So you're touring Pulaski Highway in Southeast Baltimore, you need a comfy place to spend the night and you turn into the three-story Executive Inn motel, easily found between a car repair shop and a self-storage company, down the street from a gas station and a Yellow Pages-full of fast-food restaurants.
The parking lot is divided by islands with trees planted in them.
The large but spartan lobby smells like bleach, so you know it's clean. There are three straight-back chairs, and the desk attendant is behind bullet-resistant glass, so you know they're thinking safety first. The brochures promote the aquarium, historic Savage Mill, Bingo World and Ski Timberline. You wonder if you can rent the boots here.
There's a cafe right across the street.
The motel is running a special: $48.95 a night, plus tax, Sunday through Thursday. It includes HBO, Cinemax, "freezers and microwaves" and, if you're lucky, "whire pool rooms." You guess they mean whirlpool, and you hand over your credit card.
No cash only, pay-by-the-hour here. This is an Inn, after all.
There are lots of rooms, but two catch your eye.
Room 138, for instance. Baltimore police say that on May 19, 2007, they found a man lying face down and naked on the bed. His name was Tarik H. Tynes, 35, and he had been beaten to death.
Or there's Room 242. That requires climbing the stairs - both elevators are broken. It's where police say a man brought a prostitute Feb. 15, 2007. "After receiving payment of services, the prostitute left," police say, apparently without providing services, and returned with three men "who assaulted him, took his car keys and drove away in his automobile."
The cops say these "incidents" prove the motel is a "public nuisance" and should be padlocked, just like what happened last year to Linden Liquors on West North Avenue in Reservoir Hill. Police say that last year they served five search warrants at the motel, made 16 drug arrests and responded to 33 calls for assaults, robberies, people with guns and other "violent criminal activity."
As you check in, you can read about all of these crimes in a letter police have posted in a lobby window to make sure everyone knows about a hearing Feb. 23 at the downtown police headquarters that could result in the Executive Inn's closing.
It's part of the city's renewed effort to go after businesses whose owners, officials say, promote criminal activity. I visited the motel yesterday, a day after the notice was posted, but a maintenance man assured me the manager was far too busy to talk. An attorney for the owner, Sayona Corp., did not return a phone call.
So I turned to Annette Eden. She lives across the street in a long row of red-brick rowhouses with wooden porches and sagging roofs, front lawns littered with beer cans. She runs a day care center and was busy getting the coats on six children to take them outside to play in the warm weather.
She takes them out back, not out front.
"They don't need to see that," Eden told me. "The police are always over there. The hookers are always over there."
I can't call the Executive Inn the seediest roadside motel I've ever seen. It's much nicer than the one-story plywood shacks that adorn U.S. 1.
But it's neither "executive" nor an "inn."
It's a bed without the breakfast. And if city police have their way, it won't even have a bed.