Resident Evil: A Change In Pace

4. Shadows

Chapter Four: Shadows

Several hours later...

Yawning, Claire Redfield stumbled out of her bedroom, and shambled towards the bathroom, a change of clothes and various toiletries in one hand. Minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom, fresh from her shower, dressed in casual clothes. As she pulled her hair back into her ponytail, she saw that the door to the guest room was open.

Chris was still in bed, so that left Claire with only one conclusion. Someone was inside.

Frowning slightly, Claire made her way towards the room. Peeking inside, she saw Jill unpacking several articles of clothing and placing them in one of the drawers.

“Are you gonna stare at me all day, Claire?”

Claire let out a small 'eep' as she realized that Jill knew that she was standing there as she continued to unpack her clothes. How in the hell did Jill know that she was standing there?

Jill turned to face the younger Redfield, a small smile on her face as she savored the shocked look on the teenage girl. “You learn how to pick up certain sounds when you're a thief. Something that my dad taught me. And since there's only two people in this house, not counting myself, and your brother is still fast asleep, you were the only other choice.”

“So what Chris told me about you was true,” Claire replied as she entered the room.

Jill nodded. “Yup. One of the best Not as good as my old man, though. He was mostly into houses, while I broke into cars. But I got arrested and the judge gave me a choice: jail or join the military. So I did a stint in the Army. After I got out, the R.P.D. hired me.”

Claire leaned up against the dresser. “So what are you doing here?”

“My apartment building caught fire,” Jill explained as she continued to unpack. “Chris is allowing me to stay here for the moment.”

“Oh. Then again, I'm not surprised at Chris's decision,” Claire said. “He always believed that the highest degree of duty was service towards others. Something that our dad taught us.”

“Sounds like a smart man, your dad,” Jill replied. She then gestured to a small red chamois cloth on the dresser next to Claire. “Can you hand me that, please?”

Claire nodded and picked the item up. Her curiosity was piqued when she heard metal jingling. “What's this?” she asked.

“My old lockpick set,” Jill replied. “Dad gave them to me,” she explained as Claire carefully unwrapped the cloth, revealing several pieces of thin metal. An idea came to her head. “Want me to teach you how to pick a lock?”

Claire thought about it for a moment. “Come to think of it, there is a locked drawer in my room. I kinda lost the key several days ago.”

Jill smiled. “Show me.”

*&^

The master bedroom door opened and out stepped Chris Redfield. Despite the stubble on his lower jaw and chin, he was clean and fresh from his shower.

Cracking his neck muscles, he decided to check in on his new roommate. Looking inside the bedroom, he saw that it was empty.

“Okay, now stick the second piece inside the hole.”

Jill's voice came from Claire's bedroom. Curious, Chris inched his way towards his sister's bedroom, the custom made sign which read 'CLAIRE'S LOVELY SUITE – KEEP OUT – THAT MEANS YOU' hanged from the door.

Peeking inside, Chris watched as Claire was on her knees, kneeling in front of her locked drawer, while Jill stood behind and over Claire. Chris noticed what Jill had on – a black midriff shirt which revealed her toned stomach, denim jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. Of course, Jill had her back turned. Chris noticed that Jill had a tattoo that was partially visible on the small of her back. From the look of things, to Chris, it appeared to be of a tribal-esque phoenix.

“Okay, Claire, that's the sweet spot,” Jill explained. “Now turn.”

Claire did as she was told.

CLICK.

Sure enough, the drawer unlocked. “Hey! It worked!” she exclaimed, pulling out her drawer.

Chris then decided to make his presence known. “What's this? The next best thing in female bonding?”

Jill and Claire turned around.

“Wesker's called for a meeting, both Alpha and Bravo teams,” Chris announced. “We're leaving in five minutes.”

"Mind if I come?" Claire asked.

Chris shrugged his shoulders. "I don't mind. Five minutes."

After leaving, Jill turned to Claire. "Five minutes?"

Claire shrugged her shoulders. "He's very practical when it comes to arriving on time. Oh, here's your lockpick back."

Jill looked at the small piece of metal in Claire's hand. "Keep it. May come in handy someday. Pretty useful for picking simple locks. Then again, you can use just about anything to pick a lock. Paper clips, even a screwdriver and a bobby pin."

Claire beamed. "Thanks."

*&^

Raccoon Police Department, later on...

The meeting was pretty straightforward. Apparently, the R.P.D. had been backed up on both paperwork and having able-bodied investigators working. Despite the S.T.A.R.S. helping out as best as they can, Chief Irons had decided that all of S.T.A.R.S. would work twelve-hour shifts for the month, five days a week, while Alpha and Bravo would rotate working the eight-hour graveyard shift on weekends. Wesker was the one who had to give his subordinates the bad news.

As the S.T.A.R.S. grumbled about the new schedule, Claire was upstairs in the S.T.A.R.S. Office, seated at Chris's desk, going through her study guide for her final exams.

Five minutes later, Captain Wesker entered the room, followed by Chris, Jill, Forest, and Barry.

"I still say this stinks to high heaven," Jill said.

"Your discord is duly noted, Jill," Wesker replied. "But my hands are tied. Just as you have to answer to me, I have to answer to Irons." He then caught sight of Claire seated at Chris' desk, reading a book on Physics, while scribbling down some notes. "You brought your sister along?"

Chris nodded. "She wanted to tag along," he admitted. "She's friends with one of the mechanics down at the motor pool, but since Kelly's out sick, she's decided to work on her study guide for her finals."

Wesker nodded in understanding. "Ah. That's right. You're graduating from high school this year."

Claire nodded. "Yup. Then it's off to college for me."

The S.T.A.R.S. commander nodded in agreement. "That's good. Expand your horizons. Any idea as to what you will be majoring in?"

"Not at the moment. I'll probably figure that part out when I graduate in a couple of weeks."

Wesker decided to change the subject. "I heard you had some trouble at your apartment building, Valentine. Everything all right?"

Jill nodded. "Yeah. There was a fire. Several of the apartments on my floor were gutted. Mine partially. No one was hurt, thankfully. Chris is letting me stay in a spare bedroom at his place until I can get on my feet."

Forest was about to say a snide remark about Chris allowing Jill to stay at his home, but a glare from Barry silenced him. Forest decided to change the subject. "Well, since you're still here, Redfield, you owe me a match on the firing range."

"Didn't I beat you the last time?" Chris asked assuming a thoughtful pose.

"You only won because of those female traffic cops distracting me!"

At the moment, both Chris and Forest had two wins apiece. "Your fault, not mine. When you're firing off a gun, can't let no one or nothing distract you. That's how you get killed."

"Or...maybe you don't want to lose in front of your sister," Forest said, trying to provoke Chris into accepting his challenge.

"Are you joking? My sister can kick your ass..." Chris replied, pulling out three $100 bills and placing them on the desk. "And I got three hundred down that says she can."

Claire, in the meantime, was looking at Chris as if he had grown a second head. Claire was even more surprised to see Enrico Marini, who had just walked in on Chris' proclamation, along with Brad, Kenneth and Edward, place three more $100 bills on top of Chris's cash.

"I'll take that bet," the commander of Bravo Team replied. "We'll meet you on the firing range in five minutes." He turned to Forest. "And you better win."

&^%

R.P.D. Firing Range, minutes later.

Chris arrived with Claire and Jill. Forest, Enrico and the rest of S.T.A.R.S. were waiting, Wesker included.

"Thought you chickened out," Forest said, arms folded.

"Hardly," Chris replied. "We Redfields never back down from a challenge. You can walk out of here with your pride intact, Speyer."

"Foreget it," Forest shot back. "Your cash is paying for the beers tonight."

"I'll take that as a no," Chris said. "You can go first."

The paper target was already in position. With a flourish, Forest brandished his Beretta and fired on the paper target. After unloading his clip, he brought the target back to the front. Ten of the rounds were in the chest area, while the remainder were in the head.

Forest smirked as he holstered his Beretta. “Your turn.”

Chris turned to Claire. He pulled out his Beretta and handed it to his sister. “Try not to kick his ass too bad, Claire,” he said as Jill loaded a fresh paper target and sent it back to its primary position.

Claire shrugged her shoulders. “Can't make you no guarantees about that,” she replied as she flipped off the safety.

“It's my money,” Chris shot back.

“Do I get a cut since you got me doing this?” Claire asked.

“Half.”

“Deal,” Claire agreed.

Claire raised the Beretta into a basic firing position, and unloaded the entire clip into the target. When the target was brought back, there was nothing but holes in the head area. Sure enough, the S.T.A.R.S. team - Jill included - was shocked. Even the normally aloof Wesker removed his shades to get a better look at the paper target. Chris was savoring this moment to the fullest. Seeing the normally cool S.T.A.R.S. commander shocked was a moment to remember.

Then the S.T.A.R.S. members – save for Chris, who had a huge shit-eating grin on his face – turned to Claire. “What?” she said as she handed Chris back his gun. “Chris always told me to go for the head.”

“You taught your sister how to shoot?” Barry asked, just as flabbergasted as his co-workers.

Chris nodded as he loaded another clip and holstered his gun. "Sure did. How to shoot, how to fight. Can't be around forever. Got to make sure that she can defend herself.”

Forest, on the other hand, clearly had a 'what-the-fuck' look on his face. He just lost to a high school senior.

Enrico, on the other hand, was furious. He had just lost three hundred bucks to Chris.

Wesker placed his shades back over his eyes, quickly getting over his shock. "Maybe you're better off joining the R.P.D., dear heart," he said to Claire. "Sure you don't want to join up?"

Claire shook her head. "My brother's a cop. That's enough for me."

Chris, in the meantime, had retrieved his winnings from Edward, who was holding the cash for safekeeping. He was also true to his word, handing over half to Claire, who accepted the cash with a grin.

&^%

On the way home, Chris was behind the wheel, Jill was riding shotgun and Claire was in the backseat. Jill was at the moment, laughing her ass off.

"Oh, my God. Did you see the look on Wesker's face?" Jill had managed to say through her giggling fit. "That was so priceless!"

Chris' grin had not left his face since leaving the station. "That was definitely a sight to see. Forest Speyer got his ass kicked by a schoolgirl. The guys will not let him live this down."

"I gotta admit. You're a pretty good shot," Jill said.

Claire smiled. "I had a good teacher. I was sixteen when he taught me. He would take me down to the firing range back on the base and showed me the basics."

"She's a natural when it comes to firearms," Chris explained with pride in his voice. "So every once in a while, I take her to the range and fire off a couple of rounds. Keeps her in shape. I tried to convince her to go into the military when she graduated, but she refused. She said she wanted to go to college, so I decided to drop the issue."

Jill resumed her giggling fit. "Oh, God. Your sister kicked Forest's ass...that's so fucking hilarious..."

Jill didn't stop laughing until she reached the Redfield home.

^%$

Redfield Home, two weeks later...

The two-story Victorian-style home that sat in a cul-de-sac in the middle-class Cider District was bustling with activity.

Chris Redfield finished tying his black-and-red striped necktie into a Windsor knot, before adjusting it under his collar. He retrieved his suit jacket and slipped it on before checking out his reflection in the mirror. The elder Redfield was dressed in a business suit; black jacket and slacks, white shirt, striped tie, and black shoes. His face was clean-shaven, his hair neatly combed.

He exited the room, just as Jill stepped out of her own room. Like Chris, she too was dressed up, only she was dressed a pantsuit; dark blue short jacket and slacks, white blouse, and boots (think Mature's Elle Driver-inspired getup from the new KOF), which brought her up close to Chris' height. Her short hair was for once not tied back. Chris also noticed that she wasn't wearing any makeup, which to him, enhanced her beauty.

After looking each other over, Jill broke the ice. "You clean up good, Redfield," she commented.

"So do you," Chris replied. Walking down to his sister's room, he knocked on the door. "Claire! You ready?"

Seconds later, the door opened and out stepped Claire. Dressed in a blouse and knee-length skirt, she had on a pair of tennis shoes while holding a pair of high heels in one hand, while the other held a red graduation robe and cap, the red-and-black tassel with the number '97' stuck to it, the yellow valedictorian ribbon over her shoulders.

"Right here," the younger Redfield replied. "It's just my high school graduation."

"Good. You're ready," Chris said. "Let's go, before the good parking spaces are taken."

Claire and Jill both exchanged a glance before following Chris down the hall.

^%$

West Raccoon High School - two hours later.

The gymnasium was packed as the graduation ceremony took place. A recording of 'The Graduation March' was played on the speakers while assistant principal read off the names, while the principal handed the graduating seniors their diplomas as they passed on the stage.

The graduation ceremony had lasted for two hours. The local populace had recognized Chris and Jill from their actions at the bank and for most purposes, kept a respectable distance. The gathered audience sat on the bleachers, while the senior class was on the gym floor.

"Bonnie Siobhan Morrison...Victoria Alexandra Oliver...Thomas Alexander Peterson...Jacob Silas Quentin..."

Chris and Jill sat in the audience, the former holding a digital camera in his hand, while Jill was looking through the program.

"...our valedictorian for the Class of 1997, Claire Anne-Marie Redfield..."

A beaming Claire Redfield, in her graduation gown and cap, graciously accepted her high school diploma from the principal, to the cheers of Chris and Jill, Chris snapping pictures of Claire.

As it turned out, Claire was the valedictorian of the senior class, having beaten out the class president for the honor by a narrow margin, her strict work ethic - which she had picked up from her brother - having drawn the attention of her school teachers and faculty members. It didn't make her popular with the class president, who was from a more affulent family in the city, but Claire could care less.

Thity more minutes had passed before the ceremony had reached its conclusion.

The principal was now at the podium. "I present to you, the West Raccoon High School Class of Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Seven," he said with pride in his voice. "Graduates...graduate!"

The senior class took that as their cue to throw their caps into the air and cheered.

*^%

After the ceremony, Chris had treated both Claire and Jill to a dinner at one of Raccoon's most popular spots.

The restaurant was called the Grill 13, one of several main restaurants in Raccoon City. One of Claire's favorite restaurants (aside from Emmy's Diner), Grill 13 was known for as its namesake, its grilled kabobs, lobster, steak and chicken. Chris had promised to take Claire to the Grill 13 for a graduation dinner, promising to spare no expense. Chris was as good as his word, despite the twenty-minute wait.

At the moment, Jill and the Redfield siblings were at a booth, having ordered their dinner. Jill and Claire were on one side, while Chris sat on the opposite end. The jackets and gown were left in the truck, as well as Chris' necktie.

“So what are you going to do now, Claire?” Jill asked as she sipped from her glass of tea.

“College. Most definitely,” Claire replied.

“Given how I'm help paying your way,” Chris added. “So what you plan on majoring in?”

“Well, you got me interested in International Relations,” Claire explained, “so I'll have that as my major. Stone Ville University has a good program there. I'll still tinker around with auto repair, but that's just a hobby.” The female Redfield noticed Jill's expression darken slightly. “What is it?”

“I'm originally from Stone Ville,” Jill explained. “Dad and I are quite infamous there, given our ex-occupations, and the sheriff there is a total prick. He is obsessed in seeing that both Dad and myself are tossed in the slammer for life. His name's Thomas Carter.”

“I heard about him,” Chris said. “A real ball-buster. Thinks he's Stone Ville's version of Joe Arapio,” He turned to Claire. Fishing out a small envelope from his back pocket, he handed it to his sister. "This is from the guys at the office."

Claire accepted it and opened it. Inside was two thousand dollars in twenty $100 bills. Also inside was a note from Wesker himself.

Dear Heart,

Congratulations on your completion of high school. Consider this a present from myself and the rest of S.T.A.R.S. Good luck in the future.

Wesker, Alpha and Bravo Teams.

P.S. Forest wants a rematch at the gun range before you leave. Indulge him sometime.

"Your boss is most generous," Claire said as she pocketed the envelope. "This will be put to good use. College books don't come cheap."

"Either way, Mom and Dad would be proud of you," Chris said. "I know I am."

Claire smiled at the compliment. Then her eyes moved from her brother to an unwanted guest who had arrived at their table. Chris followed his sister's gaze and almost immediately, his mood took a serious nosedive. It was the last person Chris wanted to see.

Jill looked at the newcomer. She looked to be about Chris' age, with short dark brown hair cut in a pageboy-style mop. An annoying smirk was on her face, one that showed superiority. Unlike the two R.P.D. officers and Claire, she was dressed in semi-casual attire. Jill had remembered Chris talking about her. Apparently, this woman was Chris' ex-fiancée.

Stacey Kelso.

And here she was in the flesh.

"Well, well. Chris Redfield," Stacey said. "Never thought I'd see you here."

Chris frowned. "Stacey. What are you doing here?"

Stacey looked at her ex-fiancé as if she was insulted. "Now, now, Chris. No need for such hostility," she replied, her tone lacking any warmth. "I just simply wanted to offer my congratulations to both you and your partner for your little act of heroism at the bank. Of course, I thought that Gustav was pulling my leg. I mean, you of all people, a hero? Then again, I guess working as a cop is better than nothing, since that's the only job you were able to get after getting kicked out of the Air Force."

Jill frowned. 'Okay, that was very rude,' she thought.

Stacey's smug attitude was short-lived as Chris fired off a comeback. He tapped hs finger to his chin in thought. "Gustav...Gustav...oh, now I remember. He's the plastic surgeon you dumped me for...that was cold, even from you. You ditched me, after taking nearly all of the cash out of my savings account. That was after I saw you and him sucking face at Evil Ed's birthday party."

Stacey fumed. "Gustav is not a plastic surgeon! He is an enhancement specialist! The best in the state!" she shouted, drawing attention to herself without realizing it. "He makes people feel better about themselves!"

Jill smiled inwardly. Chris knew how to push the right buttons on certain people. The only people that were immune to his tactics were his sister, Barry and Wesker. Stacey's main problem was that she was insecure about her appearance.

Chris snorted. "Enhancement specialist, plastic surgeon, same thing." He glanced at Stacey's chest. "I was wondering how your chest had gotten big. Guess that explains it. Probably didn't have to pay for the tit-job. You were always insecure about your looks." He looked at her face. "Got yourself a rhinoplasty too. This is a private dinner, celebrating Claire's high school graduation. You are not invited, Kelso. Leave now."

Stacey looked at Claire. "Really? With all the bouncing around you did, it's a miracle she graduated at all."

Chris noticed that Jill's hand was slowly balling into a fist, while Claire's hand inched towards her steak knife. He wondered if it did come to blows (or in Claire's case, stabbing) would he be able to get both of them off on attempted murder charges.

Before Claire could reply, Jill had beaten her to the punch. "You shouldn't speak ill about other people. You may not like how they defend themselves. From what I've seen, Chris is more responsible than you will ever be."

"Was I talking to you?" Stacey barked out, glaring at Jill. "You should stay out of other people's conversations."

"Not when it comes to my partner and his sister," Jill defended calmly, yet her tone promised serious pain should Stacey continue down this path. "From what I've seen, Chris showed more responsibility than most men his age. And like he said, this is a private dinner, and you are intruding. I think it's time for you to leave."

Stacey scoffed. "Just like you to hide behind a woman, Chris."

"Who says I was hiding?" Chris replied. "I already told you how I think about you, which is that you are a pompous, self-centered, gold-digging, spoiled bitch. Please give me a reason to arrest you, Stacey. Otherwise, leave."

Before Stacey could retort, the manager approached the table, along with a R.P.D. officer who was there with his wife having dinner. "Pardon me, but is there a problem?" the manager asked.

"Perfect timing," Chris replied, giving the cop a nod. "My ex-fiancée is disrupting a private dinner between my sister, Officer Valentine and myself."

The manager quickly nodded in understading. "Of course." He turned to the officer. "Escort this woman out of my restaurant."

The R.P.D. officer placed one hand on Stacey's shoulder. "Let's go, lady."

Stacey shrugged off the cop's hand. "Don't touch me," she seethed. Turning to Chris, she hissed, "This isn't over, Redfield."

Chris waved her off. "You really should learn how to close your mouth, Kelso. Of course, I'll bet my badge that Gustav isn't complaining on how you use it," he said, grinning evilly, causing Jill and Claire to snicker. "Oh, and I suggest you leave now. Try anything stupid, and Gustav will be bailing you out of jail."

Stacey growled. As she turned on her heel, she left with a final shot. "I hope you choke on your steak, Redfield," she snarled before stalking out of the restaurant, the cop making sure she left before returning to his table.

"And I hope you choke on Gustav's dick, but I'm not going to hold my breath," Chris muttered.

After Stacey was gone, the manager turned to Chris and Jill. "My apologies for that unfortunate incident. Consider your dinner on the house."

After the manager had left their table, Jill turned to Chris. "So that was your ex-fiancée?"

Chris nodded.

"What a bitch," Jill said.

"No argument here," Claire muttered as the trio resumed their dinner.

^%$

It was a week after Claire's graduation and she wanted to get a head start on her courses. Fortunately, Stone Ville University had summer courses which she could get a jump-start on. That and she would also begin her part-time job working as a mechanic at the town's garage.

So after the graduation parties were complete, Chris, with Jill and Barry helping, helped Claire pack up her belongings, and loaded them onto the back of Chris' pickup. Barry went on home, while Jill tagged along with Chris, Claire following them on her bike to Jill's old hometown of Stone Ville.

Stone Ville was seventy miles away from Raccoon City, at the southernmost base of the Arklay Mountains. Unlike Exeter, which was a resort town with a military base, and Raccoon City, who had the financial backing of Umbrella, Stone Ville's main source of income came from its two colleges, Stone Ville University and Colorado Technical College. Or rather, from the college students who flock there to attend classes every year.

Jill had hoped that her return to her hometown would go unnoticed, as she did not want to deal with the overzealous sheriff obsessed with seeing her in jail for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, as seen with Chris and his bitch of an ex-fiancée, things usually don't go as planned.

As she helped Claire settle into her dorm, one of the locals who had a past run-in with the Valentine family had spotted her with Chris and Claire and had immediately phoned it in to the police, along with Chris's license plate.

It wouldn't be long before the sheriff himself would be involved, since he himself had arrested both father and daughter.

Of course, whereas Dick was sent to jail, the judge at Jill's trial granted her leniency, giving her a choice of serving time in jail or joining the military, much to Carter's dismay. Imagine Carter's shock when he found out that not only was Jill Valentine was a cop working for the Raccoon Police Department, but was one of two cops that had thwarted the robbers a month earlier. Those same robbers that had robbed Stone Ville's bank and had shot their way out of the town, thus making Carter's sheriff department look like complete idiots, not to mention killing three of them.

Assuming that Jill had gotten a job with the Raccoon police force under false pretenses, Carter had placed a phone call to Chief Irons and Captain Wesker, both who had confirmed that Jill Valentine was in fact, a police officer. When Carter pointed out Jill's criminal past, Irons also confirmed that both him and Wesker were aware of Jill's sealed juvie records, thus bringing Carter's attempt at a smear campaign to a halt.

But despite everything, Carter still saw Jill as a criminal, like her father.

(*^

After getting Claire settled in, Chris and Jill said their goodbyes and left the college dorm. It was when they were out of the college campus that Chris noticed that the truck was almost out of gas, meaning that they had to stop at a gas station in order to refuel.

He also noticed that they were being followed.

A Ford Crown Victoria, complete with the insignia of the Stone Ville Sheriff's Department.

Jill caught the look on Chris' face. "What? What is it?" she asked.

"We're being tailed," Chris replied. "Is that who I think it is?"

Jill looked out at her rearview mirror. "That's Carter, all right. Shit. Someone must have made me while we were at the university. Carter's got an information network made up of loyal supporters. They must have recognized me from the college. And to think I almost got out of not having to deal with this asshole," she muttered. "Can we get back to Raccoon without stopping?"

"Wishful thinking, Valentine, but no," her partner replied. "I gotta stop for some gas."

"Damn."

"Just calm down. Unless you decided to take back to you old occupation during our off-hours, you got nothing to be worried about. Carter's gonna try and provoke you. He has no probable cause to detain you, despite your past."

"I hope you're right," Jill replied.

"Jill, just trust me, okay?" Chris said as he pulled into the gas station.

While Jill was by the truck, pumping gas, Chris was inside the station, picking up some snacks and drinks for the ride back home. The Crown Vick pulled into the gas station, having been caught by a traffic light minutes earlier, blocking Chris' truck from the rear, while a Jeep Cherokee, also bearing the insignia of the Stone Ville Sheriff's Department, pulled in front of the truck, blocking it in.

Two deputies exited the Crown Vick and approached the truck from the rear. Jill recognized them from when she was arrested the last time. Carter made sure that the deputies backing him up hated the Valentine family with a passion as they took up positions at the rear of the truck.

As Chris exited the gas station, the Cherokee's doors opened. From the passenger side, out stepped the Sheriff of Stone Ville County, while his deputy/chief ass kisser emerged from the driver's side. Thomas J. Carter was a career lawman with over twenty years of experience as a officer of the law. His methods of keeping the peace were at times, controversial, as he aggressively upheld the peace with unorthodox, yet effective methods. The only black eyes to his career, were Jill's guilty plea, which led her to the army, and the robbers his police force failed to stop.

When Carter had confronted the judge who had given Jill her reprieve, the judge had simply replied, "I don't work for you, Carter. I work only for the state of Colorado."

Upon finding out that Jill was one of the two police officers who had thwarted the robbery at Raccoon National, Carter was visibly upset. A former thief who had in his mind escaped justice was partially responsible for stopping the robbers which had made a complete fool out of the Stone Ville Sheriff's Department.

Then he received a call from one of his deputies, telling him that Jill was in the town, along with a man who was later identified as her partner. He later found out that Jill was seen at Stone Ville University, helping her partner's sister unpack and move into her dorm. It was when they had stopped for gas on their way out of town, did Carter, along with his deputy decided to confront Jill.

Tom Carter approached the two S.T.A.R.S. members. "Jillianne Valentine. The self-proclaimed 'Mistress of Unlocking.'"

Jill smiled meanly. "Tom Carter. You wouldn't be here unless someone told you that I was back in town."

"Hey!" the deputy, a lanky man by the name of Ed McCrary shouted. "It's Sheriff Carter to you! You will show him the respect that is due!"

A side glance from carter silenced his deputy. He turned back to Chris and Jill. "Show me some ID."

Chris and Jill handed over their R.P.D. card cases, which contained their R.P.D. identification cards, as well as their badges. After a moment, he tossed the back to Chris and Jill, who both caught them in the air.

"Never thought that breaking and entering would be a required skill for the R.P.D.," Carter snorted.

"It's Jill to you. My title of Mistress of Unlocking is not just a boast, but a well-deserved title," Jill replied coldly.

Turning to his deputies, Carter said, "We got ourselves a bonafide hero in our midst." That caused the two deputies to chuckle. Turning back to the ex-thief and her partner. "I had always wondered if you had went back to your life of crime. Instead, I find out that you became a cop. Not only you become a cop, but you stopped a bank robbery. That shit doesn't fly with me, Valentine. You're just like your old man, a criminal. Always have, always will be."

Jill smiled meanly. "Want to know the truth, Carter? I really don't give a flying fuck what you think of me. Never had when I was breaking into cars. Sure as hell don't now."

"And that's what's sad," Carter said. "You don't care."

"That's where you're wrong, Sheriff," Jill said, pronouncing Carter's title with sarcasm. "I do care. I care for the people of Raccoon City. I care for my co-workers at the R.P.D. I just don't care about you or what you think."

"But do they know about your past?" McCrary asked. "I'll bet they'll stop caring once they find out that you're an ex-thief. Especially your partner."

"I already know about her past," Chris said, catching the veiled threat. "So she broke into a couple of cars. Big deal."

McCrary snorted. "A couple? Try twenty-nine."

"Thirty," Jill corrected. "Thirty cars, and eight houses. If you're gonna insult me, at least get your numbers right."

Carter decided to change the subject. "What are you doing in my town, Valentine?"

This time, it was Chris that spoke. "Jill's with me. She tagged along to help my sister move into her dorm."

"Is that right?" Carter replied. "You're her partner. I remember seeing your face in the paper."

Chris nodded, not even intimidated by the sheriff, despite being in his hometown.

"Did you know that Valentine here is a thief, trained by her father?" Carter inquired. "Her father, which is serving time for grand larceny? I would have gone two-for-two, had it not been for that bleeding heart of a judge that made that plea deal."

"Of course I know," Chris replied. "I never judge a person by their past. Only by their character. I see what she can become, you can't get past her being an ex-thief."

"Then you're a damn fool," McCrary said.

Chris leveled his cold stare on the loudmouth deputy. "Care to repeat that?" Chris asked, his voice so cold that even the two deputies behind him and Jill flinched.

McCrary gulped. "Nothing. Never mind. Forget I said anything."

If anything, seeing Chris defend her from the overzealous sheriff and his boot-licking lackey had earned him major respect points for Jill.

"While my hotheaded deputy was out of line with that remark, he does have a point. Valentine is not to be trusted. She is still a thief. Only difference is that she's hiding behind that badge."

"Strange," Chris replied. "You claim that Jill's hiding behind her badge, yet you're doing the same thing."

Carter took a step forward. "Son, you really don't want me as your enemy. I am the law in this town."

"Well, law or not, I don't want you as a friend either," Chris rebuked, not backing down. "You don't have probable cause to question my partner or myself. Your prejudice towards Jill is clearly baseless. If you don't mind, then Jill and I have a long drive back to Raccoon City."

“Oh I do have cause,” Carter replied. “And because of your big mouth, I got probable cause to search your vehicle. Maybe a night inside our jail will teach you some respect.”

If anything, Chris looked amused. “Would you like to discuss this with Chief Irons? Or perhaps with Captain Wesker? I'm sure that they will not be happy if they find out you're harassing two of their cops. Two cops who in the minds of the state of Colorado, are heroes. That would bring down some unwanted attention from the governor and the lieutenant governor. Both who are looking for a reason to investigate you and your office.”

Carter visibly paled at this threat. Chris knew his weak point and had exploited it. He was not very popular with the Govenor or the Lieutenant Governor, and the last thing he wanted was the both of them on his ass, which would ultimately lead to the end of his career. Even he saw the news report of the awards ceremony at the R.P.D., and that both Chris and Jill were in the good graces of the Govenor and the Lieutenant Govenor.

Chris saw that he had won this battle. “Thought so. This conversation is officially over.” To McCrary, he said, "Get that truck out of my way."

Before Carter could say anything, McCrary was in the vehicile, backing the Cherokee out of the way. Carter was still fuming as Chris and Jill took off.

&^%

"So that was Tom Carter, huh?" Chris asked when he and Jill were back on the highway. "I've seen better. Come to think about it, I've seen worse as well."

"I'm actually impressed, Redfield," Jill complimented as the truck headed north along the expressway. "You handled yourself pretty well against Carter. Most guys would have folded under a guy like Carter."

"Thankfully, I'm not most guys," Chris replied. "Besides, my former C.O. back in the Air Force was a lot scarier than that guy. Carter's let the power go to his head. He thinks he's untouchable. People like him are the most dangerous - they have the power to make people's lives hell."

"And you're not worried that he might harass Claire while she's attending school in Stone Ville?" Jill asked.

"I'm not worried," Chris replied. "The most Carter can do is run a background check on Claire. Other than that, he can't touch her...unless Claire royally screws up, and that will never happen."

"If you say so," Jill said. "Carter doesn't like being made a fool out of. We already did that when we stopped the bank robbery. You did it a second time when you called his bluff."

"And he may go after my sister out of pure spite, right?" Chris surmised. When Jill nodded, Chris simply replied "The day I find out he's harassing my sister, one phone call is all I need and that will be the day his badge will be on my mantle."

Next chapter: An impromptu date at the Raccoon Zoo leads to a late night working at the office, followed by Chris and Jill becoming more than friends.

Snafu's Notes: Stacey Kelso was the name given to the female zombie (as Stacy Kelso) in S.D. Perry's third Resident Evil Novel (City of the Dead). Yeah, Chris once dated the woman who would later become the female zombie seen in Resident Evil 2. In the novels, Kelso was from a neighboring town who had stopped in Raccoon city for some ice cream, but ended up taking refuge inside the R.P.D. during the outbreak. She met and chatted with Ada Wong shortly before her demise. As you can see, Stacey Kelso is Chris' ex-fiancée. As for Sheriff Carter, I modeled him after both Arizona Sheriff Arapio with a bit of Will Teasle (the sheriff from First Blood) mixed in. Also, the casual attire Jill was wearing came from the original Resident Evil. The tattoo of the tribal phoenix is something I added in.

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