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What inspired you to write your book?
Within minutes the whole story was in my head and I could see it happening, so I sat in my writing chair and twelve weeks later the first draft of SEVEN-X was complete.
Here is a short sample from the book:
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 8, 2010
I feel like I’m signing away my life. Literally. I just read through the consent forms I need to sign to cover this story. A story that has to be told. A story I uncovered as part of my investigation into seven missing death row prisoners in the State of Texas.
My name is Eddie Hansen. I’m a freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Times. This journal along with my audio recordings and video diary is my record of the Uphir Behavioral Health Center in Uphir, Texas. An unofficial ghost town that’s completely off the grid. A place without a ZIP code or mailing address.
My best guess is that this is a privately funded asylum where experimental procedures are being conducted without the consent of its patients.
While conducting this investigation, I will be voluntarily under the care of Dr. Alan Haworth, a clinical psychologist and Reverend William H. Billings, a local minister and the counselor in charge of my spiritual condition.
It’s my theory that Annette Dobson, The SIDS Killer, is being held in Uphir, at the asylum, under the care of Billings and Haworth.
In case you missed the news, here’s her story. Over a thirteen-year period, Mrs. Dobson killed six of her children before they reached their first birthday. Each time, SIDS was determined as the cause of death and no wrongdoing was suspected.
Pregnant with child number seven, Dobson broke down and confessed to the murders. A trial quickly ensued and Annette Dobson received the death penalty from the great state of Texas, with her execution scheduled for Friday May 13, 2011. According to case records, Mrs. Dobson had requested a closed execution to be moved to November 19, 2010 with no media, no family, and no outside witnesses to be present. She stated that her privacy was to be respected, and she alone would suffer the consequences of her actions. She left no last statement. A death certificate was filed with the state on the nineteenth, and her case was closed.
Kevin Dobson, her infamous husband vehemently denied knowledge of the murders. He repeatedly muttered to me in our interview that Annie was afraid to die.
“She didn’t want to go to hell and take the baby with her,” he told me. “There is no way she would move her execution.”
Kevin said she pleaded insistently for an abortion, then an exorcism before her execution, so she wouldn’t be attached to the demons committed to dragging her to hell.
She told Kevin months earlier that she wanted him to be with her at the end, but when the State told Kevin that her wishes had changed, he knew something was wrong. So he came to me. He begged me to find answers.
So here I am sitting in the only diner in Dell City, Texas, a booming bastion of 413 people. The town infamously known in the children’s song The Farmer in the Dell, and the last place I’ll have phone service or Internet access for a while. I feel like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. It’s as if I punched 1957 on the dashboard of my Delorian and crashed into this world. A far cry from my bungalow in Hollywood.
Hearing people talk about hunting elk with a White Onyx, double barrel, is refreshing compared to the endless chatter of wanna-be Spielbergs gabbing about their latest film project over a half-decaf double latte.
The fashionable beauty of missing teeth makes every smile a picture worth a thousand words, and I’m stuck in this moment, enjoying simplicity. Everything seems so appreciatively simple, yet this hunger in me is pushing me to sign my life away for my shot at glory.
These people don’t give a shit about glory. They’re not crying to become the next reality star or rock legend. They’re not spending their last dollar on plastic surgery desperately trying to maintain fleeting youth.
No. They’re going to take their toothless asses out into the woods behind me and shoot a deer or elk or rabbit and some primal urge within them are going to find unlimited satisfaction in dragging that carcass back home on top of their pickup truck and ripping it apart to eat.
I guess I’m the same animal with a more sophisticated palette and better dental coverage. My unlimited satisfaction is coming from the hunt too. The hunt for truth, for my story to be seen by the world. I’m going thirty-two miles away from what these Dell folks call civilization, heading into nowhere to hunt.
Or maybe I’m the poor elk, wandering into the path of the White Onyx, staring stupidly into that double barrel wondering what the hell I did to deserve this fate.
As a precautionary measure, my assistant, Melody Swann is transcribing my tapes and piecing this diary together from my notes.
You read that right. Her real name is Melody Swann, and as fate would have it, she came to Hollywood to be a singer. Five American Idol auditions later and a part time job at Dimples Karaoke Bar and here we are together.
Anyway, should anything happen to me, Melody will retain authorship of this work and she has instructions for its completion.
NOTE: All entries will be assembled in chronological order and transcribed as given. Entries may be placed together to provide clarity and descriptions of audio and video recordings may be added as needed.
Should anything happen to me?
As I write these words, the gravity of the situation bears contemplation. I’ve assessed the risk and the rewards far outweigh any potential problems I may encounter. Speaking of rewards, I need to speak with my greatest one now.
“Hey baby girl.”
“Daddy!” she answered, excitedly.
The sound of her voice melted any remaining fear I felt as I asked, “How’s my Pebbly?”
“Daddy, I’m eight,” she scolded.
“I know sweetie. You’re a big girl. I just want you to know I love you.”
“I love you too,” she answered as excitement kicked into her voice. “Guess what?”
“I got the Virgin Mary, Daddy! I got her.”
“Wow. Where is she?”
“Silly,” she squealed with a laugh that busted my heart open. “In my school play. I’m the Virgin Mary. I got a solo. The only one. I’m singing in front of the whole school.”
“Wow. Are you scared?” I asked her.
“No. Daddy. I love singing. But then mommy goes and puts me in ballet class. I hate it. The music is boring and they say French stuff, which is so annoying. I told her like a hundred times I like hip-hop. But she says ballet makes me cultured. I don’t want to be like yogurt.”
“You’ll be peachy,” I laughed.
“She makes me eat it too, you know. I only like vanilla with Cheerios. But Todd licks his fingers then sticks them in the box. And Mommy doesn’t even hit him. If I did that, I’d be so dead.”
“Me too, sweetie.”
A moment of silence swept in. I knew her little brain was churning with possibility as she softly said, “Daddy?”
“Yeah baby,” I answered, sensing what was coming.
“Promise, if I tell you” she begged.
“Promise you won’t tell mom.”
“I won’t… I promise,” I assured her.
“Okay,” she said choking back her words. “First you have to come to my play.”
“I’ll ask your mom.”
“No. Daddy. No! You have to come. You have to! Then you can spend Christmas with me.”
“Christmas with whom?”
Those words pierced my heart through the phone. I knew that voice too well. “Christmas with whom? Who are you talking to Kennedy?”
“Nobody. My friend,” Kennedy said defensively.
“Give me the phone. Give me that phone! This is not the phone I bought you, is it?”
Silence hung on my nerve endings as I waited to hear her next words. “Is this the phone I bought you?”
I could feel Kennedy begin to sob as she was ordered outside. The energy was sucked out of my body as the upcoming shit storm made its way across the airwaves. In five, four, three…
“Son of a bitch!” she yelled. “I warned you not to buy her any more phones.”
“Sorry,” was all I could muster.
“How stupid are you?” she continued.
“Yeah, really stupid Eddie. You’re violating a court order.”
“I’m not with her, okay? You got sole custody. You win.”
“That’s not the point Eddie,” she rambled. “It’s been four years. Move on. Let go. She would have forgotten about you by now and I’d have peace in my family. Not some child who doesn’t acknowledge her father.”
“I am her father!”
“You’re nobody’s father. You blew that privilege. Move on with your life!”
“It’s not final. You know it,” I ripped back.
“You brought this on yourself. You bring everything on yourself Eddie. That’s you! You’re responsible for your actions. Now you have to pay for them.”
“I am paying!”
“No you’re not. Did you pay alimony? Child support? You thought you had the upper hand. You made your play for her and you lost.”
That was bullshit. She knew it. I knew it. But her mind wouldn’t process it. My ex-wife Jamie doesn’t rationalize. She never did. But I was going to let her know the truth regardless of how it sounded to her.
“I followed court orders. I gave you everything I had. I wanted to work this out.”
“You never thought Scott would beat you, did you Eddie? You thought you’d be on top. Get your big story and ride off into the sunset with my baby.”
“I never said that,” I retorted. I tried to work this out.”
“It’s worked out. Check the court documents.”
She had to rub it in before finishing with, “I better not catch you within fifty yards of my daughter or your next call will be for bail money. Understand?”
And with that, she hung up. That was it. She has to have the last word. There’s no use calling back. Nothing I can say will fix anything.
“Need a fill?”
That was my waitress, Aida Mae, ushering me back to this place in reality, stalking me with coffee. She has this peculiar habit of sneaking up behind me while I’m deep in thought, then starting up a conversation.
“You alright, hon? Your face just flippy-flopped all happy to sad.”
“Sure, fill me,” I said, watching her watch me. “See I flipped back. I’m all smiles,” I told her as I stretched out my cup.
“Well that’s better. People digest better when they’re happy. You’ve been sitting here all day and your face keeps changing like the clock.”
“I’ve got a lot going on,” I told her trying to organize my documents.
“I see. All them papers,” Aida told me before her face changed with a look of wonder. “I know you. I do. You were here before. ‘Bout a month or two ago, weren’t ya?” she asked.
“You got me,” I smiled.
“I ‘member you now,” she said as she scanned me with curiosity. “Said you were headed up to Uphir.” Then, she paused for a second as this look of confusion settled into her face. “You made it back here.”
“Guess so,” I said, smiling as I noticed the sudden change in her demeanor. A frightened cognizance crawled through her as she asked, “How’d you do that?”
“Do what?” I replied.
“Get out,” she groaned, fighting something building up inside her. “Never seen anyone go up that way and come back. Maybe they do. But they don’t stop here.”
Then with a sincere look, she gazed back at me and asked innocently, “Is it my food?”
“No, the food’s great,” I responded, trying to be polite.
She smiled back, relieved, and her next words poured over me like hot coffee. “Well then, it must be the devil!”
“What do you mean?” I inquired.
She stopped cold and looked around as if someone else besides me was listening, then she leaned into me and whispered tentatively, “You can’t say nothing. Promise?”
“Sure” I told her.
“Promise!” she warned.
“Yeah. Go ahead,” I said as she walked over to the window and looked out making sure no one was within audible distance.
Then she turned and slowly walked back to me acting a bit nervous with the coffee pot shaking in her hands. Clenching the pot, she let out a strong sigh, and then began.
“Bout ten years ago. They came here looking at land. Asking questions. Mostly about the water, ‘cuz we feed El Paso, and they wanted to run pipes out there too.”
“Who?” I asked, perking up.
“I don’t know. Corporate. Government folk. The kind with money. Anyhoo, all the sudden, the whole town went crazy, fighting over everything. Money mostly. ‘Cuz they spent a lot up there. Then once that hospital got reborn, it all got worse.”
“How?” I asked, feeling her nervous energy puncture me.
“You know, the folk in the wood who lived up there all moved out. Or disappeared. Some we just never heard from. And nobody says nothing.”
“Why?” I asked, seeing her hesitate for a moment before scurrying to the window again, looking out carefully for signs of trouble.
She took a deep breath, then slowly walked back and sat down across from me, staring at me with eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal.
In choppy breaths she continued her story. “They were scared to death… Evil things go on… Some folk say they heard hell rising. Demons running wild… You can never… tell anyone… I told you this. Promise.”
“I won’t. You can tell me anything,” I said, touching her hand gently to reassure her of my intentions.
“All right. You have kind eyes,” Aida replied, standing up and nervously taking out a rag to wipe off the coffee that missed my cup.
“Anything else peculiar, you notice?” I asked, feeling there was something beneath her charred surface.
“Well… I did see prison trucks roll on by late at night. Mostly down that back road,” she said, gesturing with her head cocked toward the back door.
That perked me up more than the coffee, knowing the clues to my investigation were bubbling up all around me. She finished wiping the table and began to make her way past me when I stopped her and asked, “You know if any came through here recently.”
She hesitated, trying to read me for trust. ”Not that I recall,” she whispered. “But, a man did come by in a uniform a while back, looking for that hospital. You know… No one can figure out them roads up there, all curvy and crisscrossed. They don’t want nobody up there. That other one, he ain’t been back.”
“Was he Spanish?” I asked.
“I think so… Yessiree!” she exclaimed excitedly.
“Was his name Renaldo?”
Aida paused for a moment, thinking hard, then scanned the room again like she was trying to listen for the answer.
“Rings a bell,” she fluttered. Then her eyes sort of bugged out as she burst out with this vein of knowledge. “Know what,” she said as she bent down and looked me dead in the eye. “I just heard him. Jose. His name is Jose!”
“You what? You heard what?” I said, trying to gauge her sanity.
She squinted as if listening to someone whisper in her ear. Then she closed her eyes softly and squatted down in front of me as we engulfed this ominous breath of silence together.
After a moment, she responded, “No. Sorry… He said Ose. Not Jose.” She paused again, listening carefully. “Yep. Ose! He called you. I just heard him.”
“What?” I asked, confused.
Aida was zeroing in on something. Her eyes darted into mine. “Listen! He’s saying Eddie. Hey Eddie.”
“I don’t hear nothing,” I told her, not tipping my hat to signs of her lunacy.
“Well he said it again! Eddie, that’s you, right?” She asked.
“Yeah. That’s me.”
Then she broke contact, got up and walked to the back door. “Maybe he’s round back.”
“Sure you heard that?” I asked.
“I swear, I did! I heard a voice say ‘Eddie. Hey Eddie.’ Then he just said, ‘It’s Ose. I’m coming for ya.’”
“Okay,” was all I could respond as she walked out the door, carefully peering around the corner.
I got up to follow her. As I got out the door and made my way toward the back alley I heard something crash against the ground. Aid Mae rushed past me like a deer through the woods. She quickly ran back into the diner and locked the door leaving me standing outside in the brisk winter air. I could feel the black mist licking my neck, swirling around me as the howling wind bit at my face.
Aida looked petrified, staring at me as I calmly asked her to open up.
“It’s okay,” I told her. “’It was just a trash can. The wind blew it over. Nobody’s out here, honey.”
Her body was shaking. She couldn’t move. Her eyes glazed with fear as I looked around for any intruders. There was no one in sight. Just the empty black horizon that stretched out into the frigid woods for miles in every direction.
“Aida, please… Let me in. It’s freezing.”
That black mist continued to crawl up my legs and the temperature felt like it dropped another ten degrees. I looked around again, pleading.
“No one is out here. I checked.”
She didn’t move. She just stared at me with a look of torment.
“All my papers, they’re inside. They’re very important to me. My life depends on them,” I pleaded. “Can I please come in and get my papers. I really need them. Please. I promise, no one is here.”
I smiled gently trying to break the wall around her. She timidly scanned the empty lot, then finally unlocked the door.
I hurried in with a gust of cold, dark air and snow, trying not to alarm her. As I got inside she quickly jammed the door shut behind me.
Turning back to me she coldly stated, “That place is the heartbeat of hell. You be careful.”
I sensed true fear in her eyes. Something spooked her. Imaginary or not, Aida was panicked and I could feel the icy fear that covered her. It hung in the air above us.
I walked back to my table and began to pack my things. But she just stood in a dark puddle of melted snow clenching her teeth and squinting her eyes.
“I’m not saying it,” she began repeating to herself.
I finished packing my documents and noticed she still hadn’t moved. She just rambled to herself, “He’s a good man. He has kind eyes.”
She began to concern me. There was something seriously wrong. Her whole persona had changed.
I cautiously approached. “Are you okay?”
“I’m not saying it,” she repeated.
“Not saying what?” I asked.
“What he wants me to tell you,” she muttered becoming increasingly agitated. “I’m not telling him.”
“It’s okay, Aida. You don’t have to do anything. If you need help, let me know. Okay. Whatever you need.”
She trembled, breaking down. “He’s here! He won’t stop touching me.”
“No one’s here, sweetie.”
She paused, listening to the air again, panting in sobbing tones, “ Yes! Ose is here.”
Her tears looked black as the drops slid out her eyes.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… He’s making me say it.”
As I inched closer, I could see the black puddles forming shapes in her eyes.
“ I have to tell you,” she moaned.
“Go ahead, tell me,” I said, hoping it would calm her.
She panted, holding back before relenting. “He’s coming for your soul.”
And with that she broke down in tears, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she cried, excusing herself as she rushed into the kitchen. “If you want more coffee, just holler.”
And with that she disappeared. All I wanted was coffee and Internet service. But Aida Mae, my psychic waitress hears voices coming after me.
She wasn’t this scattered on my first visit or was she? I don’t remember. I was so focused on finding Annette Dobson. On getting answers to my investigation.
And I’m not going to get any more here. It’s time to move on. I’ve got what I need. I know what I have to do.
I’m signing my Consent Of Voluntary Commitment and a Liability Release and heading into what Aida Mae calls
The Heartbeat Of Hell.