The Woman Who Wasn't There
Chapter I

Leon Kennedy checked the rear view mirror and was none too surprised to find a red Miata with tinted windows a few cars back. For the past week, the red car had made an appearance virtually everywhere he went. The lack of subtlety was almost as annoying as being followed itself. {If you're going to tail someone}, he thought, {why would you use a red Miata? Drive a beige Camry or something. Everybody drives a fucking beige Camry}. He made an abrupt U-turn, cutting off a mini-van and nearly driving off the road. The little red car drove straight on, passing through the intersection and out of his view.

{Good riddance}. Angry beeping from the mini-van brought his thoughts back to the road. He gave its driver an apologetic wave, although he was thinking of another gesture entirely. That Miata had him in a foul mood.

Not that his morning shopping trip had done anything to brighten his spirits. He had met a gun dealer outside of Chicago. Chris Redfield had gotten the man's name from police records. The dealer was scum, but his "all cash, no questions" policy coupled with Leon's need for anonymity made him a necessary evil. Even as his inner cop rebelled, Leon had handed over the unmarked bills in exchange for the goods while the words "greater good" repeated in his head.

He didn't even know why they were stockpiling now. The five of them, Chris, Jill, Barry, Claire and himself, had been back in the States for three months without making a move. It didn't look the near future would bring any change either. All was quiet on the Umbrella front. The international corporation was keeping a low profile after a few too many public incidents, the nuking of Raccoon City foremost among them. The company's role in that tragedy had yet to be uncovered, but a break in at one of their European facilities followed by a mysterious explosion on an island with ties to the company had their name coming up more frequently than comfort would allow. It doesn't take much to get conspiracy theorists going after all.

Unfortunately, most people don't listen to conspiracy theorists - except other conspiracy theorists. They were working that route anyway, hoping to get as much word out as they could. The Lone Gunmen are out there and they're much weirder than they ever were on the X-Files. They currently had two groups on board - the Roswell Liberation Front and the Gaia Group. The latter was an environmental group that had latched onto the biohazard threat posed by Umbrella with religious fervor. The RLF hadn't been as receptive, preferring to stick with aliens. A warm smile and a little cleavage from Jill had changed their minds. So they had an audience, it was just, as Barry put it, in the "living in their parents' basement" demographic. Claire would read the RLF's monthly newsletter whenever she felt like a laugh. The rest of them pretended it was a good start.

In short, things were not going well. And now, someone was following Leon. He was positive the Miata had never followed him back to the townhouse the group was using the other times he had spotted it, but it was still unnerving. There was no sign of it now. Just to be safe, he took several false routes before finally heading home.


Across town, the driver of the red Miata smiled. Things were going according to plan. The confrontation with Kennedy would be soon and it would change everything...


Leon turned into the driveway behind the townhouse. He was relieved to be home and away from the red Miata. He knew he was being paranoid, but in his current circumstances, paranoia was a virtue. The very day after escaping Raccoon City, in a hospital recuperating from a gunshot wound to his shoulder, he had seen strange men in expensive suits around. The Suits arranged a meeting with him a private lounge. They demonstrated a disconcerting amount of knowledge about him, Sherry Birkin, and Claire Redfield. They did not mention Ada Wong. They made him an offer. They made it clear he should accept. Who they were with or what they really wanted with him, he never learned, because fifteen minutes after the meeting, he left the hospital without bothering to check out.

He had been looking over his shoulder ever since. Attempts to locate Sherry had proven futile and often resulted in a visit from a Suit to the area from which he placed his calls. Phone calls from Claire when she was planning her trip to Europe to find her brother had been subject to scrutiny as well. They had heard interference during the calls, but had attributed it to the cell phone Claire was using. When she finally arrived in Paris to an airport teeming with yet more Suits, they both knew better. Claire had been able to escape without incident, but the two had stuck to vague e-mails and anonymous posts on the Internet as their means of communication for the remainder of her time in Europe.

They had been communicating much more freely since her return of course. They had gotten quite close, in fact. Shared traumas can do that for two people. The reunion had been bittersweet. By that time, Leon had met and befriended Jill Valentine and Barry Burton, Chris's co-workers and fellow Umbrella survivors. The three had gathered at a secluded, private airport to welcome the Redfields back home. They had anticipated a happy reunion, but it became clear something was wrong. Claire had come back with her brother, but it was obvious she had lost something else in the process. She was quiet, reserved and the fire inside that had gotten her through Raccoon City and worse seemed a little dim. Jill, having known Claire longer than Leon, noticed it first. Both of them were concerned. Queries to an equally worried Chris yielded the story of Steve Burnside's death. Claire would talk on occasion about what had happened, but only to describe what had occurred, not how it affected her. All of them, even the usually gruff Barry, had tried consoling her. For two and a half months, Claire claimed she was fine. It wasn't until a memorial service for the whole of Raccoon City that Claire was forced to confront her demons. Seeing the grief of others woke the emotions in her. Leon had been there for her that night.

The two of them reached a deeper understanding of each other then and grown even closer since. So far, they hadn't complicated their relationship by being anything other than friends. Still, Leon was looking forward to talking to her after the morning he had had. Walking into the townhouse with a fake smile on his face, he announced, "I'm home!"

"Hi, honey. Did you have a good day at work?" Claire responded, matching Leon's sarcastic cheer. She was sitting on the couch, taking in an overdose of talk shows. She was in good mood, something that had been increasing in frequency since their talk.

Leon thought of the gun dealer and the red Miata. "Oh definitely. I get to meet the most interesting people." Claire eyed the two briefcases that constituted his morning purchases. Handing them over, Leon said, "Here, don't say I never gave you anything."

Claire opened the cases and gave an appreciative whistle. "You know, with all the guns and ammo we've been getting, we could start one hell of a doomsday cult."

"You mean we're not in one already?"

Claire laughed. She thought Leon was still being sarcastic.


Jill Valentine did not like what she was seeing. Chris had his Swiss Army knife out and was tapping it against their table in the diner they had come to for lunch. Each tap dug a little deeper into the cheap formica. Chris Redfield was angry.

"You know," she said, "You do any more damage and we're going to have to leave one hell of a tip."

"He just should stay in Canada," Chris snapped. "He goes there so goddamned much anyway."

Jill sighed. She had been expecting this every since Barry told them he had to go check on his family. It was Barry's second trip to Canada in as many months. They had taken him to the train station this morning. She was about to respond to Chris when the waitress brought their orders. The waitress glared at Chris and his knife as she served his hamburger and Jill's salad. Chris glared back. The waitress left without a word.

"Great, Chris, that was just great. Maybe you can shout profanities at her when she comes back to refill your Coke." Jill was getting a little angry herself. "Damn it, she brought me a chef salad."

"Guess you shouldn't have defended her so quickly," Chris said flatly.

It was Jill's turn to glare. She picked out the little cubes of turkey and ham and threw them in Chris's direction. Jill had become a vegetarian approximately one second after seeing her teammate, Kenneth Sullivan, being consumed by a zombie. "Look, it's his family. His wife and small children. They can't defend themselves like we can and they've already been threatened once before because of all this Umbrella crap. That's why he moved them to Canada to begin with."

"I know." Chris's voice was loud enough to attract the stares of a few fellow diners. Lowering it, he continued, "He moved them there to be safe. And they are safe. The last time he went up there, it was because his wife heard weird scratching sounds coming from outside. He went all the way up there and it turned out to be a fucking dog rooting through the fucking trashcans. This time, she saw a guy walking through their yard. Christ, Jill, we don't reach for the guns every time somebody walks by the front door."

Maybe Leon does, Jill thought. But it wasn't Leon's nervous manner that was the issue - it was Chris's hostile behavior. Even before he left for Europe, he'd been acting oddly. Getting violent over the smallest of things one minute, laughing about the same thing the next. Chris, Jill and Barry had planned on going to Europe at the same time, but a hot lead had Chris leaving without them. Jill knew it was his desire, his need, to get Umbrella that caused him to act that way, but it still bothered her. And ever since his rescue mission to Rockfort Island, he was getting worse. Searching for Claire, he had found an old enemy instead. Wesker, back from the dead and in an incarnation far more sinister and deadly than the corrupt S.T.A.R.S. leader that nearly cost them their lives. Worse yet, Wesker had made it clear he was working for an organization with goals and methods similar to Umbrella's. So now, it wasn't just Umbrella anymore. Another group, whose name they did not even know, was out there, ready to make another Raccoon City. And Chris Redfield had appointed himself the man who was going to stop them both.

Jill decided to try a different approach. "Okay, it may just be a waste of time, but don't you think Barry's peace of mind is worth it? We've got to be focused, Chris. Do you want Barry worrying about his kids when we're up against armed guards or Umbrella's undead creature du jour? We've got downtime now..." Jill trailed off. The look on Chris's face indicated downtime was the wrong word to say.

In a low, bitter voice he said, "Yeah, we just got all the fucking time in the world, don't we?"

Chris shoved his plate towards her then got up and went to the men's room. Jill could feel the eyes of the other diners on her. She sunk low into the upholstered booth and silently willed them to go back to their food. It's not fair, she thought, Umbrella and Wesker are out there doing what they want, when they want and not answering to anybody. We're stuck here spinning our wheels and driving ourselves crazy.

Chris came out of the bathroom and gave her a signal to leave. Jill was half tempted to ignore him. They stared at each other across the diner. Finally, Jill dug a ten out of her pockets, tossed it on the table and left. It was not enough to cover a tip.


Claire weighed her options. Chris and Jill had gotten back hours ago, but both were in a funk. Leon was still on the couch, picking up the channel surfing where she had left off. She was the only one left to fix dinner. Faced with only a frozen pizza, a few microwave burritos and a container of questionable milk in the refrigerator, Claire was a bit perplexed as to what to make. In the end, she gave up.

Walking into the living room, she gave Leon a big, toothy grin and asked him sweetly if he would do her a favor. A raised auburn eyebrow was her response.

"Come on. I just want to make dinner and I need you to get a few things from the grocery store."

"What do you need?" he asked as he got up.

"Near as I can tell, And lots of it. Here, use the credit card the RLF got us."

Leon rolled his eyes, but took the credit card. He heard Claire saying thank you as he walked out the door. He almost went back in when he saw Chris's van behind his jeep in the driveway. He could tell Chris had run into it, the black of the van's bumper had rubbed onto the silver of the jeep's, but decided against calling him on it because of the crappy mood Chris was in. No real damage had been done anyway. Leon's "new" jeep was old army surplus and could take an angry jerk doing a lousy parking job. Still, he was blocked in. The store was less than a half-mile away, so he decided to walk. It gave him an excuse not to buy much.


"That'll be $25.36, sir."

Leon hesitated before giving the cashier the credit card. The RLF had assured them it was a bogus account that was completely untraceable, but then was the RLF. The young, female clerk smiled at him while they waited for credit approval.

She gave him the receipt and chirped, "Thank you for shopping S Mart, Mr..." She looked at the credit card. "Walker. Funny, you don't look like an Elza."

"It's my girlfriend's card," he said. The cashier stopped smiling and gave him the card back.

Leon laughed to himself as he walked out the automatic doors of the grocery store. He wondered what Claire would think when he told her about the clerk. Then he wondered why he wanted to tell Claire...

He stopped abruptly, nearly dropping the groceries. Parked in front of the store was a red Miata. Leaning against the red Miata was Ada Wong.

Author's Notes - {{yawn}} boring set-up chapter, but hey, I'm writing something long this time. Debate amongst yourselves if that's a good thing. This originally was going to be another short story about Leon and Ada meeting for the first time after Raccoon City, but then I started fiddling around with it and now I'm dealing with a rough outline that has twelve chapters. Barry will be back and other familiar faces will drop in. Rebecca and Sherry will not appear because they annoy me. And yes, this chapter does contain a reference to another one of my stories "Going Through the Emotions", a story I now need to edit to fit into the time frame of this story. I should probably proof read it while I'm at it too :). Until next time...Aerika