Detective Brody 3

8 – Links –

"Brody! Wait up!" Grant shouted, flagging him down in the parking lot. It was the first time Brody had seen him all day, since Grant was in a lot of Honors and advanced classes whilst Brody was still in normal classes. They shared two or three classes, but ever since Grant had gone into Honor's Science Brody saw much less of him on a daily basis.

It suddenly occurred to Brody that he too could apply for advanced classes now that his grades had gone up, but he dismissed the thought. He wasn't all that excited to pile on more schoolwork.

But seeing all of Grant's new ensembles would certainly make up for it. Today he was wearing a white down jacket that had been dip dyed purple, creating an ombre effect.

"That jacket is amazing," Brody said. He was half jealous, whilst his other half was trying to decide if he could pull it off. Though examining his own heavy, plum coloured button-down sweater made him feel a little better.

"Yeah it is, got it at a yard sale," Grant explained. "Not sure if I look the best in it though."

"Sure you do," Brody said, hoping he wasn't coming on too strong. It was a fine line commenting on his best male friend's clothing without seeming flirty. "So what do did you want to talk about?"

"AV Club's out for the day, so I thought we could hang out," he said. "Hang with Riv, do homework, the usual."

"No problem," Brody said. "Get in."

_Imagine+a+Triangle_

LaFayette Digital Studios was in a fancy building in lower Fairfax. The business district wasn't an area Brody was familiar with, so he was glad that he'd decided to come after school when office hours were still in effect. Aside from a few patrons lazing around coffee shops and indulgent patisserie shops, there were very few people around.

It was hard to find parking; the building LaFayette was in had a key system for it's underground lot, so he drove right into the first space he found on the pavement. It gave him a good view of the skyscraper that stood before him.

"Where are you going?" Grant asked, looking from Brody to Riven, who they had picked up from Ritter a few minutes earlier. "When you said this was a small detour, I thought you meant Almondos."

"Don't look at me," Riven said, her eyes not wavering from the old British novel she was sizing up in the back-seat.

"I want to talk to somebody," Brody explained. "You're coming right?"

Grant looked tense for a moment before nodding his head and getting out of the car. After going over the safety routine he'd set in place when he started driving Riven around ten or so times, Brody left his sister to her own devices.

Though the building itself was quite impressive, LaFayette Digital Studios' office was not. It was on the ground floor, right by what seemed to be a janitor's closet.

But if Cherri LaFayette had anything to say about it, it might as well have been on the French Riviera. She was a tall woman with beet red hair that Brody was sure came straight out of one of those industrial strength dyes that Kash and Tate had experimented with for a while.

Clad in a no-nonsense emerald green business suit that Brody recalled seeing on a clearance rack in a department store a few weeks ago, she spoke a mile a minute. As soon as they'd walked into the office, she set her sights on Grant, aiming lots of personal questions at him as if Brody were just a prop.

The office was open plan, and the only person there aside from Cherri was a blonde programmer who had her head buried in her work and a large set of headphones over her ears. Brody figured that was the only way anybody could get any work done with Cherri around.

"Mrs. LaFayette," Brody managed to cut in once she'd invited them to sit down. "We're here to ask a few questions."

"Of course, social media stardom is full of mystery and glamour, but you can't just sign your life and image rights away without asking a few questions," she said happily, exuding a sense of glamour that Brody couldn't believe fit inside her small office. "Are you his manager?"

"Manager?" Brody repeated. "We're not here to hire you, Mrs. LaFayette."

"Call me Cherri," she said, speaking to Brody but looking at Grant, as if examining him.

"Cherri," Brody tested out, half-expecting his grandmother to pop out from behind the plastic fern behind Cherri's desk and admonish him for calling an adult by their first name. "We're here to talk about Clayton."

Watching Cherri's reaction was like seeing a lightly distorted video, as if certain frames had been removed from a video. Brody remembered it vividly from troubleshooting descriptions in the HDX03 Manual he'd read last year. First, she looked shocked, then annoyed, before she settled on sombre.

"Oh my dear Clayton," she said, the sadness in her voice so pitch perfect that Brody wasn't sure it was real. "It's terrible what happened to him, and he hasn't been returning my calls since then."

"He didn't even call me when the media showed up to his school, such a golden opportunity," she continued. "Not to discount how horrible the crime itself was."

"Do you go to school with him?" she asked, still staring at Grant so intently that he had no choice but to nod.

"We do," Brody confirmed, feeling a little lighter. Though he could tell now that Cherri's devastated demeanour was obviously for show, she'd inadvertently cleared herself of the incident whilst she was putting it on.

Which left him at yet another crossroads. He was already here, and she was a social media maven who knew everything about everything.

He needed to dig deeper.

"Was there anybody who wanted to hurt Clayton?" he asked. Cherri looked at him as if she'd just truly noticed he was there before narrowing her eyes.

"Are you with the police?" she asked.

"I'm not, I go to school with him," Brody reminded her. "I just want to find out what happened."

"You know, you have good bone structure and an upper body that was practically made for selfies," she said. "But this detective shtick would never sell. Not with social media, nor with me."

"You, on the other hand," she continued, turning back to Grant as if he were a prize. "Weren't you grant_goes_hollywood?"

Grant's eyes seemed to sink into the back of his head, and his skin turned pale. It was exactly like when he was hospitalized after getting .

"Are you okay?" Brody asked. His words seemed to pull Grant back from wherever he'd gone. A few deep breaths later, and Grant was back to normal.

"I don't do that anymore," was all he said.

"Shame, especially with the makeover," she said casually. "I'm always on the look out for a nerd-chic addition to my roster. Somebody who can take niche mainstream. You can't build an empire on make-up stylistas and fitness gurus alone."

"What do you mean?" Brody asked, but from the expression on Cherri's face she'd already checked out of the conversation.

"You'll find your own way out, I'm assuming."

_Imagine+a+Triangle_

Grant wasn't five steps out of the office before he collapsed in on himself. Using every ounce of reflex training from his rugby days, Brody reached out and caught him before it was too late. Though he was still awake, he was breathing heavily and tears were pouring from his eyes.

It wasn't long before Brody could feel his own heart racing. No matter how under pressure they'd ever been, Grant had never reacted this badly before. At least not when he was around Brody.

For the second time that day Brody found himself flashing back to Grant's stay at Reinhardt General. He'd been so keen to sue Rylan and the school, and he'd explained that it was because Brody wasn't the only one with secrets. As he held on to his friend, he felt a guilt build up in his gut. Though they had now known each other for over four months, Brody still didn't know much about Grant's past.

He used one arm to hold on to his friend, who was still sobbing quietly, and the other to walk alongside the corridor and make their way into a bathroom.

"Are you okay?" he asked once Grant's tears had stopped

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Grant said quietly, looking away. "You can just leave me here, if you want."

" Grant, why would I do that?" Brody asked, surprised by his own terse tone. "Why would I ever do that?"

"I dunno," Grant admitted. "I just figured you would after this finally happened."

"After what finally happened?" Brody repeated.

"Fear, I guess. Shame," Grant said, wiping his nose on his jacket and taking a deep breath. It was strange; he looked almost nostalgic. "It's been so long I kind of forgot what that felt like. It hit hard."

"I'm sorry," Brody said, not sure what he was apologizing for, but he walked over to Grant and tried to put his hands around him again.

Once Grant had told him what was going on, Brody felt as if his friend were a bundle of sticks just waiting to unravel and he needed to keep them together. Grant wasn't having it, he pushed Brody away and walked to the far side of the bathroom, which wasn't too far since it was quite cramped.

"You don't need to apologize," Grant said. "And you don't need to treat me like I'm a glass doll. I shouldn't have come in here once I knew who we were seeing."

"Mrs. LaFayette?" Brody asked.

"Not her specifically," Grant said. "Just any social media people."

"So you are grant_goes_hollywood?" Brody asked. As soon as he mentioned in, Grant froze completely still, but he didn't falter again. Brody wondered if he'd already cried out all of his tears and couldn't muster up any more.

"Put yourself together, man," Brody said, closing the gap between them and putting his hands on Grant's shoulders. "I know you can do it."

It took him a moment to realize he was mimicking Coach Bennett, word-for-word. For a moment he thought it best to pull away, but Grant took in a deep breath and smiled through tears.

"Thanks," he said.

"I was," Grant continued, pulling out his phone and typing in a few words. He showed the screen to Brody, who finally let go of his friends shoulder's to take a look.