Sonny Corinthos tried to maintain a confident demeanor, but soon abandoned the effort. He paced nervously from one corner of the spaciously appointed penthouse to the other. Every few steps the mob boss paused to glare at the silent telephone as if his sheer will alone would command it to ring.

“How long has it been?”

“Forty-eight minutes,” Max readily supplied. “And twelve seconds.”

The bodyguard immediately wished that he had not added that small detail. Max knew that his employer was all too aware of each second that ticked by. Reminding Sonny only served to heighten the man's anxiety.

Max's cell phone rang, startling both men. The hulking bodyguard looked to Sonny for permission to respond. “Yeah,” he barked, hastily thrusting the phone against his ear. Only a very select group of individuals were privy to Max's number, and all of them were also in Sonny Corinthos' employ.

“It's Joey,” Max informed his employer. “The safe house was empty.”

Sonny resisted the urge to snatch the silver phone from Max's hand. “He doesn't know how to follow instructions?!” Sonny raged. “I told him to call me as soon as they checked out the safe house!”

“He knows that, Boss. But he called me ‘cause he remembered that I just got me one of those little picture phones.” Max held up the phone for Sonny to see. “Joey thought there were some things about the safe house that you needed to see for yourself.”

Max's beefy fingers made operating the phone's keypad an exercise in patience for all those waiting. Carefully, with the edge of a fingernail, the big guard punched in the sequence of keys that would display the pictures being sent to them by his fellow mob soldier at the safe house. When the first photo in the series materialized on the miniature screen, Max handed the phone over to Sonny. “Press the number six to move to the next picture,” Max instructed.

Sonny studied the first picture. It was a wide-angle shot of the safe house's living room floor. Sonny could not make out the faint lines that randomly crisscrossed the hardwood floor.

He moved to the next shot and the floor's strange markings became crystal clear. What Sonny originally thought were random lines drawn all along the floor turned out to be chalk outlines of human bodies. And within each carefully drawn outline was written the name of one of Sonny's guards. If he could believe the image on the little screen before him, the guards had obviously been caught off guard. Sorrell's bullets had fallen them where they stood.

Sonny grew deathly pale. The scant seed of hope that he had nurtured for his family began to whither. Resolutely he punched the number six on the keypad and moved on to the last picture sent to him by the guard Joey.

This ', a handwritten scrap of paper illustrated on the phone's screen read, ‘ is what it is like to play hardball against the grownups.'


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