Leon flips his card over and places it in front of him on the table, revealing a six of diamonds. Sherry, seated across from him, does the same, flipping over a ten of hearts.
"Ha!" she crows, collecting both the cards from the scratched wood and adding them to her ever-increasing pile.
"What is that? Did you stack the deck?" Leon demands, looking over at his pitifully small pile of cards.
"No – you just have really bad luck."
"Tell me about it," he flips over the next card – a three of spades. "Oh Lord…"
From the little hallway outside the kitchen they can hear the crescendo of a hopeless phone call as it descends from bad to worse.
"No…I know you can't release that kind of information I just… all I need to know is if any charges have been… alright – no, no thank you for your time."
The phone slams back into its cradle with enough force to make Sherry jump in her seat across the room. Jill stands with her back to both of them, one hand white knuckled on the receiver, the other covering her face. It's been a rough few days, to say the least.
"No," she says tightly and takes a deep breath, letting it hiss out through her teeth. "I'm fine. I just need to work this out."
Two days earlier Claire had taken it upon herself to disappear sometime in the night, leaving only her trademark vest behind. Living with one absentee Redfield was bad enough – living without both of them is more like a nightmare than anything else. So while Jill and Barry and Rebecca run themselves ragged searching for any signs of life from either missing party, Leon stays close to Sherry; he knows she's taking Claire's flight the worst out of all of them. And although it's easy to condemn her seemingly reckless decision to leave, Leon knows it can't have been easy for her. Catching Sherry's eye above their mess of cards, Leon motions to the back door of the kitchen.
"We're uhh… going to go out for a bit – get a change of scenery for a while."
"Yeah, sure… that's fine," Jill doesn't even turn around as they leave out the backdoor. Normally composed, her temper has stretched to the breaking point in the mad rush to find her partner's younger sister. Leon doesn't know the details of it, but he knows they quarreled the night before Claire left – the whole neighbourhood probably knew it.
It's early afternoon, the sun still high and bright as it moves across the sky towards the horizon. There's plenty to do around the house, but all of it's draining – re-enforcing windows, reloading clips, reviewing maps – not much to keep a kid interested for long. Even, or maybe especially, a smart kid like Sherry Birkin. Leon can see that living on the run like this is wearing her down quickly after the crippling loss of both of her parents. Everyone else left here now is a cop – far removed from the world of little girls. Claire had been a connection to something more tangible, more relatable, but now she's gone too. There's been talk of sending Sherry to stay with Barry's wife and daughters in Canada, and personally, Leon thinks it's something that should have been done a month ago.
"You want to go get something to eat somewhere?" He's still got a couple of bills left in his wallet. There's not much worth saving them for anymore.
"I don't know – anywhere but here. Anything but creamed corn." Their newest rent-by-the-week-no-questions-asked household features an electric stove without any working burners so every meal must be prepared by a single hot plate that's hooked in to one of the few working outlets. Every morning Leon is secretly thankful that they haven't all been burned to death in a horrific electrical fire.
"Sure, that would be really great!" A rare smile lights up her wan features.
They go to collect the van keys from Barry and find him hunched over a set of two-way radios, trying to decipher why one will only transmit and one will only receive. Like Jill, he's a little too distracted to take any real notice and hands the keys over without second thought.
Half an hour passes by in a blur of empty highway and they find themselves seated across from each other once more, this time over a spread of greasy burgers and fries and frosty milkshakes served in the metal tumblers they were prepared in – real comfort food worth his last penny. The diner is a classic ma-and-pa operation; quaint pictures on the walls, mismatched cutlery, and a waitress that seems to have taken pity on the pair of world-weary travelers with an extra-generous helping of complementary pie. The only other patron is a long-haul truck driver with his nose buried in a day-old paper, so it's obvious when the door chimes and another pair of men step into the place.
But these men don't look like they live on the road; their clothes are clean and pressed, their faces freshly shaven. Leon hasn't seen a face that well-kept in weeks. It takes them all of a heartbeat to zoom in on where he and Sherry are sitting in a corner booth, and they split up for a two-pronged attack – one zeroing in on the aging waitress, and the other sauntering over to the table. Sherry looks up at him with huge, scared eyes as the man in the black suit approaches from behind his shoulder.
"Just keep eating," he tells her quietly. "Remember what we talked about. I'll talk."
She nods and drops her eyes back to her plate as the man clears his throat.
"Leon Scott Kennedy?"
He tries not to flinch at the sound of his own name - a curse though it is - turning to look up at the older man.
"Excuse me – what?"
"You are Leon Kennedy, aren't you son?" The man holds out a piece of paper with his name, vital statistics, and fresh-faced police academy picture emblazoned across the page. His hair is longer now, his face leaner and scruffier, but the resemblance is – unfortunately - still undeniable.
"I'm sorry sir, but I think you've got the wrong guy."
"Really now – because I'd swear you were the spittin' image of the man."
Leon just shrugs and prays that Sherry will keep her head down; that the picture they have of her is even more outdated; that the roof will cave in on top of these two thugs so they can make their escape…
"I think you'd better come with us, Mr. Kennedy" The other man has finally approached the table, a shiny FBI badge held open in his hand. Over his shoulder, Leon can see the waitress biting a nail as her other half peeks in through the order window. His heart sinks. He just has really bad luck.