As I turn into the Hillsboro hotel, I ask the two guys in the back if there's going to be a problem with the payment, the first words I've said since we turned back from Stars in Beaverton.

"Well, what are you going to do if there is a problem?" asks the guy with the money.

"I'm thinking about that," I growl.

And I am. The hotel parking lot is dark and empty. I try to pull up to the front door, but it's set back from the asphalt and there isn't anyone at the desk. Fuck.

"Oh yeah, and what are you thinking?" he asks, all cocky.

"I'm thinking you probably aren't going to like any of the options other than paying." I don't feel like a tough guy at all—both of these dudes are significantly bigger than me. But I have some advantages: I'm sober, I at least look a little tough, and I can front like a motherfucker.

At this point, the ex-cabbie has discovered that the doors are locked, and this being an ex-cop car, that they aren't going to unlock unless I do the unlocking. "Dude, he's gonna call the cops!" he squeals. "He's gonna call the cops or pull a gun or some shit! Just pay him!"

The guy with the money does some grumbling, but peels me off a crisp 50 nonetheless. As I make his eight dollars change, I hope that he doesn't notice the slight tremble in my hands as I count out the three ones.