Truths & Chains – Chapter Nineteen

NOT EDITED

Vito’s endeavor the night before had done little more than confuse him and piss him off. Sex normally left him relaxed and almost at peace for a few hours. Elias had done nothing but make Vito feel like a fucking monster. It was a new chapter in his sex life, that was for sure.

He drove a knee into the punching bag, quickly followed by an elbow. He was pretty sure Elias had done very little to actually anger him, but that reporter at the vet had gotten under his skin. Blaming it on Elias and everything that had happened involving him just seemed… easier.

Vito stopped the swinging bag with an outstretched hand as his phone rang. With a sigh, he shoved his way past the bag–as if shoulder-checking an inanimate object would somehow solve everything–and walked over to the bench. He checked Bo’s name on the caller ID, accepted the call, and pressed his phone to his ear. “Yeah?”

“Tito says the last thing he told you was about me heading to the crime scene. Is that correct?”

“Yeah.”

“All right. Well, I didn’t find much. The air marshall was killed quickly. By the looks of it, the killer came up behind him and slit his throat in one fluid motion. As this isn’t an actual case for me, I’ll go ahead and say that I assume the killer put him over the toilet in an attempt to contain his blood in the bowl for as long as possible.”

“To keep the guy from being discovered, yeah?” Vito asked.

“Seems like it’s a possibility, yes.”

Vito nodded, snagging a towel from the bench as he sat down. “Anything else?”

“I was able to retrieve a set of fingerprints from the air marshall’s left cheek and from the knife left behind at the scene.”

“Left cheek?”

“Yes, and only the left cheek. There’s a good chance that indicates that our killer is left-handed. The killer came up behind the air marshall, put their right hand on his cheek, forced his head back, and then used their left hand to slit his throat.”

“Which means…?”

“Well, it means we’re looking for left-handed killers. So I suppose you’re on the list.”

Vito rolled his eyes. “Not in the mood, Bo.”

“When is Vito Minetti ever not in the mood?”

“When his piece of ass yesterday pissed him the fuck off.”

Bo stayed silent for a moment. “Did your ‘piece of ass’ piss you off, or did that reporter piss you off?”

“Why can’t it be both?”

“It can be, but I know of women who have thrown you out of their place with nothing but a necklace and your underwear on, so I find it hard to believe that someone could easily piss you off. Someone you’ve had sex with, anyway. I’m more than aware of how easy it is for other people to anger you.”

“You’re a pain in the ass,” Vito said.

“That feeling is often mutual, so I’m okay with that.”

Vito couldn’t help it–he snorted. “I’m not on speaker, right?”

“You are, but I’m the only one who can hear you. Your brother’s asleep. Mekhi’s patrolling the perimeter. I’m here in the car looking at crime scene photos.”

“Promise?”

“I promise, Vito. Feel free to talk. It’s just you and me.”

Vito let out a breath, finally scrubbing at his neck with the towel.  “I took a guy home. I needed a stress reliever after that reporter bullshit, and I’ve been working on this guy for almost a week. So I asked him if he wanted to get out of the bar and come home with me. Finally, he says yes.”

“Okay.”

“So we get there and he fights me on so many damn things. And that’s fine. Whatever. I can work around most things. He wanted to just kiss for a while. Fine, I can do that. Then he wanted to do it missionary style, but I don’t do that boring—”

“You choose your next words very carefully, Vito.”

Vito cleared his throat. “I’m not into missionary. It’s not for me.”

“And that’s perfectly all right,” Bo said.

“I know. So… we came to a compromise, and I found out some shit about him, and he found out some shit about me. Afterward, he wanted to cuddle and talk, which I sure as fuck don’t do. I wanted a shower and him outta my house.”

“Ever the charmer.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Then what?” Bo asked.

Vito closed his eyes, dropping his forehead to the towel clutched in his fist. “He asked if it was even possible for me to pretend to be a human being for a few seconds. A-and I just got so fuckin’ angry, Bo. These people I sleep with, they say stuff like that all the time. It means nothing to me. I don’t give a shit. But it got under my skin.”

“Because you were already upset about the reporter?” Bo asked.

“Yeah.”

“So what’d you do?”

“Said a little more than I should have. Said some things I shouldn’t have. And then I left to go take my shower, figured I’d apologize afterward. It wasn’t his fault.”

“Right. I’m glad you know that.”

“Yeah. So, umm… My bedroom door has a busted lock on it. Nine times outta ten, you close the damn thing and it locks itself. That’s what happened.”

“So he thought you locked him in there.”

“Yeah. And then he freaked the fuck out! Started screamin’ his head off, apologizing and begging me to come let him out.”

“Which… you did, correct?”

“You don’t hear anyone screaming, do you?” Vito asked.

“Answer the question, Vito. Please.”

“Yeah, I let him out. Ran right back up the stairs, opened the door, and apologized. But he looked horrified, like I was a fuckin’ monster. And that just–I don’t know, Bo. It pisses me off. All anyone has proof of is that I’m an upstanding guy. That I pay for my Starbucks and shit like anyone else. That I donate to that charity for kids with learning disabilities. That I rescued a shitton of dogs from a fate far worse than death. And this guy still looks at me like I’m a monster.”

“Well, Vito, it sounds like you accidentally triggered something within him. He seems to have been reliving something when he was locked in that room. That frightened look… Vi, that wasn’t directed at you. It was directed at whoever caused that trauma for him in the first place.”

“He… did say I was the first person to accidentally lock him in a room.”

“It sounds like he’s been through the ringer.”

“I guess so,” Vito said quietly. “I don’t need to be pissed off at him then, huh?”

“Not really. Generally, you can’t help the way you feel initially, but you can shift your perspective on the situation after the fact.”

“How do I do that?”

“Well, that’s what we’re doing now. Talking it out often is a good way to shift your perspective. It’s easier to see everything when you’re no longer in the heat of the moment,” Bo said.

“Guess so.” Vito tossed the towel onto the bench and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Do you think I should apologize to this guy again? I sorta ruined my other attempts at apologies.”

“I think you should leave well enough alone. Unless you’re planning on befriending the man, there’s no reason you need to insert yourself into his life again.”

Vito snorted. “Befriending. You know how one-night-stands work, right?”

“Do you? If you want to seek him out and apologize to him again, it seems you are the one who’s unaware of the concept.”

“Rude.”

“You started it.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t have to finish it.”

Bo chuckled. “You’re a pain in the ass, Vito.”

“Duh. ‘Tis what I’m known for.”

“That much is certainly true.” Bo cleared his throat. “Do you feel better now?”

“Yeah. Less killy stab stab.”

“That’s good. Those fingerprints I gathered at the scene–I’ve already run them through the system and come up with no matches. They’ll help us identify the killer once we have him in our hands, but not before that.”

“Great. So now what do we do?”

“There are security cameras all around in that airport. There’s at least two or three in every major spot but the bathrooms. I’m waiting on the footage.”

“But you already ran the guy’s face through and got nothing.”

“There’s always the chance there was more than one person at the airport. And if that’s the case, there’s always the chance that one of the others gives us a hit on facial recognition.”

“So now we just, what, wait?” Vito asked.

“That’s unfortunately what a very large part of my job is. That didn’t change when I started using forensics for the mob.”

“Well, you should tell forensics to hurry the hell up.”

Bo chuckled softly. “I’ll be sure to get right on that, Vito.” A pause. “I’d like to bring your brother home to Kansas soon. I believe he’ll heal better and faster in his own home than in what is basically an above-ground bunker. Will you be able to pretend you’re caring long enough to take care of him? Or should I count on leaving my family in Clinstone for much longer than initially planned?”

“I can watch after him, I guess. Ain’t gonna wait on him hand and foot.”

“You don’t have to be there twenty-four-seven. I’m still going to have a guard posted with him, just to be safe. But being taken care of by a guard is different than being taken care of by a brother.”

“Why not call our parents? They already flooded me with texts and calls before I assured them he was alive. They’d take good care of him.”

“Vito, I don’t think you understand how much it would mean to your brother to know that you would take care of him if he were wounded, if he were… unable to run with you.”

“What are you getting at?”

Bo stayed silent for what felt like an eternity. “Nothing. The point is, your brother would take care of you if you had been shot. It’s your turn to show you would do the same.”

“He’s better at it than I am! Everyone in the fucking world would want Tito taking care of them. No one would want me for that shit. I’d be horrible at it. Our parents would take care of him. Call them.”

Bo sighed. “Okay. I… will call your parents then. At the very least, I would like you to pick him up at the airport and drive him to your parents’ place.”

“Fine. Give me a date and time. I’ll be there.”

“Thank you.”

“Whatever.” Vito cleared his throat. “You’re welcome.”

“I’ll talk to you soon, Vito. Until then, try not to piss anyone off or end up in the news. In the kindest way possible, I have enough on my plate.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I suppose that’s about all I can ask. Talk soon.”

***

Vito didn’t have to pick up his brother until tomorrow morning. So, like he usually did, he headed out to the bar. He had chosen one of his other usual bars, figuring it best to avoid Drake’s Place for a couple days. It was pretty damn unlikely Elias would be there, but he didn’t want to risk it. He usually avoided bars for a couple days after sleeping with someone from one, anyway.

Like usual, he got a beer and made his way down to the pool table. He had barely set up a game when a hand came down on the green felt. He lifted his eyes to the man’s face, a smile coming to his own. “Hello.”

The man chuckled. “Hey.” He nodded toward Vito’s exposed arms. “Got some damn nice tats there.”

“Thank you. My brother does fine work.”

“Mm, sure looks like it.” He walked behind Vito, fingers dragging across his lower back.

For the briefest moment, Vito’s brow furrowed. The guy’s moves were startling close to his own.

“What’s this one mean?” he asked, touching two fingers to one of the gods on Vito’s arm.

“Beat me at a game of pool and I’ll tell ya.”

He chuckled, leaning back against the table. “Aww, come on. I’m no good at pool.”

“I could teach ya.”

“You could, but I’ll still be bad at it.” He lifted himself onto the edge of the table and leaned back just a litte, eyes locked with Vito’s. “Or we could skip the pool, you can say you won, and we can get outta here.”

Vito snorted. “Don’t even want to get to know me first?”

“Nope.”

“Well, maybe I only go home with people I know a little bit. What’s your name?” Vito asked, reaching out to grab the black triangle from the table.

The man placed a firm hand over his, pinning it to the table. “I’ve seen you work, Matteo. You couldn’t care less about who you go home with.”

Vito searched the man’s face. He wasn’t wrong. Vito didn’t care who he went home with. As long as they were down for a fun time, he didn’t care about the rest. Not their name, not their backstory, not their family.

So what the fuck had changed?

***

To say Vito was pissed that he didn’t end up bringing anyone home was an understatement. He’d never run into that sort of… issue before. He’d gone home with people without even getting a name out of them, without ever giving them his name–not even the fake one. He didn’t care about all that other shit.

Elias had cared about that kind of shit, but Vito sure hadn’t. Didn’t. Something.

Vito walked into his house, closing the door behind him with enough maturity not to slam it. The vet had wanted to keep Dude for another night, so the house was empty, but Vito still wanted to get used to closing doors without slamming them. Dude hadn’t exactly been jumpy or skittish at the vet, but Vito figured the dog deserved more than listening to him slamming shit shut all the time. Vito dropped his forehead to the door and closed his eyes. He didn’t know how he’d let Elias fuck with his routine like that, but he hoped he got past it soon. Most people who wanted to talk about their feelings and families and tattoo meanings weren’t down for just a one-night stand, and Vito wasn’t interested in anything more than one. He needed to get over how nice it had felt to have someone take a genuine interest in him, and he needed to get over it fast.


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4 thoughts on “Truths & Chains – Chapter Nineteen

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