High Stakes by -Kat-

Part I

Sonny paces in his penthouse, with Jason sitting sullenly at the table. Sonny is unnerved with the recent events. What with the heroin scare, his feelings for Brenda came back uneasily to the surface. He felt vulnerable again. A way he hadnít felt for so long. Images of Brenda with Jax came up fast and furiously in his mind. The two of them together. Jax holding her, touching her, kissing her. It was all too much.

"Sonny, have you gotten any leads on who might have done this to you?" Jason asked angrily.

"What?" Sonny asked absentmindedly, a short break from his thoughts of Brenda.

"The set up" Jason said, "what else?"

"Oh" Sonny ran a hand through his thick hair. "No. But rest assured, he will be caught. What gets me is how he knew to use Brenda as the bait. Who would know that she would be the one reason that would send me there?" Sonny cocked his head to the side. "If she hadnít come to me, I wouldíve been dead." He smiled softly. "How does she always know?"

"Because sheís trouble, thatís why." Jason stated.

"Jason," Sonny said slowly shaking his head, "there are things between Brenda and I that you will never understand. Heck, I donít even understand it. I just know that somehow, sheís always there when I need her."

"Unless sheís with her husband."

"Thanks, Jason." Sonny laughed. "Thanks a lot." Sonny turned towards him. "Now, down to business. Check in with everyone and see if theyíve discovered anything. Iíve got a bad feeling that this isnít over. I canít imagine who ever is behind this, will give up now. Iím just afraid that heís going to raise the stakes."

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Brenda stood by the window, staring at the Port Charles skyline. She too was lost in thoughts of the past few days. All she could see was Sonny being wheeled down the General Hospital corridor. "I love you, Brenda" he had said. She was so confused. Those words touched something in her. Something buried very deep. Like when she smelled Bactine in the air, and was brought back to when she skinned her knees as a child, these words brought her back to a very special feeling. She smiled wistfully, then winced, remembering when Sonny had told her he loved her, only to then rip out the wire, and later, rip out her heart.

"Where are you?"

Startled, she turned around to see Jax standing in a robe, looking at her.

"Jax. I was just thinking about what a strange year this has been for me. So much has changed."

"Some for the better, I hope." Jax said putting his arms around her. He stroked her hair, softly. "You didnít sleep well last night, did you?"

"No," Brenda said pulling away from him, "I didnít. Must be all of the excitement of the last few days."

"Well, Iím back now, and Miranda and I are going to finish this once and for all. Then our lives can get back to normal."

Normal, both of them were thinking, what is that? Jax flashed back to kissing Miranda in Australia. Coming home, she had called it. Then he thought of coming back to Port Charles. Finding Brenda with Sonny. The anger that had sparked in him. Brenda was his, and he was going to make sure that Sonny knew that. Seeing her with Sonny only cemented his feelings. She was his wife. He pushed all thoughts of Miranda out of his mind. Now was the time to concentrate on the task ahead.

"What plans do you have today?" He asked Brenda.

"I have to go see Lucy." Brenda sighed. "Iím afraid Iíve been avoiding her lately, what with everything happening."

"I was hoping we could spend the day together," Jax said coming behind her once again, "in bed, hopefully."

Brenda felt uncomfortable, confused. "Iím afraid not" she said, "but letís meet at the Outback tonight. We need a night out." A night out, she thought to herself. That would help her and Jax get back to where they used to be. Together. Thatís where she belonged, right? Then why did she feel so torn, so alone?

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Tune in for the next installment, when the stakes are definitely raised. Brenda, Sonny and Jax will never be the same Ö.

Let me know what you guys think!

email comments to kymmi@spry.com

Part II

Brenda looked at her watch. "Oh Lucy, Iím afraid Iím going to have to go. Iím supposed to meet Jax for dinner, and I want to get there early and surprise him."

"Thatís all right." Lucy told her. "Just donít let it go this long next time. We need to get you back on the tour for Jacks Cosmetics."

"I know, I know" Brenda lamented, "I just need some more time. Jax just got back, and he still has to go through this divorce thing with Miranda." She sighed. When, exactly, would her life be back to normal?

Lucy sighed too. "I understand, Brenda, believe me I do. What with everything going on with my Doc, then Laura dying, and now Katherine being shot, I donít know which way is up. But I firmly believe, that going back to work is going to help us all get back to where we were." Lucy said without much conviction.

"Youíre probably right." Brenda smiled at her friend. "Thanks for everything, Lucy. Youíve been so understanding with me. I guess I forget how much is going on in your life as well. Are you okay?"

"Oh yeah," Lucy said, too brightly, "Iím sure everything will be fine." She smiled. "Now go see your gorgeous husband, and have a great time."

And with that, Brenda left.

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"Sonny got away." A dark voice said. "We canít let this happen again."

"I know, sir, but somehow Ms. Barrett got to him in time."

"Ah," the man sighed, "Ms. Barrett. We should have seen this coming. We knew Sonny would go to Brenda, but did not think that Brenda would figure out to go to Sonny. Now Sonny will be on his guard. This will make it much more difficult to get to him. But not impossible."

"What did you have in mind?"

"It worked with Brenda once before, and it will work again. This time, though, it can not just be a threat. This time it must be for real."

"You mean put Brenda in the hospital and wait for Sonny to come to her?"

"No. Make him come to Brenda, but she will be with us."

"But wonít that be dangerous?"

"For Ms. Barrett, possibly, for Mr. Sonny Corinthos? Definitely."

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Jax sat at the Outback waiting for Brenda to show. She was late. Jax hated people that were late. He sighed and twirled his drink around his glass. Where was she? He was sure she was with Lucy still. Once Brenda got involved in something, everything else left her thoughts. That was one of the things he loved about her, but he hated to be the one who left her thoughts. Ten minutes, he would give her ten more minutes, and then he would call her and remind her of where she was supposed to be.

"Tonight will be very special, my love" he said softly. "Iím back now, and will make sure that Sonny never enters your thoughts. You belong with me, Brenda. And Iím going to make sure you see that once and for all."

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Brenda walked along the docks on the way to the Outback (donít the docks just lead to everything?). She shivered and pulled her coat tighter around her. Brenda quickened her step, anxious to reach Jax and resolve the distance between them. She pulled out her cellular phone to call Jax. Let him know she was on her way and couldnít wait to see him. Suddenly, she heard a sound behind her and whirled towards it.

"Hello?" She called into the darkness. "Whoís there?"

"Brenda." A voice called her name.

"Whoís there?" She called again. Brenda took a hesitant step towards the voice. "Hello?"

Suddenly, there were arms around her, pulling her, dragging her. Brenda tried to scream, but a clothed hand was placed firmly over her mouth. In the struggle, she dropped her cell phone as the darkness enveloped her.

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"Lucy? Itís Jax. Iím calling for Brenda. She must have lost track of time." Jax smiled thinking of his wife.

"Jax?" Lucy said, confused. "Brendaís not here. She left over an hour ago. To meet you." Lucy frowned. "She said she wanted to be early and surprise you."

"An hour ago?" Jax said, startled. His face then relaxed. "She must still be at the penthouse getting ready. You know how Brenda always wants to look perfect."

"Yeah, thatís it." Lucy said slowly. "Iím sure thatís it." She hung up the phone and sat down, trying to push the uneasy feeling she had rising to the surface.

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Sonny strolled the docks on the way to Lukeís to make sure the place wasnít falling apart. Suddenly his foot kicked something. He bent down to pick it up, and discovered it was a cellular phone.

"Hmmm, looks like someone lost their Christmas present." He scanned to empty docks in hope that itís rightful owner was somewhere close by.

The phone rang.

Sonny looked down at it like it was an alien thing. His first thought was to answer it, but he didnít know what to say. Either way, the person on the other end was sure to know who it belonged to."

"Hello" he said.

"Sonny?!" Jax was on the other end, anger in his voice when he heard Sonny pick up.

"Jax?" Sonny said, confused. "Is that you?"

"Of course itís me." Jax said angrily. "Whereís Brenda?"

"Brenda? How would I know where Brenda is?" Sonny forgot that this was not his own phone.

"Listen Sonny, just put Brenda on the phone" Jax said testily.

"Wait a minute" Sonny said turning and scanning the docks once more. "Is this Brendaís phone?"

"Of course it is!" Jax almost shouted. "What do you mean?"

"Listen, I just found this phone on the docks. Brendaís not here. She must of dropped it." Sonny paused. "Wait a second. How come sheís not with you? Donít you even know where your wife is?" He practically spat the last bit out.

"She was supposed to meet me here almost an hour ago. She was meeting with Lucy, but sheís not there either." Jax sighed. "Why am I telling you this?"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute" Sonny said concerned. "Are you saying that Brendaís missing?" Fear welled up in his chest as tight as a fist.

"Missing?" Jax never really considered this prospect. "Of course not." He said quickly. "Sheís probably on her way here as we speak. Iím going to go look for her."

The connection was dead.

"Jax?" Sonny called. "Jax? Hello? Hello? Damn." Sonny pulled the phone away from his ear. "Damn." Where could Brenda be? This couldnít be happening. Not again. Confused, Sonny looked around the docks. "Okay, sweetheart, where are you?"

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Hope youíre all enjoying this! Tune in next time, when Jax and Sonny find that they need to team together to find Brenda.

email comments to kymmi@spry.com

Part III

Jax paced nervously at Lucyís. "Okay, Lucy, tell me exactly what Brenda said before she left"

"Well, uh, letís see" Lucy said nervously, letting her hand flutter to her neck, "she said she was going to have dinner with you and she wanted to be there early to surprise you."

"And exactly what time was that?" Jax tried to hide the concern in his voice. Once Lucy got upset, it was hard to calm her down.

"Well, it had to be about 5:00. Yeah, thatís it, it was five because Kevin called right after she left."

Jax looked down at his watch. It was now almost 8:30. He had been all over Port Charles. Their penthouse, the docks, again to the Outback, retraced his steps to the penthouse and on and on. No one had seen Brenda.

"Are you sure sheís not with Sonny?" Lucy asked hesitantly. "It seems like when anything wrong happens, theyíre always together."

"Donít I know it." Jax said under his breath. "No, I donít think so. Sonny found her cell phone at the docks, but I suppose it wouldnít hurt to go check."

"Found her cell phone?!" Lucy said. "She never letís that thing out of her sight. Something must be wrong Jax. Something must be seriously wrong!"

"Lucy, Lucy, calm down." Jax said soothingly. "Iím sure sheís fine". Jax didnít know who he was trying to make believe that last sentence. Lucy or himself. "Iím sure of it."

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Sonny nervously paced the penthouse. Where could she be? Where was Jax? He called their penthouse repeatedly, but there never was any answer.

"Itís not your problem." Jason told him.

"Listen Jason, I know you mean well and all, but it is in fact my problem." Sonny sighed. "Sheís saved my hide more than once, my friend, and I owe her the same."

"You mean you think youíre the reason sheís missing donít you?" Jason was a little nervous himself. Not so much that Brenda could be in danger. Not that he didnít like Brenda, he did actually. It was just that danger seemed to follow that girl like a lost puppy. He supposed that was mainly due to her association with Sonny. She was Sonnyís weakest link, and it looked like someone may be trying to use that to their advantage again.

"Donít even say that, Jason." Sonny said grimly. It was killing him inside thinking that something may have happened to her because of him. Someone had used her before to get to him, just last week, but they had just used her name to get to him. Used the thought of her being hurt. Now they may have changed the game plan. Would he get a call saying she was in the morgue. "If someone lays a hand on her Iíll Ö"

"Sonny" Jason said in a warning tone. "Stop it. This kind of talk wonít get you anywhere. Besides, itís exactly what they want."

"What is?" Sonny said, interested, turning towards his young friend.

"You. To worry. To get crazy. To stop thinking rationally. Face it Sonny, when youíre thinking about Brenda, youíre not exactly thinking straight. If someone wants to hurt you, this is the perfect time."

"Hmmmm" Sonny considered this. "You may be right. Iíve got to get out of here." He grabbed his heavy overcoat and scarf.

"Where do you think youíre going?" Jason asked angrily.

"To look for her." Sonny said simply. "I canít just sit here, Iíve got to do something."

"Sonny" Jason pleaded, "donít. You donít even know if sheís missing. Let her husband track her down. Or the police." Sonny snorted. "Really, this isnít your problem. And you donít know that this isnít what they want. Please."

"Maybe youíre right." Sonny considered. "Maybe sheís shopping or something. Okay, Iíll wait. But if I find out someone grabbed her, Lord help them."

The doorbell rang, and Sonny and Jason both jumped a mile.

"Maybe thatís her" Jason said hopefully. Sonny just shot him a withering look.

"If it isnít Jasper Jax" Sonny said as he opened the door. "What can I do you for?"

Jax looked around nervously. "Itís Brenda." He said uncomfortably. "I need help." He had a hard time spitting the last part out.

"Brenda?!" Sonny asked alarmed. "Did you find her? Is she okay? Has she been hurt?"

"Sheís missing." Jax said. "I canít find her anywhere. She just disappeared. I Ö I Ö I donít know what to do." Jax sounded utterly defeated.

Sonny softened a bit. The man was hurting, and they both wanted the same thing, after all. They both wanted Brenda to be okay. The could settle their differences later.

"Come in" Sonny said slowly. "Sit down."

"I donít want to sit down!" Jax said petulantly, "I want to find my wife!!!"

"Hey, is Miranda missing too?" Sonny asked pointedly, dimples flashing.

Jax glared.

"Sorry" Sonny smiled, "I couldnít help it."

"Look" Jax said, "If you donít want to help, just say so."

"No no no" Sonny shook his head. "Iím sorry. What do you want to do?"

"I donít know," Jax said slowly shaking his head. "I just donít know."

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Brenda awoke slowly in a dark room. Her head was throbbing, and she was disoriented.

"Jax?" She called weakly. She reached for the familiar lamp on her bedside to find nothing. Suddenly she knew she wasnít home.

"Hello?!!" She called, panic rising in her voice. "Somebody?!!" It seemed to her that it got darker as time passed. Fear rose hotly in her throat. "Somebody help me! Help!!!!" And with that the tears came. Brenda rolled up in a tight ball, crying and calling for help. "Please" she called weakly, "help me!" Being alone was one of her greatest fears, besides the dark. Suddenly the thought of Sonny came to her mind. Sonny so strong, so safe. Sonny would save her. Heís done it before. Heíd find her. But did he know she was missing? "Sonny," she called softly, "please help me." And with that she collapsed in tears once more.

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Tune in next time to find out how Jax and Sonny work together? Can they work past their differences? Who is holding Brenda? Will she make it out alive? And, if she does, who will be the first face she wants to see?

all comments, good and bad, to kymmi@spry.com

Part IV

"Okay, so the last time anyone saw her was with Lucy, correct?" Sonny questioned Jax once more.

"How many times do I have to tell you?" Jax practically screamed. "Yes! Yes! Yes! Thatís it. She left Lucyís at five. She was on her way to see me at the Outback and she never showed up." Jax sighed and put his face in his hands. It had been over 24 hours, and no one had heard from Brenda.

"Look, Iím sorry" Sonny said to him. He couldnít believe he was actually apologizing to Jax, his nemesis.

"Maybe itís time to call in the police." Jax said.

Sonny rolled his eyes. "All I need is that creep Taggert poking his nose around my place accusing me of everything under the sun." Sonny sighed.

"I donít care what kind of beef you have with Taggert." Jax said pointedly. "Iím going to find my wife, whatever it takes. If you hadnít gotten her mixed up in this whole drug thing, sheíd be safe at home with me, instead of God knows where." Jax was starting to lose it.

"Me?!" Sonny spat out. "How do you know this has *anything* to do with me? How do you know it doesnít have to do with one of your business dealings, Mr. Corporate Raider? How do you know you didnít piss someone off after you stole their family business out from under their feet?! Have you thought about that lately?"

Jax stood up and got right in Sonnyís face. "You listen to me, Corinthos. Iím sick to death of the sight of you. Iím sick of you in my life. Youíve cost Brenda nothing but trouble since youíve known her. How many times, exactly, has her life been risked because of you?" He shoved a finger in Sonnyís chest. "If I find out that this has to do with you and your dirty dealings, so help me Iíll Ö"

"Youíll what?" Sonny challenged, eyes flashing. For the moment Brenda seemed to be forgotten as the two men stared each other down.

"Enough!" Mike called, striding over to them. "What good is this doing? How is this going to get Brenda back? For all we know she may be hurt somewhere. We need to concentrate of finding her, not whoís fault it is."

Sonny sighed and turned away from Jax. "Okay, okay. Letís just calm down here." He put a hand up to his mouth lost in his own torment. "Maybe Jax is right. I think we should call Mac."

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Brenda heard something through the darkness of where she was being held. She didnít even know how long she had been there. No light ever shone on where she was. She couldnít tell what time it was. It was impossible to even read her watch. Carefully she had made her way around the room where she was. Besides the cot she woke up on, there was nothing except a toilet, a sink, three walls, and a locked door. She tried to remember what exactly had happened to her, but it was all too vague. Suddenly she heard a sound from the direction of where the door was.

"Hello?" she called hopefully. "Is someone there? Please!"

"Brought some food." The voice said gruffly. She heard something slide along the ground.

"Whoís there?" She called again. "Please, please, just tell me who you are!"

The next sound she heard was the door locking once more.

"Please!!" she called hopelessly, "canít you at least turn the lights on! Please! Iím begging you! I donít know what you want, but whatever it is, I can help. Hello?!" But the man was gone, and she was once more left alone in the dark.

The man heard her pleas through the heavy door. "Well, well, well" The man smiled to himself. "This is going better than I planned. Seems Ms. Barrett is afraid of the dark. Sheíll be ready to help us out in no time! I must say, I wish I could see Sonny Corinthosí face right now."

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Mac was there, and had gone over all of the details with both Jax and Sonny.

"You havenít received any ransom demands yet, have you Jax?" He said puzzled.

"No, and I donít think Iím going to get any either." Jax glared at Sonny. "I think Sonny is the one they want."

"I hate to admit it, Sonny, but that looks like our best bet at the moment. What with the attempt on your life a few weeks ago, and all."

"Yeah well, I havenít heard anything either." Sonny sighed. It seemed like that was all he did lately.

"You both look beat." Mac told them both. "Why donít you go home, Jax? Maybe youíll get a call, or some information there."

"Yeah," Jax said, "I think I will go home. But let me know if you hear anything" He said to Sonny, accusingly.

"Will do, Captain", Sonny saluted Jax. And with that, Jax stormed out.

"You havenít told Robin about this, have you?" Mac asked.

"No, no" Sonny shook his head. "I donít think we need to involve Robin, sheíll just worry. If it gets to that point, Iíll send Jason out to tell her."

"Yeah," Mac agreed. "Listen, Sonny, you donít have any idea who might be responsible for this, do you? I mean we could use all of the information we can get."

"Well that depends, Mac" Sonny said sarcastically, "Has my friend Taggert figured out who set me up? If so, that may lead directly to Brenda."

"No," Mac said, "but Iíll see what heís go so far. Stay in touch, okay?"

"Will do." Sonny sat heavily on his couch, his mind a million miles away.

"See that he gets some rest, will you" Mac said to Mike on the way out.

"Iíll try, but I doubt that Sonnyís going to start listening to me now. If you ask me, heís not going to get any rest until he knows that Brendaís all right."

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Part V

Three days. It had been three days since anyone saw Brenda. The past three days felt like years to both Sonny and Jax. Both of them struggled to work together to find Brenda. It made no sense that there had been no ransom demands. Nobody knew what they might want, or more importantly, who they wanted to get to. Jax suspected Sonny, and Sonny had a sinking feeling that he was right. If they were after Jax, they were probably after his money, but none had be demanded. Both were at the end of their wits, and tension was high.

"It just doesnít make any sense," Sonny said pensively. "Someone should have been contacted by now. You sure you havenít heard anything even remotely suspicious?"

"Iím sure" Jax said through gritted teeth. "What about your goons, they havenít heard anything?"

Sonnyís brow arched at the term, but he chose to ignore it. "I canít find any problems out there. No families are fighting, nobody has heard about any power plays, itís almost Ö quiet." That made him nervous. It was never quiet. Something was definitely wrong.

"Well, Iím going down to the station to see Mac." Jax said, moving towards the door. "Somethingís got to be done, I canít take this anymore. I canít sleep, I canít eat, I feel like I canít live without her here. All I can think of is her being alone. She hates to be alone. Did you know that?"

Sonny just nodded, afraid his voice would betray the strong front he was trying to maintain.

"I think of her alone, and then I think of something worse. I think of someone with her, hurting her. It drives me insane. She always used to tell me how safe she felt with me. And now Ö I canít seem to do anything but talk about her in the past tense. It scares the hell out of me." Jax ran his hand through his hair, the pain apparent on his face. "Iíd do anything to get her back. Anything."

"Yeah" Sonny said softly. "I know."

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"Why are we waiting?"

"Patience, my son, patience. All good things in time. We need to break him down a little, let the emotions really set in. Sonny Corinthos is a dangerous man. Never forget that. Heís outsmarted a lot of people. But not this time. No, Sonny wonít know what hit him."

"But why involve Jasper Jacks? Howís he going to help us? He wants Brenda back as much as Sonny does. He doesnít care about Sonny going down."

"Exactly. The only thing heís thinking of is his wife. By now, heís desperate. Heíll have no problem delivering Sonny Corinthosí head on a platter, as long as he gets his wife in return."

"But what if he double crosses us?"

"He wonít. Weíll give him a little incentive not to." He looked down at the polaroids he had taken of Brenda. Her tied up, blindfolded. He caressed one that in which she looked particularly afraid. It was his favorite. "Itís time to set our plan in motion."

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Sonny is standing by the window, alone. In the background "Nobody Knows" by the Tony Rich Project is playing.

"Carry your smile when Iím broken in two
And Iím nobody without somebody like you
Iím trembling inside, and nobody knows it but me.

Lie awake, itís a quarter past three
Iím screaming at night, if I thought youíd hear me
yeah, my heart is calling you
and nobody knows it but me.

How blue can I get, you could ask my heart
my life a jigsaw puzzle thatís been torn all apart
a million words couldnít say, just how I feel,
a million years from now youíd know Iíll be loving you still.

The nights are lonely, days are so sad
and I just keep thinking about the love that we had
and Iím missing you, and nobody knows it but me.

Tomorrow morning, Iím hitting the dusty road,
Iím going to find you wherever, wherever you might go.
and hope that you come back to me.

The nights are so lonely, the days are so sad.
and I just keep thinking about the love that we had,
and Iím missing you, and nobody knows it but me."

Images of Brenda keeping coming up. Her smiling, twirling in front of him, laughing, kissing him, touching his face, washing strawberries, waking up. Sonny is crying, silently, his jaw set in a hard line. His eyes are dark. He angrily wipes the tears away.

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The penthouse was so empty without Brenda there. Jax hated being there, but the thought that someone would call when he was out made him go back. Jax approached the door, anxious to check his messages. When he opened the door, there was some resistance. Jax pushed it the rest of the way, and discovered a manila envelope stuck underneath it. With a heavy heart, he opened it. The blood drained from his face when he saw the photos of Brenda. Attached was a note, that said simply:

We have your wife. If you want her back, meet us at the below mentioned spot with Sonny Corinthos tomorrow night at ten oíclock. We will trade your wife for Mr. Corinthos. Tell him nothing of this plan, or she will be murdered. We will call you tonight at eight oíclock. Make sure you are alone. Tell no one.

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