Chapter One Hundred and Six: What Comes Out in the Wash

“Let us never have a night like last night again. Ever.” Charlie nursed his sore muscles as the group sat under the tree in the Masters/Begly yard.

“I'm just glad we got Dingbat under control. Wonder how he's enjoying our old cell?” Sammy grinned at TJ. Both of them had received “pardons” that morning from Judith Jofrey, and were both relishing their freedom.

Daniel said nothing. He was lying in the grass looking at the leaves of the tree.

“Anyway, I think that's cleared the air a bit. Both the PRO and the PCC will be going quiet for a bit until at least the election.” Belle rested against Charlie with her book unopened on her lap. “With Dingbat going on trial soon it will mean there'll have to be an investigation into the police force and THAT should lead to some good solid change.”

“And THAT will hopefully weaken the Jones administrations stranglehold on the city.” Charlie leaned back against the tree with a sigh. Tammy and Sammy shot each other a Look, Sunny rolled her eyes, TJ quickly started pulling up blades of grass and Petunia hid a smile. Would Chuckles and Giggles EVER admit their feeling for each other? They looked so cute cuddled up together!

“Sweet, sweet victory.” Belle mumbled as she started to doze off.

Peters car pulled up to the drive, and a few of the faces on the lawn looked hopefully at it, thinking their might be some cold drinks within. Instead, a very upset Peter got out and walked straight to the group.

“Guys…real bad news…” He looked shaken. “Dingbat was murdered last night.”

“Isn't that a good thing?” Daniel asked as the others looked at Peter in horror.

“NO it's not!” Tammy cried. “Especially if he was killed after we tied him up!”

“Did they at least get his body-cam?” Belle asked. Daniel went slightly pale.

“No, which makes it even worse. It was destroyed in the murder.” Peter told them.

“This gets worse and worse.” Charlie groaned.

“Now he's going to get a heroes funeral, and WE are going to look like the bad guys for leaving him defenceless.” Tammy started to cry.

“There goes our trial and the resulting investigation into the police force.” Sammy had to hold back tears himself. “Nothing is going to change.”

“They're going to need a new Investigator though won't they? Surely we can put TJ into the position.” Daniel suggested.

“I don't have enough experience nor the qualifications yet.” TJ looked ropeable. “I can't believe Dingbat has avoided justice! I wouldn't be surprised if he found a way to kill himself to avoid all of the crap that was going to flow his way.”

“Or if Demon killed him to keep him from getting in the way.” Charlie suggested. “It wouldn't surprise me how our Mayor likes to play chess with peoples lives.”

“Don't you guys think you're over-reacting?” Daniel tried.

“Dan, you're our LEADER! You should know better than anyone how much this is going to set us back!” Sunny cried.

“Geez, it's almost like you guys are LOOKING for problems now!” Daniel shot back. “Why can't you just take the positives when you see them?!”

He stormed off, angry.

“Do you think the pressure is getting to him?” Petunia asked after they'd watched Daniel walk away, all of them shocked.

“Something is.” Belle frowned.

Later on Belle was cleaning up after lunch and thinking fondly of her bed, a good book and her air-conditioned room. Conversation had been a bit stilted again during the meal, as Belle was still sore at Lara. It was made worse by the fact that Lara tried to see the positive of Dingbats death. As far as Belle was concerned, a huge opportunity to destabilise Demon had been lost, and she was pretty upset about it.

She had just finished washing up the last pan when there was a rapping at the door. Belle sighed and answered it.

She screamed.

“Beauty what the…WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” Peter poked his head out of the downstairs bedroom.

At the door were the parents of Belle's long-dead mother.

“They have NO right to be here.”

“I mean, after everything they did to you, they think they can just show up?!”

“I know! I just feel sick.”

Charlie was sitting on Belles window sill. Neither of them were impressed with Belles grandparents.

“I mean, neither of them even bothered to show up until my mother died, and they tried to kidnap me!” Belle ranted. “I'm glad Dad told them to bug off.”

“I want to know why they're only showing up NOW after sixteen, nearly seventeen years.” Charlie wondered. “There has to be something.”

“Probably the restraining order finally broke or something. I don't know, Dad handled all of that. I was just an innocent six year old who got caught up in a bunch of stuff that messed me up.” Belle slumped against the wall.

“And then you met me.” Charlie pointed out.

“And my fate was sealed. Doom for all eternity!” Belle poked her tongue out at him. “You know, I don't even remember having friends before I met you. All the kids of Brisvegas just seemed to be fleeting.

“Well, your Dad did say that you didn't spend much time in school there, because Joe took care of you.” Charlie said. “No wonder you didn't make any lasting friendships.”

“Wish I had though, we could use some outside interference that isn't the Presidents Entrusted National Intelligence Service. I'm still miffed they pulled a fast one on us to get the Ruby Suit back.” Belle sulked.

“Anyway, don't change the subject. What are we going to do about them? I don't think they're just going to give up, even if your Dad did scream every obscenity known to man at them.” Charlie asked.

“I don't know. Why me?” Belle whimpered.

Harold Billard, the father of Jill Billard and grandfather of Belle Masters, was nursing a beer as his wife Lady wiped her nose of powder.

“How was it?” He asked.

“I've had better.” She admitted. “What are we going to do about Belle? She HAS to fill her place, otherwise we're in big trouble.”

“I'm sure if we talk to her she'll understand. The Haunted Maze Troupe has its ways.” Harold sipped the beer.

“Her father keeps getting in the way. Never liked the jerk.” Lady leaned back in her chair.

“There ARE ways of getting her to listen to us.” Harold smiled.

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