Staying in Shape

Staying in ShapeThis wasn’t going to be too hard, Teddy thought to himself. A gym was a public place, but the way he saw it, that had its advantages. With other people around, he’d be less likely to be noticed. He’d even dressed the part, too. Running shorts, T-shirt, the right shoes. Nobody would probably even notice him. He glanced at the sign – The New You – and pushed open the glass double doors.

The place was just the way Drew had described it: sign-in and reception to the right, chairs, table and fitness magazine rack to the left, and everything thickly carpeted and upmarket. Perfectly-toned-and-tanned receptionist with a bonded, veneered smile. Teddy wouldn’t have to worry about the CCTV camera prominently mounted over the reception desk; Drew had told him it was broken. He was one of the managers, so he knew what he was talking about. Still, Teddy didn’t want to be there long. Receptionists sometimes had good memories for faces. He stepped over to the magazine rack, so he wouldn’t call attention to himself. He had to wait about ten minutes before he got his chance, but the Fitness Barbie behind the desk finally got up and went into the ladies’ room on the other side of the front entrance.

Teddy glanced around once, then headed back towards the gym area, grabbing a towel along the way to drape around his neck and partially hide his face. Once he was inside the gym itself, he stopped for a moment, looking for the right room. There it was – a smaller room marked ‘Group Classes.’ That’s where Emma would be, Drew had said. Teddy wasn’t sure what she might have done to piss Drew off, but whatever it was, Teddy was about to make some serious money solving the problem. And Drew had hinted that if this went well, there might be other work.

Now, Teddy looked around one more time to be sure no-one was watching him. No need to worry. These gym rats were so self-absorbed that they only paid attention to the weight they could bench-press. Narcissistic morons! He picked up a jumping rope from a basket against one wall, walked over to the door of the group class room and opened it. Good. There was only the one woman there, like Drew had said. Tall, with a nice ass and long black hair, tied in a ponytail. She looked up when she heard the door open.
‘Hello,’ she said with a smile. ‘Are you here for the Beginning Yoga class?’
‘Yeah,’ he said, getting closer to her. No sense doing anything before he could get close enough.
‘Welcome!’ She put out her hand and he shook it. ‘I’m Em. I hope you’ll enjoy the –’

It was all over in two minutes. She lay on the floor where she’d fallen, the jumping rope still wrapped around her neck. Teddy looked up. Nobody was there. He’d picked his time well – 10 minutes before the start of class. He’d have time to get out before anyone noticed him.

Teddy straightened up, brushed his hands on his running shorts and quickly left the room. He walked through the main workout area at a slightly slower pace. No sense in anyone remembering a guy hurrying through. He was supposed to stop by Drew’s in twenty minutes to pick up the money, and he’d have just enough time to get there without speeding. No sense in the cops stopping him either.

An hour later, he and Drew were sitting in Drew’s living room, an empty beer can next to each of them. They’d just started on their second ones when Drew checked his watch.
‘Almost time for the news. Wonder if it’ll be on,’ he drawled.
Teddy shrugged. ‘Might be,’ he answered. ‘Why’d you want her gone anyway?’ he asked.
Drew looked at him. ‘People shouldn’t sell gym candy on their own. Emma was branching out, getting her own supply. I tried to persuade her not to. Couldn’t convince her.’ Then he clicked the TV on.

The news had just started. ‘We have a breaking story in local news,’ said the announcer. ‘Tonight, the body of thirty-five-year-old Emily Sheridan was found in a group class room at The New You fitness center. Police are at the scene now.’
That wasn’t the right name, was it? Teddy glanced over at Drew, who had gone white. For a moment Drew’s mouth worked soundlessly. ‘What the – what did you do?’ he finally managed.
‘What do you mean?’ Teddy was completely confused.
‘My sister! You killed my sister, you sonofabitch!’
‘Your sister? I don’t –’ Then it sank in. The announcer had said Emily Sheridan. Drew had said the girl’s name was Emma.  Teddy watched as Drew’s face contorted. Then he  started to babble. ‘But I was at the right place. In the yoga class. You said tall, long dark hair. Ponytail. That’s what this girl looked like. That’s where she was.’
‘I’m going to find out what the hell happened. You better hope to God those news people are wrong.’

Drew grabbed his telephone and punched in a number. He strode out of the living room as he waited for the call to go through. The announcer’s voice kept buzzing on about thefts, fires, elections, and hot new styles, but Teddy didn’t hear a word of it. He was tempted to follow Drew around, but he forced himself to stay seated. How had this gone so damn wrong? Em. That was it. Em. She’d called herself Em. Could be Emma. Could be Emily. How the hell was he supposed to know which it was? He couldn’t very well have asked her. He’d just made a mistake, that was all.

Five minutes later Drew was back. One look at his face was all Teddy needed. He got up to leave, but Drew blocked his way. ‘You stupid sonofabitch!’ he yelled. ‘You got the wrong woman! Emma couldn’t make it to class tonight. My sister subs there sometimes. She took Emma’s place.’
‘Drew, I didn’t know. Nobody said anything. She looked how you said. How was I supposed to know?’
‘You killed my sister, you scumbag.’ Drew grabbed his arm.
‘I’m sorry,’ Teddy bleated. ‘Drew, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I –’
‘You have no idea what ‘sorry’ is, asshole. But you will.’



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24 responses to “Staying in Shape

  1. Woo! Great story, Margot! 😀

    And proves what I’ve always suspected – exercise is bad for you…! 😉

  2. Love it! Toyed with the idea of him maybe not killing her just knocking her out, as it takes a lot to strangle someone. Then decided it must be the wrong person but didn’t see the sister twist coming. Brilliant!

  3. Kathy D.

    Good story, and as always, has a surprising twist.
    Suggested title which is what I’ve always suspected: Exercise is Deadly.
    Or perhaps a Sue Grafton-type title: Y is for Yoga.

  4. Great story, Margot. And yes, more reasons for me to stay away from the gym!

  5. flamingyawn

    It sounds to me like Drew’s getting all bent “out of shape.”

  6. Ha! I had a sneaking suspicion at ‘Em…’ – although I was betting on Emintrude. Great mix-up story! You do poke fun at gyms and the types you find there. Not my scene either.

    • Ah, you’re quite astute, Marina Sofia! And thank you for the kind words. You do find some…interesting types at gyms, don’t you? I’m fortunate that the place where I live includes a fitness room where I can exercise. I like the idea of getting exercise, but since it’s not a public place, you get fewer of those types.

  7. Fantastic! It reminds of me of the old murder movies when the killer goes to the wrong room number in a motel. Thanks for starting my morning off right. 🙂

    • Thank you, Sue! I’m so glad you liked this 🙂 – And yes, you always need to check the room number…and the name of the person you think is going to be your victim…

  8. Murder is never the right answer is it? . 😀 😀 😀

  9. Kathy D.

    This story just exemplifies a basic tenet of my life, “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I just lie down and let it pass.” (also a maxim of Bernie Rhodenbarr, as told by Lawrence Block)

  10. tracybham

    That’s a dark one, Margot. It also proves criminals are not too bright (usually).

  11. Col

    Another belter, kind of guessed wrong person, but didn’t see your other twist coming!

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