I was exhausted by the time I walked into the Grove for Ping’s fundraiser. It had been a rather routine night of bad conversation and even worse food with watered down drinks served by low level legislative staff members to mid-level legislative staff members who had been told by top level legislative staff members that they could not leave the fundraiser until it was officially over. Like every other lobbyist I did a hit and run, circled the room with whichever client was in town and tried to steal any other lobbyist’s clients that were left unchaperoned. It was like a high school dance where the school stud tries to steal the dork’s date. If you were a lobbyist that was dumb enough to bring a client and not keep a watchful eye on him or her you deserved to have that client stolen from you. It would be more cost effective and a better use of time if they outlawed fundraisers and made it legal to just provide elected officials bribes to cover their routine expenses. Just a quick look at any elected’s campaign account made it abundantly clear they used the campaign accounts to support their lifestyles and pay for their criminal defense attorneys and anything left over was used for campaigning. After all who really needed to campaign, they were all reelected unless they were in jail. The creative ones were now using campaign accounts to pay friends and family to perform “consulting” services for the campaigns. Which, from my point of view, was better than my firm having to hire those same friends and family to provide “consulting” services to the firm. It was still the lobbyist’s money but at least when the campaign paid you didn’t have the management headaches, the fuck up, relative de jour was someone else’s nightmare when they used the campaign’s credit card for online dating services.
The only real excitement pre Grove, came when John Mchardle ran into Richard at Quark’s rave and in front of a large group of 20 something outer borough douchebags who were all pretending to be George Stephanopolis, proceeded to climb onto a balcony and piss on Richard and everyone else in a 10 foot radius, Mchardle had been drinking all night and had a huge bladder so the devastation was widespread.
As I entered the Grove the first thing I noticed were Jelly’s uncles, cousins and assorted henchmen seated at the bar but facing away from the bar and into the main room where the fundraiser was being held. It looked like the front row of a major boxing match in Vegas. Everybody wearing tracksuits with bulges under their jackets and looks of rapt attention on their faces. I’d never seen more than a table of wise guys at any one time in the Grove, just enough to let you know it was a mob owned restaurant but not enough to scare the regulars. Tonight it was standing room only at the bar and they were smelling blood as they heckled the suits walking in.
I saw Jelly at the end of the bar and walked over.
“Jelly what the fuck is going on?”
“Whadda ya talking about?’
I’d never heard Jelly speak in anything but proper English.
“I mean what’s with all the muscle at the bar?”
“Don’t worry about it the boys just came to watch, call it professional curiosity”
“Sure, you never see this many criminals and cops in one place unless it’s in prison”
“Didn’t you notice? Pings got at least a couple of hundred FBI and federal marshals here, fuck there are so many cops I don’t have a single cannoli left they stole them all”
“Why so many? You don’t need that kind of security for a fundraiser and the Grove has never been the kind of place you had to worry about violence, especially with the boys in the bar”
“Nah, none of that, all the guys say it looks like a roundup that’s why they’re here they want to watch, For a criminal it’s like a major sporting event, they don’t want to miss it”
“Should I leave?”
“Nah if they wanted you they would knock on your door early some morning this is a made for television event, sit back and enjoy the show. Ping is a stone cold gangsta, the boys say ever since he started going after politicians they have been free to do their thing, they love him”
“Is that why you let him use the Grove?”
“Sort of but he jammed me up pretty good for receiving stolen property, those fucking clams are expensive if you actually have to buy them legit. He gave me a choice do 3 years or let him do his fundraiser at the Grove gratis, it wasn’t a tough choice”
“Yea been there done that”
“Well enjoy your evening just two things I should warn you about”
“One, the big Jew at your table is carrying and the boys are still deciding what to do about it and two stay as far away from Richard as you can it smells like he pissed himself”
When I reached the table and looked around it was a who’s who of elected officials and major donors. I took an empty seat across from Richard and next to legendary Republican donor Chris Braggadocia.
“Chris good to see you what brings you to a fundraiser for a member of the other team?”
“Hibert put the arm on me for the whole table which makes you my guest”
“Sorry Chris, I bought the table too, I think everybody bought the table which means the hose hosed all of us”
“It smells like he hosed Richard just a little bit more, he smells like a train station men’s room”
“No I’m pretty sure that was Mchardle’s doing.”
Chris laughed out loud.
“Rookie mistake you never stand near John when he’s been drinking, huge bladder on that leprechaun. By the way who’s the big kike with the gun?”
“Lev Behuda, he’s supposed to be with the Israeli mob and doing something with Richard and Ravi out by the microdot factory, dorms and dope”
“If he’s a mobster why isn’t he at the bar with the rest of Jelly’s family?”
“Think bar mitzvah not baptism, I don’t think Jelly’s guys appreciate his presence here nor his attempts to enter the dope and dorm business”
“Now a shootout would be exciting wouldn’t it?”
At that moment Alex Shimmel appeared and took a seat at the table next to Chris and me.
“Gentleman, am I in time for the fun?”
Chris looked at me and said.
“How long have you known Alex Leathers?”
“I just met him last week, he is a client”
“Client huh? Which CIA front are you using with Leathers Alex?”
“Please Chris there is no need for animosity, I’m sure the Agency will make you whole on that Bermuda onions for oil deal. Relax and enjoy Pings show tonight I hear it will be one to remember for a long time”
Alex’s cell phone went off and as he looked at it he said”
“Gotta take this guys, its Tom Brady he needs my advice on this soft balls fiasco”
Chris and I looked at each other as Alex magically disappeared and Ping tapped the microphone.