Layne splintered the door open and strode to the center of the lush office. Fitzsimmons, leaning back in his chair, raised his eyebrows slightly at the intrusion.
“I’m taking you in,” the gumshoe snarled. “Can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out.”
“I am innocent of any foolishness you believe,” the CEO said smoothly, leaning forward. “What is it you think you’ve figured out, old man?”
“I followed the money. I found out how you work the bribes.”
“All the dirty money the politicians have been taking all these years, it got pumped into media ads.”
“That has absolutely nothing to do with —“
“Just listen. So when people call for taking the dirty money out of politics, the media ignore it. They can’t lose all that revenue, they’d be cutting their own throats. You started to notice how many politicians who never worked an honest job were buying second and third homes.”
“You’re still not connecting any dots to me or my company.”
“OK, dot this. You used to have an army of sales reps going from doctor to doctor peddling your newest drugs, but it was taking too long to get rich and you had to pay all those reps, so you greased some politicians to make selling medicine on TV legal again. You fired the reps and turned the patients into your sales force. ‘Ask your doctor if this pill is right for you. Oh, it could kill you, but you’ll feel better and your skin will clear up.’”
“Oh, puh-leeze —“
“But that wasn’t enough. You wanted it all. So you and the state got married — you sell them the drugs, they give them out ‘free,’ and they make it a law to take them. Why not, it’s free, and you and your family could die if you don’t.”
“Are you serious? We’re saving lives here.”
“You’re getting filthy rich, filthier and richer than you ever imagined, and the media watchdogs — what a laugh — they’re laying down and shutting up anyone who’s onto you because politicians and drug companies are their two biggest sources of income.”
“This — conspiracy theory — is what you ‘figured out after all this time’? These absurd lies and misinformation? You foolish man.”
“I’m bringing you in, Fitzsimmons. The game’s over.”
The man at the desk began to chuckle.
“Oh, I don’t think so.” He pressed a button.
Three burly men entered the room.
+ + + + +
“…And that’s the real story,” the homeless man told the reporter. “Next thing I knew, I was out of a job and on the street. No one would believe me, or if they did, they didn’t have the guts to buck Big Pharma and the state.”
“That’s a lot of — I don’t know what it is, but it’s a lot of something,” said the reporter. “You got any proof, any documents, any shred of evidence?”
“It was all in my computer and my files,” the raggedy man said. “Erased and burned long ago, I suppose.”
“Right. Well, I can’t take this to my editors like this. It would make sense to the conspiracy nuts, but you have one thing right — all those drug and political ads pay my salary.”
“And to hell with the truth, right?”
“That IS the truth,” the reporter said. “People gotta eat. Gotta feed the family.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” the disgraced cop said. “Maybe I just thought I’d let you know what kind of people are paying your salary.”
“I guess I’ve always known,” the reporter said. “But it’s bigger than us. And I do like knowing where my next meal is coming from.”
“I hear you,” said the homeless man, turning to the door. “Have a nice life, and remember to take your pills.”