West Indian Archie shows up at Sammy’s apartment, carrying a gun and demanding that Malcolm give him back the three hundred dollars from his hit. Archie claims that Malcolm didn’t hit and was trying to fool him. When Malcolm says he doesn’t have the money, Archie gives him until noon the next day to get it to him.
After many close encounters with violence, Malcolm is finally given an ultimatum. If he doesn’t meet it, then he will be forced to confront Archie.
In essence, the dispute is not over the money, as that could be raised fairly easily. Rather, West Indian Archie has made it about each other’s reputation. He can’t let Malcolm get away with appearing to have tricked him, and Malcolm can’t allow himself to appear weak and like he can be strongarmed. The only way out is to shoot it out or to run. And to this day, Malcolm doesn’t know if he or Archie made the mistake regarding which numbers Malcolm played.
In the world of hustlers in Harlem, the most important thing to maintain is one’s reputation. If either Malcolm or Archie give in, then they will lose face and respect, and their careers will suffer greatly. With no other skills or opportunities, losing their hustles could be a death sentence.
Malcolm nevertheless goes out with Jean Parks to listen to Billie Holliday sing at the Onyx Club. When she sees Malcolm, she sings one of his favorite songs, and then comes to greet them at their table. She asks if something is wrong, but he plays it off as nothing.
Billie Holliday’s tender concern for Malcolm is contrasted with his hard callousness, but this is more reflective of his worry than of his indifference.
From there, Jean and Malcolm go to the La-Marr-Cheri, one of his regular hangouts. As he is very high on cocaine and booze, Jean soon goes home. Malcolm sits with his back to the door, and so he doesn’t see West Indian Archie come in. Archie proceeds to threaten and humiliate Malcolm publicly, until some of Archie’s friends manage to quietly drag him out and defuse the situation. Malcolm walks outside and waits, but when Archie doesn’t emerge to confront him, he leaves.
Malcolm has lost control of himself and the situation by leaving himself exposed to a surprise attack. But the fact that nothing serious happens is telling; perhaps neither Malcolm nor West Indian Archie want to hurt each other, but are nonetheless obliged to put on a public show of masculinity and confidence.
At this point, Malcolm decides the best course of action is to get unbelievably high. He first smokes some opium, then takes Benzedrine tablets to perk up. He then smokes some marijuana with his neighbor, who helps him roll a hundred reefers. Malcolm then goes to Sammy’s, where they do cocaine. He arrives at his lesbian friend’s apartment to deliver them fifty reefers, and then proceeds to pass out for the rest of the day. Malcolm stays high for the next couple of days, and nothing happens—his would-be shootout with Archie never occurs.
In a way, Malcolm’s drug use is a quasi-religious escape from a reality that is full of violence and hatred. In his haze, he completely checks out of his difficulties and simply waits for fate to unfold itself. Of course, drugs are much more harmful for one’s health than praying, but a similar attitude can be observed in the Nation of Islam’s hands-off approach to contemporary political issues.
After a slight scuffle in a bar one day, Malcolm can sense the police coming. He gives his gun away just in time, as the police come into the bar and pat him down. They recommend that he leave town. With the narcotics squad, West Indian Archie, and the Italian mob all looking for him, Malcolm feels very trapped.
Malcolm remarks early in the autobiography that his mother and his siblings have always had an intuition for impending danger; here, the reader sees that intuition in action.
Sammy calls Shorty in Boston and asks him to come get Malcolm, as he needs to get out of town. Shorty arrives, and Malcolm gratefully packs up the car and they leave town. Malcolm writes that he’s always been grateful to Sammy for making that call.
One of the greatest things that any friend ever did for Malcolm was to essentially offer him an escape route. Soon, Reginald will offer him a similar “escape.”