Jason Lawrence Bell
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03-06-20

03–06-20                         PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

‘How about a little cream for their coffees? And check for small spoons for those who want dessert,’ directed the coffee shop manager to the server. It has been an unusually busy lunch crowd for a Wednesday. But there was a reason for the sudden onslaught of people. Last week their small Arizona town attracted national attention with the discovery of the mass suicide of a local cult. For years the cult lived without incident a few miles out of town at the foot of a mountain range.  Occasionally residence would see a cult member in town getting supplies. They were always cordial but secretive. The cult was said to be an offshoot of the Mormon religion, where there was one man and multiple wives. They called themselves ‘Chambers’ from the last name of the man. There were five wives and 22 children living on a high desert farm.

Calling it a farm was a stretch. They had a few fruit trees, a cow and twenty chickens. How they survived was the town’s mystery. The Chambers were there ten years, at least until last Thursday. A utility worker for the gas company found the ‘Chambers’ on their large front porch laying in neat rows, dead.

The coffee shop has always been a central social place for the small town. Local folks often met there to hear the latest news. On one wall near the entrance was a large bulletin board where anyone could post. It was filled with local events like school car washes, homes for rent, small job offers. There was a corner of the board that the Chambers used. They sold fruit preserves, fresh eggs, and sowing services. It was probably the bulletin board that attracted the Investigator Valentine first.

Valentine was lead investigator of the mass suicide. He learned quickly that the coffee shop was central to the town and most of the people he needed to question were regulars. So, there Valentine stood in front of the bulletin board carefully analyzing every piece posted. The locals knew who Valentine was and quizzed him about the latest progress in the case.  He told them that three days after the original discovery they found one more body. A woman’s remains were found in the septic tank. This makes 6 wives and 22 children found dead. They still haven’t found Mr. Chambers, the patriarch of the cult. There were theories that he possibly killed everyone and went on the run. Valentine put the police on alert to find Mr. Chambers.

A new theory evolved with the entrance of a sixth woman or wife. There may have been extreme jealousy between the other wives. They may have killed the new wife and put her in the septic tank. When Mr. Chambers found out, he became enraged, killed everyone, then disappeared.

Valentine was still examining the board when he noticed an ad, ‘local safe driver will take you anywhere. Prices better than Uber.’  A phone number was written at the bottom. Valentine thought this may be a lead and dialed the number. Surprisingly a phone rang at the coffee shop counter a short distance from Valentine. A young man answered. Valentine saw him and walked over.

‘Hey, so you give rides for cash?’ The young man said ‘hey, I give safe rides. Better than Uber.’ Valentine continued, ‘did you give rides to the ‘Chamber’ people.’ ‘No, never to the wife’s or children. But the main man Chambers, I drove him many times. I haven’t given him a ride for about a month though,’ answered the man. ‘Are you certain one month? Because Mr. Chambers is gone, and their pickup truck, which we think was the cults only transportation, is still at the ranch.’ The young man responded, ‘yes I’m certain. He must have been sick or something, because I always took him to and from the County Hospital in Capital City. It was the only place we ever went. Once he stayed at the hospital for two days and I had to return to pick him up. Otherwise that’s all I had to do with cult.’

Valentine made a call to the County Hospital and was waiting for a call back, so he decided to mingle with the locals at the coffee shop. He announced that they were looking for help understanding the Chambers better. Did anyone have any knowledge that may help. One old woman spoke, ‘I noticed that about three years ago they stopped having babies. For years there were at least 3 babies born to the wives each year, but that stopped. I don’t know why.’ Then another man added, ‘it seems like the Chambers, as a whole, became more religious. They were devout before but in the last few years they became pushier. They were trying to convert men to their cult.’ Then a woman added, ‘just men, they wouldn’t approach women. I know because they tried to convert my oldest son. But the town got angry and they stopped.’ Valentine continued, ‘there is the new wife. Where did she come from? Are there any women missing from the town?’ The locals said no one was missing. Valentine reached another dead end. The coffee shop manger asked, ‘can you tell us how they died?’ Valentine thought it would be okay to tell, ‘the children were poisoned, and the wives shot each other in the heads. But the wife from inside the tank was beaten to death. Very violently. That’s why we think the passion of jealousy.’

The locals were shocked and were talking amongst themselves when Valentine got the call. It was the County Hospital. He walked outside for privacy. The locals were watching him thru the windows. What he was being told looked very serious by the expression on Valentines face. After the call finished Valentine just stood there contemplating deep in thought. Slowly he turned and walked back into the coffee shop.

The locals were completely fixed on Valentine and were begging for information. Valentine walked over to a chair and sat down and spoke, ‘I guess it would be okay telling you now, since it will be in the newspapers soon. I was wrong. The passion to kill the new wife was not jealousy, but instead raging anger from betrayal. The wives were furious at their situation and especially at Chambers the patriarch. The wives apparently could not find a solution for a major problem and through desperation decided to send the cult to heaven and away from their impossible life. The wives were the mass murders. Mr. Chambers was not doing his alpha male duties like they wanted. They tried to find new male counterparts but that failed. When their anger became unbearable, death became their only solution. Mr. Chambers did something that was unforgivable and a direct threat to the cult. And I know now what that is. Mr. Chambers recently had a sex change and became a woman. This began the series of events that left everyone dead. We now believe it is Mr. Chamber’s body in the septic tank’. Peace**