"This is bullshit! Where's my lawyer! Where's my phone call!"
"Typical," the cop said, "always wanting to be on your damn phone."
It was an air-conditioned, fluorescent-lighted room with a mirror, a chair, and a short folding table. Was probably in the early evening, not that there was a clock or a clue about the outside world from the interrogation room. I was seated in front of the two cops who had brought me in, one balding and seated, and the other heavy-set and standing menacingly at my back.
"I know my rights. You have to charge me or let me go."
"That's not how it works. You answer our questions, and then we can process you. Refusing to cooperate just makes you look guiltier." The seated cop was fingering a set of papers cased in manila, looking through it. "There's a good case against you, and you're not helping yourself by keeping quiet."
The large one at my back said, "Yeah, do the right thing."
"Do the right thing? What, are you guys are running good-cop, good-cop on me? You really don't know what you're doing."
"We know that you were at the scene. We can prove that you're affiliated with people who want the victim gone, and we can establish a timeline where you did the deed. And you still haven't given an alibi. You're out of your depth here."
The manila folder spilled onto the metal table. Some gritty black and white photographs cascaded across at me. I winced and looked away, but not before glimpsing the sight of a balled up figure, lying on its side. There were closeups of the face.
"Not proud of your handiwork, are you? Too gruesome to look at, but it must not have bothered you at the time. That's Thomas M. Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications. Those photographs were taken after he received the news about the quarterly reports for Q1 2021's earnings and projections. He was so distraught at what you, and your kind," the cop was nearly spitting, "in dereliction of your economic duty have done to the fine industry of cable television that he was prone and crying, inconsolable in his office. Had to take a long lunch afterward."
The other larger cop walked around to the side of the table and leaned down towards me. "Scumbags like you make me sick. No conscience. No remorse."
"They demanded a cut to his bonus. Now he'll have to finance his second yacht, instead of buying it outright."
The crying face was wiped away, followed by more shuffling of the manila envelope, dumping graphs and charts onto the stainless steel interrogation table. Demographic breakdowns of subscriptions by age group, overall analysis of the preferences of the nationwide market between cable, satellite and competing streaming and VOD services. A series of pie charts depicting the decreasing share of cable when compared against other video sources. Subscription tallies and viewership numbers typed in tiny font above a hand-written red pen scrawl circled and underlined that simply read: millennials.
"No, this is wrong, this is all wrong!" I said, trying to understand what they were saying, "this is all just marketing analysis, some nonsense insider corporate clerical work! That's not evidence! And besides, it's not like you can just walk up and push a shiv into an entire business model. When an industry dies, it's because the market as a whole decided they were a poor choice, not just me!"
"Then why don't you have a cable subscription?" the seated cop was leaning forward. "Don't you like TV? Don't you like shows?"
"Well, it's the commercials. You watch a thirty minute program, maybe 8-10 minutes of it is just advertisements for other things, on top of the subscription fee that you pay. The ratio of annoying advertising for garbage you don't even want to actual content is so high, and the shows aren't even that good. It's all just... vapid filler!"
The bald cop stood up, smirking. "That's motive. You can't wiggle out of that one. You talk a big game, but you just gave us everything we need. They'll make an example out of you, punk."
The bigger cop moved behind me again, cuffing me. We were going back to the detention area, where there were other millennials, accused of similar crimes. Had spoken with the mass of thirty-something suspects and perpetrators in their converse shoes and faux-hawks and pixie bobs and skinny jeans, brought in as a punishment for the destruction of various industries. They didn't buy expensive diamond rings, taxi cabs, the brunch rush, bar soap, Kraft cheese, plastic straws or Applebee's. Among the hardened criminals who had abstained from consuming in the markets of these outdated and undesirable products, we were packed in like sardines in a can.
Back in detention, uncuffed, I composed myself. They knew about my not having a cable subscription, but they didn't know about my collection of pirated .mp4s of Kitchen Nightmares. At least, I hope they didn't. An indignant yell went up from the detainees as a uniformed officer walked down the hall, carrying a plate of avocado toast into one of the interrogation rooms. Somebody was snitching.
Nearby, a man was talking fast and testy, about fabric softener.
"Yeah, you know what? I did it! I killed fabric softener! Snuck up on it in a blind alley and shellacked it when they least expected it! Plunged my thumbs down into its market shares and squeezed until national sales had declined by 26%. I do my laundry every week without buying an unnecessary, polluting, and skin-irritating product that doesn't actually make clothes any cleaner! And if they let me out, I'll do it again."
Chills went down my spine. This was a dangerous place.
"Your bail is posted. Go back to the front desk and they'll process you," an officer had said.
What? I didn't know who this could be.
I walked back to the front desk, led by the cops, and saw a tall mysterious figure in a business suit. He looked at me through tinted glasses, cold, professionally. His grooming gave him a youngish appearance, but he must have been at least fifty. The police handed back my possessions at the time of arrest: an Invader Zim wallet, a smartphone with Protomen stickers on the back, and a gas station receipt. They read off the limitations of my bail, but all I could wonder is what would happen next? How much money did he put up for me, and why?
"You may be wondering," he intoned deeply as we walked out the front door of the police station, "who exactly I am."
"My dear bestie," he began again slowly, "call me Aleksi. You may consider me a seasoned expert in the matters of the murder of a business. I myself had a run-in with the police during the 1990s when they found an Aerosmith CD in my car, and they attempted to prosecute me for the killing of the entire cassette tape industry."
"Yeah? And how'd that go."
"They wanted to railroad me, and they nearly did. Half a billion annual sales of cassettes, dropped to nearly nothing, and they put it all on my head. Those music industry brutes are really without mercy, and TV is nearly as bad. Miraculously though, I was saved by a friend of mine. The only catch was that I had to do this friend a small favor in return for the kindness he showed me regarding my legal trouble. Do you understand what I am saying?"
"Yeah, I think so. And what kind of favor am I going to owe?"
"Just a little problem that should have been cleared up a long time ago."
He paused for a beat.
"How much do you know about the Funko Pop toy industry?"