I drove myself to the emergency room and they gave me the second set of stitches I had received in two months. Luckily they already had me on the books as indigent, so there was little argument about the bill. I told them I was stabbed by a mugger in the street, and they started to call the cops. I assured them I wanted nothing to do with filing a police report and checked myself out without incident. After the blood was cleaned off it didn't look so bad, and the bandages fit out of sight under my shirt. They said I was lucky the knife didn't sever any arteries or tendons, but I wasn't feeling very lucky as I left the hospital.
With my newfound freedom I immediately drove two towns over, found the most dangerous and offensive-looking ghetto, and checked into the first motel with weekly rates that featured a bar on the same block. The Burgess Motel was the kind of place that had seen more than a few bodies stashed in its walls, and judging by the crowd that seemed to perpetually play dice and dominoes next to the staircase it would see many more. They tried to set me up in a place on the second floor but I argued until they relented and offered me something on the ground floor. When they opened the door it was filled with garbage and dirty clothes, and clearly hadn't been touched since they booted out whatever deadbeat didn't pay the bill. I wasn't in a rush so I agreed to give them a few hours to clear it out. I could tell the guy was happy to clear a vacancy but pissed that he had to clean it up.
I left the car parked in front of my new place and walked over to the black guys that stared at me while playing three man on the concrete. "Can I leave my car here?" I asked. "Free country, man." The one with the biggest afro said. Maybe the size of your hair had something to do with your alpha status with these guys. "You know what I mean. Will I have problems?" I pulled a twenty out of my pocket and dropped it into the pile of ones he had collected in front of him. He grinned, showing off his gold tooth and said "Naw, man. You alright. Welcome to the Burgess!"
With some time to kill I decided to introduce myself to the bartender down the street. The bar door had a bell tied to it that rang when I entered, giving everyone inside a chance to look up from the horse races on tv to see who the intruder was. I had never been there before, but it was a familiar place. Lost souls and rust bucket poets lined the bar, and stale smoke filled the air. I ordered a well whiskey and drank it quickly out of a dirty glass. I gestured to the barman and told him my name. "Can I start a tab?" I asked. "A tab?" He laughed. "Mister, I never even fuckkin' SEEN you before! And you want a tab after your first drink?" I pulled a fifty dollar bill out of the roll I had gathered from Vanessa's purse and handed it to him. "I'm gonna be here a lot. This will cover tonight, but I'd be a damn fool to walk this street with enough cash to quench my thirst every night. Give me another." He knew better than to argue a cash deal with an obvious alcoholic and nodded while he opened a weathered bar book and scratched down my name.
After drinking myself into partial blindness I decided I had enough, and staggered back to the motel. My car was untouched and I nodded my thanks to the guys by the stairs before turning the key and entering my new home. I guess the owner's idea of "clean" had less to do with brooms and mops and more to do with shovels and garbage bags. But I didn't mind. After all, it saved me the time of trashing the place myself.