“TJ?” I felt someone shaking me and I looked up and it was Uncle Brayden. I heard one of the other security team say on the radio we got him.
“You shouldn’t have run away TJ. It was very dangerous.” Uncle Brayden said making me angry
“So you can keep secrets but when I need to breathe and clear my head from all the drama it’s wrong?” I challenged
“Enough back talk, we are heading back to Florida.”
“I know about Jake and Josh. How could you keep that from me?” Anger was rising in me. Something I never felt before.
“We had our reasons TJ.” He said putting me in the SUV.
“Where to boss?” the driver asked
“We need to make this drop before the airport.” Uncle Brayden said. I sat in the back feeling like a perp and no one seemed to understand my feelings
“I want YOU to pay for their funerals since you didn’t protect my friends.” I said to Uncle Brayden
“TJ this tone has to stop” he growled. We arrived at some place and I was told to stay in the car. Brayden and the driver went in leaving me alone. I thought it was strange that there were bags in the back and two duffel bags where I was sitting and my curiosity was getting the best of me. I unzipped them and both were filled with cash. I noticed the idiot driver left the keys in the cup holder. I hopped into the front and started the SUV and took off. Since we were still in Northern Virginia I knew where I was and knew where I could get away and drove to the Pentagon City Mall. I parked on the top most deck of the garage and grabbed both duffel bags. I locked the SUV and put the keys on the back tire; I’d seen that in movies and then made my way into the mall. I went to the lower level and using my Smart Trip card hopped on to the Metro and made my way to Union Station. Using some freshly acquired cash I purchased a one way ticket to San Francisco, a place I could see myself starting over. My train left 30 minutes after I purchased it so I would be heading west before they found me.
As I watched the landscape speed by I thought of JC. He was a victim of all of this and if I’m out of the picture he will be better off. I felt tears escaping my eyes as I closed them and rested. It would be a long trip.
***5 Years later***
Once I had arrived in San Francisco I needed to start over with a place to live and clothes. I need to find a job and became a successful adult dancer at Buff Boys. I made good money and worked out. I eventually became a bartender. I kept tabs on everyone thought but no contact. I had found a guy who made me a fake id and social so I could basically live off the grid without being found, Tristan James Michaels Jr. was no more. All the lies and shady moves really upset me and I needed a fresh start.
I read that Beau graduated the top of his class at MIT and was going to work in the “private” industry, I knew what that meant. It was nice to see he and Lucas were still together and engaged to be married. Grayson and Trace were together at NYU based on what I found on Facebook through public searches. I learned that JC was still single and rumored to have dated other men. He was triumphant in his law suit and his new album came out and he had two more since, I guess he found a new muse. I had gone to several concerts but stayed away from the stage.
About two years ago I took a plane ride back to Arlington National Cemetery. This time I stood there and yelled at dad’s tombstone. How could he have lied to me?I found it to be very therapeutic. One my way out I swear I saw mom and JC walking in which made me rush out even faster.
Now I am sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room. JC is in town for his latest show and I wanted to see it and maybe let him know I was still alive. I had flowers delivered and left a note specific enough he’d know it was me.
I think of you often and miss your cuddles.
I love you with all my heart Jackson Paul Craft-Woolery
The concert landed up being delayed for over an hour and I decided to leave. As I was walking through the lobby I heard someone say that JC had broken down after reading a card on some flowers. The next morning I saw that #findtj was trending. JC had made a plea with me to come back. I wasn’t sure I was ready especially if in the five years nothing changed. I was a changed man and my own person. Could we really start over? I wasn’t sure much had changed. I didn’t really know where anyone was and wanted to keep my identity safe. I didn’t respond to JC but chose to respond differently. I took a flight from San Francisco to New York City. I was in town a whole two days before I worked up the gumption to make myself known. I did some research and found where Jake and Josh were buried. It broke my heart even though I barely knew them. I could tell how in love they were and from what I read in the paper that Jake defended Josh till the end. I visited the cemetery and left flowers, I was happy that they were buried together. I then made my way uptown and it felt so foreign to me. I knew Brayden and Kat still lived in the same place. I had no clue where mom was living so I thought why not start there.
I strode up to the door saying you can do this in my head and if they don’t recognize me after five years I’ll go back to doing what I love. I rang the bell and stood there waiting for what felt like hours but was seconds when the door swung open and there stood an aged Kat.
“Can I help you?” she said
“Hi Aunt Kat” I replied
“Oh My God TJ!” she shouted and it was so loud I think the whole city heard. I heard a stampede coming down the stairs and she pulled me in and started to cry.
“TJ is that you?” Beau said standing behind her. He had grown in to quite a handsome man.
“Yeah it is Beau”
“I thought I’d never see you and when JC mentioned the flowers you sent it gave me hope.” Beau said through tears. Standing behind him was Mom and she had tears streaming down her face
“Hi mom” I said
“Oh my boy has come home. Come in honey and sit” mom said
“I am only in town for bit and will need to head back home for work.” I said. It got really quiet as I followed them further into the house and upstairs. Brayden was sitting in a chair and I could see Kellan and Jordan sitting there.
“Hello” I said curtly to Brayden
“TJ! It’s good to see you. It’s been a while.” He replied
“Yeah the best five years of my life.” I replied and if looks could kill I’d be dead.
“So what have you been up to?” Mom asked
“Well you know I dropped out of Julliard, became dancer and now I am a bartender.” I said
“Oh, so you still dance?” Beau asked
“Not the dancing you are thinking of.” I said and everyone blushed.
“Honey before you go Grayson is on his way here, he wants to see you.” If as on cue he came up the stairs and locked eyes with me and got this huge smile and flew across the room and landed on me hugging me
“It really is you. I’ve missed my big brother so much” Grayson said with tears flowing. Standing behind him were Trace, Jack, Tracy and JC. I just sat there not knowing what to say to anyone.
“Are you back for good because I want you in my wedding, I need a best man” Beau said
“Really? Even after I ran away?”
“Yes, you are still my brother and I love you.” I got up and hugged him and then walked over to JC.
“Umm hello. I see you got my flowers.” I said
“You were in Vegas?” he asked
“Yes I was. I wanted you to know that I still loved you and was always thinking about you.” I replied and that’s when JC’s dam burst and the tears started.
“I wrote all that new music thinking about you. I wanted you to know I was still here and waiting for your return.” JC said
“You were better off without me, that’s one of the reasons I left.” I said
“I looked for you in every city and I even left that card of mine you took active hoping one day you’d use it and I’d find you.”
“Well with all that cash he took probably didn’t need it” Brayden said gruffly
“Well, If you didn’t leave him in the car knowing damn well he has the tendency to run and with two million dollars at his disposal…” Mom said I could tell things must have been icy
“Mom you are just as guilty. All of you kept secrets from me and people got killed because of me.” I said
“TJ, dear, Brayden told me what you had said in the car about the funerals. I paid for everything and set-up scholarships for their brothers. I also paid all the hospital bills for those at Julliard Julian hurt including your friends Audrey and Seymour.” Mom said
“How are they? I never heard anything.”
“Audrey was protected by Seymour but still got hurt. They both had several surgeries and Seymour needed extensive rehabilitation. “Mom said
“Well I am not sure what I am going to do. I have a whole different life where I am happy with what I do but I missed JC.” I said
“Well I’ve been waiting for you and haven’t dated since you left. I even stayed in the apartment when Trace and Grayson moved out, so you could find me.”
“What happened to Julian?”
“I’ll answer that” CC said and commanded the room
“After you left and evaded the best security teams in the country (She glared at Brayden), I made his manhunt personal. I tracked him down as he was still in the city and took him out but not without him confessing to the killings and as an added bonus confessing to the kidnap and murder of Sebastian and Dylan. I understand that you said you were not ready to run Black Hawk but the last five years have proved you are the best candidate. You hid and blended in all at the same time. You worked your way up at the club and live a nice life in San Francisco.”
“Wait, you knew where he was?” Mom said her anger rising
“Yes, I did. I found him quite easily and knew when he was ready; he would tell us. I made sure that nothing happened to him.” CC said
“How did you do it? I made some small changes” I said
“Yes dear you did, but I am a plastic surgeon dear and I can tell you had work done to conceal your identity. It was subtle but enough not to be caught in a facial recognition program.” She said and dead pan looked at Brayden
“I’ve made some changes since you were gone and demoted a few people. I would like to talk with you over dinner privately.” I just nodded at her.
“How long are you in town for?” Grayson asked worriedly
“As long as I need to be.” I said I felt bad abandoning my brothers as they got caught in the whole drama but I needed to be me.
“Good, why don’t you and I go to dinner and talk about a few things. Then you can decide based on that what you want to do.” CC said
“OK why don’t you choose where we eat and somewhere private please.” I said
“Whenever you are ready we can leave.” She said.
“Beau and Grayson please come to the Hilton in Midtown tomorrow morning at 9 and we can do breakfast. I’ll meet you in the lobby.” I said
“We can definitely do that.” Beau said. I looked at JC and could see he was worried
“JC could you meet me at 9 pm and we can talk tonight. I can meet you at the bar and then we can find somewhere private to talk.” I said
“Sure. I will see you then and if your dinner date goes late have CC text me.” JC said. I left with CC after hugging mom good bye. I wasn’t ready to talk with her alone just yet.
“TJ if it’s ok with you I would like to take you to my home and have my cook make us dinner. Don’t worry as it’s not an agency house so no one is listening.”
“I guess that’s fine.” I replied. The driver took up further into northern Manhattan and pulled in front of the building and I followed CC in. She hit the button for the penthouse and just smiled at me. We exited the elevator and she opened a secondary door and the view of the city at night was gorgeous. I was staring out the window when CC cleared her throat to get my attention
“TJ or should I say Jack, my cook Damien is going to make steaks and would like to know how you want yours done.”
“Medium well.” I replied and she walked into the kitchen and came back into the living room and sat on the couch and patted the cushion next to her.
“I know we don’t know each other that well but I want you to know I looked out for you while you were on your voyage to be a better you. When I heard you took off again from and took the money I knew inevitably you’d be gone for a while. Now your Uncle Brayden was so dead set you’d stay on the coast he refused to look anywhere. I knew you were a smart kid, it runs in the family, so I looked at the train passenger list. At first I looked for TJ, Tristan or James and nothing. On a hunch I looked for a JC, Jackson or Jack and I struck gold. About two hours after you had taken off someone named Jack Kraft brought a ticket for San Francisco. I didn’t tell anyone and kept an eye on you. You barely touched the money you took and I know you repaid what you took and kept most of it in the bank and made small deposit’s so not to attract attention. You told me that you were not ready for Black Hawk but running away and how you lived your life told me you were ready and just didn’t know it.” We were interrupted by dinner being done and moved to the dining room. I just listened to CC talk
“After you left and Brayden relayed the story, I was so angry and upset. It was obvious that you needed space and to know the truth but no one was giving it to you. I spoke with Bob and together we made some changes at BHO. For starters we demoted Brayden and he’s not allowed to deal with protecting any family. You mother was not allowed to run the whole operation as we had planned either. I stepped into the role of CEO at Bob’s request. I had told him I found you and I was protecting your location and did not want anyone from BHO to contact you. He took over managing your trust and grew it. He wanted so bad to funnel you money to live on but couldn’t as he didn’t want to blow your cover. He did however visit you twice at the club. He was the one that paid a lot of attention to you and slipped the 100’S in to your string.” I was shocked as I knew the guy looked familiar to me.
“Where is he? I figured he would have shown up here and he hasn’t visited in a while to the club.” I said
“He passed away two years ago. He was getting ready for his annual trip to San Francisco when his heart gave out. I was so devastated by his loss as he was a mentor to me and kept everyone here in line. He blew up at Brayden for how he handled you. I don’t know what was said I just know he suspended him for over 30 days without pay.” I was shocked as Bob didn’t seem like the type of guy I would find in the club
“Was Uncle Bob gay?” I asked
“Yes he was. He never really had a partner because of things always being hectic with BHO. He wanted to you to have a life he never had. He actually left you part of his estate which includes a house and money. He left his portion of the law firm to Grayson since he knew how much Grayson loved his law classes. He did also provide for Beau too.” We had finished eating and moved to the living room
“TJ I would love for you to stay in New York but I know you have a life back in San Francisco. I would like you to seriously think about it and if you have any questions, please talk to me. I will answer you truthfully and I will help you along the way if you choose to take over BHO. It is getting to be 8:30, so I will have my driver take you to the Hilton so you are on time to meet with JC. Just think about everything and there is no pressure. Here is my number in case you need to reach me.” She hugged me and I could tell how sincere she was being.
“I will talk to you tomorrow Aunt CC.” I said with a smile
“I’d like that, now go meet your boy.” She said with a super big smile. The driver took me to the hotel and I was right on time, as I came through the door I could see a nervous looking JC sitting on the couch with his hat and glasses trying to blend in and I walked over to him
“Hey good looking, could I interest you in a fun time?” I said chuckling
“If you are fast, I’m waiting on a friend. I don’t want him to think I am going out with someone hotter than him” JC said laughing