This is a start of a story Fiorella wrote about twenty years ago and is now revising.
It was after midnight in the warehouse district, and the street lamps were so far apart that Leonie melted into the darkness during her trek between them. The bums and beggars, the pushers and users, had packed up for the night, and the wheeler-dealers had found brighter lights and more exciting venues. Except for an occasional rat splashing down the rain-filled gutter, she was alone as she pushed Dodie's gimp-wheeled grocery cart along the cracked sidewalk.
Someone was following her, slipping from alley to alley in her wake. And he was hungry.
Hungry for her. She increased her pace.
Headlights slashed across the blackness, reflecting on the asphalt still wet from the late-evening downpour, and a dark car purred slowly into sight, a big black Ford with a police emblem emblazoned on its side. The driver was staring straight ahead, but the guy sitting shotgun turned in her direction.
Were they just patrolling the neighborhood or working with the shadow who was on her tail? It wasn't unknown for crooked cops to hook up with crooked shadows if the payoff was big enough.
Leonie took a firm grip on the handle of the unwieldy cart and picked up her pace. Night, which hid all, was her friend. Just a few yards more and she'd duck into the alley, shift herself out of Dodie's identity, grab the tote she'd hidden under the pile of plastic bags, and make a run for it. The guy who was following her would be thrown off scent and the cop would never know what had happened to the old woman dressed in layers of ragged clothing.
But why had she caught his eye? People usually ignored bag ladies, especially one trundling a shopping cart loaded to overflowing with plastic bags full of God only knows what.
The big car abruptly swerved to the curb and the man who had been watching her leaped out and was on her so fast that she couldn’t swing into the alley without overturning the cart and revealing the canvas tote... and its contents.
He grasped her arm and stared down at her, his pale eyes glittering in reflected light. "Hold on there, Dodie. You're moving along way too fast." Leonie risked an upward glance at him and didn't like what she saw. Her unsmiling captor looked like a Teutonic god--tall and broad-shouldered with short-cropped pale hair that glowed neon under the street lamp.
He was human, but more than a plainclothes cop, she thought. Maybe somebody higher up in the ranks? But why was he targeting her? Dodie was a fixture on the back streets of downtown of Greenville.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other cop circling around behind her. She sucked in her breath. They weren't taking any chances. They knew she was an unregistered shadow, and this was a bust.