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When Jeremiah Hawthorne, master of the Manor, is murdered late one night on his way home, it sets into motion a complex and absorbing saga. Grief, loss, and betrayal are experienced'in different ways'by both Jerry Hawthorne, the Massa's young son, and Daniel, the slave playmate given to Jerry when both were toddlers.

The Manor is sold off, the slaves and their families ripped apart as well. As Daniel and the other slaves are taken to auction, Jerry is determined to rescue them, running away to New York to find his uncles. But instead, when he lands in New York, he is taken in by a nine-year-old street urchin named Nicky, who recruits him into the underbelly of New York's Tenderloin.

When fate reunites both, Daniel is, at first, tentative. His memories of their separation are uncertain until Jerry reassures him. After talking for days, making up for the nearly ten years since they had last seen each other, their bond remains intact. But now Jerry realizes that the love he always felt for Daniel is more than brotherly love. What happens next both shocks and puzzles the unsuspecting Daniel. Nothing from that point on will ever be the same.


Uncle Otto

Chapter 1

The Birth

It was pitch black in the Bottom that Sunday morning at two o'clock until it started to rain. The luminescent monsoon rendered the cabins visible. The drumming rhythm of the rain on the galvanized tin roofs varied with the heaviness of the torrent. Within two hours, the dirt road's potholes and crevices transformed into small lakes and rivers. The ground was a muck of quicksand that pulled at feet with avise-like grip that made walking an arduous task. The howling winds drove hail-like raindrops against the windows so fearsomely that some panes cracked on that September 3, 1905, when my Uncle Otto was born

The driving rain muffled the screams of the child having a child down in the Bottom. The Bottom was where the colored lived. White folks lived in the other part of town, not exactly uptown, just better. David Green, the soon-to-be father, left the little two-room shack in the pounding rain to get the midwife. He covered himself with a tarpaulin and an old hat, but the mud swallowed his shoes, slowing his trek to Miss Helen's cabin.

Miss Helen lived nearby, maybe a five-minute walk in good conditions. But in this downpour, his shoes snarled with every step. It could take fifteen. If it wasn't for the rain, Miss Helen might have heard Mary Green's screams, but now she was dead to the world, sleeping soundly, as only a driving rain could make her do.

Boom, boom, boom.

Miss Helen! David pounded on the door of the little cabin. Miss Helen, Miss Helen!

Boom, boom, boom. He struck each blow with even more force.

She was dreaming about a Fourth of July and the fireworks that the white folks displayed on the riverfront. The banging merged into her dreams and she simply turned over. Miss Helen! David went around to the window and tapped as loud as he dared so as not to shatter the thin glass. She finally woke with a start, unsure where she was for a moment. The familiarity of the room brought her out of her befuddled state; she came to her senses, and realized that there was someone tapping on the window.

Hold your horses, I'm coming. Her voice was high-pitched and nasal with sleep, but Miss Helen was used to being awakened at all hours of the morning and she knew the reason. The lines of her coarse cotton pillow marks gave way to the wrinkles of old age as she sat on the side of the bed and collected her thoughts. Still racked with sleep, she got up, put on her clothes, and picked up her bag so that when she opened the door she would be ready to go.

Hi baby, all ready for this ere birth? She gave a low chuckle and tossed her oilcloth over her head. Hmm ¦ this rain, I hope it don't flood the riverbanks. It's been steady for over six hours now. Stepping down off her porch, she was immediately drenched by the monsoon rain and gripped by the snare of the mud. Visibility was good due to the sheets of falling water, but the path was clear as day in her mind's eye anyway. So with great effort she managed to retrieve one foot, then the other, making slow but steady progress.

Hurry, Miss Helen! David was almost in a panic. She's screaming something awful.

Calm down baby, the first one always takes a little more time. She craned her neck and looked up at David's face, all but shouting over the sonorous pounding of the rain. Holding the tarp over her head with one hand and her bag in the other, her slightly bent five-foot frame leaning forward, she trailed in David's footsteps, fighting to make headway through the elements. She leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder, shouting over the downpour. Has her water come down yet?

David puzzled over the question. I think so. He wasn't sure if the stuff he'd seen coming from his wife was the water Miss Helen meant. When they were within sight of the cabin, they heard a panicked shriek, muffled by the rain. Hurry, Miss Helen! The scream scared David, and he tried to speed up his efforts to reach Mary, but the mud was unrelenting.

That's the pain of childbirth, is all that is. Shell be all right. Miss Helen struggled with great effort to free each foot from the mud. Finally they were at the cabin, and just as they were about to open the door, Mary screamed again. With no conscious effort, Miss Helen calculated Mary's contractions. 'd say that was five minutes from the last one, she said, more to herself than to David, though he heard it. Put some water on to boil, and lots of it. Miss Helen quickly started her preparations, precisely laying out her tools with the skill of a doctor.

You go on in the other room and if I need you I'll holler.  She pushed David out of the bedroom. When that water boils bring it to the door and knock, meantime you just rest yourself. David did as he was told and tried to relax, but he was too nervous. He put the hot water by the door and knocked. When the door opened he craned his neck to see, but the door shut too quickly.

Mary Green was having a hard time with her first child. She was fourteen, little more than a child herself. Miss Helen had given her a medicinal herb tea that helped to sedate her and quell the pain. I want you to pant like a dog and push when I tell you, that baby is trying to come into this world and you got to help it. The midwife had been coaching Mary, a very frightened little girl, for more than two hours, and the head of the baby was starting to push its way into the world.

Pant, pant, pant, now push, push ¦ it's almost here. C'mon, you can do it, Miss Helen encouraged Mary. Although the pain was almost unbearable, Mary was used to taking orders from adults. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, but thanks to the herb tea, it was little more than a loud wail. The head popped out, and then, assisted by the midwife's skilled hands, the body slid out with a gush.

Since the screams had faded away to moans, and Miss Helen's coaching was muffled, David had fallen asleep. It had been more than three hours since he went for the midwife. The rain had stopped and the sun was rising, all was quiet except for the persistent wails of baby Otto's first cries wafting through the door into the other room, bringing David back from a hard but fitful sleep. This new sound was foreign and he did not recognize it at first. But gradually the sound took form, and then he recognized it as the cries of a baby. He leaped to his feet and burst into the bedroom.

a boy,Miss Helen said, maybe eight, nine pounds. She had just finished cleaning up the child and the mess of the birth. The mother was asleep and the father stood in the doorway looking at his son for the first time. Here, you hold him while I take this stuff out to burn in the hearth. The afterbirth was normally buried, but with the rain and all, she decided to burn it.


Ruby is the story Ruby Simmons, whose kleptomania propels her towards a life of inevitable vice, addiction and criminal behavior in the fast lane. Her tale begins with the overwhelming joy she experiences in stealing a small heart-shaped red pincushion at the tender age of six. Almost from the beginning, the pleasure she takes from stealing, and her precocity, allows her to manipulate others to get what she wants.

As she grows up, although she is very bright, she has little interest in school. She is one of the smallest girls on the playground and after being forced into a fight, she discovers her own tenacity and a proclivity for battle. As she goes into the fifth grade, accompanied by a lackey drawn into her orbit, they are caught stealing from a department store.

In the twelfth grade, she and her best friend Curtis, a sissy, are introduced to some boosters, and dazzled by glamour and quick money, they choose the streets over school and drop out just months before graduation. Guided by Velma, a veteran booster, Ruby's world opens up and she and Curtis move to Los Angeles with her. In LA, she meets her first love, Darryl. Following a tempestuous relationship, Ruby finds herself rejected, alone, and pregnant.

She returns home to San Francisco, where she gives birth to Darryl Jr. For a brief time she tries to be a good mother, but it's not long before she's lured back and becomes involved with Renard Manning, a smooth-talking handsome dope-runner. She drops everything and accompanies him to New York City. Plagued with guilt she avoids calling home, and her abandonment of her son haunts her all the time.

After Renard's businesses deal goes awry and he is imprisoned, Ruby is left at the mercy of Renard's friend Fast Eddie, a pimp, and his stable of prostitutes, Sandra, Carmen and Ruthie. And when her growing addiction to heroin sours her working relationships, she is unable to make money by boosting.

At one of her most vulnerable moments, she is seduced by Sandra and pulled into Eddie's stable. It isn't long before she falls into an abyss of heroin addiction and prostitution, which leads her to befriend a series of junkies. When Eddie's house is busted for prostitution, she is arrested, along with the other girls, and held in detention long after the others have been released, and thereby forced to kick. She finds herself clean for the first time in months, but it isn't long before she falls off the wagon, worse off then before.

In a search for stability, she hooks up with Duke, a renowned heroin dealer. Their relationship starts off strictly business, but they grow to love each other and eventually marry. When Ruby overdoses and subsequently finds herself clean again, she and Duke, who never uses his product, slip into a fantasy of normal life, insofar as that is possible, until the next time the doorbell rings.

During this time, Ruby is ecstatic to find out that she is pregnant. But her joy is short-lived. When Duke is busted, she steps into his shoes and starts using again to cope with the stresses of the business and her pregnancy. When her son is born addicted to heroin, he is taken away by social services.

Distraught and unable to shake her depression, Ruby returns to dealing with a vengeance. In her attempts to make enough money for Duke's defense (eventually futile) and assuage her guilt over the loss of her new son, she becomes increasingly reckless. Pushing the throttle to the floor, she eventually crashes into the inevitable wall.