Publish Novella 8 December 2021
EPISODE 5 – PERFECT CRIME
The investigating detective becomes obsessed with proving a homicide has taken place.
Business at all Strength and Fit locations resumes. The publicity attracts even more members who desire to be as fit as Marge Powers and the other women participating in the event. Men also want to emulate the competition between the sexes. For benchpressing, more people gravitate to resistance equipment than free weights.
Some, who hear about the topless option for female bodybuilders without implants, join out of curiosity. The women are flexing to show off their muscular physique. Onlooking men are trying to discern where their pectoral muscles end and their breasts begin.
Detective Nelson begins assembling a crime board. At the top, is an oval in which he writes “Strength and Fit.” below this, he attaches photos of Marge Powers and Mark Cameron with a line between them and Mark’s face crossed out.
A third row includes photos of Michael Baskin and Ray Allen with lines from them leading to question marks on their sides. In a another column, Nelson writes the names that Michael mentioned to him before his disappearance: Athena Morgan, Carmen Hermanez, Rosie, Jackie.
Nelson rallies police officers. “Listen up, people. We need to fill in some additional names and motives to make sense of this board. Follow the money. Who inherits Strength and Fit gym upon the death of the founder? Give me answers.”
About this time, Nelson receives a lab report about the bench. The board itself did not split. A bolt gave way by sliding out and bending under excessive weight. However, a nut securing the bolt should have prevented it from sliding out.
Nelson prints out a photo of the stripped bent bolt and places it on the board next to Cameron. Then he heads to Danielle at the lab that prepared the report. “So are you saying someone tampered with the bolt?”
“As mentioned in the report, it is inconclusive without the nut,” Danielle responds.
“So someone removed the nut?”
“It’s probable… or it may have become a projectile.”
“Okay, so we’re in a loop of inconclusiveness,” says a frustrated detective. “What about fingerprints on the bar?”
“There are none that show up in the criminal or DMV databases, except for those of the decedent.”
“So the spotters wiped it down before disappearing without a statement,” Detective Nelson mumbles to himself as he heads back to the crime board. The corporation must have a contingency. Whose running the company now?”
“It appears that a son named Stanley Cameron takes control of the corporation,” an officer answers.
“Print me a photo for my board? Where is he?” asks Nelson.
“He is a senior fitness trainer at one of the Strength and Fit locations?”
“Don’t keep me in suspense. Which one?” Nelson asks.
“The one were his father died.”
“Bingo! We have motive. Give me a home address!” demands Nelson.
Late Saturday afternoon, Detective Nelson knocks on the door of the heir. After a few moments Stanley looks through an opening. “Who is it?”
“Detective Omar Nelson. Here’s my badge.”
“How may I help you?”
“Can you open the door please? I have some sad news for you.”
Stanley opens the door with a solemn expression. “Yes?”
“Are you Stanley Cameron?”
“Yes, I am.”
“No doubt you have heard about your father?”
“Yes, I saw it on television.”
“I am sorry for your loss.”
“So why weren’t you at the event?”
“I was at another Strength and Fit location, training a client.”
“Do you know who will inherit control of the company?”
“I beg your pardon? I am in mourning, and assumed you were making a courtesy notification. I prefer not to answer further questions about an accident at an event that I did not attend.”
“Perhaps after your mourning, we can have you come by the station for further questions.”
“The corporation will likely appoint a lawyer for that purpose. Good day, Detective.”
With Stanley lawyering up, Detective Nelson sits in his car to phone plain-clothes officers surveilling Marge. She has checked into a ritzy hotel to get away from the media camped outside her house. As an eventful Saturday winds down, a new shift of police officers are coming on duty.
Detective Nelson buys a pastrami on his way home. While sitting on his sofa, news coverage of the day’s events plays on the television. As everyone repeats the story of a freak accident, Nelson falls asleep from exhaustion.
Sunday morning, he wakes up wondering if he can find the missing bolt or if someone pocketed it. He visits the gym but a posted sign says it is closed until Wednesday for equipment upgrades. He then visits Michael’s last known address but it is vacant.
Nelson can’t get search warrants without evidence of a crime. By Wednesday, the police captain will cut back on available resources. In the office, the detective looks at the bottom row of his crime board. He can find no history on the four women Michael trained. The two with last names are not even in the local White Pages.
The autopsy of Mark Cameron lists the cause of accidental death as asphyxiation due to punctured lung. The detective has nothing more than suspicious circumstances to fuel his homicide theory.
Keeping the two trainers in captivity will only become a greater liability. Stanley uses a burner phone to text a coded message to another burner. This forwards to a series of other burner phones before reaching the people watching the captives.
The message translates to, “shut down operation.” This means lose all remaining evidence in fire or in the desert.
Stanley smashes the cellphone chip into powder and flushes it down the toilet. He then packs the phone in his carryon luggage. When he arrives in the state of the Strength and Fit corporate office, he dumps the burner phone in airport wastebasket.
The board of executives convenes on Monday for the official appointment of the Strength and Fit CEO and president. Stanley receives week-long training from corporate advisors. In addition to new titles, he inherits a hefty life insurance payout, and his late father’s busy schedule.
Stanley Cameron transfers a new site manager to the Strength and Fit location where the death occurred. He relocates Marge close to the corporate office and leases a nearby home for himself.
For Detective Nelson, the case grows as cold as the victim’s body. The morgue releases the body of Mark Cameron to the family for burial.
Repeated trips to the Strength and Fit gym do not provide new information. The new manager can’t find any data in the computer and is not familiar with past workers. Despite his obsession with the case, the only thing Nelson is able to uncover is and increasing number of topless female bodybuilders willing to flex for him.
Detective Nelson is unable to extradite Stanley or Marge for further questioning on a case regarded as a suspicious accident. Strength and Fit lawyers stonewall him. According to the district attorney, there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. The missing persons case remains unsolved. As Nelson clears his crime board, he cannot believe that a perfect crime was committed right under his nose.