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Christmas Eve constitutional

December 24, 2001

The night before Christmas, Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik decided to stroll down Fifth Avenue to see how New Yorkers felt about his autobiography, "The Lost Son."

The Christmas Eve stroll had become a police tradition [at least with One Police Plaza Confidential]. It had begun in 1995 when Bill Bratton walked down Fifth Avenue with his sidekick Jack Maple to see how many New Yorkers recognized them.

Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, attempted the stroll the next year. But no one recognized him and he never did it again.

This year, Kerik was so relieved only a week remained before he could leave the Police Department that he invited Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to join him.

The mayor was so relieved he had been selected Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" that he invited his inamorata Judith Nathan and his press secretary, Sunny (The Silent) Mindel.

"People say I should remain mayor forever, Bernie" the mayor began as they set off from the Plaza. "But now I must consider higher office."

"Er, yes," Kerik said.

Actually, he was distracted. He had just learned "The Lost Son," which describes his search for his mother, who was a prostitute, was not displayed in Barnes & Noble's front window.

Although the book was on the bestseller list, it was difficult to find anyone who had actually finished it.

As Kerik mulled this, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. Not for nothing had he been a street cop before becoming Giuliani's driver. There, on the corner of 55th Street was a homeless man. Kerik had ordered his chiefs to keep the homeless out of midtown during Christmas. He knew the last thing the mayor wanted to see were homeless people in midtown during Christmas.

"I'll take care of this," Kerik muttered, practicing a couple of the Goju, tae kwon do, karate kicks, he had mentioned in his book.

But the mayor stopped him.

"Bernie, don't worry about the homeless. They come and go," he said.

The mayor winked.

"At least that's what I'll have Sunny tell the media."

They continued walking, Kerik smiling like a man who had dodged a bullet. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a commotion on 54th Street. It was, of all things, a squeegee man. How could this be? Where were his chiefs? They knew how the mayor felt about squeegee men.

Especially during Christmas.

From his cell phone, he called his Manhattan detective chief Tom Fahey.

Kerik trusted Fahey. Fahey's first assignment after Kerik had transferred him from the office of Public Information was to send homicide detectives to the homes of co-workers of Kerik's editor and publisher, Judith Regan, after Regan reported her cell phone missing.

"Tom, what the -- is going on here?" Kerik began. "I see homeless. I see squeegee. The mayor also sees them. This is not good."

"Boss," Fahey said, "I have no detectives to send you. Judith Regan just called. She said her cat was missing. I got the whole squad out looking for it."

Just then Judi Nathan spoke up.

"Oh, look, Rudy," she said, her eyes sparkling at a crowd outside the University Club. "It's Mayor Bloomberg. Let's say hello."

The mayor frowned. He did not like hearing Bloomberg said after the word mayor.

"C'mon," he said brusquely. "Let's have dinner. Bernie, you pick the place."

A few minutes later, they arrived at Campagnola on the Upper East Side. The maitre d' gave them a center table next to Victoria Gotti, the famed gossip columnist and daughter of you-know-who.

Smiling at Rudy and Judi Nathan, Victoria Gotti said: "My, what a lovely couple you are. You seem as much in love as Bill Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman."

Giuliani gave her a dirty look.

Seeking to change the subject, the famed gossip columnist said to Rudy, "Is it true 'The Godfather' is your favorite movie?"

Before the mayor could do his Marlon Brando impersonation, Kerik said, "Hey, I've seen it at least 50 times myself."

Touching Rudy's arm, Ms. Gotti, said, "I want you to know how much my family admires you."

She thought to herself how like her father he seemed. Strong. Ruthless. And fearful of no man.

"Thank you," the mayor started to say but thought better of it.

The following Sunday in her column, Ms. Gotti wrote an open letter to her father, who is in solitary confinement in federal prison in Springfield, Mo., for having murdered at least a score of people.

"Dear Daddy," she began. "Rudy Giuliani has just been selected as Time Magazine's Person of the Year. He has not decided what he will do when he leaves office. Perhaps you could make him an offer he cannot refuse."

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.