As children, Lorenzo Carcaterra - Shakes to his friends - Michael Sullivan, Tommy Marcano, and John Reilly were inseparable. They grew up in Hell's Kitchen, a far from perfect neighborhood, one filled as Shakes says with scams and shake downs, but one where the rules were known and easily understood by its residents. The one adult who they admired was Father Bobby Carelli, who understood them as kids more than most adults and more than he himself would like to admit. In 1967, their lives would change forever when a typical teenage prank went wrong which led to the four of them being sentenced to various terms at Wilkinson Home for Boys, a reformatory. There, they were physically, emotionally and sexually abused primarily by Sean Nokes, the predatory lead guard of their cell block, and fellow guards Ralph Ferguson, Henry Addison, and Adam Styler, although there were other decent figures of authority at the home, including a few other guards. Their time at the home affected the four, not all who were able to emerge from the experience to regroup their lives. In their want to forget about the experience, they made a vow not to talk about it either between themselves or with others. Fast forward thirteen years, with Tommy and Johnny being career criminals, Michael an assistant district attorney and Shakes a newspaper writer, their friendship on the surface more loose than it was when they were children. When Tommy and John unexpectedly spot Nokes at a local restaurant, it leads to Shakes and Michael banding together to exact revenge not only on Nokes but all four of the guards who abused them. Michael had long mapped out a plan even before Tommy and John saw Nokes, but that sighting and its aftermath alters the plan. Beyond the precarious position Tommy and John place themselves into, Michael has the most to lose even if the plan succeeds. Most of the plan implementation is left to Shakes who has to enlist the machine of Hell's Kitchen, including mob boss King Benny, and their childhood friend, social worker Carol Martinez, who currently is John's girlfriend. Beyond co-opting aging lawyer Danny Snyder, who admits he may not be the best choice as an alcoholic who is no longer near the top of his game, the plan is threatened by a key piece, the need for an unreproachable figure to perjure him or herself, that person who Michael and Shakes hopes will be Father Bobby. Father Bobby, even if he knew of the abuse, may not be able to do his friends this enormous favor of an illegal nature, he who has to balance the morality of the situation in his own mind in deciding what to do.