Black Heart

UNHINGED

Book One

Publication Date: August 8, 2018
ASIN: B07GBKF87X
Print Length: 402 pages
ISBN: 13: 978-17246265
ISBN: 10: 1724626582

In this dark, gripping psychological thriller, a perfect world twists into an absolute nightmare.

In the tight-knit rodeo community, the Rocking -B Ranch reigns supreme. When owner and renowned equestrian Berlin McKitrick mysteriously loses her ability to speak, her daughter doesn’t check on her to make sure she’s okay. Instead, she hires an attorney for control of the estate, demanding her mother be institutionalized.

When a doctor she hardly knows decides to dictate her future, it seems Berlin will lose everything when she’s dragged from her home, flown out of state, then placed in the hands of a formidable stranger. Subsequently, she escapes, only to find herself under a bridge riser with no money, ID, incapable of communicating, or a way home. If he finds her, she knows it will be the end of the life she once knew. In the midst of trying to keep what is hers, something ominous creeps to the surface – long suppressed memories of terrible secrets best kept hidden. When the past collides with the present, will darkness override her ability to get back to the world she once knew?

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EXCERPT

Prologue

In the folds of evil.

When it was new, the 1954 tri-level, Pacemaker, mobile home was an engineering marvel. Two decades later, it was a landlord’s last hope of a weekly cash cow. It wasn’t as grotesque on the outside as it was on the inside. The flamingo pink and white exterior somewhat gave it an inviting facade, until you made a closer inspection, taking in its rudimentary, roll-on paint job. 

Inside the mobile home, the dilapidation was apparent with a twisted upper frame, causing the floor to float, and the dresser to scrape up and down the wall as you traveled across the room. The lower level had a cubby door that you crawled in, to tuck yourself into a lower bunk. 

Unfortunately, the lower bunk was long gone, replaced by what the landlord considered a gardening tools area. Garden tools never found their way inside, just roaches, spiders, rats, snakes, and the occasional demon raccoon.

Why anyone would want to live there, much less pay to live there was a mystery. Mold crept up the wall in every corner and seemed to ooze from around the electrical outlets. In a few random places, the limed oak interior had punch holes deep enough that the exterior precariously bowed. 

Aluminum extrusions that surrounded the windows, were ripped out by the previous tenant then sold at the scrap yard for a hit of meth. Planks of scrap wood, varying sizes of wall screws, and bulbous caulk replaced the aluminum extrusions, keeping the windows permanently closed; while also making it a fire hazard. 

What was left of the avocado and white linoleum, pockmarked the thin plywood floor. Most of the original carpet was there, but you had to rip the broken drawers out of the built-in dresser to see the original color or the shag design. The rest of the carpet was too matted with filth to determine what color or type it was. 

A bathroom was nestled under the pitched roof. Some of the aluminum roof coating had dripped into the bathtub over the years. No one seemed to mind bathing with it, that is, if they bathed at all. 

The front door blew open, sucking out half the heat churning from the Dearborn heater. The Dearborn and a window unit were added by the landlord when the central unit gave out fifteen years ago. The window unit no longer worked either, it just hazardously hung out of the opening because the landlord refused to replace it. The Dearborn would take forty minutes for the vintage unit to belch out enough heat to warm the house again. It dropped the temperature from a comfortable seventy-two-degrees to the low sixties. 

Great… just freakin’ great! It made the brat start squalling again. “Patsy, is that you?”

“Yeah, Meg, it’s me. I brought that plastic baby seat for you. Did you get the kid?”

“Yep, we’re in the bathroom.” 

Patsy squeezed into the bathroom before settling her round bottom on the leaning toilet. She took an interest in Meg stooped over the tub, slowly blowing smoke into a tiny, naked, baby girl’s face. The baby was laying on a plastic pad used for a changing table. Her arms and legs flailed in the cold temperatures without any clothes. Mottled newborn skin didn’t dimple from the cold, it just showed a brighter, blotchy pattern. From the looks of her, she was less than a week old by the dried umbilical stump. 

“What are you doing?” Patsy asked.

“Trying to get her hungry. The little bitch won’t eat. All she does is bawl her head off.”

Sitting on the side of the stained and filthy bathtub was a glass coke bottle with a goat nipple stretched securely over the top. Inside the bottle was a powdery substance that was white and lumpy. Between the tub and toilet was an opened bag of powdered, livestock grade, goats milk. “Are you feeding her that?” Patsy asked, skeptically.

“Yeah,” Meg looked back. “The doctor said she lacked something and needed a quality formula when she was released from the hospital. Everybody knows that goats milk is best.”

“What was she lacking?”

“Don’t know,” Meg squeaked mid-toke, then blew the smoke in the baby’s face. “I even got her a goat nipple to help pass the goat milk through, but she won’t drink it. She acts like she’s choking and won’t even take the nipple. She’s already a little smart ass.”

“Why is she naked in the bathtub?”

“We don’t have a crib yet. I didn’t want her to roll off the bed. The three cloth diapers I picked up for her, she’s already dirtied, so she doesn’t have anything to wear until I get a chance to wash them out. She shits like a coon. All she does is cry and crap.”

“That’s what all babies do. They are supposed to. What did you think you were taking on when you pretended to live at Marlene’s house while applying for Foster care?”

“Some little shit who could cook and clean. One that could talk, go to school, and get out of my damned hair during the day. Certainly not some squalling assed brat.”

At her harsh tone, the baby started crying again. 

“Meg, Julia has some bottles at home. I’ll run over to her house and see what she will give me. I’ll see if she has any diapers too.”

Meg took another toke, then held her breath to get her buzz before she blew some more smoke into the baby’s face. Patsy bailed out of the mobile home, letting more heat escape. “There, there, that’ll calm you down. Don’t let that zit riddled teenager scare ya.”

Twenty minutes later, the baby was asleep in the bathtub. Meg was in the front room eating cold, canned tamales she had stolen from the grocery store. Patsy scrambled through the door with a trash bag full of infant stuff. Inside were disposable diapers that were fifteen-pounds too large, clothes for a six-month-old boy, some new looking swaddling blankets, a couple cans of powdered Similac, and half a dozen used Evenflo bottles. 

Patsy didn’t waste any time making a bottle with the infant formula. “Julia said you can apply for WIC.”

“What is WIC?”

“WIC will give you formula, eggs, milk, peanut butter, and a few extra things. Every little bit will help out until William gets out of jail. When does he come home?”

Meg tipped her chin, appreciatively. She hadn’t even thought of getting additional assistance to pay for food. It would give her something to eat too. “Court papers said next week. We’ll be moving when he gets out.”

“Where are you moving to?” Patsy’s head snapped up.

“William’s grandma died while he was in the pen. Her house was left to him by default. We’ve been waiting for him to get out, so we can move in together. It’s furnished, but it’s only a one bedroom.”

“Where are you going to put the baby?”

Meg felt like Patsy was getting a little too nosey, which was starting to make her uncomfortable. She lied, “We’re going to build a room on the back. It’s a great neighborhood to raise a kid. It’s only five blocks or so from the school and there’s a church with an outreach just down the road. It’s a step up from this dump.”

“What does William think about the baby?”

 “He said he can’t wait to meet it,” she lied again.

Patsy inclined her head. “What did you name her?”

“The momma named her. I think the papers said her name is Berlin. I’m not sure, I have to look to make sure. Stupid name if you ask me.”

“I think it’s a pretty name for a pretty baby. Do you mind if I feed her?” Patsy asked, hopeful. 

“No,” she said with a derisive glare. “You go on home. As long as it’s quiet, I want to keep it that way.”

No thank you, no kiss my ass, no nothing for the things she brought. 

The young girls’ shoulders drooped. She wanted to swaddle, hold, and feed the baby. It had been some time since she babysat and held a baby. But never one as small as Berlin. 

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