Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Seven: The First Blow
Haiter was feeling very smug as he walked past Charlie and Webster, who were waiting outside the court room.
“Hello Andrew.” Charlie said smoothly.
“Begly.” Haiter made to push past, but Webster, with the gleam of Sir Hedgehog in his eyes, put a hand on his shoulder.
“You might want to see what we have.” Sir Hedgehog smirked. Haiter sighed, and smiled as Charlie pulled out his phone.
Charlie grinned as Haiters face contorted into rage. “That…those…they're…!” He spluttered.
“And we have it saved in plenty of places.” Sir Hedgehog told him. “Imagine if this got out.”
“How did you get them to talk?!” Haiter was furious. The video was of Harold and Lady telling Belle about how Haiter was a Trouper!
“Belle is their grand-daughter. They've been trying to get her to join up for months.” Charlie chuckled. “So, I suggest you change your mind about our little Chamber, or else you and Demon will have a lot of explaining to do.”
“And after what happened last week, I don't think you're all that popular at the moment anyway.” Sir Hedgehog added. “Wouldn't take much to have the entire city demanding Demon fire you. And as much as he likes to think his power is absolute, he knows damned well he needs public favour.”
Haiter was so furious he couldn't speak. Only moments before he'd been bragging to the Mayor and now he'd been brought down HARD.
Charlie watched him, satisfied. If Haiter was on-board, then all he needed to do was win the election.
“F-fine.” Haiter spat. “But you WILL pay for this, just see if you don't!”
“I think I'll take that chance.” Sir Hedgehog patted his briefcase. Haiter swallowed hard. What was in that briefcase? What did this little upshot lawyer know?
He snarled at the pair, and stormed back inside the courtroom. Charlie grinned at Sir Hedgehog, who smirked back.
“Nice work Sir Hedgehog.” Charlie said.
“Shhh. I'm only Webster, remember? I left the Last Order.” Was the reply. Charlie silently disagreed. Webster might not have been much of a combatant, but he was still a Noble Knight of the Last Order who was doing his part.
Belle felt rather dirty as she sat back down in the court room gallery. It was time to see if her work had paid off.
“Andrew Haiter, do you still object to the implementation of a Chamber of Commerce or shall we proceed with the debate?” Judge Constance Dougherty asked.
Haiter looked ready to kill.
“I've considered the motion, and I withdraw my objection.” He said through gritted teeth. Demon shot him a look of confusion, but said nothing. If Haiter was going to play ball, Demon wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth!
“Very well. Then with no objections, the establishment of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce will proceed.” Constance declared. Charlie saw Belle in the gallery and shot her a grin – not quite a triumphant one just yet, the battle was only half won!
Belle felt a little bit better. Not much though, talking to her grand-parents usually made her feel icky.
“Now, for this establishment, we need to have a committee, that consists of a secretary, treasurer, vice-president and president. The president and vice-president are elected, the others can be nominated members of the public selected by the president and vice-president.” Constance rambled on. And on. Soon Charlie was starting to zone out again. Belle watched him and was silently betting he was going to start drooling.
“Now, for our nominations.” Constance finally said. Charlie snapped to attention immediately, wiping the drool from his mouth.
“Can those who wish to nominate for the position of president please step forward in an orderly fashion?” Constance said. “Remember you must have been a business owner in Pleasantville for the past 18 months in order to qualify, and must have plans to continue business within the next three years.”
“Good luck Chuckles.” Webster whispered as Charlie stood up.
“Thanks Sir Hedgehog.” Charlie whispered back. He straightened his shoulders and walked forward to hand his name to the judge. Sure enough, Demon had stepped forward, and so had the woman who owned West Pleasantville Jewellers. Another older man stepped forward as well. Charlie was the youngest person who had nominated.
Belle sucked in a breath. Hopefully Charlie could get in. Hopefully he would win.
“Okay, four nominations. Arnold Jones, you have the floor.” Constance read the first name off the list.
“My family has owned businesses in Pleasantville for generations. Being a business owner is in my blood. I have also led this city for five years.” Demon Jones began.
“And gotten our healthcare workers killed.” Someone muttered. A few people scowled at Demon, who realised he had no chance.
“Yes…well…” He faltered, before stepping back, embarrassed and angry.
“Is that all?” Constance asked, confused. Demon glared at her. “So be it. Charles Begly, your turn.”
This was it. Charlie stepped forward and began to speak.
“Like the Mayor, I come from a long line of business owners, and I am a direct descendant of the founders of this city. However, that is not what you want, you don't want to hear about the past. You want a future. A fair, just and good future where we can minimise the risk of owning a business while making it fairer for our consumers. I might be young, but that just means I am more open to learning and being flexible. I can grow with the growing business landscape of this city. Please consider voting for me.”
Charlie smiled at Constance and then at the business owners who had assembled. The room applauded strongly. Charlie stood with the rest of the nominees and exhaled. It was out of his hands now. He had done everything that he could have possibly done.
“That was very well spoken Mr. Begly.” Constance said approvingly. “Eugenia Wallow, please step forward.”
Charlie looked at the jeweller. Yes, she was a strong member of the Pleasantville Community Committee, but she was also someone who believed in the future of the city. Charlie thought she'd make a good vice-president.
Eugenia spoke about how she'd had to fight tooth and nail to start her business. How having a Chamber of Commerce was a great idea, and she thanked Charlie for his work. She also talked about fairness and protecting people, and how she could draw on her experiences to do it.
She also got a decent round of applause as she went back to stand with the rest of the nominees. Charlie smiled at her. She smiled back.
The last nominee wasn't much to write home about, and it was obvious to everyone in the room that he was a Haunted Maze Trouper. A few people shot dirty looks at Andrew Haiter, who was seething. Finally, it was time for the vote. All of the business owners forwarded out to cast their ballot.
“You've done well, I wouldn't be too worried about it.” Eugenia smiled at him. “All your hard work is paying off.”
Charlie smiled back. “Thanks. It's people like you who helped though.”
Demon snorted in disgust, and the other nominee tried to hide the fact that he was trying to ingest a drug in court. Charlie and Eugenia couldn't help but giggle together.
Slowly, the business owners forwarded back in, having cast their votes. An independent contractor from Brisvegas was counting the votes, so no chance of cheating.
Belle felt her phone vibrate. She pulled it out of her pocket and had a look.
“I think your grand-parents are stuffed.” Was the text from her father. Belle was confused and sent back a question mark. The next message gave her chills.
“Haiter has advised the Haunted Maze Troupe that they're the ones who gave you the information to blackmail him with. They've just been chased out of your Uncles shop.”
Oooooh boy. Belle gripped the phone tightly, not sure of how to feel. She heard people walking back into the room, and put her phone away. Her grand-parents could be dealt with later. Now it was time to support her best friend.
Constance walked back in and everyone sat. Charlie was sweating. Had he done enough?
“The votes have been tallied and verified.” Constance said. “The president of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce is Charles Begly. The vice-president will be Eugenia Wallow.”
Charlie felt like he was floating. He could barely breathe with excitement, although a huge sigh of relief escaped him. He was the president of the Chamber of Commerce. The first blow had been struck against the corruption of the Pleasantville City Council. They no longer had control over the business domain of the city.
Constance ended the proceedings there, and everyone made to leave. Eugenia patted Charlie on the back as she left.
“I'll call you tomorrow and we'll get things organised. Well done!” She said.
“Thanks. You too. I look forward to working with you.” Charlie said breathlessly.
“We did it. We really did it.” Webster could barely believe it. “This is huge. This is really, REALLY huge. You're now one of the most powerful people in this city.”
“I just hope I can do it right.” Charlie said. Suddenly he was nearly barrelled over by Belle, who was ready to burst.
“YOU DID IT CHARLIE YOU DID IT! I KNEW YOU COULD!” Belle laughed as she hugged him tightly.
“You helped. You were there the whole way through.” Charlie squeezed her back.
“Are they dating?” Demon leaned over and asked Webster.
“That's the question.” Webster shook his head as the two friends continued to cuddle.