MURDER MYSTERY NEWS
by Leigh Lundin
Following are a couple of news items that caught my attention, relating to mystery, murder, mayhem, and heroism.
23 October 2007 – The Heroes
The heroes are Qemal Agaj of Albania and Fred Hunt of Berwick, Maine, who were swimming off Cocoa Beach, Florida. They saw a 68 year old woman caught in a rip tide and set out to save her.
Many years ago in South Beach, I saved a girl once, or at least I like to believe I did. I often swam out to the buoys that demarcated the limit that boats were allowed to approach, and sculled and floated in relative privacy. In the best private dick hedonism, the days were lazy, the exercise good, the sun bright, and the girls topless.
One afternoon, I heard screaming and spotted a girl floundering. She had attempted to swim out to an anchored boat and had exhausted herself halfway there. Old Boy Scout and Red Cross training kicked in, and I approached cautiously, aware that the desperate will grab anything they can cling to, not uncommonly drowning the rescuer.
I swam up from behind and instructed her to lay her head back, and refused to approach closer until she complied. I cupped her under the chin and using a regulation sidestroke, I began to tow her. Another lad swam out as well, and together we pulled her to the boat. It didn’t seem a big deal, just a matter of giving someone a hand. Afterwards, however, a friend said, “You saved her life.”
It’s still hard to internalize, because my risk was minimal. However, Fred Hunt and Qemal Agaj found themselves in a very different situation. They faced a rip current, a nasty phenomenon involving tides and a broken sandbar. The break in the sandbar creates a funnel, a chute in which swimmers can be swept out to sea. So far this year, ten swimmers have died off Florida’s Space Coast this year, not a few of them from rip tides.
The two men swam out, reassured the woman, and shoved her towards shore, where her husband, Iden Ford, and paramedics pulled her to safety. Then, the tide seized Qemal Agaj, nearly sweeping him away until paramedics succeeded in getting a line to him.
Only Fred Hunt’s wife noticed that her ‘strong and confident’ husband had gone under water, his body suffering a heart attack. By the time paramedics rescued him, Hunt, 51, was already in cardiac arrest. Iden Ford was devastated, his wife safe but one of her rescuers lost trying to save her.
Both men (indeed, all three men) are heroes, putting their lives on the line to save a stranger. So far, though, I haven’t mentioned the woman’s name.
The rescued is our colleague, Canadian mystery writer, Maureen Jennings, author of the Detective Murdoch series, now in television production. Murdoch, as many of you know, is a turn-of-the-century investigator working in Toronto. Thanks to real-life heroes, we still have his creator.
24 October 2007 – The Felon
If Ellery Queen had written this as a mystery, no one would have believed it. Russia’s most prolific serial killer, Alexander Pichushkin, 33, was convicted in criminal court of attempting to kill 64 people, one for each square on a chessboard.
Pichushkin, the Bittsa Park Maniac, was housed in a tempered glass cage during proceedings. He listened for the hour it took Judge Vladimir Usov to read the verdict, seeming almost proud of his accomplishment.
Pichushkin is known to have killed at least 48 and may have killed 61, 62 or 63, remaining shy of his goal, beating the record of Andrei Chikatilo’s 53 murders. The killings were gruesome and varied, and I leave the details to those who pursue such things in their attempt to grapple with evil.
These two news items cover what our genre is about, Crime and Punishment, and of course detection in the pursuit of evil.