Chapter Ten

MaryAnne wasn't the only one who was frustrated.  Brian stormed away from her hospital room, feeling worse for his visit with her.  He was glad she was feeling healthy enough to have some spirit, but all the same, he wished she could see his side of things for a change.

He stopped at the elevator, too tired to take the stairs.  He punched the "down" button harder than necessary and waited impatiently.

When the elevator doors opened, the Dukes walked out at the same time he was walking in, and the resulting collision startled them all.  

"Whoa! Hey!"  Bo said with a laugh, steadying Brian.  "The cafeteria's open all day, no need to bowl us over!"

"Scuze me," Brian mumbled icily, and moved past them.  Once inside the elevator, he banged the "door close" button, not giving the Dukes another word.  The elevator shut with a whispered ding and Brian was gone.

"What the heck do ya make of that?"  Bo asked Luke, who was equally dumbfounded. 

"Nothin' good," Luke said, staring at the elevator.

Brian, meanwhile, arrived at the ground floor of the hospital and walked to a pay phone.  He dialed a number that he hadn't used in a long time, yet remembered by heart.  It was answered after one ring. 

"Jigsaw," said a voice on the other end.  It was Rusty's voice.

"Yeah, Rusty, it's Brian.  Listen man, come pick me up at the hospital here.  I need a ride."

"You got bad timing, Bri. I'm tryin' to find Spade right now.  He's not in his suite, and nobody's seen him in hours.  I hate to think that Tyler managed to snag 'em right out from under us, and if word gets out that he's gone, we're gonna have a hot situation here."

Brian sighed and rubbed his eyes.  It's already starting.  I'm not ready...

"Rusty, just get down here.  Trust me, you'll find the Don soon enough."  With that cryptic remark, Brian slammed down the phone.  

Fifteen minutes later, Rusty pulled up to the hospital in a black Ford.  The red-haired criminal got out of the car and walked quickly to the entrance, thinking that Brian may have meant that Spade was hospitalized.  He was surprised to see Brian come strolling out with no apparent concern.  "What happened?"  Rusty asked.  "Where's Spade?"

"Hell if I know," Brian said blandly.  "I can guarantee that he not in Atlanta, though."  Casually, Brian adjusted the ring on his finger, and Rusty's eyes went wide with shock.

"You knocked off Spade???" Rusty squeaked.  "My God...Brian...that's impossible..."

"You're right, it's impossible."  Brian grinned at his friend's speculation.  "C'mon, let's get outta here.  I'll explain later."  

The two of them got into the Ford, with Rusty behind the wheel.  The black car streaked off, tearing past a grey sedan that had been strategically parked for observation.  Neither Rusty or Brian took notice of the sedan or it's occupants.

The passenger in that strategically parked car was already taking notes. Subject Brian Coltrane left with known Syndicate associate. Black Ford. Apx. 11 hundred hrs, 42 mins. Sheriff Coltrane still believed to be in the building.

"Some weird stuff goin' on..." the driver remarked.

The passenger nodded in agreement. Like...that little ring that Brian Coltrane is now sporting...

"Weird indeed..."

Commander Mayson, meanwhile, was getting an earful from MaryAnne and Rosco. Over the telephone, she explained to him how Mole had been working for Tyler, systematically wiping out Syndicate members by providing false information leading them to their deaths. The night the warehouse had been hit, Mole had been so gracious as to pay for beer for everyone at the Jigsaw. Making it easy for Tyler's gang to strike.

The evidence MaryAnne had collected from the warehouse was good. But with the operation in Tyler's control, it was probably all obsolete. The names provided on the shipping manifests were still being checked...but with the change of power, suppliers would be changing their methods.  Basically, the Feds would have to start from scratch...Tyler would have his own distribution channel set up, his own warehouse. His own entire operation.

And money. Lots of money. Money that made the underworld go around.

MaryAnne explained that what remained of Spade's Syndicate was weak and small scale. Without the drug revenue, the Syndicate was merely a gang of hoodlums, bonded together with nothing more than loyalty to each other and hatred against Frankie Tyler.

She did not mention the new Don.

Mayson told her that new objectives were being drawn up. Frankie Tyler had to be contained, preferably stopped. The remains of the old Syndicate under Spade was the best shot they had. He believed that once recovered, she would be welcomed back to the Syndicate and would have access to front line information.

I dunno...the new Don might not like me so much to welcome me back.  MaryAnne kept this to herself, however, and agreed with Mayson that the Syndicate would welcome her home. That left one more topic…

“Awright. One last thing," she said. "I have a weird hunch. There's a patch of woods off the highway south of here. A dirt road, kinda outta the way. I think you might find some of those missing agents and officers out there."

Ice trickled through Rosco's spine.

"What makes you say that?" Mayson asked.

"A comment Mole said to me when he showed up, after I was supposed to have dispatched Rosco. He kinda looked around and said, 'nice pick.' Gave me a bad feeling."

"Alright, we'll check it out. Meanwhile, you get some rest. Rosco's going to act as our go-between for the time being. There maybe some information that can't be trusted to a telephone from here on out."

"Understood. Talk to you soon, Commander."

The call ended and MaryAnne handed the receiver to Rosco, who hung it up.

"You didn't tell him Brian's the Don now."

MaryAnne raised an eyebrow. "Did you want me to?"

"Well, no..."

"It'll be just as big a surprise to him as it will be for you and me."

Rosco looked at his cousin. Sometimes he wondered what was going on in that head of hers...

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

At the same time that MaryAnne was having a heart-to-heart with the Feds, Brian had filled Rusty in on most of the basic events.   "It's your funeral, man," Rusty had said to sum up his feelings.  Nonetheless, he accepted Brian's promotion and set out to take care of some preparations, while Brian himself remained at the pawnshop's apartment for some much-needed sleep.

In the north end of town, preparations of another sort were taking place.   Frankie Tyler was not one to rest on his laurels.

His lofty high-rise office wasn't quite up to his standards.  He'd had a better one, in the days before the fallout of the senator's hit and the ensuing arrests of his top associates.  Mancini's subsequent mutiny had the support of the Syndicate majority, and Tyler had never forgiven the betrayals.  Now, Tyler had achieved a portion of the revenge he'd hungered for, but there was unfinished business.

Methodical, patient and cold-blooded as a cobra, Tyler shared some common traits with Spade.  In fact, he respected his enemy.  Spade had effectively reorganized the Syndicate and kept it thriving, in the face of the law and despite Tyler's constant attacks.  The final coup, however, should have finished them off.  Mole had everything set up perfectly.  

Except for one MaryAnne Coltrane, who'd picked the damnedest time to show up in Atlanta.

She wasn't dead, either.  At least according to the reports of his spies.  Of all the bodies removed from the Jigsaw, MaryAnne's had not been among them.

Frankie looked out the window at the Atlanta skyline, enormously annoyed with that knowledge.

It was almost superstition that drove him now.  MaryAnne, directly or indirectly, had caused his downfall, and he was convinced that it would take her death to ensure him success.  

It would also take the eradication of the Syndicate.  They had nothing now, which also meant they had nothing to lose.  Spade was clever enough to make Tyler's life a headache, though the Big Man couldn't envision what strategy could be left to the black-haired Don.  

He'd make sure that Spade didn't live along to figure anything out.  If only he could flush him out of the Jigsaw...but a frontal assault wouldn't work twice.

No one had seen Spade since after the last battle.  Tyler's spies reported the removal of bodies, and the sighting of a black Chevy Impala that had came and left unmolested.  Other than that, there was only a garbage truck that had come to haul off broken pool tables and the like.  Activity at the Jigsaw had been minimal.  Still, there was something nagging at Tyler that he couldn't put his finger on.

No matter...he'd find out what it was.   He knew how to destroy the remains of the Syndicate.  He also knew how to kill MaryAnne.  It was convenient, really, that she was a part of them. 

 As his new ideas began to take shape, Frankie Tyler laughed.  He was going to enjoy this.  

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

Rosco sat with the Duke boys down the hall from MaryAnne's room, a cup of coffee in his hands. He still had the creeps from the idea that various dead officers were buried in that wooded area where he had thought MaryAnne was going to kill him.  He looked at the coffee, not sure why he was drinking it, considering he didn't feel particularly good. But he sipped on it anyway...just for something to do.

His kin was all at odds. God he hated that. Sure it was under the surface, a little doubt here, surprise there...and fear. Fear that they were never going to get back home. Fear of what Frankie Tyler might have planned. Fear of what was going to happen between the three of them.

Hadn't enough happened all ready? Rosco sighed, taking another sour sip of the coffee. He was so exhausted. He wondered if he would be ready for whatever came next. Would he do the right thing...when the time came? Could he keep going? Could all three of them keep going?

Rosco looked up at the Duke boys, each face shadowed in questions.

Luke voiced them.  "Everythin' okay with y'all?"

"Could be better," Rosco replied honestly. There was really no sense hiding it.

"We ran into Brian on his way out...literally," Bo said.  "He didn't seem too happy..."

Rosco shook his head. "Nope. He and MaryAnne had a...spirited discussion that didn't quite result in any understanding."

"That happen a lot?" Luke asked. "Or was this a special occasion?"

"No, it's happened before, but...I dunno, this time I think qualifies as a special occassion."

"I suppose it ain't none of our business," Bo said.  "But...what's goin' on?"

Rosco was quiet for a moment. "MaryAnne and Brian and I have one chance against Frankie Tyler. There's what's left of the Syndicate, where MaryAnne's still undercover, and then there's the Feds. But...the Syndicate has a new Don." He paused. "Brian."

Disbelief crossed the Duke's faces.  "Oh, Lord...." Luke got up from his chair, needing to move around as he digested this new fact.  Bo remained seated and stared at Rosco with open-mouthed shock, putting his own concerns into blunt words.  "Rosco, just how reformed is Brian?"

"This'll be the ultimate test to answer that, I guess. The impression I've gotten from him so far is that he won't let it go to his head. MaryAnne's already warned him that he better not." Rosco paused. "I hate it. I hate the whole thing. We've stuck through everything so far, I mean we've been through everything! Now...Brian's gonna think we don't trust him." He looked at the boys. "And now ain't the time to be distrustin' of one another."

The Dukes looked slightly guilty.  It was clear that they had their own doubts about Brian, but weren't going to speak them aloud.

"Sometimes I wonder if the Lord is doing this to me on purpose...." Rosco said softly, staring blankly past his coffee cup.  "To get back at me for some stuff I've done...for being crooked and all. Put what kin I got left in danger; put me in danger. Everyday facing the chance that it'll be the last time we see the sun come up. Or take MaryAnne away from me, send Brian back to the streets and I go back to Hazzard, writing up false parking tickets."

Rosco closed his eyes and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to see the light lately."

"Just as long as you keep lookin' for it, Rosco....things will be okay,"  Luke said.  "Us Dukes will stick around until you find it."

Rosco looked at the boys. A million things came to mind, almost as if he was looking at them for the first time. But Dukes helping those who were down was nothing new. Shoot, Dukes helping their enemies wasn't anything new either. But this time...the feud between Dukes and Coltranes was now forcefully pushed aside. But Rosco couldn't help but think of all he had done to them over the years too...and the tinge of guilt that mixed in with his other emotions.

When it was all over, he promised himself, he was going to have to do something in return. Something to pay them back for them being here now. Something....

He drew in a deep breath, however, and nodded. "Thanks, fellas. I appreciate that."

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

While Rosco remained with the Dukes, Brian wasn't without company.  He slept soundly with Bandit half-over his chest, and Flash covering his legs.  It wasn't until someone knocked on the door that canines and Coltrane both awoke with a start.

The dogs tore off the bed, barking furiously.  Brian staggered out to the door, squinting at the clock and noticing only a few hours had gone by.  He wanted to sleep for three more days, but there was no such luxury.

"Bandit! Flash! Down! Back off!"  Brian had to nearly push the dogs out of the way to open the door.  Rusty came in holding a garment bag, giving the dogs a wide berth.

Bandit gave ground, but kept a steady, rumbling growl up at the sight of Rusty.  "He likes you,"  Brian said with a chuckle. "Go pet him."

"Not on your life."  Rusty avoided moving at all.

Brian took the garment bag and retreated to the shower.  "I'll be out in ten minutes.  Make nice with the dogs, will ya? Quit upsettin' 'em."

Rusty made a rude gesture behind Brian's back, which set the dogs off again.  "YAAAAH! Okay! I'm sorry!"

"Didn't I tell ya, Rusty? Those hounds have MaryAnne's temperament...."

Rusty cast a critical eye at the German Shepard, who wagged his tail slightly at his mistresses' name.  The sight was encouraging, and Rusty become bolder.  "Nice doggie...I'm a friend of your mommy's...."

He reached down carefully to pat Bandit on the head.  "Nice doggie....see? I'm a friend of Brian's too...."

With the shower running, Brian couldn't hear Bandit's violent response to that one.

A few minutes later, Brian came out, resplendent in a new, three-piece black suit.  A black dress shirt, a black silk tie, and his black boots gave him a look of distinguished severity.  It was brightened by the gold cuff links and tie clasp, along with gold buttons on the suit coat.  Feeling rather like a peacock in strut, Brian sauntered out to show off his threads.

Rusty, having taken refuge from the dogs by standing on the back of the couch, couldn't appreciate it.  "Call off these dogs!!"

"Bandit! Let go of him! Flash! It's not nice to bite somebody in the ankles!"  Brian coaxed the dogs away, only to find the animals turning to glare at him with sudden suspicion.

"It's okay,"  Brian told them, stooping down to pet the dogs.  "I know how it looks, but it's okay..."  Impulsively, he hugged the German Shepard and then the basset hound.  The dogs relented.  This was still Brian, they decided. 

Rusty wasn't as moved.  "You got dog hair all over a five-hundred dollar suit."

"Don't worry about it. Get down from the couch and let's get goin'."   Brian held the door for Rusty, who scooted out quickly before Flash could get another chomp at him.   Brian was walking out behind him when he heard a high-pitched, plaintive whine coming from Bandit.  He turned and looked.

The German Shepard was sitting at attention on the floor, with Brian's black leather jacket held carefully in his jaws.  His tail wagged hopefully.

"I'll be back for it,"  Brian promised.  "Just don't go and bury that or somethin', okay?"   He slowly shut the door, wondering how the dog knew how to get to him like that.  Bandit had a lot in common with MaryAnne, apparently.

He kept thinking about MaryAnne as he drove to the Jigsaw, with Rusty following in his own car.  The Jigsaw was a short ride from the pawn shop, giving Brian time to resolve nothing.  He sincerely wished that he and MaryAnne had parted on better terms.  But what the hell do I expect? She got hurt in the Syndicate, she's been hurt by the Syndicate before, Lord knows Rosco's been hurt by 'em...

Myself, I got hurt by the Feds, he thought sourly.

MaryAnne is a Fed, an inner voice whispered.

Brian pulled Diablo to the curb, got out and waited a half-minute for Rusty.  MaryAnne's a Fed.  Brian knew if he didn't get his mind back under control fast, he could psyche himself out.  Okay, so MaryAnne's a Fed, I'm now the premier crimelord in Atlanta outside of Frankie Tyler, and Rosco's still a Sheriff.  Where's the harm in that?

Why don't you ask the District Attorney, his own conscience answered.  Brian forced the thoughts to the back of his mind.  Rusty was behind him now, the door to the Jigsaw was in front of them, and destiny awaited.

"Brian, you gonna stand out on the curb all damn day or what?"  Rusty prodded him.

"I was just...thinkin'."

"No wonder.  Look, you can't afford to have any brains this late in the game! Get in there and show 'em who's boss before they tear each other up with self-promotions! Better you than me, anyhow...." Rusty gave Brian a nudge.  "Go," he said more seriously.  "If something goes wrong, I'll get out of there and go tell your cousins, like I promised.  C'mon, Brian. Spade wouldn't have picked you if he thought you had zero chance of pullin' it off."

The Feds wouldn't have picked MaryAnne,  if they thought she had a zero chance of pullin' it off...Brian held the thought in front of him and walked forward.  MaryAnne had known her duty and had faced it courageously.  Could he do less?  

He walked through the front door, which opened for him.  He walked past the gaping looks of his once-again associates.  When he was at the center of the bar, he stopped, letting the rumbles of comment die down to silence.

Brian uncurled his right hand, which had been closed in a fist during his entry.  The diamond ring glittered in gold against his black suit.   He held his shoulders high and his eyes forward, taking in the gaze of every soul that faced him.  Some expressions held awe.  Others, suspicion.  A few more, outright jealousy.  And the rest...approval.

"I came back to Atlanta," Brian said quietly, "For a reason. "   

Murmurs rose, but Brian held up the ringed hand and they stopped.  "My cousin MaryAnne," he continued, "Joined the Syndicate...for a reason."

The murmurs were curious now, less hostile.  Brian held up his hand again.  Silence. 

"My cousin, the also here for a reason."

Brian had their full attention and he was starting to enjoy it.  He paced around the Jigsaw slowly, his dark eyes magnified by the dark suit and the glittering, polished gold.  "Spade left me in charge of the Syndicate...for a reason."

The expressions of the assorted criminals were eager.  They were interested.  There was a plan.  There was going to be action.  Brian promised all this to them without so many was what he wasn't saying that captivated them.

But he said it anyway, knowing they needed to hear it, knowing that the storm had gathered and was about to break. He would either direct the winds or be consumed by them.

"We're going to remove Frankie Tyler from the face of the earth!!"  Brian suddenly yelled, clenching his right hand into a fist and stabbing it high in the air. Roaring, howling assent burst from every throat in the Jigsaw and several guns were fired into the air.   Brian gave his own bellow of agreement, and the yelling organized itself, becoming a chant that Brian had often dreamed of but never before heard....

"Don Coltrane! Don Coltrane! Don Coltrane! Don Coltrane!"

Brian was mingling through the crowd, shaking hands, getting congratulations, and immediately talking business.  The chants continued, sometimes changing to Tyler dies! in the process.  One quiet, inner thought made itself heard over the din.

MaryAnne's right.  I could get used to this....

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

By the time nightfall crept across the Atlanta skyline, Brian had accomplished several things.  The first order of business was defense.  Brian ordered his associates to gather every half-running clunker that they could find and paint it black. Whether the cars were stolen, abandoned junkers, or on honest loan didn't matter.

Soon the Jigsaw was surrounded by cars, up and down the block and behind the building.  It was an alley-cat trick, to appear bigger than the enemy.  The number of cars swelled the image of the Syndicate's size.  Let Tyler guess the number of survivors and new recruits.  Let him guess if out-of-town reinforcements were here...

Good Lord, let him believe I'm smarter than I look, Brian thought.  At least his underlings were being kept busy.  Brian realized that one of the challenges of keeping the Syndicate under control was just giving the hoodlums something to do.  All the scouting, the territory patrols and penny-ante heists that he'd done himself over the years, were likely nothing more than busy work between the big jobs.

For now, there was plenty of busywork for everybody.   A handful of the top guns, including Rusty, became his bodyguards and the Jigsaw's first line of defense.  The blonde, long-haired hitman who'd accompanied MaryAnne was among these. Brian didn't see eye to eye with Ace, but he didn't want him loose on the street, either.

Then, there was the problem of revenue.  The Syndicate would be loyal to him so long as he provided it's members with greenbacks.  Just as he'd show favor, in turn, to those who brought in the most money to the Syndicate.  It wasn't unlike the workings of a corporation.  Employees cost you money, but good employees made you money.

Except in the Syndicate, terminations of employment were much more final. 

Brian quickly found out why Spade had left Atlanta so fast.  The former Don had taken most of the Syndicate's ready cash with him. Which left Brian with very lean recourse.

He decided to try the basic routes of revenue first; selling booze, conducting gambling operations, and relying on the earning power of the Syndicate’s working girls.  However, after a dozen calls to Atlanta distributors, he found out just how effectively Frankie Tyler had tightened the noose.  No one would sell the Jigsaw a pool table, roulette wheel, or a bottle of gin at any price.

Brian knew of one man outside of Atlanta that could provide the Syndicate with the basic tools of sin.  He dialed a number in Hazzard County.  "Maybelle? Yeah, it's me...oh, I'm fine, fine...hey listen, get me Boss Hogg, will ya? I need to talk business with 'em."

After a moment, the ever-pleasant and gruff voice answered. "J.D. Hogg here."

"Boss, this here's an o-fficial business call.  I'm lookin’ for some gamin' equipment, some pool tables, a jukebox, and a liquor supplier.  Now, I know you've got no personal interest in gettin' mixed up in big-city money, but I figured I'd just call you outta courtesy..."

Boss's eyes narrowed when he recognized the voice on the other end of the line. "Brian Coltrane, whatchyou tryin' to pull with me?? What do you mean you need gamin' equipment and pool tables and such? You Coltranes...."

"...Have provided you with police protection, in and outside of the law, for most of your life.  Now, I suppose I shoulda known better than to think you'd want a stake in Syndicate operations, it's probably small potatoes for a businessman like yerself...."

"Whoa, whoa whoa...wait a minute heah..." Boss sat up in his chair leaning towards his desk. "Syndicate operations?" Boss had tried to deal with the Syndicate before...and each time it ended in disaster. Was he willing such an investment this time?

Then he thought of Rosco and MaryAnne and all that had been happening. Sending the Duke boys to help protect her....

Boss cleared his throat. "Just exactly who's Syndicate are we talkin' about?"

"Does it matter?"  Brian asked. "Since when have you been particular, Boss?"

"Since when violence don't pay! Now your cousin MaryAnne landed herself in the hospital and I ain't helpin’ fund no organization responsible for that!--" Boss stopped himself short. "Wait a minute..." the wheels were spinning faster in his mind than he could vocalize. "What are you doin' callin' making sucha proposition to me? Usually it's the Don..."

"It still is."  Brian measured out the words.

He gave Boss a second to consider the implications, then moved on to a personal appeal.  "Boss, you can check all this out with Rosco if you want to, but it's for real.  Time is short and I got a long list of problems to fix here.  Help me, and I'll make it worth your while..."

Check it out with Rosco....something is definetely up. Boss found himself confronted with two feelings. A call to help...and to money. "How so?"

"I'm makin' you my best offer first.  You give me five pool tables, a good jukebox, five poker tables with chips n' cards, some roulette wheels and a bunch of slot machines..." Brian ran down the list.  "And I need booze, good liquor, and a supplier who's not afraid to get it here.  Front me the goods, and I'll cut you in for twenty-five percent of the take."

Boss scratched away on a piece of paper and drew in a breath, about to counter with thirty-five percent...but thought the hell with it. The urge of greed just wasn't with him with this one. "Alright," he said. "Tell me where you want this stuff delivered, I'll tell you when it'll be there."

Brian blinked in surprise, held the receiver away from his ear, looked at it, then made sure the phone cord was connected in all the way.  "You aint' gonna haggle?"  he asked in surprise.  "Shoot, I figured you'd want fifty percent and then we'd settle on thirty..."

Boss leaned back in his chair to look out in the booking room. Enos was there, busy working on a report, so Boss leaned forward again and spoke softly. "This ain't a regular proposition you're makin', I can tell. You an' Rosco an' MaryAnne got somethin' cookin'...somethin' big. When Rosco tole me what happened to MaryAnne...I didn't like that, ya understand? I don't like it when folks get hurt, even them dang blasted Dukes. I ain't all sure what's going on...but I've been readin' the papers lately. I remember all the trouble Rosco and MaryAnne were in before with Frankie Tyler.  If this is part of something to stop him...then I wanna help. I really don't care what percentage I get. Just as long as the three of you and them Dukes get back here to Hazzard."

Brian was momentarily overwhelmed.  Boss wasn't one to let his heart get in the way of business...but maybe there was something to be said for the long-running partnership between J.D. Hogg and Rosco, and the near-traditional Hogg-Coltrane working relationship that had included MaryAnne over the years.  Whatever the source of Boss's humanity, Brian appreciated it, and extended his own in return.  "Thanks,'ll get your twenty-five percent...along with anything you ever need from me in the future.  Send the stuff to the Jigsaw, downtown Atlanta...." Brian rattled off the address.

“I’ll take care of it,” Boss promised.

"I owe ya, Boss. You just extended the life expectancy of three Coltranes."

The expression sobered Boss a little more. "I hope so..." he said. "I'll be talkin' to you soon, Mr. Coltrane."

Brian thanked him again and hung up the phone, exhaling in relief.   Hazzard folk were a loyal bunch, and Boss was no less a friend than the Dukes when the chips were really down.  It was a revelation, and he made a mental note to talk to Rosco about it.

The thought put family concerns into the forefront.  I wonder how MaryAnne is doin', and I wonder if Rosco's gonna be able to walk back in here again, after everything he's been through...

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

Leaving MaryAnne in the capable protection of the Dukes, Rosco managed to get almost 12 hours of sleep that night. The following morning he awoke, and although he would have liked to have slept for maybe 12 days...the 12 hours was good enough. His mind cleared a little and he could now focus on what was to come. Whatever it was.

After a shower, shave and change of clothes, Rosco found a donut shop down the street. He returned to the apartment with a couple of donuts and a fresh cup of coffee. Flash and Bandit each got a plain bagel. The dogs were content with that.

Rosco ate and watched the dogs. He brainstormed in his mind, planning, thinking, contemplating. He wondered how Brian was doing, how had the Syndicate taken the arrival of their new leader. Rosco hoped it had gone well. He supposed he wouldn't know for sure until he and MaryAnne walked through the front door of the Jigsaw.

Which won't be for awhile, he thought. She's still healin' up, can't go back runnin' into this just yet...

Bandit finished his bagel and looked at Rosco expectantly. The German Shepherd's head turned to one side and eyed the last remains of the donut in Rosco's hand.

"I ain't got no more, Bandit," Rosco said. "I gotta git you and Flash some real dog food or else you'll be tearin' this couch apart."

Bandit woofed in response.

"That's one of the first things I'm gonna do today." Rosco shoved the last piece of donut in his mouth and wiped his hand on his jeans.  He stood up, which immediately brought both dogs to their feet.

"Yep, come on," he said heading towards the door. "We got a lot to do..."

The dogs followed Rosco out of the building to the General Lee waiting in the alley.

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

MaryAnne, meanwhile, was having breakfast with Bo and Luke. She had had a lot of time for the news of Brian's promotion to sink in. And boy was it sinking in...

"I'm an idiot," she said suddenly. "I'm obviously an even bigger idiot when I'm shot up with morphine and thisphine and thatphine and enough pain killers to land me on the moon. It's a brilliant set up! Only now Brian don't think I trust him. And Rosco doesn't think I trust Brian. And hell, the both of them probably don't trust me after all I put them through anyway."

"But, MaryAnne..." Bo started. "There is a chance that Brian might find that he likes being the Don. I mean--" he stopped with Luke's nudging elbow.

"It's all right, Luke," MaryAnne said, having seen the movement. "Bo's got a point, and that was what threw me for a loop when Brian first told me. It was just the last thing I expected, after all that's happened with us in the last year or so. And Brian made the point of how Spade couldn't be hanging around Atlanta anymore. But I couldn't see that. All I felt was betrayed."

The boys glanced at each other for a moment. Luke then spoke for both of them. "Well, Rosco is a little worried about the two of ya."

MaryAnne had figured as much, if Rosco's stern reaction had been any indication. She took a deep breath and said, "When I'm well enough, Rosco and I are gonna walk into the Jigsaw and 'Miss Coltrane' will announce her return. The goal: To see to it the end of Frankie Tyler's career in Atlanta. There will be no room for doubt at that point."

"And we're goin' with ya," Bo said.

MaryAnne blinked. "Wait a minute--"

"Us Dukes have a personal interest in this too, less you forget," Luke said. "Daisy's life is in danger. We're going with you to make sure this Tyler fella is stopped."

MaryAnne paused in thought. There was no doubt Bo and Luke would be valuable assets to the operation. Besides, arguing with them otherwise would be fruitless.

"Awright. But if you plan on using the General, you might wanna repaint him."

Luke chuckled. "Black?"

"The only acceptable color for Syndicate work. You better talk to Rosco, too. Just let him know what's going on."

"I think what we ought to do is have ourselves a good ol' fashioned pow-wow with the four of us," Luke said. "Not just yet, though... we’ll wait till it's about time for you to go back. You're going to have to give me and Bo a crash course on the Syndicate."

MaryAnne nodded. "Rosco too. Y'all will learn quick. Plus I'll be having to pow-wow with Commander Mayson. We'll need to know if they got anything on Frankie Tyler's movements now, any rumblings, anything at all."

The boys nodded. "We'll get 'em, MaryAnne."

"We better. We really, really better otherwise I'm gonna continue to regret what I did as an officer in this damn town back in 1983."

"What's that?" Luke asked.

MaryAnne looked at them. "Uphold the law."

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

As Brian received Boss’s shipments of gambling equipment and liquor, restoring the basics of business to the Jigsaw, Frankie Tyler enjoyed his own accomplishments.   The Big Man's cash flow had never been better.  He was investing it carefully.

A full week had passed since MaryAnne's breakfast discussion with the Dukes.  Things had been quiet at both the hospital and the Jigsaw, allowing the Coltranes some false sense of security.  It was exactly what Tyler wanted.

The Big Man was currently passing away the time by organizing a few details.  The drug shipments had provided the boost to his income that had been needed for his next step.  He barked questions to his second-in-command, Ketterhagen, who answered without delay.

Ketterhagen's failure to kill MaryAnne hadn't lead to the personal disaster that another underling may have suffered.  No, Tyler was pleased with the hitman for the news he was now bringing. The two men were seated across from each other at Tyler's mahogany desk.

"MaryAnne Coltrane is at Atlanta Memorial Hospital?"  Tyler asked.

"Yes.  She's under constant guard.  Either by her lawman cousin, or two Hazzard rubes, or by all three at any given time."

"They didn't see you?"

"No.  I went for information only, like you wanted.  I didn't confront anyone.  I walked right by her room, carrying flowers and pretending I was there to visit another patient.  Worked like a charm."

Tyler leaned back and folded his hands behind his head, content and relaxed.  "No sign of the third Coltrane, rumored dead, then alive?"

"Not since a week ago, when we spotted him walking into the Jigsaw with that red-headed dude.  Either Spade killed him, or he's holed up there for another reason.   There's plenty of people coming and going from the Jigsaw, but no one's seen Spade or Brian Coltrane leave the building.”

“Any other activity?”

“There's customers going there again.  Enough to give them a trickle of money, but I don't think they're offering serious competition to your disco."

Tyler made a scoffing noise, and reached to a bottle of whiskey that sat on the desk.  He poured himself a shot, offering none to Ketterhagen.  None of his hitmen were allowed to drink - there was no telling when they would be needed.   "The Syndicate can't offer serious competition to me ever again.  Not if you're going to give me the good news I'm looking for next."

Ketterhagen beamed.  "We got the goods.  The score from the armory came through, just like you said it would!  I have to hand it to you, Mr. Tyler.  I don't think the National Guard has the weaponry you're sitting on right now.  The surplus drugs from the Syndicate warehouse got us a whole lot of toys."

Tyler gave a self-indulgent smile.  "Drugs have more buying power than cash in certain markets.  Spade was a fool.  He only sold to the end-consumer.  I traded to another distributor...and now we can out-muscle a SWAT team."

Ketterhagen grinned wickedly.  "You're not the Big Man for nothing.  Nobody dares cross you now."  The hitman pondered a moment.  "When do we get rid of Syndicate once and for all? What are we waiting for?”

Tyler sipped his whiskey with unconcern.  "I'm savoring the anticipation, Ketterhagen.  We don't need to attack the Syndicate anymore.  They know their days are numbered, they know we control the city.  So do the Feds, and so do the police.  Anyone who hasn't figured this out will get the message in a couple of weeks.  I don't think the city of Atlanta is going to mourn the loss of the Syndicate.  Why should they?"

Tyler poured another shot and continued.  "Moreover, why would they mourn MaryAnne Coltrane or her Sheriff cousin, when they expire with the Syndicate?  The law certainly can't claim revenge - not without admitting to the embarrassment of another foiled undercover operation, if that's what it was to begin with.  No matter.  The law makes it's victories public, and keeps it's defeats private."

Tyler finished the whiskey and put the bottle away.  "My victory, going to be very, very, public.  What's more, I'll be viewed as a public protector, for eliminating the "crime element" in Atlanta.  My friends in city hall will see to that...and they'll also convince the D.A. that I was only protecting my property from a hostile threat."

Frankie Tyler rose from the desk and admired his own reflection in an expansive, three-way mirror.  "You see, Ketterhagen...the Syndicate is going to come to us.  They want revenge.  We're going to pretend to give them the opportunity.  They're going to deliver themselves to our door...and they'll die.  It's all over but the press release."

Ketterhagen had but one question.  "Is there a bonus for the one who kills MaryAnne Coltrane?"

Tyler turned from the mirror.  "Oh, indeed there is.  Double, if you bring her to me alive and screaming."

"And if she's already dead?"

"Then bring me one of her cousins, alive and screaming.  I'm feeling generous."  

Ketterhagen's smile was the devil's own.  "I love this job," he chuckled, and Tyler's cold laugh followed the words.  

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

Commander Mayson had spent the past week gathering information. Surveillance, contact information and the 'word on the street' kind of stuff that when pasted together, it showed a bleak picture.

Tyler would stop at nothing and for no one. And the lull of the last week caused the Commander concern. Tyler pretty much had everything at his fingertips. Why wasn't he making some kind of final assault on the old Syndicate? Why wasn't he immediately moving on Contracts?

Why, and for what was he waiting for?

Tyler had been patient this long, and granted, his calculated and slow return to the top had proven successful. But he had everything now. To wait now, could prove costly.

Or profitable.

Tyler had patience. A lot of it. He was dangerously smart, he knew when and how to bide his time, and he never rushed into anything. He would wait however long he wanted to, probably hoping that everybody else would let their guard down.

Mayson shook his head. The FBI would have to stay on it's toes and watch Tyler closely then. Thing was, Tyler wasn't giving them much to watch.

The word on the street was that the drugs were moving...but not in the same manner Spade had done. It wasn't all being sold exclusively on the street...Tyler more than likely was trading it. For what, Mayson could only guess. The possibilities, however, were endless.  And dangerous.

The old Syndicate, meanwhile, was still surviving. Activity at the Jigsaw had picked up a little in the past week, which looked promising for the rest of MaryAnne’s undercover operation. Mayson wondered where Spade was getting the fresh influx of business, small as it was. The Jigsaw had been virtually destroyed by Frankie's gang in the ambush.

The Commander had figured on the FBI secretly investing funds to put a foundation back under Spade's operation. But somebody else had beat them to it. Thank you, whoever you are.

But even within the old Syndicate, things were fuzzy. Spade hadn't been physically seen in over a week, and added to that, the surveillance team staked out at the hospital hadn't seen Brian Coltrane lately. The last time Brian had been seen, he had left the hospital with another man in a black sedan, Syndicate-looking. And Brian was wearing a ring, noted only because he had never been seen wearing one before.

Mayson had his own theory about that.

The Sheriff was coming and going from the hospital all the time, and the two Duke cousins were all but permanently camped outside MaryAnne's room. The orange Dodge Charger, however, received a new paint job a few days earlier. Black.

Mayson had his own theory about that too.

The Commander gazed out his office window, mulling over his theories. If he was correct, there was a good chance that Frankie Tyler could be stopped. Thing was, Mayson was going to have to trust the Coltrane cousins...all three of them. As soon as MaryAnne returned to the Syndicate with Rosco, and probably with the Duke boys judging on the new color of their car, they would be setting the pace for the rest of the operation. The brass in Washington would probably chastise him for it.

It would either be the biggest embarrassment in FBI history....

Or one hell of a coup d’état.

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

Having survived his two weeks as the head of the Syndicate, Brian was gaining confidence.   So far, nobody had died.

Revenue was steady, if modest.   It was supplemented by the usual ventures of car theft, protection rackets, and the occasional small-scale heist.  Fortunately for Brian's conscience, most of these activities were carried on by thugs who knew their jobs and their markets, and needed very little direction from him.  Brian simply collected the money and redistributed it.

All the same, a couple of the more bloodthirsty members of the Syndicate had grumbled about the "slow business" in the Contract department.   Brian had quelled the complaints by keeping their eyes on the bigger goal.  When Ace had been close to mutiny over a delayed Contract, Brian offered a catch phrase.  Save the bullets for Frankie.

That, and the establishment of a target range in the basement of the Jigsaw, forestalled the Contract issues for awhile.  It also helped that Brian himself was quick on the draw.  At times it was necessary to emphasize his point with a loaded gun in his hand.  No one called his bluff, so far.

He wondered if Frankie Tyler had the same kinds of staffing headaches, or if this was simply what happened when the majority of one's organization had been wiped out.  Morale was still an issue, despite the recent gains Brian made in his personal power.

His own morale was a cross between high-energy optimism and bleak depression.   Being at the top had it's moments; being without his family was difficult.  The Jigsaw was fully occupied seven days a week, but without hearing a friendly "khee" once in awhile, it was lonely nonetheless.

Brian was even missing MaryAnne's temper.  He wondered if she truly intended to return to the Syndicate and complete her undercover mission - or if she was going to refuse, on the basis of his renewed involvement.

Thus far, neither Rosco nor the Dukes had taken up his offer to stay at the Jigsaw.  Maybe they had all lost faith in him.

Maybe they didn't have that much to begin with.  Brian grabbed a beer from the bar and paced around the Jigsaw, keeping up the facade of a prosperous crimelord, despite his thoughts.

He had been tempted to communicate with the hospital, to visit MaryAnne, to talk to Rosco and the Dukes - anybody.  But the reports of Tyler's assassins roaming the streets kept him inside.  Brian knew the Jigsaw was being watched by Frankie's gang, and probably by a Fed or two.  Other than sending his own scouts to watch them in return, he could do nothing...lest he risk blowing whatever plans MaryAnne and Commander Mayson may have.

The worst part of it was knowing that he was repeating history.

Mancini had worked with the Feds.  Granted, it was out of mutual graft and corruption, but it had been an enough of an alliance to give Mancini undisputed control of Atlanta.   Am I doin' anything differently?  Maybe the reasons are different, maybe the Feds I'm working with are different - but I'm taking a page right out of Mancini's book.  

Hell, Mancini had it easier.  His cousin wasn't a Fed...or a Sheriff....God, what if something goes wrong...

And what the hell is Tyler waiting for?  Why doesn’t he attack? He knows where we are, and Mole probably gave him the whole layout of this place…

There was a limit to how long Brian could keep his own forces in check, and he knew it.  If MaryAnne didn't show up soon...he was going to have to roll the dice and make a decision.  One that wouldn't please his kin or the Feds.

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

A few hours after Brian mulled over his future, the hands of fate began to set things in motion. Special Agent MaryAnne Coltrane walked out of Atlanta Memorial Hospital.

Only thing was...nobody knew it.

Well, nobody that wasn't supposed to know. The spies for Tyler's gang didn't see her. They saw the Sheriff leave driving away in the black Dodge again. But when almost four hours had passed and the lawman hadn't come back by lunchtime, one of the spies ventured into the hospital...only to find MaryAnne's room empty. By the time their car left the parking lot, MaryAnne, the boys and Rosco were convening at the apartment above the pawn shop. General Lee was parked in the alley with another car that Rosco had picked up earlier in the week, the trunks of both packed with supplies. Rosco had gone on quite a shopping spree.

Once Commander Mayson received confirmation from the surveillance team that all four had left the hospital building, he awaited a telephone call.

If there was one thing MaryAnne Coltrane was good at, it was hiding her feelings for a little while. She had perfected it with going undercover to join the Syndicate, putting on an entire act to her kin and the town of Hazzard, making them all think she had flipped her lid.  Now, even though the boys and Rosco knew why she had done what she had done, MaryAnne still felt like she was lying. And the truth was...she was.

Her feelings now were of complete alienation. She had alienated Rosco and Brian in particular with her actions and with each passing day in the hospital, it got worse. The boys were good company but she felt lonely...even when Rosco was right there next to her. Was forgiveness really as easy as saying 'I'm sorry'?  Why was it when Rosco looked at her she felt like he was seeing somebody else?

Wonder how it is he can even look at me at all...What happened to me? she wondered. Why had she taken the assignment to begin with? Why had it been so damn important?

She remembered Brian’s words to her, whispering in her memory like a ghost.

You can't stop all the crime in the world, cousin...

You treated the law like it was your own personal crusade....

Yeah, so maybe it had been. Once. What the hell was it now? Survival? I gotta see to it that Frankie Tyler is effectively removed just so I can return home to Hazzard and not get my fool head shot off. All this crap because I got involved with the murder case of a State Senator, who tried to cross Frankie Tyler and didn't survive. Do I honestly believe that me, Rosco, Brian or the Dukes stand any better of a chance against him?

Even if they survived, what would it all be for?

Don't know how Rosco can stand to look at me... she thought again. And Brian...hell, no wonder he ran out of the room twice. I would have too. He doesn't think I believe him anymore. Rosco doesn't think I believe him in anymore...does anybody believe in anybody?

Do I believe in myself?

MaryAnne pushed the thoughts away as Rosco sat down beside her on the couch. She had come this far with her mission, she figured she owed it to the FBI to finish it the best way that she could.

And if I die, hopefully it won't be in vain...

She shivered just as another thought came to mind. What the hell do you have to lose? The thought of having turned your kin away with this mission was what's carried you this far. If you managed to survive you wouldn't have anything to go back to and if ya died...well, what difference would it have made at that point?

"Good afternoon, Commander Mayson," Rosco said, snapping MaryAnne out of her void. "Yes, she's right here..."  Rosco handed the phone receiver to her.

MaryAnne glanced across the room at Bo and Luke, who were listening on an extension. She turned the receiver just enough so that Rosco could hear the Commander as well.  "Hello, sir....yes, we're ready."

Commander Mayson cleared his throat.  "How you feeling, MaryAnne?"

"I'm all right. A little sore still, but..." she shrugged. What the hell? She wasn't the bionic woman.

"Are you well enough to continue?"


"Okay. MaryAnne, I'm going to lay all my cards on the table with you. I'm aware of a few things that maybe you'd prefer I not be. For example, I'm aware that the Duke boys' car has a new paint job. I'm also aware that your cousin Brian has not come to visit you for two weeks.”

MaryAnne didn’t deny anything. She didn’t say anything, either.

Mayson continued. “I can speculate that Bo and Luke will be joining you on your return to the Syndicate, along with Rosco. I can speculate that Brian not seeing you, along with the increase in revenue for the Syndicate, and the unexplained disappearance of Spade, is somehow all connected. I can speculate on many things at this point, but I'm afraid it's too late to be playing a guessing game. Agent Coltrane...what is your plan for returning to the Syndicate?"

MaryAnne didn't hesitate. "My plan, Commander, is to return to the Jigsaw accompanied by Rosco and the Duke boys. What I find when I get there is anybody's guess..."

"Then you will be taking direct responsibility for Sheriff Coltrane and the Dukes as field agents under your command?"

"Yes sir."

"Very well then. In terms of Bo and Luke Duke's probation this will be noted. They are now working in an official capacity of the Federal government." The Commander paused to make the note in his case file. "Now...your cousin Brian. Will he be helping you in the same capacity?"

"That was my understanding the last time I saw him," MaryAnne replied.

"What's he been doing the past two weeks, MaryAnne?"

"Drumming up support from the Syndicate, I believe."

Mayson paused. "Support?"

"Of us--me and Rosco with the Dukes. Mutual help against a common enemy."

Mayson didn’t press the matter. "It would appear you may have it."  The sound of papers shuffling was heard through the phone. "Like I said before," he continued. "I'm laying all my cards on the table with this. Whatever happens, MaryAnne, you and I will be taking the brunt of the responsibility. You understand that?"

"If it all goes bust, the FBI officially denies everything, is that it?"

"For the most part. I must admit that the unexpected involvement of your cousins and the Dukes have complicated matters, but the objective stands clear.”

Mayson waited a breath, then pronounced the directive. “Stop Frankie Tyler once in for all.”

No arguments there; Mayson knew there wouldn’t be any.  He moved on to a more uncertain topic. “If the old Syndicate, under Spade, or whoever… survives and is left to reign over the underground of Atlanta, it wouldn't break my heart any, unofficially speaking."

MaryAnne didn’t make a sound one way or the other at this. 

Mayson went on. "You know, the Director in Washington looks upon the Atlanta office of the Bureau like a black sheep of the family. To put it bluntly, the entire fiasco with Mancini and former Commander Turner disgraced this office. Capturing Frankie Tyler might be our only saving grace."

"Can't stop all the crime in the world, right Commander?" MaryAnne spoke up.

"No..." the Commander sighed. "No, you can't.  Somebody will always want to run a gambling joint, sell liquor, push'll never stop completely. If it did...I'd be out of job and so would you."

"But Frankie Tyler..."

Mayson sighed. "Frankie Tyler has moved from being a mafioso uncomfortably close to being considered a terrorist. Surveillance information indicates that he's not just trading the drugs for cash...he's trading it for other tangible assets."

"Like weapons?" MaryAnne ventured. What else did criminals dream about owning by the ton?

"Amongst other merchandise, yes I believe so. We don't know for sure."

"Lovely." MaryAnne had felt Rosco stiffen next to her. Across the room, Bo and Luke exchanged glances.

"Tyler’s waiting for something, MaryAnne. He could have moved on the old Syndicate for a final assault, finished it off, and taken over the town completely. But he hasn't. Things have been very quiet while you've been in the hospital. Another speculation I have is that he's waiting...for you."

"Well ain't that just sweet of him....he's gonna be sorry he waited, I can tell ya that."

"I'm hoping he will be too. He has to be stopped. Now, I don't want you to think that you don’t have the support of the FBI going into all this, you do--"

"Until I royally screw up?"

Mayson chuckled. "You're too damn good of an officer to do that. MaryAnne, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure you have whatever you need to complete this assignment. Whatever happens, however...happens. You've made it this far..."

I've made it this far... Somehow that didn't make her feel any better.

Mayson remembered something.  "Wanted to mention one more thing. Your hunch about that wooded area paid off."

MaryAnne's heart skipped a beat. Rosco shifted uncomfortably next to her. "It did?"

"Yes...we found a few remains. There's some officer's families that are thankful..."

A moment of silence overtook the conversation. The grim closure made MaryAnne feel a little better. That part of the mission had been important to her. "I'm glad to hear that, Commander. Of course, the man more than likely responsible for those deaths, Mole, has already expired from this earth."

"I'm aware of that. And Mole was working for Frankie Tyler..."

If Frankie Tyler thought he had a long enemy list...he should have seen how many lists he was topping at the moment.

"We're going to stop him, Commander," MaryAnne said. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure of it..."

The Commander had expected as much. What MaryAnne and her kin were facing was practically suicide. But they were going to face it, more than likely because the alternatives weren't any better.  The telephone briefing continued for awhile longer, Mayson giving MaryAnne the usual last minute instructions, relevant information and such. He then wished her, and all, good luck. Lord knew they were going to need it.

They were going to need a lot of it...

The conversation officially ended and both phones were hung up.  MaryAnne immediately stood up. "All right, if anybody wants out, speak now."

The Dukes stood resolute.  "We're in for the long haul, MaryAnne," Luke said immediately, and Bo nodded.

Rosco's expression was unreadable.  "MaryAnne, can I talk you alone for a minute? 'Scuze us, boys..."

The Dukes took the hint.  "I think Flash and Bandit could use a comfort break anyway," Bo said as he and Luke took the dogs outside.  Once the door was shut behind them, Rosco folded his arms and looked at MaryAnne intently, as if trying to read her mind.

MaryAnne looked at Rosco, but that same feeling of him not really seeing her prickled at her. She avoided his eyes and looked down at the coffee table, as if there was something more important there. "So, you in this?"

"Hell of a time to ask.  You know as long as you're in it, I'm in it.  I just wish you woulda said what was goin' on at the beginnin' of all this."

MaryAnne met his eyes briefly. "I wasn't supposed to." She reminded him. "Tho' I warned the Commander about that..." She turned slightly away from him. "Would it have made a difference anyways?"

"It would have to me.  I love you like a daughter, MaryAnne.  I never thought I'd see the day when you shut me out...particularly onconna somebody else's orders.  Sweetheart, you've turned into somebody else during all this, somebody I don't hardly know anymore..."

She turned completely away from him now, heading towards the window. "You oughta see me from this angle..." she said softly. Her heart felt so heavy...

"I shut you out to keep you alive," she muttered. "I told the both of you not to follow me, not to get in my way." She turned back to him. "So now here we are. You and I and the Dukes are gonna walk back into that hornet's nest and attempt to stop Frankie Tyler once and for all. So...seeing as you hardly know me anymore, I ask you again. You in this? Do you trust me enough to go back there?"

Rosco gave the question serious thought.  Do I trust her?

He certainly loved her.  That was why everything that happened had hurt so damn much. Though he was relieved that MaryAnne had survived another close call, he resented the willful way she had thrown herself into danger over this mission - without so much as a word of explanation in the beginning.  Orders or not.

She had left Hazzard, spurned her family's efforts to communicate, and topped it off with hauling him out to be "killed" without blinking an eye.  She added to that by nearly getting herself killed for real…and Rosco knew she would have died, had it not been for the intervention of himself and Brian at the Jigsaw. 

Now, when any sane person would have remained in the hospital, MaryAnne was pushing herself back into action.  Rosco knew it was necessary for the mission to continue, but he didn't have to like it. 

Privately, he was worried that MaryAnne wanted Frankie Tyler taken down at any cost, her own life negotiable in the bargain.  She'd already proven that she was willing to sacrifice everything, and it wasn't over yet, not by a long shot.

Her ability to shut him out for the sake of this mission had unsettled him.  Her badge had come before her blood kin, before him.  Rosco understood MaryAnne's dedication to her career.  He used to have the same dedication himself.  But was this dedication…or obsession? 

"Sweetheart...." he said at last, "You know that no matter what...I'll see it through with you. But you gotta promise me one thing.  Don't be so desperate to catch Tyler that you throw yourself away."

MaryAnne met his eyes for a moment. For the duration of a heartbeat, she didn't feel so much like a stranger. But was going to be a long time before the forsaken feeling of alienation went away. She nodded, however.

"Awright," she said, her voice shaky. She took a deep breath, holding herself together. If we don't catch or stop Frankie Tyler, he'll end up getting us. I ain't gonna sit on my ass waiting for the ax to fall...

"I figure we'll return to the Jigsaw tonight," she said, shifting focus back to the mission. "I know the General's ready and you got another car for yourself, too. I figure that Trans Am is still parked at the Jigsaw, assuming it didn't get sold or something...I also figure you've done some other shopping...."

Rosco nodded. "Yeah...the boys ain't got guns tho'..."

"Did they bring their bows? Dynamite arrows?"

He nodded again. "They did.  And I raided our gun supply in Finchburg. Bought some extra shells. That's all in the sedan. Both cars have a Box 'o Tricks like what ya had in Maverick."

MaryAnne nodded and stepped away from the window. "I've missed that car..."

"I've missed you…"

MaryAnne stopped and looked at him. No...I still gotta be strong. There's way too much at risk now... "Rosco, please. Just help me through this..."

"I said I would," he told her. Before she could get to the door, his hand found it's way to her shoulder.

MaryAnne stopped and looked at him again. His eyes held so much...most of it hurt. She was going to have a lot of making up to do when this was all over...

She nodded. "Come on," she said. "Let's go find the boys..."


Chapter Eleven