Posted December 1, 2021

The Brilliant Boy Billionaire

The Amazing Journey of a Remarkable Kid, by Altimexis

PART TEN – Franklin

Chapter 3: My Brother’s Revelation

With trepidation, I got up to deliver my eulogy. I kept it short, but poignant.

I am proud and humbled to speak on behalf of the Gonzalez children – Celia, Camilla, Hillary and Lindsey; Rob, Sammy and last but not least, Henry. And of course we have a new ‘daughter’, Sam, the love of Rob’s life, and me, another ‘son’, not by blood but through a set of improbable circumstances that highlight the kind of man Jerry Gonzalez was. I knew him, not as a military man but as a father, a husband and a pillar of the community. Four years ago, I had been a homeless boy, alone and on the run from an abusive father. Through the kindness of a number of people, some of them sitting here, I was led to Geraldo and Francesca Gonzalez, who took a stranger in and treated me as if I was one of their own children. They helped me to get a job, a learner’s permit and a driver’s license, to go to college and even to get my Ph.D – at an age when most kids are worried about who to take to prom. He and his family gave me life.

Though my tie to Jerry has tragically ended, my ties to the Gonzalez family will not end. Jerry’s youngest son, Henry, and I have fallen in love and have committed to each other. Jerry Gonzalez was always accepting of our relationship, and I am certain he would have blessed our plans to marry someday.

It seems tragic that Jerry Gonzalez’s life was cut so short. He lived perhaps only half the number of years he should’ve. Many people make it to 94 these days. How cruel to be cut down before even making it to half a century. Yet how could any of us have known that Jerry had hidden deep within his brain this time bomb, this aneurysm that could have felled him before he even saw all his kids reach their teens, but it didn’t. He did not live to see grandchildren, yet he did live to meet a future daughter-in-law and son-in-law. He lived to see two of his children graduate from college and another two start their higher education, one of whom will go to medical school. Jerry knew how special all his children were, and he was a fantastic dad when it came to dealing with teenagers.

Henry and I were traveling when we got the news of Jerry’s stroke. On the way back to Omaha, Henry said something very profound, and in many ways, it made Jerry’s death somewhat less painful. He said that he was afraid our dad wouldn’t live, but he was even more afraid that he would. Henry knew that had Jerry survived, he wouldn’t have been the same man physically and mentally. He’d have been a mere shell of what he was, hollowed out from the inside and dependent on constant care the rest of his life. Our brother, Rob also said something profound, and even though I’m an agnostic, I found comfort in what he told me. There is an axiom of Catholicism that he finds quite useful at times like these. Rob said that we don’t pray for recovery or even survival, but for the fulfillment of God’s will; after something like this, there is no return to what was. We pray, Rob said, for the right outcome, not the one we hope for, but we hope for what God alone knows is the right one.

Finally, there is this. When a parent has a brain aneurysm, the chance that each child or a sibling will also have brain aneurysms is as high as 20%. The aneurysms are often multiple, and they’re familial. Jerry didn’t know he had an aneurysm, and we didn’t learn of it until it was too late, but in passing, something incredibly valuable came from his sacrifice. With seven children, two brothers and three sisters, the likelihood that at least one of them will have one or more brain aneurysms is 87%. It’s a matter of the arithmetic of probability: one minus 0.8 to the ninth power, if you must know. Preventive measures can now be taken. He died from his aneurysm, but chances are very strong that he kept at least one of his children or siblings from suffering the same fate, not to mention dozens of nieces, nephews and future grandchildren. He didn’t plan it to end this way, but we can all take solace that in his passing, he may well have given one or more of his family the gift of long life. That’s quite a legacy.

Henry squeezed my hand when I returned to my seat on the pew, right next to him. I’d spent hours writing the eulogy and was pleased with the way it came out. It would’ve been nice if the funeral service could’ve ended after that, but Catholics aren’t known for brevity, nor is the military. Both are big on ceremony and ritual, which continued for another hour before we all were loaded into our cars and in a procession behind the hearse to Calvary Cemetery, where Jerry’s flag-draped coffin was loaded onto a frame, poised over a gaping hole in the ground. The graveside ceremony was entirely a military affair, with an air show overhead and a 21-gun salute. The American flag was then removed, folded into a precise triangle, placed inside a wood and glass case bearing his name, and given to Fran. The coffin was then lowered into the ground. Close family, myself included, then threw dirt on top of it in regular Catholic tradition.

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I’d clearly underestimated the number of people that would come to the house for the reception and lunch after the funeral. I’d assumed that only close family and friends would come to pay their respects afterwards. Space issues aside, parking became a real problem as our street and the adjacent streets quickly became filled with parked cars. There was an estate at the end of the street with a large parcel of undeveloped, open land, and people even started to park there, assuming the land to be city-owned, which it was not. I could only hope that no one would complain, particularly under the circumstances.

A tent was set up in back, but it wasn’t really necessary as the weather was bright and sunny. It did provide some welcome shade though. At the peak, I estimated we had about three hundred guests crammed into the space of a forty-square-foot Great Room and the back half of a half-acre lot. Rob had had the good sense to order enough food to feed five hundred people, and we needed it!

I spent quite a bit of time talking to Jitendra, who related that progress on the super­conducting motor continued to be problematic. In spite of isolating the stators and rotor in vacuum and using the Peltier effect to remove excessive heat, heat remained a major problem. The Peltier effect was more than adequate to remove the heat, but the heat was indicative of a pathologic process that was sapping energy that should have been going into turning the wheels. It was sapping efficiency, on top of which the thermoelectric heat pump took far more energy than we’d budgeted. The motors would need to be larger than had been anticipated, and a charge would take us much shorter distances. The cost would be much higher, and while we could justify it in a race car, our motors would never be commercially viable.

Ironically, the Peltier heat pump was the one bright spot in the project, as it was proving to be an exceptionally efficient approach to refrigeration. Already, a team of engineers back in Seattle had built a prototype refrigerator that used a fraction of the energy of a conventional model. In heating and cooling applications, it dramatically shifted the balance of cost efficiency toward the use of Peltier heat pumps instead of gas-fired furnaces and reverse-Brayton-cycle, air-conditioning systems. Jitendra was already aware of my idea for using the Seebeck effect, which was the reverse of the Peltier effect, to convert wind energy directly to electricity. He’d wasted no time in having his engineers do simulations, which showed that we could equal the efficiency of conventional wind turbines but at lower cost, and without the use any moving parts. Already, a demonstration project was planned for installation at an Applazon wind farm in Eastern Washington.

Even by 5:00, there were still people coming up to me and offering their condolences. It was as things were finally starting to wind down and only a handful of people were left that Franklin came up to Henry and me to offer his condolences. He’d arrived some time earlier with his parents, who’d since returned to the Holiday Inn to rest or perhaps to visit the casino or elsewhere in town. Not that I had much of a chance to keep track of him, but Franklin had stayed on, and I’d spotted him spending time with Lindsey, who was his age. In any case, Henry and I had changed into dressy casual clothes of polos and khakis and were sitting at the patio table on the deck when Franklin came up to us, still dressed in a suit but without the tie, which was very likely folded and in a pocket.

“Hey, guys,” he began. “I know things must be crazy, but I wanted to stay and talk to you to personally offer my condolences, sans parents. They agreed to come for the funeral, ’cause Henry’s one of my very best friends, but it’s not the same when you’re just a kid tagging along. I just didn’t think it would be so long before people started to leave,” he added with a bit of a laugh.

“We didn’t, either,” Henry said. “This your first time in Omaha?”

“It’s my first time west of the Mississippi, other than our visit to St. Louis; well, there were a couple of trips to the West Coast,” he replied.

“Really,” I replied. “Of course, it wasn’t until I was your age that I’d even been outside of Indiana.”

“Or Cincinnati,” Franklin threw in. Cincinnati?

“What the fuck do you mean about Cincinnati?” I asked. “I grew up very near there, but never actually visited the city until the Midwestern trip last spring, just after we met.”

“You must’ve said something about going there in passing when you spoke to me,” Franklin replied, but I wasn’t buying it. “Perhaps your father took you to the zoo or the art museum. Both are supposed to be world class.”

“They are, Franklin, but I never forget anything,” I countered. “Just ask Henry. If I told you I grew up near Cincinnati, I’d remember telling you about it. The one thing I can say for sure is that my so-called father never took me to the Cincinnati Zoo, and he sure as fuck didn’t take me to any art museums. He took me to the Indianapolis Zoo, and we did some of our shopping in Indy, but in spite of living so close, we never once went to Cincinnati.”

“Maybe I just assumed that with living close to Cincinnati, you’d been there, or maybe I’m the one with the fucked-up memory,” Franklin suggested.

“I might believe that if I’d told you I grew up near Cincinnati, but I didn’t,” I replied. “I only told you I grew up in Southern Indiana. That translates to anyplace south of Indianapolis. It could’ve been in Bloomington, where Indiana University’s located, or in Evansville, thirty miles from where the Wabash empties into the Ohio River and nowhere near Ohio.”

“I just assumed —” Franklin interjected.

“But why, Franklin?” I asked. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“I can’t tell you!” he exclaimed. He was in tears. WTF was going on?

“Do you have any idea what this is about?” I asked Henry.

“I haven’t a clue,” he replied.

Placing my hand on Franklin’s shoulder, I told him, “Franklin, whatever it is, we should talk about it. I’m here for you, man. We haven’t known each other long, but you’ve become like a brother to me.”

“You know,” Henry began, “you two really could be brothers. You have very similar hair and the exact same eyes. Not just similar, but the same color, texture and patterning. Even your faces are similar, and your expressions, reactions and even mannerisms are nearly the same. It’s as if you came from the same parents. You really do look like brothers.”

“We are brothers, dammit!” Franklin screamed, and then he ran into the house.

Henry said, “There’s definitely something he hasn’t told us, but it’s almost certainly true. He must be the brother Barlow was telling you about.”

With wide eyes, I nodded my head and responded, “Let’s go see if we can find him.”

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We didn’t see Franklin anywhere in the Great Room, kitchen or dining area. There were still quite a few people there, and most of the family and the caterers were there, so it seemed unlikely we’d find Franklin in the house. Walking out the front door and looking both up and down the street, we saw no sign of him. There were plenty of places he might have gone, and he could’ve been anywhere in the surrounding neighborhood.

Then with a flash of insight, Henry said, “He knows our bedrooms are downstairs. I’ve mentioned in our chats how our bedrooms are adjacent and right off the pool deck. Let’s go check them out.”

Walking back inside through the front door, we headed downstairs. We first looked in my bedroom, which was nice and neat with the bed fully made. I’d made the bed that morning, just in case one of the guests at our reception went downstairs to use the bathroom. Henry, by contrast, had simply closed his door. When we opened it, sure enough, Franklin was sprawled out on his bed, lying prone on top of the rumpled duvet. His suit coat was neatly draped over Henry’s desk chair with his leather dress shoes toed off and dropped to the floor, his sock feet hanging in midair. His hands were balled into fists, and his face rested squarely on them, right at the eyes. The sound of sobbing was unmistakable.

Sitting down on Henry’s bed, I placed my hand on his shoulder and said, “Franklin, I believe you when you say you’re really my brother, but there’s a hell of a lot you haven’t told me about how you found me and how you managed to orchestrate all of this. And don’t tell me it was your parents’ doing.”

Lifting his head off the bed and looking at me with his red eyes, he responded, “They’re your parents, too.”

With a wan smile, I replied, “I suspect as much, but I don’t think they were the ones who arranged for us to meet.”

Getting up off the bed and standing up, he started to open his mouth but then seemed to change his mind and walked to the desk chair, saying, “My parents’ll kill me if I mess up my good clothes. Do you mind if I take them off?”

“Hey, I’m comfortable so long as you’re comfortable,” I replied, and Franklin proceeded to strip to just his boxers and socks. At first, I thought he’d merely remove his suit pants, but he took his white dress shirt off, as well.

He actually had more muscle on him than I’d expected, and I told him, “You’ve a nice physique. You must work out.”

“There’s a health club in our building, and I swim,” he replied. Sitting cross-legged on Henry’s unmade bed, Franklin began his tale. “Well, first of all, growing up, there were a lot of pictures around the house of a toddler who looked a lot like me. I guess I always assumed they were pictures of me, except that they weren’t. Even when I was six or seven, I could see that there were differences, but when I asked Mom, she burst into tears; all she’d tell me is that someday she’d explain it to me, so I quit asking.

“But then she had uncontrolled bouts of crying. Dad would try to comfort her, but she kept right on crying, and he let her. I asked if it was something I did, and she always told me that I had nothing to do with it, but it always seemed to happen when she saw me, so how could I not think it had something to do with me?

“The other thing that didn’t make any sense was the way both my parents were overprotective of me. I mean, some of my friends had overprotective parents, but mine seemed to carry it to absurd degrees. If I so much as wandered around the corner in the store, Mom would panic and then hug me and cry when she found me. It was weird. It almost made me feel paranoid.

“It all came to a head when I was nine and a friend was having a sleepover for his birthday. I was excited about being invited. Finally, it was a chance for me to be somewhere without my parents, but they refused to let me go. I screamed at them. I refused to eat. I went anyway. My parents stormed into the party and physically tried to wrest me away, but I wouldn’t let them. I screamed out, ‘What’s wrong with you? Did something happen to another kid you had before I was born?’ I’d hit a bullseye.”

“You said that?” I asked in awe.

“Hey, like you, I was precocious,” Franklin continued. “I read a lot, and I’d read about parents that lost a kid, and although I was taking a stab in the dark, it all seemed to fit. But even then, I was startled when both Mom and Dad broke down right there and cried. That’s when your story came out.

“I never did get the whole story because they always broke down whenever I asked, but what I think happened is that you were kidnapped while in childcare. It was as if you vanished into thin air. You were only two. I’m sure there must have been quite an investigation. Hell, the state probably got involved. Mom and Dad hired a private investigator, too, which wasn’t easy for them with all their student loans.”

“We lived in Cincinnati?” I asked for confirmation.

Nodding his head, Franklin responded, “Mom and Dad moved there from Cleveland when Dad made partner. That was another reason we didn’t have much money. Dad had to buy into the partnership. Over the years, my parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to track you down. Maybe even millions. They hired investigators who specialized in finding missing kids, but no one could find a sign of your existence. My parents never admitted it, but I’m sure in time they concluded you were probably dead. That’s certainly what I figured had happened.

“Then late last year, my parents were approached by a private investigator who said he was trying to track down the parents of someone who was kidnapped as a kid. Naturally, we assumed he was hired by that person. He asked my parents for permission to test their DNA and mine, under one condition: that we would only be told whether or not the person was their son. We wouldn’t be told who he was, and he wouldn’t be told who we were until he decided he wanted to know, but it would be his decision. There was a no-contact clause that prohibited us from even trying to find out who he was. It included a binding forfeiture of $50 million – enough that we’d have had to sell off the condo and much of what we have. We didn’t like the terms one bit, but of course, we signed the release. If there was any chance to find that you were still alive, it would be worth it. However, we were able to do one better ’cause Mom had kept a lock of your hair from when you had your first haircut. It’s a thing parents do. She did it with me, too. The test returned a 100% match. It proved you were my brother.”

“I didn’t even know about the testing,” I responded. “I didn’t even know anyone was attempting to find my biological parents, but it wasn’t until recently that I even realized the man I thought was my father was just a pedo kidnapper.” Then another thought occurred to me. Franklin said our parents were approached late last year, but my supposed father’s cabin didn’t burn down until then, and the police didn’t find his body until after the first of the year. Someone from Applazon, Jitendra, or maybe even Jeff himself must have taken it upon themselves to initiate a search for my parents. However, that meant they’d already suspected what should have been obvious to me even before there was evidence: that I was a kidnap victim. They must’ve spent months or even years tracking the Walters down before they even approached them.

Franklin continued, “My parents were thrilled to know that you were still alive, but they had trouble accepting that they might never learn your identity. They requested the identity of the person who employed the investigator, figuring it must’ve been you and figured that knowing your identity per se wouldn’t be a violation of the no-contact clause. They even threatened to sue to obtain your identity, but we hit a brick wall when we found out the investigator worked for Applazon. Dad attempted to contact Jeff Barlow himself – I guess he knows him, or at least they’re acquaintances, but Barlow told Dad in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t reveal your identity. He promised to approach you with the knowledge that he’d found your parents, but not until the time was right, and that might not happen for years. My parents were furious, but they accepted that Barlow’s word that someday, we might have a chance to meet you, and they went on with their lives.

“That’s when I decided to do a little snooping of my own. After all, it was my parents that signed the agreement and not me. I suppose it was a false assumption, but I assumed that my parents couldn’t be sued for something I did on my own, and that I couldn’t be sued ’cause I didn’t sign the agreement. I figured that you couldn’t be just some grunt working in a fulfillment center. Jeff Barlow wouldn’t go to that kind of trouble on behalf of someone like that, yet at sixteen, you wouldn’t have qualified for anything more than that unless you were some kind of genius —”

“Like you,” I interrupted.

“I know I’m smart,” Franklin replied, “but I’m not in your league, or Henry’s for that matter —”

“You started high school at the age of eleven, just like I did,” I countered, “and at an elite school at that, not some Podunk rural backwater of a high school. Don’t tell me you aren’t in my league.”

“In any case, I thought that someone high up at Applazon might have adopted you or might be fostering you,” Franklin continued. “In addition to the usual press releases, Applazon has a news blog. I’m sure you’re familiar with it.”

“More than familiar,” I responded. “I actually read the thing. I’ve asked repeatedly that my identity be kept under wraps, but in spite of that, I’ve been featured in it, multiple times now. I guess everyone wants to know about the ‘whiz kid’ who invented their new servers. It’s embarrassing.”

“I doubted that I’d find anything,” Franklin went on, “but I started skimming the blog entries in reverse order, when I suddenly came across a photo of a teenager who looked an awful lot like me. It was an article about the new server design that was being rolled out, and it listed you as the one who invented the design. It mentioned that you’d spent the past year upgrading server capacity all over the world in response to the demand caused by the pandemic.

“I was convinced I’d found my brother, but there was damn little information about you on the corporate site. It didn’t list your last name and I couldn’t even find out where you lived. All I had to go on was that you worked for Applazon, obviously that you were a genius and you’d spent the last year traveling all over the globe. I wanted to meet you in the worst way; well, so did my parents, but I was stupid enough to actually try to track you down on Facebook.”

“I don’t use Facebook,” I replied.

“Yeah, so I discovered, but Henry does, and I found him by searching for you, based on what little I knew. It turned out that Henry was in a Facebook group for exceptionally smart kids. Since I was a student at HSMSE, I figured I qualified, so I joined. What I never counted on was actually becoming close friends with Henry. We had a lot in common, and I absolutely loved chatting with him. My parents thought it was great that I’d made a friend on Facebook.

“Henry told me all about you without me even asking. He even told me he was in love with you, but that you only saw him as a little kid.”

Blushing furiously, Henry interjected, “I would’ve never told you that if I’d known you were J.J.’s brother.”

“It wasn’t like I even asked you about J.J. at all, you know,” Franklin continued. “You told me about J.J. when we told each other about our families. The more I became your friend, the more determined I became to meet both of you. But then you told me that J.J. had interviewed for a position as the head of a new A.I. division at Applazon, but you didn’t tell me it was in New York. Naturally, I assumed it would be in Seattle. I should’ve been overjoyed that J.J. might be moving to New York, but since I thought he would be moving to Seattle, my parents would never let me go there on my own.

“In the meantime, you’d be moving to Cambridge in the fall to go to graduate school at M.I.T., which was great, but no offense, you’re not J.J. I pushed hard to visit you guys in Omaha over the spring break, but then you told me J.J. wouldn’t even be in Omaha for the spring break. You said he was gonna be visiting some friends and that he’d be spending some time traveling about the Midwest. The two of you were planning a trip for later in the summer, and you’d planned it for the Rockies. I actually asked my parents if I could tag along with Henry on the trip, but my parents didn’t even consider it. They thought that at thirteen, I was just too young. That’s when I orchestrated another plan to meet J.J.” Then he looked directly at me. “To meet you.

“It all came down to St. Louis. I found out you were gonna be in St. Louis during most of my spring break, so if there was gonna be any chance at all for meeting you before you left for Seattle, it would hafta be in St. Louis. My parents and I often go on three or four one-week vacations every year, one of them being during my school’s spring break, so I asked them if we could go to St. Louis. Because there’s a lot to see and do there, they readily agreed. I needed to find out where you were staying, though, but I couldn’t have asked Henry without him wondering why, so I called all around, pretending to be your secretary and seeing if it was possible to upgrade your reservation.

“The Drury Plaza was the fourteenth place I tried, but I’d have called a hundred places if necessary. I verified the dates of your stay – that much I knew – and asked about upgrading you to a V.I.P. suite. It was nearly a thousand a night! I asked if there was any kind of discount for reserving two V.I.P. suites, and they said they could offer you a free upgrade to a suite on the V.I.P. floor if I prepaid the full price for a second suite. I made the reservation and told my parents I’d found a place with a great deal on a V.I.P. suite for about what we’d pay for a suite at the Hilton but that we had to prepay the whole cost up front that day. I gave them all the details, and they actually thanked me for making the reservation and paid the bill in full online. However, I never stopped to think that the rooms would be next to each other.

“I came up with the idea of pre-arranging tickets to the Arch, but that worked out a bit too well. I expected I’d see you in line and maybe get a chance to say hello without saying who I was, but then we ended up in the same car and you started talking to me, and I couldn’t resist taking it a bit further. You shoulda seen the fireworks that night in the hotel. I’m surprised you didn’t hear it through the wall, but I guess maybe you went out for the evening. I told them I thought Henry was coming with you and that was why I wanted to take the trip to St. Louis. Fortunately, they never made the connection that you were their son, or I would’ve probably been grounded until I was, like, thirty. As it was, they grounded me for a month afterwards, but it was all worth it. Besides, then you arranged to visit us in New York, and you told me you were actually gonna move there, so it ended up bein’ perfect in the end.”

“Not that it matters, but my real name was David?” I asked.

“David Benjamin Walters,” Franklin confirmed.

“And when was my birthday?” I asked.

“I always used to wonder why my parents got so morose on November 22, particularly when Thanksgiving is supposed to be a happy time. When I learned about the Kennedy assassination in school, I thought that maybe it was because that was the date he was shot, but my parents weren’t even born until a decade later. And then I figured it out,” Franklin answered.

“So, I’m three months older than we thought,” I responded.

“Nine months younger,” Franklin corrected me. “You were born on November 22, 2005. You’re sixteen years old.”

“Shit, I was only twelve years old when I left home?” I said as I realized that there was a reason why I always looked so young for my age.

“And you were still twelve years old when you orchestrated the theft of the identity of a dead kid,” Henry pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’m still using that stolen identity,” I pointed out, “and at sixteen, I’d probably be tried as an adult.”

“No one is gonna hold a kid on the run from a pedophile kidnapper for forging a new identity by any means they could to survive,” Franklin countered.

“Nor will anyone hold a twelve-year-old kid responsible for killing his kidnapper in self-defense,” Henry added.

“You did that?” Franklin asked.

“Yeah, but it’s not quite as straightforward as Henry makes it sound,” I responded. I then filled Franklin in on an abbreviated version of what had happened and how I’d ended up in Omaha.

“Fuck, J.J., you could and should write a book on your experiences. They could make a movie about you,” Franklin exclaimed. “No one’s gonna hold you responsible for offing the guy that kidnapped you, nor will they give a shit about you forging a new identity for yourself. With all you’ve done since then, most people will think you’re a hero.”

“A book? A movie? What the fuck, man? Why would anyone want to see a movie about me?” I asked, but as reality started to take hold, I realized just how young I’d really been – fuck, I was only ten years old when I started high school, and twelve when I killed the man I thought was my father, staged a fake scene for his death, disposed of the murder weapon and traveled by bicycle all the way to Hannibal, Missouri, before being stopped by the police. Then I escaped from a flawed juvenile-justice system in Missouri and started working for the Rodriguez family, and I was still only twelve.

I didn’t turn thirteen until after I’d already found and stolen the identity of a dead kid who was, in reality three full years older than I was. I’d turned thirteen by the time his birth certificate arrived, and then I used it to get my GED. I moved to Omaha, started working for Applazon, designed my first liquid-nitrogen-cooled server and got my driver’s license, all at the age of thirteen. I also fell in love, only to lose my boyfriend when the explosion in our lab killed his father. I was traveling all over the world installing new servers of my design in data centers when I was only fourteen, finally returning home just after I turned sixteen.

“You seem lost in thought,” Henry exclaimed.

“I was just thinking about how young I’d been when various things happened in my life,” I explained. “I’m incredulous that I started high school at ten, ran away when I was only twelve and was traveling the world when I was fourteen, but the thing that probably stands out the most is that I got my license and bought my first car when I was only thirteen.”

“You were thirteen years, nine months old when you got your license and bought the Tesla,” Henry interjected, “and I’m not that much younger than you are. There’s only ten months’ difference in our ages. That’s nothing.”

“Yeah, but the whole age thing means that there were a lot of legal papers I signed that may not be valid now. My employment with Applazon, my patents, my car registration, my corporation, the condo… There’s certainly a lot that could be contested if I was actually three years younger than my stated age. I need to talk to a lawyer,” I added. “Perhaps there’s a way of being declared an emancipated minor retroactively. That, to me, makes the most sense, but if that’s not possible, we’ll have to find a way to make it all legal.”

“Since you’re gonna be moving to New York, you should definitely talk to an attorney who specializes in this sort of thing in New York,” Franklin suggested. “Our dad probably knows some of the best attorneys for this sort of case. Maybe a team of attorneys. We should definitely talk to him.”

“Speaking of which, now that the cat’s out of the bag, you really need to talk to them about the fact that you’re their long-lost son,” Henry suggested. “They are your parents, after all.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed. Then turning to Franklin, I asked, “Are you guys gonna be in town for a while, or are you heading back to New York tonight or in the morning?”

“There’s actually a lot to see in Omaha,” he replied, “so we’re gonna spend another day here before flying home. But now, perhaps it’s more important to get to know each other better.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that and more when we move to New York, but maybe we should discuss what’s just happened before you guys return,” I suggested. “First, however, I should probably talk to Jitendra about the cat being out of the bag and what to do about it. Then Henry and I will take you back to the hotel and talk with our mom and dad. It’s time for them to know that I’m their son, and for me to meet them, for real this time.”

I phoned Jitendra to give him the heads-up. Then I was able to corner Rob and quietly tell him what had happened and where we were going. His response was ecstatic, and he said he would let the rest of the family know.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope and vwl-rec in editing my stories, as well as Awesome Dude and Gay Authors for hosting them.

Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.