25th of January – Season 2
When Bru Constantin got off his motorcycle and took off his helmet, he was surprised to find people staring. While he was surprised considering what Tendai Mathemba had told him had happened (or rather what hadn't happened) when he arrived here, he wasn't all that shocked by the looks, particularly from the women in the crowd. Bru was a handsome man, even being described by some people as a gorgeous human being. Bru credited his Mediterranean complexion as he was born in Mauritius. But tonight wasn't about him. At least it wasn't supposed to be.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the four-time Auto 1 All African Champion, gracing South Africa with his presence."
Bru smiled just from hearing her voice. "The ever-delightful Beatrix Honeycomb. Or is it Miss Honeycomb to me now?"
"Hey," said Beatrix, playfully punching him in the shoulder. "Don't you start with that 'miss' crap again. Did you forget how long it took me to stop you calling me that after I signed you as a client?"
"Oh, you mean after you stopped flirting with me now that I was a client," said Bru recalling their history from eight years ago.
"Well it would have been unprofessional of me to continue once we were in business," she said still playful.
"And you wonder why I started calling you 'miss' after that."
Beatrix's eyes widened, pretending to be shocked. "Oh so that was revenge, huh?" she said jumping up so that she could wrap her arm around his head, playfully wrestling him like they were playground friends. "Well, your revenge backfired because that's where I got the idea of 'Miss Honeycomb' as my broadcast name. So how about that?"
As Beatrix continued to wrestle Bru, Bru thought about their history and how he'd once had the biggest crush on Beatrix back in the day. He remembered it like he was yesterday: an eighteen-year-old young man fresh out of high school with a penchant for racing on an island with no market for it meeting a twenty-one-year-old daughter of an Auto 1 racing legend looking to sign her first client to manage. Her game had been on point, using her charm (and good looks) to get his attention. It had worked so well that by the time he'd been signed, he was sure that she'd liked him as much as he'd liked her.
In fact, Bru was certain of it because she'd been forced to send him away just to get over those feelings, at least from his point of view. Although how could he complain considering where he'd sent her to, the Racing Academy. To this day, he still didn't know how he'd gotten her into this desert-ridden, mysterious yet illustrious school but was sure it had way more to do with her father than her. By the time he'd returned, his racing skills had improved dramatically and his relationship with Beatrix had become far more professional... Minus the odd shoulder punch here and head wrestling move there.
"So, are you going to be joining me at the commentary booth?" she asked.
Bru's face said it all. "I just came to watch some honest-to-God racing, Bee."
She grabbed him by the arm before he'd even finished his sentence. "And now you'll be commentating on the races. Come."
While Bru was used to Beatrix's forceful yet playful nature, he wasn't in the mood to work tonight. "Wait Bee, stop. Look, I appreciate the opportunity but on an honest note, I'm always on the other side of the curtain when it comes to racing. For tonight, I want to watch the races as a fan. Be with the crowd, spectate."
Beatrix bit her lip in a way that made Bru's spine jolt. "Okay, but don't say I didn't give you an opportunity to make history." She thought a moment and grabbed his arm again. "Well at the very least, allow me to get you into the V.I.P. section..."
A few minutes later, Bru was seated in the V.I.P. section which was an old first class terminal of the old airport that overlooked the speedway. Thankfully, the exclusive nature of the area allowed Bru to get away from the staring eyes but unfortunately didn't keep him away from being noticed.
"I heard a rumor that there was an Auto 1 racer in our presence," said Solo Magubane smiling. "Here I half-expected Mathemba to be back to give me grief."
Bru immediately stood up and hugged Solo. "Not likely, man. Team Total has him doing brand ambassador stuff since Christmas." Bru continued upon Solo's bemused face. "I guess stealing your spot on that team is more than Tendai hoped for."
"Huh," said Solo. "And you? Team Shell doesn't need you doing brand ambassador stuff?"
"Nah, I'm famous already," joked Bru. "Then of course there's you. Someone that needs no introduction. I mean, what better way to be a brand ambassador than be Formula-X's golden boy. I'm sure Team Sasol is proud."
Solo scoffed. "They'll be proud once I win that Crown tonight. And then from there, I go back to Auto One and win that championship."
This time Bru scoffed. "Oh please. You and I both know Shell is winning the title this year and I will be Auto One champion for the fifth time."
Before Solo could banter back, there was a small commotion at the entrance to the terminal. They turned around to find three women in their forties arguing about something.
"Sherry, the Relay Baron title race is mine. Besides, there's no scandal there so why do you want it anyway?"
"Are you kidding me, Toney? We now have two witch doctors in the series and you think there's no scandal there. I mean, the story writes itself: spell crafters curse their way to relay gold. I mean, it's so juicy."
Toney rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, but with you writing it, there's likely to be a line about them being lovers too."
Bru turned back to Solo who explained. "The F-X reporters. They're fighting about who's going to write the newsletter article about the opening race that's about to start. It happens all the time."
Bru latched onto one thing that Solo said. "Relay race. Oh yes, Tendai told me about those. Made it sound like an atrocity. Made everything save the scrambe race sound like an atrocity really."
"Yeah, Mathemba doesn't get it, man. But hopefully you will. Why don't you check it out and form your own opinion? Me, I gotta run. I have a title race to prepare for."
The relay race was thrilling but it was the crowd's reaction to it that sold the contest. Their cheers when Brenda and her sister Doris were in the lead was just as electric as their boos when Blackcat Mathunzi and newcomer, Fiona were in the lead. In the end, there was a gasp as Blackcat and FIona knocked off the Koeks and became the new Relay Baron and Baroness.
However, Bru was distracted from the results as she noticed the reporter named Sherry speaking in hushed voices with a well-dressed mystery man. What had caught Bru's attention was the thick white envelope that the man had given Sherry. Now what was she up to?
It had been Tendai who said "If there's any Formula-X event that's even remotely worth attending, it's their Scramble Race event," claiming that it was the closest the series got to being true motorsport. While Bru had inevitably taken the advice, he'd still made a point to buy their previous two pay-per-views. This was why when he saw the next race on the racecard, he'd chosen this moment to leave his seat. He'd already seen Dime defend his Duke of Drag title against Penny Potgieter. Feeling like he knew the result of the race, he'd chosen instead to follow Sherry.
Bru followed her all the way into an old section of the airport where she met with a shady looking man in a leather jacket. He listened to their short but informative information as they spoke about another notably less thick white envelope. "Okay, so where's the rest?"
"There is no rest. It looks like the fans aren't betting as big on the drag race as they were on the opening one."
Sherry made a face as if she'd guessed that this would happen. "That's because they don't know any better. They don't know that the odds are still very much even. What we need to do is get people who know that onto the board."
"People who know the odds, like who?"
"The racers. It's time we get them in on the betting."
"Whoa, I don't know, Sher. The idea is to keep this secret. If we start with the racers, it may get to the committee and then the operation will be blown."
"I understand that but if we want to make money, then this is how it's going to be. The man in the suit is getting impatient."
Their conversation was interrupted by a burst of cheers from the crowd as the next race had started. Since it was a quarter-mile drag, it was over in 90 seconds, and what Bru and the secretive pair heard next irritated them: Penny Potgieter was announced as the winner, "sixth Duchess of Drag in her third reign".
Sherry gave the shady man a hard look. "You see what I mean. If more people would've bet, imagine the killing we would have made."
Bru had heard enough. In an effort to try and avoid kicking himself for missing what must have been a thrilling race, Bru headed off to find Beatrix. He had to tell someone about what he'd heard. However, he was surprised to bump into Beatrix coming out of the V.I.P. section.
"There you are," she said. "I was just looking for you, Bru. I wanted to know if you'd reconsider my previous offer but on a compromise: guest commentate the title race?"
Brus shrugged. Why not? It would give him a chance to talk to her.
"So you never told me what it felt like winning that last title without me in your corner," said Beatrix as they walked to the tower.
"It doesn't feel the same. But I like that, Bee. It makes the first three feel special."
Beatrix smiled but uneasily this time. "Well, they better not. Still, I'm glad your time at the Academy is still reaping rewards." There was a notable pause. "You never told me what they taught you out there."
This statement surprised Bru, although he recognised it as being a question in truth. "That's because I can't. Even you know the rule about the Academy."
"Yeah, it's like 'Fight Club' and you don't talk about fight club."
"So then why bring it up?"
Beatrix's face was more serious than before. "Because I couldn't help but notice, way back when, that when you came back you were different." There was another pause, a beat. "We were different."
This took Bru aback. This was the first time that Beatrix had ever implied that she'd felt something too. "I thought that was the idea. You only flirted with me to get me signed as a client."
"No. Not only to get you signed. Bru, I didn't stop because I didn't want you, I stopped because I couldn't have you. Like I said, you were a client and it would have been unprofessional. But I also felt like you pulled away too after coming back from there so what happened?"
They'd stepped into an elevator so it suddenly felt like there was nowhere to run. And with Beatrix basically confessing her feelings, Bru suddenly felt like he was at a crossroads: either he was going to break his vow to the Academy and divulge the secret or he was going to prove he didn't trust her and lose out on something special. Beatrix sensed the conflict in Bru so she did something unexpected and kissed him.
The smooch was everything that Bru could have ever wanted from Beatrix. He could feel that she'd wanted to do that for a long time. However, he could also feel something else: resistance. She was holding something back and Bru's instinct was to find out what that was before he gave away the Academy's secrets.
When Beatrix pulled away, she could sense that she was further away from learning about Bru rather than closer and left it at that for the moment. They entered the tower where Captain Ken Khumalo had just finished promoting the upcoming race. Bru remembered the Captain from his days at the Academy and remembered how stern he was. He remembered what it felt like sharing a race track with him as they'd trained. The man deserved the title. But this was not a time to reminisce.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our last supporting race of the night, and to help call this amazing race, I'd like to introduce you to a four-time Auto One champion, fellow Academy alumni, and something of a protégé, Bru Constantin."
"Hello Captain, Miss Honeycomb. It's lovely being here tonight and I cannot wait to call what should be an amazing race."
"Indeed," said Beatrix. "'The Franchise' will look to finally sit atop that throne and I have it on good authority that the odds are definitely in his favor to knock off King Jim Kieck. Bru, as a graduate of the Academy, what can you tell us about Solo's chances here tonight."
Bru made a face as this was a strange segway. The Captain noticed. "Oh, don't be offended, Constantin. Miss Honeycomb here has been drilling me about the Academy for the past two weeks, eager to uncover our secrets. I don't think she understands why she'll never learn of them unless she attends."
It was at that moment that it finally occurred to Bru what was going on. Beatrix's hunt for answers about what happened had nothing to do with her feelings for him but rather about her wanting to learn about the Academy. She'd played him and it hurt. He'd tried to call the title race as best he could but his stomach was turning at just the sound of her voice. Fortunately, it was the Captain taking the lead for most of the race, even calling the most important moment of the race.
"This is it: the final lap and the King has recovered just in time to be neck and neck with Solo. After leading most of the race, can Solo make it count at the end? Can he claim his destiny and climb that throne. This is it. This is it! Solo's pulling ahead. The Finish line! HE'S DONE IT! Solo Magubane is the new Formula-X King!"
Bru had made a point not to make a scene when he left. He simply wanted to get out of here before he said something he'd regret. Unfortunately, Beatrix insisted on following him. "Bru, wait. I can explain." She followed him into the elevator.
"You played me, Bee. You used my feelings for you to get secrets about the Academy out of me. How could you do that?"
"I'm being blackmailed," she said quickly, which shut Bru up enough to allow Beatrix to explain. "Last month at the Year End Bash, Sherry Detwiler witnessed me breaking up a fight between two F-X reporters and forcing them to resolve their differences with a bet on the feature race. She then said that if I didn't offer up secrets on the Academy so she could break a story, she'd tell Moodswing what I'd done and I'd be out of a job."
Bru was surprisingly not shocked that Sherry would do that and couldn't help but think one thing. "How ironic."
"Sherry's blackmailing you over making a bet when she's now knee-deep in betting on races." Bru noticed Beatrix's confused and shocked expression. "She's taking bets on races, Bee, and working with some shady guy and a man in a suit. In fact, the man in the suit is in the V.I.P. lounge now."
Beatrix's mind was racing but she came to the obvious solution very quickly. "Bru, I need you to do me a favor," she said before changing her tune, "but first..." Beatrix then planted her lips on Bru's and this time, Bru could tell she was holding nothing back.
Bru was back in the V.I.P. section just in time for the titular Scramble Race but he wasn't here to see who won this year. Bru was here to spy on the man in the suit. He waited to use his camera phone but found that there was no way of getting a good shot of his face unless he waited for the opportune time. That time came when the end of the race neared. The people in the terminal began to stand in anticipation of the finish which was down to Thawn Oberhauser, Touch Mkhize, and Darcy Stevens. In the end, Thawn took the race which was when Bru took the photo of the man's face.
As the guests began to leave the terminal, Bru's fortune rose as Sherry came to give the man the final envelope and Bru snapped a shot of the exchange. Bru truly hoped that this helped Beatrix because she didn't deserve to be blackmailed. He found himself wondering if she'd quit this circus after that but realized that she wouldn't. If quitting was an option for her then Moodswing finding out was pointless.
No, Beatrix had found her home, her new calling the same way that the new F-X King had found his. While Bru now understood why Tendai had hated on this series so much, he also understood that all of those reasons were also why his series worked. It was definitely entertaining.