Inn & Out

Decadence and desperation rendezvous at St. Louis' no-tell motels

On this point Major Heath agrees. "It's all about social tolerances based upon neighborhood constituencies," the commander concurs. "How long do you think a vacant house in Holly Hills would last? It wouldn't."

Heath isn't the cuff-'em sort of cop who sees everything in black and white, and he says his perch atop a challenging command requires as much balance as it does vigilance. "Police in Ladue and Chesterfield are not like officers in St. Louis," he submits. "It's more a balance of capabilities among constituencies than it is anything else. In St. Louis you have such dichotomies among people's capabilities to afford things and to abide by things. As police, we have to balance that. If we were totally inflexible, there would never be a moment where police weren't arresting someone. It's such a puzzle in life. It goes to the Flamingo, it goes to the Grand. We make arrests up there all the time, but citizens always kind of dictate what sort of policing they want."

Mark Andresen
Bob Reuter

The morning before Peter embarked upon his binge, the body of a woman was discovered on the bed in Room 16 of the Grand Motel. She and a male companion, who had identified himself on a rental receipt as J. Brown of 3113 Hickory Avenue -- a fake address -- had rented the room from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. The woman's black shirt was hiked up and a towel lay across her chest. She wore underpants, but not her jeans, which were found elsewhere in the room. The St. Louis Medical Examiner's Office has not yet determined the cause of death, but police suspect drugs played a role. Baxter Leisure, executive assistant to the chief medical examiner, says the woman "probably wasn't dead for that long" before her body was discovered. She has not been identified. Police describe the victim as black, in her forties, standing five-six, weighing 172 pounds and missing all her upper teeth.

Peter knew about the Jane Doe, but it didn't deter him from making the Grand his first stop on Saturday night.

It will be his last stop, too: one more three-hour tour, one more hit, perhaps one more chance encounter with a hooker. But right now, heading back to the motel in the early daylight, he's in somewhat of an expansive mood.

He says his graduation to what he calls "100 percent hedonism" came when he got romantically involved with a stripper who worked on the east side. They'd do coke together, engage in threesomes -- whatever felt appropriately outrageous at the time. Somehow, he says, sex and drugs became the top priorities in his life. "You do the Clayton scene, the Harry's scene -- it just gets old," he says. At the Grand, he has found a way to cut through the typically requisite emotional red tape.

"I want to get right to the point -- dick sucked, coke, porno," he sums up. "I want it all."

Peter says he's growing weary of the motel scene. But he's having trouble reconciling the two disparate modes of his life. When he speaks of a new love interest, an established career woman, his impatience with her traditional values is palpable. The lure of instant gratification keeps bringing him back to the Grand and the Flamingo.

The car continues down Grand in the early-morning sun, past a pastor unlocking the doors of a gray stone church, past a middle-aged man who has dropped a fat stack of Sunday Posts and set to the task of hawking. At a Mobil station, a sharply dressed couple gases up. Birds make safe landings on the green expanse of Fairground Park.

And for the second time in less than twelve hours, Peter pulls into the parking lot of the Grand Motel, wanting it all.

"Peter" is a pseudonym.

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