BBC journalist Gunther Glick sat sweating in the BBC network van parked on the eastern edge of St. Peter’s Square and cursed his assignment editor. Although Glick’s first monthly review had come back filled with superlatives—resourceful, sharp, dependable—here he was in Vatican City on “Pope‑Watch.” He reminded himself that reporting for the BBC carried a hell of a lot more credibility than fabricating fodder for the British Tattler, but still, this was not his idea of reporting.
Glick’s assignment was simple. Insultingly simple. He was to sit here waiting for a bunch of old farts to elect their next chief old fart, then he was to step outside and record a fifteen‑second “live” spot with the Vatican as a backdrop.
Glick couldn’t believe the BBC still sent reporters into the field to cover this schlock. You don’t see the American networks here tonight. Hell no! That was because the big boys did it right. They watched CNN, synopsized it, and then filmed their “live” report in front of a blue screen, superimposing stock video for a realistic backdrop. MSNBC even used in‑studio wind and rain machines to give that on‑the‑scene authenticity. Viewers didn’t want truth anymore; they wanted entertainment.
Glick gazed out through the windshield and felt more and more depressed by the minute. The imperial mountain of Vatican City rose before him as a dismal reminder of what men could accomplish when they put their minds to it.
“What have I accomplished in my life?” he wondered aloud. “Nothing.”
“So give up,” a woman’s voice said from behind him.
Glick jumped. He had almost forgotten he was not alone. He turned to the back seat, where his camerawoman, Chinita Macri, sat silently polishing her glasses. She was always polishing her glasses. Chinita was black, although she preferred African American, a little heavy, and smart as hell. She wouldn’t let you forget it either. She was an odd bird, but Glick liked her. And Glick could sure as hell use the company.
“What’s the problem, Gunth?” Chinita asked.
“What are we doing here?”
She kept polishing. “Witnessing an exciting event.”
“Old men locked in the dark is exciting?”
“You do know you’re going to hell, don’t you?”
“Talk to me.” She sounded like his mother.
“I just feel like I want to leave my mark.”
“You wrote for the British Tattler.”
“Yeah, but nothing with any resonance.”
“Oh, come on, I heard you did a groundbreaking article on the queen’s secret sex life with aliens.”
“Hey, things are looking up. Tonight you make your first fifteen seconds of TV history.”
Glick groaned. He could hear the news anchor already. “Thanks Gunther, great report.” Then the anchor would roll his eyes and move on to the weather. “I should have tried for an anchor spot.”
Macri laughed. “With no experience? And that beard? Forget it.”
Glick ran his hands through the reddish gob of hair on his chin. “I think it makes me look clever.”
The van’s cell phone rang, mercifully interrupting yet another one of Glick’s failures. “Maybe that’s editorial,” he said, suddenly hopeful. “You think they want a live update?”
“On this story?” Macri laughed. “You keep dreaming.”
Glick answered the phone in his best anchorman voice. “Gunther Glick, BBC, Live in Vatican City.”
The man on the line had a thick Arabic accent. “Listen carefully,” he said. “I am about to change your life.”