We had a two-hour drive — just enough time to get it all out of our system. I mean, the boss had us looking for the same guy folks have been searching for since Abraham — the father of the Jews, not the haggard guy in the stove-pipe hat. So the jokes rolled.
You go to jail for kidnapping. Do they send you to hell for stealing the Savior of the World?
Just wait till the Wise Men hear about this. They travel all that way. The least the kid could do was show up.
I heard He just left Chicago bound for New Orleans.
I didn’t say they were good jokes. But that’s how two salty journalists pass the time on their way to the story from Hell. Did the boss really expect us to travel all that way for a story on a couple of stolen Christmas decorations? Hell, they were stolen at Thanksgiving. What makes it news January 4?
On a slow news day, those are questions better asked outside of the morning editorial meeting.
So we left, our hopes of a story and lunch dwindling by the mile. But when you arrive in Houma, La at noon, there’s nothing to do but eat. Ya see, everybody there takes a lunch. (Hell, even the cable TV newsroom shuts down for an hour.)
With no sources, no phone numbers, and no clue of even where the missing Messiah may have called home, all we could do was wait for the Chief to finish his lunch. The chief had no clue his Lord and Savior had gone Elvis and left the building. No one had even bothered to file a police report.
The woman who had erected the tiny Nativity on the courthouse square thought we had bigger fish to fry — like the Christmas Eve shooting that took place not far from there. The cops even had security video of that. But alas, our job was that of a sidewalk evangelist — help the masses find Christ.
It was closing in on 3pm. The drop dead hour for TV journos. That far out of town, if you’re not done by then, a producer somewhere has to start worrying about the hole you’re about to blow in their rundown. That’s when we got the Good News. Jesus is coming.
Actually, it was a back yard sign. After all the running around we had done, we had to pose for a picture. At least the guys back at the station would get a kick out of it.
Then a quick trip to the scene of the crime for a few shots of an empty square. Of course the decorations were taken down January 3.
I can only call it divine intervention. While shooting a close-up of the only strand of garland left in the city a dude in a pickup drove through the square. Strapped to the top of his hoopty was a miniature sign just like the one we had posed with. Jesus is Coming.
On the way home we started thinking. If one thing earlier in the day had gone our way: If the story had been closer. If we had known where the theft had happened. If the whole town had not gone to lunch. If the chief had known a little bit about the case and not had to read about it from the newspaper before speaking to us. If the local cable TV news guys had covered the story when it happened, we would have never met Owen.
That would have been the real crime.