Here's the beginning of the Novella I'm rewriting.


   Al Culver parked his wife's green 2003 Ford sedan three blocks away from the abandoned five-story apartment building he'd scoped out the week before in east St. Louis.  He got out, looked both ways, and as quietly as he could shut the locked front door of the car.  Then he set off down the street. It was a warm, windless night, but he'd chosen to wear a thin jacket mainly for the utility of it and as a way to cover his shoulder holster.  As he walked along the rough sidewalk, he felt his Smith & Wesson 686P revolver moving with each step in a steady cadence within its leather grip.


He was walking faster than he usually would, so that any onlookers would make no mistake of confronting him.  Although he wasn't one to experience much fear, it gave him a bit more confidence knowing he well well-armed.  He was also carrying additional ammunition for his firearm if the need presented itself.

He heard a crunching sound like someone stepping on a beer can, and a moment later, Al glanced to the left across the street, where he spotted several people standing.  He sniffed the night air and caught the scent of cigarettes.  It too dark to make out their faces.  They were standing in the doorway of a dimly lit building.  Closer now, he could hear their voices, and Al decided they were arguing about sports.  Maybe a bet went wrong or something like that. 

As he got closer, it sounded like they were about to break into a fight about something.  A bottle smashed to the pavement somewhere back behind him.  He stopped and looked back, hopeful it wasn't someone trashing his wife Helen's car.  If they mess with her car, I'll be in the doghouse the rest of the month.

Al turned back and continued until he came to the stoplight.  He stood there for a minute, as it cycled from green to red, trying to remember which way the building he wanted to walk to was located.  The entire layout of this area of east St. Louis was far more ominous and foreboding than it had been in the light of day. 

He stepped to the right and followed the sidewalk down the block.  That's when he heard the sound of an engine turning over under the hood of a black panel van up ahead of him. Al darted to his right into an alley taking cover, to not signal his presence to the man he'd come to observe.  Standing with his face just a few inches from the solid brick wall, he caught the sweet odor of rotting trash emanating from somewhere behind him.  It was even darker here on a moonless night than it had been on the earlier sidewalk, and he hoped there were no homeless people nearby to give him trouble.

The car sped away from the curb, and he walked out of the alleyway back onto the sidewalk, knowing the side entrance he'd used on his way out of the apartment building was just half a block away.