Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Life Imitates Art

Ok, so maybe art is too strong a word. But imagine my surprise when I got a tweet from John Wiswell asking if a news story about a missing woman being found in a church septic tank seemed familiar.
"MABEL!" I shrieked.
Last October I wrote a story called Why Mabel Stopped Going to Church, about a lovely old lady and her gal pal Olive and the mysterious disappearance of a chipper new minister with modern ideas. Here's the story:

“Did I tell you about the new minister?” asked Mabel MacFarlane.
“No,” replied Olive Ferguson. “Is he new, then?”
“Well it’s not a he,” said Mabel. “It’s a she.”
“Oh,” said Olive, nodding her head. “Very modern.”
“Too modern for me,” said Mabel. “I stopped going.”
Olive put down her teacup with a startled clink. “Stopped going, Mabel? That’s not like you, hmmm?”
Mabel stole a swift glance around the social room at Bonnie View Vista to see if anyone was listening. Not that anyone was. Old George Stanfield was leaning heavily over the tea table, stuffing arrowroot biscuits in his toothless gob. Caroline Stapleton was dealing a hand to her tittering euchre cronies and Margaret Fields was batting her eyelashes at the orderly. They were all stone deaf anyway, except for the orderly, and he didn’t care what any of the old codgers had to say, thinking them drooling and daft.
“Look at him over there texting his girlfriend,” Mabel said.
“Who, the minister?” Olive said.
“No you dumb cow, not the minister, the orderly.”
“Oh,” said Olive. “I thought you said he was a she. Is she a lesbian, then?”
“Who?” asked Mabel.
“I don’t know,” said Olive, “you brought it up. I’m terribly confused. The minister, I think.”
Mabel stared at her friend. 
Her forehead with its hand-drawn eyebrows, painted more in the style of a Van Gogh than a Maybelline, wrinkled while she tried to focus.
Olive sipped tea. Lipstick stained the rim of her cup.
“Oh yes,” Mabel said, “I remember now. We were talking about the church and why I stopped going.”
“You stopped going?” Olive asked. “Whatever for?”
Mabel’s left eyebrow twitched. Ever so slightly. “It was that new minister, that woman. Oh, it was all fine at first. Her sermons were nice; didn’t put me to sleep like old Rev. Harold did, bless his soul.”
“It was a heart attack that got him, wasn’t it?” 
“No, Olive, he was run over by Harvey Ashby’s honey wagon.”
“Oh yes, I remember now. Terrible that was. Harvey had been pumping out the holding tank at the manse. Poor Rev. Harold, run over by his own excrement. Was it hard to get a replacement, then?”
Mabel nodded. “Oh yes, it took months to find that woman. The elders did all sorts of interviews but they’re all a bunch of wishy-washy picky-pants and couldn’t decide on anyone. Finally they picked Rev. Amber Spencely, of all people. Probably won over by her straight teeth and yellow hair. Straight out of nursery school by the looks of her.”
“That young, was she? I thought there were rules about that sort of thing.”
“Oh Olive,” Mabel said. “Of course she was old enough. She went to university down in the city. She had to be old enough. But she sure had young ideas.”
“Such as?
Mabel finished the last bit of tea and looked Olive straight in the eye. “She didn’t call God a He.”
Olive gasped a little. “No!”
“Oh yes! She said there were arguments on both sides of whether the Holy Father was a father or a mother. She talked about it in church! Right there in church!”
“Well I never,” said Olive.
“That’s not all. She said the Bible wasn’t necessarily God’s word.”
“What?” said Olive.
“That’s what she said! That it wasn’t to be taken as God’s word, but as a collection of nicey-nice legends and fables – she called them fables, Olive – that show us believers how to live our lives.”
“Fables!” said Olive, suitably aghast.
“The worst thing, though, the very worst thing, was what she said to me and Pauline Rosseau after a church supper one night. We were just finishing up the dishes and Pauline, you know her, she’s that French widow that lives over there on the east side of town.”
“Oh sure,” said Olive, “nice lady that Pauline. Too bad about her husband.”
“He was old, though, lived a long life. Pauline, she’s a lot older than she looks.”
“Dyes her hair black,” Olive said. “I can tell.”
Mabel looked at her friend like she was a bug. “And me I thought that it was natural on an 90 year old woman.” She scowled. “Like I was saying, Pauline was telling Rev. Spencely how important the church is to her and how she tries her best to do everything according to God’s wishes because she wants to get to Heaven and that’s when the Reverend said Heaven wasn’t real.”
Olive’s eyes widened. “No!”
Mabel nodded. “Yes! I heard it with my own eyes! Rev. Spencely said that Heaven was like the fables in the Bible, designed to keep people on the straight and narrow, like a carrot in front of a donkey. And to give us comfort in the shadows and valleys of death. Well, that was precisely the wrong thing to say to Pauline. She kept her composure in front of the minister but the very moment we were outside she started to cry.”
“Oh dear,” Olive said. “Poor dear.”
“Pauline was looking forward to going to Heaven and seeing her husband again. Hearing there was no Heaven meant she would never see his sweet face. And here she had been following all the church rules for all those years – for nothing!”
“She might as well have been swearing and fornicating,” Olive said.
“Might as well,” Mabel said.
“Huh,” Olive said.
The two women were quiet for a moment, lost in thought.
“So what happened?” Olive asked.
“What do you mean what happened?”
Mabel looked around the room. The euchre ladies were gone. Margaret and the orderly had disappeared some place. George was reclined in an easy chair, snoring, little bits of biscuit crumbs around his open mouth.
“Well, Pauline and I stopped going to church, for one thing. She said what’s the point of going when there’s no Heaven and I agreed. I have better things to do on Sunday morning besides listening to boring sermons. That’s when Coronation Street is on the television.”
She leaned towards Olive. “And I heard the new minister disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” asked Olive.
“Into thin air,” said Mabel. “Didn’t show up for Sunday service. Didn’t leave word she wasn’t coming. Nobody has seen her since.”
Olive’s eyes lit up. “So what do you think happened to her then?”
“How should I know?” Mabel said.
Olive looked disappointed. “Oh. I thought you might, for some reason.”
“No dearie, not me,” Mabel said.
“Oh,” said Olive. She sighed. “Well, then, what else is new?”
“Not much. I’m going over to Pauline’s later on. She’s expecting Harvey Ashby over to pump out her septic tank. She has some kind of clog.”
“A clog?” Olive said. “Sounds nasty.”
“You have no idea,” said Mabel.

And here's the news story, written by Crime Journalist David Lohr for AOL News:

The body of a missing mother of three has been recovered from an underground septic system behind a rural Ohio church after the woman's mother-in-law told authorities where to find the corpse, according to police.

Authorities had been searching for 25-year-old Summer Inman since March 22. She was in an alleyway behind a bank that she was cleaning when two men forced her into a car, police in the town of Logan said.

An undated police handout photo shows Summer Inman.
Logan Police
Authorities in Ohio have recovered the body of Summer Inman from inside an underground septic system behind a rural church.
"The body was very much intact [and] we're very comfortable with the identification," Logan Police Chief Aaron Miller told reporters during a news conference today.

Police investigated the incident as an apparent kidnapping and focused on Inman's estranged husband, William Inman II, 26. The couple, who were married in 2004, had been separated for about a year.

Summer Inman had filed for divorce and obtained an order of protection. According to court documentsobtained by 10TV News, she said her husband had "threatened to kill" her.

Police last week filed kidnapping charges against Inman and his parents, William Inman, 47, and Sandra Inman, 46. According to Miller, authorities recently conducted a search of the parents' Jackson County home, during which they said they found "significant evidence" of their involvement in the crime.

Miller said Sandra Inman came forward Tuesday with information in the case.

"[She] asked to speak with her attorney," Miller said. "Shortly thereafter, [she] revealed the location of Summer Inman's body. Officers arrived at the location at about 8:50" Tuesday night.

Miller said police were led to an underground septic tank at Faith Tabernacle Church, off U.S. 33 in Nelsonville. "Her body was in a septic system at the rear of the church," he said.

Police say they have received information indicating that the Inmans may have been members of the church at some point.

Police handout photos of the suspects in the murder of Summer Inman.  From left to right: William A. Inman II, and his parents William A. Inman and Sandra K. Inman.
Logan Police
William A. Inman II, left, and his parents, William A. Inman and Sandra K. Inman, face kidnapping charges in the disappearance of the younger Inman's estranged wife, whose body was found Tuesday night in a church septic tank.
Summer Inman has since been transported to Montgomery County, where an autopsy will be performed. Miller would not speculate on a cause of death, but he did say it appears "she was killed very quickly that evening -- the evening of the crime."

Hocking County Prosecutor Laina Fetherolf has confirmed that her office negotiated a deal with Sandra Inman, but she told reporters today that she is unable to "release any details of that at this time." The district attorney also declined to elaborate on what Inman allegedly said to police.

Fetherolf said it will be up to a grand jury to make a decision in the case regarding any murder complaints, but she was going to encourage a judge to ensure the Inmans would not be able to walk out of jail anytime soon.

"We have arraignments today in the charges that have been filed against the Inmans for kidnapping. ... We hope, at that time, the court will be favorable to our request to set an extremely high bond in the case so they won't be leaving the jail at this point," Fetherolf said.

Miller declined to discuss any other details of the case today. "This is an ongoing case as far as prosecution, and we are still developing information," he said.

This kind of thing has happened to me a few times before and it's always shocking. When I wrote For Bella, a story based on a true family event where a father drowned all his children in a rain barrel, I had the father line all his dead children up in a row in the backyard. A few months later I was watching the movie Shutter Island and just about pitched a fit when Leonardo diCaprio's character pulled his drowned children out of a pond and laid them in a row in the yard.
I also did some writing last summer involving a marriage break-up with 'Lou' as the name of the main female character. Yesterday I saw a movie called Serious Moonlight starring Meg Ryan as an angry wife who gets dumped. Her character's name? Lou.
Crazy, eh?

Thanks to Mr. Wiswell for pointing out this amazing coincidence! And here I thought I was being all original...


  1. I've had a couple of cases like that on FlashTold. The last time, I posted "The Night There Were Two Lead Singers for the Souls of Styxx" about the previous lead singer coming back for an encore performance. Two days later, Ronnie James Dio died. Totally freakomatic.

  2. Interesting coincidence there Cathy.

  3. Creepy, Cathy! I hope you don't get a knock on the door from the boys in

  4. Weirdness! Re-read your story, Mabel's just as much fun the second time around!

  5. Yeah, um... would you mind writing a story about how I win a big Lotto jackpot? I promise to share a percentage of the winnings with you. I even promise to buy a Lotto ticket....

  6. Wow. Well you ARE being original....they're the ones who are doing the copying.

    Such a shame about that girl...I'll bet they never would have found her body if MIL didn't tip them off. I guess a guilty conscious weighs pretty heavily, huh?

  7. This gives me the goosebumps, girl! I feel for this woman, though -- what a horrible way to go. Peace...

  8. Cue Twilight Zone theme song. And run for the hills.


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