Chapter One Hundred and Thirty One: Sick of this yet?
“And THAT will stop businesses from being able to bully people into taking down bad reviews or complaints.” Charlie grinned as he signed off on another policy. It was a few weeks after Judith and Marcus had returned safely home from hospital, and Charlie was well into making sure the Chamber of Commerce did what it needed to do.
“Only if Arnold agrees to it.” Eugenia Wallow pointed out drily. “This particular policy dips over into Pleasantville law, and you KNOW he's got the Haunted Maze Troupe in his pocket.”
“For now.” Charlie replied. “I'm pretty sure we'll get this one through though.”
“I hope you're right.” Eugenia sighed. “Certain businesses have been using connections with the criminal underworld to threaten and extort customers long enough.”
“Anyway, I need to go to City Hall anyway to pick up Belle, I'll take the paperwork with me and drop if off. Anything else we need to take?” Charlie asked, putting all their hard work into an envelope and sealing it tightly.
“That should be all for today. Nothing that can't wait until next week.” Eugenia yawned.
“You sound ready for bed.” Charlie laughed.
“I wish, but alas my oldest needs to be picked up from Ozzie Rules training, the youngest needs picking up from dance class, and the middle child is probably fighting with his father as we speak. Then there's dinner with the in-laws…bllaaaahhhh!” Eugenia groaned.
“Middle child and husband still not getting along huh?” Charlie asked sympathetically.
“It's a tweenage rebellion type thing.” Eugenia shrugged. “What's going on with you and Masters anyway?”
“We've been best friends since we were kids.” Charlie shrugged.
Eugenia raised an eyebrow.
“Seriously Belle, I can't thank you enough for all your hard…that should have gone in THAT pile…I can't thank you enough for all your hard work while I was…that should have been done by now…while I was pregnant.” Judith couldn't help inserting some criticism into her thanks to Belle as she looked around her office on her first day back to work. “You really should have dusted the windowsill, and did you remember to water the plants?”
“Yes, I did.” Belle gritted her teeth.
“Yes, well, it WAS a relief to know my work was taken care of, although you probably should have used blue ink on this letter…it made coming back to work SO much easier…these should have been in plastic folders, it would have protected them better…”
“I did my best.” Belle replied, with a slight edge to her voice. Judith might be the mother of Daniels child, but she was still the worst boss ever!
“Yes, I'm sure you did. Anyway, you can go now. Thank you again!” Judith shoved Belle out of the office, making the young Masters feel very much annoyed. How rude!
Just then, the beloved Mayor of Pleasantville walked past. Belle sneered at the door before she walked back to her desk, brushing past Demon.
“You look a little harassed today Miss Masters.” Demon said smoothly.
“Nunya.” Belle snapped back.
“Now now Miss Masters, that's no way to speak to your boss.” Demon smiled at her.
“Technically Judith is my boss, you're her boss.” Belle muttered under her breath, sitting down in front of her computer.
“You need to relax more. Tell you what, how about we do lunch tomorrow?” Demon leaned over Belles desk, making her feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable.
“Charlie is picking me up, I need to go.” Belle quickly packed her things into her bag and rushed to meet Charlie, who had thankfully just walked in.
“Give me a second Belle, I gotta give this to Mr. Jones.” Charlie told her. Belle groaned.
It took Charlie fifteen minutes to talk Mr. Jones around to at least considering the proposal, but eventually he came out. “Fingers crossed he actually signs it.”
“I hope he does.” Belle said as the pair walked out to Charlies ute.
“You right mate?” Charlie asked as they approached the ute.
“No. Demon keeps hitting on me.” Belle shivered as Charlie unlocked the ute and they got in.
“Ewwwww!” Was Charlies reply. “That is SO icky!”
“I KNOW!” Belle replied.
They spent the rest of the trip back home complaining about how disgusting Demon Jones is.
“Yeah, Mum and Dad are having extreme marriage issues. Mum's been sleeping with everything she can pay to get into bed with her, and Dad is furious.” Sunny told them that night as they ate dinner together around the Begly table. “Of course, Dad can't talk, he's been sleeping around since before I was born.”
“Might be a way to get in and make some changes.” Judith pointed out.
Nearly half the table spat out their dinners.
“You want Belle to stoop to seducing Demon for power?!” Lara cried.
“Why not? I did.” Judith took another spoonful of beans. “Slept with Jones to get ahead on a few business deals.”
Daniel looked at her, horrified.
“Dad's idea. It was just after he murdered Uncle Hector, so before I inherited the businesses, I got in with Jones to make sure he didn't come after them.” Judith explained.
“The same father we named our son after?!” Daniel squeaked, hugging Marcus a little closer.
“I dunno, I think if you could get in with my Dad and then dump him, that would mess him up.” Sunny said with an evil gleam in her eye.
“You definitely got your fathers genetic material.” Belle said drily, earning a dirty look from Sunny.
“We've all had to make sacrifices and do things that go against our beliefs for the greater good.” TJ pointed out. Charlie couldn't help but notice Daniel flinch slightly.
“Good point.” Peter sipped his beer.
“PETER!” Lara looked at her husband in horror.
“I can't believe we're talking about this at the dinnertable!” Betty groaned.
“We could be talking about the cricket.” Thomas pointed out.
Suddenly every Knight at the table shot each other a filthy look.
“Back to Belle seducing Demon.” Betty quickly changed her mind!
The next day, Belle spent the whole day feeling extremely ill. Especially when she overheard Demon scoffing at Charlies proposal for more consumer protection from being threatened.
“Why would I sign this? How does that idiot think I've stayed in business for so long?” Demon laughed with a few of his lackeys at the water cooler.
She didn't want to. The thought of Demon Jones made her skin crawl and her stomach turn. She wouldn't, she couldn't, she…
She had to. Not just for Charlie, but for every person in Pleasantville who had been bullied into silence by the Death Valley Gang, the Mob and the Haunted Maze Troupe. She had to stop businesses from threatening people who just wanted to go home without being ripped off. She could stop people losing money and sleep. All she had to do…
So when Demon invited her into his office, she took in a deep breath and accepted. She felt like she was walking to her own execution.
Charlie had been having a good day that day. At work, he and his team had managed to have a huge breakthrough with one of their new designs for streamlining metal parts construction, and now it was a matter of getting things built in order to maximise production. It meant that repairs to farm machinery could be expedited, meaning damaged machinery wouldn't impact harvests nearly as much. Everyone was going to win out of this!
He decided to walk home that afternoon, taking in the sights and sounds of the city that was now much safer than it had ever been when Charlie was a child. Maybe soon he'd be able to retire Chuckles, putting his swords away and never having to worry about protecting the city again.
He continued along the street towards home, the air getting chilly as winter started to settle in.
“Hey Belle…Belle, are you okay?” Charlie asked as he walked past Belle sitting under the old tree. “You look like you're ready to spew.”
“I got your proposal through.” Belle told him, looking pale. “And now I want to throw up.”
Charlie looked horrified. “You DIDN'T!”
“No, I didn't.” Belle looked equally horrified. “I threatened him with a sexual harassment suit.”
“Ohhhhh…that's cool.” Charlie breathed a sigh of relief.