Soul Bringer

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Soul Bringer

It was another capacity crowd of two hundred and fifty in Studio 2A at Montgomery Productions, home of the highly-rated, American syndicated, paranormal talk show, Soul Bringer, the flagship production of American television personality, author and world-famous psychic medium, Grayson Montgomery. The more than one hundred thousand square foot multimedia complex was nestled among the collision shops, storage facilities, and auto supply warehouses in the area, situated just east of Miami International Airport. While not the most prestigious, it proved to be a convenient location for whenever Grayson needed to be swept away by his private jet that was always on twenty-four-hour standby at nearby MIA.

Standing on the multi-million dollar stage, composed of backlit LED glass panels etched with his show logo, floor-to-ceiling video screens, Italian leather chairs, and enough live plants and foliage to make any gardener envious, the fit and handsome, forty-nine-year-old billionaire bachelor and beloved celebrity was in the last program block of the day’s taping, finishing up with his second-from-last audience guest reading.

What distinguished Grayson from other so-called psychic mediums was the fact that he could actually communicate with the dead. No joke. He was the real deal.

“Jillian,” he concluded with the audience guest as he spoke from the stage while she stood, sobbing gently in place by her seat in the crowd, “your grandfather’s parting words include a special message to your unborn child.” He spoke of her recently deceased grandfather, who he was seemingly communicating within the studio, live on camera.

Jillian looked shocked as she and her husband had just learned of her pregnancy that morning and had yet to tell anybody about it.

“I know it’s risky asking a woman if she’s pregnant, but your grandfather mentioned that you recently learned of the good news,” Grayson added with a smile.

“That’s correct. My husband and I just found out this morning,” Jillian replied as the crowd’s collective gasp gave way to roaring applause.

“Jillian,” Grayson said between the clapping. “Grand-Dad wanted me to tell you that when your boy is born that he’d like for you to name him Pete. I understand that this name has some significant relevance to you.”

“It does,” she recalled as tears flowed down her face. “Pete was my twin brother, who died when we were young. He drowned in an accident while at camp when we were ten years old.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Grayson offered as he continued with the reading, “Grand-Dad said Pete has been watching over you since he crossed over and is very excited for your first pregnancy. He also sends a message from Pete.”

The tears flowed again from Jillian’s eyes while sniffles surrounded her in the audience.

“You have been carrying around a tremendous burden for the last fifteen years since the passing of your brother.”

“Yes, I have. I was supposed to be with Pete that day on the lake. I always felt guilty that he died, and I didn’t.”

“Well, according to Grand-Dad, the message from Pete is that you should stop blaming yourself for that day. Pete realized that he should have waited for you that morning when the group went to the lake, and that had he waited, he may not have had the accident on the water.”

She looked at him in disbelief.

“Your grandfather says that you should no longer carry that burden. Pete doesn’t blame you, and you need to stop thinking about the past and start focusing on the future for your family. He also said that Pete referred to you as Jilly.”

“Oh my god,” she said quietly to herself as she brought a handkerchief to her face to wipe the tears.

“Can you share with our other guests what the significance of that name means to you?”

“Only Pete called me Jilly. To this day, I haven’t used that nickname since his passing.”

“Well, hopefully, you can take comfort in what you have heard here today, Jillian. Congratulations on your pregnancy and for your successful connection with your grandfather.”

“Thank you!” she replied, wiping the tears from her face.

While the studio erupted in applause, Grayson stepped over to his on-stage desk to retrieve the short stack of index cards with guest names on it. For each taping, his staff would prepare the stack with prospective guests who wish to have a connection on each particular show. As he shuffled through the deck, he came upon one marked with a star, written in fat, red magic marker in the corner. This symbol was a sign marking, in that it meant the prescreen team felt this guest was a skeptic who was attempting to debunk Grayson’s talent with bogus information. He occasionally encountered these guests and usually made the best of them by turning their skepticism into a real connection.

“Alright, we have time for one more connection today before we close the show. Do we have a Patrick Flannery in the audience?”

Delighted that he made the cut, Patrick raised his hand from the studio audience seating and stood up. He was a twenty-something hipster with short hair and somewhat overly casual attire for a television show, complete with the dark hoodie jacket, Vans shoes, and a venti-sized Starbucks Caramel Macchiato in-hand.

“Great. Hello Patrick.”

“Hello,” the guest replied sheepishly, feigning shyness to set a trap for his supposedly unsuspecting host.

“It says here on your card that you are hoping to connect with your deceased mother, is that right?”

“Yep.”

“It says here that she passed way in January of 2001, is that right?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied, hoping he could conceal the lie throughout the taping, but the charade wouldn’t last long.

“I find it curious that you chose the date of your father’s passing to use for the fictitious passing of your mother.”

The guest’s face freezes as the audience members look around in confusion. Patrick suddenly realized that he was somehow found out.

“I have an excellent team that vets and prescreens all of the guests we have on this show,” Grayson explained. “We do this so that we not only prevent wasting my time but the time of the staff and guests. We discovered that you run the blog, Supernatural Truth Finder, and that you have been planning on attempting to debunk my ability live on the show today for several weeks. Is that correct?”

Patrick sighed and confessed, “Yes, sir.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t believe that I can communicate with the dead, Patrick. Perhaps I can make a believer out of you yet.”

“Respectfully, Mr. Grayson, I don’t think so.”

“Is that right, well, for starters, your deceased father came to the show with you today.”

The audience gasped as Patrick stood still, unconvinced. “Is that right?” he asked sarcastically.

“Oh, yes. Your father asked, where is your baseball cap, buddy?”

Patrick stood in silence. He wasn’t sure what was going on.

“Your Cubs baseball hat? The one he gave you about two weeks before he died in the car accident on the Eisenhower Expressway that snowy January evening.”

“I... I don’t have it anymore.”

“Yeah, he just expressed his displeasure in the fact that you sold it on eBay two days after the Cubs won the world series last year.”

“Your research team could have come across that online. That’s public record.”

“Fair enough, but dad wonders if you removed the 1969 Cub Power and 1994 Wrigley Field 80th Anniversary pins from it before you sold the hat?”

Patrick’s face grew pale as his eyebrows raised in disbelief. “I did,” he replied.

“How could I have known that, Patrick?” Grayson turned, tossed the stack of index cards back on his stage desk, and looked back to the audience. “He’s glad you kept those. He says you were both huge Chicago Cubs fans. You went to nearly all the home games that summer before he died.”

“That’s right.”

“He mentioned that you have been holding on to something else. Something that causes contention between you and your elderly mother - who is alive and well, back in Chicago.”

Many things caused contention between Patrick and his aging mother, especially since his father passed, but there was one thing she detested the most.

“Apparently, you have been holding on to the car your father had his fateful accident with? The insurance company wanted to total it, but you insisted on having it towed back to your mother’s house where it sits in the garage. You’re aware of the vehicle I’m talking about, right, Patrick? The one with the 1989 Cubs National League Champs bumper sticker on it?”

“Yes, sir.”

Grayson’s face grew stern as his eyes focused hard on Patrick’s face. “Your father says to get rid of that wreck in the garage and stop terrorizing your mother with it. He knows you miss him, but holding on to the remains of his accident does no good for either you or your mother.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Patrick replied, addled and embarrassed.

“He also suggested that you are quite the journalist; that you should shut down that conspiracy theory blog of yours and to put your journalism degree to good use and get a job at the Tribune. Does that mean anything to you?”

“My dad wanted me to write for one of the dailies. He always read The Tribune. I don’t think there’s any future in working for a paper these days.”

Grayson thought for a moment, and after hearing the ethereal words from the spirit of Patrick’s father, he had an idea. “How would you like to come work for me, Mr. Flannery?”

“Excuse me?” the young man replied as the audience gasped in delight.

“Montgomery Productions could use a good PR person. You want a real job?”

“I don’t...” he was caught off guard by the offer. “I mean, I came in here to debunk your psychic ability, and you not only prove me wrong and totally blew my socks off by telling me things only my dad would say or know, but you,” he shook his head in disbelief at Grayson’s actions. “You offer me a job instead?”

The studio was Grayson’s turf, and the audience was in his pocket every day, but even this display of forgiveness and generosity was more than the crowd expected as they showed with their roaring applause.

“Shall I assume that is your acceptance of my offer?” he asked with a warm smile.

“Yes, sir,” Patrick replied. “Thank you.”

The audience erupted in applause again, accompanied by a few random hoots and hollering.

On the other side of the back wall, behind the audience, was the control room for Studio 2A, where Andreanna, the Executive Producer of the show, sat and had full oversight of the taping of the program. Line producers, technical directors, interns, and a large handful of other staff members worked together to produce a one-hour daily program beamed to one hundred and twenty countries, three hundred and twenty-five days a year.

“Ready, Camera One,” the technical director announced, staring at a wall of television monitors that corresponded to each of the cameras in the studio. “Take, Camera One.”

“Well, that wraps it up for today’s show,” Grayson began his closing monologue. “I want to thank all of my guests - including Patrick - for their participation today and for allowing me the privilege to communicate with their departed loved ones. In closing, let me remind you that in my experience, while everybody leaves this world eventually, our souls never disappear. They’re out there, circling the nether region that separates our world of the living with the spiritual world. It is my job to communicate with those spirits in hopes of bringing closure to those who need it.”

“Ready, Camera Four,” the TD announced again. “Stand by music and credits.”

“Our loved ones never leave us. They’re always there, watching, guiding us down our paths until one day when we all will meet again,” Grayson concluded with his trademark smile. “Thanks for joining me. Have a great day and be good to one another.”

“Take, Camera Four. Music up. Roll credits.”

The audience applauded as the show came to a close.

“Great show today, guys,” Andreanna announced to the room, gathering her laptop and coffee mug from the desk.

One of her close friends at the company, Mia, stepped close to Andreanna, leaned in, and whispered, “Did he really just hire the blogger from Supernatural Truth Finder or was that all bullshit for the show?”

“That was no bullshit. I have to go meet with him now and figure this one out.”

The house lights came up in the studio, and the stage bell rang, signifying the end of taping.

“Thanks for coming everybody,” Grayson waved to the clapping audience as he turned to head off stage. Passing by Max, one of the associate producers, he stopped. “Grab that Flannery kid before he leaves and send him to the executive office so I can have a word with him.”

“Yes sir,” the producer replied, running after the young guest.

Grayson walked through the backstage studio door and down the hall toward the executive offices. Several staff members clap as he made his way through, each of them genuinely congratulating him on a good show.

“Joe Bartholomew is on Line Two for you, Grayson,” a female voice called from one of the offices as he passed by. Joe was the Director of Human Resources for Montgomery Productions, and everybody knew why he was calling - even Grayson.

“Is he calling about my promotion?” Grayson joked.

“I don’t believe so, sir.”

“Tell him I’m on my way to my office.”

Tommy ‘The Wrench’ Antonio, a member of Grayson’s personal staff, approached him in the hallway, “Seriously, boss? Even I had two in-person interviews before you made me a job offer.”

“Get lost, Tommy. Did you get the gear loaded for our trip to Vermont tomorrow?”

“You didn’t tell me I was going to Vermont with you and Andi?”

“I’m telling you now, Tommy. You and Paul are going with us.”

“What about notice?”

“I pay you guys what I pay you, so I don’t have to give you notice.”

“A guy still needs some kind of notice. I got plans. I gotta be places.”

Grayson stops in his tracks just outside his office door. “Where you gotta be, Tommy?”

“You know, places. I got plans. Things to do. Places to be.”

“Right, well, all of those plans can wait until we get back tomorrow night. We’ll only be gone for the day,” he said, opening his office door. “Rendezvous on the tarmac at eight-thirty.”

“Boss, that’s only two hours from now.”

Grayson wasn’t phased. He was used to giving Tommy a lot of grief. “Better get moving then.”

“Well, I guess I’ll go let Paul know then.”

“He already knows. I gave him notice last week,” he replied as the door to his office closed.

“Wait. What?”

The executive office of Grayson Montgomery was everything you would expect the daytime workspace of a billionaire bachelor would be, only amped up to a hundred on the luxury scale. Being a big fan of opulent, contemporary woods with platinum accents, together with its abundance of square footage, his office looked more like the POTUS personal White House library than it did a corporate office. Then again, Grayson never did settle for anything less than luxurious, and quite frankly, he didn’t have to. From his forty-thousand dollar desk to the multiple pictures of his Ocean Alexander Megayacht scattered about the nautical-themed space, it was a reflection of the man who’s named adorned the building.

“Answer Line Two,” he called to the electronic switchboard computer as he made his way toward his desk.

“Answering Line Two,” the electronic voice announced.

“Since when do you watch the live feed, Joe?” Grayson asked with a smile as he sat down.

“Maybe I ought to watch more often,” the voice of the HR Director came through the speaker of the desk phone. “Did you just make a job offer to a stranger without a background check?”

“I did. Was that bad?”

“Grayson!”

“Relax, Joe. The kid came highly recommended.”

“By who?”

“By his father.”

“His dead father??”

“Yep.” Grayson didn’t miss a beat. This sort of talk wasn’t unusual around the production offices. The staff all had their interactions with Grayson where he had proved his ability to them in one way or another, so when he referred to the dead father as vouching for the son, that fantastical fact notwithstanding, it didn’t necessarily work as a credible reference as part of the thorough background check for a prospective job candidate.

“You realize you’re going to get a ton of jobless people in the audience each week now looking for a job opportunity because of this stunt?”

“You do know we don’t talk to everybody in the audience, right, Joe? There is a significant vetting process.”

“Still, this is going to create more work for my team and me.”

“I guess I didn’t think about the HR implications. My apologies to you and your team.”

“Just promise me you won’t make any job offers to strangers in the future unless I get a chance to check them out, okay?”

“Will do. I’ll try.” Grayson was nothing if not the perpetual smart-ass.

Joe didn’t miss a beat, as if to be used to his boss’s colorful personality, “So what’s next with this Flannery kid?”

“I’m talking to him in the next couple of minutes, and then I’ll send him down to you guys to fill out the paperwork.”

“And if he doesn’t pass the background check?”

“Then, do what you gotta do, Joe.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Just as Grayson finished up with the call, Andreanna walked into the office, shaking her head. “What am I going to do with you?” Even in her casual Friday business attire, she looked as beautiful as ever with her flowing blonde hair and gorgeous smile.

“Why is everybody making such a big deal?” His feet found the surface of his desk as the chair reclined back. “So I made a job offer to a kid on the show, so what?”

“Do you understand the domino effect this will have?”

“Yes, yes, Joe from HR already informed me of my transgressions.”

“Good. You need people like Joe to keep you in line.”

“I thought that was your job?”

“It is, but you don’t always listen to me.”

“Well, I don’t always listen to Joe.”

“Apparently,” Andreanna smiled.

“Well, I listened to you when you told me that we had to do that interview tomorrow with Vince Carmichael.”

“Damn straight,” she said firmly. “Ratings are steady, but they’re flat over last year. We’re holding at six million viewers a broadcast. If you want to keep Sales and the sponsors happy, you need to generate a little interest outside of our usual channels to pump up your viewership.”

He craned his neck back and let out a long, exaggerated sigh. It was the business about the entertainment business that was the bane of his existence, and pleasing Sales was not the highest priority on his list. “Andreanna, I’ve said it before, if people stop watching Soul Bringer then so be it, we’ll cancel the show and do something else. Right now, we have a consistently high rated show that is syndicated in over a hundred countries. I don’t think we have too much to worry about.”

“Today, Grayson, but we’re coming off of the fourth straight quarter with little growth. I know that doesn’t worry you, but Sales and Marketing folks worry about that shit all day.”

“Maybe we hit the ceiling on viewership?”

“For the sake of our careers and the future of the show, let’s hope not.”

Max, the associate producer, appeared at the door with Patrick Flannery at his side. “Excuse me, Grayson,” he called from the entrance of the large office. “I have Mr. Flannery.”

“Ah, yes, send him in. Thanks, Max.”

Young Patrick Flannery walked into the room, taking in the expansiveness of the executive office. If he wasn’t already disarmed by Grayson’s display of his supernatural talents during the taping of the show, he certainly was feeling it in the den of the lion.

Grayson stood up and stretched out his hand to shake that of his newest employee. “Welcome to Montgomery Productions, Patrick,” he announced.

Patrick almost fell over himself, racing up to shake his new boss’s hand. “Thank you, Mr. Montgomery, sir.”

“Call me, Grayson. Have a seat.” He motioned to one of the elegant leather chairs in front of his desk. “This is my Executive Producer, Andreanna Fallbrook. You will be reporting to her daily.” She looked up from her tablet and leered at Grayson in disbelief.

“I just want to thank you for this opportunity, Grayson, but...”

“Thank you, but?”

“I guess I’m a little confused.”

“Why’s that?” he sat back down.

“You offered me - the guy who came to debunk you on national television - a job,” Patrick explained with a gasp. “Who does that?”

Grayson looked at Patrick and smiled. “I do.”

Patrick sat in silence, again dumbfounded.

“Getting comfortable with me means more than just understanding my ability to speak to the dead, Mr. Flannery. I’m not a conventional person.”

Andreanna kept her mouth shut. If anybody understood how unconventional Grayson Montgomery was, it was her.

“Tell you what, it’s likely been a whirlwind afternoon for you, Patrick. Go home. Get cleaned up. Get your affairs in order and touch base with our Human Resources department on Monday. They’re going to want to do a background check on you to make sure you’re not a felon-in-hiding, wanted for any dark internet crimes, or anything weird like that. Then, if they give you the green light, report for work at 7am in two weeks. Any questions?”

“No, no, sir.”

“Good. Now get the hell out of here.” He smiled.

“Yes sir,” he replied, fumbling to get out of the chair quickly so he could leave.

“And Flannery? Keep walking; just listen.”

“Yes sir?” he asked, looking back at his new boss.

“Visit your dad at All Saints Cemetery. He misses you.”

Patrick stopped in his tracks and stared at Grayson a moment. Andreanna looked down at the floor and smiled. She knew that it was also dialog like this that Patrick was going to have to get used to if he was going to work for Grayson Montgomery.

Flannery left the office, leaving the two alone. She looked up at him, and he smiled at her. “You love your gift sometimes, don’t you?” she asked.

“Sometimes, yes, the curse has its moments.”

“So, what’s the plan for getting to Vermont?”

“We fly out tonight around 9pm.”

“Are you piloting?” she asked, eagerly with her eyebrows raised. Grayson was a licensed pilot, and much to her delight, he often took them flying on the weekends in the Cessna, but he had never piloted the Gulfstream.

“No,” he shook his head slowly, “I’m drinking. In about twenty minutes. Captain George will once again be our pilot, and he mentioned that the flight would be about five hours. Wake up call at 7am. Get to the taping and get this dreadful interview done. Hopefully, we’ll get back here in time for dinner at sea tomorrow evening.”

“Ah, I forgot to tell you that Vince is hosting dinner for the crew and us immediately following the taping.”

“What?” he whined like a little boy.

“Sorry, Grayson. He insisted, and I thought it would be another gesture of goodwill if hung around for drinks and dinner instead of vanishing the moment the director yells cut as you usually do.” She knew him all too well.

“So a simple interview has turned into an all-day ordeal? Andi, you’re killing me.”

“I’m sure you’ll be able to make it through, Mr. Montgomery.”

“One can only hope... but you owe me.”

“Oh, I know,” she replied with that devilish smile. “We’ll see how that goes.”

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