Elias couldn’t sleep. It was damn near two in the morning, and he couldn’t sleep. The day had absolutely exhausted him–running on next to nothing for sleep the previous night had drained him long before his work day had even begun. Having Cole over to chat about Bo Austen-Taylor had taken what little energy he had left.
And yet he still couldn’t sleep.
With a groan, he rolled onto his stomach, burying his face in his pillow. He hated how occupied his thoughts were with Vito Minetti. In the beginning of his research phase, the things that had kept him up at night had been exciting. The idea of researching his first big article. The idea of nationwide renown for his first big article. The idea of finally being known for something other than his parents’ damn bank accounts.
Now what kept him up at night was the fact that at least some part of Vito Minetti was human.
It didn’t make sense. Vito was a monster. Elias had seen some of the crime scene photos, had seen the man’s signature on the fucking walls, signed with his victims’ blood. He had seen the decapitated corpses, the mutilated bodies, the blood-soaked carpets and beds. He had seen the kinds of things Vito was capable of, even if the victim’s child was in the house–sometimes just across the hall, sometimes in a room sharing a wall with the room he murdered their parents in.
How was it possible for someone like Vito to still be human in any sense of the word?
Elias rolled onto his back and crossed his arms over his chest. Staring up at the dark ceiling, he knew the world wasn’t as black and white as he wished it was. Even monsters had something about them that was still human. He was more than aware of that. Some murderers had wives and kids, families they genuinely loved, parents they took care of, pets they would give their life for.
He had simply hoped Vito wasn’t one of them. Somehow, pretending to be interested in Vito Minetti had seemed easier when there hadn’t been anything human about him.
When there hadn’t been a part of him that could ever grow to care about Elias.
God, he hated this.
Dropping his hands to the mattress, Elias sat up. There was no point in lying there if he couldn’t sleep in the first place. It was nothing but a waste of time, time he could be using for research. If he had to be awake, he might as well use the extra hours as bonus work time.
Elias’s early morning research hadn’t turned up anything damning on Vito, but it had turned up several newsletters and newspaper articles from his younger days. Apparently, both brothers had been in track and field. While Tito had done long distance and hurdles, Vito had broken records as a sprinter, a shot putter, and a high jumper.
The pictures in those articles had been even more surprising, of course. Vito had been a tall, lanky little shit in high school. Six-foot-something and practically skin and bones. He held very little resemblance to the tattooed giant of a man Elias had met at the bar, save for the charming smile and strong jawline. Elias was pretty sure those features would be visible at just about any point in Vito’s life, especially the smile. Vito had probably perfected that the very moment he came to realize the darkness that brought about his sick urge to torture and kill people.
Elias scrubbed his hands over his face. He needed to get around, take a shower, and head to work, but it sounded like a hell of a task. More than likely, he could work from home. His boss would let him do just about anything, thanks to the Payne name. Elias usually hated that more than anything, but today, it wouldn’t hurt to let it work in his favor.
He grabbed his phone from his desk and opened up his text thread with John.
Elias: Hey, I’m feeling a bit under the weather and don’t really want to risk getting people sick with whatever’s going on. Is it all right if I stay home and research Minetti from here?
John’s response didn’t take long to come in.
John: Works for me. This may blow your mind, but you’re also allowed a nap or two throughout the day if you’d like
Elias snorted and sent a quick ‘Thanks’ in response. Though he hated lying to John, he still had plans of working through the day. He just wanted to work in peace and quiet, preferably without any interruptions from Cole or his parents. It wasn’t often his parents showed up at the station, not unless they had something to prove to someone, but he didn’t want to risk it. He didn’t have the energy to deal with his parents’ public show of love. He had had enough of those to last him a lifetime.
He sent a text to JJ, asking if she’d be around for a bit of cellular tracking for the day. He knew she professionally hacked for an aerospace company, but he wasn’t anywhere near smart enough to understand everything that went into the job. Somedays, she was occupied, and other days, she was absolutely free. That was about the extent of his knowledge.
JJ: I’ll have some time free in two hours or so. Morning checks of security and a meeting. Then I’m yours
Elias: Thank you! You’re the best
JJ: I know
Elias snorted, rolling his eyes. She really was the best, though. When Elias had finally managed to talk his parents into letting him go to a public high school for his senior year, JJ had been one of the only people in his class who wasn’t intimidated by the Payne name and who had no intentions of using the Payne name for their own benefit. She had just wanted a friend, much like Elias had. Their friendship had come easily and had remained strong through the years.
Hell, she had been the first to congratulate him on finally making the jump to investigative reporter. His parents had taken almost a week and a half for that, and their congratulations had been far more half-assed than JJ’s.
He’d take work and a chat with JJ over his parents any damn day. He loved them–he had no doubts about that. He simply wished things were… different.
But wishing didn’t get a person very far, so he had no plans on vocalizing it or holding his breath for it. Instead, he’d take a shower and get to work on a little Minetti research.
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