AT THE VATICAN, the pope was sound asleep, having four hours earlier mumbled the simple benediction he had learned as a child. In New York City, the anchors at the major networks were preparing to sign off after reading the news of the most in- genious and entertaining samples of human depravity that had appeared in the last twenty-four hours. In Las Vegas, thousands of American parents were busy initiating their offspring into the deepest mysteries of the nation’s folklore. At a race track in Southern California, eight sleek thoroughbreds were pounding the turf and coming down the home stretch as the spectators ei- ther clutched their tickets in anxiously sweating hands or, resigned to their temporary fate, began to destroy those tokens of hope.
And in the Kansas metropolis of Kirkland, not its real name, two men were preparing for a meeting that would launch a chain of events that was destined to have profound consequences both for America and for the largest and most powerful ecclesiastical organization in all Christendom. Unaware as yet of his sig- nificance in the grand scheme of things, the older of the two ambled down a nondescript hall toward an unexceptional office at the rear of an unimposing tan cinder block building standing at the foot of an ordinary radio transmitter at the outskirts of this typical Middle-American city.
“Sit down,” said Dennis Bright as large, unkempt Benny Good sauntered into his office.
Benny squeezed himself into the chair across the desk from his smallish, kempt boss, who was dressed in a new Sears suit, a new Sears shirt, and a new Sears tie, a uniform designed to highlight a generic male managerial face still on the pleasant side of forty.