a little to be desired. It was no wonder she’d run into someone she knew here at the Apple Inn.
“The scenery,” the Chief replied, gently running the back of his hand down Mrs. Wade’s cheek. A waft of booze hit her like a wall. He’d been drinking too; vodka, if Mrs. Wade had to guess. His hand lingered on her face, and she took Chief Irons by the wrist and slowly removed it. His dark eyes squinted in confusion, his mouth frowned beneath a bushy brown mustache that reminded her of a broom head.
“No, Chief,” she said gently. “Not tonight.”
“You’ve been distant lately,” Chief Irons replied, advancing on her despite Mrs. Wade’s reluctance. She felt his tubby belly rub up against hers, forcing her to take a step back in disgust. He took his large, clammy hands and clasped them around her shoulders. He put his round, fat nose into the side of her neck and sniffed deeply, taking in her womanly scent. Mrs. Wade’s skin broke out into goosebumps as the hairs on his mustache tickled her skin. “I’ve missed you, Barbara.”
She placed her hands on his chest and pushed the rotund chief away with enough strength to fall short of violent. “Brian, that’s enough.” Her tone was as strong as her stance. Her summer skirt and ends of her shoulder length blonde hair flapped in the contrastingly gentle night breeze.
As if suddenly possessed by a demon, the Police Chief turned violent without warning. He dashed at her and their bodies collided. His weight advantaged slammed her thin frame against the brick exterior of the Apple Inn, knocking the breath out of her. Mrs. Wade yelped in surprise, and fear. He had his forearm pressed against her collarbone, pinning her to the wall. His free hand snaked its way under her dress, travelled up the inside of her thigh until it reached ...
“NO!” Mrs. Wade screamed desperately. She pushed against his body with her arms, but his strength, combined with his weight against her rendered her efforts fruitless. He brought his mouth up to her ear and licked her lobe, and whispered harshly.
“You owe me,” he hissed. “You think the banks would have approved the mortgage to purchase your Winterton home with a credit history like yours?” She heard his words, but if Mrs. Wade was listening, she didn’t show it. Instead, rivers of tears flowed from the corners of her eyes, squeezed shut with horror. “You think your daughter Luanne would be going to the finest school in the city, instead of St. Michael’s High? I’ve bent over backwards for you, my dear. So the least you could do is put the fuck out!” Mrs. Wade let out a loud sob as he began planting rough kisses all over her neck. Downstairs, his fingers had nearly pried their way into her when a deep male voice caused him to freeze.
“Get your greasy hands off the lady before I break them.”
The Chief paused his unwelcome advances on Mrs. Wade and turned to look over at the interruption. He moved his head and cleared the view for her to see who it was, and she immediately recognized him as the man Kenny brushed shoulders with as he left the bar - the tall red-haired stranger. He stood nearly a head taller than the Chief, broad shouldered, thick-necked, and fists the size of small boulders. Despite his intimidating appearance, the Chief didn’t seem fazed in the least. Instead, he let Mrs. Wade go and stepped toward the man in confrontation.
As soon as she had been released, she collapsed against the wall and slid down, into a squatting position. The grip of fear loosened and from beneath it escaped desperate sobs from the narrow escape. Neither of the men paid her any heed however, as they squared off, sizing each other up.
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” the Chief threatened.
“I didn’t know pieces of shit had names,” the stranger replied.
“Hah,” the Chief let out a sarcastic guffaw, jowls shaking, and followed up with a vicious right hook to the stranger’s jaw that Mrs. Wade did not see coming.
The first punch had been thrown.
Friday, July 24th, 1998
Terror struck that night, in a dark sterile room in the center of which stood a cold, metal table lit only by a single lamp casting it in a blinding spotlight. Its tiled floor and walls reeked of disinfectant that seemingly coated them in lacquered layers. At first glance, Kenny made out a mound of flesh lying on the table, partially wrapped in a burgundy fabric. And then it twitched causing his heart to leap into his throat with the realization that the mound of flesh was alive.
Kenny strafed the perimeter of the room, eyes locked onto whatever it was on the table, to get a better sense of what he was looking at. As he moved, the angle of the mound changed and Kenny’s brain registered the depth of the form which he slowly recognized as the body of a young boy, barely old enough for school. He laid on his belly upon the metal table, head turned away. If he was cold, he wasn’t shivering to show it. The boys shirt was rolled up to his chest, his lower back exposed to the chilling air. Kenny assumed that the burgundy fabric, wrapped loosely around him, served as a blanket and he could see now that it was spotted with patches of white ...
Kenny fell to his knees, sick to his stomach with every gory detail his brain registered. The blanket was white, stained beyond salvation to burgundy with the boy’s own blood. Kenny’s stomach churned and he dry heaved onto the ground, literally gagging with the overwhelming shock and disgust. Hot tears stung his eyes as he knelt, sobbing and trying to vomit, pinned to the spot with the weight of the sensory overload. Kenny was going to help the boy - he just needed to gather himself first ... one minute.
But the window of opportunity closed without warning with the whirring sound of a drill. Snapping back into the present, Kenny’s gaze darted back and forth around the room trying to locate the direction of the sound, but beyond the pool of light was nothing but a dark abyss. The boy reacted to the sound too, in the form of a weak plea.
The whirring of the drill suddenly raised in pitch and in volume and Kenny felt the first waves of panic start to grip at the edges of his sanity. He continued searching for the source of the sound. He buckled his knees, ready to pounce on the child at the first chance he got at the first visual cue, to shield the boy with his body. And then it came, in the form of a silhouette - a man, slight in stature and modest in build, pulling along with him a wheeled tray, just as cold and metallic as the table upon which the child lay.
“DADDY!” The child cried again, more desperately this time. Kenny stepped in to intervene, to cover the boy and that was when he saw the clamps around the child’s wrists, neck and ankles, anchoring him to the table. What kind of sick mother fucker would do this to a ...
Kenny’s thoughts were cut off by movement overhead, by a mechanical arm that lowered itself into the pool of light, at the end of which sat the source of the whirring; the meanest looking stainless steel spiral drill bit he had ever seen, at least six inches long. Light glinted cruelly from its surface. The mechanical arm moved with calculated precision, finally settling with the drill bit positioned a few feet directly over the child’s lower back.
“I want to go home,” the child whimpered. “I want to see Mommy.”
The man never entered the pool of light, choosing to remain at its edge where Kenny could barely make out his details - glasses and a surgical mask. Did the boy know, who he was talking to? Was this figure his father? Whoever he was, the man remained silent and motionless, except to adjust the glasses on his face. Kenny took a step towards him, to demand some answers - but a step was all he was able to take. The drill roared to life and began descending rapidly down onto the child, instantly redirecting Kenny’s attention to him.
“Daddy, please don’t ...” the boy begged. Kenny jumped to cover him not really knowing what it would accomplish. “Daddy, no ... please, NO!”
“Daddy, please NO!” Kenny suddenly found himself begging. But his body never found the surface on the table and continued falling into darkness, jolting him awake. “DADDY NOOOOOO!” Kenny shrieked like the child, sitting up in bed, crawling over the sheets, hands desperately clawing at the sheets to find something solid to hold on to. He knew he was awake at that point but the panic attack hadn’t subsided. The sound of the drill was still burned into his eardrums, and Kenny swore he could have still heard them.
As the nightmare faded into reality after a few seconds, Kenny’s brain started taking over his instincts. He was in his bedroom and after taking a sniff, detected no sterilizing chemicals. The wooden floors and stucco walls, though he could not immediately see them in the darkness, were a far cry from the tiled room. The once exception was the moonlight shining through the open window, casting its own pool of light at the foot of the bed, though square in shape and nowhere near as large as what was in the nightmare. Kenny felt a tickle on both lower eyelids from the tears that spilled. He coughed, feeling the rawness in his throat. He’d been screaming as he slept.
The sound of the drill, as it had turned out, was the ringing of the home phone. It had been an exhausting day at the station and the night search for the Lascelles. He remembered falling asleep upon returning from finding Mrs. Wade at the Apple Inn Bar. He glanced at the alarm clock - 12:43 pm, not late in the teenage world - and took a moment to collect himself before answering by the eighth ring, before the answering machine could kick into action.
The older male voice on the other end sounded worried. “You don’t sound so good, buddy. Did something happen?”
Had it been anyone else, Kenny would’ve lied and covered his shock from the nightmare, but knew the caller would call me out on it, so he saved the trouble of having him force the information out. “Yeah,” Kenny sniffed, “it happened again, Uncle Ken.”
“I see.” His tone dripped with sorrow, and they both went silent for a moment. But then he spoke again, calmly, and logically. “Night terrors are common amongst kids. It takes some longer to grow out of them than others. As long as you keep in mind that they are a product of your mind, and pose no physical threat to you, you’ll eventually notice them fading in frequency and then stop all together.”
“How did I get the scar on my lower back, Uncle Ken?” Kenny subconsciously reached behind and traced his finger over the four inch scar that ran vertically along his lower spine, feeling the familiar nooks and crannies of the scar tissue. “That kid I saw ... was that me?”
Uncle Ken sighed with exasperation on the other side. “I told you, Kenny. Your spine was misaligned when you were born. That scar is all that remains of the procedure to correct it before your bones had a chance to harden. You were comfortably sedated lying on an operation table, not fully conscious and secured to a butcher’s prep table. These nightmares are probably nothing more than remnants of your emotions during that time, manifesting themselves in the worst possible way. You have got to stop trying to find some deeper meaning behind these night terrors that don’t actually exist, if you want to stop experiencing them.”
“It just felt so real,” he said, not knowing how else to justify his questions.
“They tend to,” Uncle Ken said sympathetically. He gave Kenny a moment to absorb his words before continuing. “Anyway, I’m calling to let you know that next month’s allowance is coming in early, sans the money for rent since we paid that in advance. I’m going on an extended vacation with your Aunt Eliza and I’d like to stay away from banking during that time. You have plans for any big purchases coming up?”
“No,” Kenny replied, “in between summer school and work at the police station, I don’t really have time to indulge in anything more than daily expenses. But thanks for letting me know.”
“You’ve always been a hard worker, Kenny,” Uncle Ken said, “and these nightmares, maybe you need to take it easy for awhile. Splurge and get yourself something nice.”
“It would be nice,” Kenny offered, “if you guys come to Raccoon City for a visit. It’s been years since I’ve seen you. We could go to the zoo - the only zoo in the county to have a real life elephant! Then we could see the largest clock tower in the mid-west, St. Michaels Tower, and ride the city tram that would take us there!” The prospect of showing Uncle Ken and Aunt Eliza the wonders that Raccoon City had to offer excited him, making him almost forget about the night terrors he jolted awake from minutes ago.
“No.” His words were solemn, tinted with regret, but mostly stated as a matter of fact. “Limited contact, Kenny. You know this.”
“Doesn’t mean I understand why,” Kenny retorted bitterly. “Everyone else at school and the police station has a family. And Officer Frost and Officer Bernstein are about to start one of their own. I’m the only one here without - ”
“WE are your family,” Uncle Ken interrupted, mildly irritated. “Just because we’re not there doesn’t mean we love you any less. You understand that, don’t you, Kenny?”
He had a point, but it still didn’t sit right with Kenny no matter which angle he looked at the situation. ‘Limited contact’ Uncle Ken called it, without giving Kenny a shred of reasoning as to why it had to be that way. And every time Kenny brought it up, he would be advised to stop looking back and keep his focus on the future, to focus on building a life for himself in Raccoon city. Exhausted from the day and the nightmares, Kenny decided that now wasn’t the time for an argument, but the topic was far from coming to a close. “I understand.”
"Good,” he said. “You can expect your allowance to be deposited a week from tomorrow. In the mean time, you take care of yourself. I’ll check back next month. Goodnight, kiddo.”
“Goodnight, Uncle Ken.” The phone clicked as he hung up and Kenny was once against left to the silence and darkness of his bedroom. His eyes darted to the square pool of moonlight on the floor at the foot of the bed as he recalled the nightmare, now slightly faded after the conversation. The lingering memories of it sent a chill up his spine, as I once again crawled under the covers, feeling very much alone.
Kenny fell gradually asleep to under the light of the full moon shining through his window, and what the depths of his mind registered as human moans, barely audible, from the forests beyond the city limits.
Raccoon City Police Precinct
The barred gates of the jail cell slammed with a deafening shut that echoed off the concrete basement walls. Cranky had been led down here by a stocky, well groomed Officer whose clean-shaven jaw and slicked hair made him look like he’d be more comfortable on a yacht on the open ocean eating caviar and sipping champagne with a following of import car models. If Cranky had been ten years younger, this was a man he would have targeted as a victim whose wallet was ripe for the picking. A quick glance at his badge pegged his name as Tim Lonsdale, and surname that he recognized.
The Lonsdale Construction Group was, at least in the United States, a domestic developer of railroad parts and equipment. Their logo was plastered along the walls of most subway stations in the country that Cranky had seen, and it wasn’t until his arrival into Raccoon City that he noticed they were local to the town - even having the center of the city’s railway lines, Raccoon’s answer to New York’s Grand Central Station, named after them - Lonsdale Yard. He wondered if this Officer was in any way affiliated with the group, or if his shared name was simply coincidence. Though, it would explain the prep look he sported.
Officer Lonsdale locked the gate, leaving Cranky seated on the fold-out bench inside the cell, wrists handcuffed together, to rot for who knew how long until someone came for him. His was the very last cell in a row of three. Strangely enough, the two other holding cells in the basement of the RPD Precinct were empty. This little fact contributed to his opinion that the small quiet mountain city was more peaceful and quiet than anything he was used to. Holding cells were never unoccupied at any time of the day in bigger cities, and he knew from experience. It was almost too quiet for him. Beyond the bars, he spotted a wooden shelf on which sat a box of state of the art arrows for a bow gun. He thought it was strange that they would leave ammunition sitting out here in the open, instead of locking it safely away in storage.
It had been roughly two hours since Cranky was met by Officer Lonsdale and a colleague at the lobby of the Apple Inn. He’d had a hard time getting to bed after treating his bloody knuckles with a layer of aloe lotion provided by the hotel, and wrapping them nice and tight with the laces from his shoes. His bruised face was screaming bloody murder but had eventually overcame the pain and found some level of sleep for the night. But he couldn’t have been asleep for longer than a few minutes before the phone call came for him to meet with the police downstairs.
Cranky had taken the elevator down to meet them. His jaw and cheekbone hurt from when the Chief landed some pretty good jabs. His lip was split and had since developed a gash of dried blood. Knuckles were torn open and the laces that he had wrapped around them were crusted with coagulated blood that pinched his raw skin. Despite his bruised, torso, face and knuckles, Cranky was definitely looking much better than the state he’d left the police Chief in - only recently learning who the man was - bloody and battered on the pavement. The woman he’d stopped from receiving a full-on rape was nearly inconsolable when he’d approached her, sitting against the wall of the hotel crying uncontrollably. This wasn’t Cranky’s first time in a jail cell and he’d be damned if he didn’t think it a trip to the hotel bar for fries and a milkshake to curb his midnight munchies would ever lead to one. He thought the good Officers were there to take a statement from him and was appalled that they were in fact there to lock him up. Raccoon City might have been a small town, but pigs were pigs no matter where one went.
And speaking of pigs, his thoughts were interrupted by Officer Lonsdale once again, this time with an unnamed colleague. He unhooked the ring of keys from his belt and slid the door open. Cranky stood up and cooperated, allowed each officer to take an elbow and lead him down the dark, dank cement corridors towards the parking garage. If the cells were meant to keep potential inmates isolated from the general hustle and bustle of the police station, they certainly did the job, located underground at the farthest tip of the building’s east wing.
“You hardly gave me any time to marinate in there,” Cranky commented to the two silent Officers escorting him across the parking garage. They responded by grabbing his elbows tighter and walking him faster to their final destination, wherever it lay in this castle of a precinct.
A short walk up the stairs to the main floor of the station, through the east office, and around another corridor was where they led him, right towards a fluorescent lit room with a one way mirror embedded on a wall. A table was placed at the center of the room, at which Mrs. Wade was seated. She’d cleaned up a little since their encounter. Her hair looked a little damp from a recent shower. The makeup that ran down her face with tears earlier was cleaned off, revealing delicate porcelain skin. Instead of the floral summer dress, she was now covered in a gray business suit and a matching knee-length skirt. Her solemn face morphed at the sight of him, into an expression of internal pain. He must have looked like hell to elicit that kind of reaction out of her. Officer Lonsdale and his colleague deposited Cranky in the seat facing Mrs. Wade. They looked at each other for a moment, neither party sure how to start the conversation.
“Are you okay?” they asked in unison. Still awkward.
Mrs. Wade sniffed into her handkerchief. “I can’t believe you’re asking me that when you’re the one looking like that.”
Cranky gave an indifferent shrug. “I’ll be fine in days. You won’t.” Mrs. Wade didn’t respond. Instead, she continued staring at the wooden pattern of the table top in front of her, where Cranky had his hands folded, fingers on one hand hiding the bloody knuckles of the other. “Mind telling me why our fine Officers brought me up here? I was trying to get some sleep.” His tone dripped with sarcasm.
“I spoke with the Chief,” Mrs. Wade finally said. She brought her eyes up from the table to meet his gaze. “Nobody’s pressing any charges. You’re here to be released.”
Cranky’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean nobody’s pressing charges? What are you doing talking to the man who tried to rape you hours ago?”
“Battery of a police officer is a serious crime,” she explained.
“No shit,” Cranky spat. “So is attempted rape.”
Mrs. Wade shook her head. “Brian is a powerful man. I offered not to press charges if he would extend the courtesy to you.”
“Brian?” he asked, appalled. “You’re on a first name basis with the creep? A creep who’s in charge of,” Cranky twirled a finger in the air, “all this?!”
She nodded and brought her handkerchief back to her nose. “Thank you for interfering when you did,” she said, trying to end the conversation. “I hope I’ve returned the favor.” She then nodded to Officer Lonsdale’s colleague, who approached Cranky with the keys to his cuffs. She picked up her handbag from the floor and began heading towards the door.
Though Cranky let the Officer uncuff him, he was steadfast in his resolve to not let the conversation die there. He chased after her.
“Hey, I’m not finished here!”
Mrs. Wade walked quickly, high heels tapping on the flooring a few paces ahead, widening the gap between them the longer the officer continued to fumble with his handcuffs. As soon as he was freed, Cranky stood up from the chair and jogged after her.
“Lady, if you don’t press charges, you’re keeping that sicko in power,” he protested.
“Stirring shit up with people at that level isn’t worth the trouble it will bring,” she replied, not slowing down one bit. “News spreads fast in Uptown. I can’t afford to throw away everything I’ve got just because some slimeball slid his hand up my dress.”
“He was going to do worse.” Cranky protested.
“Yes, but because of you, he didn’t.” She stopped in her tracks and he followed suite, and they both now stood outside the doors of the east office, in the waiting area. “And I’m repaying the favor now by releasing you from rotting for the rest of your life in some prison.”
Cranky threw his hands in the air. “So, that’s it, then? We’re even, so let’s pretend like none of this ever happened?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” Mrs. Wade confirmed, whispering harshly. “Now, dial down your tone, Mr. Crankurt, before you draw any more attention.”
“You’re unbelievable,” he said with exasperation, clapping a hand to his forehead.
“No, I just live in Raccoon City,” Mrs. Wade countered, “and going by the sound of your rhetoric, you’ve been here barely a week!”
“Barely a day,” Cranky corrected.
As the argument died down, the both of them gradually became more aware of their surroundings. Movement in the window of the east office drew Cranky’s attention. The room was unusually populated with police officers at this time of the morning, with roughly half of them talking frantically on phones, while the other half ran around with stacks of papers in their hands. He cocked his head in the direction of the office.
“No other deadbeats in the cells downstairs,” Cranky said, “So what are these guys fussing over?”
Mrs. Wade’s expression was one of concern, now that she too had seen the spectacle. All pretenses from their previous conversation were gone, now that this new mystery had caught their attention. “I’m not sure. I mean, the attacks on hikers have been increasing lately. But to warrant this kind of attention? Something serious must have happened.”
The officers behind the windows spoke frantically, and loudly, enough for them to listen from where they stood. Cranky and Mrs. Wade, as casually as possible, leaned against the window frame to hear better, though they could only make out snippets of the sentences spoken.
“... departed Raccoon City Lonsdale Yard at 8:15pm, July 22nd. Repeat, Ecliptic Express #722 bound for the Arklay Municipality Region...”
“Regarthon confirms that as of 0300 hours, they have not received the package.”
“... Bravo team is incommunicado. I repeat, STARS Bravo team is ...”
“What the hell is going on?” Mrs. Wade asked rhetorically, though it seemed like she was looking to Cranky for answers.
“Hell if I know,” he replied, transfixed by the chaos in the office.
“Can I help you two?” an authoritative voice interrupted their eavesdropping.
An African American Officer stood before them, thick arms folded in front of chest.
“Oh ... no, Officer,” Cranky stuttered, “we were just ...”
He nodded, cutting him off. “I know what you were ‘just’,” he replied sternly. “This is classified police business. Please wait out in the main hall for assistance.” He gestured towards the door at the far end of the corridor.
“We didn’t mean to intrude, Officer Branagh,” Mrs. Wade said, giving Cranky the suspicion that she was no stranger to the police department for some reason.
“Now is really not a good time, Barbara,” he said, gentler this time. “If you want to know what’s going on, there will be a press conference tomorrow morning, so keep your eye out for the papers. We’re already having a tough time fending off the media hounds.”
“Sure thing, Officer Branagh,” Mrs. Wade replied, heading towards the main hall as ushered by him. Cranky followed her into the large, expansive hall. Officer Branagh accompanied them up until they left the east wing, and closed the door behind them. Cranky and Mrs. Wade exchanged concerned glances, both knowing there wasn’t anything further for them here at the precinct.
They walked out the double doors into the courtyard and Cranky took a deep breath of the fresh night air. Towards the east, the sky obtained a bluish hue, a sign for the imminent sunrise. Mrs. Wade produced her car keys from her breast pocket and clicked a button on the attached keychain. A red sports car parked across the street from the precinct blipped to life, head and tail lights blinking twice.
“Look,” she said, turning to him, “I know I should have said this earlier, but really. Thank you for what you did for me tonight. Not a lot of young guys who’d stick their neck out for a tired old hag like me.”
“I’m sure anyone would have,” Cranky replied, knowing full well how full of shit his statement was. “I’m just glad I got there before anything worse could have happened.”
“You know ...” Mrs. Wade started, but then paused, unsure of how to phrase what she wanted to say. “There’s a thing going on tomorrow night in Whitchley District. A couple of filthy rich neighbours moved in from out of town and they’re throwing a housewarming soiree. I’d love it if you came with me.”
“Umm ...” Now it was Cranky’s turn to struggle for words. “Listen, you’re beautiful woman, but ...”
The look on Mrs. Wade’s face hardened into an angry scowl. “Because the Chief also happens to be on the guest list, along with other high profile guests. And quite frankly I’d like to limit my chances of being alone in his ... company.”
“Isn’t there a Mr. Wade?”
The hard scowl now melted into a sad frown. “He’s ... no longer with us,” she admitted sadly. “He was a local journalist who barked up the wrong tree.” She turned around and looked at the Gothic facade of the precinct they just stepped out of. ” A very big, Umbrella Corporation funded tree. ”
She turned her attention back to Cranky. “So, please say you’ll come with me. It’s the creme de la creme of Uptown’s citizens.”
Up to that point, Cranky was more preoccupied with his objective in Raccoon, but the moment Mrs. Wade mentioned “Uptown”, it captured his interest and conveniently aligned with his goals. “You said anyone who’s anyone in Uptown will be there?”
“And their kids,” Mrs. Wade clarified, almost bitterly.
Cranky fought to contain wide, excited grin, but he managed an interested smile at Mrs. Wade instead. “Looks like I’ll be seeing you tomorrow night then.” Cranky rubbed his hands together from the excitement, though he feigned the chills. Chances were high that his target would be present. His informant forbade him to interfere for the time being, but at least he would be able to observe.
“Need a ride back to the Apple Inn?” Mrs. Wade offered.
“I’ll walk,” he said. “After being cooped up in that jail cell for a few hours, I could really use one.” He turned around to walk off but she stopped him with another question.
“All right then, Mr. Crankurt. I’ll swing by at 6:30pm. I don’t suppose you brought a suit?”
Cranky shot her a look of confusion over his shoulder. “Not exactly. Will I be needing one?”
“Uptown soiree,” Mrs. Wade reminded him. “Make it 5:00pm tomorrow. There’s a boutique downtown specializing in formal wear and galla costumes. They’ve got a lot of items including a replica STARS women’s outfit, and a futuristic battle suit coupled with a red wig. But they’ll be sure to carry suits for someone of your ...” she motioned at him with her hands “... proportions.”
Cranky rolled his eyes. “Sounds more like brand identity crisis to me.”
“All right, I’d better get home to Luanne. I’ll see you at 5:00pm sharp at the lobby, Mr. Crankurt.”
“Have a good night, Mrs. Wade. See you then.”
Raccoon City Secondary School
“You look like hell.”
Kenny removed the smoking cigarette from his mouth with two fingers and stared incredulously at his lanky friend, Justin Thomas. “Well aren’t you just a stud muffin this morning,” he retorted sarcastically, reaching over, grabbing the rim of Justin’s backwards baseball cap and twisted it on his head so that it faced forward. The movement shifting long brown bangs over his friend’s eyes. Once positioned properly, Kenny gave his friend a pat on the head, while he scowled in protest. “Much better.”
“Screw off,” Justin said, swatting Kenny’s hand away. They shared a good-hearted chuckle before settling down again. “But seriously, dude. What’s with the grocery bags under your eyes? Stayed up too late playing video games again? I swear, Mrs. Bietelbaum was growling at you for almost falling asleep in class this morning. Late yesterday, now this? It’s not like you, Kenny. Practicing for a rematch against Bernstein at the arcades again?”
“No,” Kenny confessed, shaking his head. “I wasn’t playing video games. No amount of practice could beat the legendary Jason Bernstein at Road Brawler II: Speed Edition. This is something else.” Kenny looked to the ground with droopy, tired eyes. “I had the dream again.” Just as he did, he felt Justin’s hand come down heavy on his shoulder.
“Yo, K-Feng,” he said supportively, “Night terrors aren’t anything to be ashamed of. I told you, I used to have them when I was younger too.”
“We’re fifteen now, for Christ-sakes,” Kenny said, picking away at a rock in his shoe, as the pair of them sat at the front steps of the school. He glanced up at the bright blue sky, checked with random patterns of cotton-like clouds. A flock of geese flew overhead in a perfect V formation. “Aren’t they supposed to stop well before the teenage years?”
Justin shrugged, readjusting the basketball jersey that had scrunched underneath his armpits. “Everyone’s different, man.” He reached into the pocket of his shorts and pulled out a marijuana joint, and held it beneath Kenny’s nose. “This stuff helps.”
Kenny crumpled his face in disgust and pushed Justin’s hand away. “No, that’s not for me. Could never get over the stench.”
“Snooze, you lose,” he said, lighting it up with a lighter that Kenny handed over. Justin took a deep drag, smoking it like Kenny had smoked the cigarette in his hand, now ready to be put out against the concrete steps of the school entrance.
“It just ... felt so real,” Kenny said, hugging his knees. “You know when you wake up from a dream, you could swear it had just happened for real? You usually get over it and realize it was just a stupid dream but this is different. that feeling never went away. And it matches up perfectly with the scar on my back.”
“You’re looking way too deeply into it,” Justin assured him. “Maybe you’re just trying to think up of an explanation of how that ended up there in the first place. I think the noises from the forests at night are starting to get to you.”
“You hear them too?” Kenny asked, suddenly interested.
Justin nodded. “Oh yeah,” he said, midway through a deep breath pulled from the joint. He exhaled and a thick plume of white smoke emerged from his mouth, along with the stench that Kenny found hard to stomach. “It’s lower than a baritone, but some nights I hear them. Sounds like people if you listen closely enough.”
“It doesn’t creep you out?” Kenny asked, hoping for some answers.
“No way,” Justin replied. “My parents say it’s just the wind blowing through the trees.”
“That would raise the pitch,” Kenny countered, “not lower it to a baritone.”
“You got a better explanation?”
“No,” Kenny said, accepting defeat. “You’re lucky you’ve got your parents to explain your suspicions away.”
Justin choked upon his next exhale. “We’re not having this conversation again, are we?”
Kenny put his hands up in defense. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring us down that road.”
“They’re out there,” Justin assured, for the hundredth time in their five year friendship. “That rich Uncle of yours is helping you, isn’t he? And with the connections you’ve got here in Raccoon, it’s only a matter of time before you find your family.”
“I know,” Kenny said in resignation, “I just wish I could remember -”
But the conversation died there, in an instant.
“Oh my gosh,” the familiar piercing voice interrupted. Both Kenny and Justin instinctively shuddered, a response common among the students of Raccoon City Secondary School upon registering the voice of Julie Wilberforce. The two boys turned their heads into the direction of the sound and spotted Julie, in all her bedazzled glory, heading towards them, with her entourage in tow. Except this morning, Kenny noticed, her usual groupie of four girls had been reduced to three. Luanne was missing.
Apparently, Justin had noticed too, as he tipped his chin in her direction. “Looks like the Bee Hive is one member short today,” he quipped.
“Ugh,” Julie replied, rolling her eyes, “Luanne called in absent today. Something about her Mom going through a tough time.” She joined Justin and Kenny, her remaining three girls standing behind her glaring at them with arms folded. “Look at you,” she said, giving Justin a light kick on the toe of his shoe. “Smoking pot in front of the school. I swear to God, Justin Thomas, it’s like you’re purposely ruining your future in this town.” She rested her elbow against her hip. Both boys covered their noses at the overwhelming odor of her lavender perfume.
“The fuck do you want, Julie?” Justin asked, irritably. Julie shifted her weight onto her opposite leg, barely covered by the thigh high skirt fastened around her waist.
“Oh? Aren’t you happy to see me?” she sneered. “Of course not. Who am I kidding? After all, you got what you wanted from me last summer, you sorry excuse for a man.”
He stared back at her hatefully. “Me, and half the school. And to be honest, I was expecting more but, meh,” he shrugged, “the burger never tastes as good as it looks on TV.”
Julie swiped the joint from Justin’s fingers and took a deep drag herself. He was being a gentleman about it, letting her do as she would. Dumb as he was, Kenny knew Justin knew better than to piss off a Wilberforce. When she was done, Julie dangled the joint in front of him. Justin looked back her fully expecting her to hand it back to him. Instead, she dropped in on the ground, causing Justin to give a soft yelp of dismay. She brought a designer shoe down upon the joint, snuffing the embers, flattening it to the thickness of a sheet of paper. Her face contorted into a twisted smile as she flew a thick plume of white smoke in the air, smiling evilly down at Justin’s shocked expression.
He stood up angrily to confront the school’s Queen Bee. “Piss off, Wilberforce,” he hissed angrily. “What are you trying to do, start up some trouble? ”
She rolled her eyes, not the least bit intimidated by Justin though he stood half a foot taller than her. “There are better things to do with my life than waste it by making yours miserable,” she sneered. “You’re doing a good job of that already. Besides, I came here to talk to Kenny.”
She bent down, took Kenny by the elbow and pulled the shorter boy to his feet, while he protested. “The hell?!” he cried.
“Don’t you even dare,” Justin threatened her. “One word to Phil Barrett and your little empire is gonna come crashing down on itself overnight.”
Julie let out a fake laugh. “Phil?! If that meathead is the best you boys can come up with, I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Still holding her grasp on Kenny’s elbow, she began walking away with him in tow.
“Hey!” Justin protested.
“Girls!” Julie ordered. “Make sure Justin Thomas doesn’t get within ten feet of me and Kenny!”
Like perfectly trained soldiers in high heels and mini-skirts, Julie’s groupies formed a line between her and Kenny, and Justin. They crossed their arms over their ribs and glared menacingly at him while Julie scurried away with his friend.
“What’s this all about, Wilberforce?” Kenny demanded the moment they were far enough away that Justin couldn’t hear their conversation.
“You’re a nice guy, Kenny,” she replied, “you really are. And I know you care a lot about other people. Just like my best friend Lisa.”
“One,” Kenny held a finger in the air, “you know as well as I do that you’re using Lisa’s status to boost yours, so cut the crap. And two, I know where you’re taking this little conversation and I’m not interested in entertaining you.”
“What?” Julie replied, faking a gasp. “Don’t you care about Lisa?”
Now it was Kenny’s turn to roll his eyes. “Of course I do. Now really, get to the point.”
“Look,” Julie sighed, “I know you, Justin, Phil and the other guys have your differences with me and the girls. But Lisa bridges our two groups, don’t you agree?”
Kenny shrugged. “She just tries to make peace with everyone,” he admitted. “It’s not a bad thing. In fact, I wish I had the gall to attempt a feat like that. But you,” he jabbed a finger at Julie, “You’re always making things worse. If Lisa bridges our two groups, you’re the one perpetuating the gap. And the bridge is about to snap. So you’ll pardon me if your concern comes as a bit of a surprise.”
“I’m concerned because we’re losing her,” Julie said. All pretense of fake emotion had left her tone, which had now transformed into a cold, business-like matter-of-fact assessment. She’s been distant as of late, stopped inviting us to parties at her place, acting like she’s not interested in talking to us. It’s ever since she met that stupid puppy dog of a lover, Jack Carpenter.”
“Umm ... you’re the one who organized all the parties at Lisa’s place without even telling her.”
“The point is, those parties don’t happen anymore.”
“Well I wouldn’t blame her, Jules,” Kenny said, walking ahead of her. “Lisa seems to really like Jack. And we haven’t exactly been welcoming to the guy. Between us and him, it’s a no-brainer on her part.”
Julie took Kenny by the shoulder and spun him around to face her. “I’m not losing my best friend to downtown scum, Kenny,” she insisted. “We all know what they’re like; dirty, penniless, amoral ... and that is exactly what Jack is. How can you just stand idly by and let him take advantage of a sweet girl like Lisa?”
“Because I don’t think he is,” Kenny replied simply, “but I sure as hell think you are. She’s happy with him, Jules. And there’s no way the likes of him will ever be counted among our ranks. I told her what I think about him, so what she chooses to do now falls squarely on her shoulders. If it’s worth it to her losing all of us and keeping him, then good for her. And if he’s just using her for a good lay, she can’t accuse us of not voicing our concerns.”
His response didn’t satisfy Julie, as she glared hatefully at him. “You’re not helping the situation.”
“Then what do you want me to do?!” he asked, exasperated.
“I want you to separate them,” Julie said with finality. “I want my best friend back.”
“And how exactly do you propose I do that?” Kenny asked.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, another slimy smile forming on her face, “but I trust you’ll find a way.”
Kenny shook his head. “Kiss my ass, Julie. I’m not helping you start the next popularity gong-show of the school year. I’m struggling enough to keep my friendship with Lisa without your interference.” He turned around to head back to Justin, who remained where they were earlier, facing off with the three of Julie’s groupies.
“My father’s a lawyer, Kenny,” she caled after him. “I know about your status here in America.” He spun around, eyes and nostrils flared in anger. How in the world did Julie know? She wore a smug smile on her face, hands folded behind her back in mock modesty. “Word gets around the school pretty damn fast. I know all about the shit you say about me behind my back, but I also know all the shit people say about you."
“You wouldn’t dare, you sniveling little ...”
“One phone call to my father about the legitimacy of just how you infiltrated our cozy little mountainside community and you’ll be booted back to Japan.” Kenny couldn’t believe what he was hearing. the life he’d worked so hard to build for himself was threatened by a high school girl over some popularity contest. It seemed inconceivable, but here she was, standing right before him muttering that very threat.
“If you don’t help me with our little issue with Jack Carpenter,” Julie continued, her voice sing-song voice soft and sly, “I will see to it that my father gets you out of this country on the same leaky boat Jack came on.”