In the temporary office the Organization always arranged for him whenever he visited Headquarters, Mike (not his real name, but it will have to do) poured himself an inch of single-malt whisky and looked through a rain-streaked window at the sprawling metropolis below.

The CEO’s resignation had caught most of the top guys unaware. That really came out of left field – thought Mike – and gave him and most of the key executives very little time to jockey for the best position in the inevitable race for the succession of the Organization’s top job.

40 years in and counting, Mike had seen a lot of comings and goings in the hallways of power. He had been patient and laid back, but always politically alert and keenly aware of the shifting winds in the Organization’s executive floors.

This time – he felt – he could have been in the pole position, had he had enough time to rally support and flex his muscles. But the situation had evolved too rapidly, leaving him no option but to ride it out. He’d barely managed to grab the last first-class seat on the overseas flight to Headquarters. His Executive Assistant had not been so lucky. He’d had to settle for a seat in coach just to travel on the same plane. A hulking 260-lb former quarterback, he had shoehorned himself into seat 39E (the middle one in a row of 5) of the eastbound Boeing 777 and had endured a most uncomfortable ride.

Mike was a seasoned fighter. He had survived the scandals and the global rage at some of the Organizations wrongdoings, and the spate of class actions that had rocked one of the world’s most asset-rich institutions while taking a big bite out of its bottom line.

“This time – he said out loud – I really thought I could make it to the top”.

But the shake-up that followed the boss’s departure had produced a dark horse, someone who many thought wasn’t even in the race, and – before most of the CEO hopefuls had had time to realize it –  the long-shot contender was installed and had even given his first press conference.

Mike drained the last drop of mellow liquor from the heavy crystal tumbler, carefully placed it on the antique desk and picked up his leather briefcase to leave. He closed the door and dropped the keys at reception. His flight home would leave in just over 2 hours.

Outside, the rain had stopped and the air smelled of wet leaves. A black, late-model Mercedes was idling at the curb and a doorman was placing his suitcase in the trunk. Before sliding onto the back seat, Mike looked up at the majestic historical building that housed the Organization, his sole employer for over four decades. He shook his head ruefully and got inside the car.

At the main gate, the Swiss guards saluted smartly as the car eased into the city traffic leaving the Vatican behind.