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Looking for a short story about a man who is investigating a spate of shoplifting in a small town. The local business people are close to panic as merchandise seems to vanish without a clue.

Eventually the investigator catches the perpetrator who turns out to be a disturbed young woman. We find that the investigator and the shoplifter are part of the next stage of human evolution and — along with others of their kind — have developed a protective ability that allows them to go unnoticed amongst Homo sapiens. This ability had allowed the shoplifting woman to steal completely unobserved.

Part of a short story collection, can’t remember when I read it.

  • You can't remember exactly when you read it, but even if you could narrow it down to a decade or two that would really help to narrow down the search space. Can you say "no later than 2000" or "no earlier than 1970"? Was the collection of stories by one author or various authors? Was it a collection of general sci-fi stories, or did it have a theme of "mutants" or "superpowers"? Hardcover or paperback? American or UK or other? – user14111 Mar 31 at 0:13
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    In the story is Homo superior generally "disturbed", or just this particular young woman shoplifter? Does their ability to "cloud men's minds" also work on animals? Are dogs aware of them? Do they have any other superpowers? Telepathy, psychokinesis, high intelligence? – user14111 Mar 31 at 0:20
  • This sounds vaguely similar to a story called something like "Hunting of the Snark" in the "Drakas" collection (stories by other authors in the Draka alternate history by S. M. Stirling), but not close enough to confidently give it as an answer. In that story, it's a computer security system being tested in a mall that consistently refuses to register two people as human (they're not actually shoplifting). It turns out that they are, in fact, not human (highly engineered human-descendants from an alternate timeline, though they look human) and it ends badly for the people who find them out. – cometaryorbit Apr 1 at 5:52
  • Read it it the 80s I think. Just this woman seems to be disturbed. Doesn't mention if the 'power' works on animals. The shield is to protect them while they develop. – user111684 Apr 1 at 14:21

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