Welcome to Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Frank.
New York City
"You deserve this, Frank," the old man would turn around every so often and claim. "I'm doing this for your own good."
The boy would only pale slightly and barely nod. He happened to think the statement a total and blatant lie.
At fifteen years and ten months old, Frank Iero barely looked his age. Perhaps about eleven or twelve; no one would ever suggest the kid was on the sixteenth border. His chocolate hair was soft and fluffy, and a little strand ended in a curl by his right ear. Hazelnut eyes were filled with tears and constantly were during the course of the last three weeks since he had been informed he would be spending his summer vacation at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. A naturally slender, short boy, he had feared for his safety. He didn't think himself particularly bright or violent or even armed with an ounce of bravery - he was certain he would be hurt or beaten in some cruel, horrid way once they arrived at the prison. He looked out the window of his father's Ford and bit his lip, snuffling.
"Crying isn't going to help, Frank," his father said sternly, and the boy's head dipped lower. "Don't do that. If you hadn't been messing around with that boy then we wouldn't be in this situation. This is going to straighten you out, Frank." He breathed in deeply. "Toughen you up."
"I didn't mess around with anyone," he whispered, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. His father had been convinced by strict members of the parish that the young Iero had been involved in sexual contact with an older, homosexual teenager from another area - Frank had refuted this at all costs. He had been whipped and beaten by his parent but he remained firm on his stance. He had not ever been kissed, let alone taken by another man. And yet here he was. On the way to Sing Sing. "I told you, Daddy." He wiped at his eyes with his sleeve miserably. "I'm still a virgin, I promise."
"Don't bother me with your lies," the priest snapped. "I see it in church, other men looking at you in sick, unholy ways. Their mouths hang open and they brush against you when they go for communion. People ten years older than you, Frank, in the House of God!" He yelled suddenly, knuckles burning white on the steering wheel. The boy flinched again and held onto the little lump of material in his small hands. "It makes me sick, you know. Why can't you be normal, for God's sake? Why do you have to mortify me in front of the congregation?" He sighed angrily. "Piece of shit. Get ready, I can see it up ahead."
Frank whimpered meekly and tucked his head inside the collar of his shirt. The large building loomed in the mid - summer's dusk, and in the far distance lights flickered on. The boy was visily shaking with fear. Four times a month, his father, the parish priest of the Ossining town on the mainland state of New York, would visit Sing Sing and bless the prisoners there. He would listen to their ill, twisted, macabre confessions. He would read to the illiterate and hold Last Rites for those unfortunate souls on Death Row. Frank had had heard all the horror stories when his father would return home from the trip, about mobsters, murderers, child molesters and rapists, to name but a few. He knew the prison was horrifically run by the inmates and that gangs ruled the entire operation.
"Please, Daddy," he begged silently, tears streaming his cheeks. "Please, Daddy, don't make me go. I promise I'll be good, I promise." He clutched the black thing in his hand closer to his chest. "Daddy. Please."
"Shut up and get out," Father Iero snarled, stopping the Fiesta suddenly and flinging the door open. The boy began to sob silently all over again, kneeding his eyes with his fists. He could hear shouting and jeering in the far - off distance and felt he was going to get sick to his stomach. He felt weak and faint. He stumbled from the car as his father retrieved a grey suitcase from the trunk of the car and threw it to the ground in front of Frank. He shook again. "You can carry that, my back's fucking killing me from the drive. And for God's sake, put that stupid toy away, Frank." The forty year old lit up his cigarette. "Your mother fucking spoils you, I swear..."
The two men walked toward the prison gates, the priest striding arrogantly, Frank dragging behind, clutching his few possessions in his little case, the toy his father mentioned safely harboured in the pocket of his coat. It was a black knitted rabbit, just able to fit in the teenager's fist, with two large eyes, one enveloped in white, with little white socks. Frank had been given the teddy when he was five and had kept it since; he didn't quite know why. His mother had made it for him with the little money the family had and it was the only toy Frank had owned in his lifetime. He had never named it or talked to it, but it had given him silent reassurance throughout his fifteen years and ten months. Now he was shaking to his very core and the bunny provided him with no moral support.
"Fucking keep up, will you?" Was shot at him by his father as they arrived at huge rusted, towering gates. SING SING CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, the large lettering frayed and rusted by weather managed to say. CURRENTLY HOUSES 1756 PRISONERS was written right next to it on a newer, shinier piece of metal. Frank wasn't very good at reading but he could make out that that was a lot of people. He'd never been surrounded by that many people in his lifetime. His thoughts were interrupted by his father laughing with a prison warden just outside the main entrance to the jail.
"Yeah, well, they keep us on our feet, alright," the warden chuckled, softly slapping his baton into his open fist. He wore a dark blue uniform and a sick little grin that made Frank's stomach churn even more. "Can guarantee Frankie here will adapt pretty quick to his new enviroment!"
The boy shivered again and bit his lip violently in an effort not to cry. He could hear chanting and loud guffawing and then a sudden SCREAM. It wasn't just a high-pitched yell but a full-fledged screech of the lungs. Then the idiotic, primative laughing resounded again. The young one cowered once more.
"Well, I'm free to take him in right now, if ya want," the warden shrugged, looking at Frank with a weird glint in his eye. We got some open cells right now, couple on the fourth floor. Course, we could always bunk him with some of the rougher guys if he doesn't mind sharing." He wore a demented smirk and the priest laughed loudly. "The rape boys are up in C 17, Frankie, if you'd like to join them..."
Frank turned to his father one last time.
"Please, please, please, Daddy," he whispered, breaking down. He tugged at the old man's jacket. "Please don't make me. They're gonna hurt me really badly and then I might die or something and I just don't wanna, Daddy," he wept hopelessly, rubbing his eyes vigorously. "Please no, please no-"
"Now now, Frank, go with Mister Romano to get your uniform and go to your cell," the priest said, as if he was being majorly fair to his young son. "Your mother will be begging to visit you in the first month and after she sees the scum in this shithole she won't come within five miles of the place." Both old men gave sharp barks of laughter. "I hope you don't mind, Jack, his mom insisted in bringng a case. He's got a lung disease and he needs some shit for it."
"Emphysema," the boy whispered weakly.
"No problem, anything for you, Frank," Jack responded happily to Frank Senior. "You know you're a fucking household name around here. Once the thugs get a whiff that your boy is staying here for a few months they'll rip him to shreds."
Frank squeaked and looked tp the building in the deepest fear he'd ever experienced.
"HEY GUYS," Frank heard screeched at the top of someone's lungs. The voice was cracked and thin; too high for the person not to be intoxicated. "WE GOT US SOME FRESH MEAT!"
Frank bowed his head down and stared at his feet as the prisoners began to cheer and jeer at him. They were young and old, fat and thin, educated and not. They all wore dark navy jumpsuits and combat boots. Their heads were shaved but Frank noticed some of them were slightly different; tattoos ran down their necks and into their collars, vast pieces of black inking that made a sleeve look pathetic. Others had multiple piercings on their face, their head, their ears.
Some wore large, gaudy gold jewelllery and spoke expressedly in Italian as he passed. Iero was savvy enough to know who those men were; he had grown up in both New Jersey and New York and he had heard the deatiled grusome tales that surrounded la Cosa Nostra. The Mafia, the Family, the Business, the Bogata, the Famiglia; basically men in suits killing and claiming the city for themselves. Not that anyone argued, of course. Protection rackets of up to ten grand were paid monthly in Frank's neighbourhood. These were the ones who got caught.
"So, Frank," the warden, known as Mister Romano, said casually. The cell keys by his side made an uneasy, distracting tinkling noise as they bumped against his belt hilt. Each time they swung the boy felt weak and dizzy again. Since he had come in he had been pushed into a large bathroom and have a freezing cold shower with no soap. His hair had been spared (at his mother's frantic request) but no fatigues small enough had been found. The sleeves on him currently sagged around his wrists and his trouser legs made it difficult to walk. No combat boots came in a size four so he had to just wear his own Converse. "How old are ya now?"
The boy cowered again as sexual references were fired sleazily into the air by the inmates. At nearly sixteen, Frank barely grasped romance in it's most basic form. He had never felt skin against his, lips on his mouth, hands slipping under his shirt. He did not attend high school or had never (his father's religious beliefs stepped in to play; the local school taught evolution, the dirty freaks) and so he was made stay at home and just gaze wistfully when students would rush out at hometime each and every day. He didn't even find girls all that pretty- once his cousin had thrown a copy of Playboy into his lap and pointed to a woman spreading her legs open, fake breasts lolling uselessly. The other boy had been drooling about this, that and the other. Frank had found it quite grotesque in a way.
"Hey baby," one guy yelled, shaking the bars of his caotive cell. "Wanna lose your virginity to someone experienced? How old are ya, sweetheart?" A loud cackle and some smashing glass. "I've never fucked a twelve-year-old before!"
Frank's eyes welled up again and he turned quickly to look at the warden.
"I turn sixteen on October," he lisped quietly, almost inaudibly, clutching the black rabbit in his fists so tight he though his tendons would snap. They stopped at a nearby door and the warden gestured for Frank to ascend a metal, rather weak-looking staircase. He gripped the railing and took the chance to glance all around him. Hundreds of cells full of inmates fighting, shouting, laughing, drinking, arguing, smoking, wrestling...it made his heart yearn for home. He bit his lip again, harder, and clasped his hands nervously again. He saw, that, on this second floor or cells, the last few ones were darker than the rest. Was the...was the door open? Iero squeaked to himself and let his tears drip into his collar. "What's...what's down there?"
"Way," the warden said simply, and threw his head back to laugh harshly. Frank didn't understand. The way out? Was that it? "Yep, Mister Way doesn't like to be hasseled, yes siree. He likes the dark and the quiet, so he gets these cells down here, ya see. No one fucks round around B twelve to sixteen. That's Way territory." The boy still had no clue what he was talking about. "Gotta check in ta Toro now, see where we should put you. I know he hates us invading his personal space but it can't be helped, yanno..."
Frank watched with huge eyes as they came closer to the blacked out cells. He, this time, heard no cat calls or shouts, and only saw that four particularly large cells had no lights on. The doors were open but a black velvety curtain was swept across the entrancesso that the inside of the cageswas concealed. CASA DI VIA was spray-painted on the curtain in white- it looked oddly regal and sophisticated. They came to a stop outside the first blacked out cell. Romano raised a fist and tapped tentatively on the door. A curt, irritated voice answered the knock.
"Yes. What is it, Romano?" Frank did not see anyone; he presumed the tone was ocming from just inside the concealed cell. "If it's Jameson acting out again then you're gonna have to sort it out yourselves. We fucking tell you that we don't want house calls after four, goddammit."
"I-I know, sir, and I'm very sorry," Romano said in a quiet, meek voice Frank had not heard him apply before. He bent down a little and dipped his head. He even placed a hand on the curtain of the cell. "It's just that we have a new one, sir. Just came in a half hour ago. Has no place to go yet."
There was a pause.
"Name. Age. Felony. Weapons you found on him."
The warden nudged Frank. The boy could barely speak.
"Um...my name is Frank. Frank Iero." He paused and bit his lip again. He was sure the terror shaking in his voice was audible. "I'm...I'm fifteen. My daddy put me in here to make me tough." Tears caught in his throat in a lump of wistful words. "They didn't find any weapons on me."
"Fifteen? No weapons? His daddy?" Another voice, gruffer and lower, came into play. Frank squeaked. "What are we runnin here, a molfuckin creche?"
"He's in his own private cell," the other voice said now. Iero could hear the sound of keys on the other side of the door and the curtain. Mutterings in soft, lucrative, seductive Italian swished theough the velvet. There was a loud heave and then a tanned, bejewelled, slightly mangled hand popped through. "C'mon kid, I'll take you to him. Romano, you can fuck off now."
"Yes, sir, of course, sir," the warden peeped, and ran out of sight.
But Frank was now not concerned about the warden. He now took back every word he'd ever said about how poor and upset prisoners must be when they're held captive in block, tiny cages twenty three hours a day, with barely any sunlight, no privileges, nothing to resemble their missed homes. This cell was, first of all, bigger than Frank's bedroom. In fact, it was bigger than his fucking kitchen. It was also like a hotel room. Two beds, neatly made up and the duvet tucked in, stood at either end of the room, black silk as covers. A chandilier hung from the black block ceiling, which looked so out of place Frank wasn't sure if he was halucinating or not. A guitar, a case full of books, a large wardrobe and a treadmill stood idle. Iero let his little mouth fall open.
Two men were standing at the side of the cell, blocking a black door. This was so they wouldn't have to emerge from the cells, Frank figured; they were connected and so they could move about freely in the four of them. The taller man was lightly tanned and wore a pin-stripe suit. His dark brown hair was tangled and wild, but the boy was able to see he had pinned it down with bobby pins. His face seemed friendly enough. The other man, however, was sombre, and his scowl spoke more than his words could say. He was sandy blond and wore a black waistcoat. His baby blue eyes seared daggers at Frank.
"Come with me, kid," the afro-man offered, gesturing with his hand. Frank paced to him nervously, shaking uncontrallably. He was in a cell, a jail cell, with two men at least seven inches taller than him and a hella lot stronger than him. "We gotta sort out your cell."
Frank followed the man through the door and into another cell which preceeded the same. They were gorgeous; quiet, mezzo-soprano opera even floated through the air. Another man was in this cell; tall and slender, pale with light brown hair. He had beautiful chocolate eyes and they swept across the man and the boy as they proceeded. He opened his mouth to speak but the afro-man simply tugged Frank closer.
Whence arriving at the fourth cell, the tall man placed his ear to the door and listened for a few seconds. Then he rapped on the chamber door with his knuckles and called:
"Capa?" No answer. He knocked a little louder. "Capa? C'e una nuova." Frank heard a shuffle from inside.
The door tilted open.
"Leave him to me," the voice from the high-backed chair ordered. Frank felt an overwhelming surge in his stomach for unknown reasons. "I will deal with him."
Frank stumbled inside the cell. The chair slowly swivelled around.
"I am Don Way," the soft murmur told him. "And who are you?"