Soul Bringer

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Best-Laid Plans

To most folks, Vander Nash was a towering, intimidating man with a foreboding gaze and a gentleman-like quality that made him disarming, yet unpredictably frightening at this same time. What the tall fellow from the Louisiana Bayou wasn’t, however, was a careless risk taker, and some might even go so far as to suggest that he was a bit of a superstitious man. Maybe it was all those years in the orphanages as a child, or perhaps it was just one too many trips through the Miami Department of Corrections, but these days, just before he began a job, he made sure to leave nothing to chance. Thus, the last-minute stop at the Chevron to top off the fuel tank, check the tires, run through the lights, and clean the windows. It was a brand new Cadillac SUV that he borrowed from somewhere. Still, he wasn’t going to kick off the Montgomery job before he went through his checklist, even if that meant reviewing all the lights on a seventy-five thousand dollar car that just came off the assembly line a week or two prior.

Just as he finished squeezing a mouthful of gas into the already-full tank, a new model, red, Corvette Stingray, pulled up on the other side of the pump. The passenger window went down on the sports car, and a familiar voice called over the salsa music that emitted from the vehicle, “Jack’s in town, gringo. He wants to see you tomorrow night at the usual meeting place.”

Looking up, he didn’t have to turn around to see that the voice was that of one of Moretti’s Cuban henchmen, Enrique. Vander removed the gas hose from his vehicle and slowly hung it back on the pump. “Jack is here in the states?” he said in a monotone voice. He wasn’t expecting Jack Moretti and his men until next week, and Enrique’s presence wasn’t good news for Vander or his crew. “He’s here early.”

“Yes, and he’s a little anxious to speak to you about the job you’ve been doing for him. Something about some cars not being where they’re supposed to be.”

“I see. Well, tell Jack that I look forward to meeting with him, Ricky,” Vander replied, turning around to look at the man, flashing that same shit-eating smile.

“I told you, cabrón, it’s Enrique… not Ricky.” He had grown tired of Vander’s antagonist behavior. “I must tell you that I am very much looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, too, my friend.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, very much so. I can’t wait to see you squeal in front of Jack when he realizes you lost a dozen of his Ferraris,” Enrique replied, squinting his eyes to emphasize the number. “So many millions of dollars unaccounted for.”

“What do you know about these supposed, missing Ferraris?” Vander frowned. He grew suspicious of Enrique’s awareness of the situation that seemed to be more than just contact knowledge via Moretti.

“The streets talk, my friend,” Enrique quickly replied. “And that talk, well, it’s getting to the wrong ears.”

Vander didn’t miss a beat. “We’ll have the cars where they need to be before the meet tomorrow.” Of course, this bravado reply was contingent only upon his ability to extract the info he needed via the help of Grayson Montgomery, something even Vander himself hadn’t fully bought into yet.

“For your sake, pendejo, you had better hope so,” Enrique deliverered the warning as he sneered. The driver revved the 490 horsepower engine, and the Corvette pulled away, leaving his American associate feeling even more urgency to get the information he needed from the Soul Bringer guy.

Climbing back into the black leather driver’s seat, Vander remembered a story Jack Moretti told him when the two first met about how Jack punished one of his men who borrowed one of his go-fast boats. The man took out the boat to whisk away his girlfriend to the states for the weekend without permission. When the two returned, Jack had his men beat the shit out of the guy and cut off his hands - and this was an associate who only borrowed his boat. Vander could not imagine what would happen if he couldn’t recover Moretti’s twenty million dollars worth of sports cars packed with drugs. Pushing the round ignition button on the dash, the Cadillac V8 engine roared to life with Bobby and Jimmy sitting quietly in the passenger and back seat, respectively. Everybody in the vehicle knew what it meant that Moretti was in town earlier than expected, and not one of them had anything to say about it.

Down the road about a mile or two, deep in the warehouse district, northeast of Miami International Airport, the SUV turned into the main entrance to the empty parking lot of Studio 2A at Montgomery Productions. It was just after 10am and during their two days of casing the studio, the lot would usually be filling up with audience members by this point. It was curious that the lot was empty.

Bobby looked at Jimmy. Where is everyone? He mouthed to his brother as Jimmy shrugged.

“This is looking kind of quiet, boys,” Vander noted as he pulled up to the lot attendant guard shack. Putting the driver-side window down, he stuck his head out. “Excuse me, Sir, but I was wondering if you could tell me if I’m in the right place,” he started. “I’m looking for where they tape the…,” he stopped and turned to Bobby for help.

"Soul Bringer,” Bobby uttered.

“Thank you,” Vander looked back at the lot attendant, “We’re looking for where they tape the Soul Bringer program. See, me and the boys, here, came to be in attendance today.”

The attendant, a stocky rent-a-cop type with a plastic nametag that read “Michael” on it, put his styrofoam coffee cup down on the little desk in the guard shack and called back, matter-of-factly from his stool, “It’s Best Of Friday,” he said, as if it was supposed to mean something to Vander and his crew. After a few moments, the man realized by their empty stares that he needed to elaborate. “We don’t tape a show on Fridays. They re-run the best readings of the week. You’ll have to come back on Monday if you want to be part of the studio audience.”

Vander turned to look at Bobby and Jimmy with great disappointment. “Gentlemen,” he said with a frightening pause. “It’s Best Of Friday.”

“Vander, we had no idea…”

“Shut up, Jimmy,” the boss interrupted, looking back to the parking lot attendant. He wasn’t going to let this be a problem. “I beg your pardon, sir, but we’re going to need to get in today to see the staff,” he said to the man.

The attendant grabbed a clipboard, “What’s your name, and who are you here to see?”

Vander rubbed his forehead. Things were growing complicated, and he had wondered if leaving the State of Florida was a better option by this point. Nonetheless, he and the crew had invested, and perhaps wasted, far too much time to turn back at this point. “My name is Mister Glock,” he replied, pulling out his Glock 19 9mm pistol and pointed it at the attendant, “and we’re here to see the star of the show.”

Nestled between the actual studio where the shows were taped in front of a live audience and the offices where the business for Montgomery Studios is conducted, is the production garage. This is where the extra recording equipment is stored, such as lights, cameras, electronics, as well as the satellite equipment rig, a Ford E350 Superduty truck, affectionately known as the “news van.” The garage is where Grayson’s production guys spend a good portion of their days, fixing gear and tending to other production duties. Tommy ‘The Wrench’ Antonio calls it his “office.”

“Did you backup the cloud storage for the week?” Tommy asked Paul who just entered the garage.

“You ask me that every Friday, Tommy.”

“I do?”

“Yes, and what do I always tell you?”

“I don’t know, Paul. I don’t remember asking you this every Friday.”

“You do, and I tell you the same thing every week. I’ll get to it before I leave for the day.”

“Alright, fine,” Tommy replied with raised eyebrows. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Geeze.”

“Well, stop asking me about my job every week. Don’t I take care of my responsibilities?”

“Sure, Paul.”

“Have I ever forgotten to backup the cloud?”

“No, Paul.”

“All right, then. Stop asking.”

“Okay,” Tommy replied again just as the desk phone rang. “We good?” He asked Paul.

“Yes, Tommy.”

“You sure?”

“Answer the phone.”

“I just want to make sure we’re good.”

“Answer the phone, Tommy.”

“All right. Just making sure,” Tommy said again as he picked up the phone. “Garage,” he spoke into the receiver.

“Who’s this?” the voice asked.

“This is Tommy in Production. Who’s this?”

“This is Michael, in the audience lot guard shack.”

“Oh, hey, what up, Mike?”

“It’s Michael.”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“There’s a guy over here who really wants to see Grayson today.”

“Well, too bad. Tell him it’s Best Of Friday.”

“Yeah, I told him that, but he does not like that answer.”

“Too bad. He’s gotta come back on Monday.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

“Mike, I don’t have time for this shit. Tell him to come back next week.”

“Yeah, about that, Tommy. There’s a little problem with that.”

Tommy shrugged. “Why’s that, Mike?”

“The guy has a gun pointed at my face.”

“He what?”

Paul stopped working on whatever it was he was tending to and looked over to Tommy, who continued to chat on the phone with Mike, the lot attendant.

“What do you mean?” Tommy asked.

“I mean, the guy has a gun pointed at my face, Tommy. He wants to talk to Grayson.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Tommy replied. “Do you want me to call the cops?”

“No! He said absolutely no cops.”

“Well, does this guy seem crazy like he’s going to shoot you or what?”

“I don’t know, Tommy. He doesn’t seem like the type, but he is pretty determined to talk to the boss.”

Tommy lowered the phone receiver and looked over at Paul to give him a rundown of the situation. “Some guy is holding a gun on Mike at the audience lot and is demanding to talk to Grayson.”

“Grayson isn’t here,” Paul responded.

“Yeah, I know, Paul. What should we do? He said no cops.”

“Let’s jump in a golf cart and go over to talk to the guy.”

“You sure?” Tommy asked.

“Well, we can’t leave Michael there with a guy holding a gun on him!”

“All right,” Tommy held the phone receiver back up to his mouth. “Mike?”

“It’s Michael.”

“Sure. Same thing. Listen, Paul and I are going to jump in a cart and come over to see you. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Okay, I’ll let the guy know. Please hurry.”

Tommy hung up the phone and immediately sprung into action, looking all around the storage shelves for something.

“What are you doing?” Paul made his way toward the back door to the garage.

“Looking for a crowbar or something we can use if we need to disarm this guy.”

“Get outside and in the damn cart, Tommy. We’re not going to get into a physical altercation with this guy. Just have your phone ready to dial 9-1-1 if necessary.”

“But what if I want to teach this guy some manners?”

“Shut up, Tommy, before I teach you some manners.”

“You know, son, time is money,” Vander suggested, still pointing the gun at Michael.

“The man you need to speak with should be here any minute,” the lot attendant replied.

After about thirty seconds of silence, Vander chimed in again. “You know, it’s moments like this when I often wonder if folks in your position begin to second guess their choices in life.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, had you chosen a different path, perhaps it wouldn’t be you sitting in that shack with the gun pointed at your head.”

“That’s a rather profound thing for you to say, sir.”

“Yeah,” Vander cocked his head to the side for a moment. “I get that.”

Turning into the alley and approaching the SUV next to the audience parking lot guard shack, Tommy and Paul made their way toward the men, albeit at the snail pace of an electric golf cart.

“A fine studio like this, and you all have to drive around in golf carts?” Vander asked.

“Yes, well, it’s earth-friendly.”

“Sure,” Vander replied.

Tommy and Paul approached with caution, coming to a stop on the opposite side of the golf shack.

“Gentlemen,” Vander started. “Please allow me to begin by saying we are not here to hurt anybody. We simply need to see your boss…,” he stopped again to turn to Bobby for help.

“Grayson Montgomery,” Bobby uttered.

“Thank you,” Vander looked back at the men, “We want to speak to Grayson Montgomery.”

“Well, see, there’s a little problem with that, Sir,” Tommy explained. “See, it’s Best Of Friday, and Mister Montgomery isn’t here on Fridays.”

Vander was beginning to lose the little patience he had left. “The only problem I see here, gentlemen, is that you’re going to need to call him to get him over here.”

“He isn’t down the street at The Home Depot, Sir. He’s on his yacht in the Keys.”

Vander’s growing impatience was becoming stifled by his amplifying concern about the precious time he was losing to Best Of Friday. Now with their target not at the studio and apparently in the Florida Keys, a more than three-hour drive away, logistically, their day, and their plan had taken on more baggage. “Where is Hayes buried?” He asked the brothers, still looking at the lot attendant.

“Biscayne Park Cemetery,” Bobby replied.

Much as it often did, the plan began to change in Vander’s mind to accommodate the new parameters of the day. “Does your boss have money?” He asked, looking at Tommy.

It seemed like an odd question to ask at the time, but Tommy rolled with it. “He’s doing all right, sure,” he replied. Tommy certainly wasn’t going to offer up that Grayson was a billionaire to the man with the gun.

“Is his yacht rather large in size?”

“It’s a decent size, sure.”

“Is it perhaps big enough to have a helicopter or some sort of aircraft on it?”

“Usually, yes,” Tommy replied again.

“Good,” Vander said, pointing the gun at Tommy. “Do me a kindness, pull out your cellphone, and please give Mister Montgomery a call.”

An hour south, by plane, anchored off the coast of Key West, Grayson, and Andreanna had just sat down to breakfast at sea aboard the Bridge deck of his yacht, as they often did on Friday mornings. Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, baked Parmesan hash browns, and fresh-cut island fruit completed the morning meal, along with a fresh-squeezed orange juice mimosa for her, and spicy Bloody Mary for him, made with prepared horseradish, and garnished with a couple of jumbo shrimp.

“Sleep well, darling?” she asked as she opened the linen serviette and placed it on her lap.

“I did,” he replied with a smile. “You?”

“As a matter of fact, I did as well,” she smiled back. “Whatever we did last night, perhaps we should repeat it tonight?”

“I believe you may be on to something,” he agreed, cutting into his Eggs Benedict.

“Speaking of tonight, we have dinner in the city with Vince at seven.”

There was something about Vince Carmichael that Grayson liked, though, he wasn’t sure yet what it was. He saw something in him that night in his wine cellar when the two broke into the locked octagon room. Something genuine. That said, he was still sure that Vince’s motives were more about the ratings.

“You know he’s going to want to schedule that follow-up interview, right?” He said.

“He already did,” she took a sip of her mimosa with a smile. “We penciled it in for next week.”

“Of course you did,” he replied. Andreanna was nothing if not completely and utterly on top of all things. “Well, I suppose we should wrap that up for him.”

“Excuse me, sir,” one of the servers approached the table with a cell phone, “Mister Antonio is on the line. He says it is an emergency.”

“Thank you, Franklin,” Grayson took the phone. “Tommy the Wrench, calling me on a Friday morning, this better be good.” Tommy knew better than to call on Friday mornings unless it was indeed a pressing issue.

“Grayson,” Tommy started in a monotone voice, “I… I have somebody here that wants to talk to you.”

“Tommy?” Grayson uttered. He had never heard him talk like that before. “Tommy, who is it?”

“Good Morning, Mister Montgomery,” the voice of Vander Nash came onto the line. “I do apologize for intruding on what appears to be your day off, but my associates and I have some very pressing business that we need to get to that includes your presence.”

Grayson frowned. “Who the hell is this?” Generally, a patient and understanding man, he would grow angry whenever somebody intruded in his precious, personal life or that of any of the people in his protected immediate circle.

“Who I am is not all that important, however, I must tell you, the people I work for are pretty short-sighted folks and well, if we don’t get down to business before too long today, I can’t tell you what might happen to your people here at the studio.”

“What do you want?” Grayson demanded. “Is it money? Tell me what you need.”

“Oh, now, Mister Montgomery, sir, I can assure you that I am not in the extortion business. I work for my money, and well, it isn’t your money that I need.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Listen carefully because I’m only going to say this once,” Vander started. “Meet me in the north parking lot at Biscayne Park Cemetery in Miami. My men and I will be there with one of your people. We should only need a short amount of your time. I assure you, we don’t mean any harm to you.”

“You want to meet me at a cemetery?” Grayson replied as Andreanna listened on. Of all the places in the world to meet, he thought.

“Yes, sir. We’ll be there waiting for you.”

“Why at a cemetery?”

“Let’s just say we have some unfinished business with an associate, and we need your help. Oh, and don’t contact the police, Mister Montgomery. I wouldn’t want to see things get complicated if you know what I mean. See you soon,” Vander concluded, and then the line went dead.

“Hello? Hello?” Grayson shouted into the phone. “You believe this?” He looked at Andreanna. “What the hell is this all about?”

“I’ll get changed and grab my tablet, so we know what we’re up against at that cemetery,” she stood up and walked out of the room.

“Shall I ready the aircraft, sir?” Franklin asked.

“Yes, please. Thank you, Franklin,” he replied as he stared down at the table. Never before had Grayson ever had such an encounter with a stranger. He just knew his curse had something to do with all of this.

Aboard his thirty-million dollar AgustaWestland AW609 twin-engine tiltrotor aircraft, Grayson and Andreanna were en route to Miami International Airport. The aircraft was ideal as it was capable of vertical takeoff and landing, much like a helicopter, while achieving the high speed of a turboprop plane. Tapping at her tablet, Andi was quickly accessing the cemetery as Grayson looked intently out the window, worried about Tommy.

“Sir, we’ll be topside at MIA in five minutes,” the pilot called back to the two of them from the cockpit.

“The airport is another twenty minutes away from the cemetery, Joe. Can you put this thing down near the cemetery? Perhaps in the parking lot?”

“I don’t have clearance for that, sir.”

“You do now. Drop my name with air traffic control at Miami International. I’ll pay any fines we incur.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I don’t like this, Grayson,” Andreanna warned, still swiping away at her tablet. “There’s a lot of history here. Well over a hundred years. You’re bound to run into some unruly spirits.”

“I completely understand, Andreanna. Unfortunately, I don’t see an alternative. This is where the guy wanted us to meet.”

“You just better watch your back,” she demanded.

“It’s not my back that I’m worried about,” he replied, looking out the window again, offering her little reassurance.

Parked in the north lot off of 19th Street, Vander watched as Grayson’s aircraft began to lower for a landing. “Your boy sure knows how to make an entrance,” he uttered to Tommy, who was sitting in the backseat next to Jimmy.

As soon as the tiltrotor touched down, the engines immediately spun down, and the aircraft went silent. Moments later, the safety latch on the door released and swung down gently to meet the concrete. Only a few moments later did Grayson hurry down the six steps in a Hawaiian shirt, khakis, and his cheap pair of Berluti Tibeta Scritto Leather shoes with Andreanna fast behind him.

“Bobby, I have to say,” Vander started, staring out the windshield, “you sure know how to pick them, son.”

Bobby wasn’t sure the remark was a compliment or not.

Vander opened his door to step out and greet Grayson while Jimmy and Bobby stayed inside with the hostage.

“Mister Montgomery,” he announced as he walked toward the aircraft, “thank you for taking the time to meet us.”

“Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice, did I?” he smacked back. “Where’s Tommy? I want to see him.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Vander replied, motioning to the vehicle. “He’s with my men. You can have him back now.”

He began to size up Vander. They were both about the same build, although Vander was indeed much taller. Alone, without his henchmen, Grayson believed he could take Vander down, but he wanted to play it safe, for now. “What do you want from us? Why am I here?” he asked, his brow furled. He watched as the passenger-side door and backseat doors opened on the SUV. He was relieved to see Tommy step out, seemingly unharmed.

“I like a man who gets down to business. However, we probably don’t have much time before we get a visit from the authorities, given your grand entrance,” Vander began as he turned, “so please, walk with me, and I’ll try to explain. Your man, Tommy, can wait for you on your aircraft.”

“Bullshit,” Tommy shouted, walking toward the men. “I’m not going anywhere without the boss.”

Grayson turned to his faithful employee and friend and attempted to discourage him from putting his life in any further danger. “Tommy, I appreciate your concern, but I must insist that you wait for us with the flight crew. You’ve already been through enough.”

“This guy is dangerous, Grayson. I don’t like this.” he offered.

“That makes two of us, brother, but I need you out of harm’s way.” He then looked at Andreanna. “I think you should go with Tommy, too.”

“If you think I’m going to leave you alone with this guy, Grayson, you don’t know me very well,” she replied with that occasional defiant tone he was all too familiar with, which pretty much told him that she wasn’t going anywhere without him.

“Right,” Grayson confirmed. “I figured you would say that.”

“Mister Tommy,” Vander instructed, “You and the flight crew would be wise not to raise any of the authorities while we are detained in the cemetery. In fact, please ask the pilot to call into the flight tower at Miami International to let them know all is well to prevent any further interest in their unscheduled landing here in the parking lot.”

“You know, we really shouldn’t go into that cemetery if we don’t have to,” Andreanna said, looking at their captor. The apprehension in her voice was genuine.

“I hear you, darlin’,” Grayson replied.

“Mister Montgomery, I understand that you have a gift to speak with the dead, is that correct?” Vander asked as if to ignore Andreanna’s comment.

“Yes,” he said reluctantly. As he guessed, his curse was involved. “I also tend to attract spirits at cemeteries and not always good ones.”

“I completely understand, sir…”

“Do you?” Grayson interrupted.

“Yes, but you see, the business we have with one another needs to be handled within the cemetery, proper,” Vander replied. “It’s not too far from the entrance, I assure you.”

Vander and his crew knew nothing about Grayson’s true supernatural abilities, or just how much of a mistake it was to take him into a cemetery.

“I really can’t go in there.”

“Well, I really must insist,” Vander replied as he revealed his 9mm pistol and pointed it at Andreanna.

Grayson looked at the gun, pointed at the woman he loved, and then looked at Vander. This was serious, and despite what could happen by walking into that cemetery, one thing was certain, and that was that he didn’t want anything to happen to Andreanna.

“Start walking, Mister Montgomery,” Vander commanded, still pointing the gun.

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