Chapter One Hundred and Eight: The Inspector
Daniel was standing on Pleasant Dam, looking out over the city, when Belle appeared, wearing the Backpack.
“You flew without your Giggles disguise? Risky business.” Daniel frowned at her as she came to stand next to him.
“I have my helmet with me.” Belle replied, pointing back where she'd hung the helmet off the Backpack. “Dad put a hook on for me. Pretty cool, huh?”
“Did he stop the random cut-outs that leave you in the middle of the lake?” Daniel asked as Belle leaned on the railing.
“Nah, I don't think there's anything he can really do about that.” Belle chuckled. “I don't know if you heard about my grand-parents.”
“Vaguely.” Daniel returned to looking out over the city.
“Did you hear about how they're actually members of the Haunted Maze Troupe?”
“Yeah, so I'm a criminal just like you!” Belle grinned. Daniel tried to grin along, but he felt sick to his stomach. Belle didn't know just how much of a criminal he was. “You look awful mate. Are you okay? The rest of the Knights are worried about you, especially Sammy. You know how much he looks up to you.”
“I'm just tired. I think I'm getting too old to play Sir Lionheart.” Daniel tried to force some humour into his voice, but it made him sound exhausted.
“We're all tired Dan, and I can understand how you'd feel. Leadership is hard as it is, but then throw the weight of expectation from your family to reignite the Silent Lake Gang and the thought that you're not living up to that. Whew. It'd be a lot for anyone to take.” Belle patted his back. “Feel free to share the burden with the rest of us.”
Daniel nearly told her. He nearly told her that he was the reason they'd had such a huge set-back, he almost told her that he was the one who killed Wallace Dingbat. He wanted to tell her how much he enjoyed it, and how right it felt.
He didn't, but boy, did he want to.
“Thanks.” Was all he said.
Belle smiled, and reached for her helmet. Of course, the helmet was right in the middle of her back, making it rather difficult to get a hand on. After struggling for a few seconds, Daniel walked over and grabbed it for her. She grinned at him, put the helmet on, and flew off the side of the dam, flying away from a glorious sunset.
Then the Backpack cut out and she fell into the creek.
Dripping wet, Belle made her way back home, stopping at the letterbox to see if there was any mail.
“Junk…junk…bills…another suspension…junk…bills…oh hey a letter for me! Oh, wait, another groveling attempt from my grand-parents, never mind…” Belle sorted through the mail as she walked inside.
“Hi Belle. Did you fall in the lake again?” Lara asked as Belle put the mail on the kitchen counter.
“Fell into the creek after talking to Dan.” Belle grabbed a towel and began to rub her hair.
“How's Dan going?” Lara asked as she poured tomato paste into a bowl.
“He's hanging in there.” Belle replied.
Awkward silence. Belle held the letter from her grand-parents in her hand. Grand-parents who had only really shown up when Belle could have been of use for the Haunted Maze Troupe. Compared to Lara, who hadn't even really needed to be there for Belle, it was a stark contrast.
Maybe it was time to grow up. Especially as Giggles watch was flashing.
“I'm gonna go save the day again. See ya Mum!” Belle grabbed her helmet again and bolted out of the door.
Lara smiled. “Go get 'em Giggles!”
Chuckles ducked under a blow from Crusader Daryl, and kicked the spoiled brat away. “I know y'all are upset that the Haunted Maze Troupe beat you to the punch, but c'mon, kidnapping children? Marion and Revolver tried that rubbish and look what happened to them!”
“The Death Valley Mobsters are done in Pleasantville, but that doesn't mean they didn't have SOME good ideas!” Daryl retorted.
The March Hill Crusaders had decided to attack the local primary school, reminding Chuckles and Giggles of their first brush with crime back when they were in their early teens. This time however, there were vigilantes to save the day. Daryl couldn't even get near the front gate!
“Where's Roger? I thought your little boyfriend would be right here with you.” Giggles sat in a nearby tree, her Desert Eagle pointed at Daryl (he's not worth wasting the Lucky Seven Gun on).
“Roger has left the day-to-day operations of the March Hill Crusaders to me.” Daryl replied smugly. “He's heading up projects.”
“Are you guys a crime syndicate or a multi-national? Geez!” Giggles rolled her eyes. “You know Roger only put you in charge of ops to try and get you arrested and out of his hair, right?”
“You've got ten men with you, and yet you haven't even managed to get onto the school grounds because of me. Honestly, I don't know why Roger puts up with you.” Chuckles grinned.
“It's because of his Daddy!” Giggles yelled. Both vigilantes laughed.
“You two jerks!” Daryl pouted.
Just then, the police arrived.
“About time.” Giggles groused.
A tall, lean man with sandy hair and a thick moustache stepped out of one of the cars wearing the Inspectors uniform. Giggles sat up straight. She hadn't known that the new Inspector had been announced already!
“Make sure you get the vigilantes too.” The new Inspector said to one of his officers. The officer nodded with a smirk.
“Not gonna happen. Chuckles, we're getting out of here!” Giggles jumped out of the tree and flew over to where Chuckles was. The pair ran away from the cops, who grabbed a car to chase after them.
“A car is no match for me!” Giggles picked up Chuckles and flew him up on top of the nearest building. Sure enough, the police car rolled up to the building and the police got out. Giggles used that time to fly away, much to the anger of the police.
“A new Inspector. He hasn't even had his swearing-in yet!” Giggles said as the pair flew back to the tip.
“We'll have to ask TJ about him.” Chuckles added. He felt a shudder from Giggles. “We're about to get another drenching, aren't we?”
“Yup.” Giggles groaned as the Backpack gave out and the pair plummeted into Pleasant Creek.
“This is embarrassing.” Chuckles helped Giggles out of the muddy creek, both of them dripping wet.
“Well, well, well, we knew we'd find you here!”
Chuckles and Giggles looked up to see Harold and Lady Billard, both in their Haunted Maze Troupe uniforms.
And Lady had a firm grip on young Madeleine Masters!
“REALLY?!” Giggles groaned.
“We happen to know that you're good friends with the Masters family.” Harold smirked. “So you're going to go and get Belle Masters for us, and this brat won't get hurt.”
“Hewwo Chuckles and Giggles!” Madeleine waved.
“Awww! Her pronunciation is improving!” Giggles clapped happily.
“It won't if you don't get Belle!” Lady tapped her foot impatiently.
Giggles looked at Chuckles, and sighed.
“Those are old uniforms, and the knives they have a different from the usual ones. Plus they're not wearing masks.” She told Chuckles.
“All I needed to know.” Chuckles grinned before unsheathing the Lions Claw Blade and swinging it, making both of the Troupers jump back.
“HEY!” Harold cried.
“HEY!” Lady cried as Madeleine was swiped from her by Giggles.
“Too easy. Later!” Chuckles and Giggles ran off with Madeleine, who was laughing.
“You're too calm for your own good kiddo!” Belle chided her sister as they sat at the tip, waiting for a lift home.
“I am not!” Madeleine protested. Belle tickled her, and the pair laughed.
“You two are so cute.” Charlie smiled at the pair. Belle smiled back. Madeleine looked at them both expectantly.
“HEY! You two!” They heard Petunia yell. “Hey, what's Maddles doing here?” Petunia walked up and sat down with the friends.
“My 'grand-parents' tried to kidnap her to get Giggles to hand me over.” Belle laughed. Soon, TJ, Sammy and Tammy had joined them.
“Sunny is out at a job interview.” Tammy sounded excited. “And who knows where Dan is.”
“I think he's just under pressure.” Belle said, settling Madeleine on her lap.
Suddenly Sunny burst into the group, tears streaming down her face.
“He actually blackballed me. My own father blackballed me…” She fell to the ground and sobbed.
“Oh Sunny!” Belle and Madeleine rushed to hug Sunny.
“I don't know what to do anymore. I mean, I don't need a job but…” Sunny trailed off.
“You DO need a job Sunny. If you feel you need one, then you do. I'm sure we can find something for you.” Petunia tried to settle her friend down.
“You could be a cop, no experience needed.” TJ said bitterly.
“Oh, right! Speaking of cops, have you seen a new Inspector recently?” Charlie asked as the girls gathered around Sunny.
“He's as good as the Inspector, although nothing's official yet.” TJ grumbled. “Andrew Haiter is his name, and he's worse than Dingbat.”
“How so?” Belle asked.
“He's not only racist, but homophobic, transphobic and extremely sexist.” TJ told them. “He's the one who got you suspended that time because you corrected his terminology in court.”
“Oh, THAT guy.” Belle groaned. “What's the chances?”
“High.” TJ said.
The group sat in silence, all of them worried about this new development. Soon, Daniel arrived and they told him the news.
“You're KIDDING! They've hired someone WORSE?!” He groaned after TJ finished explaining.
“Unfortunately because Dingbat was killed instead of being fired -,” TJ started.
“Will you STOP harping on about how terrible it is that Dingbat was killed! It's not like better people haven't died too!” Daniel snapped suddenly. Everyone was taken aback.
“Mate, the whole point is that if he'd been fired instead of killed, there would have been a mandatory investigation by the Higher Government! Demon couldn't hide from that!” TJ exclaimed.
“Well why aren't our lawyer-types trying to lobby for a better inspector?!” Daniel rounded on Belle, trying to funnel some of the pressure onto her.
“I'm just a prosecutor, and Dad is only one Counsellor. He might have Judy on his side, but they're up against it. Not to mention that Judy has to be careful.” Belle pointed out.
“Why are you so touchy for?!” Sunny exclaimed.
“Guys, Dan's probably tired. He's the leader of the Noble Knights of the Last Order remember? It's a big job.” Belle tried to pour oil on the troubled waters.
“Forget it Belle. I'm out.” Daniel stormed off.
“DAN!” Petunia and Tammy tried to run after him. Daniel shot them a Look, and they backed off.
“He's really not in a good place is he?” Belle asked as the two girls returned, dejected.
“No, and I wish he'd talk to us! If we don't know what's wrong, how can we help him?” Tammy kicked a rock.
“He was like this during the flood, remember? Only that time he actually talked to us instead of biting our heads off.” Sammy said quietly. Ever since he was little, Daniel had been there. From the earliest days of school, through to becoming a Knight and everything that came with that, Daniel had been his hero. Even though Sammy was a man now, almost through his teaching degree, he still felt the sting of Daniel slowly turning his back on them.
“I think the leadership is getting to him. Especially as we keep getting kicked in the guts again and again and again.” Belle said. “Maybe lay off him for a bit.”
“We'll try Belle-Belle, but I think this time it might be harder than ever to get things back to normal.” Sunny booped her friend on the nose.
Just then, Lara arrived to pick up her daughters. “Hey everyone. You all look glum. Has Dan been upset again?”
“How'd you guess?” TJ said drily.
“I thought you'd be a bit more panicked. After all, your toddler daughter got kidnapped.” Petunia raised an eyebrow as Lara picked Madeleine up.
“Oh, I knew her sister would protect her, no problem.” Lara smiled. “I have two very, VERY competent daughters, I don't need to worry.”
Belle grinned and got up to hug Lara. “Love you too Mum.”
Everyone had to laugh as the tension was broken. At least ONE relationship was repaired!