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Epilogue: The Sins of Sonny Walker

Jake Talks with Frank

The sounds of computer keys being pressed alerted Jake to the presence of someone else in the nest early on a grey Chicago morning.

The smell of hazelnut coffee indicated the presence of Frank but the sounds of the keys being pressed were not coming from Frank's office. Jake wandered over to the kitchen and found the coffeepot full of the aromatic coffee. He poured himself a cup, added half and half, and sat down at the table to think.

Jake wondered what Frank was doing at Cody's computer banks, then remembered how Frank had usurped Cody's 'babies' to monitor the video surveillance cameras. Jake thought he knew what Frank was feeling: "Hey! You are stepping on my territory, Donovan!" Cody's voice rang in Jake's mind a few days after the nest's security had been breached and Frank was doing a wrap-up of the events while Cody was busy ordering new computer equipment.

Frank had merely looked at Cody with his killer glance and Cody had cowered just a bit; Jake knew Cody's emotions were on a rollercoaster after Cody had taken down one of the men--a first for Cody.

But with the help of Sonny Walker, Cody and Monica, the team was able to take out those who were after Sonny.

Jake had found that he enjoyed challenges. Keller had been more like an older brother, allowing Jake to run a bit wild. Keller's breezy personality didn't provide much structure for the former street orphan, a trait which Jake desperately needed.

He'd grown up simultaneously in the streets of Chicago and in Father Michael's care. But Father Michael could only provide so much structure. Jake, like every child, had needed a structured environment and behavior parameters set down by the adults in his life.

And Jake had not had much in the way of discipline and structure from Father Michael. But if it hadn't been for Father Michael, Jake would be on the street, working for a crew leader. Instead, Jake went to college on a scholarship Father Michael's parishoners had arranged.

Jake thought well of Father Michael but he was no substitute for a parent. Especially a father figure. A child needed to have a parent set an example: the attainment of simple goals like finishing high school, became a huge challenge for those living in foster care or living on the streets.

Street survival was just that--survival. The seedy underbelly of life didn't support goals like high school diplomas, much less college diplomas. On the street, interpersonal relationships were based who could best help you at the moment you needed help, and those who helped you one day could turn their backs on you a day--or even heartbeats--later, if they thought the benefits to them outweighed the benefits to you.

The streets were where the criminals were bred, born out of desperation, and honed by hunger and cold and anger. The lack of even the most basic human emotional support--that of feeling accepted--caused something in person's soul to go hard. If a young street kid found an expensive winter jacket in an unlocked car, and took that jacket, he was surviving. He might find money in that jacket's pocket, and use that money, but that young kid doesn't have acceptance by other people. So he wanders in the streets, lost. Acceptance is what all humans crave, especially children.

Now if that young kid found a expensive winter jacket in an unlocked car, and he took that winter jacket from the car, then remembered that someone older, more experienced who also lived in the streets had need of a winter jacket, that young kid might decide to give the winter jacket to his older peer. When the older peer praises his younger co-hort for stealing that jacket, then the younger kid would have found acceptance: praise for stealing.

The young kid would now be encouraged by his new mentor's praise to locate and steal other expensive items from unlocked cars. After a while, he would find his new mentor berating him for not stealing the cd players, or for not hotwiring the cars themselves and stealing the cars. To please his mentor, and receive praise again, the young kid would pull more complex jobs.

Eventually, the mentor would find in the aspiring criminal a lackey, a go-fer. He might instruct the newbie to go find an item; say, a fur coat for his girl. He would instruct the newbie on how best to steal such a coat and the newbie, craving acceptance, would happily go off to follow his mentor's instructions.

Were the newbie successful, meaning he wasn't busted, the mentor would then begin to instruct his young protege in the finer nuances of street living: that of stealing for a living. No need to go hungry if you're low on cash, the mentor might tell his protege--just walk in the grocery store, and eat the fruit right from the table while pretending to shop.

Oh yes, pretending. A successful criminal was about pretending to be someone else. Criminals were skilled in acting their part, taking on new identities, new personality traits. Crime pits the criminal's skill against those of law enforcement, often from multiple agencies. Crime was a crap shoot and the longer you played the game, the more skilled (and successful) you became.

The young criminal's mentor eventually would find other jobs for his protege to do--perhaps the gang leader over on 55th needed a job done and had put the word out on the street he was looking for hired help and was willing to pay.

The mentor would think, "I need someone to run jobs for me and lessen my risk of being busted. Now, I've got myself a protege. He needs money and he's young. He's inexperienced. I can instruct him how to pull the job off, pay him a part of the profits, and if he's caught, it's his ass that will get busted. He won't know how to inform on me."

From the mentor's point of view, his reasoning is thus: "If I pull this heist off well, the leader on 55th is going to remember me. And the next time he needs a job done, he's going to contact me. I got the men to do the job right. And that will lead to more money and power. I can advance in this profession."

Which, on the streets, is true. The streets were a trained business organization, tightly structured and disciplined in some aspects, maleable in other aspects. People moved up and down the crime ladder based on their ability to achieve someone else's objective.

Status symbols like Jags and diamonds were not seen as the rewards of hard work. Rather, status symbols were considered announcements: you were profitable enough to pay your crew and not get busted. You survived long enough in the streets to acquire the cash to buy your chosen status symbol.

For a criminal with status symbols was a desirable criminal to those seeking their ill-gotten fortunes. Those people of the criminal persuasion wanted to work with success stories; they didn't want to work for those people who routinely get busted.

Crime was lucrative, especially running drugs, and on the streets, the more money one possessed, the more power he had over other people's lives. Criminals in authority were often like father figures.

Those in authority cared about their crew, and their members of the crew were willing to get busted for their mentor. Sonny did nine years for his mentor. And more often than not, upon their release from prison, they would head straight back to their mentor, who would take them back into their folds unflinchingly.

The lesser experienced criminals knew the risks of pulling a job--each job they pulled, they ran the risk of getting busted while someone else in their crew might get off with a reduced sentence, or no sentence at all. There was no resentment for those crew working the job who got lighter, or no sentences; crime was an acting job and getting busted was a roll of the dice.

For getting out of jail free was the real reward of the crime world: seeing how skilled you could become so you could pull a job, and remain long enough on the outside to enjoy your profits.

Jake's eyebrows went up. This fine line of thinking is what Frank was trying to teach him. After thinking about how Sonny's help on their last assignment, Jake was beginning to understand that his unique background living on the streets and in Father Michael's orphanage gave him a certain advantage: he knew all sides of the die.

And knowing all sides of the die would give a distinct advantage to the unit.

This realization struck Jake as he lifted a cup of hazelnut coffee to his lips, and he paused with the cup halfway to his mouth. Was that what Frank was trying to teach him by slicing into his psyche and forcing Jake that he had to think ahead, to think that Frank was the leader of a street crew and Jake his protege? Was he trying to reshape Jake's thinking that a structured and disciplined environment--used for the good--could help in this job?

Like Sonny, Frank had structure. The guy had discipline. Unlike Sonny, Frank used structure and discipline to bust criminals.

Jake moved the cup to his mouth and sipped the hot coffee. He suspected that Frank had had some wild days in his past, which was why Frank seemed to take such a strong interest in developing Jake's skills as an undercover: he might see in Jake a younger version of himself. Jake's unique past was a huge asset to Frank and combined with the skills of his teammates, the unit had a better chance of being successful in their missions.

He was so absorbed in his thoughts, he didn't hear Frank come into the kitchen and pour himself a cup of coffee.

"Thinking, Jake?" came Frank's voice. Jake was startled, and his some of his coffee sloshed over the side of the cup. He put his cup down and reached over to grab a napkin from the holder and used it to wipe the small coffee spill off the table's top. He wadded the wet napkin and placed it in Alex's ashtray.

"Yeah. Thinking about my childhood. My job," he replied, taking up his cup again and sipping the coffee.

Frank sat down opposite Jake. He sipped his own coffee and gazed at Jake. In the beginning, Jake had found this unnerving--Frank gazing at him with his intelligent eyes--and Jake had more than once felt that Frank could read his mind. The guy was that good at psychology.

"And what conclusions did you draw?" Frank asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

--Damn that man! How does he always know?--Jake thought as Frank set his cup down on the table and folded his hands.

Jake considered his response. How could he sum up all that he'd been thinking over the past few minutes? He decided to go with a short thought for openers, so he opened his mouth and out came, "I concluded that knowing all sides of the die would give an advantage to this unit," he told Frank.

Frank smiled. "You've drawn the right conclusion. This job is about knowing all sides of the die. You lived on the streets. You know the organizational structure. You could have permanently joined a crew run by a man like Sonny. But somehow, you turned the tables on the street and now you work for me," Frank said as he picked up his cup and sipped.

"When you told me that I didn't follow orders, I was angry. I'd been working undercover longer than you," Jake told him. "Up until a few minutes, ago, I was still angry at you for telling me what you did. We're not so far apart in age and there I was, being treated like recalcitrant child," he told Frank.

"You needed to be told you didn't follow orders. This job is about changing your personality and acting like you're on the wrong side, and pull the act off successfully. A man like Sonny would have taken the opportunity to use your anger about your deficiencies to his benefit instead of your benefit, and you would have been on the inside, looking out. I chose to tell you about your deficiencies so you could learn from them."

Jake pushed his cup away from him and leaned on the table. "I had to trust Sonny when he asked me for a gun. It was a split second decision. I still felt something for him. Respect? I don't know if it was respect. Admiration? Sonny was a man who did for me what he said he would do for me, and for that I trusted him."

"He gave you a goal to reach for, and you reached that goal, and he accepted you for that. You never had someone in your life who did for you what they said they were going to do. And yes, you respected, and trusted, Sonny for his actions and acceptance." Frank took up his cup and sipped, then said, "You made the right decision to give Sonny a gun. We needed another gun, and the agency needs Sonny alive. Sonny knows a lot, and we could use his help."

Jake sat with his hands folded. "Then why do I feel like I've done something wrong?"

"By giving him the gun, you gave Sonny the opportunity to escape. You know full well Sonny escaped jail with the help of Carly. Given the opportunity, Sonny would use his contacts, including you, to help him escape again. He came back to the States to get his revenge on the man who took down his woman. But he would not pass up the opportunity to escape had he the chance."

"Then why didn't he just shoot me and escape?"

"Perhaps seeing Carly killed before his eyes took more than just Carly away. She helped him when he needed it, and he too needs acceptance. She accepted his world, knew the dangers, and yet she wanted a child with him, to pass something of him on. Sonny had never felt that way before and when Carly got into that car and the car exploded, her death also represented the death of himself. He made an incremental change in his behavior, and discovered that by working for the good, he can accomplish more," Frank said and picked up his coffee cup again.

This was the longest statement Jake had ever heard Frank make to anyone. Frank was usually concise in his statements and didn't like wasting words.

Jake looked at Frank. Frank took a sip of his coffee, gazing at Jake over the edge of the cup. Jake knew Frank was going to say more and he allowed the silence to hang in the air between them, palpable. Frank put his cup down on the table and folded his hands again.

"When Carly told Sonny she wanted a child, and a child with him, that caused Sonny's mind to move forward. He clicked on that un-conceived child, and realized, in the few seconds after Carly asked him for a child, that he would have to tone down or even eliminate some aspects of his career in order to be a father to that child. That was something he found he was willing to do--for Carly," Frank said, and paused.

Frank had an expectant look on his face, one that Jake was coming to know well: Frank wanted Jake to draw the conclusion.

"So Sonny agreed to give Carly a child. A few seconds later, Carly was dead, and so was their unconceived child," Jake said.

Frank nodded.

Jake considered Frank's statements. "Sonny realized that he didn't have to pull jobs in order to find acceptance. He could find acceptance in the love of his woman, and that of a child, and in accepting that love, he would cut short his career to protect that child."

"That's a way of looking at it. Sonny realized that he would have to provide for Carly and their child. He's a man who enjoys challenges, and it was apparent he enjoyed taking you into his crew and teaching you his rules, his discipline. When Carly told him she wanted his child, Sonny realized he had a choice: if he didn't go legit, he would always have to be on the run with Carly and their child. He was ready to take on a new challenge--that of raising a child in the legit world. But a few seconds after he realized that, Carly, and his new challenge, were gone."

"So Sonny's way of thinking was changed when Carly asked him for a child?"

"Yes. That's why he didn't shoot you and escape when he had the opportunity," Frank said. "Because of Carly's request, and his response to it, Sonny thought ahead of the game, and realized that he might need our help again to assist him in avoiding another hit on his life."

"Sonny's gonna go legit?"

"That's a long shot. But he's ready to give testimony and we'll have to protect him."

"That's going to be a hard job," Jake commented. "Sonny isn't exactly Mister Popular," he said dryly.

"You up to the challenge?" Frank asked him.

"Yeah," Jake said without hesitation.

"Good," Frank said. He got up from the table, picking up his cup as he did, and walked over to the coffee pot. He refilled his cup and added half and half.

"I see you're taking after me," he told Jake, indicating Jake's coffee cup with a nod of his head. Jake looked down. Sure enough, he'd added half and half to his hazelnut coffee.

Funny, he didn't remember adding half and half. Jake thought back: he'd gotten the cup of coffee and then had sat down. He was quite sure he had not added half and half--that someone else had added half and half to the coffee cup before he even had the cup in his possession, and he opened his mouth to say that to Frank.

But when he looked up again, Frank had left. Damn him, Jake thought. He always gets the last word.

Jake chuckled to himself, then picked up his cup and drained the last of the coffee.