The odd walk, the goofy grin, and the overpowering sense of danger were nothing new to him. He had seen it once before while on duty at a checkpoint outside Baghdad nearly 16 years before.
Back then, he was in the Marine Corps.
The night of the incident at the checkpoint remained burned in his memory. A woman, covered head-to-toe in a yellow burka, came out of the darkness and refused to halt before fired upon and killed.
Now he was watching a Black woman dance and pirouette along the sidewalk across the street. She also had the strange smile that the long-dead Iraqi woman had when her veil was finally removed.
Strangely, they had spent most of the last year and a half wearing face masks because of COVID-19. Nick wondered if the woman across the street was suffering some odd effect of wearing a mask for too long.
Still, he kept walking, his mental alertness at its peak and his folding lock-blade knife in his right hand. As he made the corner, he realized the woman was now behind him on the same sidewalk about 75 yards away.
He picked up his pace. Home and a sense of security were only a couple of hundred feet away.