It had been over an hour since he'd put in the call. Nothing. The son of a bitch was baiting him.
Sonny paced, a torrent of thoughts streaming from his mouth as he tried to get inside Sorel's head, to get one step ahead of wherever the hell he was going with this. Johnny stood in front of the closed door, listening patiently, watching intently. They were running out of time and none of their leads had produced anything solid. This was not good.
Fact number one: he didn't take Emily, who he knows would have hit Zander directly. He took Alexis, whose direct connection is to me. Grab Emily, and Zander trades himself straight up, it's over. Grab Alexis and it's ME making the call to give him up."
Johnny nodded in agreement.
Fact number two: he didn't take Alexis the day before Zander testifies, which would have given him the ticking clock advantage. No time for me to make a plan, no time for me to find her, just make the deal or not. But he takes her three days - THREE DAYS - before he needed to, if all he really wanted was Zander."
Johnny's brow furrowed. "He wants to prove a point."
"Damn right he does," Sonny said flatly. "He wants to prove who really runs this territory. He wants to prove who's cock of the walk, who's boss."
Sonny's intensity grew as he resumed his nervous pacing.
"He wants to prove how SMART he is, how TOUGH he is! And he wants to prove ALL of it by using a WOMAN! A woman who's close to ME, a woman who'll get to ME! A woman who already came close to being shot to death in the street on his order!"
The volume of Sonny's voice had reached a fevered pitch that set Johnny on edge.
Sonny slammed his palms flat on the desk. The sting shot straight through his hands and ricocheted up his arms. He was grateful for the pain - he welcomed it. It fed his brain and kept him present, kept him focused. He allowed his head to drop, releasing the weight of his body down into his throbbing hands. The pressure of the smooth, hard wood against his fingers steadied him against the rush of anxiety that too much fear and lack of sleep had granted.
"It's a challenge," he said wearily. "He's challenging me. He's DARING me to best him. To find Alexis before time runs out - before I have no choice, as HE sees it, but to hand him Zander's head on a platter. In all his arrogance, he thinks that I WON'T find her, and that I WILL give him what he wants in the end. All this posturing is just a game to that sick son of a bitch, and he's using Alexis as a pawn because he knows...somehow he knows she matters to me."
Sonny's voice trailed off in a whisper. He pulled himself back upright, letting his arms drop to his sides. Drawing a deep breath, he held it a long while before releasing. Johnny took a firm, deliberate step toward him, a subtle warning against Sonny's emotions moving him where they shouldn't go. Emotions got in the way. They could get people hurt.
Sonny knew. A raise of his hand and Johnny held his position.
"And he knows all about Brenda." Sonny's confession began. "He knows all about Lily, about my unborn child. And HE knows that I know that Carly's attack down on Cortland Street that night was NOT just a random act of violence in spite of what Carly told me. He knows that I was powerless over any of the things that happened to these women, these women who MATTERED to me and he knows I did nothing to pay it back."
Sonny turned to Johnny, his face registering something that Johnny hadn't seen before. He began to rub his hand back and forth across his mouth, as if summoning some kind of magic power from within himself to grant one perfect wish. Johnny felt a guilty pang of doubt creep through him. For the first time since they'd found Alexis's blood-stained scarf, his faith in Sonny's ability to do this was being tested. He thanked God Sorel couldn't see for himself how taking Alexis had leveled Sonny in this unexpected way.
"I did nothing, every time," Sonny went on. "I let things be. I let them alone. I tried to stay in control." He shook his head. "I wasn't in control; I was weak! I was afraid of going to that place and that once I was there, there'd be no turning back!"
He looked Johnny dead in the eyes.
"I'm in that place now Johnny. WE'RE in that place. And there IS no turning back."
Johnny was a man of few words, but those he spoke were well-chosen and to the point. And now, he chose the words to put Sonny's feet to the fire. He had to.
"You said Sorel would likely kill her, regardless of your decision about Zander."
Sonny took a moment, the statement catching him off-guard. "Yes."
Johnny regarded the answer, then continued. "Alexis is too well-respected an attorney, too credible a witness. She's too high-profile a victim to leave alive and able to testify against him for charges of felony kidnapping, even if the Ted Wilson murder rap did get tossed."
Johnny's mind started buzzing. Something he'd said was ringing in his own ears too high profile. There was something there. He stood silent, waiting, allowing it to gel.
Johnny didn't move. "I don't know yet. I'm not sure."
"Okay." Sonny let him be. "Anything you think of, you give me. I trust you, Johnny. You know that."
"Yeah boss, I know."
"Alexis does too."
Johnny's head suddenly snapped to attention, his eyes locking with Sonny's. The sweet flicker of pain that Sonny saw there was too close. Sonny looked away, afraid Johnny would see too much of the same looking back at him. He cleared his throat as he picked up the phone.
"Bennie, contact Sorel again and let him know I've got an offer to discuss and that I want to speak to Miss Davis - NOW!"
Sonny laid the phone back on the desk, still avoiding Johnny's face.
"She trusts you too boss."
Johnny couldn't just leave it alone. Sonny froze. Shaking his head, he finally looked up at Johnny and stated the simple truth. "Over my dead body will he take that woman's life."
A sudden knock on the door startled them. Sonny cleared this throat once more.
Francis's head appeared inside the door.
Johnny threw Sonny a questioning glance and whispered under his breath. "Ashton?"
Sonny closed his eyes.