No, not THE Annie Sprinkle.

We had a live-in named Grace. An obvious crack whore, her eyes were severely jaundiced, skinny as a rail, missing all of her front top teeth so that her bottom teeth would jut out in a Looney Tunes bulldog underbite. Her stomach, while devoid of fat, was wrinkled and saggy, like a weeks-old balloon that had slowly leaked out the last bit of air. Her tits looked as if they had once been nice, perky little globes. Now, they drooped and sagged, formless and wobbly like fried eggs stuffed into the toes of a pair of nylons, one drooping lower than the other by quite a bit. Quasimodo’s eyes come to mind.

The odd thing was how she carried herself. She didn’t shuffle from foot to foot, scratching her arms, mumbling every word. Her rheumy, yellow eyes didn’t shift wildly from side to side. She didn’t wear the usual uniforms of her trade, the tube tops, Daisy Dukes, and the like.

She carried herself with confidence and authority. Her voice was strong, pleasant, and her laughter was like the tinkle of windchimes. She never cursed, and her speech was educated and unaccented. She dressed in modest blouses and slacks, with conservative pumps. Her smell was perfumey, and almost pleasant, once you got past the undercurrent of burning polystyrene.

I honestly had no fucking clue what to make of her.

Men would stop by constantly asking for her. Evey third call to the hotel was someone asking to be transferred to her. She never left the hotel for long, and never came in with anyone. I never could figure out how she did it. As I said, she wasn’t anything to look at, but men would flock to her. I REPEAT, MEN WOULD FLOCK TO HER. She may have looked like Janis Joplin’s corpse, but to her gentleman callers, she may as well have been Princess Grace of Monaco.

Ah, the Gentleman Callers. Men from all walks of life: construction workers, business types, a couple of the local TV weather guys, local political figures, and occasionally, cops. All equal in their enthusiasm, and, on a few occasions, adamant that “You never saw me.” The latter was sometimes followed by slipping me a hundred.

Aside from whatever the hell she did in that room, she was the model guest. And her “friends” always behaved themselves, and never bothered anyone. And, like Mr. Blackstock, she always refused maid service. In the two months she lived there, nobody had been in her room but–

“Are you in charge here?”

I looked up from my comic book with a start, to see two rather sour looking men in pressed, black suits peering at me from behind mirrored Aviators.

“Um. . .right now, yeah. Can I help you?”

The man on the right handed me a business card with the police department logo in the top left corner.

“We need to speak with you. In private. Now.”