This was something he had never imagined that would be added to the endless list of 'Things that have once again gone wrong', under Raccoon City, and under the whole debacle that was that incident with Krauser in South America. Just to name a couple off the top of his head as he sat in the backseat of some nondescript model car. Hurdling towards some remote village in the countryside. With two side local “officers” muttering their misgivings in some thick dialect of Spanish and throwing him withering, suspicious glances every few minutes.
Then again... if it had all gone according to plan, which was laughable to assume at this point, he wouldn't be James D. Halpert. Special Agent and bodyguard of the President's daughter. First day on the job for the latter.
Yet, here he was being sped to some backwater village in Spain. All because the said President's daughter had been kidnapped and now his first assignment for his first day would be tracking her down and bringing her back home at all costs. Great. Spectacular even. He had spent most of the flight over here lamenting the path his life kept seeming to take while being debriefed on all intelligence they had on the situation. The audacity that fate had to spring such things on him over and over again. As if he had never been through enough. As if Raccoon City shouldn't have been the end of all of the horrendous shit he had been through. No, it was only a prelude. A small glimpse into the truly horrid things he would be forced into, forced to take action against, forced to white knuckle until he made to the other side.
He glanced down once more to the picture in his hand. It was an innocent picture. Showing a young girl with red golden-brown hair standing in front of a tree. It was a picture of the President's daughter. Her name was Pamela Morgan Beesly. She had been snatched away as she left her college a few days prior. US intelligence had gotten a hold of information that put her whereabouts in this remote Spanish village. That was all Jim knew so far, all he had been briefed on, and all his superiors seemed to known themselves. Her parents were distraught, understandably so, and Jim's first impression of the two was haunting as he recalled their ashen, pinched faces. His first time meeting the President, any President, had been under not ideal circumstances. They had given him this picture of her. Begged him to bring her home. He fully planned on doing so. Whatever it took.
As he gazed at the picture he felt as sense of protectiveness surge within him. The shy looking girl in the photograph with her short sleeved sweater and timid expression did not deserve anything that was happening. He could only imagine how scared the twenty-one year old girl was. That only lit a fire within him. The thought that anyone would think to put her through this based on who her father was angered him. He carefully slipped the photograph back into the pocket of his sheepskin jacket. He'd have time to dwell on all these rising feelings of protectiveness later.
He noticed that the car was coming to a stop and he felt more than agitation bubble itself to the surface when he tersely asked, “Hey, what's the hold up? Why are we stopping?”
“Calm down, Ese. I got to piss, yeah?” said the police officer behind the wheel. He caught something about “dumb American cowboy” and “Take the time to check his makeup” as the man put the car in park and cut the engine. Jim rolled his eyes, but bit back his remark. He had bigger problems and based on what the last sign said and his limited Spanish, he surmised that they would be reaching their destination soon.
Besides taking his time with pissing and making a show of slowly sauntering back to the car, cutting his eyes in Jim's direction as he did so, the guy mostly kept it quick. They were back on the road speeding through the woods on their way to the village. Jim could just start to make a house out behind some sparsely leaved trees and a bridge when the officer from the passenger side spoke up.
“We're here. Well, the outskirts anyway. Village is a mile or so farther out, but you have to go by foot the rest of the way.” He glanced at Jim from the side of his eyes, a small smirk playing at his lips. “We will wait here for you.” He added as they pulled to a stop after crossing the old bridge.
“Yeah, thanks for you help, partner.” Jim bit out in clipped tones. Fuck, these guys were useless. So much for taking him to this village and assisting him at least marginally in his investigation. Whatever. He worked better alone anyhow. Preferred it that way. Even as a woman in a red dress, tan skin, and stick straight brown hair flooded into his mind's eye. No. He worked better alone. Always.
Jim stepped out of the car and shut the door with far more force than was really necessary, but at least it helped quell his anger at the two incompetent cops sitting in it. He released his handgun from the holster at his hip and held it firmly in his right hand. He took a moment to survey his surroundings. Trees, low hills covered in leaves, and few ravens cawing loudly. Also, what looked to be a run down house. Two-story. Old. With discarded work tools, like a wheelbarrow and shovel, rake, and barrels out in front. The only sign of life seemed to be the small tendril of smoke coming from the cracked and sagging chimney. That's where he would start.
He took his time walking towards the old house, being sure to scan his eyes over everything he could see. If this village was where Pam had been taken... there were undoubtedly enemies or locals harboring said enemies. They might not be so warm in welcoming Jim into their fold. Luckily no mad-men jumped out, no decayed zombies, no virus mutant lurked behind the trees, shrubs, and landscape. So far so good.
He stepped on the porch, which groaned under his weight, and knocked on the door with enough force to rattle the old wood and cause some dust to stir. There was no answer. The small window to the side didn't reveal any movement or much insight to whoever or whatever was in the house. Jim tried the iron ring handle, turned it, and pushed inside. There was a deafening creak from the old, rusted hinges, but other than that no other sounds came from the house. Before he stepped inside he looked back to the car. The two officers were talking animatedly to each other and weren't even looking Jim's way. He scoffed and rolled his eyes. So much for backup.
Nothing was amiss in the house as far as he would see, but he was only in the small entry way, and there was a corner to turn before he would be in the house proper. He kept his gun tightly held as he rounded the corner and his eyes landed upon a man feeding wood into the fire.
“Excuse me.” Jim called out, relaxing his hand and putting his gun back into it's holster. At first glance this man didn't seem dangerous. Just dressed in ordinary clothes. He seemed to be an older gentleman, probably a farmer, by the the rough look of him. Jim still didn't latch his gun in all the way. He wasn't that comfortable with this man of course.
There was no answer from the man by the fire and so Jim approached him cautiously saying louder as he got closer, “Excuse me. I'm looking for a girl. I was told she might have been seen here, have you seen her?” He did this while carefully taking out the photograph and turning it towards the man.
At first he didn't seem like he would answer Jim, but would go on mechanically putting the wood into the fireplace. Finally, the man turned, didn't even look at the picture and only stared at Jim with a haunting vacant look that made Jim think of someone who was seeing but not necessarily processing any of the information around them. Almost like one of those wax dolls made to look like real people. The man stared at him with bleary, red rimmed eyes, muttered something too incoherent for Jim to pick up and then starting reaching in his back pocket.
Jim immediately grabbed his gun, tucked the photo away with his free hand, and started backing up. “Hey. Hands where I can see them, okay? I'm only going to warn you once.” Jim barked at the man, who had finally pulled out what looked to be a sickle. He raised it high over his head and then slowly began advancing towards Jim. He couldn't help but notice that the vacant look never left as if this man wasn't totally in control, but there was also a look of hatred. The man's lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl. That snark revealed rotten teeth, bloody gums and a blackened tongue. There was obviously something very wrong with this man.
“I told you. Drop the weapon. Hands up. Or I. Will. Shoot.” Jim warned again. His gun was trained on the man's head. The man did not heed Jim's warning and almost imperceptibly moved his arm holding the rusted farm tool back as if he was getting ready to swing it.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
In rapid succession Jim shot the man in the head. Blackened blood spraying out behind him before he dropped to the floor and it began to pool underneath him. Jim stepped closer and nudged the man's shoulder. No movement. He couldn't be too careful. Fuck.
Just then his radio beeped at him loudly. That would be Agent Dwight Schrute calling in for a status report. He would be the man based back at headquarters that Jim would be dealing directly with. They were partners in a way, and had a nice camaraderie between them, and worked well together. It would be nice to fill Dwight in and actually talk to someone who wasn't one of the two asshole officers, or some deranged farmer in this remote village who wanted to kill him.
Jim pulled his communication device from his harness clipped to his chest. He held it out in front of him to allow Dwight to see his face as the satellite GPS and webcam picked up his image. He waited a moment before hitting 'Accept' and saw Dwight's face digitize on the small 'incoming' screen.
“Jim, how is the mission coming? The coordinates estimate that you're within a mile of the village. Anything to debrief us here on?” Dwight said in is matter-of-fact no room for nonsense tone. Jim wasn't feeling like giving him any nonsense at the moment so it worked great for him.
“Ah, yeah... Dwight, the locals here. Or at least one, don't seem to keen on the idea of outsiders. I had to eliminate of hostile. So far, that's been my only interaction. No signs of Pam yet.” Jim updated him, taking his eyes off the screen to look around the house.
Dwight talked to the people back at headquarters to fill them in and typed away on his computer before bringing his attention back to Jim. “Thank you, Jim. It seems the village is just a hair over a mile to the southeast of your current location. Continue to the objective. Maybe the locals there will be more helpful. Radio back in if you require any assistance. If I haven't heard from you within the time it should take you to reach the village I will contact you. Careful, Jim.”
“You, too, Dwight. Thanks.” Jim replied as the screen went dark and Dwight's image faded from it. He clipped the device back to his harness and turned to look around the room. He walked back over to the fireplace and peered inside for a moment and was slightly surprised, but not by much, to see some human bones mingled with the wood there. That was great. He needed to find Pam and fast. If these were the types of locals around here he feared for her safety even more so than he did before. He swallowed down his sudden urge to find her, and bash in anyone's head that got in the way, and turned to exit the house. It wouldn't be helpful if he lost his cool. He needed to stay focused. That was the only way he would be able to save Pam and get her home and then start his job as her bodyguard. He could do this.
Right as he was going to open the door he heard an engine roar to life. The sound almost deafening in the quiet that had preceded it. Jim froze in place and squinted as he tried to listen closely to what was going on just outside the door. Suddenly, what sounded like a very large vehicle sped away. There were screams, a horrendous tearing, scratching, and metal pulling sound. A collision by what he could hear... Then, what sounded like something very large landing into a body of water.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
He waited a beat. Then another. He kept waiting until several seconds had ticked by in what seemed like an eternity. Then came their voices. Strange in their guttural dialect and incomprehensible to him. They were shouting and they were moving back this way. Whoever it was. Jim slid as slowly as he could to peer out the window that was by the door. He needed to see what he was up against.
There were three more villagers. Each of them looking as rugged and unkempt as the one that was oozing blackish blood from what used to be his head several feet behind Jim. They were gesturing wildly at the house. They were obviously agitated. Agitated or not they seemed to be working quite well together as if their was some sort of telepathic understanding between all of them as the trudged toward the house. He noticed two were going off on either side, while the bigger man was heading straight to the door. They were going to try to block off all of his exits.
It was now or never.
He swung his body to the side slightly to allow his leg more room to swing back and his foot to connect squarely with the door. The old door had really stood no chance and swung back and hit the side of the house so hard one of the hinges fell off and clattered to the porch. Jim lifted his weapon and fire three shots into the man's head before he could place a foot on the first step. He fell back in a spray of blackish blood and hit the ground. He was done. Jim swiveled to his left and right checking for the other two hostiles. One came around the right side of the house brandishing a sickle. Jim reloaded his weapon quickly and fired off two shots. One to the chest, which didn't seem to slow the man down any, and the other to the head. He dropped.
He spun around just as the other assailant clambered onto the porch and lunged at him. He ducked and pushed his arms out, shoving the villager out of the way, and fired two shots into the back of his head. Quiet settled over the area as soon as the last echoes of the gunshots faded. He breathed in deeply and took the time to acclimate himself to this new calm after the shock of what had just happened. Fuck.
He couldn't waste anymore time here. He had to go look for the police officers he had left back in the car. Jim looked to where the car had been and was resigned, but not surprised to see it missing. In it's place was a large and old farm truck. That must've been the cause for all that noise. They had driven the car off of the side of the cliff and down into the water below. He also noticed that the bridge was out. They had managed to get rid of his easiest route of escape in the process. Great. He would have to radio back to Dwight as soon as he got to the village. This situation was looking more dire as he spent more time here. So far he had come across four of these villagers and all of them had been violent and unwilling to talk to him. It left him fighting off a rising sense of dread when he thought of Pam. Her picture tucked safely away in his pocket. He hoped, begged, prayed to a God he no longer believed in that she was okay. That she hadn't come into harm's way. He figured whoever had taken her would need her alive more than anything else. They would have to be keeping her safe. What use would she be otherwise? This was obviously an attempt to leverage the US President into something, but what? This, of course, was all beyond Jim's scope of influence and anything he could figure out. He was just here to get her back and bring her home. He was here to make sure that this never happened again. That was his focus. His objective. His mantra. Get Pam back safe. Get Pam. Pam.
He blinked several times and took some steadying breaths before he bounded off the porch and headed in the only other direction he could. Southeast. Towards the village.
The was an eerie sign pointing him in that direction. All it said was “Pueblo” so he assumed he was on the right track. It had small skulls, obviously various animals, tied to the post with frayed and aging rope. It was a macabre sight to say the least and put him even more on edge. He trudged onward with his gun held tightly in both hands in front of him and he cautiously moved forward. There was an old shed to his right, but there was no one inside so he kept walking.
The sounds of animal in distress alerted him to the small clearing just ahead of him. As he got closer he saw it was a gray wolf. Struggling away with his rear leg stuck in a bear trap. Shit.
“Hey.” Jim tried to soothe and he holstered his weapon and showed both hands, palms up, to the creature, “I'm just here to help.” The animal seemed skittish and understandably so. Maybe it was a bad idea to release and wounded, wild animal from a trap that could keep it from attacking, but Jim was always a softy when it came to animals. He crouched down gently and squeezed his fingers between the gaps of the bear traps metal teeth. Luckily, it seemed that a branch had blocked most of the damage and the wolf's legs was just slightly cut, but still very stuck. Jim pulled each end apart until they snapped back closed and laid on the ground waiting for another hapless victim.
The wolf jumped free as soon as his leg was no longer trapped.. He stopped, stared a Jim, then bounded away with a sight limp over the fence and off into the woods.
He breathed a sigh of relief. It could have gone worse, but at least he had done one good thing so far. 'Heh. Take that universe.' He thought with a rueful grin. He picked up a stick and pressed it down onto the middle of the bear trap. It once again sprang shut with a resounding metal Schnap! He then kicked it aside. No other animals needed to be hurt by that.
He once again started back in the direction of the village. So far everything was eerily quiet. Again. He didn't know how long that would last, but if he were anywhere else this would almost be peaceful. A stroll in the woods. Besides the bleak, foreboding atmosphere that seemed to permeate these woods it could be considered nice. Something just felt... off about the whole place. He realized now that it was because there really was no movement. Besides the wolf and the few ravens scattered about cawing at him disinterestedly there was nothing. There was no wind. It's as if this whole place was shaken by him being here. It wasn't inviting. It wanted him out.
He tried to chastise himself because honestly... a place wanted him out? He wasn't one for ghosts and the supernatural and all that superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Even so... this place felt weird. It was as if he was a thorn stuck in it's foot and without even thinking it's body was trying to expel him. He couldn't say why he felt that way. He just did. The air seemed charged with a thick current of unease. He rolled his shoulders back and scoffed at himself.
“Don't be fucking ridiculous, Halpert.” He reminded himself. Even his voice sounded flat. As if it was in a vacuum. The air around him absorbed their sound and their reverb.
He kept going until he crested a small hill and the path he was on slightly curved to the left. At the bottom, as the path curved back to the right, there was a bridge. Before the bridge though, there were two more villagers. They hadn't noticed him yet. Jim ducked back down the path and crouched behind a tree. Okay. So, he could try and reason with these two... as any good officer should, but going from his experience with the last four that probably wouldn't be the winning route. He touched the pocket with Pam's picture tucked safely inside. No, he couldn't risk not being able to get to her. The locals here were openly hostile and had already presumably killed two officers. He stood back up and walked back towards the two.
As soon as they came back into sight he popped off two rounds in quick succession. Head shots each. They dropped with muffled thumps. He slowly inched forward until he was standing over their two bodies. Once again blackish blood oozed from their heads. Yet, as he looked closer, there was something red squirming in the mass that was their brains before it trashed feebly and then stopped altogether. It looked like a tentacle... With sharp edges... What in the hell?
He stepped over the two bodies quickly and made his way across the bridge. As he was coming to the other side he saw movement on the hill above him and noticed more villagers quickly standing and staring at him. They pointed, shouting, and before Jim could have a clear shot ran off along the ridge into the direction of the village. Great. He would have to see what consequences would come from that later.
He walked down the slope that path took after the bridge and saw he was coming up to another shed. He heard someone moving around in it and raised his gun once more as he stalked to the side. Moving as slowly as he could he peeked in between two of the slats of wood that made up the walls. There was a man in there, but something was partially blocking his view. He looked up and saw reddish brown... something oozing out between four holwa farther up the wall. There were sharp prongs sticking out as well. Jesus. What happened in this shed? Before Jim knew it the man was shuffling out of the shed and he held his gun straight out, taking aim. The man stopped, turned and stared at Jim for several seconds before opening his mouth wide in a roar and lunging. Jim squeezed the trigger. It was a point blank shot to the head. The man flew backwards and landed in a heap at the other side of the doorway. Well, at least that was done.
“How's that for a warm welcome?” Jim scoffed, “These locals need to learn some more hospitality I guess.”
Jim took a chance to study the inside of the shed further. He was met with a ghastly site upon first entering. There was a woman impaled against the wall with a pitchfork. It explained the oozing liquid and sharp prongs on the other side of the shed. He, unfortunately, couldn't make out her face as that's what the pitchfork was impaled though. Jesus. They didn't discriminate when it came to killing people around here... women were fair game, too. Fuck, he really hoped Pam was okay. After seeing something as gory as that he wondered if these people were even capable of compassion of any kind.
This whole thing was a mess already. He holstered his weapon and ran his hand over his face as he exited the shed. When his hands fell away he was staring ahead seeing where the path lead. His stomach gave an almost uncomfortable lurch as he saw two big metal doors with an odd insignia printed across the front. Something about it didn't sit right with him. It was almost foreboding to look at. He felt reminded of Raccoon City, and Umbrella, the experiments and the secretive society of scientists working away in the sewers. Jesus, when would he catch a break and get a cushy desk job like those dudes at headquarters? When would he be able to stop with these field operations with weird cults and mad scientists and virus infected mutants? Whatever. He figured that past those doors would be the village. He was one step closer to Pam. He could do this. He had to.
As he approached the doors and pushed one open with a little more effort than it looked like it would need he felt the sense that he was passing the threshold of something. If he went farther there was no turning back. He hesitated with his foot over the threshold, looking out onto the path. He could see roofs in the distance. He could here the rabble of chatter. He could smell smoke and hear some animals.
He thought of the picture of the girl in his pocket. Her soft hair. Her shy smile. Her smooth, pale skin. Her big, luminous green eyes. She needed him. He wasn't going to let her down. He stepped over that invisible line of 'Can't turn back' and the door swung closed behind him. It was just then that is communications device vibrated and beeped. That would be Dwight. It looked like Jim had finally made it to the village and he needed an update. Jim licked his lips as he pulled it from the harness on his chest and pressed 'Accept'
He thought about green eyes as Dwight slowly came into view on the screen. This time he would save the girl. He would win.