Whores perform the same function as priests…but far more thoroughly. – Robert A. Heinlein
Between mid-September and late November of 2005 I was the only call girl in New Orleans; the number of streetwalkers steadily increased during that period, and after Thanksgiving a few out-of-town escorts decided to capitalize on the lucrative market, but for about ten or eleven weeks I was the only agency escort in the entire area, and the only local girl until carnival season started in January. The NOPD was at a fraction of its normal strength due to evacuation, wholesale desertion and the firing or arrest of cops who had been caught looting, assaulting citizens and even murdering “suspects”, so the National Guard had taken over many of the duties normally performed by police. And though the population was so low that violent crime was still quite rare, one would think that patrolling the disaster areas would take up most of the remaining cops’ time; perhaps it would have if they considered duty more important than a chance to play sadistic games at a woman’s expense.
It was late October and I got a call about 6 PM from the Royal Sonesta, one of the large hotels in the French Quarter. The caller said he wanted a massage, and as usual I described myself and told him my fee. He agreed, and that was about the extent of the conversation; some men are like that. So I went down there alone because my husband was spending the night at our country place on the way back from a business trip. I parked in one of my usual places (I refuse to pay to park, so I knew all the safe unmetered spots in the whole Quarter) and went in, greeting the man and collecting my fee as usual. He was clad only in a towel and said he wanted a massage, so I got undressed and proceeded to give him one while talking about the weather (literally). Now, I’m quite an experienced masseuse, and I immediately noticed something odd about his back muscles. Men tend to have hard spots or knots in different places depending on their professions; for instance, professional golfers have knotty shoulders on their dominant side. But this guy had a strange knot I had never before encountered toward one side of his lower back; it was something like the one many men get in the spot where they habitually carry a wallet, but much harder and too high for a wallet-bruise. I asked him what it was, and he claimed not to know; I then asked what he did for a living and he claimed to be in sales. At that moment I knew he was lying, but it was too late because immediately after my realization there was a knock at the door. He jumped up to get it and I of course protested, but he mumbled some nonsense about his friend coming to bring him a hat and rushed to the door.
The next thing I saw was four big, burly black men dressed like hoodlums coming into the room, and I immediately came to the conclusion that I was going to be gang-raped, so I started to mentally prepare for the ordeal. But after them came two middle-aged white men in suits, followed by a collection of other men in various types of clothes. I knew then what this had to be, but I asked anyway: “What the hell is going on here?” I was very angry and no longer afraid; I knew what they were up to and so rather than give them what they wanted by running demurely for my clothes, I sat defiantly naked on the edge of the bed. Nobody answered me, so I asked again: “Excuse me, but what do y’all want?”
Finally, a little twerp with one of those creepy mustaches spoke up; “You’re under arrest.”
“On what charge?”
“Prostitution and Crime Against Nature.”
“Crime Against Nature” is the ludicrous Victorian term used in Louisiana and a number of other states for oral or anal sex, whether for pay or even between a husband and wife; it can be punished by 20 years at hard labor. If they thought a felony charge would scare me, however, they were very much mistaken; I knew that cops habitually charge hookers with it in order to frighten them into pleading guilty to the lesser charge of simple prostitution, a misdemeanor. So I spoke up. “Crime Against Nature means oral or anal sex; does it look to you like I was having any kind of sex?”
“That’s for the judge to decide,” said Mr. Big. Most of the 14 others were milling about the room, trying not to look at me; it was clear that my defiance and refusal to stick to the expected script was disturbing them. One of them ceremoniously dumped my condom case out on the bed as though it were some great revelation; most cops seem to have weird emotional issues with condoms, as I’ll discuss in a future column.
Another was going through my purse, and I snapped at him, “Put that down, it doesn’t belong to you!” He was going through my business card holder (looking for the cards of Mafiosi or drug dealers, no doubt) and suddenly stopped at one particular card.
“You’re a minister?” he asked with strong confusion in his voice.
“That’s right,” I said drily.
“Oh, boy,” he sighed nervously. There were a number of unusual religious groups in town, ranging from Buddhists to Scientologists to Wiccans to Baha’i, all engaged in charitable work (including stress counseling). I mentally filed his reaction and decided to press my momentary advantage.
“If you’ll just let me make my phone call, this will be over in five minutes and we can all go about our business.” Silence. I repeated it.
“You’ll get your call after you get to the jail,” huffed Mr. Big. “Now put your clothes on.” One naked woman, hands on hips, had embarrassed fifteen fully-dressed bullies so badly they wouldn’t even look at her. They then handcuffed me (obviously I was too dangerous to simply be escorted) and walked me to the nearby French Quarter police station, where every one of them except one quiet cop in his late fifties promptly vanished. I hadn’t said anything to this guy yet, so I repeated what I had said about one phone call clearing it up. Why was I so confident? Because I kept an influential lawyer (whom I’ll call Perry) on retainer is why, and several years earlier he had been able to free Cynthia within four hours of her arrest despite a drug record.
“You have to wait until you get to the jail,” he said quietly. I could see he was uncomfortable.
“What was all this about anyway?” I asked him.
“We’ve had some reports of streetwalkers stealing guys’ watches and such.”
“Do I look like a streetwalker to you?” I asked indignantly.
“No,” he admitted; “I think you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“And what genius of a detective decided the best way to catch streetwalkers was to call an escort service?” I asked. Silence. “I’ll tell you what I think happened; somebody wanted to bully a defenseless woman, so he organized this so a bunch of y’all could watch a naked girl cry and squirm and try to cover herself, but you didn’t get what you expected.”
“We certainly did not,” he admitted.
He soon handed me over to a uniformed cop who took me to Orleans Parish Prison a few miles away; once there I was photographed but not fingerprinted and tossed in a holding cell with a bunch of streetwalkers and drug addicts, and a middle-aged black lady who obviously did not belong there any more than I did. She explained that she was a licensed practical nurse who had been arrested for “looting” her own house, and held for several weeks; her daughter had just that hour been finally able to get in touch with the lady’s employers in the place they had evacuated to, and they were even now arranging bail. After a short while I was finally allowed to call my husband; I wasn’t sure I could find Perry in one call. Once he answered the phone I reached into that place where all my stress is kept and turned on the tap; I started crying and sobbing on the phone, not to upset my husband but to make an impression on the female clerk. My husband was understandably upset , though relieved that I was all right (Doug had called him when I failed to check out or answer my phone); he said he would head for New Orleans as soon as he had called Perry and Doug.
I was then forced to take off my clothes and change into one of those disgusting orange jumpsuits; I told the female guard that there was no point because I would be out in less than an hour, but she insisted it was the rule. She wasn’t rude or nasty, though; in fact she had to argue with the chief guard, who insisted that it was against the rules for her to let me change in a bathroom. He wanted me to change in the open, in full view of several dozen male prisoners, but she adamantly refused. But within minutes of returning me to the holding cell the surprised guard was back to tell me I was being released; I couldn’t resist saying, “I did tell you it wouldn’t take long.”
After I changed back to my clothes I signed for my possessions, and the clerk whispered to me, “You’ve got some important friends.” She explained that one of the judges had called and demanded I be released on my own recognizance at once; obviously Perry had done his job. As soon as I had my cell phone back I called my husband, who was already on the road; I told him that since I was out it was foolish for him to exhaust himself driving all night, and convinced him to return home and leave in the morning.
As I left the prison the cops couldn’t resist taunting me with “You had better be able to walk home before curfew or else you’ll be arrested again.” I of course ignored them, and once outside I saw the nurse on her cell phone, trying to line up a ride; I told her she was welcome to come with me if she thought she could keep up with me on a fast walk back several miles to the French Quarter where my car was parked. She said she could, and was as good as her word; we got back to the car with an hour to spare. I then took her home, and she hugged me in thanks; I in turn wished her luck with her own case.
As soon as I left her house I called Doug, who was rather surprised when I told him I was signing back on; he asked “Are you sure?” and when I told him I was, he whistled and said “Maggie, you are truly hardcore.” Stubborn would have been a better word; the cops had succeeded in ruining the first four hours of my evening, but I wasn’t going to let them ruin the whole thing. It was a quiet evening and I only did one call, but going right back out in spite of their efforts to control and frighten me gave me immense satisfaction. In the long run I won, but not before having my eyes fully opened to the true corruption of the Injustice System and being forced to do something I found morally repugnant in the extreme, as you will see tomorrow.