Publish Novella 5 December 2021
EPISODE 4 – INTERVIEWS
The gym becomes an active crime scene after the tragic death of its founder in an apparent freak accident.
⚠️ Reader Discretion: Mature images.
Police and paramedics arrive to cordon off the area and interview witnesses. Mark is pronounced dead on the scene. “This is both the best and worst possible crime scene. The entire death is on camera, but the story is already spinning out of control in the media,” Nelson says to police officers.
“Are you running point on this investigation, Detective Nelson?” officers ask.
“Yes, I have been working undercover as Omar Jackson while investigating the mysterious disappearance of fitness trainers. I saw the event, but I want to interview the person in charge,” Nelson says.
Officers lead the site manager to Detective Nelson. “My name is Marge Powers, the manager of this Strength and Fit location. I can’t believe this has happened, the musclebound woman says in tears.”
“Please accept my condolences. Can we speak somewhere more quiet?” says Nelson.
“Yes, this way to my office,” says Marge.
Outside her office door is a menacing topless female bodybuilder. Detective Nelson asks if she can either leave or put on a shirt.
“This event includes high-value equipment and celebrities. Some come with their own security detail. I have no control over their attire. Our policy is not to require female tops for professional bodybuilders without implants. It’s pure muscle, no different from men. But if you want to remove her, be my guest.”
With another officer as witness, Detective Nelson begins, “Well, some appear to have more than muscle exposed but we won’t waste resources on indecent exposure. I know this may not seem like the best time, but I have just a few questions for you now. Later when things quiet down, I will have some more. Is that all right?”
“I prefer to do this later,” the distraught woman says.
“We can do that at the station. I am trying to make things as comfortable for you as possible under the circumstances,” says Nelson.
Marge relents. “All right, what do you want to know?”
“Can you tell me where you were when the tragic incident occurred?” asks Nelson.
“I was in the locker room preparing for the final segment of the competition,” says Marge.
“Can anyone confirm this?” Nelson asks.
“Yes, there were perhaps a dozen reporters. I’m sure there will be corroborating stories on television today and in the bodybuilding magazines tomorrow,” Marge replies.
“Thank you. Can you tell me how the bench that Mark was using collapsed?” asks Nelson.
“As mentioned, I was not there,” says Marge.
“Certainly, but I mean collapsing benches in a gym seems like a liability. Shouldn’t they support the weight?” Nelson asks.
“Benches have different weight capacities. I can only assume that in the heat of the competition, Mark exceeded the capacity,” Marge replies.
“Yes, of course. What about the spotters? Shouldn’t they have caught the barbell?” asks Nelson.
“The primary purpose of spotters is to assist in getting the bar back on the rack when the weight lifter’s arms become fatigued. That falling barbell was nearly as dangerous for them as for Mark. It could have severed their feet. Again, I was not there. But I am sure the situation caught everyone off guard.”
“Okay, just one more question for now… can you tell me what happened to your employee by the name of Michael Baskin?”
Surprised by the shift in the line if questioning, Marge says, “Baskin… Yes, Baskin. From what I recall, he quit working here this week.”
“Do you have contact information for him?” asks Nelson.
Tapping on the computer keyboard, she writes down a phone number on a piece of paper and hands it to the detective. Noticing it is the same one he already has, he also asks for the address on file. She writes it underneath.
Fishing for a reaction, Nelson asks, “While you’re at it, can I get the contact information for another employee by the name of Ray Allen?
She replies, “That information has already been archived. I will need to retrieve it from another server. That will take some time. If you can excuse me, reporters are awaiting my statement outside.”
“I can’t tell you what to say, but I recommend not jumping to conclusions before our investigation is complete,” says Nelson.
“Good day, Detective,” Marge concludes.
Detective Nelson leaves Marge’s office to check the bench weight capacity, which appears to be 700 pounds. Adding Mark’s weight plus that of the barbell is pretty close to capacity. Examining the bolts, one is bent.
Standing 6'5" tall, Lou Ferrigno was 325 lbs at the 1992 Mr. Olympia, where he placed 12th.
“Get me some good photos of this bolt and take the entire bench back to the crime lab,” Nelson tells the officers processing the scene. “See if you can find the nut that goes on the end of it. The coroner can take this body away.”
Meanwhile, Marge Powers is outside making a statement to reporters.
“In what appears to be a tragic freak accident, our beloved founder, Mark Cameron, died doing what he loved. In his spontaneous competitive quest to excel, he exceeded the capacity of the reserved equipment.
Few people bench press his chosen weight. However, as a precaution, we will install only benches with a minimum one-ton capacity going forward. We are cooperating with the investigation and have no further comments at this time.”
Detective Nelson tells other officers, “Get me a plain-clothes tail on Miss Powers. I want to know where she goes and who she talks to.”
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” asks the officer.
“Yeah, I’m missing a CI named Michael Baskin. He was gathering intel about another missing trainer named Ray Allen. Now the founder of the gym dies. Something stinks like sardines in locker room sneakers,” replies Nelson.
A few bodybuilding females are still working out a distance away from the actual crime scene area. Some are topless. More are in the showers. Male officers ask Nelson if they should ask them to leave, arrest them for indecent exposure, or interview them.
“Have a couple of female officers inquire whether they have information about the crime. If not, allow them to remain at a distance. Forcing topless athletes out with any resistance will make this an even bigger media circus.”
Later, at the police station, the captain calls the detective into his office. “I know you have been working this missing person case for awhile, but millions of people witnessed a freak accident on television today. Tread lightly before calling it a homicide.”
“Until I find the first two missing persons, I’m treating this as a triple homicide,” Nelson replies.
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