This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Dukes of Hazzard characters, settings, locales, ect. are owned by other entities who have not endorsed this fic nor have they given express permission for the character's use. Author makes not claims to these characters and is not making any profit from their use.
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© Copyright: 2002. Cuz Bonita and Lisa Philbrick
Flight of Fury
(or The Day Hazzard County Got a New Patrol Car.)
A patrol car parked outside of the courthouse was a common sight, but
this one had Rosco and MaryAnne's full attention. The way the white
paint shone in the sunlight, it was clear that this was a brand new
squad. Given the average lifespan of the a Hazzard patrol car, Brian
decided to check it out for himself before Rosco broke it in.
Brian pulled Diablo up behind the patrol car, noticing the way the red and blue lights gleamed in the sunlight. It was kind of pretty, so long as the lights weren't in one's mirrors. Brian got out of his black Chevy and strolled up to Rosco and MaryAnne, who were swarming around the patrol car like bees on a honeycomb. The Hazzard law officers looked like kids with a new toy, and it made Brian chuckle.
Rosco glanced up from the car and looked at Brian. "Khee! Hey Brian, look what we got here!"
MaryAnne looked over the roof of the car from the other side. "Oh Rosco, like he's gonna care about a new patrol car." She grinned.
"Of course I care! Shoot, if there's another squad in town, I need to know about it!" Grinning, Brian peered into the patrol car and noticed it seemed to have twice the gadgets as the usual county issue. "Fancy-lookin'..."
"State of the art!" Rosco said. "Lookit here...radar equipment..."
"Yeah, real radar equipment even. It ain't no hair dryer!"
MaryAnne laughed. "The dang thing even has electric doors and windows. Can you believe that? Electric windows and doors? I asked 'em if it had wings hidden in the doors for cryin' out loud."
"Wow." Brian was impressed. "I never figured Boss would spend county funds on anything this nice for ya'll."
MaryAnne and Rosco both started laughing. "Ha! Boss pay money for this kinda car?" Rosco said. "Ferget it."
"That's what makes this so sinister," MaryAnne said. "The county didn't pay a dime for it. We got a grant from the government."
"Well, no wonder! It's about time the Feds gave ya somethin'...." Brian walked around the car, appraising it with the eye of a professional advesary. "Man, this sure ain't the scaled-down discount model! You try it out yet?"
Both officer's shook their heads. "I was tellin' Rosco, that I could go git Maverick and we could give it a good test, but he insists on waitin' for somethin' more challengin'."
"I'm waitin' fer the Dukes!" Rosco said. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Exactly." MaryAnne grinned. "Tho', I gotta admit I'm a little offended."
Brian gave a snort. "Face it MaryAnne, you n' me are just small potatoes. Rosco's been chasin' Dukes longer n' we've been around."
"Yeah. But I suppose I can't blame him...." She lifted the hood. "Considerin' what we've got for horsepower with this thing. Khee!"
Brian investigated the motor for himself, leaning into the engine bay. The Hemi big-block, complete with an overhead cam and performance belts and hoses, looked like a serious match-up for anything in Hazzard. "Gah...."
Rosco took a moment to enjoy the look on Brian's face. He then looked at MaryAnne. "I'd say he's impressed."
MaryAnne chuckled. "Yup."
"I just wish them dang Dukes would make up their minds to come
into town and be
nosy. Surely Daisy heard MaryAnne make the announcement to Boss at the Boar's Nest a couple days ago about the car comin'. I'da figured them Dukes be right here in town when it came in to check it out for themselves."
MaryAnne looked at her watch. "Well, it's early yet Rosco. And ya know Jesse don't let 'em goin' tearin' 'round til they get their chores done."
Rosco sighed. "Since when did chores ever stop 'em before?"
Brian started to snicker to himself. "Oh, ye of little patience.
Rosco, lookit over yonder by Cooter's. Bo n' Luke have been watchin'
y'all for Lord knows how long..."
Sure enough, the nose of the General Lee was just visible, poking out almost shyly from
within Cooter's garge. Brian cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered in that direction. "HEY! DUKES!"
Bo, Luke and Cooter peered out from the garage, as if they'd actually been working on the General. Brian pointed at them, then flapped his arms in an imitation of a chicken. "BAAAWK!"
No Duke ever backed down from a challenge. Bo and Luke stepped back into the garage, and then the deep-throated growl of the General Lee ripped into the air. Brian grinned and moved away from the patrol car. "Cousin Sheriff, I think you're about to get your wish...."
"Ooooh! Khee!" Rosco quickly got into the patrol car and turned the ignition, a powerful and healthy vrrrooom answering the call. He looked up at the General Lee.
The General shot from Cooter's garage with a roar, the tires leaving smoking rubber on the pavement. The Dixie horn blared defiance as Bo whipped the General around the town square. Luke leaned his head out from the passenger side of the General as the Charger sailed by the courthouse, shouting, "ROSCO! THE GAS PEDAL IS THE ONE ON THE RIGHT! TRY IT OUT! If you can figure it out...."
Bo added a screaming "YEEEHAAAAA!" and the General squealed around the corner, heading out of town.
Rosco shook his fist at the General and he slammed the accelerator on the patrol car. The Plymouth lept forward, tires smoking and leaving a black streak behind on the pavement. He zipped the car around the square and followed the General out of town on the same road.
MaryAnne turned to Brian. "Khee!! Let's follow 'em, see how he
"KHEE! Wouldn't miss this for the world! GO GET 'EM, ROSCO!" Brian yelled, running for Diablo.
MaryAnne followed and jumped into the passenger seat of the Chevy. Brian hit the accelerator and the Impala beat a path out of town after Rosco and the Dukes.
Rosco, meanwhile, wasn't paying attention to what was behind him. Only to what was infront of him. He kept within striking distance of the General, grinning and kheeing the whole time.
The new patrol car was driving like a dream and barely breaking a sweat to keep up with the Dukes.
Bo noticed the same thing. "Shoot, cousin....that new patrol car must have automatic pilot! Ol' Rosco's square on the bumper!"
Luke turned over his shoulder to look. The shiny grill of the new Plymouth Fury was too close for comfort. "You got that right. I think Rosco's confidence level's up a notch with that new car. Let's not give him more confidence by lettin' 'em catch us!"
"Ten-four!" Bo gave the General's wheel a sharp yank to the right, fishtailing the General onto a narrow dirt road. It was here that the Dukes expected to make their escape; the General had the ground clearance and suspension to handle rough terrain, whereas the Hazzard County patrol cars usually suffered on such roads. It was one reason the Dukes favored the back roads to the open highways.
Rosco yanked the wheel and followed after the General. The Plymouth ate up the uneven road, a beefed up suspension aiding the car over the ground. Rosco nary lost an inch in his persuit of the General.
"Khee!" MaryAnne giggled. "The boys are trying to loose him on the uneven road. Little do they know when I was puttin' together the wish list for that car, I asked for tougher suspension and a couple more inches of ground clearance. Them boys have met their match with that car!"
Brian glanced sideways at MaryAnne. "Wait a minute...you put together a specification list for that car?"
"You bet I did. I found a company up in Tennessee that does modifications for police cars. You tell 'em whatchya want, they put into a cop car for ya." MaryAnne chuckled gleefully. "If it weren't for the white paint job and different make and model, you could call that a second General Lee! Khee!"
"I don't know whether to root for Rosco, or feel sorry for the Dukes," Brian answered with a grin. Privately, he figured that if the General Lee couldn't outrun the new squad, neither could Diablo. Seeing how this chase would turn out was important to everybody in Hazzard, regardless of which side of the law they were on. He urged Diablo through the road dust that billowed from Rosco's car, noticing that the pursuit was taking a new direction.
Up ahead, the General Lee was making a mad dash for the river. Bo directed the General off the road to cut over a field. They would cross the river without using the bridge and dare Rosco to follow. Usually, this gaurenteed a crash of a patrol car. "Think that new patrol car can fly?" Bo asked Luke.
"One way to find out. Hit it, Bo!" Luke sank down into the passenger seat and hung on. The General's roar picked up volume, and the Charger hit the embankment at full speed, four wheels spinning in the air as it carved an arc over the river. It landed with a solid bang, bounding to safety on the other side. "YEEEHAAA!" Bo shouted. "Let's see ol' Rosco try that!"
Rosco had followed across the field, undaunted. Despite all the new equipment with the car, despite the beefed up suspension, and despite the powerful engine that had been put in, there was nothing that could be done to make up for anything in which the operator of the vehicle was lacking in. Such as the smarts enough to floor the accelerator and push the car for everything it had in order to be expected to jump the river.
"Oh man..." MaryAnne covered her eyes, knowing Rosco wasn't going to make it. So much for her mod list and giving Rosco a decent chance to catch criminals. So much for her latest effort at achieving honesty within the Hazzard County Sheriff's department. So much for the chance to see Rosco blow the doors of the General Lee....
Rosco, meanwhile, figured he was going to make it. The Plymouth thundered over the embankment and lept into the air. The nose stayed up, the body went forward a few feet but there was no clearing the river. The tail of the car skidded the top of the water and the nose started to come down as the vehicle hit the surface with a SPLASH!!
"DOHHO!!!" Rosco exclaimed. He looked through the windshield at the General high and dry on the other side of the river and the boys sitting on the doors of their car, laughing at him. He slapped the steering wheel and turned to the window, out of habit reaching for the roll down handle that wasn't there.
"Good grief...." The water was rushing into the patrol car and was already up to his knees. Finding no window handle he immediately pushed the button for the power window.
Nothing happened. No sound. The window didn't move downward.
In a sudden panic he grabbed the door handle and found the door wouldn't open either. He fiddled with the lock and tried again but the door still wouldn't open. The water was up over the seat now and he reached to the passenger door to try the same thing....
"AAAAAHHHHH!!!" With thundering heartbeat, Rosco realized he was trapped in his patrol car and when he looked up at the boys through the windshield he prayed that they realized it too. "Gimmie outta here!!!"
The smiles on Bo and Luke's faces began to fade. Rosco hadn't climbed from his patrol car yet. The white Plymouth Fury was sinking, shifting in the river's current. It turned slightly, like a piece of driftwood, then slowly dipped further into the water, like an empty soda bottle.
"Oh, Lord..." Luke breathed, realizing that Rosco was trapped. "Bo, we gotta get back there!" Bo and Luke slunk back into the General and turned the car around, heading for the riverbank. At the same time, Diablo had come to skidding, broadside halt on the other side of the river. Brian jumped out of the Chevy, and saw the river pushing water up against Rosco's patrol car, which was shifting with the current, joining it.
Instinctively, Brian knew that Rosco was still in the car, and MaryAnne's reaction confirmed it.
"Oh my God, he's still in there!!" MaryAnne jumped down the embankment.
Rosco had water up to his neck now and it was still rising. He knew he was about to go under but he could see the Dukes, Brian and MaryAnne through the waterlogged windows. "Oh God..." he cried. They were coming for him. His forehead was touching the roof of the car. He had only a few seconds to take one last breath and try to hold it....
The river's swift current moved the car once more. The Plymouth Fury lurched forward and slid below the surface, the red and blue rack of lights seeming to float on the water for a moment. Then they too, slipped under, swallowed by the water. The river continued it's course as if nothing had happened, unheeding of the life it captured.
Bo and Luke ran and slid down the river's embankment. They wasted no time on words. They waded into the water and jumped into a swim, heading for the spot where Rosco had last been seen. On the other side of the river, Brian flung his black jacket aside, preparing to hit the water himself. He looked at MaryAnne quickly. "I know you wanna dive in too, and I'm not gonna try and stop ya! But there ain't no tellin' why Rosco didn't get out to begin with..." Brian couldn't say it, but he was afraid that the Sheriff may already be dead. He was afraid for Rosco, but afraid for MaryAnne, too. If there was any way he could spare her from grief....
"You don't have to try to sugar coat it, Brian. I know there's a million possibilties. Now don't stand there gaping, git in there!! I'm gonna call for Cooter on the CB."
Brian turned and plowed into the river. MaryAnne was keeping her head, and here he was, feeling like his knees were going to give out. The current pushed against his legs insistantly, and Brian soon dove his entire body into the river and broke into a swim. It was the YMCA pool, and not country rivers, that Brian was accustomed to, and he labored against the current. He dove under water where he had last seen Rosco, just as the Dukes had a few seconds before.
The ice-cold water nearly numbed his body, and the murkiness of the river made it difficult to see anything. Telltale bubbles lead him to the Dukes, who were some feet below. Bo and Luke were each trying to open a door of the patrol car, and with every tug of their arms, a small cluster of bubbles escaped their mouths.
Luke noticed Brian, and looked over at him, shaking his head. The car doors, enhanced with power locks, would not open. The electric doors and windows, that had been such a proud feature of the new patrol car, were sealing Rosco's fate.
Brian kicked back up to the surface. He had one idea. There was no telling if it would work. The moment his head was back above water, Brian yelled for his cousin. "MARYAAAAANE!!"
MaryAnne had just tossed the CB mike back onto the seat of Diablo when she heard Brian call out. She ran back down the embankment again and skirted along the edge of the river. "WHAT?! DIDJA FIND HIM??"
"HE'S TRAPPED! THE POWER DOORS WON'T OPEN! MARYANNE, THROW ME THE TIRE IRON FROM DIABLO'S TRUNK! HURRY!!"
MaryAnne zipped back up the embankment and ran to Diablo. She leaned in and pulled the keys from the ignition and quickly went to the back of the Chevy, popping the trunk open and immediately finding the tire iron. She grabbed it up and ran back down to the edge of the river. Instead of tossing it, however, she dove into the water and swam out to hand it off to Brian. If she had tried to throw it, and missed, it would have wasted valuable time. Rosco had already been down there long enough. Fighting the current, she got within reach of him and held out the iron. "Here!"
Brian grabbed it, took a heaping gulp of air, and dove. The Dukes, he saw, were coming back up for a breath of oxygen. He had no way to explain to them what he intended; he could only pray that MaryAnne knew and would send them back down to help.
Brian swam down to the patrol car. He forced himself not to look at Rosco's face, though he could see the blue uniform hazily through the windshield. Brian moved to the other side of the windshield, his lungs already feeling ready to burst. He ignored the pressure in his chest and smacked the tire iron as hard as he could against the windshiled, attempting to crack it.
A breath of bubbles flew from his mouth with the jarring strike. It seemed to do nothing. Brian hit the windshield again. ROSCO! he thought frantically, keeping himself from fleeing for the surface. The cold water made him feel weak, and he felt the despair of uselessness grip his heart. He had to go up for air....but then he forced himself to look at Rosco's face. The Sheriff's blue eyes, blank and expressionless, gazed upward.
Brian attacked the windshield with fury. He hit the same spot over and over, feeling the glass crack and start to give. Someone started pulling at Brian's shoulder, and he turned to see Luke. The elder of the Duke cousins took the tire iron and shoved Brian back towards the surface. Brian breached the surface uneasily, gasping and coughing. If he went down again, he probably wouldn't have the strength to do much good. It was up to the Dukes...and the Lord.
Meanwhile, MaryAnne was praying with each stroke she made in the water to stay afloat. There was nothing much she could do at the moment, except wait. MaryAnne had never been able to open her eyes under water, thus going below the surface would have been useless. So she watched the surface, waiting for Brian and the boys to come up with Rosco. She saw Brian break the surface of the water, gasping for air. But nobody else came up as well.
"Goddammit," she said softly. "Where is he?" she demanded, but not specifically to Brian. "Where is he!?!"
"....still under...." Brian heaved out, catching his breath with difficulty. "...trapped..." The awful reality of his own statement made him sick. Had it been a minute, two minutes, or three since Rosco had went under? With a pained look in his dark eyes, Brian made silent apology to MaryAnne, and dove back under.
Bo and Luke hadn't resurfaced yet. Time was running out, gone. There was a limit to what was humanly possible. With his arms and legs feeling like lead weights, Brian swam down to the sunken patrol car. Bo and Luke, the fools, hadn't surfaced for air since relieving him.
Bubbles were rising steadlily from the patrol car, and through the murky haze of water, Brian saw Bo and Luke pulling Rosco through the windshield. They had broken the glass out with the tire iron and were hauling Rosco to the surface, though they themselves were barely within survival.
Seeing the condition the Dukes were in, Brian kicked down to relieve one of them. Luke, by the looks of it, was the worst off. Brian took his place, swimming behind him and grabbing ahold of Rosco. Luke kicked towards the surface for air, urgently.
At the surface, MaryAnne could only guess what was happening. "C'mon Rosco....please..." she bit her lip and blinked the tears out of her eyes. "Please Lord...bring them up..."
The few yards to the river's surface was the longest distance Brian had ever traveled in his life. Rosco's weight was heavy and inert; the river seemed to refuse to give the Sheriff up. It took Brian and Bo a few precious seconds to synchronize their efforts, and by then, there were flashes of white behind Brian's eyes. How Bo was still moving, Lord only knew. But there was no giving up. The river would have all of them, or none.
The murkiness of the water gave way to a sudden brightness. Brian felt Rosco's weight being pulled away. As Brian struggled up to the water's surface, he dimly heard Bo rasping for air, and Luke's voice yelling for MaryAnne.
MaryAnne was halfway to them, kicking and clawing through the water. She came up to one side of Rosco, with Luke on the other and together they swam, carrying Rosco to the shore. Once the water was shallow enough, they lifted the unconcious Sheriff and carried him out of the water, laying him down on the sandy edge of the embankment.
Empowered now that she could do something, MaryAnne pointed up to where Diablo was parked and told Luke to go call for the Tri-County ambulance, never taking her eyes off Rosco's face. The Sheriff was pale with a bluish tint starting to show near his lips and his eyes were now closed. She pulled his wet neck tie loose, unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and tilted his head back, leaning her ear down to him to listen for any breathing at all. Gently she placed her index and middle finger on his neck to check for a pulse.
It was there! Faint....oh so faint, but there! She still had time. As Bo and Brian were making their way out of the cold water of the river, MaryAnne began the rescue breathing. One breath...wait a few seconds, keep checking the pulse, watch for the chest to rise and fall. Somehow MaryAnne blocked out that it was Rosco this was all happening to. She managed to block out everything. She didn't even realize that Bo and Brian were watching her or that Luke had returned from calling Tri-County. All she concentrated on was that she had to get this person breathing on their own again. A person who just happened to be kin.
She repeated her procedure. One breath...wait...one breath...wait...
"C'mon, Rosco..." came the echo from Brian, just above a whisper. Bo rested a hand on his shoulder, gripping it. There was no Duke vs. Coltrane history at this moment; only the fight of life against death.
MaryAnne kept at it, repeating the breaths, waiting, checking the pulse after 12 breaths. It was still there, but the Sheriff was not breathing on his own yet. Despair was tapping on the shoulder of MaryAnne's courage. Hopelessness was coming up alongside. She pushed them away and made another breath.
Five seconds...how many five seconds had she counted? A minute's worth?
Five minute's worth? Why wasn't he breathing?! One more breath, listen....one,
Suddenly she heard Rosco start to wheeze. His chest rose on it's own and she quickly turned him onto his left side, bringing his right arm over him. His breaths were short, labored and he began to cough, but it was the most relieving sight to see. MaryAnne found herself smiling and crying at the same time as she held on to Rosco's shoulder assuring him that everything was okay and telling him to keep coughing to get the water out of his lungs.
You have to go back....you have to...
Preoccupied with the rough ride on his return from near death, it wouldn't be until much later that Rosco could recall, let alone tell anyone what happened. The proverable cliche of one's life passing before their eyes before the journey to the light turned out to have some truth to it. Rosco relieved every high and low of his life in a few short seconds. Jumbled memories collided together to form the story of his life. A short movie with no dialogue and no soundtrack. Just images, fleeting, short and long gone. He may have felt some emotions during the recall stage, but there wouldn't be anyway to remember for sure.
Things went black after that. Like someone had cut the power in the movie theater. The pictures stopped. Everything stopped. There may have been a passage of time, but for how long Rosco didn't know.
The light that started to glow was small and soft, like the light that spilt into a room as a door was opened. It grew in intensity but was never harsh or cold or blinding. It surrounded him with familiarity and offered a comforting moment that never faltered, even when the peculiar sense of what had happened started to set in.
And in that moment there wasn't a damn thing he could have done about it. He looked up into the light, feeling a pang of sorrow not for his demise, but because of all the people he'd never see again. The folks in Hazzard, the Dukes, Boss and Lulu, Brian....MaryAnne.
The light shined strong. Love and peace....
Go rest high on that mountain, cuz son your work on earth is done. Go to heaven a-shoutin', love for the father and the son...
Rosco blinked and looked into the light. He figured he must have been close to the pearly gates. It was time to face the truth. It was time to find out if they were going to let him into heaven....
The Sheriff blinked again, suddenly realizing that he was hearing a voice he hadn't heard for over ten years.... Nah...can't be.
"Jit jit! Dad?!?"
There was a soft chuckle. "What, you think they'd send a total stranger to tell you what I have to tell you?"
Rosco kept looking around. If Raleigh was there, he wasn't making himself be seen. "Well, I uh...I suppose not but...why can't I see you?"
"Stop lookin' around."
Rosco stopped and stared straight ahead. After a moment an image emerged within the light. It was Raleigh, looking the way Rosco had always remembered him. Rosco grinned. His father smiled back.
"You always were easily distracted."
Rosco smirked. "That's not how I ended up here, thankyouverymuch."
"No, you're right. It's not. And that's why you can't stay."
"I can't? I'm bein' kicked outta heaven---jit! Wait a minute! You mean, I gotta go in the other direction!?!?!"
Raleigh hung his head and started laughing. "No, silly...." He looked back up at Rosco. "Listen to me. You're not in heaven yet. This is kinda like a holdin' area. This is where we determine if the folks comin' are supposed to be comin', ya know? If it's their time. You understand what I'm sayin'?"
Rosco nodded. "I understand." He wasn't sure why, but he felt a little sad. Maybe it was because he was seeing his father and talking to him...only to be told that he couldn't stay to visit.
"There's still a lot you need to do back there. It's not that there's no room for ya here, Rosco, but you have to go back. You got kin dependin' on you..."
Rosco nodded again. He looked up at Raleigh, a silent moment passing between the two.
Before Rosco realized it, there were two other images coming to reveal themselves in the light on either side of Raleigh. On the left, Rosco recognized Eli, MaryAnne's father who smiled at Rosco. And on Raleigh's right....was Isaiah. Brian's father.
If he had a heartbeat, in the normal sense, it would have skipped at that moment. But Rosco met the gaze of his long lost uncle...and saw him smile. A look of pride accented it. Rosco realized that the bond of family was just as strong in death, as it was in life. He understood this all too well and he understood what was being asked of him. He nodded to his father and two uncles.
"Awright," he said. He smiled to them.
Raleigh tilted his head slightly and looked past Rosco. "MaryAnne's about to bring you back. Don't let her be too hard on herself when this is all over, ok?"
Rosco nodded and the light started to change, intensifying behind the three men to the point that they disappeared....
You have to go back...you have to...
"...that's it, Rosco....You're gonna be okay..."
Rosco coughed and gasped and then finally heaved. Once it subsided, he started to actually feel alive again. He heard other voices besides MaryAnne's. There was the Dukes and Brian. And probably some other commotion going on but he didn't pay attention. He was just glad he could hear them.
MaryAnne smoothed his wet hair away from his eyes and he opened them, squinting for a moment and then his eyes adjusted to the light. She was nearly hugging him now and he turned his head slightly to look at her.
"You ok?" she asked, her eyes red.
He raised his left hand and gripped her arm that was wrapped in front of him. He nodded and tried to speak but his voice barely caught. It didn't matter. He managed a smile which was all MaryAnne needed to see.
Still smiling, she looked at Brian and the Dukes in relief.
Brian had been holding his own breath, waiting to see if Rosco would
ever draw another. When the Sheriff stirred to life and purged water,
and then reached a weak hand to clasp MaryAnne's arm, Brian breathed
out a thank you Lord. He saw MaryAnne's smile, grinned in return, and
heard the Dukes murmuring their own relief at Rosco's recovery.
Bo and Luke each clasped one of Brian's shoulders. All the way around, it had been a team effort to pull Rosco from the river and bring him back to life. Had only one of them not been there to help, things may have turned out tragically different.
Feeling the truth of that, Brian suddenly turned and pulled Bo into a brotherly hug, pounding him on the back before shoving him away. He did the same to Luke, who saw it coming but couldn't get away in time.
Before either of the Dukes could react, Brian turned towards MaryAnne again, warmth showing openly in his dark eyes. "You did it, MaryAnne...you brought him around."
"Yeah..." she chuckled with a little disbelief. "Yeah I did, didn't I?" She looked up at the three of them and then suddenly pulled Brian into a quick hug.
The Dukes were next. "Uh oh.." Luke said, but the smile never left his face. MaryAnne hugged the Dukes and thanked all of them for what they had done.
The sound of vehicles arriving got everyone's attention. Cooter's tow truck rattled to a stop and the ambulance from Tri-County came to a quick stop, it's lights still flashing. Organized commotion set in as the attendants talked to MaryAnne and Brian about Rosco's condition while the Dukes filled Cooter in on what happened and pointed out where Rosco's water logged patrol car was.
Cooter looked across the river and saw nothing but the fast-running current. "Let me get this straight, y'all. The car's where?"
"About thirty feet below the water," Luke answered, nodding towards river.
Cooter looked at the rushing river, then took a good look back at the Dukes, who were water-slicked like otters. Then he slowly turned his eyes to the ambulence, where MaryAnne and Brian hovered. Next to them, Cooter could see that Rosco was getting his vital signs checked by the medical team. The Sheriff was offering a weak, though vocal, protest about having himself being prodded and poked like a prize steer.
Cooter took off his old baseball cap and turned back to the Dukes. "This was a close one, wasn't it."
"Awful close," Luke agreed. His blue eyes dropped to the ground. "We'd a-figured that Rosco would have hit the brakes rather than chance that river to come after us..."
"We baited him," Bo confessed suddenly. "We ran it flat-out
comin' to the river. Rosco was close behind us, I don't know that he
coulda pulled up short if he'd wanted to."
Bo glanced over at Luke with a guilty expression. The older Duke cousin sighed deeply.
"And then when Rosco landed in the river...them new electric doors n' windows jammed up. The dang car sunk like a rock, with Rosco in it. Took Brian n' the both of us to get him out...n' then it took MaryAnne and some prayer to bring Rosco back."
Cooter didn't know what to say. What had happened didn't seem to be anyone's fault, but there was no denying the guilt in the faces of his friends. Finally, Cooter gave both Dukes a pat on the shoulders. "Y'all just take it easy. Ol' Rosco's okay now, and that's what counts." With that, Cooter went back to his truck, already doing the calculations of the amount of tow cable he'd need to drop down into the river. As he walked by the ambulance, he happened to notice that MaryAnne wore an expression very similar to the Dukes.
MaryAnne saw him go by and nearly called out for him to forget about it and leave the car in the river, for all the wretched thing was worth. She had spent a week going over her spec sheet for the car, talking on the phone with rep at the company in Tennessee about what they could do to a 1978 Plymouth Fury to make it the best damn patrol car Hazzard County had ever seen. He said he had one on hand already and that it had air conditioning. "That'll be nice for those hot days on patrol," he said. Knowing that an air conditioning unit only add more weight to the car, MaryAnne asked for it to be removed. "I've gone this long without an air conditioned car, why be spoiled now?" she had said.
The rep never said what other options the car the had. And even if he had mentioned the electric doors and windows, MaryAnne wouldn't have thought nothing of it at the time.
That's just the problem. You DIDN'T think. You ended up with a twelve-thousand dollar death trap. You shoulda let Boss spend the money for all the good it did.
MaryAnne sighed and looked at Rosco. The medic made a joke which got the Sheriff to smile a bit. MaryAnne was thankful to see him okay, but there was a heavy sense of guilt. She thought she had developed specs for a car to help Rosco be a good law man. Instead it nearly killed him. You should've known better....
The medic turned to look at MaryAnne and Brian. "He seems okay, but as customary with situations like this I want him to go to the hospital to be observed for awhile. We want to make sure that all his upper respitory functions are working properly and that all the water is out of his lungs to reduce any risk of infections, bronchitis, ect."
MaryAnne nodded. "Okay, we'll follow you to the hospital."
The medic nodded and turned back to Rosco. "Make yourself comfortable, Sheriff. We're going to the hospital."
"Do we have to?" Rosco asked.
"Don't argue with him, Rosco," MaryAnne said.
Rosco looked up and grinned at MaryAnne. She smiled back but she looked like she was ready to burst into tears at the same time. "I'll be all right," he said.
"I know," she said. The medic directed him into the ambulance and closed the door.
MaryAnne turned to walk to Diablo.
Brian let her take a few steps alone...but only a few. He gave her a minute, then followed, pausing to pick up his jacket at the river's edge. He carried it over his shoulder and walked up to MaryAnne. He walked silently at her side for a moment, unsure if he should speak or leave her alone.
He glanced at MaryAnne. She was soaked through from the river, like the rest of them. Her hair, normally tied back neatly in a pony tail while on duty, was stringy and disheveled. It was her eyes, though, that concerned Brian. There was a look in them, a haunted, drained expression, that wasn't part of the MaryAnne he knew. It wasn't a look he could ignore. "Cousin?" He asked quietly. "You okay?"
It appeared as though she wasn't going to answer at first. Then she slowly shook her head. "No, not really," she said. "I should just tell Cooter to leave the goddamn thing in the river. It ain't no use to the department anymore and it wasn't a hell of a lot of any use to Rosco to begin with!"
Brian was about to say that Cooter could probably fix the car, but he knew that none of them ever wanted to see Rosco in that particular car again. Sighing, Brian decided to tackle the core of the issue. "This ain't your fault, ya know."
"Sure it is. I shoulda known. I should have known when they delivered it and Rosco and I discovered the friggin' thing had power windows and doors that it would be trouble. Instead it was novelity. The old LeMan's had power windows but not power doors. It's a big deal to poor folks like us." She paused to take a breath. " And out of all the cars he drives, it's the patrol car that's more likely to end up in a pond or river or something!" She stopped and looked at Brian. "I spent twelve thousand dollars from Uncle Sam on a death trap!"
The tone of self-blame in MaryAnne's voice was sharp and bitter. Brian wasn't sure how to answer it. "Aw, MaryAnne...you couldn't of seen this comin'. And so far as it bein' anybody's fault...it's everybody's fault. I riled the Dukes up n' called 'em chicken, then they riled up Rosco and took off for that jump...and ol' Rosco might not of hit enough gas to clear that river. This whole thing was a bad break of Coltrane luck, but it ain't your fault, personal!"
"It was my idea to order the car to begin with. If I hadn'ta done that we wouldn't have had to rile the Dukes and Rosco wouldn't have had to chase 'em."
Brian blinked at her. There was something wrong with MaryAnne's logic, but arguing with her wasn't going to make her feel any better. He dropped the issue for now. Perhaps once she saw that Rosco was truly going to be okay, she'd quit beating herself up. Or at least Brian hoped. "It'll be awright," he said lamely, putting an arm around her shoulder for a moment. Then he let her go and starting climbing the steep slope back up to Diablo.
MaryAnne followed but said nothing more. Maybe her argument was flawed, but she was so upset at the moment she wan't worried about making sense. Beating herself up over what happened seemed like the right thing to do. After all, this was Rosco. Her kin. One of the most important people in her life. Somehow she was responsible for the whole thing. And being fortunate to bring him back from the brink of death didn't begin to make up for any of it. She wasn't sure what, if anything, would make up for it.
As Brian and MaryAnne sat down in Diablo, an uncomfortable silence settled into the car and stayed with them. Even the vaaa-hooom of the Chevy's pipes seemed subdued. There was nothing of comfort in the sight of the river to either of the Coltrane cousins, and as they crossed the water using the old iron bridge, the length of the General's flight was made evident. Maybe no one but the Dukes could ever hope to survive such a stunt. Maybe no one but the Dukes should have ever attempted it.
The river gave no answers. Brian could feel the water's cold depths
rushing under the bridge, and he sped up irrationally. He didn't spare
the river a glance in the mirrors as Diablo barreled away, the black
Chevy churning up dust towards Tri-County hospital.
The ambulance, having a head start, had beaten them there. Brian and MaryAnne saw it parked by the emergency entrance as they pulled into the parking lot. The back doors to the ambulance were wide open, leaving no doubt that Rosco had been whisked away quickly.
Brian pulled Diablo up near the ambulance, so that MaryAnne could get out at the curb. He let the Chevy rumble in park, and turned to look at MaryAnne. He knew what she and Rosco meant to each other, and under the circumstances, Brian didn't know whether he should go in with MaryAnne, or give her some time to cope by herself. "Do you want to be alone?" he asked quietly.
MaryAnne paused and then shook her head. "Naw...I'll wait for ya here. Go ahead and park Diablo."
Brian did, and returned a moment later, pulling his jacket back on as he walked up to the curb. He and MaryAnne fell into step and walked through the hospital's automatic doors, which whooshed open before them. "Seems like one of us is always here for somethin', " Brian said half-jokingly.
"Yeah, I know." Dryly, she added, "You'd think they'd name a wing after us or somethin'."
That got a laugh out of Brian."The Coltrane Ward! The Intensive 'Khee' Unit. I-Khee-U!"
MaryAnne snorted in laughter and suddenly couldn't get the smile off her face. "I-Khee-U. Now there's an advanced medial facility if I've ever heard of one. Khee!"
"We're always doin' our part for medical science, that's fer sure. Now if only there was a cure for us," Brian chuckled.
"Heh, if somebody found a cure for us, they'd probably win the Nobel Prize! And then Boss would want a cut on it..."
Brian snorted. "Ain't nothin' noble about Boss Hogg...."
The two of them kept up the banter as they walked the hospital's white
halls. The jokes helped to banish the echos of bad memories, and fresh
worry, that threatened the back of their minds. Both Brian and MaryAnne
expected Rosco to be okay, but neither of them would breathe easy until
the name Coltrane was off the hospital's patient list.
Finally, they came up on the admission desk, and Brian made himself ask the dreaded question. "Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane was brought into the E.R. a little while ago...could you tell us where..."
The middle aged woman with glasses looked up at the two drenched cousins. "My goodness," she said. "You yourselves look like you should be in the ER with him."
"We came pretty close," MaryAnne said. "Is he still in there?"
"I can check. You are..?"
She nodded. "I'll check for you. I'll get you some towels too. You two shouldn't be runnin' around in wet clothes like that..." She stood up and departed from the admission desk.
MaryAnne looked at Brian and then at her own damp uniform. "We do look pretty helter skelter, don't we?"
"You could use a comb," Brian ventured with a grin. "But I bet I look as stunnin' as always..."
MaryAnne snorted. "Don't ask and I won't tell you..." She grinned back.
The admission woman returned with two fresh white towels and a report on Rosco. "They still have him in the ER," she said as she handed them the towels. "You can head on down there if you like."
MaryAnne nodded. "Thank you. And thanks for the towels."
The woman nodded pointed to the hall way. "It's around the corner there and down the hall."
"Thanks again." MaryAnne and Brian marched down the hall way towards the ER.
Rosco, meanwhile, was sitting on a hospital bed in a dry hopsital gown taking another deep breath for the doctor to listen to his lungs.
Rosco repeated it. When the doctor took the stethascope away the Rosco looked at him. "You keep having me do that I'm gonna hyperventilate."
The doctor smiled. "Well if it makes you feel any better, you sound fine."
Rosco brightened. "Great. Does that mean I can go home now?"
"In a little while."
"Doc," Rosco said, nearly whining. "I feel fine."
"I'm glad that you do, but I want to make sure you're still feeling fine a couple of hours from now. Sorry, Sheriff but you're staying put for awhile."
Rosco made a face but made no further vocal protest.
"Besides, you can't walk out of here wearing just that." The doctor gestured to the hospital gown.
"You wanna see me try?"
The doctor chuckled. "I had them take your uniform down to laundry to get it dry. You can at least wait until that comes back, can't ya?"
Considering Rosco only had two uniforms, he conceded that he was going to have to wait. Sneaky doctors, they'll do anything to keep ya in this place....
The doctor excused himself and left the room. Rosco leaned back on the bed, closed his eyes and pulled at the hospital gown, suddenly feeling drafty. "Jit jit..." Okay, maybe he wouldn't have tried to walk out wearing just the gown...but he sure as hell would have tried to find a robe first!
Before contemplating his escape plans further, Rosco heard feet shuffling at the door way. "There's sleeping beauty," MaryAnne said.
Rosco grinned and opened his eyes. "Hey," he said as his kin gathered around. He studied each of them, noted their disheveled look and saw they both had towels in their hands. "Where'd you get those?"
"Nice lady at the admission desk got 'em for us," MaryAnne answered. "Said we looked like hell oursleves and shoulda been in the ER here with ya."
"She say that??"
"Not in those exact words, but..." she smiled and sighed. "You're lookin' better."
"I feel fine. The doc won't let me go yet tho'. Not for a couple of hours." He looked at MaryAnne. "You look better than you did before I got here."
"Yeah, well...I'm just glad you're okay." She took a hold of his hand. "Scared the hell out of me, that's all."
Rosco gently squeezed her hand. "Scared me too. I'm just glad you and Brian and the Dukes were all there to get me out."
MaryAnne nodded but her face showed her guilty feeling and she was suddenly at a loss for words.
Brian felt the floor go out from under the conversation, and did his best to bridge it. "Rosco, what do you remember from the accident?"
Rosco thought a moment. "Not too much. I vaguely remember even going into the river....." He paused, feeling a sense of deja vu'. "It's probably for the best that I don't remember much anyway...." Rosco suddenly narrowed his eyes, not being able to shake the faded images in his mind.
Brian couldn't let it go. It felt odd, for him to be the one asking the questions when his cousins were both cops...but what the hell. "I'm just tryin' to figure out," Brian started again, "Why you didn't clear the river. That car sure as hell had the horsepower..."
Rosco snorted. "Brian, you could put me in a rocket car and I probably wouldn't have cleared the river." He shook his head. "I didn't push on the gas enough I guess."
"Hmmm." Brian was on a quest for facts. Anything that would ease MaryAnne's feelings of guilt. Anything at all. "So the car ran okay before you hit the drink?"
"Yeah. Brian, I don't think there was anything mechanical wrong with that car." He looked at his young cousin. "What are you trying to get at anyway?"
"He's trying to make me feel better," MaryAnne spoke up.
Rosco looked at her. "For what?"
She sighed and said softly, "If I hadn't bought that car, none of this woulda happened...."
Rosco stared at her for a long moment. "MaryAnne, I've been sending patrol cars into ponds, lakes and rivers for over 25 years, you know that."
"None of 'em had 'lectric windows!"
"That wasn't your fault. You didn't ask for the car to be that way."
"No, I didn't but I should have told them to make sure that the doors and windows weren't electric. I shoulda sent the damn thing back when they delivered it!"
Rosco paused and shook his head. "Will you stop it. You had no way to see this coming. I had no way of seeing this coming! And I've been doin' it all along." He stopped and gripped her hand tighter. "Sweetheart, there's been times when I've gone into a pond or something and nobody's come back for me. I got out and walked back to town, but Lord knows something coulda happened that would've prevented me from getting out of that car. I coulda hit my head, I coulda been wearing my seatbelt and it could have jammed. Just because the car had 'lectric doors, didn't make it more dangerous for me."
"Maybe." She looked at him. "I still feel responsible somehow."
"MaryAnne, if you hadn'ta been there with the boys, I wouldn't be here now. Don't worry about the car, don't worry about it now. It's not your fault, okay?"
MaryAnne brushed a tear away from her cheek and nodded. "Awright..."
"That's my girl..." Rosco couldn't blame her for feeling responsible, he would probably feel the same way if the roles were reversed. He figured, thought, once things settled down, she'd see it really wasn't her fault.
A long sigh came from Brian. What MaryAnne probably needed was to bawl her head off, but she'd never let herself do it. Not in front of both of them, anyway. Meantime, giving her and Rosco a few minutes to themselves probably wouldn't hurt.
Brian gave Rosco's shoulder a pat. "You take it easy. I'm gonna wander down to the cafeteria and get a bad cup of coffee...and then see if my room in the psych ward is ready." With a mild grin, Brian walked away.
"See if my rooms ready too, will ya?" MaryAnne called after him, struggling to keep her composure. "I'll catch up to ya in a bit." She looked back to Rosco.
He shook his head to her. "Don't be so hard on yourself," he said. He opened his arms to her. "Let it go."
MaryAnne sniffled and leaned into his embrace. She cried quietly into his shoulder for a moment and then spoke softly. "It was just too close this time, Rosco. Too damn close."
"I know, sweetheart...." He hugged her tightly. "But it's all over now, everything's gonna be awright...." He let her loose so she could stand back up to look at him. He grinned lightly. "I suppose yer gonna have me check in on the CB every hour now, huh?"
"Every hour? Of course not. It'll be every ten minutes." She smiled.
"I shoulda figured."
He smiled at her as she wiped the remains of the tears on her face away. "You awright now?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
"Good. You better go make sure Brian's not trying to knock any change outta the vending machines."
MaryAnne snorted. "Awright. We'll be back in a little while to see when they're lettin' you outta here."
He nodded, his grin never fading. MaryAnne walked to the door and gave him a glance back before heading down the hall.
Brian, meanwhile, had not gone anywhere near the cafeteria. He passed it up on purpose, being too keyed up to stand still or sit. Instead, he went outside, where he could pace at his leisure, and sneak a smoke.
The cigarettes, hidden like a guilty secret, had remained dry inside of his jacket pocket. Brian tapped one cigarette out of the package and lit it, taking slow drags as he wandered around for a few steps. He hated hospitals. He hated the scents, the sounds, the weird machines, and the hush of secrecy among the medical staff. Most of all, he hated it when someone he cared about was in there.
It seemed like the people he cared about were in there a lot. Maybe more then their due share. Brian looked at the collection of cement and glass that made up Tri-County Hospital. He'd seen more of this building than he'd care to admit, inside and out.
A sense of deja vu' crept over him, as Brian turned his gaze to a flower garden, and the painted turf of the helicopter landing pad next to it. Diablo had made a hell of an exit out of here once, and Brian was surprised that the landscaping had recovered so well.
It seemed so long ago, when Brian had brought Rosco to the hospital
that time. God, he'd never forget it. At the time, he'd half-expected
the Sheriff to expire in Diablo's front seat.
He hadn't been sure what he'd thought of Rosco back then, but he had known one thing. Rosco was kin. Badge or not. And that meant something in Brian's heart even when his own fate no longer mattered to him.
Nowadays, Brian not only knew his kin, but knew what it meant to be kin. The thought of losing Rosco or MaryAnne was enough to make him sick.
Rosco had damn near died today. Damn near. And for what?
All for chasing two hicks in an orange hot-rod, who didn't have the sense to quit challenging the laws of gravity.
Somewhere inside, Brian knew that it wasn't the Dukes fault that Rosco had a close call today. But then again...just how many times had the Dukes been responsible for Rosco having what he termed a "horrendous crash?"
The day's tension was bottled up inside Brian like a shaken-up soda. MaryAnne was blaming herself, Rosco was shrugging the whole thing off, and for himself....Brian needed a good primal scream.
Especially when the General Lee pulled into the hospital parking lot, the "01" on the door square in Brian's line of sight.
He blew the last of the smoke through his teeth and dropped the cigarette to the ground, grinding it into the pavement with a boot heel. Yes, the Dukes had helped save Rosco's life. Yes, the Dukes and Rosco weren't really and truly enemies, in the strictest sense. Yes, they were all members of the Hazzard community and being good neighbors was a part of that....
...but despite it all, Brian remembered the sight of the General Lee sailing over the river, daring Rosco to follow...and then he remembered seeing Rosco trapped in the patrol car, under water.
Brian was pissed off at the Dukes for the hell of it, and it felt good. It made him forget how scared hed been.
Bo and Luke, oblivious to these thoughts, slid from the General Lee and walked quickly towards the hospital. They spotted Brian waiting outside and called a greeting. From the expression of the dark-eyed Coltrane, there was no telling what Rosco's condition was.
"Brian!" Luke said urgently, getting worried by that look. "How's Rosco? Is he okay?"
Brian held his answer until Bo and Luke were directly in front of him. "Rosco's fine," he said in a soft drawl, as if discussing the weather. "Though MaryAnne's still a bit shook."
"I can imagine," Bo said sympathetically. "We thought we'd stop by and...."
"Rub salt in the wound?" Brian interrupted. "Look, maybe you two can fly like buzzards, but Rosco can't. That stunt at the river damn near killed him!"
Bo and Luke weren't usually ones to back up from anybody, but there was an edge in Brian's voice that they hadn't been prepared for. Luke put up a hand. "Brian, now hold on. We're sorry about that, we really are! But you can't..."
Brian only hit Luke once, but it was with everything he could put behind it. Luke took the punch to the jaw and fell backwards ungracefully. Brian sent a hard left into Bo's stomach, and when the younger Duke didn't topple over, added a follow-up to the chin.
Bo lost his balance and fell to the pavement. He and Luke sat there, stunned more by the act than the impact of the blows. They rose slowly to their feet, their blue eyes hardening. Brian stood there and waited for them, his stance set.
"If that's how ya feel about it," Luke said at last, "We can talk about it some more..." his fist curled into a ball.
MaryAnne had just come out of the door when she saw Bo and Luke getting up from being hit. She saw the look on both Duke's faces and Luke's hand curled into a fist, ready to take aim at Brian. She broke into a run.
"Hold it! Hold it!" She jumped right in between Luke and Brian, looking at both of them quickly and seeing the looks in each other's eyes. "Goddammit, I can't leave you fellas alone for a minute. What the hell is this all about now??!"
"He started it!" Bo said hotly, pointing to Brian.
"Damn right," Brian agreed, leaning over. "C'mon, plowboy! I'll see how far you can jump...."
MaryAnne held Brian back, practically pushing him away from Bo. "Stop it, all of you!" The young deputy glared at all three men, realizing what started the whole thing. "That's what this is all about...." She looked at Brian. "I've been beatin' myself up over what happened and you've decided to beat them up about it? That it?? A little while ago you were tellin' me that none of this was anybody's fault, so now yer blaming them?? Or maybe it's just because the three of you are never gonna git along. So why don't you just have done with it awright?!?"
Fuming, Brian tore his angry gaze off the Dukes to look at MaryAnne. He was ready to say just what he felt about the Dukes as a whole, but the burning blue in MaryAnne's eyes stopped him. Bo and Luke were her friends. And seeing her friends get beat up wasn't going to make her feel any better.
Brian knew that fighting would make him feel better. He looked from MaryAnne back to the Dukes. They still wanted a fight as much as he did. There was no way to back down at this point, and an apology given in hot blood was worthless anyway. Brian didn't want to hurt MaryAnne's feelings, but he sure as hell felt like he had to strike out at something...or somebody. "Move, MaryAnne," he said through clenched teeth.
MaryAnne read the underlying meaning in her cousin's dark eyes and her eyes hardened in response. "Like hell. You just hold it," she replied in like. She glanced back at the boys, saw the same look on their faces and suddenly had the urge to knock all three heads together. She looked back at Brian.
"I ain't movin' for nothin'. You three wanna fight, you can take it outta this parking lot and outta my sight!" She stepped aside and pointed towards the parking lot where General Lee and Diablo were parked. "GO ON! GIT! GIT OUTTA HERE!! I DON'T WANNA SEE YER FACES AND I DON'T CARE WHO THE HELL WINS!" She turned and marched back to the hospital entrance.
Bo and Luke watched her go, their expressions showing some regret. They didn't want to hurt MaryAnne either. She had been through enough.
Brian, too, watched MaryAnne go with a pang of remorse. He almost called it off. Almost. But when MaryAnne reached the hospital doors, Brian's dark eyes turned to the Dukes. They stared back at him, waiting for his move.
Brian said nothing and walked towards the far end of the parking lot. The Dukes turned and followed. For right or wrong, a fight had been called, and they never backed down from one.
MaryAnne didn't stop to see if they actually left the parking lot. She walked at a brisk clip, her teeth clenched and her right hand flexing into a fist. Damn those three...nothin' but a buncha hot heads. If they don't kick each other's tails I'll finish it for all three of them!
She brushed passed doctors and nurses in the hall way, heading back to the ER. She rounded the corner, stormed passed the nurses station and walked into Rosco's partition.
He caught the look on her face. "Uh oh...."
"You won't believe what just happened..."
"What? Brian was trying to knock change out of the vendin' machine?"
MaryAnne shook her head. "No. That hot head and another pair hot
heads known as Bo and Luke Duke were about ready to go at it down in
the parking lot! For somebody that not an hour ago was tellin' me how
none of what happened was anybody's fault, Brian was ready to lay blame,
and had already gotten a good right cross, on the Dukes."
"He hit 'em?"
"Far as I could tell. They were gettin' up off the ground when
I went down and Luke was about ready to unload on Brian. Them three
have been wantin' to go at it since I don't know when so I told them
to take it out of the parking lot."
Rosco was a little disappointed. "You didn't."
MaryAnne blinked. "You think I coulda stopped 'em from going at it? After the day we've had, if you think I was gonna stand there and play referee--"
"MaryAnne, them three are big enough they could really hurt each other! I mean, we know there's bad blood between them and we know why. Things that happened today are good enough of an excuse to bring it all to a boil." He looked at her, deadly serious. "It's probably not the best thing them three should do right now."
Rosco's concern was not without cause. Outside, Brian had led the Dukes from the hospital parking lot. This was one fight he didn't want anyone to stop.
He walked across the street, heading for an alley. It was narrow, dark, and half-choked with debris. Perfect.
Brian walked halfway down the alley, stopped, and turned to face Bo and Luke. He stared them down a moment, looking at the two country-bred men with restrained hostility.
Bo and Luke looked back with equal distain. There was no fear in their blue eyes. Only calm rage.
Somewhere, faintly in the back of Brian's mind, a quiet voice of reason tried to argue with him. It's not their fault...
But then Brian remembered just how cold and deep that river felt. He remembered Rosco being trapped behind the windshield, motionless, sightless, looking out at something no one else could see.
The sense of loss that had hit Brian at that moment had buried itself in the back of his mind. At the time, he had no choice but to go on, same as MaryAnne.
Perhaps MaryAnne had given herself in to the luxury of tears, while staying at Rosco's side. Brian hoped so. He knew what it was to carry around emotion that weighed down the soul.
And now, looking at the Dukes, Brian couldn't stop himself from hating
them. Any sense of brotherhood he had momentarily felt with the Dukes
had been left at the river.
The voice of reason pleaded once more. It's not right...
It was also too late to turn back. Brian wanted to punish the Dukes. It wasn't right, but there it was. He took a fighting stance, narrowed his eyes, and blotted out everything else in his mind. The Dukes had nearly cost him kin, life and freedom at different times in the past. Small-town life had healed over much of those early days in Hazzard...but today, the near-loss of his elder cousin had torn open an old scar.
Brian hurt like hell inside, and since he couldn't show it, he had to give that pain to someone else. "Come on, plowboy," he snarled at Luke.
Luke had watched Brian's dark eyes carefully. Anger, indecision. Anger, indecision. Then...anger. So be it. He and Bo had given Brian chance enough to back down or apologize. It was now time for Brian to learn the consequence of hitting first and thinking later. Luke took a stance, protecting his own face with his right fist and holding his left slightly lower. He kept his mouth shut and kept his cool. It wouldnt' take much to get Brian to throw a hard punch and leave himself wide open in the process. Maybe if he didn't beat Brian up too bad, MaryAnne wouldn't be that upset....
Brian jabbed and jumped back, faster than Luke expected. No contact, but the move was sharp and quick. Brian was trying to draw Luke in. The elder Duke cousin was too experienced a fighter to fall for it, though, and he simply stepped back and held his stance. Brian would piss himself off sooner or later, Luke figured, and then he could end this fight clean.
Brian coiled himself up and readied another jab. He was telegraphing his moves, thinking too much....Luke waited for the opening.
Brian suddenly swept a wide kick into one of Luke's legs, knocking his feet out from under him. As Luke's back hit the rough pavement of the alley, he realized exactly what Brian's strategy was - put the enemy on the ground and never let him up again.
Brian sprang forward, pouncing, intending to take advantage of Luke's momentary helplessness. But Luke kicked up and caught him in the guts with his boots, and Brian was pitched forward, thrown heavily over Luke's prone form to land hard among broken bottles and beer cans.
Luke followed through from the move, completing a backwards somersault and pushing himself quickly to an upright position. He spun to face Brian, who was rising from the broken glass with a wary look in his dark eyes. Apparently the leather jacket had prevented any cuts from the glass, and Luke was almost disappointed to see that.
"Careful, Luke " Bo said nervously. He couldn't interfere. Not yet. Though it was Duke honor alone, that kept him from attacking Brian from behind.
"Tell Brian to be careful," Luke said lowly, wanting the indirect threat unsettle his opponent.
It didn't. Brian came back for more. But his posture was guarded, more defensive than before. Good, Luke thought. His opponent had learned some fear. Now it was time to make that fear sink in.
Luke went on the offensive, taking short swings at Brian and making him flinch back and give ground. One or two punches that Luke jabbed through connected, but they were stinging, irritating blows, designed to rattle Brian more than knock him out. Luke kept his feet moving, dancing a little, falling into fighter reflexes that were well-honed and natural to him. Brian now had to fight on his terms.
Brian was doing more blocking than hitting. Luke was forcing him to watch every move, preventing any new attack. Meanwhile, Brian was collecting more knuckles to the jaw than he was comfortable with, and frustration gave away to a bad move. Brian swung a hard right towards Luke's eye, but Luke deflected it, knocking Brian's arm away and then grabbing it, pulling Brian forward and off-balance. He kept hold of Brian for another second and connected a hard right to the jaw, enough to make his own hand hurt. He ignored the sore knuckles and took a two-fisted grab on Brian's jacket, hauling him into a half-spin, throwing him roughly into one of the brick walls that lined the alley.
Brian had the presence of mind to slap his hands up and keep his face from bouncing off the bricks. "Good move, Luke!" Bo yelled. "Show 'em some more!"
"Gladly." Luke grabbed the back of Brian's jacket collar, ready to take the young Coltrane back to fighting school. Unfortunately, he had put himself in reach of one of Brian's standard moves. Brian suddenly threw back a hard left elbow to Luke's stomach, then spun around and heaved a right fist into Luke's chin. He didn't give his enemy any time to recover from it. Luke was shoved backwards and his back was thrown into the opposite brick wall. Brian pinned him there with a forearm across the throat, while using his right hand to pound the wind out of Luke's abdomen. Taking the air out of the enemy's body was the objective, and between the strong-arm press on Luke's windpipe, and the punishing blows to the stomach, it was working.
"LUKE!" Bo shouted, alarmed. Duke honor could hold him no longer. He ran up behind Brian, pulled him forcibly away from Luke, and got into the fray. Brian smacked Bo in the nose for his troubles. Bo responded with a furious attack, the pent-up anxiety from watching the fight giving him fresh energy.
Brian gave Bo plenty to think about, and hit him liberally. But the blonde Duke had a tall stance and excellent reach, and Brian was taking as much damage as he was giving. He was tiring and getting slower, while Bo was chock full of fight.
Luke, having recovered his air, suddenly lunged from the wall and slammed Brian back, pinning a Coltrane shoulder to the bricks. Bo echoed the move and pinned the other shoulder, holding Brian fast. They had him. It was time to finish it.
Before either of the Dukes could continue their next move, a gun shot suddenly exploded inside the alley. "Time's up fellas...."
The Dukes and Brian jumped at the sound of the shot, startled. None of them had any idea how long MaryAnne had been watching.
"Thought you said you didn't care who wins," Bo said, sullenly.
"I don't. And neither do the three of you. You're not lookin' to win a fight. You're lookin' to destory each other." She waved Rosco's pearl handled pistol at them gesturing back towards the hospital. "Rosco wants to see the three of you. Right now."
Reluctantly, Luke let go of Brian, and Bo did the same. The Dukes eyed their Coltrane combatant angrily, as if to say, you're lucky MaryAnne showed up.
Brian moved off the wall and glared at them, guessing their thoughts. "#@&%#," he muttered under his breath, turning to walk towards MaryAnne. He gave her, and the pearl-handled Colt, an unpleasant look. "Put that damn thing away."
MaryAnne snorted and glanced at the gun. "This is nothing compared to Rosco's mood at the moment. Keep walking boys...."
Brian knew the cop-voice of his cousin when he heard it. He walked back towards the hospital, with the Dukes following. They too, gave MaryAnne sidelong glances, resenting the interruption of the fight. They returned to the hopsital in silence.
Upon entering the building, MaryAnne tucked the Colt into the waistband of her pants. She led the three back to the ER where Rosco was now dressed in his dry uniform and was standing, talking to the doctor. The conversation stopped and the doctor regarded the three young men as they entered the room. He saw the evidence of their fisticuff on their faces and their clothes. He looked at Rosco, noting the Sheriff didn't seem at all surprised at the sight. But clearly disappointed.
"Well," the doctor said, feeling it was his cue to take leave. "Take care of yourself, Sheriff."
"Thank you, doctor," Rosco replied. The doctor nodded and departed the room, leaving behind an unsettled silence.
Rosco peered at the threesome. "Well. Now I've had myself the day of all days today. I nearly die and I think I had one of them near-death experiences. My own father tells me I can't go to heaven yet, I have to come back. And this is what I have to come back to. The three of you worked together long enough to fish me outta that river and now yer beatin' the puddin' outta each other. Care to explain?"
Bo, Luke, and Brian stared at Rosco, none of them knowing what to say. The way Rosco casually mentioned getting turned back from Heaven, as if the store was closed, unnerved them completely.
MaryAnne was surprised at the mention of seeing Raleigh too. She wondered what else Rosco had seen but refrained from asking at the moment. She knew the look on his face. He was furious and for good reason.
"Well?" he prompted. "C'mon, let's have it."
Bo and Luke looked at Brian, accusingly. Luke spoke his explaination to Rosco. "All we know is, we came by to see how you were...and he lit into us."
"Youre damn right," Brian admitted. He turned to face Rosco. "You wouldn't have tried that jump if they hadn't led you into it. That's the truth, no matter what else anybody says. And once I got to thinkin' on it...I couldn't let it go. You damn near died, MaryAnne was blamin' herself onconna the car...and hell, I decided to blame them."
MaryAnne rolled her eyes. "Oh that's just beautiful..."
Rosco sighed and shook his head. "Brian...fellas, look, what happened, happened. It's nobody's fault. It just happened and I, for one, am glad that things turned out okay. The three of you, on the other hand, are just lookin' for an excuse to get into it with each other, that's all. Ain't that what this is really all about?"
The Dukes, uncertain, looked from Rosco to Brian, who seemed ready to plead the Fifth. "Just seems more than coincidence," Brian said quietly, "that before every Coltrane disaster...there's a Duke." The name was hissed.
Rosco kept his thoughts to himself and looked to the boys for their response.
Bo and Luke went pale. Being blamed for Rosco's mishap was something they could understand, and even accept, though they hadn't expected to get into a fight over it. But being blamed for everything that ever involved bad Coltrane luck...
"You got no call for that," Luke said to Brian.
"We don't have to take it from you neither!" Bo added.
"Easy, Bo..." Rosco cautioned. He then cast a cautionary look to Brian, suggesting...no, warning him. Rosco was trying to get the three to reason with one another, but flared tempers were severely hampering the effort. Brian had no call to scapegoat the Dukes. Not every Coltrane disaster was preempted by actions from the Dukes. Some Coltrane disasters, in fact, were prevented by the Dukes.
And then there was this: "You realize Brian, that the boys here could turn your arguement around and just as easily say that before some Duke disasters there's been a Coltranes?" Rosco paused a moment, thinking of the time when he had gone and hired that bounty hunter, and Jesse had got hurt. "You're not being fair by blaming the Dukes for all our problems...but then again, they're not being fair by agreeing to take you on in a two on one fight. We can stand here all day and blame each other for all the bad luck that's ever befelled either family."
"I ain't interested in bein' fair," Brian said heatedly, "When it concerns somethin' they've done to y'all." There was no apology in his tone. He looked at Rosco directly, his dark eyes holding fire.
"Well, they ain't done nothin' to me....except save my life." Rosco looked at Bo and Luke and held his hand out to them. "And I appreciate it more than anything..."
Bo's face changed from a scowl, to surprise, to a sudden, bright smile. "Oh, heck, Rosco...wasn't nothin', but you're welcome!" He shook Rosco's hand.
"You're welcome, Rosco," Luke echoed, smiling. He was the next to shake Rosco's hand, and he did so gladly.
Rosco smiled at the boys and then turned to Brian, offering the same hand, the same look of sincere appreciation. "I'm thankful you were there to save me too."
Brian was thrown off for a beat. He'd been honing a bad temper at the Dukes over the whole thing, but obviously Rosco wasn't holding any grudges. Instead, the Sheriff was showing gratitude.
And his gesture was a very effective reminder to Brian, that he and MaryAnne could not have saved Rosco by themselves.
Brian clasped Rosco's hand. "I'm just thankful you made it."
Rosco shook Brian's hand, gripping it firmly. He looked Brian straight in the eye, conveying a silent message that only Brian as kin would understand. No words could express it, but it was the same feeling Rosco had when he saw his father and two uncles standing before him.
Rosco dropped his gaze momentarily and then looked back and forth between Brian and the Dukes. "I don't want y'all fightin' about this anymore, awright?"
The expression in Rosco's eyes could not be denied. Brian broke off the Sheriff's gaze and looked down, giving a sigh. "Understood..." he said in answer, giving the Sheriff's hand a return grip.
"Yes sir," the Dukes said for themselves. They too, felt subdued.
Rosco turned to MaryAnne. "And you..." he grinned. "Thank you for what you did as an officer and as kin. You kept calm through the whole thing and made sure what had to be done was done." He saw her eyes misting over and he pulled her into a hug, squeezing her tight. She hugged him in return and giggled a little when his embrace turned into a bear hug.
"That's my girl," he said softly.
She looked at him with a smile and suddenly didn't feel quite so guilty anymore. Her eyes then held a question. "Did you really see... Raleigh?"
Rosco paused and then nodded. "Yeah. I didn't just see Raleigh either, I saw couple other folks." He glanced at Brian and the Dukes, seeing he had their attention. "I ain't even sure I can describe everything I saw or felt. Maybe I was hallucinatin', who knows? But when they say your life flashes before your eyes, they aint' kiddin'. All these faces and places and images....like a video tape on fast forward. Then it all stopped, like the tape broke."
Bo and Luke were wide-eyed with interest. So was Brian. He had a feeling there was more to the story, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to hear it. Curiosity won out. "What happened after that?"
"Well, hokey as it may sound, there was a white light and things seemed very....peaceful. Then I heard a voice say my name...thought it was St. Peter." Rosco smiled. "It wasn't. It was Raleigh to tell me I couldn't stay, that I had to come back." He chuckled, "and after what I've seen here, I understand why now..."
The Dukes and Brian grinned nervously, all three of them a little spooked. "Of all the places you've been thrown out of...." Brian joked.
Rosco snorted. "Atleast he wasn't tellin' me I had to go in the other direction..." There was a collective chuckle and then Rosco resumed. "Anyways, Raleigh was there and then a couple other folks showed up. Eli," he said, looking at MaryAnne. He then turned his gaze to Brian. "and....Isaiah..."
"Holy smokes..." MaryAnne said softly.
The pupils in Brian's eyes dilated, and he felt cold from the inside out. He knew, on a level that no science could explain, that Rosco had really seen everything he'd described, and had seen things unexpected and unimaginable.
"Isaiah?" Brian said in a tight whisper.
Rosco nodded. "He was standing right with Raleigh and Eli, lookin' more proud and more at peace than when he was alive..."
Brian resisted the burning sting in his eyes, covering them with his hand as he bowed his head a moment. Eventually, he lifted his face again, staring at Rosco.
That feeling of inseparable connection, which had hit Brian when Rosco looked at him earlier, was back in full force. Brian couldn't give it words, but he could sense the impossible distance between life and death that Rosco had crossed, and beyond it he could sense complete tranquility that the Sheriff had glimpsed. The union of family, the discovery of love and peace
It's alright, Rosco's expression seemed to be saying. They sent me back, and they sent their love along, too.
As encouraging as that thought was, it made Brian realize just how much was lost to him. He'd never known Isaiah Coltrane, truly known him, in this lifetime. All Brian had of clan and kin in this world were standing in front of him. Rosco and MaryAnne. And Rosco had nearly become among the lost.
There was no way for Brian to tell Rosco just how damn scared that made him. So instead, he fidgeted awkwardly a moment, aware of the expectant silence in the room. Then, without any warning, he took a step closer to the Sheriff and gave him a rough hug. Life was too damn short, but thank God that Rosco's life wasn't going to be any shorter. There had been too many chances lost among kin....
Rosco returned the embrace. "It's awright..." he said softly. There was nothing more that had to be said. Rosco knew that Brian understood.
MaryAnne soon joined with the embrace. When it disbanded, Rosco looked at his kin and the Dukes.
"Now, the way I see it, there's only one way to really resolve everything here today," he said.
"How's that?" MaryAnne asked.
"As soon as Cooter fixes that car...I'm gonna jump that river again."
"WHAT?!?" Bo and Luke said together.
"Like hell!" Brian yelled.
"Rosco, wait just pea pickin' minute here! Ain't no way, after what we've been through today that yer gonna go pullin' a stunt like that!"
"Wanna see me?" he challenged. He was serious....to an extent.
"No, Rosco!" Bo said.
Luke shook his head. "Don't do it, Rosco."
"You can't do it," Brian protested. "None of us could stand goin' through this twice!"
"Oh yes I can do it. What are you gonna do? Chain me to the bookin' desk? Boss wouldn't like me hangin' around the station all day anyway. Khee!"
"Rosco, this ain't something to be laughin' about!" MaryAnne exclaimed. "You nearly die today and now you wanna go back out and try that jump again?"
"Just because you fall off the bike once don't mean you give up on learnin' how to ride."
MaryAnne rolled her eyes. "Oh sure, now he's comparin' it to riding a bicycle..."
Rosco grinned. Admittedly, he was enjoying the site of the Duke boys and his two cousins, suddenly arguing for the same thing.
"I'm gonna get the doctor and have ya committed to the nut house," Brian threatened. "Dammit, Rosco! Why risk your rear end over nothing?"
"It won't be over nothing. You'll see."
"What we're gonna see is all of us back here again!" MaryAnne said. She took a hold of his arm and looked at him. "Tell me yer kiddin', Rosco. If yer tryin' to get us to laugh or something, we can whoop it up right now. Just tell me yer kiddin'."
Rosco shook his head. "I ain't kiddin'."
"Aw, jeezus." Brian couldn't stand the idea. He turned away, and walked between the Dukes, who stepped aside to let him pass. They both felt some sympathy for him, and when Brian left, Luke confronted Rosco. "This ain't one of your better ideas. You might pay a mighty high price for the sake of provin' yourself."
"I'm aware of that," the Sheriff replied.
Bo spoke up. "If you don't make it, MaryAnne and Brian are gonna feel that price more than you. Figured you'd seen that much so far..."
"It's his decision, Bo." Luke recognized the stubborn look in Rosco's eyes, and knew that arguing would do no good. If Rosco wouldn't listen to his own family, there'd be nothing a Duke could say to change his mind. "C'mon," Luke said quietly to his younger cousin. "Let's go find Brian. We'll do what we can to keep one Coltrane out of trouble."
Bo and Luke mumbled a "See you later" to MaryAnne and then left, both of them feeling very ill at ease. They could only imagine what MaryAnne would have to say to Rosco about it all.
MaryAnne turned to him. "I can't believe you. I just can't believe you. Ugh!" She threw her hands in the air and spun around on her heel, walking out of the room.
Rosco stood in thought and then looked up towards the heavens. "I'd say that worked pretty well. Khee!" He strolled out of the hospital room.
The anxiety caused by Rosco's decision was shared by Duke and Coltrane alike, along with most of Hazzard County. Cooter, when hearing that Rosco intended to try and kill himself again by trying another jump over the river, almost refused to fix the patrol car.
At Rosco's urging, Cooter made the repairs, and made them the very best he could. Though he couldn't help but wonder, after having heard of Brian's fight with the Dukes, what would happen if Rosco's next attempt failed. Would Brian try and beat the stuffing out of him next?
Sometimes being a mechanic in Hazzard was a mixed blessing. But to his surprise, he noticed that Brian and the Dukes seemed to be spending more time hanging around each other, even frequenting the garage as Cooter worked on the car that no one wanted to see again.
When the repairs on the Plymouth Fury were complete, Cooter went over them, then the Dukes went over them, and then Brian and even MaryAnne, went over them....though the latter two voiced some opinion on removing the ignition swtich so that Rosco couldn't try any nonsense.
Cooter reminded them that Rosco would probably try the jump in one of the older patrol cars, in that case - thereby increasing the odds of failure. The two Coltrane cousins didn't seemed at all pleased with the thought. In fact, nothing had pleased them in days.
Oddly enough, Cooter noticed that Rosco's spirits were unusually high. The Sheriff was more congenial and cheerful than the occassion warrented, leading further to the speculation that he may have hit his head on the dashboard when the car went to the river.
That same cheerful outook riled MaryAnne and Brian to no end. Rumor had it that the Coltrane household was practically up in arms. That, however, was nothing compared to the frosty atmosphere prevailing at the Sheriff's Department these days. Cooter had watched MaryAnne's patrol car go squealing off from the curb more than once.
As for Brian's black Chevy, Diablo was skidding a few corners here and there, usually ahead or behind the General Lee. MaryAnne joined many of these chases, and the three cars would roar around the town square with enough noise to wake the dead.
Cooter would have chalked it all up to a broader extension of the ongoing Duke/Coltrane rivalry, except that when they weren't chasing each other, they were all hanging out together, loitering at the Boar's Nest, or going fishing, or getting in Cooter's way by hanging out at his garage. In all cases, Rosco declined to participate in the events, keeping a strange smile to himself and acting insufferably self-content.
Cooter wondered if it was a look the Sheriff would be taking to his grave.
Rosco, meanwhile, wasn't thinking as fatalistically as everyone else. He was too busy enjoying the sight of Brian, MaryAnne and the Dukes all getting along. What was even more entertaining was that it was his "fool hearted" declaration of concuring a jump over the river that had brought them all together. Yup, he could still shuck and jive...
The closer the day came for the jump, however, Rosco wondered just how far he was going to have to go. Maybe he could just make it seem like he was going to jump the river...or maybe just drive out and stop. Or...maybe...actually...jump the darn thing.
These thoughts he kept to himself. He'd make that decision when it was time. In the meantime, he was still sickingly cheerful to everyone and his kin.
Sooner than Brian and MaryAnne were ready to hear it, Rosco announced one night at dinner that he would attempt the jump the next day. The car was ready and before either of the cousins could protest, saying the car needed to be checked over, he reminded them that he knew it had already been checked and re-checked by them, the Dukes and Cooter. It was time to carry through on his promise. No turning back.
"He's nuts," MaryAnne muttered to Brian after Rosco left for patrol. Silverware clattered into the sink. "I can't believe he's really gonna go through with this! I think he's finally flipped. He's had that goofy grin on his face for the past week or so and it's been driving me nuts!" She threw her towel down.
"I think he enjoys watchin' us suffer." Brian said, picking up dishes from the table. "Ain't there a way you can 'accidently' lock him in the holding cell or somethin', till he gets this idea out of his head?"
"I've thought about it. Thing is, we'd have to keep him in there until he was too old to drive a car. He's gonna do it because he's stubborn as a mule. And about 3 bricks shy of a full load."
"Four, but who's countin'." Brian gave a sigh, leaning against the counter. "Cousin...I almost wonder if Rosco didn't want to come back to us. Maybe he figures if he shows up at Heaven's door again, ol' Raleigh and the gang won't have the heart to turn his silly ass back."
"I dunno, Brian. He's doin' this for a reason but I don't think it's that. I just wish we could figure out why he feels he has to do it at all..."
"I wish we could just handcuff 'em to the porch railing and keep him from doin' it. MaryAnne, he ever try anything crazy like this before? I mean, somethin' like this?"
MaryAnne thought a moment and then slowly shook her head. "No...not like this. He's done crazy things, but he's never put his life on the line for something that he didn't give a reason for."
"That's what I was afraid of. Dammit!" Brian folded his arms. "What the hell are we gonna do?"
"What can we do? Other than maybe try to talk to him." She looked at cousin. Worth a shot?
Brian sighed, nodding. "But if that don't work...I say we tie 'em to a stake in the yard."
The next morning both Brian and MaryAnne managed to miss Rosco before he left the house...the sneaky Sheriff got up early and left quietly. Upon discovering Rosco gone, the two cousins beat a path to town and caught up to Rosco outside the courthouse, before he could get into the new patrol car.
"Rosco, Rosco wait a minute..." MaryAnne zipped around the front of the Plymouth as Brian came around the backside, boxing the Sheriff in. "Rosco, we wanna talk to you."
Rosco looked at his two cousins. "Really? The last few days y'all ain't exactly been sociable with me." He said it without malice. Infact he seemed amused. "What's on yer mind?"
"You! Rosco, we've been trying to figure out why you think you have to go through with this stupid jump! I mean, you don't know how many nights we've spent conversing with the Dukes about it and between the four us, we can't figure it out!"
"Oh, I know how many nights ya spent. Y'all been fishin' with 'em too." He grinned. "I think it's great."
MaryAnne blinked. "Wha-- Rosco, don't go an' change the subject on me. Now I'm askin' you point blank. Why are you doing this?"
Rosco sombered his expression. "Because I have to. I have my reasons but you wouldn't understand."
"You'll understand when it's all over."
"When Brian and I are pickin' out a casket for ya?! That's when we'll understand?!"
"Who says I'm gonna die?"
"Yer runnin' a hell of a risk."
"No more than usual."
MaryAnne looked at Brian. "You wanna give it a shot?"
"Yeah, matter a' fact, I do." Brian strode up to Rosco. "Sheriff, tell me somethin'. Is this over a matter of pride?"
"In some respects, yes."
"Then, maybe, I can understand. This much." Brian pinched a half-inch of air between his thumb and forefinger. "But you're riskin' too much for too little. Can you put that pride before everythin' else? Before your own neck, before MaryAnne n' me?"
"It's a little more complicated than that, Brian." Rosco popped open the door. "Now if you two will excuse me..."
"Rosco," Brian said sharply. "Don't." He locked a dark-eyed gaze against his older cousin.
"Brian..." the Sheriff's voice was equally as sharp. He held his gaze with Brian. I got you and the Dukes to stop fightin'. Ha ha! Now back off...
Of course, Rosco kept that thought to himself. He'd reveal it all in good time. He edged his way into the driver seat and turned the engine of the Plymouth.
The sound of MaryAnne's troubled voice made Rosco stop and look up. She was standing at the front left corner of the car, her hands on the hood as if her alone could stop the car from moving. The look on her face alone nearly did make him stop. He wondered if he'd carried it on long enough. Maybe he'd carried it on too long. Maybe it was time to let them all in on the joke. Heck, no I ain't gonna jump no silly river! I's just shuckin' and jivin' y'all to get ya to stop blamin' yerselfs and each other for what happened to me. Don't cry, MaryAnne...
Wait a minute. What if MaryAnne was in trouble on the other side of the river, and the quickest way to get to her was to jump? Driving to the nearest bridge would mean precious minutes....
Deep in the back of Rosco's mind this situation, or something similar kept coming up in the past few days. His track record with jumping rivers was lousy and he knew it. He originally had had no intention to jump the river. Now he was undecided as to whether to chance it or not. He had something he had to prove, not necessarily to anyone else but to himself. The patrol car he was sitting in was state of the art and was souped up enough that if he kept his foot on the gas pedal he could make it...maybe.
All he had wanted was to get the Dukes and his kin to get along again and to not blame each other or themselves for what happened. He'd accomplished that. At this point, he could spring the joke on them and they'd still find it funny.
But he couldn't. He now had to prove something. He had to know. Was it the cars that had been lousing up his jumping of rivers all these years...or was it him?
"I'm sorry, MaryAnne," he said softly. "Please get out of the way..."
The patrol car moved slightly. Instinctively, MaryAnne stepped out of the way and the Plymouth pulled away.
"Sonofa....*#@&%," Brian growled at the departing car. "DAMMIT!" He cast a dire look at MaryAnne. "Well, cousin....we can watch....or we can wait and see if he makes it home. Or we can chase 'em and shoot out his damn tires."
"Let's git after 'em," she replied. The two made a bee line for Diablo. "We can call the Dukes too!"
"You got it." The moment they got in the Chevy, Brian fired Diablo's ignition and lunged the car out from the curb. There was no need to guess at the direction Rosco had taken; the path was the same as they had all followed about a week before. In the distance ahead, the Plymouth Fury could be seen, churning up dust.
"I sure as hell hope them Dukes are in earshot," Brian said. "See if you raise 'em."
MaryAnne nodded and grabbed up the CB mike. "Songbird callin' Lost Sheep. Lost Sheep you out there?? Come on...."
"You got the Lost Sheep here, Songbird." Bo replied. "What's on yer mind?"
"A lot. What's yer twenty fellas?"
"We're about two miles from the farm."
"Turn it around. Rosco's headin' towards the river. He's gonna try to jump it. We're on Willow Creek Road, you think you can cut 'em off??"
"We're sure gonna try. We're gone!" Before Bo had the mike put down, Luke was yanking the steering wheel around hard, turning the General around in a cloud of dust.
Rosco, meanwhile, had heard the whole thing. He kept his foot to the floor and an eye out for the orange Dodge Charger.
Brian noticed the extra burst of acceleration Rosco had put on the pedal. "That got 'em runnin'. Heh. Awright, let's just see what cousin Sheriff here is gonna do about all us. You want to try and take him on the right or the left, Deputy?"
"Left." She pulled her gun from the holster. "I can get a clearer shot to the tire."
"Done." Brian floored it, and Diablo's throttle opened with volume, the vhrrraaa-HUMMM of the engine roaring into passing gear. Out of habit from his wheelman days, Brian turned on the Chevy's high-beams. Even in daylight, the lights were distracting to any car ahead of them. Diablo closed in on the Fury's trunk, and Brian gave the Chevy's wheel a sharp, sudden swerve to the left, bringing Diablo into a flanking manuver. He held it there, not passing, but definately in position to do so. "Take 'em!" He shouted to MaryAnne.
MaryAnne aimed out the window and pulled the safety back. Rosco had seen them come up and he avoided looking at his mirrors with Diablo's high beams cutting in reflection. He didn't see MaryAnne aiming to shoot out his tires and figured they were going to try to pass him to cut him off. So, he slammed his brakes to let them pass and to get the lights out of his eyes.
"GAH!" MaryAnne exclaimed, choking on dust. She returned the gun inside the car as they went sliding past the Plymouth.
Rosco didn't pause for anything. He backed the Fury up and then cut down into the clearing to meet the road again where it turned.
Diablo completed a sharp U-maneuver in pursuit, spraying a wall of dirt from the back tires. "Hang on!" Brian shouted, gunning the Chevy hard. He held the wheel with both hands and aimed Diablo's nose for the patrol car's rear flank, dead-on. "I'm gonna try and bump 'em off course!"
"Go for it! I don't wanna end up fallin' out the dang window again anyway!" Although MaryAnne was a good shot, truthfully she was afraid that with the cars bouncing around over the uneven terrain, the bullet from her gun could go off in a direction she didn't want it to.
Rosco saw their reflection jumping around in his mirrors and he kept on trucking. The Fury slid back on to the road and he punched the accelerator.
"That's it, Sheriff...follow the road...." Brian shot Diablo towards the Fury's rear-quarter panel, on the driver's side. The patrol car was picking up speed on the road, but Diablo only needed to catch a small piece of the Plymouth to knock it into next week. The black Chevy bounded through the clearing on a mad intercept course, aiming a t-bone at the patrol car's tail. "KHEEHAAAAA! Now we got 'em!"
Rosco wasn't really paying attention to anything behind him, only what was ahead of him. And he wasn't paying attention to the road infront of him either, he was thinking more of the river that he was trying to get to. He pushed down on the accelerator, determined to make the jump...then he'd let up when the doubt creeped in. Oblivious to Diablo heading towards him, Rosco was too busy debating his intentions. Go fer it....ferget it....you'll never know if you don't try....you'll never make it...
This was insane! He looked down at the speedomoter. Keep the speed up, you get to the river yer gonna fly...
Yer gonna fly to the heavens, you moron!
He looked back up to the road. The General Lee was up ahead...
...and Diablo was about to take a bite out of Fury's flank. Brian wondered, for a split-second, why Rosco didn't try to evade the steel missle bearing down on him, but there was no time to ask. Brian zeroed in on the rear corner of the Plymouth and took it. The edge of Diablo's grill punched into the Fury's tail with a loud BRAM!
The rear of the Fury skidded aside, the patrol car knocked clean off-course. Brian held Diablo's wheel rigidly straight during the move, allowing Diablo to leap over the road with the follow-through, a piece of it's chrome flying free like a beer can tossed from the window.
It had been a jarring hit, and with keeping Diablo under control, Brian had no chance to check the mirrors. "How's Rosco look back there?!" he asked MaryAnne.
MaryAnne turned in her seat to look. The patrol car was in the clearing on the other side of the road, stopped. Rosco didn't seem to be trying to get the car moving again. He just sat there.
Something about the sight bothered MaryAnne. "I think he's all right. Turn it around."
"Roger..." Brian yanked the wheel and whipped Diablo around. He hoped to God that they hadn't hurt Rosco in their efforts to save him. He guided Diablo back over to the patrol car quickly, all aggression gone from his driving. The black Chevy rolled to a stop a few feet back from the Plymouth.
The General Lee came off the road and pulled up towards the front of the patrol car. Before anyone could think something really bad had happened to Rosco, the driver door popped open.
The Sheriff stepped out, unscathed. He looked towards Diablo and then over to the General, his expression looking long and defeated.
MaryAnne climbed out of Diablo with Brian following. Rosco gently closed the door of his patrol car and paced for a moment as his kin and the Duke boys approached.
"Rosco?" MaryAnne asked. "Ya awright?"
Rosco stopped and turned to her. "Yeah, I'm awright." He looked at everybody and then sighed. "Maybe I took this too far."
"What the heck were you trying to do?" she asked, stepping closer to him.
"I wasn't gonna jump it, originally," he said. "All I had wanted was for you and the Dukes to stop blamin' each other and blamin' yerselfs for what happened." He grinned. "That part worked. I gotcha all on the same side. Khee!"
"Aw, man." Brian covered his face with one hand and looked at the Dukes through it.
"We been had," Luke agreed. "Gotta hand it to you, Rosco. That part worked."
Bo nodded along with his cousin. "Sure did. Um...was there another part?"
Rosco nodded. "Yeah. The more I got to thinkin' about it the more I realized that...I ain't never been very good at jumpin' rivers anyway. Next thing I knew it was something I had to do." He dropped his gaze to the ground. "I'm sorry," he said, looking up again. "Maybe some other day, when I don't have y'all tryin' to knock me off the road for my own good I'll try." He grinned slightly.
"Oh now wait a minute..." MaryAnne came up and hooked her arm around his. "Maybe someday we can help ya jump that river, instead of you scaring the heck out of us."
"You didn't like me scarin' the heck outta ya?" He gave her a wink.
"Not particularly!" She chuckled. "But if you're set on really conquring that river...I know Brian and I would help ya." She looked at the Dukes. "Naturally, they don't want to see you jump a river."
Bo and Luke grinned. "Not so long as he's chasin' us," Bo quipped.
Brian was quiet for a long moment, looking from the Dukes, to Rosco and MaryAnne. His thoughts came out in a rush. "That's the only way it'd work, ya know," Brian said. "If ol' Rosco was chasin' Bo n' Luke here...they could lead 'em to the right jump point, so Rosco had a decent takeoff..."
"All he'd have to do is follow us right over, providin' he kept the hammer down," Luke finished. "Heck, he's pulled a jump before, doin' just that."
Brian felt his stomach lurch. A few minutes ago, they were trying to stop Rosco at all costs. Now, they were discussing how-to's. "Ah, hell....MaryAnne? Can I see you for a minute..."
MaryAnne stepped away from Rosco and approached Brian. "Yeah?"
"We need to talk." Brian slung an arm over MaryAnne's shoulders, leading her out of earshot from the others. "Much as I don't wanna see Rosco jump that river...I don't wanna see him mopin' around wonderin' if he's ever gonna be up to it."
MaryAnne nodded. "I know. I don't want to see him mopin' either."
Brian sighed, and glanced sideways at the Dukes, who watched on curiously. "Those Dukes probably could lead Rosco across, if ol' cousin Sheriff could keep his head together. I dunno, MaryAnne. I don't want this to be my idea. I sure as hell don't wanna try and fish Rosco from the bottom of that river again, yet..."
"Yet if we don't try to help him do this, he might try to do it on his own." MaryAnne paused and took a quick look back at Rosco. "Look at him. Brian, underneath that bumbling Sheriff facade is a pretty damn good driver. He gets over zealous and doesn't pay attention when he should, but Luke is right. Rosco's jumped a river before. This isn't so much that he's not good at it, I think he's afraid that he'll be afraid to ever try it again."
"So now we're gonna encourage this hell-bent river jump?"
MaryAnne looked at Brian. "Looks that way doesn't it?"
"Dammit..." Brian paused a moment, letting the idea settle into his stomach, like a bad meal. "Awright. I 'spose as long as everybody's already out here, let's get it over with. I'll break it to the Dukes."
MaryAnne nodded. "I tell Rosco."
"Fine, it's all set. We're crazy." Without waiting for an answer, Brian gave MaryAnne a pat on the shoulder, then walked over to the Dukes. He led them aside as he had MaryAnne, explaining to Bo and Luke that he wanted them to lead Rosco on another chase - over the river - on purpose. After explaining that the idea had MaryAnne's approval, and that it was all in Rosco's best interest, Brian gained the Duke's cooperation. After all, they never needed too much of an excuse for a chase.
Neither did Rosco. Once MaryAnne told him that he had the green light for the jump, the Sheriff looked like a kid with a package of firecrackers he was anxious to set off. He turned towards the patrol car but was stopped by MaryAnne. "Now we're gonna help ya with this," she said. "Which means a couple of things. One, yer puttin' the windows down on this car and two...I'm goin' with ya."
"Wha--wait a minute!"
"Somebody's gotta make sure you keep that foot on the accelerator at the right time and make sure you're doing everything else yer supposed to be doing to make sure you get over that dang river!" She looked him in the eye, silently challenging him to continue to protest. He didn't. More or less because behind her challenge was an understanding of why he wanted to do this. And there was no reason why he had to do it alone.
He nodded to the car. "Git in."
Brian, still talking to the Dukes, didn't notice right away that MaryAnne had booked the same flight as Rosco. His attention was on Bo, who was sliding into the General with a beaming grin. "Don't worry none, Brian. We'll give Rosco a path he could follow blindfolded."
Luke got into the Generals' passenger side and gave his own reassurance. "All Rosco will have to do is follow our dust. Heck, Brian...even you could make that jump, if you had the guts..."
"I've got the guts, but I've got even more smarts. I'm gonna use the damn bridge." Brian waved Bo and Luke away with a grin. The General fired up with a spitting roar, and Brian heard Rosco's patrol car firing up at the same time. He looked over at it, about to wish Rosco well, and then saw....
"MARYANNE!" Brian yelled and jogged over to the patrol car. He leaned on the passenger side of it, giving both of his cousins a stern look. "Listen here, this ain't part of the deal. One of ya riskin' your neck is bad enough!"
"I'm here to make sure he does it right. Coltrane pride is at stake here," she pointed to Rosco. "His pride. Now you can stand there and give us hell, stand back and watch...or...as a true test of insanity, you can get in the car..."
"WHAT?!" Having been neatly duped, Brian knew there was no talking MaryAnne out of her ride; and worse, he had been challenged to climb aboard himself. Turning away would not only show cowardice; it would indicate a lack of faith in Rosco's abilities. And then there was Coltrane pride...
"*%#@&%," Brian muttered, and climbed into the backseat. The Dukes, having witnessed this, whooped their approval and blared the Dixie horn. Brian ignored them and fastened his seat belt. He covered his nervousness with some sass to his cousins. "Another fun-filled family outing in Hazzard County..."
"That's right," MaryAnne said. "Now you behave or we ain't stopping at the Dairy Queen on the way home." She glanced sideways to Rosco. "Khee!"
Rosco grinned and picked up the CB mike. "Awright you Dukes. Unless the General's got the vapors, I suggest y'all git movin'! Khee!"
"YEEEHAAA!" Bo's enthusiastic response came over the CB, just as the back wheels of the General spit up a high spray of dirt. The orange Charger sprang forward, then cut a sharp turn towards the patrol car, dashing by it so close as to nearly take off the car's nose. The rabbits were baiting the hound.
The General Lee roared away from the river for the moment, building up speed. It then began a wide curve, the end of which would point the Charger at the river for a flat-out run.
Rosco followed suit, swinging the patrol around and tailing the Dukes through the curve. MaryAnne watched Rosco as he whipped the steering wheel around, bringing the Fury inline behind the General. The Plymouth's engine revved as the Sheriff pushed down on the accelerator. MaryAnne hung onto the dash board with one hand, while the other gripped the edge of her seat.
Brian was wondering what Raleigh, Eli and Isaiah would say if Rosco showed up at Heaven's door with him and MaryAnne in tow...but the excitement of the chase overrode his fear. There was something that felt natural about being in pursuit of Dukes, and the sight of the fleeing Charger was impossible to resist. Brian hung on for the ride.
In the General Lee, Bo hung onto the steering wheel with a two-handed grip, completely at home. The General's hood was now aimed at the wide, blue river that lay before them. With a heavy boot on the accelerator, Bo guided the General unerringly to the river bank, heading towards a natural rise that had survived the floodwaters.
Luke looked behind them and saw the Plymouth Fury in close pursuit. Rosco had a bead on the General's rear bumper. The Sheriff would need to keep it; Luke knew that if Rosco let up on the gas for even a moment, the patrol car would lose precious velocity. One pause, one slip off the accelerator, and the speed couldn't be made up in time. If that happened again, Hazzard could lose three Coltranes in one fell swoop.
Scant seconds remained before the jump. "Bo!" Luke said quickly, "Give it more gas!"
"More?! Luke, we'll overshoot and flip when we land!"
"Not that much more! Just enough for an extra burst of speed! Rosco's got passengers, and those patrol cars are heavy as it is! HIT IT, BO!"
"TEN-FOUR!" Bo obeyed and set his foot down on the pedal. The General shot forward like an arrow, hitting the rise in the embankment at full speed. The entire car was in the air before the blink of an eye, and the way the General shot straight up, it felt to Bo and Luke like they'd been strapped to a rocket. The front wheels were too high, and they both knew it; they leaned forward in the seat and prayed the General would balance out on the descent. It was going to be a hard landing.
The nose of the General refused to angle itself down properly. The feeling of being strapped to a rocket changed. It now felt to the Dukes like they were tied to a two-ton boulder that had fallen from a cliff. "BACK WHEELS ARE GONNA HIT FIRST!" Bo yelled.
"KEEP THE WHEEL STRAIGHT AND KEEP THE PEDAL DOWN!" Was all that Luke had time to shout. The General landed ungracefully, a loud BANG sounding as the chassis slammed down hard on the frame. The car gave a wild bounce, like a badly-punted football, as the back wheels purchased turf a second before the front. The next bounce the General made wasn't as bad; this time, all four wheels hit the ground at once. After another hop, Bo felt as if he had control of the car once again, and he eased off the gas. It hadn't been pretty, but they'd made it. But would Rosco?
He was damned determined to try. While the General was still bouncing out it's landing, the Plymouth thundered on to the embankment. Rosco had both hands on the wheel and a determined eye was on the mound of earth that would launch them over the river.
"Stay on the gas, Rosco!" MaryAnne exclaimed as they crossed the point of no return. "Stay on it and don't let off until we hit the other side!"
Rosco half nodded and pushed the accelerator down further just before the front wheels hit the incline. The front of the Fury turned up, throwing all three Coltranes back in their seats. The car lept into the air with dirt and dust trailing behind it.
The view out the front windshield was nothing but blue sky. MaryAnne risked a look out the side window and saw the river below them as they passed over it, the patrol car flying on nothing more than the wings of angels.
Rosco wasn't looking. Infact he had closed his eyes momentarily. Stay up...stay up...git us to the other side...
Brian, too, opted to fly blind. He'd looked throught the windshield at the moment of takeoff, noting the blue sky and fluffy white clouds, and then felt the incredible sensation of being airborne...but as the demanding pull of gravity began to claim the patrol car, he shut his eyes. It was a long way down, and Lord knew where they would land...and how hard.
Coming within reach of the shore, the Plymouth's nose started to drop down. The weight of the engine forced the nose down more, setting the car up for a hard front landing. As it decended, the car started to tilt to the left.
Rosco opened his eyes. "Jit jit...I think this is gonna be a doozy of landing!!"
The front left tire was the first to reunite with the earth and it brought a crumpled fender with it. Dirt exploded away from the car as the metal bumper skidded in the sand and the right front tire touched the earth in a less of a dramatic fashion. The back of the car hit the ground with a KABANG and the sound of dragging metal accompanied the suspension as it tried to compensate for the incredible force of the landing. The patrol car bounced a few times, like a radio controled car driving over pebbles.
Rosco turned the steering wheel and took his foot of the gas, hitting the brakes. The patrol car jerked to a stop, sliding a little bit and finally coming to a rest a few feet away from the General.
"Ooh, that smarted...." Rosco pushed himself back against the seat and looked around outside the patrol car. Suddenly his eyes went wide. "Ooooh! We made it! Khee khee!!!"
Rosco wasn't the only one surprised. "They made it!" Bo shouted, climbing from the General. Luke exited the passenger side, and together they ran to the patrol car. "Rosco! You did it!" Bo yelled.
At the same time Bo was opening the driver's door of the patrol car, Luke was poking his head into it's passenger side. "Y'all okay?"
MaryAnne had reached over and grabbed Rosco's hand. "KHEE! I knew you could do it!" She then turned to Luke with a grin from ear to ear. "You bet!" She looked back at Brian.
"Gah..." he said, initially, waiting for his internal organs to settle back to their proper places. But at MaryAnne's grin, he couldn't help but smile himself. He leaned forward and slapped Rosco and MaryAnne on the shoulders. "Good piloting, ya'll!"
"Yeah I did good didn't I? Khee!" Rosco stepped out of the patrol car, glad to have his feet back on solid ground again and basked in his triumph for a moment. MaryAnne and Brian climbed out of the patrol car as well and MaryAnne came around to give Rosco a congratulatory hug. And one of relief.
Brian gave them a moment, then butted in. "Sheriff," he began, "I just wanna tell ya...how much I'd like to kick you in the rear for insistin' on that crazy jump."
Rosco grinned. "Thanks, Brian, I'm glad you went with me too."
"Oh, anytime..." Brian said with sarcastic humor. He gave Rosco a broad smile. "Damn good drivin', though. Damn good." He offered the Sheriff a handshake, and when it was accepted, Brian pulled Rosco forward and slapped him on the back.
"Awwww..." Bo and Luke said, watching. Brian eased off the family sentiment, turning Rosco loose in order to go face his usual advesaries.
"Listen, y'all...." Brian started saying, but Bo grabbed him and gave a loud "YEEEHAAAA! You survived your first flight on Air Coltrane! Congratulations!" Bo shook Brian's hand, then punched him hard in the shoulder in a friendly sort of way, and then tossed him into Luke.
"Way to go!" Luke slapped Brian hard enough on the back to make him cough. He followed it up with a friendly punch to Brian's other shoulder, then shook his hand. Brian took it all with a grin.
"I appreciate ya'll guidin' Rosco to the flight path," Brian told Bo and Luke. "And I thank ya for it. Now why don't ya'll give him some hearty congratuations...."
Bo and Luke crowded up to Rosco, one pounding the Sheriff's back while the other shook his hand. "Congratuations, Rosco!" Bo said.
"Yeah, Rosco! That was a fine piece of drivin'!" Luke added.
Rosco flinched a bit from the slapping on his back. "Ooh, uh well thank ya fellas. Thank ya. Khee!"
Bo, knowing opportunity when he saw it, gave MaryAnne a two-armed hug. "I'm gonna thank you for not riding along on ALL of Rosco's jumps! He might catch us otherwise!"
"Oh yeah??" she laughed. "Khee! Maybe I'll just ride along with him from now on when he goes on patrol!"
"Oh well, in that case, the heck with ya." Bo chuckled and let MaryAnne go, but Luke took over.
"We really are glad ya'll made it," Luke said to her, pulling MaryAnne into his shoulder. "Even if ol' Rosco catches us next time...it'll be worth it."
MaryAnne returned the embrace and then grinned at Bo, seeing if he concurred with his cousin's statement.
"It'll be worth it to Luke," Bo amended, smiling. Luke gave a laugh and let MaryAnne go. Brian, having watched the Dukes buddy up to MaryAnne long enough, grabbed both Dukes by the back of the shirts and hauled them backwards.
"Awwwright, lay off," he told them good naturedly.
"Can't blame us for tryin'," Bo said, looking at MaryAnne with all the farm-boy charm he could muster.
MaryAnne chuckled. "Hey, doesn't bother me any." She smiled at the two and suddenly had Rosco beside her with his arm around her shoulders like a protective father.
MaryAnne glanced up at Rosco. He was trying to look stern but it wasn't working. Brian and the Dukes couldn't keep straight faces either.
"Hey listen," MaryAnne said. "This calls for a celebration. Whaddya say? A round at the Boar's Nest? We'll put it on Boss's tab! KHEE!"
"I'm in!" Bo said immediately. "Sounds good to me!" Luke agreed.
"I could go for that," Brian grinned.
"Awright then! We gotta go back and get Diablo tho', so we'll meet ya there."
The Dukes nodded and headed to the General. The Coltranes walked back to the patrol car. Rosco stopped before getting in, causing his cousins to look at him.
"What is it?" MaryAnne asked.
"We can pick up the road and it's gonna take us about five minutes to get to the bridge."
"Yeah," MaryAnne said. "So?"
"Well...wouldn't it be shorter to go that way?" He pointed in the direction they had just flown.
MaryAnne and Brian looked back at the river and then looked at each other for a moment. They then turned to Rosco.
Rosco feigned being startled by their reply. "Shoot, just thought I'd ask..." He grinned.