I met two prostitutes on my first day of work at the new hotel.

When you work at the front desk of a seedy hotel, you realize that you can’t identify a prostitute by the way she looks or dresses. Granted, some of the girls do wear stereotypical micro-mini skirts, spangly tops and cropped rabbit-fur jackets, but those style choices are not reserved for pros; an amazing number of … free girls put together outfits that leave just as little to the imagination. The first two prostitutes I met at work, in fact, looked like ordinary women in their mid-20s. Both wore jeans, a tee-shirt and a hoodie. Neither was overly made-up, both were pretty, if not gorgeous. I knew why they had come to the hotel – on a Wednesday, in the late afternoon – only by the way they acted.

The first woman strode up to the desk, while her male companion hung back. She looked me straight in the eye, asked for a smoking single and handed her ID over the counter. As soon as I entered her name into the computer, a list of her previous stays came up. Because she is a frequent guest, she has a lower than normal rate. When I quoted the price, she glanced over her shoulder. The man stepped up with his wallet open, and his head hanging low. I repeated the amount. He counted out three twenties and laid them on the desktop. When I offered him his change, he scooped it up and immediately faded back. She signed the room card, requested one key, and headed down the hall toward the elevator. He followed, never once having lifted his gaze from somewhere near the vicinity of his shoes.

The Bulge by Jon-Eric Melsæter


The second woman came in an hour or so later. She told her companion to handle it, and disappeared into the lobby bathroom. He stepped up and looked at me.

“How can I help you, sir.”

“Um. I need a room.”

“One bed or two? Smoking or non?”

“Smoking, I think. Is one bed cheaper?”

“Yes, Sir.” I then quoted him the budget hotel’s reasonable rack rate.

He blanched a little, and checked the contents of his wallet. He nodded.

“What’s your last name, please?”

“Oh. I, uh. It’s gonna be in her name.” He jerked his thumb toward the bathroom door.

“No problem. We can get started here, then she can sign the registry card when she comes out. What’s her last name?”

The consternation that twisted his features looked painful. “Oh. I … I … can never remember how to spell it. We’ll have to wait for her, I guess.”

It’s been a busy night here at the hotel, so I’ll have to finish this later. Gotta count out and fold my last load.