I shouldn't have been walking in that neighborhood, possibly ever, and certainly not after dark. My landlady told me to stay away, that the rough element ruled the streets, that the law was ineffectual - or, worse, part of them.
Curiosity got the better of me, as it always does, and as darkness fell I crossed the tracks to the part of town known as the Missing Mile.
I found an open bar - but no barman! This didn't seem so bad, I told myself, and poured my own drink. (I left money on the counter; I was raised right.) Rather than giving me courage, however, the drink seemed to drain it from me. What was I doing here by myself, with no one who knew where I had gone? I determined to return to my rooms and avoid the residents.
However, as I attempted to retrace my steps, I saw several men lurking in the shadows. My way was blocked!
Resolving to work my way around the edge of the neighborhood and back to my starting point in the other direction, I walked toward a convenience store and then a bank. "This must be a bad part of town indeed," I said to myself, "if they have bank robbing guidelines!" (And indeed they did.)
Famished, I took refuge in a small eatery. Perhaps sitting at a window table wasn't the best idea in order to keep a low profile.
The police station was a foreboding slab of gray concrete. Ignoring my landlady's warning that the police may not be my friends, I entered and explained my situation to the duty sergeant. He had me take a seat until someone was "ready for me." I sat listlessly. As I did so, the sergeant's words kept echoing in my head. What did "ready for me" mean, really? Before he could stop me, I leapt from my chair and darted out of the building.
After encountering the hospital - far too lighted and populated for me to linger near - and the ruins of a movie theater that appeared to be the headquarters of a gang, I saw this motel on the edge of town. The Lucky Motel? In that shape? I could only assume the name was intended to be ironic.
As I stood in the shadows, I heard a bloodcurdling scream, a woman's scream. "Help me, someone!" she called. "They're going to kill me! Please call the police." I stood on a wooden crate and peered into one of the motel's rooms. Two armed men had aimed their weapons at a woman on the ground. I was unarmed and out of my element, so I could do nothing but watch the scene unfold. A young man with a nickel-plated automatic came out of nowhere and ran up the stairs to the second floor balcony. Foolishly, he called for the gunmen to come outside. One did so, and the two men exchanged words, though I couldn't hear what they said. Gunfire was exchanged, and the would-be rescuer slumped, a pool of blood gathering at his feet.
The gunshots caught the attention of others in the area, and several people started to converge on the motel. I made my move then, hoping that the motel would be of interest, and not a lone woman. I ran as quickly as I could in my heels, arriving first at the municipal building and then to the train tracks. My luck held, and I raced back to streets I knew.