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The driver dropped Emmett off in the vicinity of the Chelsea. If the prick Iying against the fence was really serious, the cabbie could only tell the cops the address of an Eighth Avenue IND subway station which was what his trip sheet read.

He made sure the cab continued uptown before walking the block to the midmorning-empty bar connected to the Chelsea, slipping through it to the hotel's staircase unnoticed, and on up to the room. He turned off the television and phoned a doctor friend who came by within twenty minutes. The double lacerations on the top right side of his head took quite a few stitches to close, and his face was turning all black and blue and was already swollen, but it wasn't all that bad. After all, he hadn't been stabbed, and he considered himself lucky.

It was his friend's off day, so Emmett picked up the phone and asked Pernnell, the Chelsea's bellman, if he'd get them a bag of ice cubes, a bottle of Comfort and a couple of glasses. They drank away the afternoon with reminiscences, and Emmett's friend drove him to the airport where he caught his flight back to San Francisco, sleeping all the way home.

Tumble's return alone had opened a permanent chasm that was going to keep Emmett firmly divided from his once-were brothers, probably forever. Natural Suzanne was waiting, though, and she told him all the nitpicking gossip that went down after Tumble came back by himself. After a while Emmett didn't want to hear any more of it and stopped her with a "Fuck it! Fuck all of it!"

He picked up where he left off with the Free Food the next day, and it was the first time he didn't really want to do it anymore. He was sick and tired and wasted by the rift between him and the other men, as well as some of their old ladies in the Free City Collective. Sure, a lot of it was his own damn fault! Emmett knew he had a monster ego, but he always kept his vanity personal, never letting it get beyond the private bounds of the Collective. What the fuck did they want from him? Couldn't he be crazy? Wasn't he allowed? He never blew the covers off any secrets by making himself public like they did. He was just popular, and that's what probably got them all twisted about him. Everything he did was popular! He had the most popular act going in the invisible circus of the Free City Collective, and they were scared he was going to make his popularity public and cop all the chips! So they begrudged him even the pleasure of [end page 462]


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