William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Forty-Six

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Sambat Chodhoury, known to his friends and enemies alike as Baker, sat back in the Aeron chair and waited as the  video link stabilized.  Mr. Kessler has some questions for you, Hammermill told him.

So let him ask.  Baker had a direct link to Kessler and they spoke at least twice a week, so he was pissed off at having to be here today.  Hammermill was a quicker man than he had anticipated, and Baker was good at anticipating men.

As section chief for California, Washington, and Oregon, Baker was responsible for the overall management of three SUBA kitchens, representing more than half of their global production.  Under his leadership, market shares had grown more then 12% annually for the last four years.  The recent acquisition of the Avenal Mexican Brothers kitchen was a new feather in his cap.

“Mr. Kessler is currently in Costa Rica.”  Hammermill sat across from him.  “We had a retreat there last month.  We went fishing. I caught a porpoise.  Had to let it go.”

“I don’t like you,” Baker told him.  “I’m working on an internal investigation.  If it impacts you, I will let you know.”

Hammermill put his feet up on the table.  “It already impacts me,” he said.  “I love what I saw on the surveillance of LaPorte’s recent lab activities.  I figured that this new chemistry was yours and I like it very much.  The implications for us are huge.  Can you attenuate it?  Can you manufacture it in bulk, because there are some profit-sharing issues that need to be resolved.?”

Baker frowned as the connection was made.  Both men looked up as Luther Kessler’s face appeared on the screen.

“You look well, sir,” Hammermill said.

“What’s the problem?”  Kessler asked.  “I don’t like problems.”

Hammermill took his feet off the table.  “Problem is this,” he began.  “We had a clear understanding that LaPorte was going to work with us.  Our contract with the Department of Corrections, providing them with calming and addictive products is very specific.  The governor has not only endorsed this project but increased its funding.  We make the prisoners docile.  This reduces the per-capita incarceration costs.”

“That is my understanding,” Kessler said.

“But then Mr. Baker here retasked Mr. LaPorte.  Had him working on a new composite that appears to kill mice but might have promise in terms of docility.”

“Docility,” Kessler repeated.

“It means calming.  If attenuated and reduced and properly dosed, this new chemical component could make prisoner care far less expensive.  And if that’s the case, Sentec is entitled to the contract, since we bought LaPorte.”

“I know what docility means, Brice.”  Kessler frowned.  “But from what I hear, this stuff kills most people, and those who live are brain-dead.”

“For now,” Hammermill interjected.  “Remember when they did the first human testing array for NutraSweet?  Six hundred Nicaraguans went blind.  Good things take time.  All I’m saying is that La Porte is ours now and if this product survives a beta test and makes its way to California prisons, Sentec should benefit.”

Kessler picked at a tooth.  “What do you say, Baker?”

Baker shrugged.  “I told you a number of year ago that Adam LaPorte was the best I’ve ever seen.  I made him chief Candlestick maker for that very reason.  He wanted out.  We told him no.  He wanted out real bad, we told him no, then we made him pay and found him a job at one of our legit enterprises.  So what does it matter?  He still works for us, right?”

Hammermill rolled his eyes.  “Look,” he said, “I run a very profitable unit here.  This state currently incarcerates more than 160,000 felons.  Our donuts and snack cakes are eaten by upwards of 60% of those.  We’re expanding.  If LaPorte gets our current snack project online, we have assurances from the governor that we can move into every correctional facility in the state.  It saves them money.”

“It saves them money,” Kessler agreed.

“I’m not sure if you get the papers down there,” Hammermill continued, “but the governor unveiled his new budget today.  There’s nothing in there about prisons, do you know why?”

Kessler’s face stared from the monitor.  “Yes, Brice,” he said.  “I know why because I spoke to Mr. Schwarzenegger yesterday.  I told him I could reduce costs so that he wouldn’t have to renegotiate with the prison guards union, and do you know what he said?”

“What?” Hammermill asked.

“He said, ‘Do it,’”  Kessler said the words in the accent that every Californian now used when imitating the new governor.

“So what does that mean for us?” Hammermill asked.

Baker stood up and stuffed the briefing packet into his case.  “It means that we can encourage Mr. LaPorte’s activities and profit jointly.  I’ll take 75% of the franchise, if it ever comes to be.”

“No way,” said Hammermill.  “You sold him to me.  I get at least 75%.”

“Shut up,” Kessler boomed.  “Baker gets half, you get half.  I’m glad we’re agreed.”

Hammermill shook his head.  “You’re a hard man,” he said.

Kessler grinned.  “That’s why they call me the Butcher.”

Written by williamdoonan

July 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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