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Out of the Cage book cover

Out of the Cage
Wes Boyd
©2010, ©2016

Chapter 22

Late July, 2011

This fight with his father took more messing around for Frenchy to deal with than the first one did. What with both the assaults on him and on Piwowar, the latter a second offense, his father’s ass was much deeper in a crack than it had been the first time, and Frenchy knew if anyone did that Judge Dieball wasn’t anyone to mess around with. It cost him a half a day of being off work on two separate occasions over the course of the month to sit around in the courtroom, but even though Frenchy’s father had a lawyer, it didn’t do him much good. He wound up drawing a year, and that meant in the state prison system, rather than the county jail.

Frenchy thought his dad got off easy in getting sent to the state slammer; he’d get to avoid all the county jail venison that way. The best part about it was that it meant that there was a solid year that Frenchy wouldn’t have to deal with him, less time off for good behavior, if there was any. What would happen when he got out was another story, but at least that was an issue that Frenchy wouldn’t have to deal with until then.

Maybe he’d be gone from Spearfish Lake by then, but it seemed less likely than it had before Frenchy left home. Back then it had seemed like a pretty good idea – all he really had to do was to get rid of the probation and community service time, and then pay off the truck and he could get out of there. But that was before he’d started staying at Monica’s, and things had changed. While everything wasn’t exactly ideal, things were a lot better than they had been before.

Frenchy thought about it a lot as he was sitting in the courtroom, especially the second time. While there were some advantages to leaving Spearfish Lake, there were also plenty of advantages to not leaving. He had a job, not necessarily that good a job, but a steady one that brought in enough money to get by on and still leave something left over. He knew that in this day and age in this neck of the woods those were hard to come by. It wouldn’t be any easier elsewhere. He had some friends, Monica and Sven and the guys on the crew – not close friends like he’d been with Matt and Larry, but without all the kid bullshit that had gone on with them, either. Although his relationship with Monica was a little strange to say the least, she was a good friend who seemed to understand him and like him for who he really was.

Best of all were Monica’s kids. He really liked them both, although he could relate with Cindy a little better since she was older. Chad was still in his terrible twos, and although Monica said he wasn’t all that bad in comparison to some she had seen, he was still an interesting kid to be around, and Frenchy had a lot of fun with him. That would be hard to give up, very hard. Somewhere in thinking about all that, the idea of getting out of town as soon as possible had been shoved way to the side. It was still there, and he could do it if he had to, but he was realizing that he didn’t want to.

And there was Peter. The little kitten was growing, and wasn’t quite as little as he had been when Frenchy rescued him from the hawk; he was putting on some weight and had pretty well regained his health. There was no doubt that he really was Cindy’s cat, but there were times that made him wonder. Frenchy would be sitting in a chair in the living room or whatever, and Peter would crawl up on him, curl up on his lap or his chest, and purr his little heart out while Frenchy petted him. The little fur ball was growing on him, as well; Frenchy had little doubt that he’d done the right thing in rescuing him and bringing him home to Cindy.

*   *   *

There was a hot period in the early part of July – hot and humid, and especially uncomfortable around Spearfish Lake, where cool and usually cold weather was the normal thing. Even after dark it wasn’t very comfortable. Neither Frenchy nor Monica particularly felt like going to bed yet, since it would be a hot and sticky time of lying in front of fans on sodden sheets, hoping to get a little sleep before dawn brought another nearly intolerable day.

The kids were in bed, sound asleep, so to help pass the time they were watching a DVD that Monica had borrowed from the library – this one a little more grown-up than the kid stuff that usually played on the machine. The movie wasn’t very good, but it helped them pass the time – and it felt good to sit in front of the fan, drink iced tea, and think about the cooler times to come not far away.

At one particularly flat spot in the movie Monica spoke up and said, “Frenchy, do you mind if I pause this for a minute? I need to go out and tank up my iced tea.”

“I could stand a break too,” he replied, thinking that the movie was so dull that there would be no harm in leaving it running – it wasn’t like they were going to be missing anything. “I could use a trip to the bathroom,” he added.

“OK, we’ll take a break,” she said, pushing the pause button on the remote. Both of them got up, not wasting any extra motion. Monica noticed that Frenchy’s glass was getting low, so she grabbed it and headed for the kitchen while he went to use the facilities.

He was just finishing up when he heard Monica’s scream through the bathroom door. Now what the hell, he thought as he spun around to see what the problem was. He burst out into the living room to see a guy he didn’t know in the middle of the room hit Monica with one hand while he tried to rip off her thin camisole top with the other one. He’d managed to break the strings and leave her bare-breasted. “Lonnie!” he heard her yell. “You know you’re not supposed to be here.”

“You’re my woman and I want some,” he replied, not noticing Frenchy coming across the room at a dead run toward him. He pulled his arm back to hit her again, but he never got the chance – Frenchy grabbed his arm and yanked, pulling him off balance, just in time to catch Frenchy’s fist as it connected with his mouth. That got Monica loose from him, and as he staggered backward from the force of the blow, Frenchy hit him again, this time with his strong right hand.

The blow knocked Lonnie farther backward, almost off his feet, but Frenchy reached out with his left hand, grabbed his shirt to keep him from falling, and walloped him again. Somehow in there, Lonnie tried weakly to hit Frenchy, but missed entirely; Frenchy didn’t miss though, and this time knocked him to the floor. “Monica!” he yelled. “What the fuck happened?”

“I don’t know, he just yanked the screen door open and there he was,” she said, not trying to cover herself, perhaps because of the surprise. “He’s got that restraining order on him, he’s not supposed to be here.”

“You motherfucker,” Lonnie said from the floor. “That’s my woman, and I want her.”

“She’s not your woman,” Frenchy said, reaching down to yank the intruder to his feet so he could hit him again. “And you don’t just fucking come breaking in here. I’ll fuckin’ teach you to come in here like that.”

The fight – if it could be called that, since Lonnie never landed a solid blow – went on for another two or three minutes, mostly consisting of Frenchy beating on the guy. Frenchy didn’t just hit him in the head; he got several solid shots to the gut, and landed a couple kicks to the groin. By the time he was done, Lonnie was a huddled mass on the floor, bleeding lightly from several places, obviously hurt badly. Frenchy was sweating in the humid air from his efforts, and thought maybe his knuckles were bruised a little. “That’ll fuckin’ teach you,” he said, stepping back after one final kick to the ribs.

“Oh, God, Frenchy!” Monica breathed from across the room, not trying to cover her bared breasts. “I was just so damn sure he was going to rape me. Thank God you were here!”

“Fucker got what he deserved,” Frenchy replied. “What the fuck did you ever see in this asshole anyway?”

“He was different,” she said. “He wasn’t into drugs then.”

Now that Frenchy thought about it, it seemed like Lonnie had been flying on something; he wouldn’t want to guess what. “Fuckin’ asshole,” Frenchy sneered. “Monica, pull up your top, then go over to the neighbors and call the cops. If he comes around I’ll just have to belt him again.”

“The cops?” she said. “Frenchy, are you sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure. Like Sven says, cops ain’t always the enemy. The fucker has a restraining order against him and he broke in here. That ought to keep him eating venison for a while.”

“OK, if you say so,” she replied, struggling to pull her top up to cover her breasts; it took one arm to keep it up full time. In a moment, she headed out the door, leaving Frenchy to wish once again that she had a phone in the house. There just wasn’t the money for it, and that was that.

He heard a siren in the distance before Monica returned. “Somebody’s on their way,” she reported. “They ought to be here in a couple minutes.” She let out a sigh and added, “I didn’t even know he was back in town. The last I heard he was down in Camden someplace.”

“It ain’t that far,” Frenchy said. “I’m surprised he didn’t shown up here sooner.”

“I’m just afraid he’s going to show up again,” she said. “God, I’m glad you were here. What if it had happened during the day sometime? I’ve been scared enough of him that I thought about getting a gun, but I don’t want one around the house with the kids and all.”

“Probably wouldn’t have done much good, the way he broke in here,” Frenchy said. “You probably wouldn’t have been able to get to it.”

“Yeah, I suppose not,” she sighed.

The cop that showed up wasn’t Sergeant Piwowar, who Frenchy half expected – it was a sheriff’s deputy, with “Aaronsen” on his name tag. Frenchy had seen him around but had never talked to him that he could recall. “What’s the problem here?” the deputy said.

“He’s my former boyfriend,” Monica told him, pointing at Lonnie. “He broke in here and tried to rape me, but Frenchy stopped him. I’ve got a personal protection order against him.”

“Hi, Frenchy,” Aaronsen said conversationally. “Are you her boyfriend now?”

“No, I’m just renting a room,” he said. “But he didn’t have no call to break in here like that. He’s flying on something, I think. It wasn’t easy to put him down.”

“Well, you sure put him down all right,” Aaronsen shook his head. “I think maybe I’d better call an ambulance.”

It was a while before things settled down. The ambulance and a part-time city cop showed up after a few minutes, and they had trouble loading Lonnie onto the gurney – he was coming around now, and starting to be combative. “You’re right, he has to be flying on something,” Aaronsen said after helping load him.

“Looks like you busted him up pretty good,” one of the ambulance attendants said. “I think we’re going to have to haul him down to Camden, and I sure am not looking forward to heading down there without a little backup.”

After some discussion the city cop agreed to ride down to Camden in the ambulance; it had been a quiet night except for this, and it was something to do. Given how badly Frenchy had busted Lonnie up, he was a little surprised to not be given a ride down to the jail himself, but nothing was said.

Amazingly enough, the kids had slept through the whole fracas, but both Frenchy and Monica were exhausted from the adrenaline dump. “Frenchy,” she said as soon as everyone had departed, “I don’t know about you, but I think I could stand a beer.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I think I could stand one too.”

They wound up on the couch, just unwinding as the cool taste of the beer hit them. “God, I hope they keep him for a while,” she said. “I don’t want to have to go through that again.”

“It would be nice,” Frenchy said, calm having come back over him by now. “Maybe he’ll have learned his lesson.”

“Lonnie?” she sighed. “I don’t think so, at least not if he’s high. But I have to say, you sure kicked his ass.”

“In a way, it felt kind of good,” Frenchy said. “When I got out of jail last winter I had a long list of people who I thought needed their asses kicked, and I ain’t done any of that list. I’ve sort of realized now that it was pretty much kid stuff and not worth the effort, especially with the probation crap hanging over me. But, by God, now I’ve kicked a couple asses that really needed kicking, and this time I didn’t have the cops around to keep me from doing the job right. Before I told you to call the cops I gave some thought to throwing his ass in the back of the pickup, hauling him way the hell and gone out in the woods and leaving him there. But I realized that it might be better if the cops did it their way.”

“Yeah, you could have gotten into trouble if you’d done it your way,” she said after taking a sip of her can of beer.

“I realized that,” he said. “But it damn sure was tempting. I don’t know if that taught him a lesson or not, but it ought to have done it.”

They finished their beers; it would have been tempting to have more, but those were the last two cans in the house, so that was that. “I’ll have to get another six pack as soon as I get groceries again,” Monica told him. “I suppose we ought to head for bed, although I don’t know how much sleeping I’m going to be able to do.”

“So much for the movie,” Frenchy said. “It wasn’t worth the trouble anyway. I know I’m going to have trouble getting to sleep what with the heat and everything else, but that alarm is going to go off pretty early.”

“Yeah, and I’m going to have things to do tomorrow too,” she agreed. “Let’s try to not mention this around the kids, huh? It probably wouldn’t mean anything to Chad, but I don’t think I want Cindy worked up about it.”

As they shut off the lights downstairs Monica didn’t appear to be concerned about the damaged camisole puddling around her waist, leaving her breasts bare. They headed upstairs, and when Frenchy turned to go to his room, he felt Monica’s hand on his arm. “Frenchy,” she said, “I know it’s hot and all, but would you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” he said. “What?”

“I don’t think I want to sleep alone tonight. Maybe it’s too hot to do something, but would you mind staying with me, just for tonight?”

“Sure,” he smiled. “I wasn’t all that crazy about sleeping by myself tonight, either. Just for tonight, right?”

“Right,” she said. “It has to be that way. But the last time I spent all night with a man was with Lonnie, and I don’t want to have to say that anymore.”

Amazingly enough, things got back toward normal after that. It was a couple days before Sergeant Piwowar dropped by and told them that Lonnie had gotten out of the hospital, still hurting, and was doing some time in the Camden jail after skipping bail on a previous offense. “As soon as they’re done with him, we’ll get our turn,” he reported. “And there are other people on the list. I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about him for a while.”

*   *   *

About twice a week, on days that Frenchy was sure he wouldn’t have to be making firewood deliveries, he had been having Red pick him up so Monica could use the truck to pick up groceries or do some of the other things she had to do. It made things a lot easier for her, and was one of the real advantages of having him live with her.

It was still hot out in the woods. The bugs were still bad, but nowhere as bad as they had been at the height of black fly season, and Frenchy was just about exhausted when Red dropped him off one night a few days after Lonnie had come crashing into their lives. “Long day, Frenchy?” Monica asked as soon as he was in the door.

“Yeah, a killer. I don’t know how we manage to work out there in long sleeves and long pants, but without ’em the bugs would eat us alive.”

“I know,” she said. “It’s been hot in here too, and I’m not in the mood to cook. What would you say if we got on swimsuits, went down to the beach, and had a picnic supper in the shade some place. The kids could splash in the water some, and they’d like that.”

“I have to say that I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to jump in the lake when I got off,” he told her. “But I know I don’t have a swim suit, and I didn’t think you had any for you or the kids, either.”

“We didn’t,” she smiled, “but I stopped by the thrift store today and there were some on clearance, so we have some now.”

“Talked me into it.”

In a few minutes the four of them were in swimsuits and in the truck, heading for the big, wide beach almost downtown along Lakeshore Drive. It was always uncomfortable for the four of them to ride in the front seat of the truck; there wasn’t really enough room for the two car seats and two adults, both of whom were squeezed up against the opposite doors of the old Ford. They found a picnic table up in the shady area toward the east end of the beach.

Almost immediately Frenchy headed for the water, which was cool to the point of being cold. The big lake never warmed up all that much even at the height of summer, so it was hard to stay in the water for long, but it cooled Frenchy off better than anything else he could think of. He felt almost like a new man when he came back up on the beach to keep an eye on the kids so Monica could have her turn in the lake.

She didn’t stay in long, either, but was also obviously refreshed when she came out of the water. The brown one-piece swimsuit she’d bought at the thrift store earlier in the day was obviously worn. It was tight on her to begin with and had a lot of stretch, so it showed every bit of every curve she had. She really looked good in it, Frenchy thought; she wasn’t a bad-looking woman to begin with, and that swimsuit really underlined it.

It was fun to just stand there and watch the kids play in the water and the sand at the edge of the lake, but after a while Monica went up to the picnic table and began to get their dinner out of the grocery sack she’d put it in. It wasn’t really all that much, just sandwiches and chips and soft drinks, but she’d added to it with a can of baked beans and some potato salad she said she’d gotten at the Super Market.

It was a nice dinner, with a cool breeze coming off the lake. The kids ate quickly, wanting to get back to their playing in the sand, and neither Monica nor Frenchy seemed to mind very much. They sat there leisurely eating their dinner, keeping an eye on the kids and enjoying themselves.

Frenchy wasn’t particularly noticing people passing by until he heard a voice say, “Hi, Frenchy. How are things going?”

Frenchy spun around, to see a tall guy a few years older and a girl with long black hair, wearing a tiny red bikini. He recognized them instantly: Cody and Jan Archer. The last time he’d seen Cody had been a year before, when Frenchy had been about ready to punch Jack Erikson’s lights out before Cody stepped in. Cody wasn’t a guy to fuck with; he was the guy that had shot Jack and Bobby Lufkin in what was now Monica’s living room to keep them from raping Jan.

“Oh, pretty good, considering,” Frenchy replied noncommittally.

“I hear you’ve been following in my footsteps,” Cody smirked.

“Yeah, a little, but keep it down, we don’t want the kids to hear,” Frenchy said. “Somehow they managed to sleep through the whole mess. How’d you hear about it?”

“I’m a part-time cop here when Jan and I are home from college for the summer,” Cody said. “I read it off the incident report. I’m surprised you didn’t dump that bozo out in the woods somewhere.”

“I thought about it,” Frenchy replied, “really thought hard about it, but I figured it would be better to let you guys do your job.”

“Probably good thinking,” Cody smiled. “You would not believe the warrants out against that guy.”

“How’s it going with the house?” Jan asked Monica. “I really just wanted to have the place out of my life at the time, but since then I’ve felt guilty that I sold it in such a mess.”

“It’s OK,” Monica told her. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise. We’re getting it fixed up little by little. Frenchy refinished a room earlier in the summer, and we’re waiting for it to cool off before we start another one. We do what we can, when we can.”

“Good, that makes me feel less guilty,” Jan told her. “I hope you don’t mind if I don’t offer to drop by and see how you’re coming with it, but I still can’t even stand to drive down that street. I haven’t been in there since the night, well, when it happened.”

“I can’t blame you,” Monica replied. “But Cody, I have to thank you. You settled a score I had with Bobby, one that needed settling. It actually makes me feel good to look at the living room floor and know I’m still alive while he’s in some landfill somewhere.”

“I don’t know where he wound up,” Jan told her. “I’ve often hoped that was what happened after the med students at the university got done carving up his body. Fortunately, with Cody’s help I’ve been able to move past those days, at least mostly. I hope Frenchy can help you do the same thing.”

“It’s not quite the same thing,” Monica told her. “There’s a certain part of those days I can’t move away from. I don’t know for sure, but my daughter may be his. If she is, that proves there really was some good in him.”

“May be?” Jan frowned. “You don’t know?”

“He was one of four guys who raped me,” Monica said in a matter-of-fact tone. “The big thing is that Cindy is such a good kid that there was a good side that came out of it.”

“She really is,” Frenchy said. “She is just the sweetest little thing. I think she’s done more to tame me than anything else.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this,” Jan said seriously, “but if you really want to know, she and I ought to be close enough in our DNA that a lab could pin it down.”

“I don’t know,” Monica sighed. “Maybe I don’t want to know, and really, I don’t want to think about it. I haven’t told her about that, and maybe I never will. But if she really wants to know someday, I’ll keep it in mind. Maybe she won’t. In the last few months Frenchy has gone a long way toward becoming her father in fact, and he’s filling a hole we all needed to have filled in our lives.”

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To be continued . . .

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