Author: Crofton77

Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Three: Are we family?

Sammy, Tammy, Sunny and TJ were intensely watching the little screen in front of Sammy.

Well, at least until he got game over.

“Wow, just as bad at cricket in the virtual world as you are in the real world.” Tammy quipped.

“DON'T start, we don't want to get kicked out of here!” TJ quickly stepped in. “Besides your bowling leaves a lot to be desired.”

“GUYS!” Sunny hissed.

Daniel walked in.

“Hey guys. Everything is still stable, and Judy's allowed to walk around for a bit.” He told them. He looked at the little gaming screen in front of Sammy and chuckled. “Your in-game batting as bad as your real life huh?”

Sammy didn't hold back, dropping the game console (which Tammy quickly caught and placed safely in her bag) and going straight for Daniel's throat.

“SAMMY!” Sunny groaned. “Dan why did you have to say anything when you're the LBW King?!”

Naturally Daniel pushed Sammy off him and took a swing at Sunny. Within five minutes, it was Last Order chaos.

“Now just a gentle walk around the hospital. Maybe we can go to the gift shop and get something?” Marion carefully guided her sister out of the room.

“Sounds fun.” Judith smiled up at her older sister, grateful. Then she noticed the brawl.

“What the – ?” Marion looked horrified as Tammy choked her twin out. “I thought they were friends!”

“Cricket.” Judith said as Petunia pinned Sunny to the ground and pummelled her.

“Aaah.” Marion nodded knowingly, dodging Daniel throwing TJ against a wall. “Which way to the gift shop?”

“Back down the lifts and down the end of the corridor.” Judith told her, and the two sisters left a pair of orderlies to try and stop the brawling friends from disturbing anyone.

Belle was exhausted. But not too exhausted to put on her Giggles outfit and chase a group of Haunted Maze Troupers out of Bills restaurant.

“AND STAY OUT!” Giggles roared as Bill watched the group leave (after leaving a very generous tip too).

“They weren't hurting anyone Giggles, I don't know why you kicked them out.” Bill said as he and Giggles walked back to the kitchen.

“They had baggies on them. They were gonna turn this into one of their shops, and then when the heat came, they would have blamed you.” Giggles groaned as she pulled her helmet off. “Plus my grandparents were with them.”

“Yes, they did ask if I knew how to get you to see reason.” Bill washed his hands then got a side of fish out of the freezer. “I just laughed and said there was no way to get you to change your mind once it was stuck.”

“They tipped amazingly though.” Lizzy put her tips into a small bag.

“I'd wash my hands after handling that.” Belle said drily. “Who knows what sort of drugs are on that money…”

“Anyway, how's work? Getting things under control?” Bill asked as he put the fish into a bowl and then covered it with water.

“Not really, but there's honestly not much more I can do until Judith gets back. I just hope I've done enough.” Belle sighed.

They heard the bell on the door rattle, and in walked Charlie, looking VERY pleased with himself.

“You got the signatures?” Belle asked.

“No, still have twenty to go, and thirty more businesses to canvas.” He said. “So I'll head out to Oaksville tomorrow.”

“So what's with the grin?” Belle grumbled.

“Webster called. Next week he's coming out with three officials to help us get the Chamber established.” Charlie told her.

“You've only got until next week to get everything organised?!” Belle yelped.

“Hey, come on, it only took me a couple of days to get twenty signatures, I'll be fine!” Charlie beamed at her.

“Charlie Begly, you drive me up the wall.” Belle said drily.

Suddenly her mobile phone rang.

“Hi Sunny-Bunny…your Mum called? Why? Oh, Demon and Daryl had a fight, of course…why do you sound like you've been in a fight too? Ah, Sammys bowling…Judith is allowed to walk around a bit? Great, she can sign some forms for me…no I WON'T overwhelm her with work! Yes, I know Marion won't be happy…yeah, you too. Love ya!” Belle hung up. “Sounds like they're having fun. Marion's getting overprotective though.”

“Do you blame her?” Lizzy started peeling potatoes. “If anyone went after Izzy or Charlie, I'd go after them.” She paused for a second. “I DID go after them.” She corrected herself.

“You did?” Bill inquired. Lizzy went pale, remembering that her parents had no idea about Lady Starlight!

“Anyway, I'm gonna go…” Charlie started when his phone went off again. “Oh, hi Mum…a Crusader at Pleasantville Ultra-Care Hospital?! Chuckles and Giggles will be there shortly!” He hung up.

“Are you serious?!” Belle cried.

“Yup, glad I keep my suit in my bag!” Charlie grabbed his bag and fished out his Chuckles suit.

“The Crusader is probably hitting all the hospitals looking for Judith.” Giggles pulled on her helmet as Charlie got into his Chuckles attire.

“Also…we need to pick up the Lions Claw from the tip, I left it there while canvassing.” Chuckles said sheepishly as they were about to leave.

“I hope we're in time to make sure no one gets hurt.” Giggles grumbled as they flew to retrieve the sword.

Crusader Roger had just finished his walk around Fallsville, getting his dues and making sure the populace were still scared of him. He was looking forward to having an afternoon nap and maybe a sandwich.

“I'll have a BLT brought up to my office, thank you.” He walked past a few Crusaders who were hanging out near the front gates of the March Hill compound.

“Yes sir!” Was the reply. Once Roger was out of earshot however, the attitude changed. “Jerk.” One of the Crusaders muttered.

“Where's Daryl, make HIM do it.” Another Crusader suggested.

“Won't work. Daryl's gone missing again, as usual.” Crusader Alex grumbled. “He'll do anything to avoid pulling his own weight.”

“Doesn't he know we're not allowed outside the compound without a pass?!” Another Crusader complained.

“I don't think Roger cares, as long as he's not getting in anyone's way. The spoilt little runt gets spoiled some more.” Alex said.

“What say we give him a good thrashing when we find him?” One of the Crusaders grinned. “Teach the spoiled little piggy that he can't just flake out on us?”

“Sounds like a good idea to me!” The other grinned back.

“AFTER you've gotten Rogers BLT. Get to it!” Alex barked at them, making them scatter. He smirked as they raced to get the sandwich ready, while he looked out the window. It was a fine day with barely a hint of a cloud in the sky, and a cool breeze to offset the warm sun. It was starting to head into late afternoon though, and Alex knew that no matter how painful having Daryl around was, if the little twerp wasn't back by sundown that Roger would wallop him.

“The little sod is in for a poor time of it when he gets back, and I definitely am looking forward to it.” Alex grinned to himself. “I do wonder though. Where does someone as stupid as Daryl Jones run off to?” He murmured as the other Crusaders quickly rushed to get Roger his food.

Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Two: What We Do For Family

The Knights of the Last Order and Chuckles stood completely terrified against Marion, who was looking at them suspiciously.

Charlie looked at TJ, who was pale. They had completely forgotten about Marion in this equation.

“What's going on out here?” Daniel walked out as well. “You all look like ghosts. Don't worry, Marion isn't going to kill you.”

THAT drew a gasp from the group. Daniel groaned.

“Am I REALLY that scary?” Marion asked.

“Yes.” Replied Sammy and TJ. Sunny scowled at them.

“It's not you…it's just…there was an incident at City Hall today.” Charlie swallowed back his fear. “A Crusader broke into Judiths office and started firing. Belle called and let me know.”

“Belle Masters?” Marion asked. “She's doing all of Judy's work while she's in hospital, right?”

Charlie nodded.

Marion sucked in a deep breath. This was NOT what she needed with her sister in hospital with a baby on the way. Especially with the condition both Judith and the baby were currently in. If Judith was stressed out or hurt in any way, the baby would die, and that would destroy Judith. Marion couldn't let that happen. No matter what the family rules decreed, Judith would ALWAYS be Marions baby sister, and NO ONE messed with Marions baby sister.

“This is NOT what we need right now. Not with Judy and the baby in danger as it is.” Daniel groaned.

“And the Crusaders have Daryl, who I know still talks to Mum, who hears about everything that goes on through City Hall from Dad.” Sunny said. “So it wouldn't surprise me if the Crusaders quickly found out that Judith's in hospital.”

“You're Daryls sister aren't you?” Marion asked. Sunny nodded. “He's always been a little prick hasn't he?”

“Understatement of the year.” Sunny muttered. Marion looked at the younger woman, with her dark hair and the scar under her eye. Marion suddenly realised that it could very well have been Daryl who gave Sunny that scar.

“What are we going to do?” Tammy said in a small voice. Marion nearly jumped a foot in the air – where did SHE come from?!

“I don't know what we can do, except try to keep Judith as safe as we can.” Daniel said. “Which means staying around the hospital as much as possible.”

“Well, we've been doing that anyway.” TJ pointed out.

Marion meanwhile quickly composed herself, Judith was counting on her.

“I'll handle it from here. Best you stay away and don't get involved.” Marion stalked out of the hospital building, determined to have a word with Demon Jones and sort out this mess before her beloved little sister got hurt…or worse. The doors slammed shut behind her, leaving the friends stunned.

“You know, I completely forgot that Judith and Marion are sisters.” Charlie piped up after a minute of stunned silence.

“I totally did too.” Sammy added.

“I wasn't allowed to forget. Judith talks about Marion a lot.” Daniel shrugged. “They might have had their issues recently, but once upon a time they were really, really close.”

“They're not any more?” TJ asked.

“Not really, more's the pity.” Daniel sighed. “It was pretty awkward in there while Marion visited. It's like they want to be best friends but because of the Misneach rules there's always going to be a wall between them. Like it or not, Marion is always going to be a Misneach and Judith is always going to be a Jofrey, and the Jofreys are always going to suffer because of the Misneaches.”

The group sat in silence for a while, letting that sink in. Two sisters who couldn't be sisters because of their family rules.

Charlie got up. “I need to go canvass for more signatures. I still have forty I need to collect.”

The others looked up at him, blinking.

“You're going to canvass for signatures NOW?” TJ asked.

“We just talked about staying around the hospital to protect Judith didn't we?” Sammy added.

Charlie groaned at their complete lack of understanding.

“Don't you get it? If there was no Mobsters of Misneach, then Marion and Judy would still be best friends. They'd be doing things like hosting baby showers and going maternity bra shopping together – BUT THEY CAN'T.” Charlie gritted his teeth. “If I got seperated from Lizzy and Izzy like that…”

Gritting his teeth, he stomped out of the room, not wanting to finish that sentence. Not wanting to even think about what it would be like to go through what Mobster Marion Misneach and Counsellor Judith Jofrey had to go through.

But he was going to do everything in his power to make sure it never happened again.

“CHARITY!” Demon Jones yelled as he walked into his manor. “For Glob's sake woman, get down here NOW!”

“Yes dear?” Charity Jones nee Denison made her way down the stairs to the front hall.

“I need you to talk to that son of yours. Someone tried to kill Judith Jofrey while she's on maternity leave.” Demon glared at his wfie.

“I'll have you know 'that son of hers' is right here.”

Demon looked up to the top of the stairs. Sure enough, Daryl Jones was standing there, glaring at his father.

“I've told you he's not to come into this house!” Demon yelled at Charity, who flinched.

“My stuff is still here thank you, I'm allowed to get it.” Daryl sulked.

“YOUR stuff? You mean the stuff I paid for.” Demon shrugged off his jacket and handed it to Charity.

“Stuff you. I didn't ask to be brought into this world, yet you dragged me here.” Daryl fought back.

Charity sighed. The father and son had once been so close. Where had it all gone wrong?

“I can fix that.” Demon glared at his boy. “What do you know about what happened to Judiths office today?”

“Why should I know anything?!” Daryl snapped.

“Because it was a Crusader that tried to kill her!” Demon yelled.

Charity slipped out of the hallway to the heavily decorated lounge room. She went to one of the cupboards and pulled out a small vial of white powder. She opened the vial and shoved it up her nostril and breathed deeply. It was the only way she could cope nowadays, with neither of her children being particularly fond of her and her husband being stressed out all the time. What had happened to their dream family? A strong, handsome son and a beautiful, submissive daughter. They should have been a family that was the envy of the Bridge Club, but now they were broken.

Suddenly there was a crash from the hallway. Charity capped the vial and shoved it back into it's hiding spot and bolted out to the hallway, where Demon and Daryl were at each others throats, knocking over a table into one of the ornate mirrors in the hall.

“STOP IT! THOSE MIRRORS ARE EXPENSIVE!” She shrieked, watching her idyllic life continue to fall around her ears..

Daryl shoved his father away. “I told you I know nothing. It wouldn't surprise me if Crusaders started acting on their own, but it's not my problem!”

He stormed out of the house, slamming the door and making his mother shriek again.

Demon growled to himself, before turning to Charity. “Oh shut up you.” He grumbled, before storming off to his office.

Charity looked shocked. Then she began to cry. Why had everything gone wrong?

In his office, her husband was thinking the same thing. Only his answer was more disturbing – he blamed it all on the birth of his daughter Sunny.

“To think we produced that unwanted bastard.” He muttered to himself.

Chapter One Hundred and Twenty One: The Attempt

 “What is going on at the hospital?!” Belle whined under her breath as she filled out the forms that Judith should have been filling out. “I wish they'd tell me something other than 'WE DON'T KNOW WILL YOU STOP TEXTING' already!”

You see, in order to stop Demon from putting a asterisk next to Judith Jofrey's counsellorship, Belle was doing her best to do both her own job and Judiths. This meant that she couldn't be at the hospital with her friends, which (along with being extremely overworked) meant she was rather testy.

“I see your friend is trying to get a Chamber of Commerce together.” She heard a slimy voice behind her.

“You might be my boss but if you don't sod off and let me not only do my job but everyone elses job I will end you right here and now!” Belle snapped. Demon Jones wisely backed off. Angry Belle was not a pretty sight!

She carefully finished off the form she was filling out, stamped it with Judiths seal, and put it in the official envelope. She then put it carefully in the correct tray (all trays were stacked sky high) so that it would be ready to be picked up with the mail run the next morning. Suddenly her phone buzzed.

She bolted from Judiths office, leapt over Merediths desk, slid under Theodores desk, rolled past Hamish, pushed Undines chair out of the way and just got to her phone as the message notification sound finished playing.

“Having casserole for dinner tonight, Bill is bringing this weeks girlfriend over.” Was the text from her father.

The wail of agony could be heard several blocks away.

Sammy lifted up his head as Daniel walked out of the hospital room. As much as he wanted to swarm his hero and find out if Judith was okay, he didn't. Something had changed since Sir Lionheart had rejoined the Knights of the Last Order.

And it didn't escape his notice that Charlie didn't swarm Daniel either.

“What's going on? Is Judith okay? Is the baby okay?” Tammy asked.

“Judith and the baby are fine for now. They think it was a false labour or something like that. 'Tuney is looking after her now.” Daniel sat down next to Sammy. The pair shared a grin. Maybe things hadn't changed as much as he thought…

“Petunia's got this. She's the best nurse in this city. Judith will be fine with her.” TJ grinned.

“I wouldn't trust anyone else with my baby.” Daniel grinned back.

“I hope Belle is okay, she's trying to do Judiths job for her so Demon can't cause too much grief.” Charlie told them as he checked his phone.

“We're grateful. Really.” Daniel said. “Judiths job means a lot to her.”

Suddenly Mobster Marion burst in.

“Is my sister okay?!” She barked at the group, who were stunned. “I heard the baby was in danger!”

“Uh…yeah…sure…everything is stable for now….she's being well looked after…she'll want to see you…” Daniel got up. “I'll take you in.”

“You're the father, aren't you?” Marion glared at him.

“Yeah…” Daniel swallowed. Oh boy…

“Thank you. For caring for my sister.” Marions face softened just slightly. “Now I want to see Judith!”

“Right this way!” Daniel took Marion in to see Judith.

“Imagine having THAT for a sister-in-law.” Tammy said after the pair had headed back into Judiths room.

Belle carefully put the last of the forms into its spot on Judiths desk. Everything was FINALLY done, and Belle could head the hospital for a bit before crashing into bed. It had been a hard, frantic sort of day and poor Belle-Belle was exhausted.

“So, are you still busy Miss Masters?”

“Please don't Arnold.” Belle groaned as Demon approached. “I am exhausted, my arms are sore, I want to see my friend and make sure she's okay. Just let me go home.”

“Oh, of course. You can go. After you've sat in my office and had a chat about your friend, Mr. Begly.” Demon tried to coral Belle into the office.

“No. I'm going home.” Belle tried to walk past him, but she was blocked. “Please, I'm exhausted. We can talk about this tomorrow.”

“Why put off 'til tomorrow what can be done today?” Demon smiled. “My office, Miss Masters.”

“Fine, what about Charlie?” Belle groaned, trying not to yawn.

“About his little plan for a Chamber of Commerce. I do hope he knows he has the full support of the Council on this matter.” Demon ushered her into his office.

“Oh he does, does he?” Belle wasn't too tired to be suspicious of this declaration.

“Why wouldn't we want to tighten control over the businesses of Pleasantville?” Demon asked.

“Should've guessed.” Belle grumbled.

Suddenly they heard something smash outside.

“What was that?” Demon and Belle shared a look before rushing out to find what looked to be a masked March Hill Crusader heading straight for Judiths office!

“NO!” Belle screamed. “Don't knock over my…WORK!”

The masked Crusader kicked open the office door and began firing their shotgun, destroying all the work Belle had done that day. Once he'd finished firing, he looked around. He shook his head, then made his escape through the shot-out window.

“Well then. I guess you have some cleaning up to do.” Demon grinned as Belle sank to her knees in defeat.

“Wait, a Crusader broke into Judiths office and shot it up?” Charlie asked into the phone. “Yes, I GOT the bit about your work being ruined and how you can't be here because you had to spend an extra three hours fixing everything back up again, you can stop whinging about that now…I AM sympathetic! I just think we need to look a little more into why the Crusaders want Judith dead.”

“WHAT?!” Everyone in the waiting room cried.

“Yeah, everyone says hi and to not overwork yourself…look, just go to bed Belle, you're exhausted and you know you can't think straight when you're tired.” Charlie sighed. “Yeah, I'll pass on the message. Take care of yourself mate, okay? I worry about you.”

He got up to finish the conversation outside the waiting room, which IMMEDIATELY got the Gossips of the Last Order talking!

“I wish I could hear what they're saying!” Tammy groaned.

“Why don't you use your introversion to find out?” Sunny asked.

“Doesn't work on you guys for some reason.” Tammy told her.

“It's because we love ya!” TJ hugged his friend tightly and kissed her cheek.

“Thanks Teej.” Tammy smiled.

“So, Belle witnessed a masked Crusader breaking into City Hall and shooting up Judiths office. A Crusader who didn't want to be identified.” Charlie walked back in. “I think there might be some problems in the March Hill Crusaders.”

“Because the Crusader wore a mask?” Sammy asked.

“Exactly. They didn't want anyone knowing who they were, which doesn't make sense because we already know they're a Crusader and where to find them. No, if they're wearing a mask, it's because they don't want Roger finding out what they're up to.” Charlie told them. “Which means Judith could be in danger.”

“Do we tell Dan?” TJ asked.

“Got no choice. He'll be able to manage it from here.” Charlie told them.

“What are we telling Daniel?”

The group froze as Marion walked back out of Judiths hospital room

Chapter One Hundred and Twenty: The Veil of Uncertainty

“Are you guys SURE you want me to do this? I still think you should give Charlie a chance.” Peter said that night as the two families sat around the dinner table.

“Honestly, this isn't about me.” Charlie said. “This is about doing what is right for the people of Pleasantville.”

“Exactly!” Belle stood by her best friend.

“Things in Pleasantville have gotten too far for me to make things about me.” Charlie said as his mother put a roast dinner in front of him.

“Is this about what I said to you that day in the tip?” Belle asked.

Charlie, who had been about to dig into his roast lamb, stopped.

“What happened at the tip?” Lara asked.

Charlie twirled his fork around.

“Charlie?” Betty pushed.

“I found out I'm a racist, okay?!” Charlie snapped.

The table was silent.

“What happened?” Betty questioned. Belle then told the whole tale as Charlie slumped in his seat.

“So you found out something you don't like about yourself, and you're using it as an excuse to shirk on your plans?” Thomas shoved mashed potato into his mouth.

“WHAT?!” Charlie and Belle cried.

“So you found out that you have racist parts. Instead of facing it and doing your best to combat the systems that are helping cultivate racism in Pleasantville, you're using it as an excuse to pass the buck to Peter.” Thomas swallowed and started on his beans.

“But there IS a chance that they won't want to vote for me!” Charlie pouted.

“MAKE THEM WANT TO VOTE FOR YOU!” Peter groaned. “Or is it too hard for you?”

“Don't you want to help Pleasantville?!” Charlie fought back.

“I'm a Counsellor now! Do you KNOW how much work both being a Counsellor AND the President of the Chamber of Commerce would be?” Peter snapped. “If I took on both, one would have to suffer, and we need all bases covered if we're going to make a difference.”

Charlie slowly turned to face Belle.

“Don't even think about it.” Lara said. “This is your beast.”

“And it's high time you stopped hiding behind your best friend.” Betty finished.

“Wow Charlie, you're getting RIPPED tonight!” Oscar commented innocently. The table couldn't help but laugh.

“And that is why I need YOU to put your name forward for a Chamber of Commerce and to elect me, the owner of Begly Metalworks, as the President. I might be young, but that just means I can listen, learn and grow more.” Charlie said to the owner of West Pleasantville Jewellers, who was a strong PCC supporter.

The old woman rocked back in her seat. “You have some fantastic points there young man, and I must admit, it heartens me to see young people taking a stand. Where do I sign up?”

“If you could fill out this form and send it to the Council building that would be great. You can also fill in your details online.” Charlie handed her the forms.

“Excellent, I'll get this done today. Stay for a cup of tea and some scones?” The woman asked, getting up and opening a cupboard.

“Sure, why not?” Charlie smiled.

It had been a long day canvassing for subscriptions, but already Charlie had forty signatures to add to the ten he already had. Stopping by one of the businesses and having a bit of afternoon tea with them was an added bonus.

“You know, if this goes through I might be able to start helping the PRO.” The owner said as she brought the tea and scones back.

“You want to join the PRO?!” Charlie looked surprised.

“Most of us would in a heartbeat.” The woman poured Charlie a cup of hot tea, and offered him milk and sugar. “But we know the score. Openly supporting the PRO would mean suicide for our livelihoods. The Mayor would destroy us all in retaliation.”

Charlie sipped his tea thoughtfully.

“This place needs a shake-up, but not at the expense of our lives.” The woman continued.

The rest of the tea was lovely, and Charlie was sure to thank her profusely. He then left, thinking about everything she had said about wanting to change Pleasantville but being too scared to do it.

He was still thinking about it heavily when Sammy nearly barrelled him over in the street as he walked home later on that same day.

“SAMMY! Geez mate, you gonna take someone out!” Charlie woke from his thoughts. “Wait, are you okay?”

“Judith's in the hospital, the baby is coming early!” Sammy cried. “I gotta get to the hospital! I gotta be there for Daniel!”

“Hold up, I'll come with you!” Charlie followed Sammy as he broke out into a run again.

TJ was pacing up and down. Sammy and Tammy were hunched over on the couch, trying to stay awake. Sunny was rocking Melody, trying to keep her daughter asleep.

“Belle just messaged. She's keeping Demon under control while Judith is out.” Charlie checked his phone. “Apparently he's not impressed that she's in hospital.”

“Of course he wouldn't. He's a jerk.” Tammy mumbled.

“Tell Belle we appreciate it.” TJ said.

“I will. She's devo she can't be here.” Charlie sighed. “But she's busy.”

“She's doing the world a favour. Like you and your Chamber of Commerce.” Sunny said.

“Yeah…”Charlie sighed.

“Isn't it going well?” Sammy asked.

“It's going better that I thought. I just wonder if I'm the right person to take care of it all.” Charlie looked down.

“If it's going well then clearly you ARE the right person for the job.” Sammy stretched. He looked over at Charlie, sizing him up. “You're worried about something though.”

“I just keep thinking about what happened at the tip that day and what I said.” Charlie sighed.

“That was WEEKS ago!” Sammy groaned. “And we worked it out!”

“Yeah, but if I'm a racist…” Charlie started.

“Oh shut up.” Tammy snapped.

Everyone turned to look at her.

“Self-flagellation is boring to watch. So what if you messed up. Belle nearly got all of us killed with her protest stunt a few years ago, and she's still working her butt off!” Tammy snapped at him. “If you're so upset about being a racist, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT instead of wallowing in self-pity.”

Charlie shut up and looked at the clock.

“Thank you.” Tammy looked at her phone. “You know, if you're scared of not being as smart as Belle is, you can just say so.”

Charlie flinched.

“You ARE as smart as her though, so I don't see why you're acting like this. I mean, without you there's no Improbability Clause. Belle might be great at finding things out, but it's your brain that puts it together.” Sunny said.

“Just like with the Chamber of Commerce. Belle found all the little pieces of the problem and you're the one putting it all together not to just find the solution, but make it work.” Sammy added. “I wish 'Tuney or Dan would come out here already and tell us what's going on!”

Tammy checked her phone again. “And Belle needs to stop texting me.” She texted back furiously the same text as the past ten texts.

“STOP TEXTING ME!”

Chapter One Hundred and Nineteen: Making Plans

 “Do you think it's safe?” Izzy whispered to her sister.

“I don't know, he might rip us a new one if we try.” Lizzy replied, peering cautiously into the dining room.

“I mean, if we were super quiet we might get past.”

“Are you kidding me, he'd hear us the moment we stepped in!”

“I CAN HEAR THE BOTH OF YOU NOW!” Charlie roared, making both girls jump.

Charlie did not take to paperwork and studying well, which made life in the Begly household tense as the family tip-toed around him, trying to be as quiet as possible as to not incur the wrath of Chuckles.

“You know, I thought it'd be fun having a smart brother, but I was wrong.” Lizzy threw her brother a dirty look as the two sisters walked through the dining room to get to the front door.

“Anyway, I got a date with Hugo. It sucks that you don't hang with us anymore.” Izzy said as she pulled on her shoes.

“I still don't like Hugo!” Charlie called from the dining room.

“Get back to work!” Izzy yelled back.

“I'm going out with Sammy. Making up for lost time. I can't believe Mum and Dad are letting me date a gaolbird.” Lizzy joked.

“And they still don't like Hugo. HE'S never been to gaol!” Izzy complained.

“Parents are weird.”

“So are brothers.”

“I HEARD THAT!”

The twins headed out the door just as Belle walked in.

“Good luck with HIM, he's in a mood.” Lizzy warned the Masters as they passed each other.

“I can handle him.” Belle grinned.

“Probably the only one who can.” Muttered Izzy, sharing THAT look with her sister as they walked out of the house. Her sister shrugged back. Would Chuckles and Giggles EVER admit to their love for each other?!

“So Charlie, how goes the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce?” Belle sat down at the dining room table.

“Don't ask. Just don't. Bloody. Ask.” Charlie groaned. “I've looked through all these books you gave me plus those websites and I can't find a way around Demon.”

“You mean the proviso that it HAS to go through a Council review?” Belle asked. “I thought there was about ten ways to circumvent that.”

“Yeah, well, I'd need Higher Government support, and that's not exactly forthcoming is it?!” Charlie snapped. “Unless you want to call Dickson again and have him try to kill your Dad!”

“Easy! Easy!” Belle threw up her arms to protect herself. “Geez, you studying is a pain. You're all prickly, like a hedgehog.”

Charlie snorted. Then he froze. Then his face lifted into a grin. He immediately grabbed for his phone.

“This totally doesn't count as Improbability by the way.” Belle grumbled.

“Thanks Webster!” Charlie finally got off the phone as Belle sat at the table, waiting. “Wait, is that my chocolate ice cream?”

“I'm your best friend. We share everything.” Belle replied as she ate. “What did Webster say?”

“He's gonna talk to some of his friends on the Brisvegas City Council and have them come up here to help establish it.” Charlie grinned. “We're in!”

“All right!” Belle cheered. “Have some ice-cream!”

“Don't mind if I do!” Charlie grinned, digging a spoon into the ice-cream. “I've been researching legislation too, and there is SO much that we can stick on the Council if we can pull this off.”

“IF we can pull this off. Have you got any more signatures?” Belle asked.

“Noooo…” Charlie admitted.

“Charlie, you NEED those signatures, otherwise there's no Chamber of Commerce.” Belle frowned at him.

“I KNOW, but there just aren't enough non-PCC businesses in the Pleasantville Council area!” Charlie whined.

“Well, why aren't you canvassing PCC businesses?” Belle asked.

“I THOUGHT OF THAT.” Charlie snapped. “That'd never work.”

“PCC businesses would LOVE a Chamber of Commerce. They could weaponize it easily.” Belle pointed out.

“Yeah, but then they wouldn't be voting for ME to run it, would they?!” Charlie snapped. “The whole point of this is to get me in a position to run this joint!”

“Technically it doesn't have to be you.” Belle pointed out. “It just needs to be someone fair and impartial.”

Charlie's face fell.

“But it definitely should be you.” Belle quickly tried to backtrack.

Charlie sighed. “Let's face it, no one will vote for me even if they WERE all PRO. No one knows who I am, and I'm only 23 years old.”

Charlie felt his lip wobble.

“Don't be like that Charlie! We can find someone who will do things right.” Belle rubbed his arm. “I'm sure it will be you, but in case it isn't maybe we should have a backup?”

“I guess.” Charlie looked defeated.

Just then, Peter walked in.

“AGAIN!?” Belle groaned as Charlie perked up.

“Hi you two. Where's Tom?” Peter asked.

“Hey Peter, do you want to head up the Chamber of Commerce? Might help your chances of getting elected Mayor in the next election!” Charlie beamed.

Peter looked at the pair and blinked. “Excuse me?”

Poison didn't work. Straight out shooting him wouldn't work either, because he was too well protected. Plus after the poison tea episode he KNEW that his underling wanted him dead.

Crusader Daryl sat on the edge of Pleasant Gorge, looking down to the dusty road below. Something in the air made him think of Charlie Begly.

“If only I had a best friend like he does. Someone who has all the good ideas.” Daryl chortled, but it was bitter. How that loser managed to snag himself a pretty little best friend was beyond Daryl. Charlie wasn't rich, or popular, not like Daryl had been when they were in school. Back when Daryl had been School Captain and the richest, most popular kid in school. Before he lost everything.

Daryl sighed. This wasn't getting him anywhere. He had to get rid of Crusader Roger, and he had to do it in a way that kept himself safe. Then his father would come crawling back. Daryl was definitely going to ask for an allowance raise.

Daryl groaned, and looked down the gorge again. Maybe he should just throw himself down and end it all. Serve them all right. His mother would scream and wail at his father, who would finally have to feel guilty about something for the first time in his life.

Except that would mean that Sunny won. Everything would be left to Sunny, and Daryl couldn't allow that. Sunny was an unwanted bastard. Sunny should never have been born to begin with. Sunny only existed because his parents were stupid and couldn't keep their hands off each other. If only he could get rid of HER as well. Heck, get rid of Sunny, Lady Courage, Chuckles, Giggles, Belle, Charlie…ROGER.

“Why can't I THINK of anything?!” Daryl groaned. “Why can't I just…get…someone…”

Then Daryl grinned.

Seven Talismans, Seven Weapons

Once upon a time there was a weary old man.  All this man had left was his wife, son and the
family heirlooms – seven talismans, forged in gold and white jade.  Each had the symbol for a different
animal on it – a hedgehog, a tiger, an elephant, a wolf, a stingray, a lion and a dragon.  It should
have been a prosperous time for the man, for the countryside around him was ravaged with war, and his
family were known for making beautiful and deadly weapons.  Alas, gunpowder had taken over, and guns
were now the main attraction.  No one wanted to buy swords or whips or scythes anymore.

One day, he sent his son out to the field with the cow to try and find some grass.  The boy was gone
for a day and a night.  His father despaired that he had been killed by a mortar or mine, but soon the
boy returned with an armful of broken handguns.

“What is this junk?! You have worried your mother and I for broken weapons?!” The man cried angrily.
The boy answered “I thought you could fix them and sell them father.”

All of the guns were revolvers, and only one of them had a functional cylinder.  The man worked as hard
as he could, even chopping down the old tree that was dying in the yard to make new handles.  As he put
the guns together, he noticed his talismans.  Inspired, he carved a special design into the handles
of the guns, the only difference between them being the symbol for the animals.

One day, a cocky young man came to the door.  He was looking for a new dagger and a new gun.  While the
old man was working on the dagger, the young man showed the boys son how fast he could reload a
revolver with just two fingers.

“Son,” The old man said, “I believe this gun was made for you.”

He handed the man the revolver that had only two chambers.  While the man admired his new weapon, the
old man finished the dagger.  With a beautiful leather braid, he attached the hedgehog talisman to the
end of the dagger.  The man was happy, and gave the old man 50 gold coins.  So the Speedy Two and the
Hedgehogs Quill were born.

A few weeks later, and a small band of soldiers came through looking for food and shelter.  The old
man dared not refuse them, and they sat down to a meal of cabbage and pork.

“When I get to the city I’m going to find me a nice girl.” One of the soldiers commented.  The others
cheered and agreed, except for one.  He just smiled and continued his broth.

“Why do you not join in?” The old man asked.

“I have a wife and three boys.  They are the only reason I will ever raise a gun to another man.” Said
the soldier.  The old man smiled and showed him the gun that only had three chambers in its cylinder.
The soldier liked the gun, and asked if the old man could fix his scimitar since he was so good at
fixing weapons.  The old man agreed, and after repairing the scimitar, he attached the tiger talisman
in the same fashion he had with the hedgehog.  The soldier left with the Trinity Three and the Tigers
Tooth, and the old man had another 50 gold coins.

Months passed, and a scared woman came to the door. Her village was often the target of raids by
enemy soldiers, and she had no way to defend her home.  A regular revolver was too heavy for her, but
the old man had one of his repaired guns which only had four chambers, and was lighter for her to
carry.  He also fashioned her a spear for her to hunt for food with, as she was poor and often had no
meat for her children.  He fastened the elephant talisman to the spear, and the woman was blessed with
the Quadroon Four and the Elephants Tusk.

A few more weeks passed.  The old man was working on another gun, trying to fix the sixth chamber so
that it would be a proper revolver.  However, he was forced to give up or risk destroying the other
chambers. His son happily took the gun however.  The boy was getting older and having ideas for
weapons of his own, for he would soon be old enough to go to war.  When one of the old cows died, he
took the leather and created himself a bladed gauntlet.  With his fathers blessing he embedded the
wolf talisman.  He named the pair Dangerous Five and Wolfs Fang.

The boy grew up and went to war, much to the sadness of his mother and father.  The boy sent back as
as much money as he could to his parents, who were now living in comfort.  One day the old man came
across another soldier, who was upset that he’d broken the handle of his six-shot revolver.  He was
clumsy and often broke his guns, and his commander refused to give him another one.  The old man
snorted, not surprised that the flimsy handles always broke.  He made a new handle for the gun, and a
whip for the mans horse.  The whip was known as the Stingrays Tail with the talisman attached, and the
gun was merely Palatable Six.

The old man was starting to get quite wealthy, so he bought some metal that he could use to make new
cylinders for the gun parts he had left over.  Not quite knowing what he was doing, his first attempt
turned out a cylinder with seven chambers. The second one had eight.  The old man laughed at his
foolishness and went back to making swords, scimitars, whips, scythes and daggers.  His wife was able
to fix one of the guns, and the old man called it the Lucky Seven, pairing it with his latest sword
which he called the Lions Claw.  Unfortunately they were robbed that night, and they never saw the
Lucky Seven nor the Lions Claw ever again.

The man was quite old now, and after putting the eighth cylinder into a gun his hands could no longer
handle the little parts.  His old scythe now doubled as a walking stick, and the man was often seen
carrying both, along with his last talisman, the dragon. The boy soon came back from the war, and the
man declared it was due to the talisman, the gun and the scythe.  When the man died, the Dragons Scale
Scythe and the Mystic Eight Gun were left with him in his tomb.

Chapter One Hundred and Eighteen: Privilege

Charlie stretched and yawned, toothpaste drooling from the side of his mouth where his toothbrush hung.

“Charming look there.” Betty frowned at her son as he picked up the mail and looked through it.

“Hmmmpph…HMMMPH!” Charlie found a letter addressed to him! “Hmmmppphhhhh hmmmph!”

“Whatever that meant.” Thomas watched as Charlie bolted back up the stairs.

Charlie came back down a minute later fully dressed and toothpaste cleaned up.

“It's a letter from the PRO!” Charlie waved it around.

“Have you actually READ the letter?” Thomas asked drily.

Charlie grinned sheepishly. “Might be a good idea eh Dad?”

“My son the font of intelligence.” Thomas sighed as Charlie tore open the letter. “Well?”

Charlie scanned the letter, his face falling.

“Well?” Thomas asked again.

“There's only ten business owners in the PRO. I mean, they've all pledged their support…but only ten?” Charlie slumped.

“It takes privilege to own a business Charlie, you know that.” Thomas said. “A lot of the PRO don't have that privilege, which is why they want change.”

Charlie growled. He picked up his wallet, phone and keys and stalked off.

“See you later too.” Thomas frowned at the slammed door.

“PRIVILEGE. My arse.” Charlie grumbled as he sat with his friends at the tip as Daniel prepared to hit the ball out of the country.

“He's right though.” Belle said.

“Oh get off it Belle.” Charlie snapped. “All you need to open a business is hard work.”

“And the right skin colour.” Sammy piped up before bowling an extremely nasty bouncer.

“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!” Daniel roared.

“Oh come ON.” Charlie groaned. “I know the cops are racist but you can't blame everything on racism!”

The fight stopped before it even started as everyone stared at Charlie.

“You're coming with me.” Belle grabbed her best friend by the ear.

“Ow ow ow!” Charlie cried as Belle dragged him away from the group.

“I can't believe you!” Belle cried as she threw him into a pile of old bikes. “You were in my BP class, and you STILL say stuff like that?!”

“Belle-,” Charlie started.

“You KNOW that trying to register a business in Pleasantville is down to whether or not City Hall likes you!” Belle snapped. “And you REALLY think they'd let someone of colour register a business?”

“Sammy's parents run the garage!” Charlie tried to defend himself.

“They RUN it, they don't OWN it!” Belle cried, exasperated. “They tried to buy it years ago and got blocked!”

“Well that's not because of the colour of their skin!” Charlie fought back.

“YES IT WAS.” Belle snapped. “I've read the documentation.”

“Well, my Dad was hated by City Hall, but HE managed to open up his own business!” Charlie tried.

“At THAT point, Jones didn't have half the power he has now for a start, plus your father went all the way to Brisvegas to get the money required.” Belle countered.

“So why aren't these so-called less privileged people doing that then?!” Charlie tried.

“Don't be an idiot. Do you know how many days it took for your father to get those loans and approvals?! The only reason you didn't starve while he was gone is because you owned the house you lived in and didn't need to pay rent!” Belle pointed out.

Charlie winced.

“Charlie, our families have it really easy compared to most. Both of our families have homes that were paid off generations ago, so we don't have to worry about a roof over our heads, and if we get desperate we can get loans against the houses. A lot of people in Pleasantville don't have that. Look at how hard TJ and Petunia have it. They've been saving up for years, but still can't buy their own home.”

Charlie felt the familiar feeling of the Improbability Clause in the back of his brain as all the pieces came together to tell him he was an idiot.

“So you look at someone of colour in Pleasantville. They have next to no chance. Those are the bulk of the people in the PRO.” Belle sat down.

Charlie sighed. He knew that Belle was right, and he owed Sammy a huge apology.

“I guess I still have to learn not to be racist after all.” He said.

“We all do.” Belle replied.

Charlie got up and headed back to the group, who had resumed hostilities.

“Maybe if you'd learn how to actually hit the ball you wouldn't have to worry about a bouncer!” Sammy yelled at Daniel.

“Maybe if you'd learn how to actually bowl you wouldn't have to resort to bullying tactics!” Daniel fired back.

“Hey guys.” Charlie said.

“Hey Charlie.” Sammy and Daniel said, before returning to trying to kill each other.

“Get him Sammy!” Tammy cheered.

“Get over it!” TJ fired at her.

“You know, maybe we should wait it out before your grand apology.” Belle scratched her head.

Crusader Daryl Jones was sulking.

“I mean, trying to poison Roger?” He heard Alex on the other side of the wall laughing. “What an idiot.”

“Yet had it been any one of us, we'd have been killed where we stood. Daryl just gets away with it because of who his Daddy is.” He heard Alice say bitterly.

“That's all he is really, a Daddys boy who never got told no in his life.” Alex said.

“Well, he's getting an education here, that's for certain.” Aiden said.

Daryl continued to sulk. He hated all of them! The moment he figured out how to get rid of Roger, he'd then get rid of the rest of them!

He just had to find a way to do it that wouldn't get traced back to him.

“And so I'm sorry for what I said. I was way out of line.” Charlie said to the group who had finally stopped trying to kill each other again.

“It's ok.” Sammy shrugged.

“It isn't.” Charlie sighed. “This whole time all I've been worried about is getting revenge on Demon for messing up my business. I forgot there's a bigger picture here, and that bigger picture means making things fair for everyone.”

“It's okay, really. We're used to it.” Sammy said.

“Well, you shouldn't be. No one should be.” Charlie said. “And if I have privilege, then it's up to me to use it responsibly and make things right.”

“Exactly.” Belle said.

“And I know you guys can do it.” Tammy smiled. “We're gonna land the first blow on the corruption in Pleasantville!”

“Yeah!” The team cheered together.

Charlie grinned, but inside he chided himself. Just because he didn't want to be a racist, it didn't mean there weren't parts of him that were racist. It was up to him to be on the alert and make those changes to not be racist.

Chapter One Hundred and Seventeen: Planning Stages

 Charlie had his head firmly in a book while Belle ate her seafood pasta.

“ARGH WHAT THE HECK?!” TJ screamed as he walked into Bills restaurant and saw the scene in front of him.

“I know, I freaked out too.” Bill said as he heard the screaming.

“I am not okay with this!” TJ carefully sat down with his friends.

“Charlie is looking up what we need to do to get the Chamber of Commerce up and running.” Belle explained. “And brushing up his Business Principles degree.”

“DEGREE?!” TJ cried.

“Charlie's had his BP forever!” Belle pointed out. “He was in my BP class at school for pete's sake.”

“I can't deal right now.” TJ sulked as Tammy and Sammy walked in and the screaming started again.

“You know it's really hard to study with all this noise going on.” Charlie frowned after the freak-out had subsided, which led to another quieter freak-out.

“Anyway, we've figured out that we need at least 100 signatures from business owners in the Pleasantville Council Region, which includes Fallsville, Greensville, Oakville and Treesville.” Charlie continued as Belle started slurping up strands of spaghetti.

“Given that there's a fair few business owners who are also pro-PRO I think we have that covered.” Belle shoved a prawn into her mouth.

“The big thing after that is the committee election, which is where things could fall apart.” Charlie sighed. “We can't let Demon become the head of the committee, otherwise it's just going to increase his control of the city.”

He grimaced a little as Belle kept talking with the others. Charlie had an especial hate for Demon, who not only had killed Charles Howzat. Charlies beloved grand-father, but had also fired Thomas Begly a few months after Charlie had been born. It had left the Begly family struggling until Thomas and Peter Masters made up and Thomas had been able to Improbability Clause up the family business.

There was also the matter of Daryl Jones. Charlie and Daryl had hated each other since they were toddlers, and before meeting Belle and the Knights of the Last Order Charlies life had been a living hell. Having your bully live nearly right next door made life harder than it needed to be, especially since Demon had never sought to pull Daryl into line. Every time Betty Begly had stormed over to report on another of Daryls actions in an attempt to defend her son, she had always been brushed off. Once she'd tried legal action, but that got thrown out the moment the judge (who had been paid off) looked at it.

Also on the list of things Charlie hated about Demon was Demons own daughter, Sunny, who had been abused by her brother for years. Again, Demon had turned a blind eye to the actions of Daryl. This particularly rankled Charlie who had once held strong feelings for Sunny.

Charlie knew he had to win this and get the first real blow against the corrupt City Council. The only problem was…well, that he wasn't Belle. Charlie loved his best friend dearly, but he was also in total awe of her drive and intelligence. Belle would have told anyone that Charlie was just as intelligent, if not more intelligent than herself, but Charlie would never believe it as long as he lived.

If I was Belle, all this study would be easy. Charlie sighed to himself.

“Hey, you're looking a bit down.” Belle clued in immediately to how her best friend was feeling. “Why don't you put that all down and come play some cricket with us?”

“I dunno…” Charlie looked over his paperwork as the others tried not to freak out too loudly.

“You guys go on ahead, we'll catch up.” Belle rolled her eyes her friends, who were at least able to look sheepish as they headed out.

“You got this mate. I know you do.” Belle touched Charlies cheek once the others were outside.

“I'm gonna need so much help though…” Charlie admitted.

“And I'm going to be right here the whole way through.” Belle kissed his cheek. “Come on, it's not like your batting average can get any worse.”

“HEY!” Charlie slammed his book shut and chased Belle.

“She kissed his cheek! They HAVE to be together!” Sunny watched the pair through the restaurant window.

“Honey, I hate to inform you but that means nothing. We're the most over-affectionate group of friends in the world, remember?” Petunia grinned. “I mean, these guys kiss each other all the time!”

“Affection between friends should be more encouraged!” Sammy gave TJ a kiss on the cheek. TJ hugged him back.

“Come on you lot, let's find Dan and have a cricket match!” Belle and Charlie had already rushed well ahead of the pack.

Daryl Jones wasn't very good at planning. He had grand aspirations, and no idea how to get there. So his first plan to get revenge on Crusader Roger didn't go well at all.

“I made you some tea, sir.” Daryl carried a teapot and a cup to Rogers office and knocked on the door.

“Bring it in.” Roger waved Daryl in. “Have you seen this? Begly Metal Services boss has decided to try and get a chamber of commerce going in Pleasantville.”

Daryl grimaced.

“Didn't you used to live next door to him?” Roger poured some tea.

“I lived next to the Masters. They live next door to the Beglys.” Daryl bit back his anger.

“Ah.” Roger said, stirring the tea. “He's doing really well for himself isn't he? And here's you, making tea for a criminal mastermind.”

Daryl seethed internally, doing his best to hold his poker face. “We took different paths in life.”

“Indeed. You can go now.” Roger leaned back in his chair.

Daryl turned around and made to go.

“Oh, and Daryl? Next time you try to poison me, make sure it's with something I can't smell a mile away.” Roger threw the cup at Daryl's head, cutting the back of his head open.

Daryl hissed.

“You're not a good actor at all, and you're not clever enough to think up a way to get rid of me. Don't try again.” Roger continued.

Daryl stalked out, furious. Not only had he failed to get rid of Roger, but now Charlie Begly was doing better than him.

Daryl swore that they would ALL pay. Dearly.

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