BB’s Mini-Mystery #3

Dead Weight
By Rebecca Benston

Darnell Wooten worked at a local fitness center. He was a personal trainer and was fairly well-liked by his co-workers and clients. Maybe, a little too well-liked by some. He had plans to get a degree in Physical Therapy and go to work for a rehabilitation center. He was just three classes away from graduation when he was found dead in the gym’s weight room.

Three months prior, Darnell’s clients included a doctor, a college football player, assorted college cheerleaders and the occasional housewife. The nearby university sent plenty of business his way. It had been rumored that Darnell played the field and that he often became romantically involved with his clients. Although he was generally discreet, he’d had his share of confrontations with angry boyfriends and even husbands.

He had been dating a local cheerleader named Betsy Jantzen for the past six months. Before that, he had spent some quality time with the wife of a local attorney. Before that, he had befriended a shy, young art student, Beverly Whitford and a waitress, Darla Hughes, who frequented the gym. Both of whom he dumped without explanation and both of whom were devastated by the breakups.

On one evening, his girlfriend Betsy stopped by to see if he would like to meet her for dinner later. She just happened to see him locked in an embrace with a fellow trainer, Tandi Gershwin. She walked over to him, tapped him on the shoulder and then stood there until he turned around. He broke free from Tandi and when he turned around, he said, “Betsy, hey, what are you doing here?”

“The better question is what the hell are you doing here?” she snapped. Tandi backed up a step and turned to lean against the counter.

Darnell grabbed Betsy’s hand and walked her away from where they had been standing. “Hey, Tandi’s grandmother passed away, I was just consoling her. She’s upset.” He was smooth and he had a million excuses ready to use at any time. He just hoped that she hadn’t been there a few minutes before the hug when he had been flirting and snapping at the straps on Tandi’s leotard.

She thought for a moment and then seemed to be okay with what he had said. She asked him about their dinner plans and then went on her merry way, turning to wave at Tandi on her way out. When Betsy had left the parking lot, Darnell went back to Tandi and told her that Betsy was under a lot of stress and that she had just overreacted. Tandi didn’t really care because she had a boyfriend and considered this to be just harmless flirtation. Nonetheless, she agreed to meet with Darnell later that evening after he had dinner with his family.

This is how Darnell got through the days. He juggled relationships and made sure everyone thought he was the good guy. In reality, he was a cheater, a liar and a hopeless jerk. Darnell eventually met his match in a woman named Sally Metzger. She was an attractive, albeit overweight, mother of two who came into the gym to work on losing the extra pounds she had gained after her second child was born. She worked with Darnell for close to three months and had made great progress, losing a whopping thirty pounds. By the time she was ready to tell Darnell she no longer needed his services, he had started to notice that she was looking pretty good. The prospect of a new conquest loomed large in his mind. He decided to make his move.

On their regular rotation, Sally was to do a variety of floor exercises and follow it up with nautilus. She was just getting up from doing a series of push ups when Darnell gave her a pat on the rear end. She looked around at him and said, “What was that?” She wasn’t angry; in fact, she had been smiling when she said it.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, “I’m sorry, my hand must have slipped.”

They exchanged a few comments and then agreed that he should come and have a drink with her later. She wasn’t married and she had a babysitter for the evening. The met as planned and from there, the affair began. She was, by far, the most intriguing woman Darnell had ever pursued. She was smart and now, after losing the weight, he found her to be amazingly attractive. After a couple of weeks, he decided that he was going to go ahead and dump his girlfriend Betsy. He had only been stringing her along in case things didn’t go well with Sally. He decided to call her and tell her on a Thursday evening.

Betsy picked up the phone on the third ring and said, “Hello.”

“Betsy, hey, it’s me,” he said.

“Hey, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you today,” she said, sounding pleasantly surprised.

“Yeah, well, I wanted to call and talk to you,” he said, “I’ve been doing some thinking.”

“About what?” she asked, puzzled at the serious tone in his voice.

“Well, I’ve been thinking that this just isn’t working out, you know,” he said.

“What isn’t working out?” she asked.

“Us, dating, it’s not been going the way I wanted it to,” he said, “and I really don’t want to drag it out any longer.”

“Drag it out!” she shrieked.

“That’s what I mean, you’re too moody for me and I just don’t feel like we’ll ever get past it,” he said, still maintaining a calm demeanor, “I just want to call it quits and move on. I do wish you the best.”

“Now wait a minute…” she was saying and then she heard the dial tone. He had hung up on her. He had broken up with her over the telephone and then topped it all off by hanging up on her before she could respond. She was furious. She hung up the phone and then grabbed her coat and purse from the wall hook on her way out the door. She wasn’t going to let him get away with this. When she got into her car, she drove straight over to the gym. He had called her from work, so she knew he would still be there. It was almost closing time and there were only a few cars in the parking lot, none of them familiar to her.

She slipped into the gym unnoticed. No one was at the counter and it appeared that the place was nearly empty. She could hear the sound of weights clanging in the weight room so she decided to head in that direction. He was probably back there trying to impress Tandi with his bench pressing. When she got to the doorway of the weight room, she looked inside and started to say, “Don’t bother trying to impress her…”

Before she could get the words out, she gasped at the sight before her. Darnell was lying on the weight bench with a heavy barbell resting on his neck. He wasn’t moving and when she went over to try and lift it off of him; she couldn’t even move the thing. She ran out to the counter to find help, but there was no one around. The lights had been turned off and it looked like someone had shut the place down at the same moment she had discovered Darnell. She picked up the phone on the counter and dialed 9-1-1. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced Darnell dead at the scene. Betsy was taken into custody by the police and an investigation ensued…

Who killed Darnell? Why? Think you can figure it all out? Send your guess to me by Friday at 5 p.m. EST. I’ll announce the winner on Friday night!

Good luck!

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