Detective Brody 2

5 – Reel Problems –

A week later, Brody was backstage in the auditorium. By then, everybody running had handed in their applications for the student body. Today, every student at George Gentry had gathered to hear the applicants could to announce their candidacy.

Brody had spent the last few days worrying about the state of their school. He didn't feel like he could talk to Natalie or Sal about it, because he was convinced they'd already chosen their sides. After all, Sal had once believed that Natalie poisoned Rylan's event on purpose because of how she felt about the wealthier kids, and Sal himself as only mildly less offended by them.

But that didn't mean he'd just given up and settled into worrying. Instead, he'd started learning more about the school. He knew that he'd missed a lot when all he did was play rugby and go to parties he wanted out of, so he asked lots of questions about what was going on.

He emulated his little sister's never-ending curiosity and wrote down what he remembered at home in a diary, looking for a way to show everybody that they worked better together.

What he was relieved to find, however, was that the majority of students didn't really care about how much money their friends parents had. Rylan was a very popular girl who kept up a very cordial personality in public, and the same was true for Paris. Even though he and Tate were currently in a fight, Brody knew he was a kind person at heart who would never hurt anyone else.

That, at the very least, filled him with hope.

Brody wasn't backstage because he running for student council, though the thought had crossed his mind in the early hours when he couldn't fall asleep. He was there to support Grant and the rest of the AV Club as a Happy Helper.

"Woah, Grant, slow down," he called, pointing at one of the loose cables his friend was carrying. Grant had been hyperactive all morning. This was his first big job as president of the AV Club, so he was eager to make it a success.

As successful as a school assembly could be.

He couldn't help but feel that they were presiding over a presidency job Rylan and Rebecca were willing to go to war over. Though most of the school was oblivious to the ongoing build-up to the election, a handful of students had already started taking sides. On FaceSpace and shortof, people had started including references to who they were voting for. But all of those students were already on either Team Rylan and Team Gina, with no other names in sight.

It seems like Rebecca had already lost, so he had a little less to worry about, even if it did mean handing Rylan the reins to the school.

As they finished helping set up, Brody had to remind himself that it seemed worse than it really was. Last year, like most of the rugby team, he hadn't even voted. Instead they'd used the free periods during school hours to sneak away and hang out at Tate's house.

"Brody," Madison, one of the girls from from the student council called. Standing up, he could see that she was a petite girl. The mass of curly brown hair on her head was probably half her weight. "We've saved a seat for you upfront, if you want."

He shook his head, not bothering to give her clear shot at his confidence a vocal response. Did the student council think all he needed to do was time to walk off his opinions as if they were a sports injury?

Eventually he found Natalie's head in the crowd and settled in between her and Sal. The theatre was packed; every student in the school was there, it was a mandatory assembly after all, but his front-row/back-row dynamic still applied. The rugby and baseball teams were horsing around in the very back, threatening any lesser students who got too close to their enclave with a variety of stern looks.

A few rows in from them were the less popular kids who couldn't be bothered, up until the front where the popular, socially active kids sat. In the front row, with an empty seat as they'd promised, were the student council. Right behind them sat the potential candidates, including Rylan and Gina and their respective right hand girls.

Though he stood by turning down the offer from the student council, he was disappointed to find his own seat so far behind. He, Sal and Natalie were sitting just in front of the alternative kids who based their entire identities on what strange genre of music was the least popular that year.

Sal had helped him get into the seat, taking one of his hands as they shuffled around. He held it for a bit longer than was necessary, so Brody looked up to catch his line of sight. Sal's eyes were searching his as if looking for some sort of sign, but Brody immediately broke eye contact to scan the theatre for better seats. Still, Sal held on.

When the piercing noise of the PA system came online, Sal quickly took his hand back. Brody felt confused; Sal was a great guy who was pretty cute if he ignored all of the punk rock trappings. Like any guy with a heartbeat, he might have been interested if they weren't already such good friends, but he was more preoccupied with the ongoing divide within the school.

Plus, he still had spectre of the Alan thing hanging over his head. He hadn't gotten any more messages from Alan since Grant was last in the hospital, but it wasn't truly over until Brody came clean about it to his family, and his friends. No matter how much damage it would do, he had to get it off his chest eventually.

"Welcome, students," Principal Trilby crooned, the excitement obvious in his voice. "To another wondrous election cycle!"

"I'll start from the beginning; for the freshman's sake," he said to many moans and groans. "Your candidates have all officially submitted their applications for the three positions in student government that will be open next year; Committees Coordinator, Sports Coordinator and the most widely contested seat; Student Body President!"

Though they tried to hide it for fear of being branded lame for caring about student government by their friends, there was a quiet furore amongst the students.

Principal Trilby then proceeded to go over how the campaign process would work. The week after thanksgiving until the penultimate week of the semester, the candidates could partake in some light campaigning. For the final week of school before winter break, they could campaign harder. The election would then take place on the final day of the semester.

"Exciting, isn't it?" he said. "What a way to end the year!"

"Yawn," Sal said sarcastically. Brody surprised himself by joining Natalie in shushing him.

"Now I'll invite each candidate on stage, accompanied by a short video they've prepared to woo the voters," Trilby explained. "Ah, the smell of democracy in the morning."

They began with the candidates for Committees Co-ordinator, who were joined on stage by Madison. She beamed an unnaturally large smile across the room. Each of them spoke for a few minutes, before then playing a short campaign video on the large projector Grant and the AV Club had set up. It went on like that for so long that almost everybody was on their phone by the time Rylan finally got up.

Her speech was a rehash of what she'd forced on them at her birthday party, but Brody listened to her intently, watching the crowd when she paused. He couldn't believe how concerned he'd become about a school election in such a short span of time, especially since he hadn't even voted the year before.

"Now, I've prepared a short video for you all," Rylan said, turning up the charisma so high that some students actually looked up from their phones. "I hope you enjoy it."

As soon as the video began, Brody knew something was wrong.

The first sign was the obviously shaky camera and the unbridled laughter. When Rylan finally came into focus, she looked much less perfect than usual. Her hair was down, messy, and she was wearing a boxy set of oversized pyjamas.

"Are you going to the Fox Hall alumni party this weekend?" Paris' voice called. The camera quickly spun round to put her in frame. She was sitting at a large wooden vanity, wearing a cerulean, lace baby-doll dress. Another girl, one of their many friends, was doing her hair up into a messy bun.

"I'm not sure," Rylan said. "I've kind of soured on it ever since I quit. There's more to do at school right now."

"No way Rylan!" whoever was behind the camera called, shaking vigorously so the camera spun in wild circles. "We've got to go; you don't even have any plans this weekend."

"The key to being successful isn't having many plans, it's having good plans," Rylan insisted. "When that doesn't work out, you rest."

"What does that mean?" asked the girl who was brushing Paris' hair. Paris picked up a perfume bottle and gave her signature devious smile in lieu of an answer.

"Romeo Opperman got the Sickle Cell Anaemia event the school is hosting this weekend," Rylan admitted. "Instead of us."

"The student council decided the Disability Outreach Club was more worthy than the Charity Association, better synergy."

The air quotes she put around 'synergy' were the most venomous Brody had ever seen.

"The student council at George Gentry is a nightmare to work with right now," Paris said, putting the perfume down and turning her head to Rylan. "It's like they have a bone to pick with us."

"You're being paranoid, Paris," Rylan said.

"You might be right there," Paris responded in kind. "I guess they're just incompetent."

"Wow, you really don't pull any punches, Paris," the girl behind the camera said with a laugh. With that bit of approval, Paris righted herself in her seat and continued to speak.

"Take Rebecca DeRuyter; I have no idea how somebody whose main campaign strategy was a veteran father and baked goods so bland she should have had them store-bought could have gotten so far."

"By the way," the girl who had started out Paris hair began, lazily untangling some strands of her own red locks with her fingers. "Who is Romeo Opperman, anyways?"

"DOC president? With the weird eye?" the girl behind the camera said. Back in the real world, the auditorium responded with a bruising moan, the sort associated with a low blow. On stage, Rylan's eyes widened and she yelled at whoever was backstage.

"Exactly," Paris said. "I mean, I don't find his brand of bleeding heart social work all that appealing. But it's clear that-"

And then it stopped.

Without a second thought, Brody rushed on to the stage where a very angry looking Principal Trilby was speaking with one of Grant's friends from the AV Club.

"Where's Grant?" Rylan said, sidestepping them both and heading backstage. "This is a serious violation of my privacy."

"Your privacy?" Rebecca said, ambling up behind her with August in tow. Not wanting anything else to go wrong, and genuinely fearing for Grant's safety, Brody followed after them, closely followed by Principal Trilby.

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh," Grant was saying as he connected and disconnected wires on a complex looking pair of devices that was attached to a boxy laptop computer with two additional keyboards. He looked up to see Rylan marching towards him and his hands crumbled to his sides.

"I'm so sorry, Rylan! I have no idea what happened. I'm so sorry!" he apologized as Brody quickly put himself in Rylan's path.

"What do you think you're going to do?" Brody said sternly, putting every ounce of energy he had into his intimidating glare. It worked so well that even Rebecca, who had been a few feet behind, stopped in her tracks.

"I'm going to talk to Grant and ask him exactly why a private video of me and my friends was broadcast instead of my election packet!" Rylan shouted.

"So we can skip over the contents of said video?" Rebecca said haughtily. She stood taller than before, confident in something, but Brody couldn't see why. The whole school had just seen a sophomore insult her soft campaign strategy, after all.

"Principal Trilby, I move to have Rylan struck from the ballot based on the statements she made in that video," she said. Brody had never seen Rylan's eyes so wide; she seemed genuinely scared of what would come next. "On the basis that she is a bully."

Brody hated himself a little for it, but he could understand Rylan's pain. If any of his private conversations whilst he was on the rugby team were to come out, they'd reveal a lot of posturing and rudeness that he hadn't even meant at the time, but how would he ever prove that?

He'd said a lot of mean things, just to get a laugh out of his team mates. It wasn't fair to his targets, but would it be fair to him if they stopped him from doing something he really loved? Though Rylan was overly ambitious and very devious, she wasn't evil.

It seemed Principal Trilby was much less keen, considering the way his eyes travelled around the dark space behind the stage.

"I understand that tempers have been inflamed, Ms. DeRuyter," he said finally, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. In the low light, Brody caught a glimpse of a light sweat on his temple. "But Ms. Allbright's statements were hardly verbal harassment. I can hardly remove her from the race just because of her controversial views on veterans, either."

"Then what about what they said about Romeo?" August chimed in. "That was definitely hate speech."

"You can't get Rylan out of the race because of something another person said," Brody said. From the corner of his eye, he could see Rylan's look of suspicion, but he ignored it. "She didn't defend him, but she didn't add to it either."

"Mr. Delatour, whose presence here is baffling to say the least, is correct," Principal Trilby agreed. "We're not a fancy private school with a zero tolerance approach to bullying, we believe in a nuanced dialogue-based approach here at George Gentry."

"If Ms. Allbright is willing to give me the name of her friend behind the camera, I would be more than glad to set up an apology round table with Mr. Opperman."

"But-" Rebecca started, but Trilby raised his hand to stop her. The multitude of rings that adorned it still glimmered in the dim backstage light.

"If you push this issue any further, all you will be doing is legitimizing Ms. Allbright's criticism of your conduct," Trilby explained. "I believe that you have given this school nothing but the best service over this past year, and I would like to see the impeccable conduct that was part of that continue."

Though Rebecca and August didn't look pleased, they left without another word.

"Now; to the issue at hand," Principal Trilby said. "Mr. Tsui, would you like to explain how this gross technical error occurred?"