Soul Bringer

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Perception Becomes Reality

First, there was a gentle knock at the door of the deluxe recovery suite and then, in poked Vince Carmichael’s head, paying a visit to his mending friend. Seeing Grayson awake, upright, and looking well, that huge, infectious smile formed across Vince’s face.

“Grayson Montgomery, as we all live and breathe!” he said, entering the private room at St. Frances Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, marveling at the size of the posh suite. “My goodness, had I known that rooms like this exist in hospitals, I would have never agreed to be among the peasants the last time I had an extended stay back home,” he gaped, only partially joking. “Apparently, membership has its privileges.”

“That and donating millions of dollars to the hospital helps too,” Grayson added with a smile using his typical, matter-of-fact tone. “How are you, Vince?”

“How am I?” he replied, hugging Andreanna and placing a bottle of wine on Grayson’s patient table before taking a seat in one of the bedside chairs. “More like, how the hell are you, my friend?”

Grayson immediately eyed the bottle. “2005 Château Pétrus?” he said with a faux pretentious tone, “Vince, I thought we were friends!”

“What? Too cheap?”

“No, too few. Just one bottle?”

“Grayson!” Andreanna said in her, I can’t believe you voice.

“Well, I tell you what, my friend. You get out of here and give me that follow-up interview, and I’ll have a case of these waiting for you.”

“Deal!” Grayson replied, smiling.

“Amazing what he’ll do for smashed grapes, isn’t it Andreanna?”

“Well, he does love his wine, Vince.”

“Right, right. So I have heard… and who doesn’t? It’s so delicious and satisfying. It’s mother nature’s bountiful gift from the earth. Juice of the heavens; nectar of the Gods…”

“Let’s not get carried away, Vince,” Grayson interrupted with a smile as they all had a quick laugh.

“It is so good to see you well, my friend,” Vince’s smiled continued. “When I heard the tale of your untimely demise, I must say, even I shed a tear. How are you feeling?”

“Well, considering I’ve been to the other side and back, I suppose I can’t complain.”

“As you can see, he’s feeling quite better, Vince, now that his sarcastic manner is back,” Andreanna added with a smile.

“So I see,” Vince replied. “I must say, I knew you could talk to the dead, Grayson, but you never told me you could rise from the dead.”

“Yes, well,” Grayson continued, looking at Vince, “my resurrection seems to be the question du jour these days. I’m not quite sure I understand any of it myself.”

“Oh? Whatever do you mean?”

Grayson’s face grew serious. “I was shot in the stomach at near point-blank range with a nine-millimeter bullet, Vince. The damage inflected internally is mind-blowing, considering I’m here talking to you today. It tore up my intestines, perforated my stomach, and the projectile lodged in my lower spine. I bled out mid-way during the flight. If by some miracle, had I survived, I would have likely been paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of my life.”

“But you did survive!” Vince remarked.

The elephant in the room suddenly got bigger.

“No. I died, Vince,” Grayson replied with a matter of fact tone. “I was resurrected.”

Vince didn’t miss a beat, as if it was a normal, everyday conversation. “Resurrected. By whom?”

Grayson looked over to Andreanna and then back to Vince. “Can I trust you, Vince?”

“Of course, Grayson,” he replied almost immediately. After what occurred back at this family’s estate in Vermont, Vince had felt they struck a bond between them. “I mean, we shared precious moments together… wine…”

Everything in Vince Carmichael’s world seemed to have something to do with wine, and if a bottle of wine was involved, then it must be a meaningful moment.

“Buried in Spring Hill Cemetery is a man whom I have come to know as my spiritual mentor,” Grayson started. “Since the day I was born, he has been by my side to help guide me and show me how to best use my gift to speak with the dead. That man’s name is Abraham McCray. He died the day I was born and was in the same hospital that day.”

“Hold on, my friend. Slow down. It’s Monday morning, and I haven’t had my first drink yet,” Vince cracked.

“I made a promise to Abraham that should anything ever happen to me that I was to be brought to his tomb in Spring Hill. At the time, I wasn’t sure why, but now it makes perfect sense. Turns out, my mentor, who I thought was a medium like me, is also a necromancer. He resurrected me.”

“What?” Vince looked at Andreanna. She confirmed what Grayson was saying with a gentle nod and a kind smile.

“Yes, and in resurrecting me, somehow in the process, he healed all of the damage inflicted by the gunshot. I should be well enough to leave here tomorrow.”

“What about the bullet lodged in your spine?”

“Found on the gurney next to my body when they put me in the ambulance.”

“But, you were just shot three days ago!”

“I know. Crazy, right?” Grayson replied. “Trust me, I don’t get a lot of this, and I have many questions for my mentor when I get out of here.”

Vince looked to the floor, pausing for a moment to take in what Grayson had said. While most of it made no sense and went against most laws of nature, science, and physics, beyond the injury and recovery, there was still a question that remained. “What about the murderer, er, I mean, the gunman? Is it considered murder if the victim is resurrected?” He asked, getting sidetracked for a moment before coming back to the topic-at-hand, “Anyways, is this person still at large?”

“Unfortunately, yes, and we don’t have any idea how to find him,” Andreanna replied.

“It’s true,” Grayson confirmed, “I mean, we know who he is - or, rather, who he was - but we don’t know who he is now or where he is.”

Vince raised his hands to Grayson, “Again, it’s early, Grayson.”

“Right. Let me catch you up,” Grayson replied as he proceeded to spend the next several minutes explaining to Vince about Felix, his resurrection, and how the two crossed paths at a cemetery in Downtown Miami a few days prior. Vince, being a student of the supernatural, not only bought into everything but was ready to help out his friend anyway he could.

“I’m amazed, Grayson,” Vince started. “You know, I’ve seen a lot of unexplainable shit in my day, but I’ve never been around somebody who has been resurrected from the dead. And you were dead, dead. I mean, bled out and gone for hours, dead, am I right?”

“Yeah, I know. It’s crazy,” Grayson agreed.

“So, let me understand,” Vince continued as he pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket to take notes. “You don’t know who the trio was that took you hostage at Biscayne Park Cemetery, but you do know the name of the deceased who they wanted you to communicate with?”

Grayson looked over to Andreanna. He wasn’t a name person.

“Denny Hayes,” Andreanna replied.

“And do you know what they wanted you to discuss with the deceased?”

“Something about missing cars, I think?” Grayson recalled.

“Yes, it was, Andreanna confirmed. “He supposedly stole something like twenty cars from the trio that held us at gunpoint, and the tall one, the one who’s body Felix now possesses, wanted Grayson to find out where the cars were.”

“And you don’t know any of their names?”

“I think the tall one called one of them, Bobby,” she added.

“Interesting,” Vince said as he finished typing the notes into his phone.

“Why the notes, Vince?” Grayson asked.

Vince slid the phone back into his jacket pocket. “I know a guy. He’s a retired private investigator and an excellent friend of mine. He still takes on a case or two a year to keep from getting bored, and I’m sure he’d be happy to help us out with this one.”

“I don’t know, Vince,” Grayson responded almost immediately. He didn’t want to get anybody else involved in his fantastic story of death and resurrection than necessary. “I don’t know if we should bring in any outsiders. What if this gets out to the media?”

“Trust me; this guy is a true professional.”

“Is he any good?”

“The best. So good, in fact, that he retired early to the Caymans.”

“The Caymans?” Andreanna asked as her eyebrows raised.

“There’s a lot of spiritual activity in the Caymans,” Grayson explained.

“Not any more than Louisiana, right?” Vince asked.

“True. There is a ton of spiritual activity in Louisiana, thanks in part to yellow fever and other epidemics of the mid- to late nineteenth century. Still, when it comes to the history of the Cayman Islands, you’d be surprised at the spiritual unrest,” Grayson replied.

“Hmm, interesting.”

“You said he was retired, Vince. What makes you think he’s going to want to help us?” Andreanna asked.

Vince stood up and smiled. “Because he owes me.”

Grayson paused to rub the new stubble on his chin and looked over to Andreanna. “What do you think, Andi?”

“If he can maintain client privilege, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to give him a try,” she replied.

“Well, I have a few things to tend to, one of which is visiting Abraham McCray,” Grayson explained, looking back at Vince. “But afterward, I suppose that we can meet up and take my yacht over to the Caymans to take with your PI. Andreanna’s coming with us so she can keep an eye on the spiritual activity.”

“Umm, I’d be coming with you if you were just going down to the Costco, Grayson,” she said jokingly, yet she wasn’t joking. “You’re not leaving my sight.”

“Splendid!” Vince exclaimed. “I’ll call him tonight to give him a heads up and will look forward to hearing from the both of you in the next day or so?”

It occurred to no one in the room that this conversation was taking place as if the patient had just sprained an ankle, rather than the fact that he was mortally shot in the stomach just a couple days earlier.

“All right. Sounds good,” Grayson replied.

“Well, keep on drinking your fluids, or whatever you resurrected folks drink or do after… umm, getting raised from the dead and… well, I’ll talk to you soon,” Vince fumbled as he made his way to the door.

“Nice to see you, Vince,” Grayson noted.

“Thanks for making the trip, Vince,” Andreanna added.

“The pleasure was all mine, you two.”

Vince left the suite, and it was quiet for a few moments before Grayson turned to Andreanna, “Boy, he’s a whirlwind, isn’t he?”

“His private investigator could prove to be helpful, though,” she replied.

The elephant was clearly still in the room, and Grayson believed its name was Abraham. Ever since the beginning, his mentor drew a very distinct line between mediums and necromancers. It seemed Abraham had some deep-seated hatred, if not full-blown disdain for those who raised spirits from the dead. Of course, Grayson was full aware that Felix was a necromancer as well as the evil spirit’s history with attempting to build a dead army through the centuries, but only from what Abraham told him. At no time was there an oh, by the way, I can raise people from the dead too, from his mentor. He was grateful, to be sure, after all, he wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t the case, but given Abraham’s stance on the matter, Grayson felt there was a lot more to the story than what he had been provided throughout the years during his chats at Spring Hill Cemetery. What else did he not know? And what about the whole business with his soul stone? Was Abraham’s issue with Grayson making one for Andreanna somehow tied to this untold story as well?

“So, about that soul stone,” Grayson inquired, looking at her from his hospital bed. “Is it with you?”

“Why yes, Mister Montgomery, it’s actually around my neck right now and buried in my shirt,” she replied with a smile.

“You’re wearing my soul stone?” He was surprised. “You’ve acclimated yourself to wearing it regularly?”

“Well, it certainly takes some practice to filter out some of the ghostly sounds I hear now and again, and to ignore the occasional spirit I see walking the hallways of the hospital, but for the most part, I’m used to wearing it all the time. I’ve been wearing it since we brought you here three days ago.”

“Wow, I’m amazed, Andi. I thought for sure you’d have a tough time getting used to it.”

“I sort of was forced to get used to it when I had to use it to find Abraham’s tomb. After that, I just kept it on for safekeeping. It is a little big on me, but nothing I can’t get used to.”

“Well, perhaps I can have my dad do little work on it before you begin wearing it full-time.”

“This thing saved your life, Grayson,” she added. “Well, it saved your resurrected life. Without it, there’s no telling how long it would have taken to find Abraham, and even then if I would have been able to communicate your situation to him effectively.”

“Well, I was dead. Not much left to communicate,” he said like a smart ass.

Andreanna grew silent a moment. She wanted to tell Grayson that she had second thoughts about her rejecting his marriage proposal, and through losing him, Andreanna realized, finally, that she couldn’t live without him. She came to the realization that life meant a world where she indeed wanted to be married to him.

“Grayson,” she spoke his name softly.

He looked at her and picked up on that familiar, serious expression she had whenever she was about to enter into a sobering conversation. To him, however, he thought it was about the fact that he died, which, for the most part, was still the looming detail that even he, himself, wasn’t ready to discuss. “Andi, I really don’t want to talk about the fact that I died,” he attempted to be sincere. The thought of being brought back from the dead was insane enough, but to wrap his head around the concept that he died was something he was still trying to process.

“I don’t either,” she replied without hesitation. “But I do want you to know that I did a whole lot of soul searching these last few days. Perhaps more than I would like to admit, but Diana had said that I needed to figure out what was more important to me: my relationship with you or my insecurity of being married to you.”

“Andi,” he attempted to interrupt. He never carried a grudge when she denied his proposal, and despite the initial pain, to him, it was something that was just part of their relationship.

“Let me finish, Grayson,” she shut him down. Her bright, blue eyes pierced through him whenever she was direct, and this moment was no exception. “I was a fool to say no to you when you got down on one knee five years ago. I guess, in my mind, I figured if I said yes that I not only would lose my identity as a successful, independent woman but that I would be joining the ranks of being just another wife of a ludicrously wealthy man. A lifetime sentence of being stuck in the shadow of the person everybody looks at and gravitates to in a crowded room. I wanted to be more than just Mrs. Grayson Montgomery. I am not a trophy wife. I’m not arm jewelry. I have a Ph.D. in Computer Science. I could have been the CEO of any Fortune 500 tech company by now. I chose the path that I’m on. It wasn’t handed to me, and I didn’t just settle. I’m delighted where I’m at in the Montgomery media empire, but make no mistake, I’m not phoning it in and just because I choose to have a relationship with the man who’s name adorns the letterhead, payroll checks and sign atop the building, does not mean that I’m taking the easy path and that I’m not working tirelessly for what I have achieved.”

“I know that Andreanna,” he replied, realizing that this conversation was a long time coming and that it was no coincidence that it was happening after his most recent ordeal.

“I know you know, Grayson. It’s not your mindset and opinion that lingers in my mind and thoughts whenever I consider the prospect of becoming your wife. What will others in the company think? What will society’s opinion of me be? Will others in the industry take me seriously for what I bring to the table, or will they treat me respectfully only because I share the same last name as you?”

“People’s perceptions become their reality, Andi. We’ll never be able to control what other people think and frankly, and that’s fine, because, you know what? I honestly don’t care what other people think or what their opinions are.”

“I do, Grayson! Don’t you see? This is the very issue that I’m dealing with. It’s their perceptions that become my reality. It’s not you. It’s them! I worked too damn hard to be regarded as the gal that slept her way to the top.”

“Listen,” he said, sitting up in his hospital bed. Grayson had a lot of bad habits, but frivolously bestowing positions in his company based on favoritism was not one of them. To him, that lead to a massive, meaningless organization built on a weak foundation. “Everybody knows that mine is a world where everybody must prove who he or she is, or they don’t stay around very long. Period. That goes for the company, too. People take you seriously because you’re Dr. Andreanna Catherine Fallbrook, not because you’re in a relationship with Grayson Montgomery. In all of the years we’ve been together, not once did I or anybody on our executive management team ever treat you differently because we shared a bed. You earned your title and role within the company, and you continue to lead and set the pace for all of the others every day - and may I say, and again this is coming from me as the head of the company and not the one that loves you, that, from my point of view, you continue to run circles around all of those people every day, day in and day out.”

Grayson was right. Andreanna Fallbrook was a mover and a shaker in the industry - one that many other women admired and aspired to measure up to. To them, her personal life was of no consequence and it was what she accomplished in the company that made her stand apart from others. And no matter how hard she tried to rationalize against it, deep down, Andreanna knew it all to be true. It was also true that, as a power couple, they would never be able to control the opinions of others. Perception was reality. There would always be those spineless few who cower in the dark corners from which they throw their stones and cast their judgments, hoping like hell to ruin the lives of others who had what they so desperately wanted. Did the weight of their opinions matter enough to abandon a lifetime of happiness with the man she loved so dearly? Andreanna had come full circle and began to realize what truly mattered the most.

She looked into his eyes and leaned in close. “You know I’m crazy about you, right?”

“I do,” he replied.

“And you’re crazy about me, right?” She already knew the answer but loved hearing him say it.

“With all that I am, Andi.”

She couldn’t stop the smile from forming on her face. Grayson was back. Their love was as strong as it ever was, and clarity was making its way through the channels of her mind, which is more than a woman who has been through what’s she’s been through in the last few days could ask for.

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