Death of a Swinger

“We had an abandoned quarry like this back home.” Despite the tragic scene, Sherman couldn’t repress a smile. “The local swimming hole. I remember being a kid and swinging on a rope, Tarzan-style, just like this poor fellow.”

SwingerHis wistful tone contrasted sharply with the bloody, broken body just in front of him. The deceased was a youth of about twenty, wearing swim trunks and lying on a granite slab a dozen feet from the edge of a deep, clear pool. Wreathing the body was a thirty-foot length of rope.

Sergeant Wilson lifted the corpse to reveal the rope’s freshly severed end. “See? The rope was cut halfway through, then torn the rest of the way.” He held the body up as Sherman inspected the rope, then settled the body back down on top of it. “This was murder.”

Both men turned and looked up the sheer rock face. Sixty feet above them was the cliff on which Bobby Fixx had stood. Even from here, Sherman could see the other end of the rope, tied to the branch of a towering pine. The ten-foot section swayed gently in the summer breeze.

“Looks pretty obvious,” Wilson said. “Our Mr. Fixx swings out on the rope, just like he’s done a hundred times before. Only this time, someone’s cut through it. Instead of swinging into the water, he falls straight down, taking this useless piece of rope with him.”

“Isn’t this area private property?” asked Sherman.

“Yep,” said Wilson. “Owned by Midlands Granite. Fixx and his college buddies rent an off-campus house just over the ridge. Let’s go pay them a visit.”

They found the three college juniors sitting in stunned silence on the porch of a tattered cabin. Sergeant Wilson checked his notes. “Thad Killian? You actually saw it happen?”

“Yeah.” The short blond boy on the porch swing nodded his head. “I was hiking along the ridge, a couple hundred yards from the cliff. I saw Bobby. He grabbed the rope and took a running start. As soon as he cleared the edge, the rope broke. He screamed and then there was this thud instead of a splash. I came right back here and called 911.”

“I heard the scream, too,” said a tall, burly redhead. “I’m Rick Dawson. I was walking on the road, by the barbed-wire fence. I figured the scream must have come from the swimming quarry. That’s the only reason anyone goes there. I hopped the fence and found his body a few minutes later. I didn’t touch anything.”

“Forensics will know if you did,” the sergeant said curtly. He approached the third student. “You must be Julio Mendez.”

“Right,” answered the last roommate. “I was supposed to go swimming with Bobby today, but I fell asleep. Thad woke me after he called 911.” He shivered. “I used that rope swing as much as Bobby. It could have been me dying like that.”

Wilson took his friend aside. “This could be a hard one, Sherman. We don’t even know if Fixx was the intended target. Whoever sawed through that rope…”

“Whoever sawed through that rope is right here on this porch. I don’t know what the motive was, but one of Fixx’s roommates is definitely lying.”

WHO KILLED BOBBY FIXX?

WHAT GAVE THE KILLER AWAY?

“Did you fellows all get along?”  Sherman asked in his most innocuous tone.  “Was Bobby a good friend?”

The roommates exchanged glances.  “Well…”  Julio hemmed.  “Bobby had this habit of stealing girls.  He never messed with my Angie, but I heard from other guys.  He got this perverse pleasure from going after girls who were already dating.”

“I doubt that was true,” said Thad Killian.  “Just gossip, you know.”

“Then why did you kill him?” asked Sherman.

Thad chuckled.  “What do you mean?”

“You killed him, Thad.  You cut the rope and threw it off the cliff.  Then, when Bobby showed up to swim, you pushed him off the cliff.”

Thad stopped chuckling.  “That’s ridiculous.”

“Your story was ridiculous.  Bobby didn’t swing on the rope as you said.  If he had, the severed rope end would have landed on top of his body or beside it.  But the rope end was found underneath him.  He couldn’t have been swinging on it when he fell.”