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Original Story by: Hiroyuki Ariga
Translation: Yoko Borcheli, Hanako Watanabe
Publisher: Capcom Entertainment Inc.
Released: 1998

Title

Resident Evil: The Book

Transcript of an extremely rare English version of 'BIO HAZARD The Beginning' simply entitled 'Resident Evil: The Book' published in 1998 which was released as part of the Resident Evil Collector's Edition for the Sega Saturn. The English version does not contain the interview with Shinji Mikami or George Trevor's Letters.

Official Transcript

CHAPTER 1: RESIDENT EVIL

Whenever the phone rings in the middle of the night. I know someone's dead who wasn't dead the day before. Happens all the time. Except when it's a wrong number. Like this totally drunk woman who thought I was her long lost lover. Or the idiot who tied up my line with a long monologue in Portuguese.

I've had this late-night fear of the phone for five years now, ever since a state police chaplain called me at two a.m. to tell me my parents were dead. Their vacation van had been crushed by a runaway big rig. The coroner had to ID them through dental records, they were mangled so bad.

Even though I'm assigned to S.T.A.R.S., Special Tactics and Rescue Squad, a Raccoon City P.D. strike force formed to handle violent crime and victim rescues, I still get spooked when the phone rings in the dark hours before dawn. A lot of felonies are perpetrated at night. Most people are sleeping, so there usually aren't any witnesses around. A violent crime can go unreported for hours. Which means that when I get there, the victim's usually stiff as a board.

Yeah, when that phone rings late at night, it's a good bet something bad's going down.

Like a half hour ago. I was having my favorite dream, the one where I'm a rock star besieged by adoring female fans, when I got a call from Billy, my best friend from school. Normally, I like hearing from old friends, even in the middle of the night. But this was not a normal call, not unless they'd started installing cell phones in coffins. Billy, you see, had been dead for three months.

My old buddy had been an up-and-coming researcher for a large local outfit called the Umbrella Company. Then, about three months before, he'd suddenly been transferred to Chicago to work on some hush-hush research project. He'd left Raccoon City aboard the Company's corporate jet on what seemed like a routine flight. It turned out to be anything but routine. An hour after takeoff, ground control lost radar and voice contact with the aircraft.

The day after the jet's disappearance, a fishing boat found several pieces of the plane's wreckage and the bodies of eight passengers floating in the Great Lakes. Billy and 12 other passengers were never found, and searchers finally concluded that their bodies had mysteriously sunk into the cold depths. Case closed, except for the memorial service for Billy, and some bittersweet memories of a good friend I'd never see again or hear from again. This call had to be some kind of twisted joke. "Whoever you are, you've got a sick sense of humor," I said, wishing I could get my hands on the miscreant on the other end of the line.

"Chris, I swear it's me. Billy."

This time I listened closely to the caller's voice, zeroing in on his tone and inflection. It sure sounded like Billy. But I wanted to hear him speak another couple of sentences before I made up my mind. "If this is Billy, tell me how you survived the plane crash."

"I wasn't on the plane when it crashed, Chris. Twenty minutes after the Company jet took off, it landed at a private airstrip in the next state. I was taken off the plane and driven right back to Raccoon City."

I no longer had any doubt. The voice belonged to my old friend. "What's this all about, Billy? Why would the Umbrella Company go to all the trouble to fly you somewhere, then drive you right back? And why didn't the Company tell your family and friends that you were still alive? I don't get any of this."

"It was necessary that I disappear," Billy said.

I sat up in bed and looked at the luminescent clock on my nightstand. It was one a.m. I'd only been asleep a couple of hours. No wonder I was still beat. And the drinks I'd thrown down earlier in the evening weren't making me any sharper.

"I assume you and the Umbrella Company have some real good reason why you had to go underground."

"Not a 'good' reason. An evil one. I've been part of a terrible mistake."

I took a long hit on the water bottle I kept beside the bed. "What kind of mistake."

"I wish I could tell you everything, Chris, but I can't reveal details over the phone. You understand."

"I understand all right. I understand that my best friend is getting weird on me."

"Chris, I know a secret, the most terrible secret you could imagine."

"What secret? What are you talking about?"

"The secret behind the chain of murders you're trying to solve."

"Don't play with me Billy. I wanna know what you know."

"I told you, not over the phone. The line might be tapped."

"Unlikely."

"I'm not taking the chance," he snapped, his voice high-pitched and nervous.

"So what do you want to do?"

"I want to meet. Just you and I."

"Okay. Where and when?"

"The park near Victory Lake, you know, to the north of the city. Get there as quick as you can.

"What's the rush?"

"There are people trying to kill me, Chris."

That did add a degree of urgency. "Okay, buddy, I'll be there in thirty-five, forty minutes."

I put on the same clothes I'd taken off two hours before, grabbed another bottle of spring water from the refrigerator and swigged down half in one big gulp. The other half I poured over my head on the way to my car. If I had to hit the road in the middle of the night, I figured it was better to be wet and awake than dry and dead.

My Shelby Cobra rumbled to life and I headed for Victory Lake, confident I could get there in under 40 minutes. Hell, in a Shelby, you can get halfway to the moon in 40 minutes. I took an S-curve at twice the posted speed, then eased back on the pedal and thought about Billy.

He and I had been practically inseparable right through high school, despite that we were considered the "Odd Couple" of our class. Billy was a straight "A" student who never got in trouble, while I barely made passing grades and spent half my life in the principal's office.

After we graduated, Billy enrolled at M.I.T, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Knowing I wasn't ready for college yet, I enlisted in the Air Force. We didn't see each other much for the next four years, although I'd get a letter from him every six months or so. I'm ashamed to say, I never wrote back.

A month after he'd finished gradate school, Billy went to work for the Umbrella Company in Raccoon City. About a year later, I returned home to join the S.T.A.R.S. team. Billy and I quickly resumed our friendship, and saw each other frequently before he announced he was being transferred to Chicago.

Now that I thought about it, it did seem odd that he wouldn't have written to me at least once in the past year. At the time, I just figured he was busy. But now I knew there was another reason and, to judge by Billy's terrified voice, a far more sinister reason, why I hadn't heard from my old friend. What that reason was, I hadn't a clue.

I cut through the deserted downtown section of Raccoon City and turned onto a two-lane secondary road running north as straight as an arrow. There was nothing else on the road this early, not even farm tractors, and I pressed the accelerator down hard. The Shelby's big V-8 responded with a throaty roar and I felt my shoulders slammed back hard against the seat as the speedometer climbed to 110 MPH.

Five minutes later I spotted the first hills ahead and eased back on the accelerator. I've always gotten a thrill out of mountain driving, and I speed-shifted down to third, then second as the Shelby whipped through the first hairpin turn. The road became steeper as it climbed the mountain, and the curves turned into a series of hairpin turns. My arms were beginning to ache from whipping the wheel back and forth.

Then, just as I started powering through a sharp curve, a woman suddenly appeared in my headlights. I'm doing seventy-five and she's close enough to be a hood ornament. I downshifted and slammed on the brakes, but I could see I was still going to hit her. So I did the only thing I could. I yanked the wheel hard and plowed the Shelby into the bank bordering the road.

The engine cut out when I hit, and for several seconds I sat there in the sudden silence feeling for broken bones and wounds. Fortunately, there were none, and I turned my attention back to the girl. She had apparently collapsed during the close call, and was lying on the pavement about ten feet from the car. I got out and hurried toward her. As I neared, I noticed with horror that her entire body was covered with gaping wounds.

I came real close to heaving at that point. I mean there were bones sticking through her skin and little geysers of blood where arteries had been torn apart. I fought back my nausea and knelt by her side. She raised a hand weakly and I took it in mine.

"Dear God, lady, what happened to you?"

"He..." her lips formed the word, but no sound came out.

Her throat was cut.

I forced myself to look down at the rest of her mangled body, and gasped at the sight of her lower torso. A huge section of her stomach had been ripped out -- as if a Great White shark had bittenn through her middle--and her internal organs had popped out onto the road.

My hands and arms were covered with sticky blood by now and I could hardly breathe, the air was so thick with the stench of reeking intestines. Then, when I thought this nightmarish scene couldn't get any worse, a terrified scream split the night. I turned in the direction of the cry and spotted a late model convertible pulled over with its top down about fifty feet up the road.

In the moonlight, I saw some kind of huge animal leap into the open car. At first I thought it was a big black Newfoundland. Then 1 realized this thing was at least twice as big as a Newf. The driver started screaming again, and I could see his arms flailing as he tried to fight off the beast. Then, suddenly, he was quiet.

I grabbed my Beretta automatic from under the Cobra's dash and ran toward the convertible. Fifteen feet away I stopped and aimed the pistol skyward. At the sound of the gunshot the beast whirled and fixed me with a terrible glare. It had hellish red eyes, as if the pupils were oozing blood, and yellowed fangs that looked as fierce as a saber-toothed tiger.

A strange, guttural cry suddenly sprang from the animal's mouth. "Kuooon," it shrieked, raising the hair on the back of my neck. Stay cool, I reminded myself. You've got a gun, and it doesn't. Chances are, it doesn't even know what a gun is. Ipso facto, You, Chris Redfield, are in total command.

The beast leaped down from the car and took an ominous step toward me. Or not.

In the blink of an eye, the gruesome thing was two steps closer. I could smell it now, and the odor was putrid. Like decay. Like death. Time to get serious. I raised my pistol in both hands, took a breath and fired point blank at the creature's head.

Nothing. No gushing blood, no fragmented flesh and bones. I might as well have been tossing popcorn at the thing. I mean, I know I hadn't missed. Not from that range. But there were no bullet holes. Hell, the beast didn't even look winded. What piece of devil's work was this?

I emptied my pistol at the animal, and was about to make a break for my car, when it suddenly seemed to lose interest in me. The beast gave a final shriek, then turned abruptly and disappeared into the dark woods. For a long time I stood there shaking, the sweat soaking my shirt. Then I took a calming breath, reloaded my Beretta and very carefully approached the convertible.

The driver was dead, of course, ripped apart as cruelly as the woman I'd just left. Half his face was missing, and one eyeball hung from its smashed socket by a string of tissue. The moonlight was shining down directly into the man's half-open skull, making his brain appear all shiny and pink. The rest of his body looked like it had just emerged from a meat grinder. Not much left you could recognize as human.

I'd seen a lot of deaths lately. Five, counting the two people who'd just died before my eyes. The first murder had happened six months before, and I'd been investigating the strange cases ever since.

Actually, the word "strange" didn't half fit these killings. Something sinister was at work here, some force beyond a simple human murderer. I've been putting in 18-hour days looking for answers, but so far the only thanks I've gotten is a boot in the tail from the media. They keep insisting the police aren't working hard enough on the case. Guess it goes with the turf when you're a public servant.

I went back to my car and radioed in a report to police headquarters. I couldn't leave the murder scene unsecured, so I wafted until I heard the approaching sirens, then took off again for Victory Lake. But now there was no way I'd be on time.

CHAPTER 2: THE NECKLACE

"Billy," I called into the wet wind off the lake, acutely aware that I was half an hour late for our meeting.

No answer, just as there hadn't been any answer to my previous calls. The night was still hot and I could feel the sweat dripping off the ridge of my chin. I turned and looked toward the moonlit parking lot. My silver Shelby was the only car there. Had Billy gotten tired of waiting and left? Or maybe he'd hidden his car in the trees so no one would know he was there.

I grabbed a large police flashlight from the trunk and began a search of the nearby woods and brush. I looked for an hour but found nothing. Except memories. Billy and I used to play together in this park as kids. Our favorite place had been the boathouse down on the lakeshore. On a whim, I decided to check the old building out.

The door creaked on its hinges as I entered the darkened building and snapped on my flashlight. I swept the light around the interior. There were a half dozen small boats and canoes lying around in various stages of disrepair, a couple covered with what looked to be years of cobwebs. The rest of the space was taken up with disassembled outboard motors and various pieces of machinery and tools.

"Billy, you in here?" I called out. "It's me, Chris."

No response. The night was dead still, but for the muffled sound of wind-driven wavelets lapping against the boathouse pilings. I was turning to leave when my light suddenly glinted off a shiny metallic object of some kind lying on the floor. I walked over and stared down at a gold necklace with a small gold coin attached.

I bent and picked it up, the blood hammering in my head. It was a necklace, one of two identical gold chains I had given to Billy and his fiancE, Rose, at their engagement party. I knew for a fact that Rose was terrified of the water. She'd never come near a boathouse. So it had to have been dropped by Billy. He'd probably lost it while waiting for me to show up tonight. If anyone doubted that Billy was alive and that I'd talked to him, here was proof of both.

So I now knew for certain that my old friend was alive, but I still had no clue what kind of trouble he was in. I also hadn't figured out what connection Billy had to the chain of brutal killings that had Raccoon City in the grip of terror.

I decided to return to the latest murder scene and see if the investigating officers had turned up anything.

****

Five police cars, a tow truck and a meat wagon from the morgue were parked along the highway. I slid my Shelby in behind a squad car and passed under the yellow police tape cordoning off the scene of bloody carnage.

"You're finally back," a raspy male voice said above the din of police radios.

I turned and stared into the greasy face of Chief Brian Iron, head of the Raccoon City Police Department. Brian is the man who organized S.T.A.R.S.

"You were first on the scene, Redfield," he said. "Mind telling me why you took off?"

"I thought I saw the murderer and gave chase, Chief," I said, not wanting to tell him about Billy just yet.

"So you saw the perpetrator."

"I saw something. I'm not sure what."

"You're not making much progress solving these murders, are you Redfield?" he said, reverting to the hypercritical leader the S.T.A.R.S. team all knew and loathed. The guy thought so much of his own law enforcement talents, he couldn't imagine anyone else being nearly as competent.

"You want to take over for me, Chief? A man of your indescribable talents ought to have the case wrapped up in about an hour or so."

"Don't give me that sarcastic lip."

"Get off my back, Chief."

For a long moment he glared at me with the self-righteous fervor of a Wild West evangelist. The man was a walking ego. I'd even heard that he planned to run for mayor in the next election. Ten years before, Raccoon City had been a sleepy farming community, and the mayor was kind of a glorified dogcatcher. But then the Umbrella Company moved in and built a large research plant, and suddenly there were new faces and new buildings all over the place.

Before anyone knew what was happening, almost half the population of Raccoon City was directly dependent on the Umbrella Company for their livelihood. Suddenly the mayor's job was a plum to be squeezed, a position of power from which a crafty politician might line his own pockets.

As the population swelled, crime had also increased. It got so bad that the Company proposed establishing a special crime-fighting force, paid for in half with corporate funds. The city had agreed, and S.T.A.R.S. was formed.

Brian had been the unit's first commander. Then, two years before, he'd been promoted to chief of police, and the mysterious Lieutenant Albert Wesker had replaced him as head of the S.T.A.R.S. team.

"I'll deal with you later, Redfield," the chief finally said.

"Looking forward to it, sir."

He started to say something more, then noticed the newly arrived reporters and photographers. I could hear the wheels turning. Here was a chance for Brian to get some media exposure, and he wasn't going to waste this valuable time chewing out a mere detective from S.T.A.R.S.

"Give your account of the murders to the deputy chief in charge of the criminal section," he ordered, then screwed his face up into a look of pained concern and headed for the gaggle of journalists. I caught his first few words, a memorized account of how hard he and his whole force were working to solve the murder spree. The man did his lines so well, he should have been paying dues to the Actors' Guild.

A couple of minutes later, I noticed the deputy chief scowling at Brian with as much disgust as I felt. He must have felt my eyes on him because he turned and studied me, then walked over with a thoughtful look on his face. "Chris, I understand you came on the murders in progress."

"Yeah. Almost ran over the girl."

"We found shell casings on the road. From your weapon?"

"Probably. I emptied the magazine at the killer."

"Then you must have gotten a pretty good look at the guy.

"I didn't say it was a guy."

"Stop playing games with me, Chris."

I looked at the chief for a long moment, wondering if he'd have me tossed into the nearest rubber room when he heard my next words. Only one way to find out. "I don't think these people died at the hands of a man.

"You want to run that past me one more time, Buddy-Boy."

"The thing I shot at, it wasn't human. It was some sort of immensely powerful animal, a huge black beast that resembled a dog. The biggest freakin' dog I've ever seen."

The chief said, "If it looked like a dog, perhaps it was a dog. Maybe a Mastiff or some other big breed. As for its vicious attack, that could be the result of rabies."

"Rabies might cause an animal to bite a human, Chief, but the disease doesn't suddenly turn dogs into powerful bloodthirsty beasts. If you'd smelled the awful stench of that beast, you'd know that putrid odor wasn't the result of any known disease. And there's something else. You can't kill the thing with bullets. You can't even slow it down. I know, I emptied my piece at it."

"Why don't you ride into headquarters with me, Chris. Give you a chance to tell your whole story along the way."

"No thanks. If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to go home and collapse on my bed. I'll file my report in the morning. It's been a long grinding night and I'm whipped."

I turned and began to walk toward my car. None too soon, apparently, because when I looked back I saw a reporter break away from the pack and take off in my direction.

"Can I talk to you, Chris?" the journalist called out running toward me with his coat tails sailing out behind. It was a local guy I knew and liked, but I wasn't about to spill my guts to anyone yet. He was almost to the car when I turned on the ignition and threw her into reverse.

"I heard you witnessed the murders, Chris," he said, running along beside the rapidly backing car. "When is S.T.A.R.S. going to do something to protect our citizens?"

"Ask Chief Iron," I said, punching the Shelby into gear and laying a patch right in front of Brian. His furious face in my rearview mirror was a joyous sight to see.

The speedometer was edging eighty when I finally took my foot off the accelerator and let the car coast as I thought things through. Finding Billy was the key. I was convinced that he knew the secret behind the gruesome murders that had Raccoon City in the grip of terror.

But how was I going to find Billy?

CHAPTER 3: HEADQUARTERS, SPECIAL TACTICS AND RESCUE SQUAD

S.T.A.R.S. was headquartered in the impressive building as the Raccoon City P.D. building. Our unit commander, the enigmatic and powerful Captain Wesker, had divided the force into two teams, Alpha and Bravo. He took personal command of Alpha, my unit, and assigned his deputy commander, Lieutenant Enrico Marini, to head up Bravo.

Like most strong leaders, Wesker commanded instant respect and obedience, and he expected the members of Alpha and Bravo to carry out his orders without hesitation. The two teams rotated shifts and were assigned separate cases, except when something big happened and both teams were called in.

Alpha Team had the duty today and when I walked in the office I could feel the tension in the air. The string of grisly killings had now reached five, and every S.T.A.R.S. officer wanted to be in on the biggest murder investigation in Raccoon City history. I noticed Captain Wesker and Barry Burton, the team's weapons expert and the man who'd recruited me for S.T.A.R.S., standing in the middle of the room having a heated discussion. Barry's face was beet-red and his body language telling me he was mad as hell.

"I'm sick and tired of standing around doing nothing while a fiendish murderer stalks our citizens," Barry shouted at Wesker. "I want a piece of the action, and so does every other member of S.T.A.R.S. Just ask 'em."

"Our time will come, Barry," Wesker said, his voice cold and flat. "I want to track down the murderer as badly as you do. Worse, maybe. But we're cops, not vigilantes. No matter how much it rankles, we don't move until we get an order from Chief Iron."

I noticed two of the other Alpha Team members, Jill Valentine and Joseph Frost, shake their heads at Wesker's words. Normally, a police officer won't question a superior's position, especially if the superior is a powerful figure like Wesker. But the members of S.T.A.R.S. had all been handpicked for their assertiveness and in-your-face investigative abilities, and each one of us had a strong and unique personality.

"You've been giving us the same answer for months now," Jill said, her big blue eyes flashing. I liked her. With her short straight hair and slim body, one might underestimate her strength and stamina. In reality, she was a tough, intelligent police officer who had pulled more than one S.T.A.R.S. member out of trouble.

"Yeah," Joseph continued Jill's argument. "Every time we even bring up the subject, you give us a lecture on the chain of command."

"We couldn't function without the chain of command," Wesker said calmly. He was like that, cool, collected, sure of his position. You never really knew what the man was thinking, only that, whatever he had in mind, it was going to be done his way.

"Things have changed since last night," Jill came back. "One of our S.T.A.R.S. team, Chris, has seen the killer with his own eyes. Doesn't that count for anything?"

"I don't know," Wesker said, turning to me. "Does what you saw count for anything, Chris?"

I hesitated, feeling all eyes on me, certain that no one in the room would believe my incredible story.

"If we're to have any chance at cracking this thing, we need to know what you saw, Chris," Barry urged gently.

I nodded. "Okay, but I warn all of you, what I have to say is going to warp your minds."

"Our minds are already warped," Jill cracked. "That's how we got jobs with S.T.A.R.S."

The laughter that followed broke the tension in the room and I started my story. I spent the next twenty minutes telling my colleagues what I'd witnessed the night before, leaving out only the part about Billy. Billy was a loose end I preferred to tie up myself.

The faces of the other team members were incredulous at first when I described the beast I'd seen. Then, maybe because they all knew me, knew I didn't throw the bull, their looks lightened up and I could tell they were beginning to believe.

"Quite a story, Chris," Wesker said when I'd finished.

"You know what they say, Captain, truth is stranger than fiction."

He gave me a long, appraising look. "Okay, I'm going to need a written report. And Brian will undoubtedly want you to come in. You were, after all, the only witness to a double homicide."

"Understood," I said, then gave Barry a weary nod and headed for the door.

Halfway down the hall outside, I heard someone hurrying up behind me and turned around. It was Jill.

"Chris, I want to talk to you," she said, a guarded look in her eyes.

"Okay, Jill, what's up?"

"Your account of what happened last night didn't sound, well, complete to me."

"What do you think I left out?"

"I don't know, I just feel like you're holding something back," she said, her intelligent Iris-hued eyes riveted on my face.

"You've been a cop too long, Jill. You suspect everybody."

"After witnessing the murders, you called the police, is that right?"

The girl was stubborn, I had to give her that. "Yeah, that's what happened."

"You then took off in pursuit of the killer. In your car.

"Right."

"But you said the beast ran into the woods. You want to tell me how you managed to slalom around the pitch-black forest in that Shelby of yours? And then, why did you come back to the murder scene?"

"Thought I might be able to help."

"Really."

"Yes, really. C'mon, Jill, knock off the third degree stuff. I'll fill you in when the time's right."

The sound of children playing outside reverberated through the long hall and Jill shivered at the sound. Visibly shaken, she walked to the window and looked out. The light coming in cast golden highlights in her hair, and, despite her interrogation this morning, I had a flash of how she was feeling.

Jill loved kids, and they loved her back. Several of her daring escapades as a member of S.T.A.R.S. had made the local TV news, and thousands of youngsters now looked upon her as their heroine.

Then the trill of a young girl's laugh echoed from below, and I suddenly remembered why Jill was so upset. Her neighbors' children, two young girls Jill had become a second mother to, had been among the beast's first victims. They'd been on a camping trip with their parents when they'd wandered into the nearby woods. When their parents found them an hour later, they were already dead, their bodies horribly mangled.

"You okay?" I asked.

"I was thinking about Becky and Priscilla. I saw their bodies at the morgue, you know. Their little eyes used to be so full of life. But they weren't anymore. They were full of fear. Fear and death."

"I'm sorry, Jill. I know what those kids meant to you."

"Yeah," she said. "Well, Chris I'm not getting anywhere with you. Later."

"Give me a little time, Jill," I said. "I think an important part of the puzzle was dropped in my lap last night, but I can't be sure yet. When I am, you're the first one I'll call."

"Guess I'll have to settle for that," she said, her eyes clouded with doubt as she turned and walked away down the hall.

CHAPTER 4: LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

I needed more information on Billy than I had, and I figured I'd pay a surprise visit to the Umbrella Company. Sort of beat the business bushes, and see what things came scurrying out. As I was driving along the loop road leading to the company complex, I began reviewing what I knew about the company.

First, they seemed unusually generous when it came to funding new municipal building projects. Raccoon City boasted wide, palm tree-lined streets, modern schools, a state-of-the-art hospital and a brand new city hall. Normally, a city of only 300,000 wouldn't have the tax base to pay for all these amenities. But the Umbrella Company -- with its tentacles in everything -- had insisted on helping finance citizen services.

The company complex appeared around a bend in the road and I slowed the Shelby to get a better look. The most imposing structure was Umbrella's 20-story corporate headquarters. Its brick-colored walls rose in geometric patterns that gave the structure a menacing appearance, as if the building housed a cruel and unforgiving host.

I parked the Shelby near the building entrance and went inside. The reception area took up half the ground floor and was at least three stories high. Undoubtedly designed to impress visitors with Umbrella's corporate clout. About 50 feet from where I stood, a beautiful dark-haired woman flashed me a smile.

Hey, an invitation's an invitation. I practically skated across the polished granite to her desk.

"Welcome to Umbrella," she said, flashing one of those perfect receptionist smiles. "How may I help you?"

I put on my most somber face. "A friend of mine, a guy named Billy Rabbitson, was one of the passengers on board the Umbrella corporate jet that went down three months ago."

"Yes, it was a terrible tragedy," the girl said. "I'm so sorry your friend was among the victims.

"Thank you. I'm executor of his estate and I need to get some details on Mr. Rabbitson's employment history at Umbrella. You know, did he have any corporate insurance policies, retirement plans, that sort of thing?

"Let me see if someone in Human Resources can help you," she said, reaching for the phone.

I surveyed her desk while she talked; picture of an older couple, probably mom and dad, rolodex, clock, legal pad, two folders and a small ivy plant potted in a coffee cup. Everything just so. A tidy lady.

She put down the phone. "I'm sending you up to Human Resources, Mister Redfield. Elevator on the left, twelfth floor. Someone will meet you."

I thanked her, crossed the lobby and took the elevator up. A secretary was waiting on twelve. She showed me to an ornate corner office where the director of Human Resources sat waiting for me behind a huge mahogany desk. The man rose with a plastic smile, one pinkie-ringed hand smoothing the front of his expensive-looking double-breasted suit, and introduced himself as Reginald Johnson. We shook hands and he gestured towards a comfortable couch facing his desk.

"I understand you're inquiring about the late Mister Rabbitson," he said as I sank into the deep leather cushions. "May I ask what your interest in him is?"

"I'm an old friend of Billy's, as well as executor of his estate," I said. Hell, half a truth is better than none. "I'm here to find out about any insurance or retirement accounts he might have had through your company.

"All that information was sent to the Rabbitson family shortly after the accident," Johnson said. "Surely, as executor, you must have received copies of all the pertinent records by now.

Damn! I'd walked right into that one. "Actually, yes, I have seen the information you mentioned, I just wanted to stop by in person to be sure I'd covered all the bases. Gotta do right by my old buddy, you know."

All the time I was talking, Johnson was regarding me with this oily smile, like he knew I was lying.

"I have a meeting scheduled in a few minutes, Mister Redfield. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Just one other thing. This new research Billy was involved in. What exactly was he working on?"

"I don't know. My job is Human Resources, not research."

"I just thought you might have heard something."

"I'm sorry. As Mister Rabbitson's close friend, it might console you to know what high regard all of us at Umbrella had for him. He was a dedicated and talented researcher, and both his contribution to the company and his warm personality will be greatly missed by everyone here."

I studied the guy for a long moment. He was a bureaucrat, one of those gray functionaries so vital to the smooth operation of any company. He had probably stretched the truth more than once in his job, but I didn't figure him for a liar. He really did believe Billy was dead.

I rose to leave. "It's unfortunate Billy's body was never recovered," I said, casting out a last fishing line. "I mean, with no corpus delecti, there's always that lingering doubt."

"I assure you that there is no doubt in this instance. The recovered bodies were mangled beyond recognition. The coroner had to literally guess what body part belonged to who. It's possible that part of Mister Rabbitson has been buried in someone else's coffin."

"But you can't be sure that any of Billy has been buried."

"Mister Redfield, even if your friend survived the crash, he would have drown or frozen, lost in the middle of the lake."

I rose to leave. "I've taken up enough of your time, Mister Johnson. If anything should come up regarding Billy or his estate, I'd appreciate a call."

"Certainly. Could you give me your address and phone number please?"

I thought of giving him my home number and address so he wouldn't know I was a cop. Then I realized I was bound to bump into him again during the investigation, and I had nothing to gain by laying down a smoke screen.

"I'm with the S.T.A.R.S. unit of the Raccoon City P.D.," I said, writing down the number at headquarters. "Perhaps you've heard of us."

His face registered surprise, but not his well-modulated voice. "Yes indeed, and may I say that it's an honor to meet one of Raccoon City's crime fighting elite."

I stood up to leave. "My honor entirely, Mister Johnson. The Umbrella Company has always supported our work at S.T.A.R.S., and we're grateful."

"Not at all."

We shook hands good-bye and I turned for the door. Then, halfway across his office, I turned and gave him my Colombo bit. "Oh, before I forget, there's one more thing. If Billy's dead, I guess I can cancel his memberships in all those scientific associations."

The question seemed to rattle him, which was what I'd intended. "Why did you say, 'If' Billy's dead? Why do you still doubt?"

"I doubt everything, Mister Johnson," I said, opening the office door. "What do you expect? I'm a cop."

CHAPTER 5: A LIVING CORPSE

My first stop was home. I needed a fresh shirt and something to eat. I got neither. Instead, I found the evening paper waiting on the front steps, its headline pointing at me like an accusatory finger: S.T.A.R.S. OFFICER STUMBLES ON MURDERS.

I didn't "stumble" on the murders, I discovered them. There's a big difference. Damn wise-ass reporters. I took the paper inside, plopped down in my favorite garage-sale imitation-leather recliner and began to read the story under the headline.

I started frowning somewhere in the middle of the lead paragraph. By the end of the story, you could have stood next to me and gotten a tan, I was that hot. The writer had all but called me incompetent for "Running off on a wild goose chase while the murderer got away". That's tough stuff to take.

To make matters worse, the reporter quoted Brian several times in the story. Obviously, the man was unable to recognize pabulum for the public when he heard it. Brian was probably already practicing his mayoral acceptance speech. I threw the paper down in disgust and walked over to the blinking answering machine. There were eight messages waiting; six from reporters, one from my sister and one from my commanding officer, Albert Wesker. I made a mental note to call my sister and ignored the rest.

As I was listening to my last message, I felt the hair go up on the nape of my neck. I suddenly had that feeling you get when you can sense someone's watching you. I spun around, but there was no one else in the room. A quick search turned up no one else anywhere in the house.

Maybe I was getting paranoid. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of a strange presence somewhere near. I sensed that someone or something had been in my home, and was maybe still there. I went into my bedroom and got out the mahogany gun case where I kept my Remington 12-gauge shotgun and 45-caliber Colt pistol. I brought both weapons back into the living room and loaded each.

I was facing away from the window putting the last shell into the shotgun when the feeling of being watched suddenly came over me again. The sense of staring eyes was stronger now, like hot coals pressing against my back. I whirled and stared through the window, but there was nothing out there but leaves whipping past on the wind.

I turned back to pick up the shotgun and heard the sound of shattering glass at the same time I was showered with sharp shards from the window. Before I could turn around, two huge arms shot through the now empty window and seized my throat from behind. The hands were powerful, like steel vices closing around my windpipe.

Unable to break the fiendish grip, I hovered on the brink of unconsciousness as my lungs screamed for oxygen. The gun fell from my hand. Then, as if all the graves in Raccoon City had been opened at once, a cloying putrid smell filled the air. It was the odor of rotting flesh. Human flesh.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the hideous arms of the creature. The skin had turned from pink to black, and both arms were covered with a latticework of ugly scars. I had seen arms like that before. On a murder victim who'd been discovered several days after his death.

My blood turned to ice water. I was being attacked by something that looked and smelled like a human corpse. As I tore at the hands around my neck, a large chunk of flesh suddenly came off in my fingers, revealing the red muscle and tendons below.

I could feel myself slipping away now. I had to do something to break the monster's hold. A club. What could I use for a club? A full bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon stared back at me from a table near the window. I stretched, grabbed the bottle and threw it over my shoulder as hard as I could toward where the beast's head should be.

A loud, half-human scream of pain split the room as the creature released my neck and fell back away from the window. I grabbed the shotgun and tore for the door, determined to shoot the beast to pieces before it could recover from my blow. Outside, the stench of decay and death was even stronger.

I swung the shotgun back and forth in an arc as I approached the window, ready to fill the creature with ten loads of buckshot. Only problem was, the beast wasn't there. Only shattered windowpanes marked the spot where the creature had been. Totally confused, I was about to go back inside when I heard a barely perceptible noise come from the woods bordering my property.

I turned and heard a second sound. Louder this time. A twig snapping or something. I went into a crouch, both hands wrapped around the grip of the Remington. "Come out of there or I'll shoot," I yelled in the direction of the noise.

"Chris, for God's sake, don't shoot. It's me."

"Who's 'me'?"

A familiar figure emerged from the trees. "Jill, you big dummy."

I put the shotgun down. "How was I supposed to know it was you? What are you doing sneaking around in the woods anyway?"

"I wasn't sneaking around. I was taking a short cut to your house. My Harley broke down about a mile from here." Her nose suddenly wrinkled up. "What on Earth is that horrible smell? It's sickening."

"It's a long story, Jill," I said, not wanting to tell her I'd been attacked by a corpse. I figured that as part of the S.T.A.R.S. team, she'd find out what we were up against soon enough. "Look, I've got something important to do. Can I drop you somewhere?"

Jill fixed me with her Rock of Gibraltar look; a kind of stare that says only the total destruction of the planet will sway her. "Why are you so anxious to get rid of me?"

"Whatever put such a wicked thought in your head?"

"Cut the bull, Chris. I know you. You're working on some angle, aren't you? You always were a lone wolf."

"And you want to join my solitary pack."

"I would kill for the chance."

I didn't need to ask her who she would kill. "You know, Jill, you're the most beautiful person who's ever threatened me. Okay, you're in."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that. C'mon, I'll fill you in on what's happened as we drive."

"Where are we going?"

"That's part of the story."

I started the Shelby, floored the accelerator and lit up the tires across the front lawn. The sleek sportster roared down the road like a rocket, pinning Jill to the back of her seat.

"What is this, the Batmobile!" she yelled over the noise of the wind.

"There was a call from Wesker on my answering machine," I yelled back. "Do you know what he wants?"

"Your hide on his wall."

"Any particular reason?"

"Can you put up the damn windows so I can hear you.

I hit the window buttons set into the console. "That better?"

"Thank God, yes. Another five minutes and I would have had to go though life with battery packs behind my ears."

"So why's Wesker so ticked?"

"He's got several reasons, actually. Numero uno, the chief's on his back demanding an explanation of where you went right after the murders. You haven't explained that one to anyone yet, including me.

"What's the second reason?"

"Apparently the Human Resources manager at Umbrella called Brian to complain about your unannounced visit. Naturally, you hadn't gone through channels, and naturally Brian went ballistic."

"Let me guess. Brian called Wesker and blistered his ear. And now Wesker's mad as hell at me too."

"You know what a control freak Wesker is. He's furious, but you'd never know it by his face or demeanor. The man is as smooth as silk and strong as steel."

"Anything else I should know?"

"Yeah, Chris. Wesker sent me to personally bring you into the office."

"So that's why you were on the way to my house."

"You got it. The man has a real strong desire to see you."

"He's going to love it when he finds out that you went on a joy ride with me while he was waiting."

"For both our sakes, this angle of yours better pan out, Chris. Know what I mean?"

"If we turn up something important, we're instant darlings of the media, and Brian and Wesker won't dare touch us. But if we come up empty, there'll be two hides on Wesker's wall."

"If I'm going to be skinned alive, I'd like to know why. What's going on, Chris?"

For the next ten minutes, I filled in Jill as I drove. "That's all I can tell you," I finished. "I'm convinced my old friend Billy is not only alive but that he has something to do with the terrible murders in Raccoon City."

"It's all so fantastic," Jill said. "If I didn't know you, Chris, I'd say you made the whole thing up."

"I only wish that were true," I said.

CHAPTER 6: ANOTHER PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

We threw around several theories about what was going on, then both lapsed into silence, deep in our own thoughts as we neared Billy's cabin. A few minutes later we crossed a bridge over a rushing creek and pulled up in front of the rustic retreat.

As we got out of the car, I glanced around the dirt parking area. "No tire tracks," I observed. "Doesn't look like anyone's been here for a while."

Jill reached the front door and turned. "It rained last night, Chris. The French Foreign Legion could have passed through on dune buggies and there wouldn't be a trace today."

I felt real dumb. A moment later, I felt even dumber when I tried the cabin door and found it locked. Jill couldn't resist. "You forgot to get the key from Rose. Am I right?"

"You're right. You're also cruel."

Jill rolled her eyes and took a hairpin from her short bangs. She bent to the lock and, maybe a full two seconds later, the door was open. "After you. Chris," she said, condescension dripping from her voice like honey from a hive. I swallowed my pride and walked past her. Inside, the air had a stale, moldy smell, like a suitcase that hasn't been opened for a long time.

"Billy," I called out. "You in here? It's Chris."

Only the echoes answered me and I turned to Jill. "I'll go up and search the second floor. You look around down here."

"Wait, Chris," she said, pointing toward several beer cans scattered across the dusty floor. "Those cans look fairly new."

I bent and picked one up. "It's Billy's brand, not that that proves anything. Okay, we stick to the plan. I'm going upstairs."

I searched the two bedrooms and bath on the second floor, then came back down to find Jill coming through the door to the kitchen. "Find anything?" I asked.

Jill shook her head. "Nothing out of place. How about you?"

"Zero. Maybe we should -- I stopped in mid-sentence, a primal terror raging through me as the putrid stench of the creatures filled the room. Jill smelled it too.

She stared at me, her eyes filled with fear. "It's them, isn't it?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Now be quiet. We gotta listen. We gotta know which direction they're coming from."

A moment later, we heard them. Outside in the yard. But it wasn't the normal sound of approaching footfalls. No, the creatures coming at us were dragging their club-like feet through the dust as if their legs were too heavy to lift. From the noise, I guessed that at least four or five creatures were nearing the cabin.

Jill and I stood riveted to the floor, our eyes locked on the open doorway. Outside, a chorus of spine-chilling moans began to rise, a diabolical dirge from the dead. We braced for the attack, and seconds later the creatures burst through the door. They went for us like huge two-legged pit bulls, and I could hear Jill screaming as we fought for our lives.

As I struggled with two of the creatures, I got a clear look at their faces for the first time. Their cheekbones were sunken into their bloodless faces and their staring eyeballs protruded like some sort of hideous insect. In place of human canine teeth, the creatures had long, yellowed fangs that could easily rip a body to shreds. I smashed my fist into the jaw of the nearest monster, and the now familiar stench of decay and death flowed from its mouth like sewage from a cesspool.

I was losing my battle with the creature, and, judging from the desperate sounds coming from Jill, she was about to go down too. I had just about given up hope when a familiar voice suddenly shouted out, "Shoot them. Chris!"

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Billy standing by the kitchen door. "They're not human," he yelled. "They're zombies."

Using the last of my strength, I managed to break free and bring up my shotgun. Kaboom! Kaboom! Two blasts in the guts almost tore my attacker in two. But, incredibly as I watched, the zombie regenerated its flesh and came at me again.

"Shoot them in the head, Chris," Billy shouted. "It's the only way to kill a zombie."

I let the beast have one right in the face. The force of the blast severed his head and sent it splattering against the far wall. I trained my gun on the zombie attacking Jill, and blew his hideous head off too. Suddenly released from the zombie's iron grip, Jill collapsed to the floor. I knelt beside her.

"You okay?"

"Yeah -- I think so," she gasped, her hand on her reddened throat. "I need a minute."

A terrible scream brought me back to my feet. It had come from Billy. The three remaining creatures had him surrounded and they were slashing at his neck with their hideous fangs. A gaping wound had opened in Billy's throat, and his chest was covered with blood.

"C'mon," I yelled, pulling Jill to her feet. "We've got to get those zombies off Billy and barricade ourselves in the kitchen."

"Give me your Colt," Jill said.

I handed her the big pistol. "We need concentrated fire. Aim for their heads and empty your magazine. Got it?"

"Got it."

"On three. One -- two -- three!"

The fusillade from our guns smashed the zombies back off Billy. Jill and I dashed across the room, grabbed him under the arms and dragged him into the kitchen. Jill slammed the door behind us as I laid my old friend on the floor. Together, Jill and I managed to push a heavy cupboard against the door to the living room. Then we knelt down on either side of Billy.

"Hang in there, old buddy," I said. "We'll get you to a hospital. You're going to make it. You gotta keep thinking that, Billy. You're going to make it."

"No... no use," Billy gasped out, his breath coming in labored spurts.

Oh, Billy...

"Little time left. Listen. Must listen."

Jill and I looked at each other. Billy was right. He wasn't going to make it. The best we could do was hear his last words."

"Okay, Billy," I said softly. "What do you want to tell us?"

"I escaped."

"Escaped? From where?"

"Secret research lab," he breathed, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth. "I was only one... got away."

My mind whirled. Pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fit. If Billy were being pursued by his former captors, they could be pretty sure he'd make a phone call to a trusted friend. And it wouldn't take much for them to figure out that I was that friend. They'd probably tapped my line and knew I was meeting Billy at Victory Lake. Obviously, they'd gotten there first, and planted the necklace.

Billy gurgled deep in his throat and I knew it wouldn't be long. "The secret research you were doing, Billy, it's connected to the zombies, isn't it?"

He nodded his head weakly. "We were forced to... to develop virus."

Jill said, "What kind of virus?"

"T-Virus. Changes humans into zombies."

The blood was running from his mouth like a river now.

"Billy, you've got to tell us, how do we stop these things?"

"Can't... can't stop..."

A last breath escaped from Billy's lungs and his body went limp. I looked down at my childhood friend for a long terrible moment, then bent and closed his staring eyes.

"What are we going to do, Chris?" Jill said

"Make a run for the car. You reloaded yet?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, we're going out the back door. They're still in the living room so they won't see us until we hit the parking area. As soon as we come around the corner of the house, open up on the front door. I want to put up a curtain of fire they'll have to walk through to get us. Ready?"

"Lets do it."

I led the way through the back door and along the side of the cabin. At the corner we paused, brought our weapons up to head height, then backpedaled as fast as we could toward the car, the muzzles of our guns spitting fire at the door behind us. One of the zombies bolted through into the yard and I brought it down with a two-barrel blast in the face.

We reached the Shelby and almost tore the doors off getting in. I turned the key and that beautiful big engine started up, its throaty roar dueling with the ghoulish groans of the zombies behind us. The last two had crossed the yard and were almost to the car when I threw it in gear, fishtailed around and floored it across the small bridge leading to the cabin.

I put five miles between us and the zombies before I eased my foot back off the accelerator. I looked over at Jill. Her face was still ashen, but that determined look was back. I said, "I'm glad you were with me."

"I'm not."

"No, really. If I'd been alone, I doubt anyone would believe I was attacked by zombies. It's too fantastic. But with two witnesses, they'll have to at least listen."

"I can't wait to see Wesker's face when we make our report. I've never seen him lose his cool, but having a pack of murderous zombies loose in his jurisdiction might just do the trick."

laughed. "Don't count on it. The man is a rock."

"You think he'll believe us?"

"He's got to," I said. "If someone's using a virus to create zombies, it's going to take Wesker and every other member of S.T.A.R.S. to stop them."

CHAPTER 7: S.T.A.R.S. GOES INTO ACTION

The S.T.A.R.S. office was in total chaos when we got back. In one corner, Agent Richard Aiken, the unit's 23-year-old communications expert, was screaming into a field phone, while across the room, Captain Wesker was pacing back and forth in obvious irritation.

He caught sight of Jill and I, nodded in recognition, then went back to wearing a trench in the rug. Obviously, our leader had a lot on his mind. And we hadn't even told him about the zombies yet.

Aiken was suddenly yelling even louder and I turned, wondering what was making him so hot. "Bravo Team, this is S.T.A.R.S. headquarters calling. Do you read me?" He let ten seconds go by, then tried again. "Bravo Team, this is S.T.A.R.S. calling. Come in Bravo." Ten more seconds of nothing, and Aiken hit the send button a third time.

I began to get a real sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something bad was goin' down. I crossed the room and interrupted Wesker's pacing. "What's the trouble, Captain?"

He looked at me for a long time without saying anything, the muscles in his jaw working furiously, as if he couldn't bring himself to voice the tragedy that had befallen S.T.A.R.S. Finally, he gained control of himself and put his hand on my shoulder. "Bravo Team has disappeared. Vanished without a trace."

It took me a moment to absorb that one. "This isn't the Bermuda Triangle, Captain. An entire team of highly trained law enforcement officers doesn't just disappear into thin air."

"Bravo did. C'mere, I want to show you something."

Wesker led me across the room to a wall map of Raccoon City. An array of colored pins formed a rough circle around a neighborhood in the northwest part of the city. "Each of those pins represents a murder scene," he said.

I nodded, recognizing the locations from my investigation.

"You notice the pins surround a specific area. Almost like a target with a bull's-eye."

I studied the map. The pins seemed to circle a plot of land with a large structure in the center. "What's that building in the middle there?"

"It's the old city guest house. Sitting in the center of the murder scenes like it does, it seemed logical that the killer or killers might be hiding out there. So about three hours ago I sent Bravo Team in to investigate." Wesker ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "They never came back out. Not one of them."

I blew out my cheeks. Time to tell the man what was going down. "Jill and I just had a run-in with the killers," I said.

Wesker riveted me with his stare. "You've seen the murderers? Close up?"

"Too close, Captain."

"What do they look like? I'll get a police sketch artist in here."

"That won't be necessary, sir. Nobody will have a problem recognizing the killers."

"You want to tell me why?"

"They're zombies, Captain. Walking dead."

For the next ten minutes, I told an incredulous Wesker all I knew; Billy's phone call, the secret research and, finally, the T-Virus that turned animals into murderous beasts, and humans into killer zombies. Jill joined us, verifying all I said and telling the captain about our narrow escape from Billy's cabin.

Wesker remained silent for several long moments after we'd finished our story. Finally, he nodded, as if to himself, and looked at Jill and I. "It's all just crazy enough to make sense. A leading research scientist gets shanghaied to work on a hush-hush project, and something goes wrong. Real wrong. The researcher, Billy, ends up creating a diabolical virus that turns ordinary men and women into soul-less robot killers."

"So what do we do, Captain?" I asked.

"We're going to return in force to the place where Bravo vanished."

"Who's we?"

"The entire Alpha Team." He made a circular motion with his finger to indicate Jill, Barry, Richard and I. "All of us here, plus Chambers, Frost and Vickers. Let's get up to the roof. The chopper's waiting."

Ten minutes later I found myself looking down at the collapsing roofs of the old city guest mansion. The place looked huge from the chopper, a vine-covered hodgepodge of spires, turrets, leaded windows, and arched doorways. As the chopper lowered, the downwash from the whirling rotors flattened the waist-high weeds below, and a moment later the aircraft set down on what had once been the ancient mansion's front lawn.

Careful as always, Wesker kept us in the cabin while the whirling blades above wound down. The prop had almost stopped turning when the noise of the rotors was suddenly drowned out by another sound, a cry that built quickly into a shriek, a scream as horrible as if from the very gates of hell.

I could feel the fear in the chopper now; see it in the frozen faces of the men around me.

"Redfield, Valentine," Wesker whispered hoarsely, "either of you know what's making that sound?"

"It's coming from the zombies, Captain," I said, my eyes locking with Jill's. "They're letting us know they're here."

End

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