Sonny's fist began to shake uncontrollably. Soon, the trembling overtook his whole body. He had no choice...he rode it, allowing it to dissipate on it's own terms.
Twenty minutes. That's all the warning he would have needed. It stank to high heaven, Sorel getting bail and no warning from anyone. How many judges and cops were still in his pocket? Just twenty minutes and he would have had Francis out there to cover Alexis...to cover her...
His mind began to slip backward, unwillingly returning to the shooting once again: the guns pointed at Alexis's back, him covering her body with his own, the jolting pain that ricocheted through him. Then, her hands on his face, warm and wet with blood. The smell of her perfume on her hair as she leaned over him. Her voice repeating his name over and over, connecting him to his breath, to his life...to her.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the blue scarf lying on the back of the sofa. It eased him into unwrapping his weary fingers from the phone. He had wanted to destroy the thing in his hand, smash it to pieces on the floor. Sorel in effigy, for want of a gun in Sonny's hand pointing flush against that son of a bitch's head.
Instead, he reached for the length of blue as gently as if it were Alexis herself. He promised her that he would bring her home. He knew that she believed him. He quickly punched numbers into the telephone and began pacing in front of the lit fireplace.
"Bennie! Sorel made contact. Yeah, she's okay. DO it! No, no numbers. Everyone knows I'm good for whatever it takes. What I DON'T want is a bunch of low-lives with dollar signs in their eyes and nothing else. False information could kill her...so you make it UNQUESTIONABLY clear what will happen to anyone who puts her in any further danger."
Putting things into action made his blood race, his sense of control return. With a cleansing breath, he sat on the ottoman and laid the scarf across his knee, fingers lightly brushing back and forth against the softness. When she came home, he would buy her a new one. But not blue.
"Yeah, Bennie, I know we will. Alexis is...she's...I know, you're right. She's one hell of a strong woman." Only Sonny seemed to know that she wasn't quite the rock that everyone thought her to be. He prayed Sorel wouldn't find it out too soon.
"Bennie - did you talk to Jason? Everything's okay? Good. NO! Absolutely not! He needs to stay of this. Out of my business, out of my LIFE. He needs to take care of Carly and Michael and keep them safe. If Sorel and Carlos don't believe that this rift between us is real and permanent, then Carly and Michael could end up where Alexis is right now, and I WON'T HAVE THAT!"
Sonny rubbed at his eyes and dropped his head, his burst of energy spent him. He needed some aspirin, BAD.
"Just...let me know anything that comes down. And I know I don't have to tell you that nobody sleeps until this this is over. Thanks Bennie. You're a good man."
He released the phone from his hand, letting it fall to the floor. Lifting his head toward the warmth of the fire, he gazed into the dancing flames. And then he allowed it. He couldn't help himself and he didn't care. Threading his fingers through the scarf, he drew it up and buried his face in the lingering scent of her. It accused him, dared him, enticed him to go where he never wanted...and never expected to go. The steady crackling of the flames turned to a mantra in his head, hypnotizing him toward images of Alexis. Images of her safe, warm, smiling. Dark, velvet eyes unafraid...
"Boss." Johnny's voice jolted him. The scarf dropped back into his lap.
"Yeah." He answered without turning.
He turned. "Okay," he nodded, and tucked the scarf behind a throw pillow. Zander didn't need to see it.
Zander appeared hesitantly in the doorway. "I'm sorry to bother you, Sonny, but I'm going crazy in there. Is there any word?"
"Come in. Sit down."
Zander obeyed. As Johnny closed the door, Sonny stopped him. "Johnny! You too."
Sonny rubbed at his forehead. "But first, could you toss me the aspirin? Top drawer." He motioned toward the desk.
Johnny brought the bottle to Sonny, who contemplated it for a moment before getting up and moving to the bar. Pouring a glass of water, he popped the lid off the bottle, put it up to his mouth, tossing it back. Zander winced at the sight. As Sonny washed the aspirin down the two sat, waiting, Zander's leg jiggling nervously. Sonny turned - the jiggling stopped. Sitting back on the ottoman, facing Johnny and Zander, he chose his words carefully.
"I spoke to Sorel. He wants you. We knew that."
"And Alexis?" Zander looked like a deer in the headlights.
Sonny smiled vaguely. "I spoke to Alexis. She's okay." His eyes shifted almost imperceptibly toward the throw pillow. Johnny caught it. As Zander's body sank in relief, Johnny's tensed.
"The thing that's in our favor here is time. Sorel's D-Day is Friday, when you testify." Sonny's explanation being purely for Zander's benefit, Johnny's eyes stared blankly at the floor.
"We have three days - just shy of three days - to pin-point where he's holding her. Sorel can be both cocky AND sloppy, and I'm betting on it tripping him up."
"But how do you know he won't..."
"He won't kill her because he needs her. He needs to be able to put her on the phone whenever I ask for her. And he knows I WILL ask."
Zander nodded eagerly. "Yeah, sure. That makes sense."
Johnny suddenly released the deep breath he didn't know he'd been holding. As Sonny looked at him, a faint blush colored Johnny's pale cheeks.
"I think I need some of that aspirin." Sonny's eyes followed Johnny to the bar. The poor guy was a wreck. He understood. They both knew damn well there were worse things Sorel could do to Alexis beside killing her. And they knew how much Sorel liked his games.
"Johnny's pretty upset too," Sonny offered. "He usually hides it well, but..."
"Right." Zander shot an understanding look Johnny's way. "So, what do we do now?"
"What YOU do is stay put, and stay quiet. Nobody is to know what's happened, understand? Not Emily, not Ashton, not Cassadine - big, little or over-dressed, blonde Cassadine. NO ONE."
"Well, what do I tell people when they ask for her?"
"You tell them she's out of town on a quick case and she'll be back in a couple of days. That's IT. The more you try to explain, the more nervous you'll get and the more people will feel that something's wrong."
Zander nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. So, what else?"
Sonny shook his head. "That's it. You cover Alexis..."
Again, the flash of his body over hers, pushing her down into the snow...her hands on his face. He shook his head roughly, forcing the image away. Johnny and Zander stared at him with brows furrowed.
Sonny continued. "You cover her disappearance, and you do whatever else I tell you to do."
Sonny knew that Zander felt completely useless and didn't like it. It couldn't be helped. He playfully slapped the kid on the knee as he rose to his feet.
"Now you go on back, and Johnny will order you a pizza or something. It's getting late and you should eat. I don't want Alexis yelling at me because I failed to feed you in the manner to which she's made you accustomed." He grinned slyly.
Zander smiled as he also rose. "Speaking of which, will you do me a favor and tell her about the four food groups sometime? Maybe teach her how to fry an egg, steam a carrot? Because I worry about her, you know? She doesn't eat right at all."
Sonny's dimples blazed. "Done!"
"And let me know the minute you hear anything. Any little thing at all."
"Also done." Sonny walked Zander to the door and kept watch as he crossed the hall and disappeared behind Alexis's door. He waited until he heard the click of the lock before turning back inside. Johnny had moved to the the fireplace and now stood silent, staring into the flames.
"He does intend to kill her."
Sonny paused. "I expect."
There was no point in softening it. "Probably."
Johnny's head nodded over and over, his whole upper body lightly following in kind. A subtle, masculine keening. As he slowly turned, Sonny saw the blood-stained scarf in his hand. Johnny held it out toward Sonny in an outstretched arm, like a weapon. His face was harsh and fierce, a rigid mask as he replied...
"After three days of WHAT?"