Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was not in the holiday spirit as he prepared to set off from the Plaza on his Christmas Eve stroll.
Bill Bratton had inaugurated the stroll in 1995, Bratton's second year as police commissioner, to see how many New Yorkers recognized him. Every police commissioner followed, although Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, complained nobody knew who he was.
Bernie Kerik took the stroll when he was commissioner in 2000, along with his sidekick John Picciano. Shortly afterwards, Pitch took it on the lam to South America. Bernie ended up in a Cumberland, Md. federal prison.
Since returning as commissioner in 2002, Kelly had also taken the stroll. But although he'd been granted more power and served longer than any police commissioner in New York City history, he'd grown increasingly irritable as this year's Christmas Eve stroll approached.
He saw the handwriting the wall. His time as the nation's most publicized law enforcement official was ending.
No longer would reporters from around the world ask for his views on homegrown terrorists and mass murderers. No longer would he be honored by France. No longer would the Police Foundation pay for his meals at the Harvard Club.
"What will happen to me?" he demanded of his chief factotum and spokesman, Paul Browne. "Who will protect my legacy?"
Seeking to comfort Kelly, Browne presented him with a Christmas gift: a little Mexican Chihuahua that barked a lot. Browne also purchased a woolen coat for the dog. On it was written the word "Lupica."
Lupica also happened to be the name of a Daily News columnist who was once a helluva sports writer. People were taken with his modesty. He had flabbergasted a group of newspaper executives, telling them, "I'll never forget the first time Joe DiMaggio met me."
Lupica no longer reported stories. Instead, he wrote columns from his home in Fairfield County, Conn. while in his bathrobe and pajamas. Whenever he was short for a column, he telephoned Kelly.
His column following the elementary school shootings in Newton, Conn., began:
Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner of the City of New York, has seen children shot in his city, seen them shot and killed the way a 4-year-old named Lloyd Morgan was this year in a playground on E. 165th St. in the South Bronx.
Kelly was so taken with Lupica that he put him on a leash as he strolled down Fifth Avenue.
"Two years ago Bratton was considered for the job as head of Scotland Yard. Why not me?" he asked himself as he crossed 58th Street. "Why did President Obama extend the 10-year term of Robert Mueller as director of the FBI and not consider me?"
"Right, Lupica?" Kelly said. He gave a tug on Lupica's leash. Lupica began barking and jumping up and down.
"And what about Mayor Bloomberg? Why didn't he push me for the director of Homeland Security, as Rudy Giuliani did for Kerik?"
Thinking of Bloomberg gave Kelly a headache. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Treacherous. How else to describe Mayor Mike's sabotaging Kelly's mayoral bid in 2009 by deciding at the last minute to overturn the two-term limit law and run for a third term?
"I was then at the height of my popularity," Kelly said to Lupica. "People believed I was the lone man standing between the city and another terrorist attack. People believed I had singlehandedly thwarted 14 terrorist plots against the city." Lupica started barking and jumping up and down again. He tried to lick Kelly's face.
And now Joe Lhota, the chief executive of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, was about to declare himself a Republican candidate for mayor. That could spell disaster for Kelly.
Lhota was a Giuliani guy. He'd been Giuliani's deputy mayor for Operations. When Giuliani was elected mayor in 1994, he'd dismissed Kelly and replaced him with Bratton.
What if Lhota replaced Kelly with former First Deputy Joe Dunne, who was recently appointed head of the Port Authority Police?
After Kelly returned as commissioner, Dunne had tried to land a job with Andrew Cuomo, who was then attorney general.
Standing on the corner of 56th Street, he felt a chill over his shoulder. He heard a voice call, "Ray Kelly." Normally self-possessed, Kelly's jaw dropped. He recognized the voice as that of Dunne.
"I never did you any harm, Ray. I always respected you. But you sabotaged me with Cuomo, Ray. Why?
Kelly tried to think. Yes, it was true, he had sabotaged Dunne with Cuomo but he couldn't remember why. Maybe it was because Dunne was a Bratton guy. Maybe it was because Giuliani had appointed Dunne first dep.
"Maybe that's just my nature," Kelly smiled to himself.
To avoid thinking about Dunne, Kelly crossed Fifth Avenue. There, a worse thought crossed his mind. What if Lhota replaced him with Pat D'Amuro?
D'Amuro had headed the FBI's New York office when detectives from the Joint Terrorist Task Force captured the one-armed radical Muslim preacher Hamza al-Masri in London. Kelly then held a news conference where he singled out for praise NYPD detective George Corey. Kelly divulged so much information about Corey that reporters camped outside his house on Long Island and so frightened his wife that Corey was recalled from London.
D'Amuro then leaked a memo to the media, explaining that Kelly's identifying Corey had led to "security concerns." "This is not how we do business," D'Amuro's memo said.
And then a year later D'Amuro retired from the Bureau. Who did he go to work for? Rudy Giuliani.
Another chill passed over Kelly. Again, he heard a voice. "Ray Kelly," the voice called. Kelly recognized this voice. It was that of D'Amuro. D'Amuro said three more words before Kelly nearly fainted.
The words were: "Revenge is Sweet."
Then a face appeared out of the darkness. It was that of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the odds-on favorite to succeed Bloomberg as mayor.
"Ray, I was prepared to keep you as police commissioner," she said. "As you know, my spokesman Jamie is Paul Browne's nephew. It could have been a smooth transition. But that was when I thought Mayor Mike was supporting me -- before I learned he had called Hillary Clinton.
"Now I will have no other choice. I will have to appoint a commission."
A commission! A commission was Kelly's worst nightmare. A commission would investigate him. It would investigate everything he had done as police commissioner over the past decade. Not just his stop and frisk policy. Or his spying on Muslims. He could, at least, defend those polices as ensuring the city's safety.
But what of his free meals at the Harvard Club? What of his secret NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation, which had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from secret donors? The foundation had been headed by the NYPD's former head of Legal Matters, Stephen Hammerman.
Its secretary had been Kelly's own chief of staff, Joe Wuench.
What about the Police Foundation, whose longtime director, Pam Delaney, Kelly had forced out after complaining that her salary was higher than his. The foundation then poured millions of dollars into the NYPD with no accounting for how the money was spent.
Most important, a commission would investigate all the department's crooked cops. It could start with Kelvin Jones, who had been secretly recruited into the Intelligence Division without a background check. Jones subsequently masterminded a million-dollar armed robbery heist of a perfume factory in Carlstadt, New Jersey by recruiting 11 others, including three other NYPD cops.
Jersey authorities -- not the department's Internal Affairs Bureau -- arrested them all.
Jones was on a par with Michael Dowd and his drug-dealing cronies in the 75th precinct in Brooklyn 20 years before. Dowd's arrest by Suffolk County cops -- not the NYPD -- had precipitated the creation of the Mollen Commission on police corruption.
Kelly knew what would happen next. Internal memos, taken out of context to make him look bad, leaked to the media. His enemies, off the record and not for attribution, defaming him in the New York Times.
Then he heard another voice. This one had a Boston accent. It was Bratton. Like D'Amuro, Bratton said only three words but they caused Kelly to become apoplectic.
The words were: "Joe Blow Security."
Kelly understood what Bratton meant. Bratton also had been riding high. In 1996, he said he would accept a job in the private sector for no less than $500,000 or possibly $1 million. Giuliani then pulled the rug out from under him and Bratton was forced to take a Joe Blow Security job.
"Is that what's going to happen to me?" Kelly asked Lupica. He bent down to pet him. Maybe, Kelly thought, he could turn to his namesake at the Daily News for help.
But Kelly knew the truth: there was no bite in that dog.
With editing from Donald Forst