Elias awoke to the ring of his phone. The one time he managed to actually sleep in recent history, and he had his damn sound on. He accepted the call with a groan and pressed his phone to his ear. “Hello?”
The breathing on the other end of the line chilled him to the bone.
“I don’t know who this is or what this is, but it isn’t funny,” Elias said.
“Stay away from Minetti,” the deep voice said.
Elias’s brow furrowed as he pushed himself up on one elbow. “Who is this? Did my parents put you up to this?”
“Did they?” the voice asked.
“Tell them to stay out of my fucking business. I know what I’m doing.” Elias ended the call before the person on the other end could respond. He opened his text thread with JJ. It was nearly eight in the morning. Even if she had been out the night before, she’d be back home by now, and there was a good chance she was already awake. JJ was an early-riser, even on the weekends, and she never stayed the night with a fling. Ever.
Elias: I think my parents put someone up to it
Elias: The calls, I mean
His phone lit up with JJ’s name. Elias closed his eyes for a moment before accepting the call and pressing the device back to his ear. “Hey, JJ.”
“Hey. Why do you think that?”
“I just got another one. Deep voice. Computer altered. Told me to stay away from Minetti.”
“Were you with Minetti?”
“Not when I got the call. I’ve, umm… been home for a couple hours.”
“I wanna gossip, but I also want to find the bastard tormenting you.” JJ sighed. “Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Elias. You’ve put me in a tough position here.”
Elias chuckled. “Sorry about that.”
“One gossip question?”
“Did you sleep with him again, or were you just at the bar with him?”
“I, uh… I-I slept with him again.”
“I know you don’t want me to be proud of you because he’s a monster, but I’m still totally proud of you.”
“You’re all kinds of fucked up, JJ.”
She laughed. “No, really! Hear me out. You haven’t slept with anyone since Steven found his way back to town and fucked you up all over again. Even if it’s with Vito, even if you’re conflicted about it, you’ve gotten some of your confidence back. That’s a damn good thing, Lias, and I’m damn proud of you for it.”
Elias shook his head. If nothing else, one aspect of her ridiculous reasoning was correct. Vito Minetti was the first person he’d slept with since Steven. He’d had boyfriends since, but trusting someone again had proven… difficult. “How in God’s name is Vito Minetti the person I trust enough for that?” he asked.
“I doubt you trust him. You feel compelled to empathize and sympathize with him where you can, but outside of that, he’s just a story. I mean, he’s slept with you twice. Surely you’re finding out something, right?”
“Not something I can use,” Elias said after a moment. “He was high last night. I guess that made him a bit more talkative, but he unfortunately didn’t come straight out and tell me he kills people for the mob.”
Elias snorted. “I know.”
JJ cleared her throat. “Was it a blocked number again?”
“I didn’t check, but probably.”
“That’s okay. I’ll let my friend know and have her check up on that one too. She’s been busy, but she said she’d be able to get that first number this weekend. So… we should have it today.”
“Okay.” Elias dropped to his back, crossing his free arm over his chest. “JJ?”
“What if… it isn’t someone paid my parents to do this?”
“I don’t know, Lias. How likely do you think it is that it’s them?”
Elias closed his eyes. “I wish I knew. Normally when they have an issue with something I’m doing, they say it straight to my face. But the issues they’ve had with me in the past haven’t exactly revolved around me sleeping with a fucking hitman.”
“I think he’s technically an enforcer.”
Elias snorted. “Thanks.”
“Of course.” A pause. “No matter who’s doing this, we’ll find them. If it’s your parents, we’ll deal with them accordingly. If it’s someone else, we can hand them over to the police for harassment.”
Elias’s eyes shot open. “We can’t hand anything over to the police. They’ll make a press release, JJ. I can’t have that. I can’t…”
“You can’t risk your parents’ reputation for your own safety?” JJ asked.
He closed his eyes again. “It isn’t that simple.”
“I know. When you’ve been manipulated by someone most of—”
“That’s enough, JJ,” Elias said, his voice quiet. “I know how you feel about my parents, but I… You don’t know them like I do. They can be a little much sometimes, and they overstep boundaries I didn’t even know I had, but they aren’t full-time manipulators. They’re just doing—”
“–what’s best for you and the charity. Yeah, I’ve heard,” JJ said. “If this is them–these phone calls, I mean–then that means they’ve been stalking you. Stalking is a crime, Lias. Is there really a way to defend that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, then I’ll answer for you. There isn’t. There’s no defense for your parents stalking you. You are an adult. You have a job. You have your own place. Stalking you is crossing so many damn lines that it isn’t even funny.”
“I doubt it’s them. They’ll do a lot to make sure things go smoothly, but they’ve never stalked me before,” Elias said. Okay, that was at least partially a lie, but as far as he remembered, he’d never told JJ about his little venture across the United States shortly before he had switched to public school. He had been the idiot in that story. His parents had sent someone after him for his own safety.
“There’s a first time for everything,” JJ said. “That’s all I’m saying.”
“I’m hanging up now, JJ.”
She let out a breath. “Okay. Take care of yourself, Lias. I’ll talk to you after I’ve heard from my friend.”
“No problem. Talk soon.”
“Talk soon,” Elias echoed. He pulled his phone from his ear, barely managing to end the call before a text from Cole popped up at the top of his screen.
Cole: Your story’s at it again
His second message was a link. Though Elias wanted nothing more than to close his eyes, curl up in a ball, and go back to sleep to force everything to just go away for a few hours, he clicked the link.
HORROR TWINS STRIKE AGAIN, LAPD CHIEF ON THE SCENE
Elias’s brow furrowed as he read through the article. A man had been beaten, tortured, beheaded, and strung up in Los Angeles, and the scene had been signed with the usual TMHT moniker. The press had minimal details–Elias figured they’d milk another three or four articles out of the scene that day alone after the chief held a press conference–but they believed the man had been killed last night. Late last night.
Tito Minetti was healing from a bullet to the lung, and he’d only been seen twice since he’d been shot. Once boarding a plane to Kansas and once leaving the airport in Kansas. He had barely been able to stand on his own. The pictures Elias had seen prominently featured Vito supporting his brother on the walk to the car and flipping off the cameras with his free hand.
Then there was the night before. Elias was absolutely certain Vito hadn’t left to fly to Los Angeles and kill a guy. So if the Minetti boys hadn’t killed the guy in Horror Twins fashion, who the hell had?
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