Soul Bringer

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Vander Nash

Vander Nash was a dark and complicated man, the product of far too many foster homes and countless trips through desperately mismanaged orphanages in his younger days. Now in his middle thirties, he was broken; he was blindly driven, and he was fueled - some might suggest haunted - by a desire to be anybody other than the three-strikes inmate he was on the verge of becoming after his next arrest. Unfortunately, that didn’t necessarily lead him down paths adorned by greener pastures. Once a thief, always a thief, and it was true what they said about teaching an old dog new tricks.

Vander and his associate made haste, weaving through the random mobs of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, while they worked their way through the intensive care unit.

“So, this is the guy? The one that’s been screwing up our operation at the docks?” Vander, dressed in black from head to toe and enrobed in a full-length black leather jacket, asked his right-hand man. His receding, shoulder-length hairline was further accentuated by his oversized forehead, and he was wearing desert-tinted aviator sunglasses, which made him look like something out of a bad eighties mafia movie.

“Yep. We caught him down at the docks again last night and Bobby put a few bullets in him. Shipyard security found him, called the cops, and they got him to the hospital before he bought it, but he probably won’t live to see the dinner cart visit his room tonight.”

“Bobby’s lucky this guy hasn’t kicked yet, but we need to get some information from him before he does. Who the hell is he?”

“His name is Denny Hayes. No known affiliations. We don’t know where the hell he came from or who he works for.”

“He’s not one of Anderson’s crew?”

“Nope. We can’t connect him to any of the competition. We even went out of the Miami area, but we can’t draw a line to anybody we know.”

“So, you’re telling me this guy surfaces off the radar out of nowhere, intercepts my Ferrari shipment for Jack Moretti at the port, and we don’t know who he is, why he did it or where my cars are? One guy? Twelve cars?”

“Yes sir. Christ, what a mess.”

“Yeah, no shit. All told, this guy has cost the operation about twenty million,” Vander noted, looking at his associate. “This ends today. We get the info we need on the whereabouts of my shipment and then he’s done.”

The two enter the hospital room where four of Vander’s other men were keeping vigil at the bedside of Denny Hayes, who was in the final hour of his losing battle with multiple gunshot wounds and considerable damage to his internal organs. Walking in, the six-foot-seven-inch Vander Nash towered over his crew as he made his way over to the dying man. His large frame and height made him quite a presence in any room he would enter and it helped to keep his men in line.

“Mr. Hayes,” Vander started in his grave, Southern Louisiana voice. “You still with us, old boy?” The long, dark black hair that covered his face parted to form a smile, revealing his large, white teeth.

Denny Hayes was in his mid-fifties and piss-poor shape. Whatever role he played in interrupting the business of the Vander Nash crime operation, his process did not include visiting a gym regularly or eating a salad now and again. He pretty much was the picture of a stereotypical overweight white man with a mid-life crisis body. Laying there with an oxygen mask on and multiple tubes and wires attached to him, it was clear he was on the next bus to meet his maker.

“Last month, you, shall we say, procured a rather large shipment at Port Everglades that belonged to me. A dozen cars, each one outfitted with more than twenty pounds of my client’s narcotics buried in the door panels, trunk, and seats. We know for a fact you’re not with U.S. Customs, so you’re not a Fed, and the government didn’t seize them. My guys spotted you last night, casing out the same pier waiting for our next shipment to arrive. I need you to tell me where my cars are before you pass on to the afterlife or I promise you this,” he moved closer to the dying man’s ear, “while it is most certainly too late for you and while I doubt there are too many people on this earth that could care about a tub of shit like yourself, I will work breathlessly to find somebody that means something to you, and I will bring certain death to them if you don’t give me the information I need to recover my precious, missing shipment.”

Barely able to keep his eyes open, the man’s breathing was heavy, sounding like there was a lot of fluid in his throat and lungs. It was looking like death was very near to him.

“Come on, Denny, tell us where you parked my cars?” Vander asked again, standing up as his voice got louder.

“Lock-box,” the old man managed to utter, only to be followed by a fit of wet coughing that raised the concern among the crew.

“Get a damn nurse in here,” Vander commanded one of his guys. “Hold on there, Denny, we’re getting you some help.”

Denny’s coughing fit seemed to subside a bit, but his breathing had become more labored.

“What lock-box, Denny? Where is this lock-box? Where are my cars?” Vander persisted, hoping to get the information he needed before the man expired. “Denny? Are you still with us?”

The man’s eyes grew full as a fearful expression washed over his face. It was happening. He was dying.

Leaning over again, Vander placed his hands on Denny’s shoulders. His face crept closer to the dying man while the volume of his voice gradually ramped up. “Where is it you sorry son-of-a-bitch? Where the hell are my cars?”

“House,” the ailing man uttered his last word while his eyes grew wider still as if he were looking right through Vander. His crew just looked at each other, wondering if this was it, and after a few moments, his mouth dropped open with a final exhale. Finally, free from the pain, his body grew lifeless, with his eyes still open, staring through his colleague.

“Aw, Shit... What house? Where?” Vander shouted. “Denny!”

The nurse hurried into the room. “Please step back, sir,” she commanded, moving toward the patient.

“What’s happening? Is he dead?”

Reaching for his wrist, she read his pulse and began to conduct a couple of other tests to determine his vitals. “I’m afraid so, sir.”

Vander grew hysterical. “Well, we gotta wheel some machines in here, darlin’. Shoot him up with some drugs. We have to bring him back. We’re not done with him yet!”

“I’m sorry, what is your relationship to Mr. Hayes?”

Vander just looked at the nurse with a blank stare for a moment. His brain was in retrieval mode, but he quickly realized he needed to say the right thing to stay in the room. “I’m his dear cousin from Louisiana.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, sir, but your cousin had a DNR order.”

“What’s a DNR?” One of Vander’s men asked.

“A Do Not Resuscitate Order,” she replied. “He didn’t want to be revived and was only receiving hospice care until he passed. I’m sorry, but there isn’t anything else we can do for your cousin. My condolences to you and your family.”

The nurse exited the room, leaving the men in silence.

Vander looked over at the lifeless body of Denny Hayes and then looked over to Bobby, one of the four men that were standing in the room. Bobby was the one that put the bullets in Denny the night before, so he was shitting bricks by this point. It was only a few moments later until Vander yelled his signature, “Son of a Bitch!” as he grabbed Bobby by the jacket, turned him around and dropped him onto the bed, on top of the dead body.

“Now, what do you propose we do, Bobby?” Vander snarled at him as his face grew close to his with spit from his mouth, hitting Bobby’s lips. “Always shooting first and asking questions later, aren’t you, Bobby? Guess that didn’t work out too well this time, did it? We’re out twenty million and Moretti is due in town in eighteen days.”

Vander stood up, paused to calm down while looking down at the floor. Just as fast as the fury came on, he diffused it in a heartbeat. That was Vander’s way, always running hot and cold in a moment’s notice. Nobody ever knew what to expect from one minute to the next with him.

His signature pacing began. A lot of effort went into extracting the whereabouts of his shipment only to be denied in his final moments. Anytime Vander went into deep problem-solving mode, he would pace. He knew it. His crew was well aware of it. It was his thing, and it was inevitable that he’d be doing it now. As his feet made their way across the floor slowly, back and forth, his colossal frame paced for several minutes in silence as he rubbed his massive forehead in deep thought. The process had to work itself out. The crew knew this, but this situation was different. They were out of options, and in three weeks, they would be out of time.

“What do we do now, boss?”

Vander’s mood grew very quiet and reserved, almost depressed. He took pride in himself at being a southern gentleman, but his crew likened him more to a rabid junkyard dog who hadn’t eaten in days when he was angry, which seemed like a majority of the time. Clearing his throat and in a low and monotone voice, Vander spoke to the floor with a long, defeated sigh, “Put everybody we’ve got on finding out where our dearly departed lived and tear the place apart to find that lock-box.” He then looked up at his crew without any expression on his face. “We need to find that shipment before Jack Moretti comes to town at the end of the month, and I don’t think I need to remind any of you boys what will happen to us if we don’t recover those cars.”

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