Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: Never comes up. But Hardison and Eliot are still together.
Warnings: Nothing really.
Word Count: 2040
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the soundtrack would be Kane.
Summary: Leverage 2.0 takes on the queen of modeling.
“Beauty is a business and I'm the CEO,” a woman murmurs to the camera. She is tall and elegant, her cheekbones sharp as daggers and her lips a crimson slash against her mocha skin. “But unlike most supermodels, I seek to share my talents. Join me as I teach sixteen lucky women how to succeed in fashion – how to bite and claw their way right to the top. Because modeling is more than a job; it's a constant battle for survival and I've brought you front row seats.”
She waves her hand and text scrolls across the screen above her head. Watch reruns of American Supermodel! 10pm CST on UPN 44! Don't miss the shocking twist that changed the face of modeling!
“I'll see you then,” the woman purrs and then the picture fades to black.
“Hey, did you hear? That model woman, Jennifer Brooks, the one from the TV show, she actually got arrested!”
“What? No way!”
“Yeah, apparently she was taking bets and then rigging the whole thing. Or maybe it was knockoff sweatshops; I can't remember which.”
“But she always seemed so nice. Even when the contestants were being super bitchy, she just kept on smiling.”
“Booze and Valium.”
“Nope. J-Lo was tweeting all about it. Apparently her whole persona was a lie and now the Feds are taking her to trial for fraud and gambling.”
“How'd they find out?”
“No idea. Maybe she forgot about the hidden cameras. They showed some private footage during the final episode and damn, that bitch is mean. I heard that Brooks even faked last season's cancer story and now her modeling contract has been dropped by Maybelline.”
“Well, yeah. Who fakes a cancer scare? That just isn't right.”
“I know. But I liked that show. Especially the makeovers. Now I'll probably have to go back to watching Chopped instead.”
“Are you kidding? This will probably be awesome for the ratings. I bet they'll just pull in some new supermodel and keep it going anyway. There's always a fresh batch of girls who want to make it big.”
WITNESS THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT THIS CONTEST the television flashes as the final episode of American Supermodel cuts to a commercial break. DO NOT MUTE YOUR TV!
The frozen image of Jennifer Brooks smiling at her last two contestants suddenly begins to change. Lines spread across the picture like cracking glass before the frame dissolves to show a different scene.
Now the woman is sitting in an office, a bottle of wine in one hand and a sharpie in the other. Brooks is still quite beautiful, her hair up in a twist and the barest hint of makeup brushed across her cheeks, but the look in her eyes is almost lethal as she stares down at the headshots spread across her desk.
“Fat,” the model hisses, scrawling the word across one picture. “Ugly. Slut. Prude. Ghetto.”
With each word, she takes a drink and marks another picture until every single photo is labeled with thick black lettering. Brooks' smile is cruel as she stares down at her contestants, the other women barely visible beneath her vicious scrawl.
“I swear these stupid girls get younger ever year,” the woman mutters. “Pretty little bitches who think they can be queen. None of you deserve my throne – you're all so fucking weak.”
The model drains her bottle and pulls her hair pin free, a wave of silken curls tumbling down her back. Brooks spreads the photos across her desk before closing her eyes and throwing her pin into the air. The metal spike spins end over end until it thunks into her desk, skewering a photo to the wood.
“Hmm. Well that's a new one,” the woman murmurs with a perfect throaty laugh. “But I do like a challenge. Season Twelve – the fat girl wins.”
“Who let you in here? We're in the middle of filming the finale! Where's my damn security?”
“We have every right to be here, ma'am. Your show will have to wait. Are you Jennifer Brooks?”
“Of course I am. Don't you recognize me?!”
“Sorry, ma'am. I don't follow television. But you'll have to come with me. We have discovered that you owe the US government several million dollars in back taxes and it's time to settle up.”
“What?! No, there's been a mistake. Someone is trying to destroy my reputation.”
“We're not here about your reputation. The IRS does not deal in gossip.”
“You don't have anything on me. You can't! I've paid my taxes!”
“On your salary, yes. However, you've been failing to report quite a lot of income from your online wagers and your little handbag ring. In fact, our friends in the FBI would like to have a conversation with you about the penalties for fraud and running sweatshops. Not to mention betting on a contest that you've fixed.”
“I- I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Then allow me to enlighten you. There's quite a lot of evidence. Now, you can join me willingly or you can leave in handcuffs. Please make your choice right now.”
“You are going to pay for this you slimy little toad. I swear one day you will.”
“Whatever you say, ma'am. Handcuffs it is.”
“..............Tell me you got that on camera.”
“From start to finish, boss. In high def and seven angles. You can see the fury in her eyes.”
“You've just earned yourself a bonus. Have the other judges get these girls a winner; I need to call this show's producer and tell him we've got gold.”
Jennifer isn't sure about this new photographer. Sure he looks the part, but she has a feeling that he'd be much happier working on a ranch somewhere than in her studio. Maybe it's the accent; she's always hated that stupid southern twang and she can feel her teeth start grinding at the first “Yes, ma'am.”
However, she enjoys crushing dreams beneath her size six Gucci boots far too much to let a little irritation put a wrench into her plans. Today's challenge is designed to make these stupid girls hate themselves a little more whenever they look into the mirror and she knows that Ghetto is on the edge of cracking if she just twists the screws a bit. That contestant is the front runner at the moment and she needs Fat to win.
So Jennifer dismisses the photographer from her mind as she prepares for her grand entrance, taking a moment to ensure that every hair is still in place. But just as she brushes by the man to go address her bitches, that stupid accent murmurs, “You know that bag is fake?”
She whirls around and the photographer's disarming smile does nothing to ease the pounding of her heart. Jennifer knows the bag is fake but no one else was supposed to – no one else has ever seen through her perfect replicas.
“How?” she gasps before regaining her self-control. If this man is some kind of undercover cop, he won't catch her out that easily. “It can't be fake. I paid full price for this.”
“Then you were well and truly gypped. That's a distinctive pattern there and the stitching isn't right,” the photographer replies before moving to his station and prepping for the shoot. Jennifer stares after him, her thoughts racing wildly. Was that a first attempt at blackmail or some friendly advice from a man who loves designer handbags? Is her operation in any jeopardy?
Whoever this bastard is, he is so damn fired. And just in case, I'm moving everything, Jennifer decides just as her PA runs in to find her. For the first time in twelve seasons, the model missed her cue.
Indeed, she's so distracted by her worry that she gives her girls their new assignment without even destroying their self-esteem like she'd been planning to.
“Man, this woman is a piece of work. Sweatshops, gambling, just plain old bitchiness. I wouldn't let her be in charge of my pet rock, let alone a group of people.”
“Well, someone did, and now she's torturing young women a few dozen at a time. Have you watched the extra footage? She could teach the CIA about breaking people's spirits and I've seriously been in prison camps much nicer than that house.”
“So where do we strike? The money or her reputation? Which one would hurt her more?”
“Don't be silly. We hit both. I doubt she's been paying taxes on her illegal revenue so we steal the evidence. Send it to the IRS and get Brooks arrested extremely publicly.”
“You know, I still have McSweeten's number. The IRS and the FBI would be a double whammy and it's not like she's out of jurisdiction. This woman's crimes are crossing a whole slew of state lines. Have our buddy pick her up right during filming and then half our job is done.”
“Don't they film these things in advance? What if the studio decides to cover up the truth?”
“We don't let them. As soon as she's arrested, we start to Tweet about it. I get the social media going, some viral marketing and by the time the show starts airing, Jennifer Brooks will be the only thing that folks can talk about. Hell, this is LA. The producers will probably help us vilify her since that would boost their ratings and I can edit a few commercials to show her being psycho if they don't take the bait.”
“I'll take your word for it. Just let me know if anything needs punching.”
“Then we have a plan of action and we had best get to it. According to your information, the season's halfway over and we need to get our evidence before the show is done.”
“Jennifer Brooks ruined my little sister's life,” the woman says from her seat on the couch. “People always used to say that she should model and when she got the offer, she just thought it would be fun. A brief lark before she went to college and if she happened to win, then maybe she could make it a career.
“April was a good kid. A little brash, but happy, and now she won't even leave her room. She's terrified of having her picture taken and won't go near a cell phone for fear of being secretly recorded. I can barely even get her to eat; she just keeps saying that Jennifer told her she was chubby and I don't know what to do.
“My sister got second, you know. She was there for weeks and while I could hear her changing over the phone, I just put it down to nerves. I was so stupid. That woman was destroying her – destroying all of them – and I should have brought her home. I should have protected her.
“I knew something was seriously wrong the moment that I saw her, but things didn't get really bad until the show came out. A few lines out of context and they turned her into a villain; private conversations made April seem like a psycho while Jennifer always came out so sincere. My sweet little sister got death threats, actual death threats, and when I tried to contact the other contestants, a team of lawyers was suddenly knocking at my door.
“I don't care about the money; I'll pay you all I have. I just want the world to see Jennifer Brooks for the evil bitch she is. Maybe then my sister will finally believe me when I say it's not her fault.”
“You don't need to pay us,” Parker answers. “People like Brooks…they have all the money, all the power, and they use it to make people like you go away. You're suffering under an enormous weight, and we're here to give you leverage.