Before Sunrise: What really happened to Braden?
Chapter Twenty-Four deleted
Tyler drove down the highway as Braden sat in the passenger seat talking to his mother on the phone. From the corner of his eye, Tyler could tell that Braden was staring at him as he talked and got the feeling their conversation was about him.
It was spring break and the two were heading to Miami Beach for a weekend of fun, alcohol and sex. Since Tyler had already had sex with Braden, he was looking for other volunteers for the weekend, in fact, as many as he could find!
Tyler would have much rather had made this trip with Nicky, but Nicky and Phillip were in New Orleans attempting to recruit a young high school student to fill two open spots on the team for next year.
That night, while Braden was in the shower preparing to go out, Tyler called Nicky on the phone. “Hey bro are you guys having a good time down there?” Tyler asked while listening for when the shower turned off.
“Yeah, we’re heading out for dinner in a little while. Phillip is napping right now and I’m sitting here studying. Why are you whispering?” Nicky asked.
“Braden’s in the shower and I don’t want him to hear. I think he’s got the wrong idea about his weekend, like we are together or something. I knew this was a bad idea but I didn’t want to come by myself,” Tyler whined as he looked at the bathroom door.
“Just be honest with him. Tell him what your plans are for tonight. Just be casual about it, not like it’s a big deal or anything,” Nicky suggested.
“Why do they want to fall in love and get clingy? I hate that shit.” Tyler whispered as he creeped up to the bathroom door and put his ear to the door.
“Well, be gentle with him. Don’t be breaking too many hearts down there and have fun!”
Making it back to the bed in time, Tyler had just hung up when Braden walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. “Who you talking to out here?” he asked, looking around the room.
Tyler sighed at the sight of Braden’s beautiful tanned body. He had to give it to him, his body was all that, Tyler said to himself as he scanned Braden’s chest, abs and feet. What big feet you have Tyler mumbled under his breath. Coming out in just a towel, he knew exactly what Braden was hoping for. “Oh, it was Nicky on the phone. He said hi.” Tyler replied as he fumbled with the TV remote trying not to pay Braden’s naked body any more attention than he already had.
On the strip that night, the nightclubs were all full of drunk spring breaker’s as they spilled out onto the streets with drinks in their hands. Tyler and Braden hung out on the streets until just after midnight when they found a club called the Naughty Boy and they noticed they were not checking ID’s at the door. Making their way up to the bar, they had no problem ordering two Long Island Ice Teas, and slamming them down before heading on to the dance floor.
After about a half hour, Tyler was ready for another drink and signaled Braden he was heading back to the bar.
When the bartender made his way over to where they were standing, Tyler kicked up the charm as he flirted with the shirtless attractive bartender. Ordering two more Long Islands, Tyler also ordered three Fireball shots as he ogled the massive chest on the bartender.
The bartender visibly liking what he was also looking at, leered back at Tyler. First, mixing up the Long Islands, he then lined three shot glasses up in front of Tyler and Braden. Without looking at the tiny glasses, the bartender kept his eyes on Tyler as he poured all three shots. Tyler slid the first glass towards the bartender and smiled, “Do you swallow?”
“If you give it to me I’ll swallow it.” With that, the bartender took his shot and knocked it back in one swallow.
In thanking Tyler, the bartender reached across the bar and hooked Tyler by the neck with his arm. The two exchanged a hot sloppy kiss as if they had been in love all their life.
Tyler was just getting into the kiss when he felt someone kneeing him in the butt. When he stopped, he turned and saw Braden behind him, looking at him with his eyebrows arched up.
“What! He was just saying thank you!” Tyler said as he wiped his mouth and smiled back at the bartender.
“You don’t even know him. That was nasty,” Braden shouted over the music.
As they took their drinks to an empty table, Tyler watched the dance floor filled with men with no shirts on, dancing wildly under the flashing colored lights. With the beat of the music pulsating through his body, Tyler guesstimated there had to be a least several hundred people in the club. He could smell the sweat of men as it drifted in from the dance floor and that was making him horny.
His own t-shirt drenched in sweat, Tyler took his time drinking his extra strong Long Island. Catching his breath, he swigged the last of his drink and was ready to dance again.
When Tyler leaned in to ask Braden if he was ready to dance, Braden abruptly sandwiched his face between his hands and kissed him. Tyler pulled back but Braden didn’t take to the rejection, stepping closer to Tyler to try to kiss him again.
Drunk and over compensating for the loud music, Braden shouted in Tyler’s ear, “I want you to fuck me tonight.”
Tyler pulled away again and could tell Braden was plastered. Braden swayed side to side as he waited for his answer. “Come on, don’t play hard to get.” Braden slurred as he attempted to reach for Tyler’s pants but missed.
Jokingly, Tyler tapped Braden on the shoulder and then pointed at the bartender. “I want to fuck him tonight!” Tyler shouted, matching Braden’s tone.
Braden turned and looked at the bartender and then back at Tyler, Flinging his shoulders to the right, away from Tyler, Braden stumbled, nearly falling, if not for Tyler catching him. Regaining his balance, he pushed Tyler in the chest, “Fuck you,” Braden murmured before walking away.
Tyler watched as Braden disappeared into the crowd of men on the dance floor. Realizing that he had to go get him, Tyler rapidly made his way out to the dance floor. After several minutes of pushing his way through sweaty men, with no luck at finding Braden, Tyler abandoned the search, opting to dance with a cute Latino who refused to take no for an answer.
Oblivious to the time, Tyler was making out in the corner with the guy he had met on the dance floor, when Braden walked up. “Are you ready to go?” Braden yelled over the music into Tyler’s ear.
Tyler looked at his watch and saw that it was three-thirty, “Really, you’re ready?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m hungry!” Braden exclaimed.
After about a half hour of making their way through the crowd of men, they reached the street. The cool air felt good as it hit Tyler’s sweaty skin. Dying for more cool air, Tyler removed his sweaty shirt and tucked it into his back pocket. The streets were still crowded with drunken college kids everywhere, as well as cars cruising up and down the street and venders selling everything from pizza and tacos, to empanadas to Cuban coffee.
“What do you feel like eating?” Tyler was pissed about being dragged out of the club. Regretting bringing Branden, Tyler didn’t care how horny he was, he wasn’t touching Braden tonight.
“Nothing, I’m not hungry anymore!”
Tyler stopped in his tracks, “Um! I thought you said you were hungry?”
Braden continued to walk stepping ahead of Tyler, “I changed my mind.”
Tyler rolled his eyes as he as fell behind Braden. Tyler refused to let Braden get to him any more than he had, and took to watching the people on the streets. When he caught up with Braden at the corner, he jokingly bumped into him.
“Okay, don’t be mad,” Tyler said, as he walked up from behind and wrapped his arms around Braden’s chest.
When the light turned green, Braden broke free from Tyler’s grip and walked off. As they reached the middle of the cross walk, a beautiful muscle jock in small shorts and combat boots was walking towards them. “Well hello daddy,” Tyler flirted aloud as they walked past each other.
By the time they made it to their room, Tyler had lost his buzz. He took off his shoes and pants before falling back onto his bed. When Braden came out of the bathroom, Tyler noticed he was still dressed.
“I’m going downstairs for a little while,” Braden said as he picked up his watch and wallet and left the room.
Tyler laid there pissed off by the way Braden was acting and the fact he was now back at his hotel by himself instead of having sex with some hot guy from the club. He knew he needed to talk to Braden tomorrow or else the whole weekend may play out like tonight. As Tyler drifted off to sleep, he heard the beat of the music from the club in his head.
It was just after noon when Tyler opened his eyes. He could tell Braden hadn’t returned to the room as his suitcase was still lying open on his bed like he left it when he left yesterday.
Tyler laid there for the next hour drifting in and out of sleep, until he found the energy to get up. After his shower, he was still surprised that Braden hadn’t returned to the room yet. He waited in the room watching TV until three o’clock before he couldn’t wait anymore and had to go down for something to eat.
After wolfing down two cheeseburgers and fries, Tyler returned to the room. Opening the door, he expected to find Braden; yet again, there was no sign of him. Tyler was growing pissed off as every hour passed as he continued to wait for the brat to return. At six o’clock, although still pissed, Tyler was also now concerned that something could have happened to Braden as he thought of Natalie Holloway who had disappeared in Aruba. He called down stairs to the front desk and asked if Braden had checked out of the hotel. After being told no, Tyler called Nicky and got his voice mail, “Hey Nick, call me,” Tyler said, before hanging up the phone.
By night fall, when there was no word of Braden, Tyler had a strong sense that something was wrong. Tyler called Braden’s phone for the tenth time, but his time the phone announced that his mailbox was now full. Tyler called Braden’s roommate Richard, and was told that he hadn’t heard from Braden either and suggested they call the police.
The last thing Tyler wanted to do was call the police, but he dialed the number and was passed around to several different people before he reached a Detective. The Detective told him that Braden had to be missing for more than twenty four hours before he could file a missing person’s report. He added that because it was spring break, he received hundreds of reports this time of year and they all turned up within forty-eight hours and suggested that Braden most likely had met someone.
That night as Nicky and Phillip unpacked their suitcases from their trip, Nicky took his time rehanging the clothes he didn’t wear while humming along to the Country Music Awards show playing on the TV. Being in New Orleans was the first time they were able to go out in public without fear of being seen together. Phillip had pampered Nicky with a beautiful suite at the Hilton that looked over the French Quarters.
During the day, they walked through the French Quarters, window shopping and people watching as they ate street food and they laughed and flirted with one another. At night, they dined in expensive and elegant restaurants throughout the city that Phillip had researched, trying something new every night.
Nicky realized there was so much more in the culinary world than just meat and potatoes and casserole dishes. In between, they called in on the family Phillip was there to visit. Phillip loved sharing with Nicky a new world of southern cooking and fresh seafood.
Although they were only gone three days, it was three days in a place where no one knew them as they walked in public together and no one seemed to care, until the flight home.
On the plane ride home, Phillip had dozed off when the Flight Attendant came around taking drink orders. When Nicky nudged Phillip to see if he wanted anything, he accidently called Phillip honey in front of her. Even the lady in the seat in front of them glanced over at them as soon as Nicky said it. Any feeling of peacefulness he had gained from their trip was erased in that moment.
Now, back at home, he felt as if they were hiding away in Phillip’s house again. Shut up away from the world, their love felt like a shameful secret and it made Nicky feel ill.
Phillip took Emily on her evening walk while Nicky finished putting the suitcases away. Nicky’s phone rang. “What’s up Tyler,” he said as he curled up on the couch.
He had been waiting for Tyler to call announcing the end to the missing Braden drama. Nicky had been sitting in the airport when Tyler reached him and told him the whole story of what had happened. Laughing it off, Nicky didn’t think to bore Phillip with Tyler’s drama.
“Hey I am back here on campus and just came from Braden’s room. His roommate still hasn’t seen him. Should I ask our Dorm Resident for his emergency contact number? It’s probably his mother. He could be there. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now it makes some sense because she lives right there.”
“Can you do it without alarming the DR,” Nicky asked.
“Oh yeah, I’m not concerned about that. If I get the number, will you call for me just in case he told his mother about me and she says he’s not there?”
“Yeah, call me back with the number.” Nicky said, agreeing to Tyler’s request.
Several minutes later Tyler called back and gave Nicky the number to Braden’s mother in Orlando. Nicky wanted to make the call before Phillip got back, but just as the phone rang, Phillip and Emily walked in the house.
“Hello, Ms. White, my name is Nicky O’Hare. I’m a friend of Braden from school. By any chance is he there?” Nicky asked.
Nicky tried to play it off as no big deal as he kept an eye on Phillip’s where-bouts.
“Okay, I just thought I would try him at home. Thank you,” Nicky said as he hung up the phone. When Phillip walked into the room, Nicky motioned to him to hold on while he dialed Tyler back. “No luck, she said she thought he was still in Tampa. Okay, call me tomorrow.” Nicky hung up the phone and knew he had to solicit Phillip’s help.
Explaining everything, Nicky saw the distress in Phillip’s face as he reported what he knew.
“So has anyone called the Miami police back to make the report yet?” Phillip asked.
“Yes. Tyler said he had to be missing for twenty-four hours before he could make a report.” Nicky was relieved that Phillip was now involved and would be able to fix it.
That Tuesday morning, Phillip took the call from the school administrator informing him that Braden’s body had washed up on shore four miles from the hotel in Miami. Phillip told Nicky that Braden’s neck was broken and his body was badly decomposed from being in the water for several days.
Since Tyler had filed the missing person report that Monday, as well as being the last one to have seen Braden, the Miami Police wanted him to return to Miami for questioning as soon as possible.
Phillip called Tyler and informed him of Braden’s death and that he was wanted for questioning. As instructed by Phillip, Tyler called his parents and then made contact with the Miami Police. Phillip agreed to drive Tyler to Miami in the morning and Tyler’s parents were sending out an attorney to meet them before he was questioned.
Nicky sat on the bed in disbelief that Braden had been murdered and that Tyler was wanted for questioning. Phillip repeatedly told Nicky that Tyler was not being questioned as a suspect, but because he was the last person who was with Braden the night he was killed.
That night, Tyler packed a bag and at the request of the coach, came over to the house so they could get on the road first thing in the morning. At the house, Tyler confusingly told the story over and over as Phillip walked him through the events of that night at their hotel, at the Naughty boy and their walk home that night. He asked Tyler details realizing that Tyler’s recall of that night was vague, at best.
Nicky listened, trying to recall his phone conversations with Tyler when Braden first went missing.
In the days to follow, Phillip and Tyler drove to Miami twice to make two statements to the investigators. With his father’s team of lawyers, Tyler walked the investigators down the route they took coming from the bar that night. He was reassured by one of the younger female attorneys that, by the line of their questioning, she was confident they were not looking at him as a suspect, at least not yet.
When Tyler arrived back at the station several hours later, Nicky and Phillip were there waiting. Nicky saw that Tyler was distraught. At one point, Tyler even blamed himself, saying had he only been nicer to Braden that night, even slept with him, Braden would be here still.
Braden’s body was eventually flown back to Texas where he was laid to rest next to his grandparents. The Tampa swim team held their own small service to memorialize Braden at the Aquatic Center. The team chipped in and hired Momma B to provide food after the service. Momma B had cooked her famous Catfish nuggets, ribs, Mac and Cheese, fresh salad and several desserts that she knew the boys liked.
The service was short. Coach Dean lead the service, because he worked one on one with Braden much more than Phillip had. Nicky and Squirrel both spoke and Braden’s mother attended the service. Nicky watched her for the two hours she was there and wondered what his own mother would be like if this had happened to him.
Unkempt, tired, and in a zombie like state, Braden’s mother walked around greeting and meeting the room full of people who all knew her son, and who all said nice things about him.
It all seemed unreal, like time had stopped for the last two weeks. They all struggled with the death of one of their team mates and friends. For Nicky, outside of when his grandmother died when he was young, he had never experienced death and sorrow.
Why This Scene Was Deleted
Before Sunrise had many complicated characters woven into the plot of the book. It was thought that this particular chapter moved Tyler too much into the spotlight and detracted from the story of Nicky and Phillip.