Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Six: The Battle Begins

“Ready?” Charlie asked Webster as
they stood outside of City Hall on Monday.

“I had to deal with the Noble Knights
of the Last Order for the past two days. I'm ready for anything.”
Webster replied.

“I'm gonna go sit in the audience.
Good luck!” Belle kissed Charlie on the cheek and rushed to the

“Are you two dating?” Webster asked

“NO.” Charlie replied.

“Okaaay…” Webster didn't look
convinced. “Come on. Let's go.”

The pair walked up the steps towards

Belle scooted in and sat in the gallery
just as Demon, Andrew Haiter and Judge Constance Dougherty walked in
and took their positions. Behind Charlie in the wings were about
sixty of the signatories Charlie had gotten together. Everything was
ready to go.

Of course, first there was the swearing
in. Then the Businesses and Commerce Act was read. Finally, Judge
Constance got to the point.

“We're here today to discuss the
possible establishment of a Chamber of Commerce in Pleasantville.”
Constance started proceedings. “As per the Businesses and Commerce
Act, in order to establish a Chamber of Commerce within a City
Council there needs to be a proven demand for it, as evidenced by the
gathering of 100 signatures of business owners within the City
Council limits. For Pleasantville City Council, this extends to
Oaksville, Fallsville, Greensville and Treesville. Charles Thurlow
Begly, as the one who has initiated this discussion, do you have the
required signatures?”

Charlie gulped, shaking. “Yes Your
Honour. I also have the required verifications for each signature.”

“Good, that will save us some time.”
Constance took the paperwork and looked through it. Satisfied, she
nodded. “Mr. Jones, are you happy that all of these signatures are

Demon took the paperwork and leafed
through it. “I'm satisfied.” He said.

Constance took the paperwork back, and
gave it to Haiter. He too leafed through it, and agreed that it was
legitimate, although he didn't look pleased doing it.

“I now need a member of the public to
legitimize these. Can I please have a volunteer?” Constance turned
to the audience, which was pretty large considering. A young man
raised his hand, and went through all the paperwork. It took him a
while, but he finally agreed that everything was in order.

“Excellent. It will be noted in the
records.” Constance took the paperwork back and put it in a special
envelope. Charlie tried not to yawn. This was already taking forever!

“As per regulations, we require the
backing of at least six government officials, three of which must
come from Pleasantville City Council.” She continued. “You have
three from Brisvegas, along with Councillor Judith Jofery, Councillor
Peter Masters and Mayor Arnold Jones.” Constance shuffled through
her papers. “Do we have any objections to this undertaking?”

“I do.”

Everyone froze. The Inspector of Police
for Pleasantville, Andrew Haiter, had arisen.

“We have a solid police force, which
have taken care of business disputes for nearly two hundred years.”
He said silkily. “We do not need to add more red tape and more
bureaucracy to hinder citizens trying to start their own businesses or
continuing to do business in Pleasantville.”

Demon looked livid. Charlie grimaced,
but he'd known that there was always a chance something like this
would happen. Only he'd expected it from Demon, not from Haiter.

“A response from you, Mr. Begly?”
Constance asked.

“The businesses of Pleasantville, and
the consumers of Pleasantville deserve to have dedicated protections
against corruption, poor practices and bad service. They also deserve
to have help navigating the hardships that come with starting their
own businesses, and recourse when unfair practices stop them from
achieving their dreams.” Charlie started his rebuttal. “The
Pleasantville Police are a fine outfit,” (Belle snorted) “And
they should not be wasted on civil business issues, when they could
be better serving our community.”

Belle grinned. That had been a solid
rebuttal, and the only contribution she'd made was reading it over
for grammar!

“That may be true, but creating more
channels creates more opportunity for corruption. Plus, a Chamber of
Commerce is run by business owners with a Councillor overseeing.
Honestly, I think that makes it MORE likely that something is going
to go wrong.” Haiter replied coolly.

Charlie groaned. Webster looked through
his papers, trying to find a rebuttal.

“I'll allow a recess for two hours to
organise a rebuttal. Dismissed.” Constance got up and walked away.
Charlie felt angry as the crowds around him dispersed.

“I don't know what we're supposed to
do. I never expected HAITER of all people to turn on us.” Webster

“He doesn't want to lose power in
Pleasantville. As of now, everything goes through him. Of course he
doesn't want to lose that.” Charlie gritted his teeth.

Belle rushed over. “Are you okay?”
She asked.

“No. I can't believe we're gonna be
stopped before we get started!” Charlie slammed the table with his

“Especially by a police force that is
known for their corruption!” Belle snapped.

Then she felt her eye twitch.

“Charlie…what are you planning
now?” She asked as she saw him turn his frown upside-down.

“No WAY can I turn Dingbat in! First
of all, he's DEAD and can't defend himself, and secondly if I
implicate him in pulling strings to get Demon in as Mayor I can kiss
my job goodbye and say hello to a nice cushy GAOL CELL.” Judith
cried over the phone.

“Judith PLEASE, Pleasantville needs
you!” Charlie cried.

“I'm sorry, I can't, and neither can
Marion.” Judith hung up.

“Well that was a bust. Shame we don't
know anyone else!” Belle sighed.

“But we do.” Charlie was
determined. “We know your grand-parents. And you have an hour and a
half to help me.”

“WHAT?!” Belle cried.

“I hate him. We are totally not best
friends anymore.” Belle grumbled.

Pinned just inside her shirt was a
police camera (Webster being a big-city lawyer always had a few on
hand for various occasions), and she was sitting at Bill Restaurant.

“So, you want to talk to us at last.”
Harold and Lady showed up.

“Be grateful I'm giving you the time
of day.” Belle snapped.

“No need to be rude.” Lady frowned
at her grand-daughter.

“Why on earth should I give up my
nice, cushy job at the Council?” Belle dived straight in.

“But you wouldn't my dear, you'd
still keep your job. You'd just have a few extra duties is all.”
Harold pointed out.

“Like what? Killing children?”
Belle snapped.

“Not KILLING children at all, just
creating a future market for our wares.” Lady pointed out.

“And career progression?” Belle

“Oh, the possibilities are ENDLESS!
You could move anywhere!” Harold gushed.

“Like?” Belle pushed.

“Well, not only is there a pathway
through the Council, but through the police force too! Andrew Haiter
has actually been a member of the Haunted Maze Troupe since before he
became Inspector!” Harold pointed out. “That's how he GOT the
position in the first place!”

“I'll consider what you've said.
Thanks!” Belle got up and bolted from the restaurant.

“Are you guys gonna order?” Bill
asked as the two elderly Troupers looked bemused..

“Sure. The food here is great!”
Lady grabbed a menu.

growled at Andrew Haiter, who lit himself a cigarette.

“I am the highest ranking lieutenant
of the Hidden Maze Troupe.” Haiter smiled. “Do you really think
we would simply knuckle down under you?”

Demon gritted his teeth.

“We knew if we backed you, you would
rely on us. It was just sheer luck that Dingbat got himself
murdered.” Haiter continued. “And you played your part perfectly.
After you, I'm the most powerful entity in this city.”

“I can change that.” Demon snapped.

“And lose the backing of the Troupe?”
Haiter snorted. “Given that the only reason you're in charge right
now is because of the Death Valley Gang and the Mobsters of Misneach,
you shouldn't be making threats. You need power behind you, otherwise
you're nothing.”

Haiter walked up to Demon, and stood
almost nose-to-nose with him. “I mean, you DID have the police
force, but we swiped that from right underneath your nose.”

Haiter finished his cigarette.
“Remember who is REALLY in charge here.”

He walked off smugly, leaving Demon to
stew in his anger.

© 2021 Kezzstar24