On the night before Christmas, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly decided to stroll down Fifth Avenue to sample public opinion.
Kelly wanted to learn how people felt about his running for mayor in 2013. Bloomberg wanted to learn why no groundswell had developed for him as President.
"It's just not fair," Bloomberg said as they set out from the Plaza. "I've kept the lid on the city for the past nine years. I am the first mayor in history to have shut up Al Sharpton. After police fatally shot Sean Bell, there were no city-wide protest marches. There were no denunciations of me as a racist. The Rev was a pussycat."
Kelly kept silent. Actually, he was seething. Didn't he, the police commissioner, have something to do with keeping the lid on? Hadn't he gone along with that nonsense about having known Sharpton since his days as a beat cop in Manhattan more than 40 years ago when the Rev. was a schoolboy in Brooklyn? As police commissioner, hadn't he ordered each class of rookie cops to listen to Sharpton blather about race relations at a feel-good Kumbaya at Harlem's Apollo theater?
"Am I missing something?" Kelly thought. Typical Bloomberg, he told himself, treating him as the hired help.
Kelly was too wily to say any of this aloud. Instead, as the two crossed 58th Street, he said, "Mr. Mayor, it was stroke of genius for you to contribute to Sharpton's National Action Network while Brother Al owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government."
"Well, I just remembered all the trouble he caused poor Ed Koch," Bloomberg replied. "Ed called him 'The Rev. Al Charlatan' and look what happened. Black voters literally ran Koch out as mayor.
"Oh, and before I forget," Bloomberg continued, "I think my appointment of Cathie Black as education chancellor with no education credentials was absolutely brilliant. A mayor must be bold, Ray."
At the word "mayor," Kelly perked up. Bizarre as Bloomberg's appointment of a women's magazine publisher whose children attend boarding school in Connecticut might be, the precedent could help Kelly, if he became mayor.
If Bloomberg could appoint a schools chancellor with no education credentials, why couldn't Kelly appoint a police commissioner with no credentials in policing?
Kelly smiled his slight, tight smile. This perfectly fit his closest aide, Paul Browne.
Kelly also had a plan for Sharpton. While he couldn't afford to buy him off, as Bloomberg had, or even rent him for four years, Kelly had his own idea. Why not appoint Sharpton Deputy Commissioner for Community Affairs? So far as Kelly knew, there was no law forbidding a tax delinquent from holding the job.
Then, on the northeast corner of 57th street, Kelly felt a chill over his right shoulder. He called out to Bloomberg, asking if he had felt it too.
Bloomberg ignored him. He was still going on about Sharpton. "I also remember what The Rev did to Giuliani," Mayor Mike was saying. "Rudy tried to demonize him and look what happened. All those arrests outside Police Plaza after police shot and killed Amadou Diallo. All those marches after a police officer sodomized Abner Louima. The Rev then ran for mayor, and did well enough to force a run-off."
They walked on. On the corner of 56th Street, Kelly felt another chill, this time over his left shoulder. From the shadows of Christmas past, he heard a voice call out, "Ray Kelly."
Kelly spun around. He saw no one.
"Ray Kelly," the voice continued. "You must tell people the truth. You cannot hide everything that goes on at Police Plaza. There must be transparency. That's why the New York Times is suing you. It took them eight years to figure it out but now they realize they can't trust you."
Kelly felt himself short of breath. It was a disturbing sensation for someone who prided himself on rigid self-control. Instinctively, he began loosening his purple Charvet tie. For he recognized that voice. It was his arch-rival, former police commissioner Bill Bratton.
"When I was police commissioner, Ray, I was smart enough to charm the Times," Bratton continued. "I made them my partner, leaked stories to their police bureau chief.
"Instead of turning the other cheek whenever someone wrote a critical story, you sought revenge."
Kelly tried to calm himself. He again called out to Bloomberg. Again, Bloomberg ignored him. "Even if there is no groundswell for President," Bloomberg was saying, "I could still be considered the greatest mayor in city history."
As usual, Bloomberg was no help, Kelly thought. Mayor Bloomberg cared only about Mayor Bloomberg. Hadn't that become clear in 2009 when he broke his own promise not to run for a third term and short-circuited Kelly's own mayoral bid?
To escape this thought, Kelly crossed to the west side of Fifth Avenue. But on 54th Street outside the University Club, he heard another voice, softer than the first.
"Ray, Ray Kelly," said the voice. It was Queens' near-octogenarian district attorney, Judge Richard Brown, a man for whom Kelly had shown scant regard in his nine years as police commissioner.
For a moment Kelly relaxed. Until he heard Brown's next two words: "Adrian Schoolcraft."
"I don't want to hear about any deal arranged by Deputy Commissioner Mike Farrell and Captain Brandon del Pozo to keep Schoolcraft quiet," the voice of Brown intoned.
"I want the truth, Ray. What role did you play in all that?"
Kelly almost jumped out of his bespoke Martin Greenfield suit. Everyone in the world, it seemed, knew about whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft. After he had secretly tape-recorded roll calls at the 81st precinct where commanders were ordering cops to downgrade crimes, Deputy Chief Mike Marino led a posse of cops to Schoolcraft's Queens home, pulled him out of bed and threw him into the psych Ward of Jamaica hospital, where he remained for six days.
"And don't think transferring Marino to Staten Island, as you just did, will change anything," Brown added.
Kelly was about to tell Brown to mind his own business and keep his advance man, former lieutenant Pete Martin, out of Elaine's restaurant when he heard a scream.
"Ray, help!" It was Mayor Mike.
"Ray, I just heard a voice. I didn't see anybody but it sounded like Rudy Giuliani. He said I have abdicated my responsibilities as mayor by not supervising you and the police department. He said I had broken my campaign promise that the department would be more transparent than it had been under him. He also said I owe the public an explanation about why you threw Schoolcraft into the loony bin. He said that if I wanted to be President I had to act like a leader."
With that Bloomberg announced he was cutting short his Christmas stroll to fly off to his Bermuda hideaway.
"I can't deal with all this," he cried. "You handle it, Ray."
Again, typical Bloomberg, Kelly thought. Leaving him to solve the mayor's problems while Bloomberg headed for Bermuda, yet again.
Again, Kelly smiled his tight smile. He had heard whispers about what went on in Bermuda. NYPD detectives were not only best in the world at solving crimes. They were also the most discreet (after briefing Kelly, of course).
That went double for detectives on Bloomberg's detail. Not for nothing had Mayor Mike built a wall to hide his compound from prying eyes.
It was then that Kelly realized that he was just a few blocks from his favorite spot, the Harvard Club. He sighed. If he were mayor, he would no longer need the Police Foundation to pay his dues and expenses there. If he were mayor, the Harvard Club would be happy to pick up his tab. No longer would anyone dare to call him the city's greatest schnorrer.