Mid-morning of the next day, at Shan’s insistence, Race had gone to collect what little he owned from the two spots he’d called ‘home’ for the last couple of years. He’d always considered himself lucky that no one had hassled him at either place, or stolen any of his meager belongings, which amounted to one battered backpack crammed full of stuff—all he had to show for his life on the streets.
He headed back to Shan’s later in the afternoon, wondering how soon it would be before he ended up out on his ass again, searching for a new spot to call his own. He knew good and well that the two squats he’d been using would be snapped up within days by other unfortunate kids needing a safe place to bed down.
As he walked the narrow path along the edge of the river he got the creepy feeling that he was being observed. It came from the sort of sixth sense any long-term denizen of the streets developed in order to avoid cops and other predators. Clambering up the grassy bank to the sidewalk above, he shaded his eyes, searching for the source of his nervousness. There were plenty of people around, as he was fairly close to tourist section of the city, but none who seemed the least bit interested in him.
Adjusting the pack on his shoulders, he joined the flow of pedestrians along the walkway leading to Riverwalk and the Aquarium. A few minutes later he was sitting on one of the benches between Jackson Park and the Cathedral, trying to look like nothing more than a wore-out tourist taking a break. With the shadows lengthening as the sun began to go down, he decided he’d better keep going before Shan began to worry, presuming of course that he would.
As he stretched and started to get up, he again had the sense of being watched. Casually he looked around. He was about to give it up as before, thinking it was just nerves, when he caught sight of someone standing in Pirate’s Alley deep in the shade of the Cathedral wall. He might have thought nothing of it but the person, a man from his height and build, was wearing a long coat that reminded him of the one the guy who had hired him had worn.
Now why are you following me, if you are. You know perfectly well where Shan lives so you can’t be trying to find that out. He started walking slowly down Chartres in the opposite direction from Shan’s place, dodging tourists while using them to cover him as he checked shop windows to see if the man was behind him. At first he though he was in the clear, then he saw the man’s silhouette in the last light of the sun on the horizon.
Turning the next corner onto one of the side streets, Race ducked through the first open door he saw, finding himself in a small knick-knack shop. The cluttered aisles gave him a perfect hiding place, while allowing him to watch the window. Moments later he saw the man pass by. Race waited for several minutes, toying with the ubiquitous strands of beads that almost every shop in the Quarter carried, and then cautiously he left, retracing his steps back toward the Cathedral and from there he hurried on to Shan’s home.