Rudy Time 

What cavils have I? None. Who can pressure me? No one.

"Don't do this, Rudy," W. said, his usually twinkling eyes turning serious. "Don't turn against me now. This war is something we've promised the world. I need Richmond. I need City Council. I need you."

I was unfazed. He may be the most powerful man in the world, but he didn't know what mayor he faced. I, who have gazed into the eyes of Reva, who have crossed swords with Sa'ad, who still knows well a man the world now calls "Mr. Lieutenant Governor" — what cavils have I? None. Who can pressure me? No one.

"W.," I said, "I'll do what's right. If I don't take a stand on the most important foreign-policy issue of the day, what will my constituents think of me? What sort of mayor would I be to simply focus on the day-to-day whatnots and wherefores of the city?

"No, Mr. President," I continued, "I need to take a stand. And I need my city to do the same. Now it is time to go."

I pulled open the doorway-type thingy of Air Force One, saluted Colin, winked at Condi and launched myself into the whistling air. As I passed 10,000 feet and yanked my chute free, I pondered the president's concerns. Perhaps I was being hard on him. Could he be right? Could overwhelming military force be the sword to cut the Gordian knot of Middle East conflict?

I shook my head to clear it of such distractions, accidentally triggering the phone line attached to my infrareds. The earpiece buzzed beneath my helmet. "Rudy?" said an accented voice in the earphones. "Is that you?"

"Yes. Whom have I called?"

"It's Kofi," the secretary-general replied. "I'm glad I got you. John Paul was asking for you, and you know how he is — he doesn't have the stamina he once did. He wants to know: Have you conveyed your plan to the president?"

"Yes. But Kofi," I added with a grim chuckle, "I don't think he liked it."

"As we had thought, Rudy. Nothing new there. Good luck and God speed."

Nothing new indeed, I thought, as I hurtled toward the welcoming earth. My mind cast back to just a few days earlier. Days? That February night seemed like an eternity ago when the spotlight atop City Hall burst to life, shining my symbol against the looming sky above downtown. I leaped into my vehicle and made my way to the usual meeting place. She was there, of course. She always is.

"Rudy," she said, taking my hand in her warm, strong one. "The drums of war beat ever louder. You must silence them. The armies of the world gather like storm clouds. You must still them. The priests of hate call ever more shrilly. You know what you must do. You know what Richmond must do."

"I do, Reva," I said. And I did. Soon I had called the Jordanian attaché — we had worked together on a black-ops project in Honduras in the mid-'80s — and made the arrangements. He knew a guy who knew a guy. That's how it always works. Then the flight, the talks, the leap into the unknown.

The ground came up at me like it was shot out of a cannon, and I rolled when I landed. Quickly, I disentangled myself from my chute, slipped through the palace gates and made my way to the doorway. It was quiet. I knocked — tap-tappa-tap-tap, tap tap. Corny, but that's what he wanted. The electronic locks slid open. I entered.

"Rudy," he said, rising from his well-padded throne. "You are … here."

"I am," I said. His mustache was untrimmed, and his face had sagged under the pressure of the world's animosity. Don't get me wrong. I don't admire the guy. I'm just saying being a dictator for life is no easy gig.

I pulled my Walther P38 from my hip. "You knew it had to end this way," I said. "Are you ready?"

He looked steadily into my eyes, his gaze clear and unflinching. The specter of a smile played at his lips.

"God, I am ready, Rudy," he said. "If you are."

When it was done, I wiped the prints off the pistol and called Kofi. Then I headed out of there. If I was lucky I could make it home before "Dr. Phil." All I was saying is, give Rudy a chance.

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