Michael Bloomberg sat in theoak wood desk chair that has scratches and scuff marks from years of mayoral lounging. The desk was also large, oak, heavy, standing in place as if it hadn’t been moved in a century. Bloomberg never bothered to make New York City’s Mayor’s Offcie hi own. He did not consider it his own, anyway. There were times when Bloomberg missed the private world of commerce and business, where one could spend money lavishly and be blunt in one’s discourse. But here he was, presideing over one of the largest and most important citys in the world, the top manager, the spokesperson for a myriad of constituencies, a pandemonium of competing social, racial, cultural and financial interests, a city where the poor and the rich walk the same pavements, and shop at the same grocery stores, and buy coffee at the same Greek delis. It astounded Bloomberg that New York had not imploded from all the exploding quilts that patch the neighborhood landscape.
“Do we really have to meet with that asshole?” said Raymond W. Kelly, New York City’s Police Commisioner as he sat alone with the Mayor.
“Is there a reason why you think we shouldn’t?” said Bloomberg.
“Tawana Brawley,” said Kelly.
“That’s history,” said Bloomberg.
“He’s an opportunist,” said Kelly.
“And we are not?” asked Bloomberg rhetorically.
“I feel like I have to take a shower after I am with him,” said Kelly.
“Oh stop it, Ray. Sharpton is a colorful guy. Entertaining. And whether we like it or not, he has grabbed the stage for a major constituency in this town. If they listen to him, I have to listen to him,” said Bloomberg.
Bloomberg actually liked Al Sharpton. Sharpton was a straight shooter and was very clear about what he was all about. The public face of Sharpton was not the same man that Bloomberg had come to know in private meetings with him. This was not so different from the hundreds of business people he had dealt with. Indeed, he had known Wall Street to be particularly populated by charlatans and pretenders. But sometimes you had to deal with them, and sometimes they held the strings. Quite frankly, from Bloomberg’s perspective, the Wall Streeter’s were boring. Sharpton was anything but. And that mattered.
“You feel like you can trust him? You feel comfortable with Al Sharpton?” asked Kelly.
“Tell me again about the fifty gunshots fired by our police officers. Give it to me in a few words. The Reverend will be here any moment,” said Bloomberg. This was a management tool Bloomberg had used often. The essence of things could be described in a few words. And it was the essence of things that seemed to matter even more in politics than in business.
At that moment, the door flew open and in walked the Reverend Al Sharpton.
The door opened to the Mayor’s office and in walked Al Sharpton. Mayor Mike Bloomberg stood immediately. Ray Kelly was slower to stand. Bloomberg offered his hand, which Sharpton took.
“Hello, Mayor,” said Sharpton. Sharton did not wait to be offered a chair. He sat in the chair next to Kelly’s. Bloomberg sat. Kelly sat.
“How are you Mr. Kelly?” asked Sharpton.
“Fine, thank you,” said Kelly.
“Fine? How can you be fine under these circumstances. Your guys plowed a bucketload of bullets into an innocent man. A black man. So you tell me, how can you be fine?” said Sharpton.
“I meant I was personally physically, OK,” said Kelly. The second he said it, Kelly knew it didn’t sound right.
“Physically OK? I would be sick to my stomach. In fact, I am sick to my stomach. How can I be feeling sick and you feeling OK?” said Sharpton.
Bloomberg killed a smile that started to form. Sharpton knew how to grab the conversation.
“I think we all feel sick about what happened,” said Bloomberg.
“So what are we going to do about this mess that you have gotten yourselves in?” said Sharpton.
Kelly hated that Sharpton presumed that somehow he was part of the government, as if he was charged with the high purpose of public office, almost as if this was one of his offices.
“The offices are on administrative leave, Al, and they have turned in their guns,” said Bloomberg.
“That means they are still getting paid, and they have desk jobs. Sounds like a promotion,” said Sharpton.
“I can assure you it is not a promotion,” said Kelly.
“It’s a slap on the wrist,” said Sharpton without turning to look at Kelly.
“You don;t know the facts, Mr. Sharpton. We were staking that club out. Drugs. Prostitution. Money laundering. They rented the place out as a cover. There was a bachelor party going on. The kids who got shot were like human shields. Those bastards used their patorns as human shields,” said the Police Commisioner. Kelly was irritated. Police were not never allowed to fuck up. And when they did, their lives were often ruined.
Al Sharpton addressed the Mayor. “Your Police Commisioner says that the African American community of this great City of New York are the human shields for crime. And so what is he saying, that African Americans can be killed to fight crime? Cause if that is what he saying, I’d like to tell that to the media,” said Sharpton.
“I am sure that is not what the Police Commissioner is saying,” said Bloomberg.
“I did not suggest that,” said Kelly.
“It sure sounds like you did. One of those Freudian slipperoos, if you ask me,” said Sharpton.
“Look, we have to deal with this swiftly and aggresively,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
“I’ll say, cause your Police Commissioner has handed me a golden opportunity. It don’t matter how you play this music, it comes out the same. Fifty bullets at two unarmed innocent black men. That’s music man that only plays one way. And anyway you hear it, it makes the New York City finest seem like the worstest,” said Sharpton, not blinikng an eye on his misuse of the English language.
“Al, our interests are the same. We need to find out what happened, discipline the officers for what they did, and try to start the healing,” said Bloomberg feeling like he was on the Oprah show.
“You ain’t going to heal sqat without my participation,” said Sharpton.
“Of course. We need you, Al. We need you to be part of the process,” said the Mayor.
“Hey, Mr. Mr. Mayor, I know you’re playing me. You think I don’t know when you are playing me. And that is OK. It’s OK with me. You play me all you want. Just as long as you know I will be playing you. And maybe, if you are lucky, you will come out smelling like roses. But any way this plays out, I will be OK. This is my game you have entered. This is my game,” said Sharpton.
“Yes, yes, I know. And it is my desire to make us all do justice and try to prevent this from happening again,” said Bloomberg.
“So are we ready to meet the media? ‘Cause I’m ready. And don't take it personally if I don't smile with you Mayor and look like we’re friends. ‘Cause I ain’t gong to smile. This ain’t time for smiling,” said Sharpton as he rose from his chair.
“I understand completely,” said Bloomberg as he stood. Kelly did not stand.
“See you gentlemen downstairs. And Mr. Kelly, don’t look so sour. Feel as fine as you said you do,” said Sharpton as he walked out of the office.
“I hate that sonofabitch,” said Kelly.
“We are all running the city together, Ray,” said Bloomberg. “We are all running the city together.”