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.

All original characters are the property of the author(s).

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Copyright: 2002. Cuz Bonita

 

Mistaken Identity

The landscape of the urban jungle was thick with concrete and steel. Streetlights arched high over the congested streets, where taxis cut each other off and brave pedestrians scrambled across the road in small herds. Stores with smeared windows and burnt-out neon begged for attention, and were spared none by the stone-faced people who hurried along the narrow sidewalks.

A black Chevy Impala trundled through the stop-and-go traffic. The driver of the car eyed the rough neighborhood nonchalantly, looking for familiar landmarks. Finding none, he lit a cigarette, tapped the ash out the car window, and tried not to look hopelessly lost.

“Shoulda never lost that script,” Brian muttered to himself. “Dammit.”

The next intersection had a red light that was longer than the last. Brian’s dark eyes darted to the rearview mirror and back. There was nothing to be worried about, he told himself. Sooner or later, he’d find a street name he recognized, or a storefront that looked familiar, and he could find his way home. Until then, he just had to play it cool.

A red Ford Torino with a bold white stripe was parked along the curb of the street, squeezed brazenly in the overcrowded parking spaces. Two undercover detectives sat in the car with their lunch, their cb’s, and the scattered notes of several unsolved homicide cases.

The detective seated behind the wheel, David Starsky, had dark, curly hair that crowned a Brooklyn-born face. His appearance and demeanor was as careless and casual as the suspects he investigated.

Starsky was often a mismatch to his partner, a blonde Midwesterner with fastidious habits. Detective Ken Hutchinson, or Hutch as he was called, was a serious man who may have turned out entirely different had he not entered law enforcement. As it was, he scrutinized everything in life with the cynical detachment of a crime scene. Including his partner’s lunch.

The cheeseburger Starsky devoured was undercooked and greasy; juice dripped from it with small globs of mustard. The smell of the onions wafted through the car, and although Hutch had eaten nothing more than a brown-bagged lunch consisting of meatless sandwich and an apple, he knew he’d spend the rest of the day smelling like a hamburger stand. “How can you eat that junk?” he asked Starksy.

Starsky waited to answer until he’d taken a giant bite of the cheeseburger, then spoke while chewing. “It’s called an appetite. Maybe if you had one, you’d need more than rabbit food to survive.”

“I don’t eat rabbit food.”

“You don’t eat people food,” Starsky contested. “Bean sprouts don’t belong in a sandwich.”

The police radio cut off Hutch’s chance for retort. “Zebra Three, come in Zebra Three, over,” the dispatch call came.

“I’ll get it.” Hutch grabbed the mike before Starsky could. “This is Zebra Three, we copy. Go ahead.”

“We have an A.P.B. of a late-model black Chevrolet, driver male caucasian, suspect considered armed and dangerous…”

“Can they narrow it down to twenty thousand prospects?” Starsky complained from the driver’s side. “We’ve got as much chance of finding a…..” As he spoke, Starsky happened to glance at the long black Impala that slowly rolled by. “Could be our lucky day, Hutch! This one just fell into our lap!”

“Zebra Three responding!” Hutch shouted into the radio. He hung up the mike and grabbed the red squad light from the dash, slapping the magnetic base onto the Torino’s roof. The red Ford went from an undercover street cruiser to a pursuit vehicle in seconds, mag wheels squealing from the curb as the siren bleated into life. Other cars dodged aside like startled pigeons, leaving the black Chevy in plain view.

Brian glanced in the rearview mirror and saw trouble heading his way. He had no idea what the pursuit represented or why it was coming for him; he only knew that somebody had pulled his number. “GAH! What the hell!” He yanked Diablo out of the slow-moving line of traffic and gunned it, his strategy limited to the reaction of run-and-hide.

“Get ‘em, Starsk!” Hutch hung on as the Torino surged across two lanes of traffic to follow the Chevy’s mad course. The black Impala cut a sharp left through a red light, confusing traffic and causing Starsky to swerve away from an innocent car that had got caught in between.

“Maniac!” Starsky yelled at the fleeing Chevy. It fishtailed another sharp left, it’s driver defying the zig-zag instinct that most fleeing suspects demonstrated. “Where in the hell does he think he can run to?”

“Anywhere he can get! Don’t let him get through that next light! He’s using traffic to cut us off!”

Starsky knew the same thing. Whoever they were chasing had no qualms about forcing the pursuit to back off; the Impala shunned more open streets in favor of the rat-maze of heavy traffic. The Chevy’s horn was blaring on a solid, long note, and Starsky realized that the sound of that horn was being heard by other motorists before his siren was. Consequently, traffic was disrupted and confused, much of it moving away from the crazy Impala before seeing or hearing the red Torino which pursued it.

“This one’s bad news,” Starsky gritted. Incrementally, they were losing ground. The Chevy went where it wanted to and was making traffic move out of the way; it hung another hard left at an intersection, but instead of turning on to the next street, it cut the maneuver sharp again at the last second, making a sliding U-turn. The Chevy’s tires threw up smoke and rubber shrieked in distress - but the banking move worked and the Impala backtracked the way it had come, blowing by the Torino before Starsky could get the wheel cranked around.

“I don’t believe it!” Hutch yelled as the light turned green and a taxi shot out and cut off the Torino. Horns blared and drivers swore as the red Ford tried to complete a hopeless U-turn against traffic that had a green light.

Starsky and Hutch swore, too. They were losing sight of the Chevy, which had headed back for the wider streets where it could gain speed. By the time Starsky had moved the Torino through the confused intersection to follow the Chevy’s tracks, the black Impala had melted into the asphalt and disappeared.

Hutch radioed in the Chevy’s last known position, and threw a look at his partner. “Those moves weren’t bought off the shelf. That was a professional behind the wheel.”

Starsky gripped the steering wheel as if to it break it in half. “Oh yeah? That’s going to be a professional behind bars.”

***** ***** *****

Brian tucked Diablo into an alley that was so narrow, it was all he could do to open the driver’s door wide enough to get out. He took a deep breath and adjusted his jacket collar, forcing himself back to a calm, collected image. He was still lost, and a pair of cops in a hot rod had nearly ran him up the river for God-knew-what…but at least he was safe for the moment.

The bar he’d found near the alley was the kind of dive that attracted sleazy salespeople, adulterous spouses, assorted criminal elements and shifty opportunists. It wasn’t the Jigsaw, but it was the best sanctuary available on short notice. Under the guise of being Nobody Suspicious, Brian strolled straight up to the bar, took a seat near the center of it, and flagged down the bartender.

The proprietor was a thin black man with sunken eyes and an unwelcoming face. He didn’t greet Brian as much as study him; so Brian studied the man in return until the silence had to be broken by somebody. “My money good here, or what?” Brian finally asked, slapping a ten-dollar bill on the bar.

“I’s makin’ sure you have money, that’s all.” The black man now smiled. “Cats like you don’t run a tab.”

Brian’s mouth twitched. “I never drink in debt. ‘Sides, it ain’t a tab ‘till ya have to pay for it.”

“You have to pay for it.” The bartender snatched up the money. “So what you buyin’, man?”

Brian’s voice dropped. “A beer and the fastest damn way outta town.”

“Whad’ju do?” The bartender leaned closer. If this white turkey had any money, he’d take it.

“I don’t know, but I’m not sticking around to find out.” Brian, sensing he was talking to a wheeler-dealer of urban intrigue, leaned forward and dug out another ten bucks from his jacket pocket. He sat it on the bar but kept his hand on it. “I need a nice, fast route out of town that doesn’t have a lot of speed traps…dig?”

“I got you.” The bartender turned away, got Brian a beer, cracked the cap off the bottle and slid it over to him. “You need to take this road out front here down to Bay View, then right to Arden Street and all the way down to the freeway. From there it’s up to your luck.”

Brian slowly lifted his hand from the money. “You won’t remember I was ever here,” he said rhetorically.

“Neither will you,” the bartender said, snatching the cash.

“Damn right.” Brian gave a nod and then slugged a long pull on the beer. He lingered only long enough to become forgettable by anyone who had noticed him to begin with. He was about to make for the door when it banged open and two men walked inside purposefully. They went to the very end of the bar and waited for the proprietor to come to them.

Brian didn’t react, except to light a cigarette. He hadn’t gotten a good look at the cops who had chased him, but a nasty feeling in his gut said that these two weren’t here to sign up for the dart league.

“Huggy,” Starsky said to the bartender. “You got anyone in here you haven’t seen before?”

Huggy didn’t miss a beat. “Only that South-mouth turkey in the black threads.”

Hutch turned his head, cadging a subtle glance at Brian. “South-mouth?”

“He got a drawl like he’s a long ways from home, know what I mean?”

Hutch turned to Starsky. “Think that’s our man?”

“Has to be. We crossed paths once without trying. I’ll buy it can happen twice.” Starsky began to walk towards Brian, interposing himself between the bar and the door. Hutch walked around the far side, until he and Starsky were standing on either side of Brian.

Starsky leaned on the bar and looked at Brian, who hadn’t acknowledged either officer. “Howdy,” Starsky said, making it sound as obnoxious as possible.

“Howdy,” Brian said back. His eyes stayed down on the bar.

It was Hutch’s turn. “You wouldn’t happen to be driving a black Chevrolet Impala, would you?”

“Not at this time,” Brian said neutrally. It was a true answer; right now he was at bar drinking beer, not driving. There was no admission of guilt in his answer and technically no falsehood. A team of lawyers could debate the merits of the statement for three years.

Hutch looked at his partner from over Brian’s hunched shoulders. “He knows the game,” he said aloud, not caring if Brian heard.

“Let’s see if he’s ready to claim his prize.” Starsky put himself closer to Brian’s face. “You’re about to win a twenty-year stay in a non-luxury resort. If you want to trade for something better, you’ll have to come with us and answer a few questions.”

Brian stared at the bar for a moment, then gave a deep sigh and slowly pushed the beer away, keeping his palms flat on the bar. “Awright,” he said so quietly that both officers had to lean in to hear him. “I don’t want no scene, y’all. I’m tired of runnin’. I give...”

Starsky had just started to smile in victory, when Brian struck out with each fist outward in a single, fast jerk, his hands flying up from the bar to smack into the face on either side. The move startled the detectives and they flinched back with stung noses, and Brian was out of arm’s reach and bolting through the door instantly.

“Due process is no longer a concern!” Hutch said, shaking it off and running for the door. Starsky followed. They were a few seconds behind the suspect, who was running like a Superbowl quarterback down the street.

“STOP! POLICE!” Starsky yelled after him.

“@#%&*#%!!” Brian yelled back, ducking into the alley where Diablo was parked. He scrambled over the hood and squeezed into the car. The engine kicked over at the same time that Starsky and Hutch rounded the corner and bolted into the alley. Seeing that Brian was about to escape, they drew their weapons. “HOLD IT!”

Brian threw Diablo into forward gear and the Chevy shot ahead, bearing down on the officers. These cops played hardball, and they fired repeatedly at the windshield until they were forced to dive out of the way. The second the shooting stopped, Brian peered over the dash and cranked the wheel hard to the right, squealing the Chevy onto the street and cutting off a truck. The horn blasted a long, profane note and the truck driver shook a meaty fist out the window.

The truck was Brian’s last concern. He pushed Diablo through the narrow no-man’s lane between both sides of the road, feeling as if he’d gotten enough of a lead to make a good run for it. This would have been true, except the intersection ahead was on a red light, and Brian was now stuck behind waiting cars, trapped in a left-turn lane.

Starsky knew Bay City traffic better than anyone. He took off on foot after the black Chevy as Hutch ran for the parked Torino. It was with shocked surprise that Brian checked his mirrors to see the curly-haired cop chugging up the sidewalk, sprinting fast.

“Aw, hell…” Brian’s eyes flicked from the mirrors, to the traffic light, and back to the mirrors. He hit Diablo’s horn, begging the cars ahead to move, but there was nowhere for anyone to go. A siren squalled uncomfortably close. “Lord…” he began to pray.

“DON’T MOVE!” Starsky was suddenly at the Impala’s passenger window, his gun aimed through it at Brian’s head.

***** ***** *****

Far removed from the urban drama, Deputy MaryAnne Coltrane waited in her patrol car. She was parked beneath a sprawling oak along a dirt road, which served as the usual rendezvous point for meeting up with her black-clad cousin. It was getting late and she was becoming concerned; there had been no sign of Brian or Diablo for hours. It was if Brian had abruptly disappeared from Hazzard County altogether.

MaryAnne popped open the glove box and dug through it. Pens, ketchup packets, moist towelettes, ticket copies, loose change, a flashlight, a road flare and a can of tear gas were cluttered inside. “Where the heck…I know I had it in here,” she grumbled, continuing to fish around. “Where’s that script??”

Not finding it, she replaced the contents of the glove box and searched the car. There was nothing under the seats except a city map of Atlanta and some empty bullet casings. Making a mental note to clean the car later, she got out of it to check the trunk.

MaryAnne popped the trunk. There was the standard police-issue equipment; a shotgun, a hand-held radio, more road flares, a spare tire and a jack, a rain poncho, an emergency first-aid kit, orange road cones…but no script.

She sighed heavily and shut the trunk. Her copy of the script was lost. “Anything could happen,” she murmured to herself, increasingly worried. If Brian had lost his copy as well…

There was still a way to get things back on track. MaryAnne dug the ticket book out of her pocket, flipped it open, and took a blue pen from her pocket. “Time for Coltrane improvisation. Khee!” She began to write, creating a replacement for the missing script. A black Chevy stirred up dust along the country road…

One did. MaryAnne looked up at the sound of an oncoming vehicle, but soon felt disappointment. It was a black Chevy van, not an Impala, that approached her. “What the…”

She stared as the black van with the red stripe pulled up alongside her. A huge, muscular black man sat behind the wheel, sporting a Mohawk with thick sideburns and a beard. Gold chains hung heavy around his neck, giving him the image of a very expensive mercenary. “What fool map were you lookin’ at, Murdock? This don’t look nothin’ like Ft. Worth!”

“We shoulda flown, I toldja,” came a jaybird’s voice from the van’s backseat.

“I’ll fly you right outta this van!”

“Take it easy, B.A., I’ll handle this. We’ll ask the nice police officer where…Helloooo! I’ll definitely handle this…” A handsome, light-haired man with a broad, charming smile leaned into view.

“Keep it cool, Face,” An older voice cautioned. “We’re on a mission.”

MaryAnne could stand it no more. “You boys lost?”

The light-haired poster boy was leaning half-over the black driver. “Lost? Oh, no ma’am! Soon as we heard how pretty the law was around these parts, we thought it worth the detour.” Another radiant smile followed the words.

MaryAnne couldn’t help but grin. “You could give the local heartbreakers a run for their money. Where you boys headed?”

“Ft. Worth Texas. That is, if we can find the interstate. Personally, I wouldn’t mind settling down here for a week or two. I think my heart’s been arrested…”

“Oh, please.” MaryAnne had heard it all, but this guy was something else. “Take this road for five more miles, then connect with Highway 36 West towards Atlanta, then follow the signs for the bypass.”

“Got it. Thank you, angel in blue...” Face admired MaryAnne for another moment, until B.A. shoved him back and put the van into gear. It headed down the road in a cloud of dust.

MaryAnne shook her head, tore the page out of the ticket book and crumpled it up. “Let’s try again,” she sighed. She began to write anew, trying for another angle. A dark-haired, dark-eyed young man in a leather jacket…

A motorcycle hummed up. It was an older motorcycle, vintage 50’s, and it ripped down the road directly towards MaryAnne. She watched it come close, and just when she thought it would go blasting by her, the rider applied the brakes and circled it around her, swirling up a dust-devil.

He idled the bike, giving MaryAnne the once-over. The biker wore a dark-brown leather motorcycle jacket, sunglasses, and slicked-back hair. He flashed a smile at MaryAnne. “Aaaaaayyyyy.”

“Uh…hey,” she stammered. “Let me guess…you’re lost?”

The biker snatched off his sunglasses. “The Fonz does not get lost. I happen to be taking the scenic route to Milwaukee.”

“You can say that again. Well, if you decide to make better time…take Highway 36 east and follow the signs for Atlanta. You can pick up the freeway runnin’ North from there.”

“You’re a doll.” Fonzie revved the throttle. “Want a ride, toots?”

“Toots?? No…I’m on duty, but thanks all the same.” MaryAnne smiled. “Drive safely.”

The biker put his sunglasses back on, gave her a thumbs-up signal, and headed off. MaryAnne watched him go, bemused. She slowly tore off the page from the ticket book and crumpled it up.

“I’m gonna try this one more time…” She said to herself, taking a deep breath. She started writing once more. A black car driven by a man in a black jacket sped down the highway…

The high-pitched whine of a turbine engine hit MaryAnne’s ears. A black car was coming towards her, sleek and modern, with a narrow red light dancing between the hidden headlights. It came at her disturbingly fast, and she took a few steps back. “Now what??” she said nervously.

The car resembled a Pontiac Trans-Am, but it wasn’t anything like the production models she knew. It came to a tight, expertly controlled halt right in front of her, the red light scanning back and forth hypnotically as dust settled around it.

“Michael, the coordinates we have are incongruous with our position,” the car spoke, startling MaryAnne.

“I can see that, Kitt. In layman’s terms…we’re lost.”

“My electronic compass is experiencing intermittent discrepancies,” Kitt conceded. “However, we have fortuitously discovered a member of the law enforcement community.”

“And how!” Michael Knight smiled as the pressurized driver’s door hissed open. He got out of the car, his tall, 6-foot-and-four inch-frame unfolding gracefully. “Hello there!” he said to MaryAnne, casting a friendly smile at her.

“Khee!” she giggled, unable to stop herself. “Howdy!”

Michael walked up to her, his long-legged stance bringing him close in a few easy steps. “Speed trap duty?” He asked her conversationally.

“Not quite. I was waiting for my cousin. Looks like he got turned around somewheres.”

“I know the feeling.” Michael stuck out a hand. “Name’s Michael Knight. I’m with the Foundation for Law and Government. And you’re…”

“Deputy MaryAnne Coltrane,” she said pleasantly, accepting the handshake. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Pleasure’s all mine. I don’t suppose you’d know the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico…”

“Never been there.” She shook her head. “I can tell you how to get to the interstate, tho’.”

“Tell Kitt, if you don’t mind. He’s better at directions.” Michael jerked a thumb back at the car. The red scanner light swished back and forth with a faint mechanical echo, as if concentrating.

“Uh…okay. Take this road about five more miles until you hit Highway 36…” she rattled off.

Kitt processed the instructions into his memory bank. “Thank you, Deputy Coltrane,” the car said politely.

“Yer welcome. Uh…listen, if ya’ll ever get back through this way, feel free to stop by the Sheriff’s Department in Hazzard. We’ll give ya the grand tour. Khee!”

Michael winked at her. “We just might do that. Thanks again, MaryAnne.”

“Anytime.”

Michael smiled at her in goodbye, then turned and walked back to the sleek car. “Kitt, radio Devon and give him an updated ETA.”

“Right away, Michael.” The driver’s door hissed open. Michael climbed inside and the door automatically shut behind him. Kitt’s scanner light quickened in pace, and the black TransAm took off with smooth acceleration, disappearing down the road in one long eye blink.

MaryAnne had to sit down after that one. She walked to her patrol car, got in and sat down behind the wheel, and picked up the CB. “Songbird to Bear,” she called on the radio.

“I read you, Songbird! What’s yer twenty?” Rosco’s voice came back.

“I’m on Mill Pond Road, waiting for Blackbird…but there’s something strange goin’ on. I think Blackbird’s got himself lost.”

“Lost? He knows his way around here by now…”

“Bear, it’s not that kind of lost. I’ll explain later. We need to find the script he and I were workin’ on, pronto.”

“Script?”

“Yes…before all hell breaks loose.”

***** ***** *****

Hell had certainly broken loose in Captain Dobey’s homicide unit. His two best detectives were struggling with a resisting prisoner and creating a disturbance that could be heard throughout the entire department.

“Let me go! Y’all got the wrong guy! I ain’t never even heard of @#&*% Bay City!” Brian yelled.

“It’s not called @#&*% Bay City. It’s BAY CITY. There’s no @#&*% in it,” Hutch said, propelling Brian forward with a shove. Starsky grabbed the lapel of Brian’s jacket and hauled him along.

Brian tried pulling out of the grasp, but having his arms handcuffed behind his back made fighting difficult. “You’re makin’ a big mistake! I’m close kin to the Hazzard County law!”

“Yeah, whatever.” Starsky kicked open the door to the homicide unit, lead Brian to a short table, pulled a chair out and threw him into it. “You have the right to remain seated.”

“What’s all the noise?” Captain Dobey said from outside his office.

Hutch smiled at the unit captain, a black man in his early fifties who was ulcer-ridden and short-tempered. “Interrogating a suspect.”

“Won’t take long, Cap’n,” Starsky promised. “If he doesn’t cooperate, we’ll shoot him.”

“I’ve told you two before! No threatening prisoners!” Dobey yelled, pointing a stubby finger in warning.

“Who’s threatening?” Starsky shrugged. “It’s a statistical fact. We shoot more suspects than we prosecute. That’s what makes this a homicide unit.”

“That is NOT what makes this a homicide unit! Process him and get him outta here!” Dobey’s veins bulged in his forehead. He withdrew back into his office and slammed the door.

Neither Starsky nor Hutch blinked at the slam, but the sound startled Brian. Starsky gave a humorless smile and pulled a chair out from the table, seating himself across from the suspect. “Okay, Johnny Reb…let’s get started.”

“Not a chance, man.” Brian glared at Starsky. “Y’all ain’t got a damn thing on me and you know it. Just listen to me and call Sheriff Coltrane in Hazzard County!”

“You’ll get your one phone call later.” Hutch stood over Brian with his arms folded. “Answer the questions. Keep it short and sweet and we’ll get bail set for you.”

“He doesn’t get bail,” Starsky said, going into Bad Cop mode. “Not after what he’s done.”

“I suppose you don’t want him to have fair trial, either,” Hutch said, playing Good Cop.

“No I don’t! I want scum like this off the street for good. Trials are a waste of time and taxpayer’s money. Leave me with him for five minutes, Hutch. I’ll close this case tighter than a drum!”

“I want to make a statement,” Brian said hastily, lifting his dark eyes in an appeal to Hutch.

“There, Starsk. See, he’s willing to cooperate.” Hutch smiled placidly and grabbed a clipboard and pencil, seating himself at the end of the table. Starsky gave a sullen growl and snapped on a tape recorder.

“Go ahead when you’re ready,” Hutch said calmly to Brian. “State your given name, your address, and the details of your involvement.”

Brian nodded, sighing. “My name’s Brian Coltrane. I’m from Hazzard County, Georgia. Formerly from Atlanta.” He took a deep breath and paused, as if afraid to go on.

“You can tell us,” Hutch encouraged. “It’s okay.”

“Awright. Well…for the record then…lemme say this.” Brian leaned closer to the tape recorder, and said: “#%&!! @%*%#&*$%sonofa%*&#@, and y’all are %&#@ and y’all can @#%&*$#%!!! And attention all units…@%&*#$*%#!!!!!!!”

Brian paused. “You get all that? I can repeat it, if need be.”

Hutch sat down the pencil on the clipboard. Starsky clicked off the tape recorder, slowly rose from the table, turned to one of the tall, metal file cabinets…and proceeded to kick it and pound it with his fists in a sudden frenzy. He couldn’t beat up on the suspect and get away with it, at least not to the deserved extent. The file cabinet took the punishment instead, which once again drew Captain Dobey from his office. “What in hell is going on out here?”

“He’s interrogatin’ a file cabinet,” Brian answered before anyone else could, watching Starsky work it over. “Damn…”

“That’s enough!” Dobey yelled. Starsky gave the file cabinet a last, savage kick, making the bottom drawer pop open. He turned back to Brian with blood in his eye.

“Captain!” Brian said urgently. “I’m in wrongful custody! These hot-headed cops of yours refuse to call Sheriff Coltrane in Hazzard County and verify my identity!”

Dobey eyed Hutch intently. “Is that true?”

“We were just about to do that, Cap,” Hutch sighed. “Weren’t we, Starsky.”

“You bet.” Starsky gave Brian a look that promised a very long walk to the holding cells.

***** ***** *****

At the Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department, MaryAnne was on a phone call, doing her best to locate Brian. She was seeking some out-of-town help in an unofficial capacity, given the unusual events of the day. She wasn’t having much luck; the phone rang several times, and then an answering machine clicked on. “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message, and I’ll get back to you.” Beep!

“Jim, this is MaryAnne. Do you ever answer your goddamn phone?? Sheesh!!”

MaryAnne hung up the telephone. “Rosco, I’m about ready to call out the Confederate Reserves. Nobody has seen or heard from Brian in hours. If we don’t locate that script, he may never find his way back.”

“Doh!” Rosco exclaimed. “You mean…”

“He must be trapped somewhere,” MaryAnne said. “I think he would have made it home by now otherwise. There’s been so many strange characters passing through Hazzard lately…”

“Hush, sweetheart. Don’t worry, we’ll find that script.”

“What if…” MaryAnne bit her lip.

Rosco walked over to the booking desk where MaryAnne stood. He put his hands on her shoulders, reassuringly. “I’m sure Brian’s okay. You know what he always says...”

“He’s a bad guy, he can take care of himself.” MaryAnne sighed. “That’s just it, Rosco. What if he’s got himself involved in a plot he can’t escape from?”

“Hope for a sequel?” Rosco suggested.

MaryAnne’s eyebrows went up with the thought. “There is that. In any case, we can’t write him off as long as there’s hope.”

“’Zactly. Tell you what…why don’t we go on down to the Boar’s Nest and ask if anybody’s seen ‘em there.”

“Awright. Beats waiting around.” MaryAnne and Rosco walked through the booking room doors and headed outside.

Behind them and out of earshot, the booking room phone began to ring.

***** ***** *****

“No answer.” Hutch hung up the phone and turned to his partner. “We tried.”

“We sure did.” Starsky yanked Brian to his feet. “Come on, cowboy. Time to sit in the cooler.”

“Wait! They might be out on patrol! At least leave a message at another number! Try the Boar’s Nest!”

“Try telling it to the judge.” Starksy hauled Brian out into the hall with Hutch close behind. “I can’t believe we fell for it as long as we did. A scumbag like you, related to a Sheriff and a deputy.” Starsky shook his head.

“It’s true!” Brian insisted.

“Likely story,” Hutch commented, giving Brian’s handcuffed arms a yank higher, supposedly to steer him around a corner.

“Ow! Watch it!”

“Sorry,” Starsky said insincerely. He bumped into Brian and sent him stumbling into the wall.

“Oops, careful there,” Hutch added, grabbing Brian and shoving him forward into Starsky, who shoved him back like a medicine ball. The mild roughing up was unnerving. The detectives were making their point; they could trash Brian between here and the holding cells and nobody would stop them.

“Watch your step,” Hutch said, spinning Brian towards the wall and shoving him into it hard.

“GAH! Dammit!” The casual, unconcerned mauling was making Brian nervous. Especially when he was kept pinned to the wall, and the cops began to speak to each other in hushed tones.

“Starsk, you sure about this?” Hutch whispered harshly.

“Of course I’m sure! Nobody’s gonna ask any questions about him.”

Hutch didn’t seem so sure. “You really think Captain Dobey won’t investigate? This would make the third suspect that died in an escape attempt this week!”

“Third? Died?” Brian said, and got shoved into the wall again. “AAAAH!! So who’s tryin’ to escape?!”

“Quiet!” Starsky growled near Brian’s ear. “Hutch, I’m telling ya, this one’s not worth the trouble of a court appearance. I’ll get rid of ‘em. You fill out the report.”

There was a short pause. “Okay,” Hutch said heavily. “We’ll have to make it look good.”

Whether they were bluffing or not, Brian threw down his cards. “AWRIGHT! Let’s put it in perspective! Everything I told ya was true! Addin’ to that, I’m a former member of the Atlanta Syndicate! And I wish I could tell ya what the hell I’m doin’ in Bay City, but I can’t! I don’t even know how I got here! I lost my script, and the next thing I knew…”

“Wait a minute,” Hutch said, spinning Brian around to face them. “Script?”

“Yeah!” Brian heaved out. “I lost it and ended up here, it the city of the damned!! I didn’t break no laws except for evadin’ y’all! I swear!”

“What do you think, Starsk?” Hutch said.

“I don’t like him,” Starsky answered. “But I believe him.”

“It could coincide with the script we lost ourselves.” Hutch gave a sharp look at Starsky. “Question is…what can we do about it now? We’ve got a job to do. Johnny Reb may be the wrong bad guy, but he’s all we got to work with.”

“That’s true,” Starsky said critically. “We know what has to be done. This guy isn’t as slimy as most of the sleazebags we cancel, but he’ll do on short notice.”

Brian’s dark eyes widened in alarm. “Wait a damn minute. You can’t…”

Hutch pulled on Brian’s jacket collar. “Like it or not, we’re all on the same page. You’ll know when it’s your cue. Now move.”

“But…I’ve got my own life! I don’t belong here! Call it a cameo appearance and let me go!”

“Tough break, cowboy.” Starsky and Hutch each took one of Brian’s arms and led him down the hall.

***** ***** *****

“I don’t believe this.” MaryAnne spotted a gold Firebird in the Boar’s Nest parking lot. She parked the Plymouth Fury next to it, and she and Rosco opened the cruiser’s doors, getting out to examine the gold-colored car with the California plates.

Rosco looked over at MaryAnne. “You’d just left him that message a little while ago. He really gets back to ya fast, don’t he! Khee!”

“I wish it were that simple.” MaryAnne walked into the Boar’s Nest. Sure enough, a black-haired, mild-mannered private eye, clad in a blue-checkered suit coat and a clashing shirt, was sitting at a table holding a conversation and a cold beer. Seated next to him was another private eye, a young woman wearing a brown suede jacket and matching high-heeled boots. Her long straight hair was pulled back in a strict ponytail.

MaryAnne and Rosco walked up to the two private eyes. Involved in their conversation, the two investigators didn’t come up for air until MaryAnne cleared her throat for attention.

“Oh! Hi MaryAnne, hello Rosco! We didn’t notice you come in,” Daney Duke smiled.

“Sure we did,” Jim said cheerfully. “We just ignored you.”

“Jim Rockford and Daney Duke,” MaryAnne grinned. “The two of you come here often?”

“I work here,” Daney complained, “Between paying cases.”

“You have clients that pay you?” Jim said enviously. “Maybe I should relocate.”

Rosco chuckled and pulled out a couple of chairs for himself and MaryAnne. “What brings you all the way out to Hazzard?” The Sheriff asked.

“Haven’t decided,” Jim answered. “I’m rather surprised to be here, matter of fact. I was just telling Daney how one minute I’m on Ventura Boulevard, and the next thing I know, I’m between truckstops in the deep south.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here. You too, Daney. There’s been a few lost souls drifting through Hazzard today, but there’s one in particular I haven’t been able to find.”

“Brian’s missing,” Daney said with certainty.

MaryAnne looked at her. “Yes…but how did you know?”

“Because I’ve bumped into everyone on earth today except for him. You wouldn’t believe some the characters I’ve ran into.”

“Actually, I would.” MaryAnne’s gaze traveled around the table, taking in everyone in turn. My gut tells me that Brian’s in trouble.”

“Brian’s always in trouble,” Rosco pointed out.

“This is different. Look at all of us,” MaryAnne said, gesturing around the group. “If any of us wound up lost somewhere, we’d be okay. Anyone looking at us wouldn’t be immediately suspicious of our motives…”

“Khee! At least ‘till they knew us better…” Rosco chimed in.

“Exactly my point. What do you think would happen to Brian if he were to suddenly show up in the wrong place? At the wrong time? His image doesn’t particularly lend itself to the benefit of the doubt.”

“Ooo! Jit!” Rosco winced. Across the table, Daney nodded seriously. She knew what MaryAnne was suggesting. If Brian looked like a bad guy, talked like a bad guy, acted like a bad guy...odds were, he’d be treated like a bad guy. Some people had very expedient methods for dealing with the type, and this gave MaryAnne every reason to worry.

Jim Rockford sensed this as well. “I take it your missing cousin is the black sheep of the family?”

“Blackbird,” Rosco corrected.

“We’d better get started then. Now tell me, does anybody have a script?”

***** ***** *****

The noise from the holding area was like the clamor of a zoo. Unlike the small, clean cells of the Hazzard County jail, the Bay City cooler had large, barred rooms crammed with undesirable people. Some were repeat criminal offenders, some were tripped-out substance abusers coming down from a high, and some were derelicts whose greatest crimes were poverty and vagrancy. Collectively, they pressed their faces forward to stare and jeer at the fresh meat being led to the detention officer.

“Got a present for you,” Starsky said to the officer, shoving Brian up to the counter. “Book him on the usual Twenty Year package. If he gets out in anything less than ten, I’ll punch your face in.”

“No need for sweet talk,” the thin detention officer replied. “You search ‘em?”

Hutch nodded and tossed an evidence bag on the table. “As much as health codes allow. Here.” A clear plastic bag containing a handgun, loose bullets, a thick wad of cash and a few marijuana cigarettes was tossed on the counter top.

“HEY!” Brian protested. “That stuff ain’t mine!”

Starsky grinned. “It is now. You should’ve worked with us when you had the chance, Johnny Reb.”

Brian thought fast as the detention officer itemized the bag’s contents and wrote them down. Once he was moved into that cell block, he would be trapped forever in the bad dream known as Bay City. He had to find a way out of this mess!

“That all of it?” The detention officer asked, having put the gun and the rest of the items in a small tray, which he sat back on the counter.

“That’s all you’re gonna get,” Brian snapped suddenly, baring his teeth. Starsky and Hutch, along with the detention officer, were momentarily confused - until Hutch figured it out and tugged at the lapel of Brian’s jacket, giving a wry smile to Starsky.

“You’re gonna have to put your coat in the closet for twenty years,” Starsky said to Brian. “Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of it. Right after we rip out the lining and look for drugs.”

“#@%*&%!!!” Brian said, getting shoved into the counter. Secretly, his hopes were soaring. They had to take off his handcuffs to remove the coat…and if Brian had so much as one hand free, he’d have a chance.

Being no fool, Hutch kept a one-handed grip on Brian’s left wrist, keeping the arm painfully high against his back. Brian let out a muttered curse of pain but remained still, allowing Hutch to spring open the lock on the metal binding his right wrist. The moment Brian felt the lock give, he snatched his right arm free, drawing it forward and then slamming it back immediately, driving an elbow hard into Hutch’s solar plexus. Hutch lost his grip on Brian’s left arm, and Brian spun and threw a roundhouse right into Starsky’s jaw. He then grabbed the stunned detective and threw him bodily into Hutch, sending both of them tumbling to the floor.

The detention officer ran out from behind the booking counter to capture the prisoner, which was a bad move. It gave Brian the heartbeat’s span he needed to grab the gun and a handful of bullets from the evidence tray. He popped the chamber, slid in one bullet, flicked it shut with a snap of his wrist and spun the gun in his hand once…pointing it dead between the eyes of the detention officer, who froze in his tracks in horror.

The detention officer trembled. Before him, the criminal clad in black held him at point-blank range, his dark eyes grim and his smile wicked. The handcuffs still dangled from the prisoner’s left wrist, one metal loop empty and open. Officers Hutchinson and Starsky were rising to their feet, but cautiously and with genuine trepidation. This, perhaps more than anything else, terrified the detention officer.

The sound of running, heavy feet were coming down the call and from the cell area. An alarm had been tripped by the detention officer, Brian surmised. “Explain the situation to the pigs,” he growled in his throat, never taking his eyes from the frightened hostage.

“STAY BACK!” Hutch yelled down the corridor. Starsky waved back the jail guards who were likewise approaching.

Brian’s voice was a snarling hiss. “Awright. We’re goin’ for a ride. I think one of you have the keys to a ’67 Impala. Hand them to the nice hostage. Any of you try anything, I’ll plug ‘em. I’ve got nothing to lose by wastin’ a cop and I’m happy to prove it.”

Starsky very slowly reached into his pocket. Brian clicked the hammer back on his gun. “Make sure the only thing comin’ outta that pocket are keys. If I even think it looks like a gun, this man’s dead. Dig?”

“Take it easy,” Starsky said. Slowly, he removed a set of keys, holding them at arm’s length.

“You put your hand beneath the keys,” Brian told the hostage, “And you, Starsky - drop them nice and careful. They hit the floor, I pull the trigger.”

The hostage did as he was told, as did Starsky. “Walk,” Brian commanded the hostage. “Nice and slow. Walk right around and right through anything and anybody you have to.”

The detention officer did, shakily. Starsky and Hutch did not interfere, though their hands clenched into fists of futile anger. Brian, they noticed, kept his eyes on the hostage at all times. His complete attention was on the detention officer at the end of his gun. The deadly, single-minded focus allowed for no distractions; no missteps, no tricks. Even if another officer shot Brian, he could end up killing the hostage out of convulsive reflex.

Brian and his hostage made it down the hall, past the stunned and silent officers. They made it outside and began the walk to the impound yard. Cops spilled from the police department and followed in droves. Brian didn’t care. His heart was drumming a pounding cadence of life and death. He had no wish to harm the officer, but of course no one knew that. And if Brian wanted to make good on his escape, he couldn’t afford to show any humanity. His own life was forfeit, however, should he lose the advantage for the merest second. The number of cops around would make certain of that.

Getting through the gated impound, which happened to be within a parking garage, proved no problem. More cops watched and waited, some with the kind of rifles that made short work of hostage situations. Brian kept his gun close on the hostage, not taking his eyes off the man as they came upon the black Chevy.

“Open the passenger door,” Brian ordered. “Slide across to the driver’s side. Do not put the key in the ignition yet.”

Starsky and Hutch watched. “Damn him!” Hutch swore. “He’s making Terril drive!”

“He’s a pro,” Starsky said. “We should’ve shot him at Huggy’s place . No questions, just boom. Case closed.”

“They’re in the car,” Hutch interrupted. The Chevy’s motor kicked over loudly, echoing through the parking garage. “Come on. We’ll follow.” The two homicide detectives crouched low and ran for the Ford Torino.

“Drive,” Brian ordered the detention officer, “Nice and easy.” He sat next to the hostage and kept the gun planted in his ribs. Diablo idled out of the parking garage and into the street, melding into the traffic. Behind it, a long string of police cars followed.


***** ***** *****
MaryAnne piled the stacks of paper high on the table. She slapped the sections together like phone books. Jim Rockford watched the growing heap of pulp without reaction, waiting until MaryAnne sat the last of it down before making his comment.

“Is that all you have?”

“Everything we’ve finished.” MaryAnne sat back down as Jim leafed through the collection of scripts. He took a pen out as if to make notes, but MaryAnne noticed that Jim was simply doodling pictures.

“Draw any conclusions?” She asked.

“I think so. Your cousin Brian is a real case.”

“That’s why were all here,” Daney reminded. “But I don’t know what good these old scripts are going to do.”

“I’ll tell you,” Jim answered mildly. “For one thing, it shows that MaryAnne never throws anything out.”

“KHEE!” Rosco laughed. “That’s the truth.”

“I like to think of it as keeping good records,” MaryAnne said with a slight blush. “Jim, I have to agree with Daney. I’m not sure how all this is going to help.”

Jim closed the cover of an old, yellowing script. “MaryAnne, it’s plain to me that your missing script wasn’t lost. It was stolen.”

“Stolen??”

“Jit!”

“Stolen!” Daney said. “He’s right! MaryAnne, you couldn’t have lost that script, not after taking such good care of all these!”

MaryAnne’s blue eyes narrowed as she considered the possibility. “But who would any have anything to gain from it?

“And why would they risk mixin’ up so many people by disrupting’ things?” Rosco asked.

“Simple. Somebody wanted to change everything to suit their own needs.” Jim’s brow furrowed with a new thought. “Somebody who wanted to take Brian’s place…”

“Or have Brian take theirs!” Daney said suddenly. “MaryAnne! All the characters I met today…is it possible?”

“It is,” MaryAnne said with a soft growl, understanding where Daney was going. “Somebody stole not only my script, but a bunch of other folks, too…along with Brian’s. No wonder so many people were lost.”

“What are all of ya thinkin’?” Rosco asked.

“Rosco,” MaryAnne said solemnly, “Somebody wanted out of their own script. Whoever did this searched very carefully for a substitute to take their place. A substitute that could fill in as a close-enough match…and they picked Brian.”

Rosco absorbed the meaning. “So much for bein’ a bad guy that could take care of himself.”

“Somebody read the wrong things about your cousin,” Jim concluded. “The only hope of getting Brian back, is to find the person who took his place in Hazzard County and recover that script.”

***** ***** *****

“You won’t get away with this,” Terril said shakily. “Give yourself up!”

“In a word, man….” Brian looked at the string of cop cars in the mirror. “NEVAH!” He kept the gun in Terril’s ribs as the hapless officer drove Diablo.

“I’ve got a family,” the officer blurted.

“Congratulations. Now shut up and drive.”

“Where to? They’re going to block the roads! You can’t escape!”

Brian was realizing that himself. He knew, for as much as the cops were following at a safe distance, they were also quietly lining up a chokehold on all the main routes. “If they wanna see yer badge number on tomorrow’s roll call, they’ll back off,” Brian threatened.

“Where you from, anyway?” Terril asked suddenly, curiosity overcoming his fear. “You got a southern accent.”

“’Cause I’m from the South, you jackass! DRIVE!”

“Okay!” Terril flinched. He fell silent for a few moments. Traffic ahead of the black Chevy was relatively thin, and Terril cut through the streets with ease. This told him that roadblocks were going up on the main roads, limiting traffic. Maybe another two miles, and this whole thing would come to an end. He thought of his wife and his one-year old son, and knowing that he may never see them again, felt a new determination coming to him. He decided to chance a few words to the criminal.

“You just want to get back home, right?” Terril said rapidly. “Put the gun down and I promise I’ll take you someplace safe where they won’t find you.”

Brian was tempted. But he remembered the rules of the game, and the side he was playing on had harsh rules. “You’ll do that anyway, or you’re dead. I mean it, man.”

“I read you,” Terril said, but he felt bolder for the dialogue. He also felt reassured at the sight of the red and white Grand Torino that had just swung behind the Chevy’s rear bumper.

Brian saw it too. “Damn,” he whispered to himself. There would be no second arrest.

***** ***** *****

“Luke, you hear all the commotion on the CB?” Bo asked his older cousin. The two of them were chopping wood at the farm, each taking turns at splitting logs while the other stacked the woodpile.

“Sure did,” Luke said, heaving the axe down. “Ol’ Rosco’s on a real manhunt. Wonder who they’re after.”

“Least it ain’t us,” Bo said gratefully. “Or the whole Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department would already be here.”

“You never seem to mind MaryAnne stoppin’ by,” Luke teased.

“Neither do you,” Bo grinned back. “You know what’s funny, Luke? I got fewer tickets ever since she came to Hazzard. It ain’t ‘cause she’s busted me…it’s because she’s happier when she doesn’t have to bust me. I end up takin’ it easy on the roads.”

“It’s good to keep MaryAnne happy,” Luke agreed. “I know what you mean, Bo. I don’t have any more concern for speed traps than I ever did. It’s just…I dunno.”

“MaryAnne has a way of makin’ ya want to do the right thing,” Bo summarized.

“You got that right,” Luke nodded. The ax came down with a heavy chop before he continued. “I think maybe that’s why ol’ Brian turned around some. Somebody finally cared if he did the right thing.”

“Yeah.” The two boys worked in silence for time, finishing their chores. Neither of them noticed the stranger who watched them from the shadow of the farmhouse. Dressed mostly in black, except for ragged blue tennis shoes and a dirty grey t-shirt, the criminal hid out of sight. He peered around the house and scratched the bristling stubble that covered his pockmarked face, debating whether he should kill the two men and take their orange Charger. It would make an adequate substitute for his own getaway car, a black Chevy Camaro that the Bay City police department knew too well. It was hidden off the road for the time being, tucked behind the barn.

Only the flashy, attention-drawing nature of the General Lee was saving Bo and Luke’s lives at the moment. Thinking better stealing that particular car, the criminal settled for forcing his will on the farm family for the purpose of getting a meal, a change of clothing, and whatever cash could be found. Then he would kill them.

With this decided, the criminal reached into the coat pocket of his imitation leather jacket, digging to find the gun he had hidden between two booklets of paper. Yes, the scripts were still there, he thought to himself. Hazzard was his for the taking, while the sucker he’d found to take his place was about to die an ignoble death as a nameless, forgettable bad guy.

A wicked, triumphant laugh came from the Bay City criminal. The sound startled Bo and Luke, and they spun around quickly, their sharp eyes searching the farmyard. Luke saw the dark figure in the shadow of the house and relaxed marginally.

“Brian Coltrane, one of these days you’re gonna try sneakin’ up on us and get an arrow in your posterior. Where you been, anyhow?”

The criminal drew his gun and stepped from the shadows, coming into full view. Luke had been about to smile, expecting a smart remark back from Brian…but at the sight of the stranger holding a gun on them, the Duke boys knew that things were very wrong in Hazzard.

“Who are you?!” Bo demanded. “And what are you doing on our farm?”

“Shut up. In the house. Both of you. Now.” The criminal waved his gun. His speech was clipped and toneless. Luke knew, by the lack of any sort of drawl in the man’s voice, that
he was way out of his natural territory.

Luke also remembered that Brian had been missing for several hours. With the quick reasoning that he was famous for, Luke realized that the CB calls going back and forth between the Sheriff’s department meant two things: One, the frantic activity was probably a search for the criminal in front of them…and two, that this criminal may be the cause behind Brian’s disappearance.

“Do what he says, Bo,” Luke said quietly, raising his arms halfway, and nodding towards the house.

***** ***** *****
The scouting party was making a search of Hazzard’s back roads, one person to a vehicle. Daney picked up the CB mike and radioed to MaryAnne. “Anything yet?”

“Negative,” MaryAnne radioed back. “Bear, what about you? Any luck?”

“Nuthin’ out by Moose Creek,” the Sheriff reported. “What about whassis-name there?”

“It’s ‘Jim’, for future reference,” the P.I. called in. “No, I haven’t seen anything suspicious either, except for a dozen or so moonshine stills I’ll pretend I didn’t see.”

“And I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” MaryAnne responded. Radio silence prevailed for a few minutes. The search for a suspicious character was proving fruitless, and MaryAnne was growing impatient. There had to be clues. But where? Neither Brian, nor anyone remotely in his likeness, had been seen in town or at the Boar’s Nest. Yet MaryAnne’s cop-instincts told her that she was missing the obvious. Where? Where? Where?

Jim Rockford’s voice came over the airways. “MaryAnne, is there anyplace in Hazzard County we haven’t looked? Anywhere that he’s been found before?”

“No,” MaryAnne started to answer with a sigh. Then her sharp intake of breath could be heard on the CB. “Wait! I take that back. The Duke farm! Daney, radio the boys! See if they’ve spotted anything out there!”

“Ten-four!” Daney cleared the channel and changed it, turning the monitor to the Duke’s home frequency. “Scout to Lost Sheep, come back.”

A hiss of static and a sharp crackle was the answer. Daney tapped the CB mike and tried again. “Scout to Shepard, over?”

Nothing. Knowing that Daisy was at the Boar’s Nest, there was only Uncle Jesse and Bo and Luke to answer. One of them should have picked up.

“Scout to Lost Sheep, Scout to Shepard,” Daney called worriedly.

Silence again. Daney turned the channel back to the Sheriff’s Department frequency and heard MaryAnne’s voice on the channel. “Songbird to Lost Sheep! Come back…”

“I think we know where to look now,” Rosco cut in. “Keep the gumballs and siren off, Songbird. We’ll go in sneaky.”

“Ten-four. Daney, Jim, you copy?”

“Got it,” Daney answered.

“Loud and clear,” Jim said.

“Awright. Y’all see anything unusual along the way, give a holler.”

“You mean unusual for Hazzard,” Jim amended.

“’Zactly.”

The four cars began to converge on the Duke farm from different roads. It was Daney who got there first. She almost missed the black car that was hugging the side of the barn, tucked back as it was from the road. For a second she thought it was Diablo, but she quickly realized the black Chevy she’d found was much shorter in frame. The presence of a stranger’s car on Duke property set her heart pounding. She eased her green duster, Hunter, off the road and snuck it up to the Camaro. “Scout to Songbird! There’s a black Chevy here…but it’s not one that we know. It’s parked on the east side of the barn.”

“I read you,” MaryAnne said immediately.

“I copy,” Rosco echoed.

“Same goes for me,” Jim put in. “I’m on your twenty.” The gold Pontiac had been a short distance behind Daney. Jim followed the path that Daney’s car had cut into the field, joining her near the barn.

“Over here!” Daney whispered as Jim got out of his car. Stepping awkwardly over the stones and ruts of the field, Jim met up with Daney near the black Camaro. She was staring into the passenger’s side of the Camaro like a pointer on a pheasant.

Resting on the seat was a pile of scripts, many of them torn and rutted through carelessly. The two P.I.’s carefully opened the Camaro’s door and began to sift through the stack. By the time Rosco and MaryAnne pulled up, Jim and Daney were concentrating their eyes to a single script, riveted to the page.

Rosco and MaryAnne got out of their patrol cars quietly, not letting the doors slam. The two Hazzard officers jogged through the field to join the P.I’s. “What’d you find?” MaryAnne asked in a hushed voice, noting their sober expressions.

Jim glanced at Daney, and at a silent nod from her, handed the script over to MaryAnne. Rosco peered over her shoulder and they read the unfamiliar script, their blue eyes scanning the pages as the ending gripped them like a vise…

With the criminal distracted by the sight in the rearview mirror, Officer Terril performs an act of courage and heroism. Ignoring the gun held against his ribs, he slams the brakes of the black Chevy, the sudden jolt forcing the criminal to brace his arms out against the dashboard. The gun is momentarily forced away from his ribs, and Officer Terril makes a grab for it, while the stopped Chevy is quickly surrounded by the law. Detective David Starsky draws his weapon and shouts and order to the criminal, but a shot rings out sharply from within the car. For a heartbeat, no one moves. Then slowly, officer Terril lets go of the gun, which in the struggle had turned back against the criminal. The shocked, dark eyes of the criminal glance up to see Starsky’s face in the car window…

…Starsky stares back without pity, holding his gun at ready. It is not needed. The black-clad figure slumps weakly against the seat, his lips curled back in a snarl as the fire fades from his eyes. He does not move again.

Detective Ken Hutchinson takes in the scene from the other side of the black Chevy, and Officer Terril looks to him nervously. Sirens howl in the background.

Hutch says nothing, but nods in understanding, seeing that the officer is badly shaken. When Terril looks back at the criminal for too long, Hutch finally speaks. “Go home to your wife and son. They’re waiting…”

MaryAnne closed the script and rolled it up into her fist. It was supposed to have been a happy ending; and from the traditional perspective, it was. Unless one happened to have sympathy for the bad guy.

“I’m sorry, MaryAnne,” Jim said gently. “We may be too late.”

“No,” MaryAnne said sharply. “No, I refuse to believe that.” Angrily, she took the pen from her pocket, unrolled the script and tried drawing lines through the distressing sections. The pen wouldn’t write.

“Let me try,” Rosco offered. He took the script and soon found that his pen had no effect either. “Jit!”

“I know why,” Daney said softly. “It’s not your script, so you can’t change it.”

“This ain’t over yet.” MaryAnne looked through the Camaro for herself. “My script isn’t in this car, and neither is Brian’s. Whoever stole them is taking no chances.”

“Whoever stole ‘em still has ‘em,” Rosco declared. “Along with the Dukes.”

“Goddammit!” MaryAnne looked to the farmhouse. “Why does every criminal in the world find his way to Hazzard County?”

“And find his way to this farm?” Daney piped in.

“Could be a law of nature,” Jim said blandly. “Kind of like how ducks fly south.”

“Ooo!” Rosco lit up. “Then all we need to do is get a decoy!”

“A duck decoy?” Daney said

“No! A Duke decoy! Khee khee!”

“Rosco,” MaryAnne chided. “This is serious….WAIT a minute! A Duke decoy! You’re right!” The young Deputy suddenly slapped Daney on the shoulder. “Daney, you’re about to be a decoy!”

The female P.I. blinked at MaryAnne uncertainly. “Huh?”

“You’re going to walk right up to the front door there and go in as if nothing’s happened. Me, Jim and Rosco will go ‘round back. You’ll draw the attention of the bad guy so the rest of us can sneak in through the windows.”

“Nothing to it, as long as I don’t get shot,” Daney frowned. “If this works, Brian’s gonna owe me big.”

“That’s incentive enough, isn’t it?” MaryAnne smiled.

Daney blushed a little, hiding a grin. “I guess so. Okay….wish me luck.” Without another word, she turned and walked around the barn, striding towards the farmhouse. Rosco, MaryAnne and Jim gave her a few moments’ head start, then cut through the cornfield to sneak around the back.

***** ***** *****

The Duke kitchen was ransacked. Spilled flour and broken dishes marred the floor; half-eaten food was heaped wastefully on the table. The criminal stood in the kitchen, gun in one hand, cramming bread in his mouth with the other. He tossed the uneaten crust aside, not caring where it landed. He commenced a search of the cupboards, searching for money, valuables, anything worth his interest. There wasn’t anything so far, and it made him angry. “I’m through wasting my time here,” he snarled dangerously. “Unless you farm fools come up with real cash, your lives won’t be worth a damn.”

From the living room, Bo, Luke and Uncle Jesse watched impassively. Each of them were grateful for the fact that Daisy wasn’t home. Her shift had not yet ended at the Boar’s Nest.

The criminal slammed a cupboard door hard, shattering a teacup. “Where do you keep your valuables?!” he demanded.

“Right here,” Uncle Jesse answered, tapping a finger over his heart. “The things we cherish ain’t kept in dollars.”

“Spare me the sermon,” The criminal spat. “You cough up money…or you lose.” The gun was raised and aimed at Bo Duke. The blonde Duke swallowed hard and darted a frightened look to his cousin.

“Hold on,” Luke said anxiously. “We ain’t got cash here ‘cause we just paid the mortgage. Take anything you want…but there’s no need to hurt anybody.”

“There’s no need to leave witnesses,” the criminal stated, clicking back the hammer. A cruel sneer twisted his mouth. “Bye bye, country boys…”

The screen door suddenly creaked open and Daney’s voice called in. “Hey y’all! I’m hoooome! What’s for supper?”

The criminal whirled on Daney and oriented the gun on her. At the sight of the slender woman, an ugly smile grew on the criminal’s face. “Do come in, baby. I’ve been looking for some entertainment.”

“Oh my goodness!” Daney said breathlessly, acting terrified.

Bo and Luke had taken a half-step forward when the criminal barked an order. “Stop, country boys. Or I’ll waste her where she stands.”

Helpless, Bo and Luke froze. “Come here, baby,” the criminal coaxed Daney. “I won’t hurt you…much.”

“You awful man!” Daney squealed. “I’ll have nothing to do with you!”

The voices of Daney and the criminal carried back to Rosco, MaryAnne, and Jim. Quietly, and with stealth that Brian would have been proud of, the three of them climbed through a bedroom window. So far, Daney’s ringing protests where covering the creaking of the floorboards.

The bedroom door was open a crack, and MaryAnne peered through it, seeing Daney slink up to the criminal like a cowering deer. “Don’t hurt my cousins,” she pleaded. “I’ll do anything you want…”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” The criminal reached out and grabbed her ponytail, twisting it around in his hand and forcing her face to his own. “You and me are going to hit the road together. Right after I finish this.” He pointed the gun back at the Duke boys.

“No! You can’t! NO!” Daney shrieked, not acting now.

“HIT THE GROUND, BOYS!” MaryAnne yelled, drawing her weapon and throwing the bedroom door open wide. At the movement, the criminal turned and fired towards MaryAnne, drawing Daney in front of his body as a shield. Bo and Luke pulled their Uncle Jesse down with them to the floor, pushing and pulling him to relative safety behind the couch.

Bullets peppered the doorframe and wood splintered off, forcing MaryAnne to duck back. Rosco grabbed her arm and pulled her over to him. “Sweetheart, I know yer brave, but this ain’t gunna work! Not while he’s got Daney!”

“I realize that,” MaryAnne said conversationally, reloading her gun. She glanced at the private investigator from California. “Jim, you’ve handled hostage situations, haven’t you? Go talk sense into that guy.”

Jim peeked one eye cautiously around the door frame, and a bullet immediately exploded into the wood an inch from his nose. “Can’t be done,” he said matter-of-factly, brushing sawdust off his face. “MaryAnne, that’s a grade-A lunatic you’ve got out there.”

“Terrific.” MaryAnne took a deep breath.

“I’ll handle this,” Rosco said. He cupped a hand around his mouth and yelled towards the living room. “AWRIGHT, HOODLUM! Put’cher gun down and yer hands up! We got you surrounded!”

“I’ve got her,” the criminal responded menacingly, tugging Daney’s hair. “Unless you want to be responsible for her death, you’ll throw down your guns and come out! I’m counting to three! One…two…”

“Goddammit!” MaryAnne said, and threw her gun down. She motioned for Jim and Rosco to do the same. Two more pistols skittered across the floor.

“There’s three of us, plus Daney and then the Duke family,” Jim grumbled, “There’s one bad guy. And we’re the ones giving up! What’s wrong with this picture?”

“That’s what happens when ya lose a script,” MaryAnne sighed. “It messes things up somethin’ awful.” She raised her hands up halfway and walked slowly out of the bedroom. Rosco and Jim followed suit, none of them sure what to do next.

The criminal’s hard eyes took in the visage of MaryAnne, glaring at her wickedly “MaryAnne Coltrane,” he said darkly. “I’ve read about you. I know who you are…”

MaryAnne looked back at him. “I’m glad. You’ll remember my name long after you’re behind bars…if you’re lucky enough to make it that far.”

The criminal was thrown off a second by MaryAnne’s fearlessness. Daney sensed this and suddenly pulled away from the criminal, forcing his attention back to her. Bo and Luke had been lying on the floor like panthers, and now they sprang, knocking both the criminal and Daney back as the four of them hit the floor in a heap, Luke wrestling for the gun.

The criminal let go of Daney’s hair in order to fight the Dukes. Instead of retreating, Daney reached into the criminal’s jacket, finding an inner pocket she suspected would be there. She pulled out the scripts.

“NO!” The criminal shouted. But MaryAnne, Jim and Rosco were now there too, and Uncle Jesse soon stood over the thwarted criminal with a loaded shotgun.

Daney handed the scripts to MaryAnne, who unrolled them hurriedly. One was hers, written in blue ink…the other was Brian’s, written in black ink. Instinctively, she knew that seconds counted. She had time enough to modify one script. She only had a blue pen, though, so she knew the effort would have to be made on her copy. She ran to the kitchen table, shoving things out of the way. Quickly, and with a steady hand, she began to write.

***** ***** *****

“Damn this guy!” Starsky swore. “Hutch, why didn’t we shoot the sonofa…”

“We didn’t have just cause.”

“The hell we didn’t. Next time, I’ll risk the suspension instead of losing an officer.”

“We haven’t lost him,” Hutch reminded. “Don’t follow too close. Terril’s driving pretty smooth, so Johnny Reb must be keeping his cool.”

“Johnny Reb is gonna be marching home in a box. Look at this! He’s making Terril turn down the alley! What the…”

“He’s going to avoid the road blocks! We don’t have the alleys contained, just the main roads! DAMN!” Hutch watched the black Chevy Impala dive into a narrow alley, crunching over litter and trash as it sped between the buildings. The Torino followed. It was single-file down this route, and the path effectively controlled the pursuit.

“We can still get ‘em,” Starsky growled. “Radio Captain Dobey and have him send the squads to cut off the alleyways!”

“Zebra Three calling Captain Dobey!” Hutch transmitted. “We’re in pursuit between Clark and Adams! Send units to block off the adjoining alleys!”

“Ten-four, Zebra Three!” The rough voice responded. “CATCH that sucker!”

“We’re working on it!” Hutch said into the mike.

Inside the black Chevy, Brian had to chuckle. His hostage, officer Terril, had followed Brian’s instructions to the letter, turning precisely when told, accelerating and slowing when instructed, and keeping his eyes forward. Terril didn’t know it, but his own police training was working against him now. What Brian was putting him through wasn’t much different than the high-speed pursuit training served up by the police academy.

“Every think of bein’ a Syndicate wheelman?” Brian said in compliment as Terril avoided a trash can and saved some of Diablo’s chrome.

“Can’t say I have,” Terril said, surprised by Brian’s joke. He glanced sideways at the criminal who held him at gunpoint. Instead of cool hostility, there was a look of mild amusement in Brian’s dark eyes.

“They’ll send units to block the alleys,” Terril commented, quickly returning focus to his driving.

“I know,” Brian nodded. “I’ve bought some time but it’s about gone. Well…it’s been fun.” Brian drew in a sigh, and Terril tensed up, ready to slam the brakes and take his chances rather than be shot passively.

“Cut back to the road at the end of this alley,” Brian ordered before Terril did anything. “Give it some gas, then slow down, open the door, and jump out.”

“What?” Terril glanced quickly at the criminal, who was putting his gun away.

“You heard me. It’s over, man. I ain’t takin’ you down with me…but I ain’t givin’ up. Dig?”

Terril saw the expression in Brian’s eyes, and felt the criminal was telling the truth. There was no time to guess otherwise. The end of the alley came up, and Terril yanked the Chevy back into the street, sirens echoing in the air all around them. The Impala gave a burst of speed, gaining a few seconds’ lead before the Torino was out of the alley.

“I’ll take the wheel,” Brian said, edging closer. “Slow down, open the door, and jump! NOW!”

Terril took his foot off the gas and pumped the brake once. He opened the door, dove out of it and rolled, hitting the pavement hard. The black Chevy kept coasting for a second, then suddenly roared forward, fleeing the Ford Torino that was bearing down upon it.

“Starsky! LOOK!” Hutch pointed to Officer Terril, who was picking himself up off the street, stepping back and watching the Impala tear off.

“Good!” Starsky said in relief. “Now it’s just us and Johnny Reb. We’ve got ‘em.”

Brian’s dark eyes flicked over the mirrors. The Torino’s wide grill was ready to run up Diablo’s tailpipes. “Damn cops,” Brian muttered. And there were more. A roadblock loomed in the intersection ahead, as rows of police cars boxed up the street behind wooden barricades. A score of uniformed officers stood at ready with their guns drawn.
There was a last alley between Diablo’s position and the roadblock, and figuring that he’d have better luck against smaller odds, Brian spun Diablo into a sharp turn and took it. He expected to see a squad car blocking the end of the alley, but instead, the view startled him.

The alley was clear, and at the end of it, a street sign was visible. It read, “TO HWY 36 - HAZZARD COUNTY” with a large arrow beneath it.

“Thank you Lord,” Brian exclaimed, hammering Diablo’s throttle. He could make it…

The Torino followed behind.

***** ***** *****

Inside the Duke farmhouse, MaryAnne was staring down at what she had written on the script.

Rosco read it from over her shoulder. “I don’t know, sweetheart. That’s a little lean.”

“It has to be enough,” MaryAnne said. “I have no idea where the hell Bay City is.”

“Listen!” Bo said, standing near the screen door. “I hear a siren!”

Luke looked over at him. “That ain’t nothin’ new.”

“It ain’t a Hazzard County siren!” Bo insisted. Conversation halted as everyone turned an ear towards the sound. Jim Rockford and Uncle Jesse the only ones not to join the group gathering at the door, as they were keeping guard over the criminal who’d been handcuffed and seated on the couch.

MaryAnne strained to listen. She heard the siren, and she also heard the growing vrrraaaahrrruuum of a familiar engine as it gained a gear closer to home.

“It’s Diablo,” she said with conviction. “With a siren behind it. Sounds like Brian is bringing company home for dinner.”

“Khee!” Rosco chuckled. “It worked!”

“It did!” MaryAnne said, proud of herself. “Matter a’ fact, it worked like a charm! There he is!”

A long black Chevy roared down Mill Pond Road. A red Ford followed close behind it, a single police light attached magnetically to the roof.

“Nice cop car,” Bo commented, watching Diablo spin around to try and lose the Torino. The two cars danced like a matador and bull, swirling up dust in billowing clouds.

“Ol’ Brian’s had his hands full,” Luke remarked dryly, seeing the Torino call the Impala’s bluff and move to cut off the Chevy. Diablo leapt into the farmyard, tearing up sod.

“Think he’s requesting back-up?” Rosco asked MaryAnne as Diablo roared up to the house.

“Yup. I think he’s gonna be happy to see us,” MaryAnne agreed. “Come on.”

Through the Impala’s windshield, the Duke farmstead looked as welcome as anything Brian had ever seen. Nothing had stopped the cops pursuing him, and Brian was desperate for any help he could get to explain things - even Duke help. When he saw MaryAnne and Rosco coming out of the farmhouse, Brian gave silent thanks for a good turn of Coltrane luck and threw Diablo into park, bolting from the car and running for the house.

“HOLD IT!” Starsky’s voice shouted behind him. Brian stopped and raised his hands, the handcuffs still dangling from his left wrist with one open loop.

MaryAnne and Rosco calmly walked down the steps with Bo and Luke behind them. Behind Brian, Starsky and Hutch were coming forward to claim their quarry. “Sorry for the disturbance,” Hutch told the people coming from the farmhouse. “We have things under control.”

“I see that,” MaryAnne said calmly. “Looks like you had quite a chase.”

Starsky let out a breath. “You can say that again. You officers probably don’t see this kind of action out in the country.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” MaryAnne said wryly. “You gentlemen are from Bay City, correct?”

“Yeah,” Starsky said, surprised. “I suppose we should cover the courtesies, huh? I’m Detective David Starsky. That’s my partner, Detective Hutchinson. We’re with the Bay City Homicide Unit. And you officers are with….”

Rosco stepped forward. “Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department. I’m Rosco P. Coltrane. This is my cousin, Deputy MaryAnne Coltrane.” Rosco extended his hand with a smile.

“Sheriff…and Deputy…Coltrane?” Hutch said, sinking a little as he accepted the handshake. From the corner of his eye, he saw Brian grin and relax his posture.

“That’s right. Khee!” Rosco shook Starsky’s hand next, then moved aside for MaryAnne.

“It’s a pleasure to meet both of you,” MaryAnne said cordially, greeting them with handshakes as well.

“Pleasure’s ours,” Hutch said politely, but he seemed a little concerned. He looked over at Starsky, then back at MaryAnne and Rosco. “I suppose the two of you don’t happen to know who this is…” he gestured towards Brian.

“Obviously some renegade,” MaryAnne said, beaming a wide grin.

“Just another desperado,” Rosco nodded with a smile.

“Who owes me big!” Daney said suddenly, pushing past Bo and Luke to march up to Brian. “You don’t know what I’ve been through today! You’d better make it up to me!”

“You?? What you been through? Wait ‘till you get an earful of my day, sweetcakes. I’m tellin’ ya, these cops…”

MaryAnne smiled at the chatter, and pulled Starsky and Hutch aside. “I think you two have already figured out that you’ve got the wrong man.”

“We lost our script,” Starsky admitted with a shrug. “We used what we had to work with.”

MaryAnne looked over at Brian, who was now catching good-natured grief from Rosco and the Dukes. “Well, he doesn’t look any worse for wear. I suppose I should thank you for giving him some practice. Brian’s slowed down a bit since his reform, ya see…”

Reform? Slowed down?” Starsky sputtered.

“Shhh! Don’t let him hear you! He’s sensitive ‘bout it.”

Sensitive?” Hutch blurted. “His language is sensitive!”

“Don’t tell me he said ‘@#%&*#%, or %#@&*!!!’” MaryAnne quoted blandly.

“Several times!” Starsky said. “Right into the statement recorder.”

“Khee! Ahem. I mean, my goodness.” MaryAnne held back her grin. “Gentlemen, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve located your stolen script, along with the suspect you’re really looking for. If you don’t mind dropping whatever charges you might have on our cousin over there….we’ll call it even.”

“He’s all yours,” Starsky grumbled. “With our compliments.”

MaryAnne smiled. “I thought you’d feel that way.”

***** ***** *****

The Duke’s kitchen was crowded. The entire Duke family, along with the Coltranes and Jim Rockford, were seated around the kitchen table. In a peaceful hour spent with a homemade apple pie and a pot of good coffee, everyone shared their relief that things were finally back to normal.

“I’d better head out,” Jim said eventually. “It’s been a good visit. MaryAnne, don’t be afraid to call me once in awhile, okay?”

“Don’t be afraid to answer your phone,” she retorted, drawing laughter. She stood up and gave the P.I. a friendly hug. “Thanks for your help, Jim.”

“Don’t mention it,” he said easily, returning it. “I’m always glad to help.” Jim gave his regards to the rest of the group, collected his script from the stack that had been recovered from the Camaro, and walked away from the table. On the way past Brian, he gave the black-clad Coltrane a light whap over the head with the rolled up script, as if it were incidental.

“See ya around, Jim,” Brian said to his back, chuckling. “Nice sport coat, by the way…”

“Trade it for your jacket,” Jim said without turning around, still walking to the door.

“Hell no.”

“Didn’t think so.” Jim Rockford wandered out the door, and moments later, the gold Pontiac was headed out of the farmyard.

MaryAnne didn’t let silence settle for too long. She handed a script to Brian. “Here. Try not to lose it this time.”

Brian took his script, flipped through the pages, then rolled it up and tucked it inside of his jacket. “Believe me, I won’t. Don’t lose yours either. Our lives are complicated enough.”

“No kidding…” MaryAnne gave a light snort. “So tell us, Brian. Is the asphalt blacker on the other side?”

“Oh, there’s plenty of opportunity for a bad guy in Bay City. I could have made my mark there …as a police chalk outline on the pavement.”

“They had your number?” Rosco asked with a sip of coffee.

“Yep.” Brian didn’t elaborate. But then a question struck him. “Hey, MaryAnne. You saw the script for them Bay City homicide cops…tell me somethin’. How was it supposed to end?”

“Uhhh…hard to say. I didn’t see the whole thing.” MaryAnne changed the subject. “Brian, you haven’t explained how you found your way home,” she baited.

“Aw, I just followed the sign for Hazzard County. Couldn’t miss it…big blue letterin’ and all…”

“Blue?” MaryAnne said innocently, smiling into her coffee cup. The Dukes chuckled around the table.

“Eeeeyep! Amazin’ coincidence. One of those nick-of-time escape routes.”

“Coltrane luck,” Rosco offered for explanation.

“Coltrane luck,” Brian agreed, but the way his dark eyes glanced around the table in appreciation, it was clear he knew better. He smiled at the Dukes and at his cousins, then rested his gaze upon Daney. “I owe you big, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“Will a trip to the Boar’s Nest make a good start?”

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Daney said. “Let’s go.”

“I’ll see y’all later,” Brian said to MaryAnne and Rosco. He stood up and clasped them both on the shoulder.

“Have fun,” MaryAnne said, grinning up to him. “Who knows, maybe we’ll swing by there ourselves.”

“Awright.” As Brian walked to the door, Jesse Duke wagged a finger at him.

“Bring Daney home at a decent hour,” he warned.

“Yes sir,” Brian answered. He paused, waiting for another Duke-sponsored remark. When none came, he took a step towards the door.

“Don’t get lost,” Bo chirped merrily. As laughter burst from around the table, Brian kept walking, hiding his grin. The Duke’s screen door shut behind him, and only then did he holler back his rejoinder.

This ain’t over!


THE END