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Frankie heard Tom go into the cell on the other side of the building and listened as Calvin whined and Tony threatened. Why hadn't he seen what they were before it had all got crazy? He scoffed at himself. The answer to that was easy; he'd been drinking. As always.

A couple of minutes later, Tom came to his side of the jail. "Hey Frankie," Tom said as he entered the room and handed the prisoner his dinner through the cell door slot. Frankie felt the warmth of the dish against his hands as he took the bowl and the savory aroma of stew as he lifted the lid.

"Tricia made up a nice stew for ya'll. Most of those others will pry end up on the walls, but I'm hopin' you'll enjoy yours."

"Ya know I will, Tom," Frankie said, giving the stew another a deep whiff, "Tricia's the best cook I know."

"That is true," Tom said, nodding, "That is true."

Tom took the chair that he kept against the wall for these occasions by its back and scraped it closer to the barred cell wall. He sat down on the front of the chair, then leaned back and crossed his arms, stretching his legs out in front of him. Frankie had a large spoonful of the stew in his mouth by the time Tom was comfortable.

Tom tapped his teeth on the toothpick he had between them a couple of times before saying, "You know I don't have anything to charge you with in connection with this crime unless you got somethin' else you wanna fess up about."

"No. No, not that I remember," Frankie said slowly. "But, I don't hardly remember those boys pulling up and askin' me directions. I feel sick enough for the part I played in that."

"Well, like I said, nothing punishable. So Frankie," Tom said, "what are you thinkin'?"

Sitting here in this cell, Frankie'd had little to do but think about how he had gotten into this mess. His thoughts had taken him back through time, right back to his first memory and it hadn't been a good one. His daddy whalin' on him and his momma egging him on.

Frankie liked to think that there had been some good times between him and his son, Jesse, maybe because he couldn't remember any with his own father. While his abuse of Jesse had depended on how much alcohol Frankie had drunk that day, that hadn't been the case for Frankie or his siblings.

His father had been a hard man, in body and in soul, and every day had been a battle. No matter how hard his children tried, there'd never been any pleasing him. Frankie's mother had been a shrew of a woman, and the only reason she had stayed with his father was that she'd had nowhere to go. His mother and father had spit out ten kids with Frankie the sixth in line. Each of those kids had left them the moment they were able, most well before they hit eighteen.

By the time Frankie was in 5th grade, his parents knew that the school caused them nothing but problems. So Frankie never made it to the 6th grade. But he counted himself fortunate; his baby sister never made it at all. That's why when he left that house, he made sure he took her along.

Things had gone well for a while after that, in a way that he hadn't even known life could. But then one responsibility after another had piled up on him and he hadn't been prepared to handle them. That's when he had turned to drink. From that first sip, his world had changed from sharp edges to soft curves. The alcohol was like a lover that wouldn't let go, and it changed him.

Most times, he came to with little memory of what had happened the night before but plenty of evidence of his evil deeds. Facing those was worse the siren's song of another drink, and so he would pour another one.

And so he hit Jesse, never Sue Ellen with her round, scared eyes that reminded him so much of his little sister, but his son he beat to his everlasting shame.

Jesse was just a kid, just a little kid, and that isn't how you treat a kid, no matter what. Simple words to abide by when he was sober, impossible when he was drunk. That needed to change. He knew what he had to do, he just had to convince everyone else of it.

Frankie paused and looked at Tom. "I been thinkin' about that," he tipped his head to the window. "Since I been in here, I been able to talk to my boy, really talk to him, for the first time. Ever. I know that's my fault, I didn't start out that way, but it's what I became. It's the drinkin' I just can't stay away from. I know that sounds like a bad excuse but the booze, it pulls at me so. "

"And, like as not, the way I was raised." Frankie rubbed a hand over his face remembering the constant and deliberate degradation and harm at the hands of his own father. "I became- I became what I swore I never would. I hated my dad, hated him- feared him."

Frankie heaved a heavy sigh and looked at Tom, his gaze pleading for something Tom could never give him. "When my kids were born, when my son was born, I didn't want that for them. I said I'd do better. I said- I'd do better." Frankie quickly wiped at his eyes. He bowed his head, his voice cracking as he continued in a low voice. "But I never did."

He put the stew bowl on his bed and scruffed both hands over his face a few times. "The drinking always takes over, makes me somethin' I don't wanna be. Look at what I've done to my boy!" Lowering his face to his hand, his shoulders shook as he reminded himself again that it was a good thing that Skye had taken Jesse away from him. Tom gave him the time he needed.

After a while, Frankie stood and came to the bars. "So what I've been thinkin'," he said his voice determined, "is that I want things to stay this way with Jesse. And if I have to stay here in this cell, where I can't get to any drink, where I can't hurt him, then that's what I'm gonna do."

Tom cleared his throat. "Just stay here in this cell?"

"Yes, sir."

"For how long?"

"Til I can be trusted not to drink or til Jesse's eighteen."

Tom stared at Frankie for a moment as he rapped his fingers on his leg. "You'd have to okay seein' Jesse with Skye and if she says no, it's no."

"I understand that."

"Really," Tom squinted at Frankie," cause last I knew you were hurlin' some pretty abusive speech her way."

Frankie shook his head. "Not anymore. I seen what that woman did for Jesse. She put her life on the line, for my son, treated him like her own blood. Made me see her clear for the first time, see who she is, I respect that woman more than anyone I've ever met."

Tom pursed his lips, then said, "Okay then, I guess you and Skye need a little sit-down."

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