Chapter Thirteen


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

From the protective security of his top-floor office, Tyler watched the gun battles playing out on the monitors.  His office building, his warehouse, and his parking garage were all under fire, but the Big Man's confidence in his position never wavered.

After all, the Syndicate had limited manpower.  If the bulk of Don Coltrane's forces were in this building, then any threat to his warehouse and garage had to be minimal.  Tyler scanned the monitors closely for a specific enemy.  She wasn't in the office building.  

Explosions suddenly rocked the cameras in the warehouse, and the monitors flickered.

Tyler focused on the warehouse monitor.  He hit a couple of switches, changing the camera views.  Then he saw her.  MaryAnne's image was blurred on the screen, indistinct with the static coming from the damaged camera.  But it was her, nonetheless - brandishing a pistol and giving Ketterhagen's forces a difficult time.

Tyler smiled to himself.  He knew she'd be here somewhere.  He also recognized the Sheriff next to her, and the two hicks from Hazzard in the background.  They were outnumbered, though their wit had prolonged their lives for a few minutes.

Tyler sincerely hoped that Ketterhagen would be able to capture MaryAnne alive.

He wanted the satisfaction of killing her himself.  More, he wanted to see her expression as she died…and it would be especially gratifying if she died knowing that her cousins had already perished, and that his own victory was complete.  Yes, he wanted MaryAnne to die slowly and without any hope.

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

Downstairs in the office building's lobby, hope was something that Brian was rapidly losing.

He hadn't been expecting to face disaster this early into the mission.  Tyler's men had the Syndicate routed, scattered, and pinned down behind whatever scant shelter that office furniture could provide.  Brian was crouched behind an overturned desk, cut off from the rest of his associates.

He risked a peek over the desk, and saw a couple of bodies laying on the floor.  Not Tyler's men. His.

The rattling cadence of gunfire forced Brian to duck again.  He had to do something, rally the Syndicate before it was all over.  Simple pistols and rifles wouldn't keep automatic weapons at bay for any length of time.  Only the expert marksman ship of Ace, Rusty, and himself gave them any kind of chance at all. 

Tyler's men, meanwhile, had the advantage.  They had the elevators cut off, the corridor well defended. It was the stairwell or nothing. Brian had figured out where it was, seeing the emergency exit sign off in the far corner of the lobby. But getting there meant an open run across the lower level, and he'd be like a duck in a shooting gallery.

He looked at the ring on his finger.  Damn the stupid thing....

Brian knew that he might very well die with that ring on his hand.  Well, if that was how the cards were going to fall...then he'd make it count for something.  He thought of MaryAnne and Rosco, and thought of what Tyler would do to them, if proven the victor…

It was all the motivation Brian needed.  He risked looking over the desk again, took aim, and fired at the ceiling, directly over the heads of Tyler's men.  The fire sprinkler in the ceiling was hit by his bullet, and water gushed from it, sending a cold spray over the surprised enemy.  It was only a moment's distraction, but Brian took it, springing up from behind the desk and bolting for the stairwell door. 

Ace and Rusty saw his move and covered it.  The rest of the Syndicate caught on.  The sprinkler system was pelted with bullets until the entire ceiling was spewing water, reducing visibility and creating havoc.  Tyler's men still had automatic weapons and they fired madly at anything that moved, but their marksmanship and concentration had been thrown off.  And since the Syndicate was scattered, while Tyler's men had held a constant position near the elevators, there was a moments edge to be gained by the Syndicate while on the move...though their bid for the stairwell had a price.  Once Tyler's men figured out the Syndicate's gambit, they made haste to stop it.  

Brian flung the door open to the stairwell and hustled up the steps. He heard charging footsteps behind him.  He turned and saw Rusty, Ace, Tony, and a few more of his associates bursting into the stairwell, some of them wounded.  There was no time to count how many had survived to this point...or to mourn those who hadn't made it.  "Two of you stay inside by the door!" Brian yelled.   "When any of Tyler's men try to follow, blast 'em!"  

Knowing he would be obeyed, Brian resumed his dash up the stairs.  But it was a long way to the top, and Tyler's men could try to intercept them from any floor.

Brian reached into his jacket pocket and grabbed the walkie-talkie that Rosco had supplied him with before leaving the Jigsaw.  He spoke into it on the fly, his words coming breathlessly.  "Blackbird to Bear! Blackbird to Bear! You out there?"

Rosco was in the middle of shooting when Brian's voice squawked in his jacket pocket.  He ducked below the crate and pulled the walkie-talkie out of his pocket. "Brian! --" Gunfire announced it's presence over the airwaves as well. "Goddammit, " Rosco muttered. "Where you at?!" he asked.

"In the stairwell! I've lost some men, Rosco! We're headin' upstairs for Tyler but I'm not keen on our chances! We're in trouble..."

Rosco flinched when a bullet slammed into the crate he and MaryAnne had taken cover behind. We're in trouble...

"We ain't doin' so hot ourselves!" Rosco replied into the radio. "They trapped us in the warehouse! Ain't gotta clue what happened to Mayson, I think they got him under fire outside!"

"Rosco, I'm runnin outta ammo--" MaryAnne started to say before Rosco let go of the talk button.

Brian had heard enough.  "Rosco! I copy that! Listen, you've got to find a way to get reinforcements here, before -"

A floor above Brian, another door to the stairwell opened, and Tyler's men began to file down the steps.  After they had found resistance at the main floor stairwell, Tyler's men had quickly returned to the elevators, taken them to upper floors, and then positioned themselves along each juncture.  The stairwell was now a deadly gauntlet.  Brian ducked as automatic gunfire ripped over his head.  Only the zig-zag design of the staircase prevented a massacre, and Brian fired back, getting a shot between the railings and hitting the assailant in the leg.

The radio communicated the exchange of shots.  Brian had no time to add words.  He jammed the radio back into his pocket, desperately hoping Rosco and MaryAnne could hang on somehow....

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

MaryAnne loaded her last few bullets into her gun and resumed shooting. Bo and Luke were down to one dynamite arrow each, with a few regular arrows still left. Rosco stuffed his radio into his pocket and looked out over the crate briefly to assess the current situation.

It was bad. Real bad.  Tyler's men, what was left of those who could still shoot, had automatic weapons, just like what Brian was facing in the office building. With MaryAnne running low on ammo and Rosco all but out, and the Feds having seemingly disappeared from action...Brian's request for reinforcements carried heavy meaning.

We're losing...

"MaryAnne, we gotta git reinforcements!" Rosco called over the rat-a-tat of automatic gunfire. "Brian's under heavy fire in the office building!"

"I heard! We gotta git you outta here, Rosco, so you can call the Atlanta PD!"

"I ain't leavin' you here alone!"

"I ain't gonna be alone, I'll have Bo and Luke here. Rosco, there's no time to argue---!"

The crate Rosco and MaryAnne had been behind suddenly disintegrated in a hail of bullets. MaryAnne jumped over towards the boys while Rosco went the other way.

Bo caught a hold of MaryAnne.  Rosco lay stunned on the floor behind another crate, away from MaryAnne and the boys.

MaryAnne looked over at him. "Rosco...?" She suddenly scrambled over to the other crate, eliciting gunfire from Ketterhagen's men. They missed her and she disappeared behind the crate.

"Rosco?" she gently touched his arm and started to turn him over to look at him, her insides shaking at what she thought she might see.

He looked up at her when she came into view.

"Ya hit?" she asked.

He shook his head. "I don't think least..." Slowly he moved his hand to reach for the radio that was in his pocket. MaryAnne saw the hole in his jacket and helped him in pulling the shattered radio out.

MaryAnne stared at the busted piece of electronics. Fickle Coltrane luck had prevailed once again. She shivered, wondering how much longer their luck would hold out.

"Aww man..." Rosco groaned. "I was gonna suggest usin' this to call the Atlanta PD..."

After a quick check of her cousin's stomach and side, MaryAnne determined he hadn't been wounded. "You gotta git outta here," she said. "You gotta go get help, Rosco."

"But..." he shook his head. "MaryAnne, I can't leave you here..."

"If you don't go and get the cops here we're all gonna die!"

"What if we send one of the boys?"

"No! It's gotta be you. The police ain't gonna take their word. You still got a badge, Sheriff! You're the back up, don't let me down now!"

"MaryAnne's right," Luke called over. "We need help here or we're all gonna perish!" The dark-haired Duke prepared his last dynamite arrow. "Cover me, MaryAnne, I'm gonna blow the door open!"

"Do it!"

Luke turned around and leaned against the crate, taking aim at the door they had come in. "Rosco! Can I get a match here?!"

Rosco flinched with the gunfire coming from Ketterhagen's group. MaryAnne returned fire, giving Rosco cover as he crawled over to Luke.

Bullets whizzing above their heads, Rosco struck the match and lit the dynamite. Luke took aim at the door and let it fly. The dynamite stick landed at the base of the door before the fuse ran out. Luke and Rosco turned away from the door and crouched low behind the crate. The door suddenly blew out into the street

The explosion startled Ketterhagen's group for a moment. A moment long enough that MaryAnne saw their chance. "Go Rosco! GO!! Git outta here!!" she exclaimed, turning to her cousin.

He hesitated, looking at MaryAnne. He couldn't leave her there...he just couldn't do it. It was a sacrifice he wasn't sure he could make...

"Rosco, we'll take care of MaryAnne!" Bo promised. "That's a Duke promise! Now help us out and get out that door while you can!" the blonde Duke grabbed Rosco's arm and started pulling him across the floor, then pushed him towards the door.

The gunfire started up again. Rosco heard someone's voice, neither Coltrane nor Duke, yelling out. "GET HIM!! DON'T LET HIM OUT THAT DOOR!!"

Sparks flared up on the floor in front of him as bullets ricocheted off of it. Rosco dropped flat to the ground and rolled behind another crate, getting closer to the door, getting some scant cover from the gunfire.

MaryAnne gave Ketterhagen's troops hell for shooting at Rosco. Crates splintered apart, and one man who was busy shooting towards Rosco ended up taking a bullet in his shoulder from MaryAnne's gun.


With a temporary break in the gunfire, Rosco scrambled to his feet and dove out the doorway.

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

Commander Mayson had a problem. Actually several problems, but they could all be easily bundled up into one big problem. He had two battles going on at once, and he wasn't gaining any ground in either of them. One battle was taking place at the exit/entrance of the parking garage. The other was right outside the warehouse. Fed agents were crouched low behind their vehicles trying to fight back against an enemy that was above them.

Tyler's men had positions on the roof of the warehouse, and could see every federal car, every federal agent deployed on the street below. Mayson watched as two of his agents were picked off like ducks on a shooting range. Bullets had exploded through the windshields of several of the federal sedans, making any attempt at using a radio suicide. More agents lay wounded on the ground.

Mayson was running out of options. It was turning out to be the most botched raid of his career. He and his strike team had practically walked right into a slaughter. Perhaps Frankie Tyler would be claiming victory tonight after all...


Just when Mayson figured it couldn't get any worse, the warehouse door suddenly blew out, sending shards of wood and metal scattering over the sidewalk and street. Fed agents reacted, crouching lower behind their cars and watching the doorway for anymore activity.

It came a few moments later when a body went diving out onto the sidewalk. Rosco rolled into the street and hearing the gunfire, quickly scrambled to the closest car, hiding behind it and meeting up with Agent Roger Kelley.

"Sheriff!" Kelley turned to look at Commander Mayson ten feet away, waving frantically.

Mayson saw the Sheriff and nodded. "KEEP AT IT BOYS!! I NEED COVER!! KELLEY!! GET HIM OVER HERE!!"

Federal firepower turned their attention back to the roof line of the warehouse. Agent Kelley spoke quickly to the Sheriff, and then both men darted from Kelley's car over to Mayson's.

"Rosco, are you all right??" Mayson asked.

Rosco looked at the Commander. "Now that's a damn silly question to be askin' right now don't you think?!"

"Is MaryAnne?--"

"We're losin', Commander. We're losin' big time! Brian's under siege in the office buildin' there, and MaryAnne and the Duke boys just threw me out to get reinforcements!"

Mayson nodded. They needed those city cops now. "Where's your car?"

"Back down there." Rosco pointed. His sedan was just out of range of the hail of bullets.

"I'm gonna have the boys give you cover. You better run like hell, Sheriff."

"Now wait a minute! MaryAnne's still in there--"

"And she won't be coming out alive if you don't get a move on!! I've lost at least four agents all ready! They've got us pinned down out here. If you haven't noticed, we're down here and they're up there!! NOW GO!!" Mayson looked at Kelley. "Get back to your position."

The agent nodded and scooted back to his car.  "KEEP UP THE COVER BOYS!!! GIVE 'EM HELL!! COME ON!!" He looked at Rosco. "Git a move on, Sheriff!!"

Rosco glanced at the warehouse and swallowed hard. He then drummed up what was left of his courage and started running towards his car...

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


It was a stalemate for Brian.  He was trapped, along with his associates, in the stairwell between floors.  Tyler's men were above him, around the next zig-zag bend, but they could not get low enough to shoot without exposing themselves to fire.  A couple of Tyler's men were bleeding heavily, but they refused to give up their position.  They meant to stop the Syndicate - permanently.

Brian glanced behind him.  He had several associates still in fighting condition. Others, however, were slumped down on the stairs, staining the tile with blood. 

Retreat was impossible.  A few feet down the stairs, he could hear evidence that the enemy had eliminated any chances for escape.  At any moment, the two sentries that Brian had assigned to the base of the stairwell would be overrun. Their ammo wouldn't last forever.  

Another burst of percussion spat from Tyler's guns above.  The Syndicate crouched low on the stairs, pressing themselves into the railing.   Brian fired back, but he was hitting nothing this time.  Tyler's men had ducked down, fired, then ducked back...and they could do it all day, having more ammo, more firepower, more men.

Brian reached for the radio again.  He motioned for Rusty and Ace to fire a few rounds at the enemy above - anything to keep Tyler's men busy for a minute.  Brian pressed the talk button and held the radio close to his ear.  "Blackbird to Bear! What's your status, over?"

Dead silence.  Brian adjusted the volume on the radio and tried again.  "Blackbird to Bear!"

Still nothing.  Brian felt his throat constrict.  He tried once more. "Blackbird to Songbird...come in...."

Brian slowly put the radio back inside his jacket.  He didn't even want to think what the silence meant. He knew, however, that if Rosco and MaryAnne weren't was because they couldn't.  And the reason why they couldn't was likely because...

Brian cut the thought off and gave in to honest rage.  He gripped his pistol tighter, and then without warning, he jumped up and suddenly stormed the stairwell, giving a blood-curdling rebel yell.  He rounded the corner of the stairs and plowed headlong into a cluster of Tyler's men who were blocking it.  

The element of surprise was the only thing that had kept Brian alive.  Now, at close range, the long-barreled automatic weapons were a hindrance to the enemy. Brian was directly in their faces, using his pistol like brass knuckles, and had thrown one of Tyler's men over the railing before the rest even knew what was happening.

The Syndicate charged up the stairs behind him.  It was now hand-to-hand combat at close quarters.  Brian's dark eyes were wild, his teeth bared in a fixed snarl as he grappled with the next opponent blocking his way.  He wrenched the automatic rifle from the man's grip, slugged him in the jaw with the butt end of the gun, then shoved the now-unconscious man aside.  Brian spun the rifle once before leveling the stock at the head of the next man, who failed to deflect the blow.  Inch by inch, the Syndicate gained ground, one blood-slickened step at a time. 

Downstairs, the gunfire intensified for a second, then became one-sided.  The Syndicate’s sentries at the stairwell's base had been overwhelmed.  Shouts and heavy footsteps announced that Tyler's men were about to squeeze the Syndicate from both directions.  

"CATCH, RUSTY!"  Brian yelled, tossing the automatic rifle.  Rusty caught it and put it to use, sending a hail of bullets down the stairs, making Tyler's men think twice about following too closely.  

Brian felt a sharp, burning sensation slash across his side at the same time.  He turned back around to see one of Tyler's men grinning, holding a reddened knife.  The wiry-looking, dark-skinned man made a "come and get it" motion with his fingertips, challenging Brian one-on-one.  

Brian reached inside his jacket and drew his own knife, springing it open with a click.   All that mattered was getting past this guy and reaching the next level of stairs. All that mattered was reaching Frankie Tyler.  

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

The ping of bullets on pavement followed Rosco all the way to the sedan. He made it to his car unscathed and quickly went to the trunk, pulling his key from his pocket and popping it open. With a shaking hand, he picked up the spare hand-held radio and tuned it to the police emergency channel, crouching down behind the car to hide. 

"Mayday! Mayday! This is Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane callin' the Atlanta PD...This is a mayday, come back!"


Officer Franklin had spent the last half-hour hanging around in the dispatch area without making it look like he was waiting for a call. Instead, he shot the breeze with one of the dispatchers in between radio calls, and even helped in answering the phone. But when the Sheriff's voice came over the radio, Franklin leapt to his feet and stood behind the dispatcher, his expression serious.

"This is a mayday!!" Rosco repeated when he had received no answer. The Sheriff's voice then turned desperate. "I need help here...please tell me you can hear me..."

The dispatcher narrowed his eyes as he listened. "What the hell...?"

Franklin tapped the dispatcher on the shoulder. "Lemme talk to him." The dispatcher vacated his seat and Franklin sat down, bringing the headset to his ears. He engaged the radio. "Sheriff Coltrane? This is Officer Franklin. Do you remember me? We've met a couple of times in the past couple of weeks..."

Rosco stared at his radio. "Yes!" he exclaimed, feeling some relief at hearing a familiar voice and name. "Yes, I remember you."

Franklin turned to the dispatcher. "Go get Captain Briggs for me will ya?" The dispatcher nodded and left the dispatch area.

"What's wrong, Sheriff?" Franklin asked into the radio. "What's going on??"

"There's...there's a shoot-out goin' on in the north side of town!..." Rosco suddenly wasn't sure how to explain what was going on. Franklin detected this.

"It's all right, Sheriff. Talk to me. Tell me what's really going on..."

"It's a shoot's a raid that's backfired! There's too many of them and not enough of us!!"

"Where are you?"

"Uh...a warehouse...goddammit I don't even know what street I'm on..."

"What's the warehouse?"

Rosco peered around the tail of his sedan and up the sidewalk. He could barely make out the sign on the side of the warehouse advertising the business. "F.W.T. Distributors..."

Frankie W. Tyler Distributors... "Ten-five, Sheriff. Stand by!"

Franklin turned in his seat to look towards the door, in time to see Captain Briggs enter the dispatch area.

"What's going on?" Briggs asked. Franklin quickly gave the Captain what details he had. Briggs waved his hand for the headset and Franklin handed it to him. "Sheriff Coltrane, this is Captain Anthony Briggs..."

Rosco blinked. Briggs?? MaryAnne's old CO? It was like God has suddenly spoken... "Yes, Captain," Rosco said. "Captain, I'm in trouble out here...."

"So I've heard. Sheriff, I was told earlier today that there was to be a Federal raid on that warehouse. Is that raid in progress right now?"    

"Yes sir..."

"And there are agents of the Federal government under fire?"

"Yes sir..."

"Is there a threat to civilians in the vicinity?"

"Boy howdy is there ever.."

Briggs and Franklin glanced at each other, the officer giving a grin. "Okay, Sheriff you sit tight. We'll be right over..."

Rosco blinked in reaction and then smiled. "Oooh!" he exclaimed and then spoke into the radio. "That's a big ten-four, Captain! Thank ya very much!"

"Over and out." Briggs dropped the headset into the hands of the dispatcher. "Put out a code 10-105, I need every available unit. Hostilities in the north end, Federal officers under fire, civilians in danger. This is a raid gone bad and I refuse to let Tyler's thugs cut everything up."

The dispatcher nodded, placing his headset back on. "Shall I stay in contact with the Sheriff?"

"Yes. Find out what specifically we're facing, relay once you've got a picture." Briggs turned to Franklin. "We have no time to spare..."

The officer nodded and followed his commanding officer out of dispatch.

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

Ketterhagen had witnessed the Sheriff's escape.  He had to admit that the diversion of the dynamite arrows worked very well. It worked so well, in fact, that he and a couple of his men were able to take advantage of it themselves.

He motioned for his tattered forces to keep firing at the Dukes and MaryAnne.  They had to prevent them from escaping.  They had to keep them busy.

Ketterhagen selected one man who remained healthy from his team, and they crept to the side of the warehouse.  There, they climbed over a fork lift, over crates, and finally up some scaffolding that lead to the iron beams overhead.

Like alley cats, they crept on all fours across the beams, the automatic rifles slung over their backs.

As they moved closer to the Dukes and MaryAnne, they could feel the fresh air streaming in from the blown-open door, hear the chaos of the gunfire outside.  But they were professionals and allowed nothing to distract them.  

Ketterhagen noted with some detachment, how his men had been picked apart by this little group from Hazzard.  He considered the casualties negotiable. 

His men only had to last a little while longer.  Ketterhagen and his partner were almost directly above MaryAnne and the Dukes.

They moved in closer. Then he motioned to his partner, who nodded.  Ketterhagen counted off with his fingers, silently.  One. Two. Three...

The two men dropped from the rafter, landing on the two farm boys who had looked up just a moment too late.

Being knocked to the cement floor did half the job of eliminating the plowboys.  To their credit, they tried to recover and fight.

Unfortunately for them, they had been stunned just enough to be a second slower than the attackers.  Ketterhagen and his partner had Bo and Luke unconscious with two fast swings of their rifles.  As the young men collapsed to the floor, Ketterhagen swung his rifle to bear on his primary target.  He knew he was lucky.  MaryAnne couldn't risk firing before and hitting one of the Dukes....

...and now he had the business end of the automatic rifle aimed at the base of her throat.  Behind him, his partner stood at the ready.  If Ketterhagen was shot, his partner would finish the assignment.  

Tyler's top hitman showed no victory in his expression. Only detached confidence.  "Throw down your gun," he ordered the young woman.

The warehouse suddenly quieted down, the smoke from the dynamite and gunfire hanging thick in the air and occasionally disturbed from the air from the open doorway. MaryAnne stood, staring at the enemy across the barrel of his rifle. Her eyes ablaze, she kept the gun in hand. She knew it didn't make any difference to them whether she put it down or not.

The only thing keeping her alive at that moment was that somebody else wanted the joy of finishing her off. And MaryAnne was hell bent not to allow Frankie Tyler the satisfaction.

So she stood, not moving. "Why don't you put yours down and maybe we can have a nice conversation."

"I'm the one giving orders," Ketterhagen said coldly. "You can drop that gun of your own will, or because you're unable to hold it anymore. Your choice." 

MaryAnne didn't relent. She stared down Ketterhagen, her gun not leaving her hand. She knew she had one bullet left. This one was going to have to count.  She glanced towards the doorway. "You know there's a man at the door way that's gotta gun just like yours..."

Ketterhagen didn't turn to look. But his partner did.

That was all MaryAnne needed. She moved her left arm fast, knocking Ketterhagen's rifle away from her long enough to aim around him and discharge her gun at the other hitman.  As he went down, never knowing what had happened, MaryAnne lunged forward and swung her gun towards Ketterhagen, catching the hitman square on the side of the head.

The hitman went down, his rifle clattering to the cement floor. MaryAnne quickly grabbed up the weapon and dove to the floor behind another crate, the last man of Ketterhagen's team taking shots at her from the middle of the warehouse. A break in the gunfire, MaryAnne popped up long enough to return fire, sending the man scrambling behind cover.

"Dammit..." she exclaimed. Back in a firefight...without Rosco or the boys. She looked over at Bo and Luke, who were still unconcious on the floor. And Lord knew if Rosco had made it....

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

Once Rosco had explained to the dispatcher what the Atlanta PD would be facing, he tucked the radio in his jacket's inside pocket and tossed his spent pistol into the trunk of the car, opting for one of the rifles he had packed.

He grabbed spare shells, filling his one side pocket that that hadn't been shot up, with the extra load. The rifle was fully loaded and he hefted it in his hands, taking a moment to peer around the trunk, down the sidewalk, towards the warehouse. Time to go back...

He closed the trunk and started to walk down the sidewalk, staying within the shadows of the buildings, holding the rifle at the ready. He slowed when he came to the corner of the warehouse building and then he crouched down as low as he could and moved up to the door.

Gunfire spat from within...but it wasn't as heavy as it had been when he left. Cautiously, he peered in. In the dim light of the warehouse he could see MaryAnne was still going...but Bo and Luke were down and out. Along with a few other people.

Oh man... Were the boys...gone? Rosco swallowed hard and pushed the thought away. Maybe not...maybe they were just...aww shit...

More exchanging of gunfire snapped Rosco out of his thoughts. He listened and watched the sparks from the guns. It was one on one, he could tell. Time to give MaryAnne some help....

Rosco got down on hands and knees and held the rifle to his chest as he crawled into the doorway. Neither MaryAnne nor the other hitman saw him as he moved the rifle in front of him, and got down on his stomach, moving like a soldier across no man's land.

His black clothing all but completely concealed him within the dark shadows of the warehouse. He crawled across the floor on his stomach, peering between boxes and crates at the hitman who had his attention fully focused on MaryAnne. It wasn't long before Rosco was behind the man.

Peering over a destroyed crate, Rosco eyed the man like a sniper observing a target. "Khee..."

The idea was perfect...just as long as MaryAnne didn't accidentally shoot him. Rosco hoped there was enough lighting....

MaryAnne fired off another valley of bullets and resumed her cover behind the crate. The hitman did the same. Rosco started to creep up.

MaryAnne looked over the crate and was about to open fire when she stopped, seeing the shadowed figure moving up to surprise the hitman. Was it....? Her finger hesitated on the trigger.

The pause in action bothered the hitman. He started to look over his crate when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

"S'cuze me..." Rosco said, and then swung the butt of the rifle square into the hitman's jaw, knocking him over like a bowling pin. It was move worthy of the Duke boys and Rosco grinned. "Khee!"

MaryAnne knew that sound anywhere. She jumped up and ran to her cousin, throwing her arms around him in relief and in celebration of the moment's victory.

"You all right???" he asked quickly, hugging her tight.

"Yeah...for the most part."

"The boys...?"

"They're unconscious. They're alive, but they got the same treatment you just gave this dude."

"We gotta move fast," he said. "The Atlanta PD's comin'. Let's get the boys awake enough to get the hell outta here..."

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


The knife fighter that faced Brian had only one objective in mind.  Kill the Syndicate Don and take the ring.  It was a trophy that would put him high regard with his peers.

Brian read the greedy thought in Rico's eyes.  He knew the man's name, knew his reputation.  Had Brian been less determined, less enraged at the moment, he might have thought twice about facing Rico in a knife fight.

Brian lunged, aiming a single, savage thrust of his knife at Rico's gut.  Rico avoided it easily.  He was positioned higher on the stairs, and Brian's reach wasn't enough.  Rico had the advantage of height, and he used it.  His answering move was a fierce down swipe at Brian's eyes, intending to blind his victim and render him helpless.

Brian ducked and felt a whiff of air pass overhead from Rico's swing.  He felt the first pang of rational fear.  Rico was no joke. 

Brian tried another move, a feint with his left hand to grab Rico's wrist, as if to disarm him.  At the same time, his right hand shot out with the knife to slice at Rico's leg.  If he could get Rico down, he'd have a chance....

Rico intercepted the feint, and cut Brian across the left arm for his efforts.  The slash went through the sleeve of the leather jacket, the knife so sharp that it took a few seconds for the blood to appear.  Brian forced himself not to look at the wound.  He could feel it, stinging like the one in his side, and instinctively wanted to clamp his hand over it.  There was no time.  Rico was on the attack, his knife swiping at Brian with fast, snake-like moves.  Brian, meanwhile, had managed to only scratch Rico's thigh, just enough to cut through the man's jeans and score a thin red line of blood. 

Rico jabbed again at Brian's face.  He wanted to build the fear into Brian.  Get the Don to make a mistake.

Brian deflected it, again at a cost.  His right sleeve was now torn open.  He was managing to protect his face, throat, chest and gut, but he was paying for it.  Dimly, he realized that Rico could slice him to ribbons with these fast cuts, and make him lose blood until he was too weak to offer defense.

There was no way for Brian to gain the offensive.  Not with the difference in height that the stairs were giving to Rico.  His opponent knew this, and toyed with him, making Brian exhaust himself.

Rico felt elation as he saw Brian's movements begin to slow.  The Don's counter-moves were becoming less effective.  Finally, Brian's knife arm seemed to drop slightly, as if the simple weight of the knife was wearing him down.  

Rico pretended to go for Brian's face again, and when the blocking move came, and came a second too slow...Rico changed his aim, knocking Brian's arm away and driving the knife towards his heart, like a spike.

To his surprise, Brian suddenly turned into the direction of the stab, his body catching the blade between the heart and shoulder.  Brian's left hand flashed up to catch Rico's wrist, firmly grabbing the knife-hand that still held the blade in his body.  Rico realized with shock that Brian had purposely taken the wound.  He looked into the Don's dark eyes and saw Hell itself opening up before him.

Brian now had Rico trapped and in close range. With one deep, sweeping slash of his knife, Brian cut Rico's stomach.  He heard Rico gasp with the pain, but he gave his enemy no respite. Brian cut again, just above the last wound, the broad, deep cuts inflicting pain and terror in his opponent.  Rico let go of his own knife, breaking Brian’s hold on his wrist and jumping back.  Rico moved one arm down to clench at his torn stomach as he scrambled backwards up the stairs.  The other hand, bloody from the wound he'd given Brian, was clenched on the railing.  He looked back at the Don with abject fear.

"Run, you son of a bitch," Brian snarled at him.  "Run, because I'm going to kill you...."

Rico turned and fled up the stairs, still holding his wounded gut together.  Tyler's men took in the sight of Rico running up to them, panicked and bleeding, and felt their own courage weaken.  They could see Brian charging up the stairs, with Rico's knife still buried to the hilt, bleeding hot like the last steer in a bullfight, too furious to die. 

Behind Brian, the Syndicate held it's own, taking weapons from the enemy and howling for Tyler's blood.  They were all coming up the stairs now.  "RUN!!" Rico yelled as he came upon his own gang. "He's crazy!!"

Tyler's men fired a few half-hearted shots so they could say they made a stand.  Then they turned and followed their terrorized peer.  One of them got out of the stairwell and ran to an intercom inside the office building, smacking the talk button with his palm.  "Tyler! Tyler! They're breaking though! They're in the stairwell and they're breaking through!"

Frankie Tyler heard his associate's warning.  He couldn't believe it, but the monitors proved the impossible.

In the warehouse, Ketterhagen had failed.  There was MaryAnne and the damnable Sheriff, still standing...while his own men littered the floor...

And in the office building, the main lobby had evidence of the Syndicate's decimation, but there were no cameras in the stairwells.  Tyler could only assume that Don Coltrane still lived, and had a chance, however small, of living long enough to bring his cronies up to attack him directly...

Meaning it was time to consider retreat.  Tyler had faced ruin at the hands of one Coltrane, back when MaryAnne had cracked the case of the Senator's murder.  Then, he had faced embarrassment when two Coltranes foiled his later attempts at kidnapping and revenge...and now...

Three Coltranes might very well mean his death.  Tyler was determined to take at least one of them with him. Better yet, he'd use them to ensure his escape.  He hit the intercom switch.  "Listen to me, you coward! We still outnumber them! Get your men up here, block off the top floor!  Then when Don Coltrane gets here, I want you to let him through.  You hear me? Let him through, but stop the rest of the Syndicate!"

"Yes sir, but...."

"You heard me! Don't fail...or else." 

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

Bleary-eyed and with headaches that could split granite, Bo and Luke were half-dragged, half-carried by Rosco and MaryAnne towards the door way of the warehouse. They finally woke up enough to carry themselves out of the building and to seek a reprieve just around the corner, in the shadows of the alleyway.

"You fellas all right?" Rosco asked.

"Yeah..." Luke said with a groan. He brought his hand to the side of his head. "Can't see straight but otherwise we're okay..."

Bo was trying to shake out his own cobwebs. "Did you get in touch with the cops?"

"Yeah...they're comin'..." Rosco said.

"Good," Luke said. He then looked at MaryAnne. "Sorry we let ya down, MaryAnne..."

"Hey, they got the jump on ya," she said. "Lucky for you y'all weren't shot dead on the spot!"

"There was two of 'em," Bo said. "How'd you...?"

"I fought like hell," she said, giving them a smile that shown in the faint light from the street.

The boys grinned. Rosco gave MaryAnne a hug with one arm. "From the looks of things tho'," he said, "we're still gonna have to fight like hell."

"What do we do now?" Bo asked.

Rosco looked up. "Mayson's under fire from up above...and the last I got from Brian, he was under fire in the office building..."

"Tyler's in the office building," MaryAnne said. "There's gotta be an exit through the warehouse to get into the office building."

"Well before we go anywhere, I think these boys need to load up on more arrows," Rosco said.

MaryAnne nodded. "And I think we should switch firearms, Rosco."  The Sheriff nodded and led the troops out of the alley and down to where their cars were parked.  A small battle was won…but the war remained in doubt.

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

The first Atlanta police officer to arrive on the scene was discreet. Tyler's warehouse was located on 36th street, so the officer drove his patrol car to 34th street and parked in the alley.  His weapon of choice slung across his back, he shimmied up the fire escape ladder and walked up to the roof of the building that was directly across the street from the warehouse.

His dark uniform concealed him in the shadows. He raised his hand held radio and spoke quietly. "Alpha One Four in position. There are five targets in range. Awaiting your command."

"Ten-five, One Four," Briggs replied. "Stand by."

Marked and unmarked police cruisers were lying in wait, listening as other units confirmed they were in position. Not a siren blared, not a lightbar flashed.

Briggs sat in a cruiser with Officer Franklin, down the street from the warehouse.  The last of the units reported their position. "Affirmative. Go ahead Alpha One Four."


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

Bo and Luke's bows were restocked with regular and dynamite arrows. Rosco and MaryAnne had new weapons of choice in hand when the tables suddenly turned in the firefight between Mayson's troops and Tyler's thugs. Gunfire split the night like the Forth of July.

Rosco slammed the trunk lid down, looking up at the roof of the warehouse when some unfortunate soul suddenly fell over the edge. "Holyeeee..."

MaryAnne and the boys saw it too. Another of Tyler's guns was silenced, the thug falling back onto the roof.

The three remaining gunmen abandoned their posts and started running back to the service door. One man went down when a bullet hit him in the back. The other two disappeared through the door.

Two Atlanta police cruisers now moved up behind the Federal cars, making it clear what was going on. Mayson called to his men to hold their fire and the Commander was soon holding a quick conference with Captain Briggs.

"Come on, y'all!" MaryAnne called and led her cousin and the boys over.

Coltranes and Dukes quickly included themselves in the conversation, the plan for further action brought on the table, contingencies thought of and all parties knowing their roles in less than three minutes. Rosco, MaryAnne and the boys headed back to the warehouse with three federal agents and two police officers in tow. One Fed and one city cop stayed to gather up those of Tyler's men who could be placed under arrest.

Two more Atlanta cruisers went flying to the parking garage, sending Tyler's remaining gunmen running. One cruiser went so far as to chase in the garage until Tyler’s men ran down a stair well, gopher-style. A third cruiser came in and stayed at the entrance/exit, while the other car joined up with the first. The two cars barreled around and down to the lower level, tires shrieking. 

Behind the warehouse, Atlanta police officers were sealing off the docking bays. If Tyler expected to get out now, he would need his own wings.

Meanwhile, MaryAnne led the charge across the warehouse floor to stairs that led up to a doorway.  She opened it and then stepped back, leaning her back against the doorframe, her rifle at the ready. She cautiously turned and peered in.  As suspected, there was a connecting passage between the warehouse and the office building, and she had found it.

This passage from the warehouse lead to the first floor, in bird’s-eye view of  the elevators. MaryAnne stood staring for so long that Rosco finally had to look for himself.

The sprinkler system was dripping now. Water covered the bullet-riddled walls, the floor, the overturned desks and furniture...

And bodies.

"Aw man..." MaryAnne slowly stepped in, recognizing some of the fallen. She stepped cautiously, looking at each one, seeing if any of them had a shred of life left.

"Miss...Coltrane..." somebody coughed.  The owner of the voice struggled to pull himself up.  He couldn't do it.  MaryAnne looked in the direction of the voice and saw the Syndicate's bartender, Mugsy, waving her over.

She went to him, kneeling down and managing to lift the brute up into a sitting postition. "Mugsy..." She saw his wounds and then looked at him. "What happened?" she asked, as Rosco and the boys gathered to listen.

Mugsy coughed again. He was bad off, having collected a bullet in the leg and another in his broad torso.  His eyes were glassy and unfocused, and he spoke heavily, as if it took all his strength.  "Too many...of Tyler's men...not enough...of ours.  Came at us...through elevators…all at once.  Trap..."

Mugsy took a ragged breath, and gulped out the rest.  "Your cousin...and a few of our boys...made it to the stairwell," he said, pointing vaguely in the right direction. "Alive or dead...I don't know...I don't...know."

MaryAnne nodded. "They tried to trap us in the warehouse too. I managed to find us some help. We're gonna nail 'em, Mugsy."

The bartender nodded weakly. His heavy eyelids were beginning to close, but he fought unconsciousness for a moment longer. "Get...out...Brian said...if things went tell get out..."

Mugsy slumped down as his strength expired, his eyelids shut.

MaryAnne offered what dignity she could for the bartender and gently laid him back down on the floor. She paused, a hand resting on his shoulder as she silently said a prayer.

She then turned and looked at the doorway that led to the stairwell. Things had gone bad right off the bat, but MaryAnne was not getting out. Knowing there was nothing more she could do for Mugsy, she stood up.

One of the cops who had followed them in was on his radio, calling for medical help. A suggestion to call in the coroner was made as well.

Rosco and the Dukes were silent with their own inner reactions to what Mugsy had told them.  The Sheriff looked at his cousin and then at the door to the stairwell. "We keep goin'?"

"Do we have much choice?" She looked at Rosco and nodded her head back to the Federal agents who were bringing up the rear. "They got warrants that have to be served. We best attempt to serve them."

Rosco paused and nodded. "Awright..." I suppose the least we can do is see how far Brian made it…

MaryAnne was determined to see it all through. "We got back up now, and we made it through the warehouse. I'll be damned if Tyler thinks we're gonna run away."  She marched over to the door, leaving Rosco and the boys no choice but to follow.

She pushed the door open carefully and it stopped halfway open. She looked in to see what was preventing the door from opening all the way.

More bodies. Two black-clad thugs of the Syndicate and a couple of what had to be Tyler's boys. MaryAnne didn't know the faces. She stepped in with Rosco and the Dukes coming in behind her. She kneeled down to check on the two Syndicate boys.

Neither responded specifically to the touch of her hand, but MaryAnne could feel weak pulses. Another silent prayer and then MaryAnne stood up. She barely allowed a glance at Tyler's felled men.

The cop was on his radio again. More wounded.

She started towards the stairs, hearing the distant echoing of occasional gunfire coming from the top floor. Rosco, the boys, the federal agent and the cop followed her silently. 

More of Tyler's men littered the stairway. At the top of the landing, two more were face-down, their weapons underneath them or somewhere near them. Red stains were evident on the wall, on the floor, on the steps...

MaryAnne tunneled her vision, trying to block out the carnage that seemed to get worse as they went up the stairs. Another body, Syndicate-clad. Another patch of red. 

They passed the second floor landing and MaryAnne paused, listening once more. Isolated gunfire echoed again, mixing with the buzz of the broken lighting in the stairwell.

The carnage seemed to decrease once they reached the third floor landing. MaryAnne stopped again and looked up through the railings. 

"Tyler's troop musta retreated up the stairs and regrouped," Rosco suggested.

MaryAnne nodded and looked at Rosco, the Dukes and the two law officers. "They may be up to the top floor, or pretty close to it." She then looked at Rosco. "You got your radio. See if you can get Brian."

Rosco removed his radio and switched the channel. "Blackbird, this is Bear. Blackbird, this is Bear, can you hear me??"

The sound of the radio squawking in his jacket pocket made Brian jump.  He had just made it to the last juncture of the stairwell, the top floor just a few steps away.  Tyler's men had retreated ahead of the Syndicate and disappeared from the stairs. What lay behind the last door, Brian could only guess.  He had kept moving on pure adrenaline and fury, but he paused now to retrieve the radio, hoping his mind wasn't playing tricks on him.

He took a breath and tried to steady his voice. Fighting up several flights of stairs, and bleeding over most of them, had taken a price. His words came out in heaving gasps.  " Bear...that you?"

Rosco and MaryAnne looked at each other. Something wasn't quite right. "Yeah, Brian it's me. Listen, we're in the stairwell. Where the hell are you?? What's going on??"

"Near...the top...last door," Brian breathed out. "You...MaryAnne...them damn Dukes...y'all okay?"

MaryAnne started moving up the stairs with everyone following. "So far," Rosco replied. "What about you? You all right??"

"Need a new jacket...other than that...I'm fine," Brian radioed back, fishing for humor that he couldn't quite muster. He took another breath and put some force behind the words he said next.  "Bear...listen to me...don't follow us! Get everybody out."

"Like hell he's fine..." MaryAnne muttered. She had heard enough wounded cops over the radio in her time to know the sound of struggling breath.

Rosco suddenly reached out and grabbed MaryAnne's arm, stopping her. In the middle of the stairway the conversation continued. "What do you mean don't follow?" he said. "Blackbird, I got back up!"

It took a minute for Brian to answer.  When the radio sputtered again, the sound of a door being broken down was booming over it.  "Tyler might have'd better cover...the escape routes. We're at the top...goin' in....wish me luck...Blackbird out."

"Brian! Brian wait!"

The frantic call wasn't answered.  Brian turned off the radio, and put it back inside his jacket.  He looked at Rusty, Ace, Tony, and the remnants of the Syndicate who were as bloodied and grim as he was. Including Brian, there were six of them standing here…

Tyler's men were uncounted.

"Awright..." Brian said to them as they stood on either side of the broken door that Tony had kicked open. The top floor was open to them.  " the run point. Shoot...and don't stop...mow down anythin' in front of us...."  

Brian looked at Tony and the remaining men.  "The rest of ya...cover our guns when you run out of ammo..."

Rusty spoke up.  "You're not going after Tyler in your condition, Brian. You won't make it."

"That's exactly...why I'm gonna go at 'em first. While I got fight left…if I don't get 'em...then it's you, Rusty...then Ace...till we've either nailed 'em...or flushed 'em out."

Brian cut off any further protests with a glare.  "Let's!"

The Syndicate lept out into the main corridor of the top floor, guns at ready. The hall was empty.

"Goddammit...I hate traps...." Brian swore.  "Keep moving...."

They made it down the hall unchallenged.  Only the slow-turning office cameras followed their movements.

"Tyler's boys might of cut and run," Ace suggested.  "Maybe Tyler himself already cut outta here."

Brian eyed a camera that swung to focus on them as they rounded a corner.  "No...he's here...they're all here..."

Rusty took aim at a camera.  Brian shook his head. "Save the ammo...."

Another minute spent in eerie silence passed before they found the double oak doors to Tyler’s office, embossed with the gold lettering of Tyler, Inc.

Twin cameras were mounted at the perimeter of the doors.  Brian could feel Tyler's eyes behind them.

"It's now or never," Brian whispered.  "Time to go say hello...y'all stay out here...and wait your turn."

The Syndicate fell back and to the sides, taking assault positions by the doors.  Anyone coming out of the office would be subject to their fire...just as Brian was subject to whatever lay on the other side.

He took a moment to gather his reserves.  He felt lightheaded, weak.  He wondered if he'd make it to Tyler, only to drop dead at his feet.  Kheehaaa. Splat.

With nothing more than a loaded pistol, Brian walked up to the doors, and shoved them open. He stepped through, unmolested. 

There was a quiet, echoing ding suddenly chiming from the elevators in the center of the top floor. Tyler’s men, who had retreated up the stairwell from the Syndicate’s advance, had hidden themselves in the elevators.

Rusty motioned to Ace, who nodded coolly.  They were about to be attacked from behind.  Tyler's men had waited in the elevators. The gunfire, when it inevitably erupted, was sustained and intense.

Inside Tyler's office, Brian heard the gunfire, and immediately spun around to go back through the doors and help the Syndicate.

The doors wouldn't open.  

It was then he heard the laughter, mocking and cynical.

Frankie Tyler stood behind Brian with a gun in the young Don's back.  He had stepped out from hiding the moment Brian had turned to help his friends. "One Coltrane down," Tyler said with smooth-voiced menace.  "One down, and two to go...."   

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

"Brian!--Goddammit..." Rosco gave up and shoved the radio into his pocket. He looked at MaryAnne, who was already busy brainstorming something.

"C'mon..." she said quietly, waving for everyone to follow her. They stopped at the landing of the stairwell just below the top floor. She looked at Rosco. "You stay here with the officer and the agent. Bo, Luke, come with me."

"Where you goin'??" Rosco asked.

"Just gonna do a lil' scoutin'. We'll be right back. C'mon fellas..."

Bo and Luke followed MaryAnne up to the top floor. The gunfire had suddenly erupted just as they found the busted door. MaryAnne looked into the main corridor, which was empty.  The gunfire was clearly coming from down the hall and around the corner. She guessed Tyler's office was in that direction.

"MaryAnne..." Luke tapped on her shoulder and then pointed. The cameras were still pointed towards the direction that the Syndicate had traveled. MaryAnne peered around the doorframe just enough to see if any other cameras were pointing in that direction, and if the stairwell door was in view of that camera.

There was one camera...and it was pointing in the same direction as the rest, away from them.

"Awright..." MaryAnne said, "Tyler's got eyes...let's see if he's payin' attention..." She leaned on the railing and looked down at Rosco, waving for him to come up. She quickly explained to him, the agent and the officer what the plan was. It had no guarantee of working, but it was better than hanging around in the stairwell. The officer handed his radio to MaryAnne.

"Captain Briggs??" she called.

A heartbeat passed before Briggs answered. "Go ahead, MaryAnne."

"Keep all the exits blocked. The warehouse, the parking garage, the office building. We're on the top floor. Tyler, I'm sure, is still here; Brian and all just went into who-knows-what. We're goin' in too. If Tyler gets through all of us, then it's gonna be up to you and the Commander to stop him."

Briggs paused. "Affirmative, MaryAnne."

"10-4." She handed the radio back to the officer and looked at Rosco. "Ready?"

He nodded. Everyone then stepped into the hallway, looking around in all directions, weapons at the ready. MaryAnne marched up to the one camera that was facing all of them and waved to it.   

"Hey ya son of a bitch, how are ya?" She then lifted the butt end of her rifle and proceeded to knock the camera off it's ceiling-suspended pedestal. There was a chance that Tyler may have missed the short scene on his monitor. 

Rosco followed suit by hitting the next one down the hall. Then the next one...all before the cameras had a chance to turn to see them in the hallway.

Bo and Luke crept up to the wall where the corner turned, and ventured a view to the shootout.   Tyler's men were shooting from the elevators, while what was left of the Syndicate was trying to get back on the offensive, firing from behind a sole desk and one chair.

Sharp arrows were readied. Bo and Luke crouched down and slowly snuck down the hall, keeping close to the wall as they came up on the elevators. The Syndicate kept up their volley, forcing the attention of Tyler's men.

The Dukes came up as close as they could to the elevator doors. A gun barrel would point out occasionally, trade fire with the Syndicate, then duck back in. The boys timed their next move. Gun barrels came out...then disappeared back in, and with that, the boys moved.

Luke suddenly swung around the corner, aiming into the left hand side of the elevator. Bo aimed into the right and their arrows were released. Two of Tyler's men went down, screaming, wounded, but not dead. There were at least two more of Tyler’s thugs in the elevator.

Bo dove to the wall between the elevators. He grabbed another arrow and quickly readied it, while Luke did the same on the other side. MaryAnne stepped up by Luke when another gun barrell poked out of the elevator. She knocked it up with her rifle, forcing the gun out of the shooter's grip. In a blink of an eye, the thug saw her standing in the hallway, and then there nothing but the flash of fire from her rifle.  He too, fell wounded.

His associate was about to turn his gun around at Bo when MaryAnne opened up. The last thug turned to watch his partner fall against the back of the elevator, a bullet to the shoulder…and then looked up himself at MaryAnne in time to receive equal treatment.  With a cry of pained surprise, he dropped his gun and fell.

The Syndicate caught glimpses of the action, the unexpected appearance of a Coltrane-Duke cavalry heartening them.  The game had been heavily in Tyler's favor from the beginning, but the last round was becoming an even match.

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

Fair play was the last thing Tyler had in mind.  From the security of his office, he had watched the show on his monitors, enjoying the Syndicate's hopeless predicament with a thin, cruel smile.  

Tyler enjoyed watching Brian's reactions, too.  Held at gunpoint, Brian had been forced to witness the slow closing of the final trap on what remained of his troops.

They would run out of ammo and die.  It was a matter of time...and not much of it.

Brian's dark eyes rose once from the monitors, stared at Tyler, and found no humanity in the compassionless face.  "You don't have to do this," Brian said to him.  "You've got it all..."

"You're wrong," Tyler chuckled.  "I don’t have it all. There's just one more thing I want...the death of MaryAnne Coltrane. Along with the rest of you, for that matter.”

Tyler tapped the barrel of his gun against the knife handle, the blade still embedded in Brian's upper body. Brian winced, gritted his teeth, and made no sound. Like an arrow wound, the flesh had closed around it.

Tyler grinned cruelly and taunted his victim. “You could have had it all, Brian...except you were too young, too foolish...and soon you'll be too dead. I only hope you last long enough for MaryAnne to see it."

The name was an invocation. As Tyler spoke, a monitor hissed with static, blipped, and went black. Another one flickered and did the same thing.

Tyler had seen the barest glimpse of something just image of a young woman, waving at him right before the monitor died.

More monitors winked and went out in succession. Tyler slammed his fist against the security monitors, but it did no good.

Brian looked at the Big Man again, and saw the stirrings of fear within Frankie Tyler.  It was Brian's turn to smile.  "You'"

Tyler didn't answer.  He was watching his men come under attack near the elevators.  The last of the working cameras caught it all.   

No matter. It was almost time to play the final trump.  With his gun, he gestured Brian away from the monitors. The young fool was starting to gain hope.  

Tyler hit a button on the security station panel.  A small service elevator rose from the sub-street level of the parking garage up to the top floor of Tyler's office, with no stops in between.  Brian hadn't had an opportunity to notice the private elevator chute until now.  It was positioned at the far wall, plain and unadorned, easy to miss in Tyler's grand office.  

There was a small, chiming ding as the elevator reached the top floor and waited.  The door did not open yet. It waited.

Tyler stood near it and waited as well, the anticipation of the kill replacing his earlier trepidation.  He took position in front of the elevator, his own back to it, while he faced the office doors.  He continued holding Brian at gunpoint in front of him. “Don’t move an inch,” was Tyler’s hissed command.

As the gunfire outside the office continued to echo and sputter, Brian and Frankie Tyler kept their eyes to the office doors.  Each man waited for the doors to open, each hoping to see MaryAnne and her companions...

Each for a vastly different reason.         

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

There was a final pocket of Tyler’s gunmen for MaryAnne’s force to put down.  The pause in gunfire was brief, just enough to for another elevator door in the main corridor to open.  But the Dukes were ready.  As the elevator doors drew open, Bo and Luke lunged ahead, took aim, fired, this time at opposite corners within the elevator. The arrows crossed paths simultaneously, cries of sharp pain announcing that the barbs had scored home.

This repeat performance from the Dukes secured momentary victory. Rosco walked forward, jabbed the ‘down’ button for one elevator while Luke did the honors for the other. Everyone stood back to watch the doors close. The elevators sank down to the first floor, carrying wounded cargo for the cops and Feds to receive.

But there was no time to waste. MaryAnne strode towards the group of black-clad thugs that had bunkered near Tyler’s office. She spotted the two cameras near the office doors and proceeded to savagely knock them out. She then quickly turned to the remaining members of the Syndicate.

"Brian's in there??" She pointed towards the door.

"Yeah," Rusty answered.  "Never heard a shot fired in there, but with all the noise, I can't say what might have happened. He was gonna take care of Tyler..." 

MaryAnne nodded and looked at the door in thought. Tyler had wanted to take care of all of them. And if he was desperate or crazy enough, he may very well be hanging around waiting for them to come in.

Hell, he had been waiting this long...


Chapter Fourteen