A/N: Belated Monday update. I’m sorry for all the delays across all my stories. In addition to writing being pretty meh for a while, I’ve had a terrible battle with headaches, migraines ,and nausea for the past month or so. Now our farm cat’s sick and I’m working on getting him to the vet before it’s too late. So today, writing was a nice getaway, I guess. Hopefully that getaway produces a couple more updates soon. Thank you all for your continued patience.
Elias shoved his phone into his pocket as JJ pulled up alongside the curb. She rolled down the passenger side window, one eyebrow raised. “Need a lift?”
“Thank you.” Elias pulled open the door and slid into the car. “Coming here in the first place was stupid enough. Taking his car instead of mine was even stupider.”
JJ shifted back into gear and pulled away from the curb. “You’re writing a story on the guy. If he wanted to take his car, agreeing was the smart thing to do.”
Elias shook his head, clicking his seat belt into place.
“What? Something you wanna say?” JJ asked.
“How badly are you going to judge me for it?”
“Only as much as a friend should.”
He blew out a harsh breath. “I was actually starting to fall for his bullshit, upstanding citizen act. This guy the news is saying he killed is… It’s a lie. Vito was with me when the guy died, when the scene was set up. I know he didn’t do it. So then I start thinking… how easy it must be to fake a Minetti Horror Twins scene. They’re so well-documented. You can find pictures online, and all the news sites describe them in as much detail as they can. If this one was faked, how many of the others have been? If this one was a frame job, how many of the others have been the same? I thought about it all day. Couldn’t focus on anything else.”
“But now you don’t believe that?” JJ asked.
“I still believe it’s easy to fake them. I still think it’s easy to frame the Horror Twins for any killing done with a machete or any victim beaten to death. But I know for a fact Tito and Vito Minetti are the Horror Twins. I’m not falling for Vito’s bullshit anymore. It’s not all some big coincidence. It isn’t all some big frame job. They beat people to death. Torture them to death. At the very least, Vito does. I know that much. I just don’t know how much Tito has been roped into.”
“Roped into?” JJ echoed.
“Well, I don’t know if that’s the right phrase, I guess. But I don’t know. He isn’t there for every single murder. So far, Vito has been. His phone is present in every state a scene has been set up in on the day it was set up. Tito isn’t. We haven’t checked every single one just yet, but he’s far from being present at every single scene. If it was both of them, I don’t know why he’d willingly sit them out.”
“Maybe some murderers just like murdering more than others.”
Elias snorted. “I guess that’s an option.” He crossed his arms over his chest, eyes focused on the passing trees and mailboxes outside empty houses. “That’s actually not a bad idea, you know. Vito enjoying it more than Tito does. Working for the mob, it’s, well… work. It’s a job. If it’s possible for a guy to hate his job more than his coworker does in any normal job, why wouldn’t it be possible for mobsters?”
“See, I told you my brain works sometimes.”
Elias rolled his eyes. “You’re literally the smartest person I know, JJ.”
“I know hacking. Anything else intelligent that comes out of my mouth is luck and coincidence.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Elias dropped his elbow to the window and leaned his temple against his fist. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this story. I let myself fall for his act, let myself believe he wasn’t who the media says he is, and because of that, I let myself get angry that he wouldn’t shut up about my parents. I didn’t close myself off to his opinions, to his words, and now I’ve lost my only real chance at getting the scoop right from the damn source.”
“Do… you think there’s any chance he’ll come around again?” JJ asked.
“I don’t know. I pissed him off too, even though that wasn’t what I was trying to do. I was only saying I respected him enough to not taunt him the way he did to me, but he took the example as an insult instead.” Elias shook his head. “He’s quick to blow. I should’ve known better.”
“How a murderer reacts to conversation isn’t your fault.”
“It is if you’re trying to write a story on them and need them to not absolutely hate your guts.”
“It’s still not your fault. Like, maybe you could’ve predicted he’d lash out, sure, but that doesn’t make it your fault. Shifting the blame onto yourself for everything that goes wrong is… not great.”
“I know,” Elias said quietly. Sometimes, he almost felt the urge to disclose that he was used to accepting the blame for just about anything, but he knew better. It didn’t matter who or what he was talking about when it came to a statement like that–it always came back to his parents, and he was in no mood to deal with yet another rant about how horrible two people JJ had only met a handful of times were.
Elias cleared his throat. “What’re you doing for the rest of the day?”
“It’s a Sunday. My schedule’s clear.”
“Wanna grab coffee and have a friend’s day out before I ask you to help me dig up dirt on the Minettis tomorrow?”
JJ snorted. “Sounds wonderful. You’re paying, right?”
Elias couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “Yeah, I’m paying, asshole. But that means you have to choose the places we go.”
“Dammit,” JJ whispered. She pulled a hand from the wheel long enough to slash it through the air. “Eh, I’ll figure it out when we get there.”
“You have to know where we’re going in order to get there.”
She shook her head. “Indecisiveness is going to win here. I’m letting my phone choose this one. Hey, Lainarc?”
“How can I help you?” the phone’s barely robotic voice asked.
“Choose left or right.”
JJ flipped on her left blinker and smiled at Elias. “Let’s see where we end up.”
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