TOMMY watched the rain patter lightly against the glass from where he was curled up on the window sill. He could feel the cold of Autumn against his skin, which was exposed to the glass panes. He couldn't help but wonder if Winter would come earlier this year. It was the middle of the night, and Tommy hadn't left the security of Ben Gardner's house in weeks. He spent his nights waiting for Ben to arrive home from his night shifts at the paper mill, knowing that he'd instantly wake in a panic if he fell asleep and awoke to his return.
This weather was ridiculous. It had been rainy and miserable for days now, and it didn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. Autumn always appealed to Tommy because he liked the leaves crunching under his feet as he walked. He hated how the rain made the leaves soggy and slushy and would undoubtedly create enough puddles to soak his shoes and make his socks wet. Tommy hated that the most, running with wet socks. He saw the flicker of a yellow flame across the road and caught the neighbor lighting up a cigarette on their front porch. Tommy had learned a lot in the last few weeks from sitting in this spot and watching the world moving on the other side of the glass. He knew that the neighbor could only smoke at odd hours because his wife hated it. Tommy had seen her bat him upside the head with a rolled-up newspaper one morning when she caught him; it was followed by what seemed like a tediously lengthy lecture about how smoking kills.
Tommy could never smell cigarettes without recalling his brother's torture. The odor took him back to his insides, burning, ripped, bleeding. It took him back to lying half-dead, shaking in the back room of their family estate. With every recollection, he felt the cold, shape metal slicing through his flesh, driving the need for him to keep running, to survive. Tommy could deal with the knives and deal with the crackle of flame from a fireplace. Still, for some reason, it was a few inches of burning tobacco leaves, and he was thrown into instant trauma. They were his brother's heavy fists and the excruciating heat from a glowing fire poker. His coarse stubble on his neck as he whispered words that could not be expunged from his mind by either alcohol or pain. On dark nights like this, Tommy thought of killing him and hunting him down before he could find him first. But something always held him back. The nagging feeling that he didn't want to be as terrible as his family was, he wanted to be better and free of the pain they inflicted.
He watched the headlights of Ben's pickup truck illuminate the house as he pulled up into the drive. Being the son of an extremely wealthy businessman, Tommy would think that Ben would want something a little sweeter or classier than the red Chevrolet he currently owned. Though Tommy could understand what it meant to distance yourself from your family in every way possible. Ben didn't need to run from his, but he didn't necessarily want to be affiliated with them. Tommy's heart stammered slightly when he saw the desperation Ben was in as he ran from the truck, leaving the door open ajar as he rushed for the house.
"Tomas! Tommy, you have to go!" Ben's words cut through the darkness of the living room as the door slammed back on its hinges. It was enough to jolt Tommy from where he had curled up on the window sill.
"He's here?!" Tommy had his duffel bag in his hands before Ben even had the chance to answer.
"I got an alert from one of my Father's men, he was spotted on the other side of town, he knows you are in the area, and it won't take him long to pinpoint you," Ben explained as he turned on the living room light. His dark brown hair was soaked through and dripping from being out in the rain, and his equally as dark eyes were frantic.
Ben was merely a name on a list of possible contacts given to Tommy by a woman named Jules Myers. Jules had worked for Tommy's family for years and became more of a protector for him throughout the years. When he decided to make a break for it, Jules wrote a short but essential list of people he could trust if he needed help. A list of contacts, most of which despised his Criminal Family but would help him in a heartbeat to escape it. The Sinclair's to everyone else looked like an extremely wealthy international trading family. What they were under the facade was much worse. The Sinclair's were the lead name for an international crime syndicate, with dealings to other gangs worldwide. It was the throne Tommy's older brother Jonathan inherited after their father's death, something that Tommy wanted nothing to do with. Because of that, he became a loose end.
It took him months before he could successfully make it out when he was 17, now at the age of 19, he was still running... His brother always a few steps behind but gaining momentum. Tommy knew that if he was caught, he would be killed, and it would be a slow and punishable death for such disobedience. It was death or something more frightening. He didn't put it past his brother not to just cut the ligaments in his legs so he could no longer run, maybe he would lock him to a room like that for the rest of his life. Tommy didn't want to take that chance. He would keep running, and he wouldn't stop for anything.
"Take the truck, I already put Winchester into the GPS. You don't stop driving until you get there, the keys to the place are with a man named Howard Steer, ask anyone, and they will direct you to him. You'll be safe there, I promise," Ben instructed, grabbing Tommy's wrist and forcibly pressing the keys into his empty palm.
"Thank you, I—'ll figure out how to repay you," Tommy whispered as he stared down at the keys in his hand. Ben cupped his cheeks and pulled his face up so that Tommy had to look at him. Tommy had to bite down on the inside of his lip to stop himself from jerking away or being sick at the touch.
"You repay me by living, got that? Don't let that bastard win," Ben smiled, but it was more of a grimace as he tapped his fingers against Tommy's cheek in encouragement.
"Thank you," Tommy said again because truthfully, he didn't know what else to say. There wasn't really anything to say but that. Ben wanted him to survive because of spite, he hated Tommy's brother for what he did to his family's business, and he didn't want Jonathan to win. Winning meant that he got the one thing that he wants but hasn't been able to get yet, and that is Tommy.
"Call me when you get there, so I know you made it," Ben says as he ushers him out the door. "Good luck Tommy."
And with that, Tommy was back out in the world, playing the same sick game of cat and mouse with Jonathan, a game that he had been playing long before he escaped his grasp two years ago. A game he intended to play out until the very end.