Chapter Fourteen

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

While MaryAnne, Rosco and company were securing the hallway, Lt. Nevins of the Atlanta P.D. was in the underground parking garage.  He watched as a single white bulb lit up, then went out, on a box next to what looked like a service elevator. The heavy set officer walked over to it, looking at the closed door, taking note of the switch box near the light. He leaned to the door, listening, and then looked over to his other officers.

"Preston!" He waved for the officer to come see.

"Yes sir?"

Nevins jerked a thumb to the elevator. "What do you make of this?"

"Looks like a service elevator, sir."

Nevins nodded and pointed. "This light lit up for a moment."

"It was probably moving, either passing the floor. Or it lights up whenever the compartment's in motion."

Nevins nodded. "Meaning Tyler might try to use it to escape...." The severely balding officer paused in thought, looking up in the direction the elevator shaft would be. "Or he's got more tricks he's going to try to pull." He let his gaze drop. "And those damn Coltranes are up on the top floor." He looked at the fellow cop. "You're pretty handy with this kind of stuff. Think you can override this thing for us?"

The young cop gave a nod. "I can give it a shot."

"Go to it."

The officer hastily walked away, went to his cruiser and returned with a few tools. Another officer joined in the operation. In less than a minute, the face plate was removed from the elevator switch box. The officers then went to work on manually opening the door, while Lt. Nevins spoke into his radio to Commander Briggs.

Officer Preston and his partner pulled with everything they had to get the door of the service elevator open. When they finally had it, they shined their flashlights in to the empty shaft, noting the cables and wires. They then both looked in and up, figuring for sure the compartment was up at the top floor.

"It's gonna be a looong way down..." Preston said.

Lt. Nevins looked in the empty shaft and then at his two officers. "Get the sonofabitch down here."

"Yes sir..."

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

MaryAnne looked at Rusty. "I want you, Ace, Bo and Luke to check the other offices on either side here. See if any of them have a door that might connect to this one." She pointed to the door of Tyler's office. "Be quick but be cautious. We've seen already enough of Tyler's dirty tricks."

"Okay, Miss Coltrane."  The red-haired thug didn't question the orders.  Any remaining chance of getting Tyler rode on Coltrane luck, and he knew it.  The four men quickly disbursed through the corridors, keeping close to the walls.

MaryAnne then turned to the accompanying FBI agent, the officer and Rosco. She looked at the Fed.

"You got your warrants?"

"Yes ma'am." He pulled them out of his jacket pocket to display.

"Awright. There's no tellin' what's behind that door. Tyler may be holding Brian just long enough for me and Rosco to get in there and then he finishes us all off." She took a breath. "If something like that happens it's gonna be up to you two and the Dukes and the other gentlemen there to make sure them damn things are at least served, ya understand?"


She nodded. "Awright...Rosco--"

Suddenly MaryAnne's radio crackled. "Briggs to MaryAnne."

She lifted the radio. "Go ahead."

"We've discovered a service elevator that apparently was in motion just a moment ago. We don't know what floor it stopped on, but we're guessin' it's the one you're on. We have no idea what, if anything, is inside. But we're figuring Tyler may try to use that to escape. The best we can do is attempt to disable it from here."

"Affirmative, Captain. Thanks for the tip."  MaryAnne pocketed the radio and looked at the three lawmen. "Y'all catch that?"

They nodded.

"All right..." she motioned for the Fed and the cop to stand on one side of the door, while she and Rosco stood on the other. She nodded to the Fed.

The Fed raised his hand and knocked loudly on the door. "Mr. Tyler, this is the FBI! We have warrants for your arrest and to search the premises! You are advised to comply!"

Inside the office, Brian gave thought to yelling a warning. A prod from Tyler's gun in his back kept him from voicing it.

"Not a sound from you," Tyler said behind Brian.  "Not a sound..."  

The Big Man's unnatural calm was that of a man on the brink of complete victory...or insanity.  Brian shut his eyes in an eleventh-hour prayer.

The Fed knocked again and repeated his reason for being there.


"Hey Frankie, c'mon! I know yer in there big guy! Don't ya wanna see old friends again??" MaryAnne shouted.

"RUN, MARYAN -"  It was Brian's voice through the door, abruptly cut off. 

MaryAnne stiffened, but Brian's clipped warning was confirmation enough. They're in there...

She quickly looked towards the corridors, wondering where the hell Rusty and the boys were.

Brian's voice had been heard by more than MaryAnne.  The sound of it had brought Rusty, Ace, and the Dukes hurrying back towards the rest of the group.  Luke spoke up first.

"This place is like a rat maze," Luke whispered in frustration.  "It'd take three days for us to figure it out! Near as I can tell, though, Tyler's office runs almost half the length of this floor.  Some of the office doors up here don't even have hinges, they were never meant to open."

"But this one's real,"  Rusty said lowly.  "It seems like the only way in and out of Tyler's office."  He shook his head in bewilderment.  "It's not like the Big Man to corner himself."

"He doesn't realize he's cornered himself," MaryAnne said. "They noticed downstairs a service elevator moving earlier. I'm willing to bet that compartment is sitting on this floor and behind this door right now. They're working on disabling it...Tyler ain't goin' anywhere."

She looked at the door and knocked on it again. "Ya know runnin' ain't half a bad idea. Whattya say Frankie?? Why don't you come on out and give yerself up? Yer done, man..."

Tyler's voice, sounding smooth, calm and unperturbed, came through the door.  "You may be right, MaryAnne.  Come in, and we'll negotiate."

MaryAnne chuckled. "What's wrong with out here in the hall?"

"I prefer my office,"  Tyler said reasonably.  "However, if you haven't the nerve to face me, then send in another one of your cousins.  I'd enjoy seeing Rosco again, one last time."

"Is Brian in there with you?"

"Not for much longer, I'm afraid.  It seems he and Rico had a slight disagreement."

"Yeah, I guessed as much..." She looked at Rosco, silently asking the question. Do we go in?

His look replied in question. Do we have much choice now?

MaryAnne looked at the others. Their looks were all saying the same thing. Don't go in there...

Even Rosco seemed torn by the options. Go in...stay out. Let Tyler finish Brian...let Tyler finish all three of them.

"Brian's in there..." MaryAnne said softly and looked up at Rosco. "Tyler wants all three of us. Why don't we go in there and give him one hell of a fight?"

"MaryAnne--" Luke started to say and was quickly silenced with a look from the young deputy.

"It ends here, Luke," she said simply. "We're out of time, we're out of options..." She paused, a slow grin coming to her face. "Besides, I'll be damned if Brian's gonna die in there without hearing one more smart-mouth comment from me..." She looked to Rosco, who smiled despite the situation.

"I'm gunna die in a blaze of glory, is that it?" Rosco said.

"Not as long as the boys here are right by the door," she said and looked to each of them, knowing she had their commitment long before this moment anyway. She looked at Rosco and nodded towards the door. He nodded back.

MaryAnne reached in for her radio and handed it to Luke. She then grabbed the door handle and turned it, pushing the door open.

She peered around the door and into the Frankie's office. "Hey Big Man, long time no see huh?" Rosco was still obscured by the door.

"Do come in, MaryAnne.  You and Rosco both," Tyler said cordially.  He stood near the back wall of his office, near his desk and his back to the door to the service elevator.  Brian, still at gunpoint, was standing slightly in front of him and to the side, giving MaryAnne a look that clearly said get the hell outta here.

MaryAnne ignored her cousin's cautious expression. She smiled at Tyler. "Wow, this is quite a spread you got here..." She slowly stepped into the office. "Tho', not quite as fancy as what ya had a few years back..."

Rosco now peered in around the door, and noted where Tyler and Brian were standing. It was clear the standoff was already in progress.

Tyler smiled indulgently at MaryAnne, then waved Rosco in.  "Join us, Sheriff."  It was an invitation not to be refused.  "Shut the door behind you. No one else follows."

Out of the corner of his eye, Rosco saw Bo and Luke move up towards the door. They would stand guard, bust in if they had too. The Sheriff took another step into the office, leaving the security of the door. Luke quickly pulled his knife out of the pouch on his belt, pulled it open and held the blade over the door latch, allowing the door to close, but not the latch to click into place with the other door. He held the handle on the door to keep it from drifting open, and he and Bo listened, with the lawmen and Syndicate huddled around.

Rosco looked around the office and stood near MaryAnne, protectively flanking her.

Frankie Tyler smiled coldly.  "I presume that both of you are armed. Remove your weapons and put them on my desk.  Move slowly.  If either of you make a wrong move, then Brian will die ahead of schedule."

Brian, looking as if he'd already lost enough blood to die where he stood, gave MaryAnne and Rosco an imperceptible shake of his head. His dark, pained eyes spoke warning to his cousins. Don't listen to him...

It was a little hard to hide hunting rifles. MaryAnne drew hers out from behind her back, showed it in plain view for Tyler to see. If Brian wasn't so close, and if Tyler didn't have a gun to her cousin's back, the rifle would have been put to use. Instead this card had to be turned in for something different from the dealer.

She never looked at Brian, and just held her gaze with Tyler's, his eyes simmering with something of a cross between gloating...and lunacy. The rifle rested on his desk.

Rosco, however, wasn't so giving. He held the rifle out, but made no haste in placing it out of his hands.

"Set it down," Tyler ordered.  "Slow and easy."

"Sure...if you put yours down as well..." The rifle remained in Rosco's grip and the look in his steel blue eyes reinforced his decision to hang on to the weapon.

"Out of the question, Sheriff.  Apparently the thought of sacrificing one of your cousins doesn't disturb you.  Very well, then..."

Tyler moved slightly, so that he was shielded entirely by Brian.  He prodded the young man’s back with the gun, turning him to face Rosco directly.  Tyler spoke again, with the same, irrational calm.  "There, Sheriff.  Take your shot.  You can still get me at this range, but unfortunately the bullet must pass through Brian first.  Then again, it might simply lodge in his body and allow me to shoot both of you in response.  Nasty problem..."

"Yeah it is," Rosco replied, but showed no disappointment or air of defeat. "Of course, we can stand here all night, Brian there will eventually pass out leavin' you wide open. Then I guess we either shoot each other down, or you can try to hit MaryAnne and I take you out...when ya come right down to it, yer only gonna nail one of us before we get you."

"You've lost, Frankie," MaryAnne said, as she was hit with a sudden urge to action. "Sorry pal...the game's over..." As she finished her sentence, MaryAnne grabbed the gold-plated, marble paperweight off Frankie's desk and heaved it at his head, then took a flying lunge over his desk to attack him. The paperweight hit Tyler in the face and MaryAnne grabbed his arm, managing to force the gun away from Brian's back just as it discharged. The bullet missed Brian's body, but ripped through the side of his jacket, going off into the office. MaryAnne had all she could do to knock the Big Man to the floor.

It was the riskiest goddamn thing MaryAnne had ever done, but the standoff had angered her, the urge to finish everything took over…and the concern for her own life was replaced with absolute, all-out lust for revenge.

She ignored the warning pains from her still healing-wounds, and fought with all she had to knock the gun out of Frankie's grip. She had no idea where Brian was, where Rosco was. She only concentrated on finishing the job that should have been finished when she was a rookie cop. She slammed Tyler’s hand against the floor a few times, disrupting any future attempt at using the weapon. But Frankie Tyler was a good 150 pounds heavier than MaryAnne, and he used his girth to his advantage, pushing the young woman away from him.

Tyler’s hand hurt like hell and holding the gun was useless. But he would finish matter what, no matter how.

Rosco hadn't figured on MaryAnne pulling a stunt like she had. He reacted when he saw his cousin diving over the desk and suddenly had the urge to seek some kind of shelter. His instinct proved right, not that it did him any good. The bullet that missed Brian by inches, knocked Rosco to the floor.

Rosco rolled hard on to his side, fighting the burning pain he felt there, ignoring the instinct to see where the bullet had taken him.  There were bigger things at stake. There was a violent struggle going on behind the desk between MaryAnne and Tyler. Rosco then spared a quick glance at Brian; his cousin was still standing, but there was movement behind him, the opening of the service elevator doors…

The hiss of the opening elevator suddenly had Brian's attention.  He had just turned to try and help MaryAnne, when the service elevator gaped open to reveal Frankie Tyler's remaining cards.

Ketterhagen, along with two of the lesser-wounded of Tyler's gang, stood in the elevator with automatic weapons. They saw Rosco looking helpless on the floor, Brian standing unsteadily with his own injuries, and MaryAnne grappling madly with their boss.   

Ketterhagen leveled his automatic rifle at MaryAnne, while his fellow henchmen raised their guns towards Brian and Rosco.  There was no time to think, only to react.  

Brian used the one weapon he had remaining, that being the knife trapped in his body.  He clenched his teeth and yanked the knife free with a savage pull of his right hand, and threw the blade overhand with all his might. 

It landed squarely in Ketterhagen's chest.  Brian saw his enemy sag, slumping over to fall.

The loss of his own blood, streaming freely from the reopened wound, prevented Brian from seeing anything else.  His legs collapsed out from underneath him, and he fell heavily to the floor. 

Outside the office, Bo and Luke were suddenly being pushed into the office by Rusty and Ace. The sight that greeted them offered them no time to think. Rosco and Brian were on the floor, the service elevator was wide open with two of Frankie's men standing with their guns aimed now at the commotion going on behind the desk. The Duke boys, the Syndicate boys, and the two accompanying lawmen, quickly took cover and took aim.

Rosco managed to get to his knees and held on to his rifle. He saw Brian down.  The Sheriff grimly lifted the rifle to bear.

One of the thugs in the service elevator looked over at the Sheriff, and upon seeing that Rosco was offering threat, took aim at him.

The rifle seemed heavier now, but Rosco tried to pull it into position as fast as he could. He didn't need it though. One of the Duke boys reddish-orange colored arrows suddenly flew over the desk, impaling itself into the man's arm, sending him reeling back into the compartment of the elevator.

The last remaining of Tyler's three aces realized he was in a lot of trouble. Ketterhagen was down. His partner was down. But MaryAnne was right there...

She was on her knees, struggling with Tyler to keep his big hands away from her neck. She hit, she slapped, she did whatever she could to stay on the offensive, oblivious to the gun pointing at her from the service elevator.

Tyler’s thug started to take aim, his finger rested on the trigger. He had her clean in his sights.

Rusty took aim this time and was about to pop off a shot when the service elevator started to move. Tyler’s last gunman looked at Rusty in wide-eyed surprise as the floor of the elevator dropped beneath him briefly…and when the rest of him caught up to the sudden jolt, he realized the entire compartment was falling fast.

Tyler heard the horrific scream as the elevator plummeted. He turned his head briefly, and even MaryAnne stopped to look. She then reached for her semi-automatic weapon from her back waistband and pistol-whipped Tyler on the side of the head.

The Big Man didn't quite go down for the count. The hit stunned him but didn't stop him. He turned back to MaryAnne and started to grab for her. MaryAnne lifted the gun in her hand and pulled the trigger, unable to think of anything else to do in the immediate threat of the situation. 

Tyler stopped this time, the expensive white shirt he wore soaking up the red that seeped from his wound. He looked at her, his cold eyes never changing. He clutched at the wound and tried to claw at her gun with his other hand. MaryAnne pulled it away and scrambled back as Tyler fell face down to the floor, staining the expensive carpet.

MaryAnne stood up, stumbling backwards as she realized what she had done. The gun dropped from her hand and she kept stepping backwards, bringing a hand to her face and covering her mouth. She stopped when she backed into somebody.

She gasped and swung around to face Rusty. She looked at the red-headed thug, her eyes wild with shock, her limbs shaking. MaryAnne had been in all kinds of scary situations before...but never had she shot someone at close range.

Rusty put his hands on her arms to steady her.  "You got him," he said quietly.  "It's over."

It's all over... MaryAnne couldn't find her voice and she still shook. She dropped her gaze from Rusty and looked over at Rosco, who was still conscious and struggling to rise, against better judgment. But he was clearly hurt.

Bo was attempting to tend to the wounded Sheriff, who had no concern for his own injuries at the moment.

Luke was a few feet away, pressing a torn, bundled cloth into Brian, attempting to stop the bleeding knife wound.

Rosco's blue eyes found MaryAnne’s and he looked at his cousin with gentleness. She had done what she had to do. "MaryAnne..." he said in a labored breath, finally letting go of his rifle. He held his hand out to her.

Without a word, she walked towards Rosco and kneeled down, giving him a hug, careful of the wound that saturated his side. "It's awright,'s awright," he repeated softly, hearing her start to sob.

She cried a moment, then looked over to Brian. She left Rosco momentarily, and crawled over to her fallen cousin. Both of them hurt…both of them…

Luke looked at MaryAnne, seeing the silent question in her tear-rimmed eyes. "I think he'll make it MaryAnne," Luke said, "if we hurry up and git him and Rosco outta here."

MaryAnne nodded and pointed to the radio Luke had clipped to his belt. The elder Duke cousin put the call in to the law officers that were down stairs.

It was quickly answered.  By this time, the police and Federal agents were no longer concealing themselves. Frankie's troops, for the most part, had either been wounded beyond resistance, or had surrendered, or had died...though a few resourceful criminals inevitably snuck out of the chaos to make an escape.  The latter group, not representing Tyler's most loyal stock, fled the scene.

The light of dawn slowly touched the glass windows of Tyler's office building.  The night's battle was giving way to a day's carnage, and every ambulance in Atlanta had found itself called to duty.  Frank Mayson and Roger Kelley directed emergency personnel to the most critically wounded, without prejudice.  When Luke's call for a paramedic crackled through the radio, Mayson heard it, and heard the details about the wounded on the top floor of the office building.  The names of two of the wounded were no surprise to him…Coltrane.

He made sure that the call was responded to.  Especially since the early casualty reports were listing Frankie Tyler among the dead.  The Big Man had probably tried to take a few people with him.  Mayson thought of his choice for this assignment, MaryAnne Coltrane, and remembered his words of advice to her at the beginning.  Something about great personal cost…

He hoped that she hadn't paid too dearly in the pursuit of her duty.

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

MaryAnne was wondering that herself as she watched the organized commotion in Tyler’s office. She sat alone on the black leather couch, watching the paramedics as they tended to Brian and Rosco, applying dressings to wounds and preparing IV's for the trip to the hospital.  When asked if she required of any medical attention, she simply shook her head, no.

"Just help them," she had said, her voice thick, her eyes ignoring the scene over behind the desk and instead focusing on a point on the carpet between where Brian and Rosco were.

Somewhere in the shock of what she had just done, was the expected concern for her kin. Anger, however, was knocking at the door. She had told them not to come to Atlanta, she had told them not to follow, she had told them not to get involved.

Goddamn stubborn, bullheaded...

She sighed heavily. You're pretty bullheaded sometimes too... a voice reminded her.

She didn't need to be reminded. She knew. She also knew that things could have turned out worse...they could have all died tonight, or one of them could have died...or two of the three.

You're pretty bullheaded sometimes were gonna finish were gonna bring him down. Well, ya did and look what it nearly cost you...

 MaryAnne propped her elbow on the arm rest of the couch and covered her hand over her face. She couldn't even cry. She felt sick, exhausted...maybe even relieved but that was hard to tell with all the other stuff swirling around.

I told them not to follow me...

But even as she thought of that, she realized that it could have been her they were pulling the white sheet over...instead of Frankie Tyler. What would Rosco and Brian have had to say about that, had they been back in Hazzard, and the telephone ringing early in the morning with the news...

MaryAnne closed her eyes, pushing the thought away. It wouldn't have settled well with them at all, she knew. That's why they had followed her to Atlanta in the first place.

"...yeah we're gonna move him..." MaryAnne looked up, seeing the paramedics getting Brian ready to be moved first. She slowly stood up and walked over to them.

"He gonna be all right?" she asked.

"He's lost a lot of blood," the paramedic answered.  "But he's hanging in there. As long as there's not internal hemorrhaging, he should make it alright."

MaryAnne nodded. "Thank you." She stepped back to let the paramedic back to his work and to allow room for Brian to be carried out. They lifted the young Don and headed to the door. The gold ring, she couldn’t help but notice on his hand, was stained in blood.

She turned away, and saw the paramedics were already picking Rosco up to be carried out next. The Sheriff's eyes were still open, but MaryAnne could see that whatever they had flowing into the IV had Rosco very relaxed. He did manage to look at her, giving enough of a grin to show he was okay otherwise.

MaryAnne returned the expression and the urge to cry was there…but the tears wouldn't come.

Somebody put his arm around her shoulders. MaryAnne turned to see Luke, with Bo beside him. "It's gonna be all right, MaryAnne," he said. "They'll be all right."

MaryAnne nodded. Am I gonna be all right? she wondered.

"Watch out..." Bo said softly, prompting MaryAnne and Luke to move. Frankie Tyler, along with Ketterhagen and one of the other men that had been in the elevator, were now being removed from the office. MaryAnne stared at the white sheet-covered form of Tyler’s body as it passed.

"I ain't never killed nobody in my life..." she said.

Luke heard the inner turmoil in her voice and even identified with it. He had heard it before and had counseled a few soldiers after battle, finding it was never an easy task. Even when the situation was MaryAnne had just been through.  "He was gonna kill you," he reminded her. "He'd wanted to for years, MaryAnne. But you beat him..." Luke glanced at the procession. "Unfortunately, it as the only way you could..."

"I know...all my training, all my kill somebody as the absolute last resort..."

Luke turned her to face him. "MaryAnne, this was his game and you had to play by his rules, even tho' I know you didn't want to.  Tyler didn't give a damn about your years as a cop. To him, you were the enemy and he wanted to destroy you, along with Rosco and Brian and even our cousin Daisy, just because she had been mistaken for you. You had way too much at stake to be honest, you had more at stake than he did."

"That's right," Bo agreed. "The only law guys like him know is the open end of a gun..."

"Don't mourn it, MaryAnne," Luke continued. "You've probably saved far more people than you've hurt."

"And ya ain't hurt nobody."

"Just my kin," she said, looking each of the boys in the eye. "I hurt them."

Bo and Luke exchanged an uneasy glance. They’d seen what Rosco and Brian had been going through in Hazzard, long before the trip to Atlanta and the ensuing battles. "Uh…well, you didn’t hurt ‘em physically," Bo said, fishing for something to say, and then realizing he should have kept his mouth shut.

"You don't call being stabbed and shot, physically hurt?" She dropped her gaze a moment. "I told them not to come here."

"Their comin' here was their choice," Luke said. "Me and Bo came here because we wanted to. We wanted to help you because we knew Daisy's life was at stake too, along with all you Coltranes. Brian and Rosco came here because your life was at stake. They didn't want to see anything happen to you without them saying something about it first!"

"Is it so terrible that they care about you?" Bo asked.

"After what I've put them through?! It could be--"

Another voice spoke up. “MaryAnne?"  The discussion came to a sudden halt when Commander Mayson interrupted. MaryAnne looked at him and attempted to maintain her cop demeanor.

"Yes sir?"

"The area is secure," he told MaryAnne.  "We're doing a final sweep of the building, but it sounds like your mission was a success."  He smiled at her, wearily.

MaryAnne gave a nod. "That's good to hear, sir. Thank you." Her voice was about as weary as his smile.

In the back of the room, Rusty, Ace, Tony, and a couple of their wounded comrades were eying Mayson with wariness. The sight of the earlier cop and the agent with MaryAnne hadn't upset them, as they were too glad for the assistance to wonder at it's source.  But now, as Federal agents and cops seemed to be crawling out of every wall, the standing Syndicate was at a loss.

For lack of anything else, they gathered quietly behind MaryAnne. She was still one of them.

Mayson paid them no heed.  He was more concerned about his agent.  MaryAnne was standing tall and had her usual, professional stance, but her eyes looked dull, lifeless.  "Are you alright, Agent Coltrane? I heard the casualty reports..."

MaryAnne swallowed and gave a half-hearted nod. "I'll be alright, Commander..."

Mayson saw the film of moisture over her eyes.  She was too good of an officer to let her emotion overwhelm her. There were many kinds of courage, and Mayson had witnessed them all in MaryAnne.

He needed her courage for a little while longer.  He cleared his throat and acknowledged her shadows, taking in both the Dukes and the Syndicate with a glance.  "Agent Coltrane, there's a few...details...that will need to be covered in your report.  I was hoping to give you a chance to catch your breath, but the D.A. himself is going to be looking to talk to you.  If you're not up to it right now, I can stall him."

MaryAnne had started to nod and then suddenly looked at Mayson, her eyes more alive than at any other point. "Right now? You mean...right now?? He wants to talk to me tonight??"

Mayson dropped his voice.  "It’s now ‘this morning’, actually…but yes, he's on the premises. Once he caught wind of the police dispatches, ambulance requests and the call for the city coroner, wild horses couldn't keep him away.  I'm afraid that he heard the name "Coltrane" and drew some early conclusions.  You know how popular your family is with him." 

MaryAnne bristled. "Thanks for reminding me."

MaryAnne wasn't the only one bristling.  Behind her, the Syndicate had been getting the whole earful.  Hearing things like Agent Coltrane had given them the big picture, and seeing the Commander of the Atlanta Bureau blocking their exit was bad enough.  But knowing that the D.A. would soon see their faces directly was cause for panic.  There was a slow, hesitant reaching for weapons.

Rusty moved forward and faced MaryAnne.  "Agent Coltrane..." he sounded heartbroken.

"Hold on, Rusty it ain't like ya think. Y'all ain't gonna be in any trouble with the DA y'all are working for the FBI at the moment..."

Rusty looked quickly from MaryAnne to Mayson, who didn't seem to dispute this tidbit of alarming news.  He was just about to give his unedited opinion of the FBI when Agent Kelley rushed in.

"Commander, sir! The D.A. is on his way up, thought you'd want to know."

Mayson sighed.  "Thank you, Kelley."  He looked over towards the Syndicate. "I don't think I need to tell you boys to be on your absolute best behavior..."

There was a quick shaking of heads and a fast put-away of weapons.  Sensing a need for decorum, they fell back and let the Dukes and MaryAnne take the forefront.   Before anyone really felt ready for it, including Mayson, an elevator dinged from somewhere on the top floor.  The most effective prosecuting attorney in the entire South was on the scent of another career opportunity, and he marched into Tyler's office with his usual grim expression.

He stopped, took one long look around the damaged office with it's tell-tale stains on the carpet, then rested his hawkish glare on MaryAnne.  "Why am I not surprised to find a Coltrane standing in the middle of this?"

MaryAnne withheld her retort of It's a gift and maintained her professional cop mode. She met his glare with her own reserved one, and waited for the DA to ask her a question that expected more of an answer.

He gave her one. He was disappointed that Tyler wasn't able to stand trial and couldn't quite hide it.   "Do you understand what it means to use 'minimal force', Agent Coltrane?"

"Yes, I do, but Frankie Tyler didn't. We did everything we could, Councilor, to detain him within reasonable means but Mr. Tyler had absolutely no intention of being detained and arrested."

The D.A. looked her in the eye.  He knew it was the truth.

"I would have preferred methods that required less in the way of sheer destruction," he said with reduced antagonism. "Though with the cache of weapons I've seen in that warehouse, Frankie Tyler was capable of taking over a small country."

"It's my belief that he had every intention of using those weapons right here in Atlanta just to start, then probably the whole state for a warm up, and Lord knows what would have followed after that." She paused. "Sorry you couldn't fry him in court...but had he had his way...I probably wouldn't be talking to you right now."

The D.A. gave the wasted office another look.  "I believe you. However, I still require the basis for your reasoning to be detailed in your report."

"It will be."

"Good.  Then we'll..." The D.A. broke off his words, staring at the small group of thugs who where trying to look invisible behind the Dukes.  His thin face added more creases as he frowned.  "I thought this building was secure," he snapped.  "But here I find suspects at large!"

The D.A. waved at a couple of cops who were putting Frankie's gun in  an evidence bag.  "You officers, there! Arrest these men," he said, pointing behind the Dukes.

"Hold it, Councilor, you can't have these men arrested," MaryAnne said, holding her hand up. She shook her head to the cops, who stopped from proceeding to detain the remaining Syndicate. MaryAnne then looked at the D.A. "These men were working under Brian's command as the Syndicate Don. Brian was working as an agent under my command." Her expression invited dispute. "Technically...all were workin' for the FBI."

The D.A.'s face blanched, and his eyes widened as round as silver dollars.

The Syndicate let out a groan of utter disbelief. It was hard to tell who received MaryAnne's statement with the most distress.

The D.A.'s displeasure was made known in short order.  "Technically? Technically?"  He tried to articulate the rest of his thoughts but failed.  He was too busy processing MaryAnne's words, none of which belonged together. He finally spat them back out.  "Brian Coltrane, being the Syndicate Don and an agent under your command, with...with...”   

"These hoodlums!" he said with a bark at Rusty and the boys.  The Dukes stepped away, not wanting any part of the D.A's wrath.

"You mean those hoodlums," Bo said mildly, pointing at them.  He and Luke didn't look too different from the Syndicate since they were also dressed in black, and there was no sense taking chances with the D.A.'s mercies.  

The D.A, fuming, turned angrily to Commander Mayson, Roger Kelley, and MaryAnne.  "You recruited criminals? Can the standards of the Atlanta Bureau fall any lower?"

"We didn't recruit anybody," MaryAnne growled. "This buncha hoodlums and the FBI just happened to have the same objective. I can tell you right now, the city of Atlanta is better off having this rag tag bunch running amok than Frankie Tyler!" MaryAnne pointed to Rusty, et. all and then turned that same finger to the D.A.

"You understand what I'm sayin', Councilor? Would you rather have liquor, girls and gaming tables...or Frankie Tyler buying off every city councilman, deputy chief and anybody else he could get into his pocket? Tyler would have turned Atlanta into his own personal playground...hell, he probably would have tried to make you an offer you couldn't refuse, and if'n ya did refuse, he'd have removed you from the political landscape mighty quick." 

MaryAnne glanced at Commander Mayson and then back to the D.A. "You should be thanking the Commander here. You should be thanking them too!" She gestured back to Rusty. "But you can't say thank you can you? You're mad because you wanted to prosecute Tyler. You wanted your name and face on the front page of the paper, another feather in the cap of your career. Do you honestly think sending Tyler up would have really solved anything?? You really think jail bars would have stopped his reach?? Do ya??"

She looked at the few remaining Syndicate members. And it was just that. A few. MaryAnne knew she was losing her cool, and she really didn't care at this point. "Goddammit, I don't know what you're so upset about," she said, glaring back at the D.A. "Half their ranks got wiped out just trying to get up to this freakin' office! Or did you not happen to notice that every goddamn ambulance in this town is parked outside?? Whatever your problem with it is, get over it. Commander Mayson here's got it noted in the case file. I was undercover for the FBI and the Dukes here, along with Rosco and Brian, were acting as agents under my command. Yes, and all the Syndicate boys here fought pretty damn bravely against Tyler and his henchmen. That's the way it stands, Councilor. Sorry it's not packaged all pretty just for you."

The D.A. stared at MaryAnne with open disapproval.  He included Commander Mayson in his milk-curdling glare. "Your methods of justice are questionable," he said with restrained temper. "It pains me to admit that they worked to some degree.  But it pains me more that the City of Atlanta lost an opportunity today to eliminate organized crime as we know it."

With a final, meaningful glance at the Syndicate, the D.A. turned and marched for the exit.  "Have those reports sent to my office in twenty-four hours," he growled on his way out.  "Make them damn good."

MaryAnne's own glare remained intact even after the D.A. disappeared out the door. "Oh they will be, Councilor..." she muttered. After all she had been through, MaryAnne figured she had one more button left to be pushed before she snapped. But she held herself in check, gave Mayson a look that said, I really don't like that guy and then she looked at Rusty and the Syndicate.

She wasn't sure why it bothered her, but there she was, exposed as an undercover cop to them, and all she could think was that they were looking at her as some kind of traitor. Maybe they were...maybe they would always. Maybe they'd hate her forever. Maybe they'd never trust a Coltrane again...Maybe there would be more contracts with her name on it...

Maybe this whole damn thing will never end until I'm dead...

She once had a similar objective as the D.A.'s fondest wipe out organized crime completely. Hell, to wipe out crime completely...somewhere along the line it changed. She thought back to the conversation she had with the Commander before she returned to the Syndicate. You can't wipe it out completely...if we did, you and I would be out of a job...

And MaryAnne certainly liked her job...but how was it that she could care about those that were left of the Syndicate? Was it because they were a lesser of two evils? Was it because of the time she had spent with them, fighting with them in their battles, drinking their beer and socializing...was it because they accepted her and in her darkest hour, they were all she had to call friends?

There was a million things she wanted to say to them, but it all came out one way. "I'm sorry, fellas..."

Rusty looked back at MaryAnne without saying anything.  His expression was a cross between heartbreak and admiration, between respect and disappointment.  She wasn't who he thought she was.  She was both more...and less.

Rusty turned to Ace, and with a glance, held a silence conference with the blonde hitman. With Brian temporarily out of action, the two thugs represented the leadership of the Syndicate.  The complex order of underworld loyalty was considered against MaryAnne's federal badge...

And after a long moment, Ace nodded once to Rusty.  Stone-faced, the rest of the Syndicate watched, understanding which way the decision had fallen before a word was spoken.  The group of criminals turned their eyes to MaryAnne as Rusty spoke for them all.

"You're still one of us, Miss Coltrane," he said quietly.

MaryAnne's sorrowful look brightened. She read Rusty's eyes and those of the remaining thugs behind him. They were sincere, and she appreciated it more than words could express. So she smiled and gave a nod.

Commander Mayson watched and couldn't help but feel pride for his agent. She already had the respect of her fellow law officers, now she had the respect of the underworld. Not many cops could claim that on their resumes.

"You boys won't have to be worrying about the D.A," Mayson said. He then smiled. "At least...for now."

Slow smiles crept into the faces of the Syndicate, and Rusty chuckled aloud.  "Seeing Frankie Tyler go down paid for everything we'd lost," he said.  "But pulling a big one over on the D.A…that's something special."

The Syndicate boys snickered in agreement.  Ace gave Bo a friendly slap on the back, startling the blonde Duke, who grinned back in recovery.  The idea that they'd won against Frankie Tyler, even though it took the help of the law, was starting to take hold.  Rusty, caught up in the feeling, offered an invitation to Commander Mayson.

"I can't speak for the Don," he said politely, "But I don't think the rest of the boys would mind if y'all stopped by the Jigsaw later." 

The Commander smiled, admitted vocally that it was a tempting offer, but had to politely decline the invite. "The D.A.'s already mad enough to pull my badge I think..." Mayson chuckled. "Although the idea of an FBI commander drinking a few brews with the local Syndicate would send him into orbit and would be entertaining to watch…I can't take the risk. I must maintain on something of civil terms with him."

MaryAnne laughed. "You could always go...undercover."

Rusty and the boys echoed MaryAnne's laughter. They liked her sense of humor. "Okay, man," Rusty answered Mayson. "Take a raincheck. So long as you don't have a warrant in your hand, you and your boys can stop over anytime."

Rusty started to edge towards the door, the rest of the Syndicate following suit.  "We'd best get out of your way now," he said, catching sight of more police officers filing into the room. 

Mayson nodded and then turned to MaryAnne. With a grin he said, "Agent Coltrane, see to it that these boys are escorted out of the building."

MaryAnne nodded. "Will do." She smiled at Rusty and then followed the Syndicate boys out of the room.

Not a Fed agent or city officer stopped them. They looked at the group...but they didn't stop them. They already knew they didn't have to.  MaryAnne escorted Rusty and the boys down to the ground floor and out of the building. Once on the sidewalk, she hung back a bit watching the Syndicate head towards their cars.


He stopped, turning to face her. "Yes, Miss Coltrane?"

She looked at him for a moment. "Thanks," she said and smiled, her eyes showing that her appreciation was for more than just getting through the battle with Frankie Tyler.

Rusty smiled, though a little sadly.  He knew, without her saying so, that MaryAnne wouldn't be coming back to the Jigsaw to stay...and he'd gotten used to seeing her.  He kept his private loss inside and forced the smile to stay on his face.  "You're welcome, Miss Coltrane."

MaryAnne saw the sadness that tinged Rusty's smile. She watched him as he turned to leave and wondered, with some surprise, if perhaps she left as much of lasting impression on Rusty and the Syndicate, as they had on her.

She was one of them...she had survived her mission and saw to it the end of Frankie Tyler. The revving engines from the Syndicate cars stirred her own feeling of victory that now finally was starting to creep over her, like the rising sun over the top of the Atlanta skyline. It was too soon to tell what the future held, there were wounds, physical and emotional, that still needed to be healed, and there was her kin that she had to make sure were ok and the rift between them she had to repair.

But perhaps one day, Rusty and the boys would see her again. 

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

Later that day, as the news bulletins announced the overnight raid of Tyler's holdings, Atlanta Memorial Hospital was beginning to recover from it's business boom.   

The medical staff in the E.R. had rallied to the occassion, and saw to the survival of those wounded in battle.  A few patients who had arrived at the hospital had been already beyond medical care.  The rest, who had made it to the hospital with vital signs intact, had good chances.

Two of these patients were returning to consciousness with only mild resistance. 

Brian opened his eyes and saw neither heaven nor hell.  Instead, the low-tiled ceiling in his hospital room hung over him, along with the smell of antiseptic.  

The last thing he remembered was Rosco diving for the floor, and Ketterhagen taking aim at MaryAnne.  He remembered throwing the knife, thought it had found it's mark...but then nothing more.  

Brian was about to ring for the nurse. He had to know what happened to his cousins...even if it was the worst, he had to know. Now.  

A sudden groan came from somewhere to his left, behind a dividing curtain.  Apparently Brian didn't have the room all to himself.  There was something familiar about the sound of complaint, and he strained to listen. 

When Rosco had awoke, he tried to turn onto his side because his back was killing him. Defeated in the attempt, he remained on his back, too damn tired to pull himself onto his side to begin with.

"Judas priest..." Rosco managed to say softly, not bothering with the rest of his signature curse.

There was one person Brian knew who cussed like that.  "Rosco?"

Rosco had closed his eyes and now opened them again. He stared up at the ceiling, not sure he had heard the voice from the other side of the curtain. "Brian?"

In answer, Brian reached over and swept the curtain back, grimacing a little with the pain under his bandages. "Rosco!" he said with a grin. "Dammit, they let anybody in this place, don't they?" 

Rosco smiled despite his exhaustion. "Looks like they do, cousin! Khee!"

"You look like hell, Sheriff," Brian said.  It was his way of saying Thank God you made it, and the thought was obvious in his brown eyes.

Rosco grinned. "Thanks. Yer lookin' quite dapper yerself." The lawman's blue eyes showed his genuine relief at seeing his young cousin again.

Brian smiled back. He and Rosco said nothing else for a moment, each taking a minute to bask in the fact that they were still alive.  Then Brian voiced the one troubling thought that was shadowing his relief.

"What about MaryAnne?" he said tentively. "Is she..." 

"She's all right. Well...she's alive at least, I ain't sure about completely all right..."

"What happened?"

Rosco looked up at the ceiling. "She was fightin' with Tyler...and she got 'em." Rosco looked at Brian and repeated softly, "She got 'em..."

"He's...dead?"  Brian couldn't believe it.

Rosco nodded. "I think it was either him...or her."

"Not that I'm gonna mourn Tyler," Brian said with a frown, "But...that ain't how MaryAnne planned on takin' him down..."

"I know," Rosco concurred. "It shook her up pretty bad too..."

Brian fell silent, thinking about how determined MaryAnne had been to accomplish her mission.  He also knew how determined Tyler had been to make an end of them all.  "I suppose," he said, thinking aloud, "That it woulda ended like this, one way or the other...tho' I wish MaryAnne had never taken this damn mission, Rosco.  I really wish she hadn't..."

"That makes two of us." The Sheriff sighed heavily and closed his eyes. "But she felt she had to. That she had a duty to." He opened his eyes. "She dang near lost everything in the process...including her own life."

"I just hope those damn Feds are finally satisfied...and that they'll stop asking for Coltrane blood."  Brian felt anger simmer in his veins. "Even now, I bet they got MaryAnne runnin' back and forth like a crazy woman, takin' care of the dirty details.  Hell, I'd be surprised if they gave her up, after this."

Brian sat up as far as he could, a thought in his rambling causing him new worry.  "What if she stays a Fed?"

Rosco looked at Brian, his expression clear that he didn't know the answer to that question. He answered verbally with this: "What if she decides to give up the badge completely?"

"Lord, I never thought of that," Brian answered softly.  "I'd rather see her as a Fed...than without a badge at all. It's who she is, Rosco...she was born a cop..."

"I know..." Rosco's tone was reminiscent. "I dunno what's gonna happen after all this, Brian. I can't even venture a guess at what she'll do." He paused. "And that's what bothers me..."

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

The Federal Building in Atlanta was a flurry of activity.  Reporters, city councilmen, attorneys by the dozen, were pressing to speak to the agents involved in the Tyler sting operation.

The news broadcasts had contained quotes by the District Attorney's office, saying that the covert mission had been carefully planned for months, and involved the clandestine support of some private citizens in Atlanta.  Mayson heard the broadcast on the radio and shook his head.  The D.A. would find a way into the governor’s mansion yet, though he must have choked while describing the Syndicate as "private citizens."

Mayson didn't care what the D.A. took credit for, so long as he stayed the hell away from the Federal Building at the moment.  The place was a zoo.  

The cataloging of evidence was turning out to be an enormous job.  At least there was plenty of it, and enough of it to show what a time bomb the city of Atlanta had been sitting on.  The D.C. headquarters of the FBI was initially a little cool about Mayson's methods in this case, but upon learning of Tyler's cache of weapons and drugs, found the Commander's methods to be "appropriate."  

Now if only MaryAnne would understand that her own methods had been appropriate. She hadn't had much choice.  

Mayson left his own desk to check on the agent in question. He hadn't seen MaryAnne in hours. She had returned to the Bureau to work on her reports, and had sequestered herself immediately in an office, asking not to be disturbed.

Her office door was still closed.  As the Commander, Mayson could have walked in without knocking.  But he chose to rap on the office door politely.  "Agent Coltrane?"

MaryAnne looked up from the second draft of her report and at the door. "Come in, Commander."

"You should take a break," he said, scanning the reams of paper on her desk. "You haven't slept in at least twenty-four hours."

"Yeah, I know," she said with as sigh and rested the report on her lap. "But I can't...ain't so sure I'm gonna be able to sleep well again anyway."

"You did what you had to do. You know that, MaryAnne. You've been a cop long enough to know that there's times when it's necessary to fire on a suspect.  And Tyler was much more that a suspect...he was the man who orchestrated the demise of several of my best agents.  You got him, MaryAnne, and I'm grateful for that."

MaryAnne nodded and looked up at the Commander. "I know...I've shot suspects before, Commander, but I ain't never killed nobody." She paused. "You ever kill anybody in the line of duty?"

Mayson sighed. "No, I haven't. I've been fortunate in that respect. So I can't say I know what you're going through. I can only say that you performed admirably under the most extreme situations."  He paused, building up to a question that he saw no reason to postpone.

"Agent Coltrane, I'm putting a commendation in your file.  You've served the United States Government with honor and courage, and your track record as an officer speaks for itself."

Mayson let that sink in before he announced his offer. "I'd like you to stay on board with the Atlanta Bureau. I'd be honored to retain you as an agent."

MaryAnne looked at the Commander, hesitantly. "I appreciate that sir...but to be perfectly honest, I ain't sure what I'm gonna do now." She stopped short of admitting that maybe she didn't want to wear a badge anymore. She needed time...maybe some time away from law enforcement. A vacation from dodging bullets and from traffic violators. "I think...I need some time off first."

The answer gave Mayson hope, and he smiled at her. "Understandable."

When MaryAnne didn't look up from her report again, Mayson knew he had his cue to leave.  She was either the most focused officer in the world when it came to paperwork, or she was keeping herself busy in order to forget Tyler's face.  Mayson knew it was the latter, and figured leaving her alone might be the best thing for now.  "Make sure you get some rest soon," he suggested as he opened the door to leave.  "That's an order." 

MaryAnne quickly glanced at the departing head agent. "Yes, sir."

Mayson nodded and gave a brief, encouraging smile, then shut the door and left MaryAnne to her thoughts.

Which came either all jumbled or not at all. At the forefront was the underlying worry for her kin, mixed with the dread of facing them again. Maybe she had gone to far with this mission...

Of course I went too far, I blew Tyler away didn't I??

MaryAnne closed her eyes and covered her hand over her face, desperately trying to block it all out of her mind. It's all just a bad nightmare...right?

She opened her eyes and looked down at the report on her lap. No, it wasn't. It was real, it really happened. Frankie Tyler was dead. And she put him in his grave.

"You sonofabitch..." she muttered softly to herself. "You goddamn sonofabitch!" She slammed her hand down on the stack of papers of her report and looked up at the far wall of the office.

I got you...I didn't wanna do it that way but you gave me no choice! I hope you enjoy burning in hell. Meanwhile, I find no damn satisfaction with any of it.  But at least you won't be huntin' for my hide anymore, or that of my kin.

MaryAnne sat for a moment, brooding silently to herself. As the victor in the game, the reward held little restitution for her. Maybe it would in time, but with the events still fresh in her mind, the feel of the gun still ghosting in her hand...Frankie Tyler went from being a devious, calculating, cold-blooded bad a living being that MaryAnne snuffed out in the height of battle, all in self defense.

It was going to take time to remember that that same living being wanted to dispatch her and a few other folks. The value of human life meant little to Frankie Tyler, but it always meant something to MaryAnne.

The young federal agent put her report aside and stood up. She walked over to the window of the office and looked down to the street below, seeing the news cameras and reporters camped on the front step of the Federal building.

It's interesting when people die...give us dirty laundry...

She snorted, glad she didn't venture into journalism.

Was she glad she had become a cop?

Yes... The answer came without hesitation. But maybe now I need to take the badge off for awhile...

She turned away from the window and walked back to the desk. The D.A. wanted a damn good report, and while she still had a badge he was going to get one. She sat down again and went back to writing.

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

While MaryAnne was up to her neck in paperwork, Brian and Rosco were busy handling a few other details.  Their hospital room at Atlanta Memorial was holding it's capacity in visitors.

The Syndicate's working girls had dropped by the hospital, and upon finding Rosco, had swarmed around him with a show of fuss that pleasantly embarrassed the seasoned lawman.  

Brian watched the girls coo over Rosco for a few minutes, then tapped his gold ring loudly against the metal bed railing. "Ahem...ladies...I think the Sheriff still needs to breathe. Try not to bury him alive in gratitude, will ya?"

Rosco couldn't help his gloat, but he hid it with an embarrassed smile, which Brian saw right through. The Sheriff couldn't deny he was enjoying the attention. "Jit jit..uh...khee!"

"Jit Jit khee yerself...."  Brian grumbled, feeling just a little jealous. "Hey, girls, I've got a nice scar too ya know..."

A few of the girls detached themselves from Rosco and immediately began to placate Brian, remarking on his courage and good looks as they mussed up his hair and tugged playfully at his bandages.  "Ow!"

The Sheriff grinned. "Tough bein' a hero, huh Brian?"

Brian couldn't answer at the moment, as he was literally being smothered with attention.  He was saved from near-suffocation when another visitor knocked on the door.

MaryAnne slowly pushed the door open and peered in. She couldn't help but grin at the sight of the Syndicate girls fussing over her cousins. "Hmm...y'all are busy. I can come back later."

The working girls giggled and started to disburse, letting both Brian and Rosco come up for air.  "They were just makin' sure we were...uh...healthy enough," Brian said sheepishly.

"Of course," MaryAnne said and stepped into the room. She smiled. "Judging by the redness of yer cheeks, I’d say y'all are lookin' quite healthy." 

The Sheriff's embarrassment was nearly brutal by this point. "Uh...ahem, well it's better than how we could be right now."

"Good point."  The young ex-deputy walked further into the room, snaking around the different girls and coming to stand between the two beds. MaryAnne looked at the girls. "These boys fought very bravely ya know."

"We know," one of the girls answered, the sobriety in her voice causing more serious expressions around the room. "Some of our boys can't be thanked in person anymore..."

"I know," MaryAnne replied. "And I'm sorry for that. But all the boys fought bravely. Their efforts were not in vain." 

"We heard..." The girls looked at MaryAnne with mixed expressions. None of them were fond of Frankie Tyler, but they had heard enough about the battle to know two things:  Tyler was killed by a Federal Agent...and that agent was MaryAnne Coltrane.

With polite good-byes, the girls filtered from the room, leaving MaryAnne and her cousins to face one another.

MaryAnne cleared her throat. "It is good to see you two again..."she said softly, looking to each cousin as she spoke.

Rosco nodded and read his young cousin's expression. It was clear she was exhausted, but her eyes were clouded over with indecision. Something beside Frankie Tyler's end was bothering her. "It's good to see you," he said. "You awright?"

She nodded. "I'm awright."

"You sure?" Brian asked.

MaryAnne looked at him. She shrugged and chuckled sadly. "Not really. I guess I'm as well as can be expected."

"Rosco told me what happened," Brian said. "And I can't say I feel sorry for Frankie Tyler." He paused, looking at MaryAnne closely.  "But you didn't expect your mission to end like this...did ya."

MaryAnne's head shook slightly. "No..." She sighed. "There's a lot things that happened on this damn mission that I didn't expect..."

Brian looked over at Rosco as if to say that makes three of us.  Then he sighed and rested his dark eyes back on MaryAnne.  "Look, cousin.  The important thing is that Tyler's out of action for good, and we're all don't be too hard on yourself.  Once that Fed badge is out of your pocket and that Deputy badge is back on, you'll feel better."

Her expression faltered a bit. "Yeah...maybe yer right." She glanced at Rosco and realized she couldn't bring herself to admit that maybe she wouldn't be taking the deputy badge back.

I just need time to think about it...I need sleep...I need...

Rosco sat up as straight as he could in the hospital bed and opened one arm wide, motioning MaryAnne over.  "C'mere," he said softly.

MaryAnne took a step and her eyes started to brim with tears. Her vision was completely blurred by the time she leaned into Rosco's shoulder. "Rosco..." Her voice caught and she drew in a ragged breath. "Rosco, I --" The rest of what she thought she could say was cut off with a silent sob.

"Shhhh, sweetheart...hush now," Rosco murmured as he wrapped his arm around her.  He leaned his head to rest lightly on hers, holding MaryAnne with gentle, reassuring strength.  Her tears tore his heart out, made him feel like crying himself. His own injuries meant nothing compared to the pain he felt coming from MaryAnne's soul.

MaryAnne cried quietly for a few moments then her voice finally came out. "I don't think I can do it," she cried. "I can't put a badge on again after this...all I've done, what happened to you two...I can't do it..."

"Hush," Rosco repeated softly, his own voice straining.  "You're just tired, wore out..." 

Brian listened silently, his own face turned away to afford them what privacy he could.  The sound of MaryAnne's weeping, along with Rosco's troubled voice, was bringing Brian's own emotion to a crest, and he blinked it away. 

Rosco's voice, steady and soft, continued.  "It's gonna be okay...."

MaryAnne lifted her head and straightened up a bit to look Rosco in the eye, her head shaking 'no'.  "I ain't so sure," she said, her voice rough. "How can you even look at me after all this? Look at you and Brian, in a hospital again after nearly gettin' killed. I wanted to take Tyler down to prevent him from comin' after us again, but I nearly lost y'all in the process! I took the damn mission and put a hunk of tin before my family!"

Neither man knew what to say to that.  They had nearly lost her, too...and if they had, no comfort would have came from the sight of a badge. Rosco felt his eyes sting.  He wanted to argue with her, but it still hurt...he could remember the near-lifeless weight of her body in his arms when he had carried her from the Jigsaw.

He could remember what he thought of a badge, and of any mission behind it, right at that moment.  Looking at her then, he didn't see an officer...he saw the dearest thing in his life dying in his arms.

Rosco shut his eyes tightly, the tears spilling.  He said nothing, but his grip on her tightened.  He wasn't willing to lose her...ever.

"We took our own risks," he said thickly.  "Just like you took yours. Ain't nothin' for you to be sorry for, sweetheart..."

MaryAnne blinked, trickling new tears down her cheeks. With a trembling hand she reached to her older cousin's weary face, touching his cheek with her fingers and looking at his tear-filled blue eyes. A gesture that held so much. An apology, a seeking of forgiveness and a plea for help. She'd fought Tyler's gang, Tyler himself, and now the toughest battle was taking place within her own heart. Without a word, she leaned back to him, hugging him as best she could and unable to stop her crying.

"Hush..." Rosco whispered.  "Hush now..."

Neither of them did.  The more MaryAnne cried, the more Rosco found it impossible to keep his own composure.  He'd never seen her like this...

...and he grieved with her, for everything.  Eventually, he gathered command of his emotions and forced his tears back, forced his fears to recede.  He took her hand and squeezed it, and looked at her through his glassy blue eyes, swallowing as he spoke. "Sweetheart...whatever you decide...I'll stand behind you...." 

MaryAnne sniffled and nodded. She wrestled with her tears, trying to regain control of herself and drew in a deep breath. "Okay..." She looked over at Brian and managed something of a smile as she put her hand out to him.

"What Rosco said...goes for me too," Brian told her, clasping a hand to hers. "You're a good cop, a damn good one...but most important…you’re my cousin…" 

The words stuck in Brian's throat, and he substituted a sad smile for the rest.

MaryAnne nodded and gave a gentle squeeze of both cousin's hands. She fought back the last of her tears and even managed a chuckle. "Well, this damn good cop just finished writing the most brutally honest, no holds barred report that's gonna be submitted to the DA...." She looked at her kin. "Oh yeah, y'all missed our buddy. He showed up at Tyler's office building early this morning."

Brian let go of MaryAnne's hand.  He sat up straight in the hospital bed, now looking ready to jump out the window.  "The D.A.? Aw, no..."

"Aw, he can't touch any of us anyway. Seein' as all three of us were workin' for the Feds--" MaryAnne stopped, realizing what she had just said. She looked at Brian, waiting to see how he was going to take it.

Brian's pulse monitor went up a blip. The dark eyes narrowed.  "Seein' as all who of us were workin' for the Feds??"

"All three of us." She held a hand up, and let go of Rosco's. "I didn't tell you because of that exact expression that's on your face right now. If you had known you were an "in-the-field" Fed ya never woulda made a very good Don."

"In the field?? Try in the hospital!!"  Brian's voice was climbing.  "So far as the Feds are concerned, Coltranes are good for one thing - givin' blood!  Now that they've got what they wanted, they'll forget all about us again! And I, for one, have given enough to the damn Feds to last a lifetime!"

Brian paused in his tirade, took a breath, and summed it up on a personal level.  "You kept that from me, onconna the damn mission, didn't ya.  You had my cooperation, you had the Syndicate's, and all for an affordable price...sell our souls to the Feds." 

"I never originally asked for your cooperation," MaryAnne replied evenly.  "You two just came waltzin' right in and Spade handed you that damn ring. I didn't sell nothin' to the Feds. I just figured you're so goddamn allergic to cops that if you knew you were one you'd freak. I didn't even have to tell Mayson that you were under my command, I only did it to save your ass from the DA when this was all over, seein' as I couldn't get the two of you outta town!" MaryAnne paused, drawing a deep breath. "Awright, so I did a lot of stupid shit for this mission, Brian. You wanna sit there and list it off? Go right ahead, but I ain't gonna listen to it."

MaryAnne started to leave the room.

"MaryAnne!" Rosco hissed.

She stopped and turned back towards the room. She looked at Rosco. "I don't have to listen to it!" She then looked at Brian, thinking of more to say. "What the hell do you want from the Feds, Brian? You want them to pin a nice shiny badge on me permanent like? They've already offered and I've already declined for your information. You want a medal? You want 'em to leave us alone?? Maybe we're just so goddamn tough that it took us to do what they couldn't. And we did. Maybe someday we'll realize that. Someday when I can stop seeing myself blowing Frankie Tyler away...." She looked at both cousins with quick glances and then finally just turned away and walked out of the room.

"MARYANNE!" Brian yelled at her back, but it was too late. Her boot steps echoed down the hall and were gone.

With a growl of frustration, Brian sunk back down into the hospital bed.  He was angry at MaryAnne for not being open about the mission from the beginning.  Her decision to keep his "Fed" status from him was just the frosting on the cake.  Not that it mattered...

He knew that any such status was temporary and for the government's convenience only.  Meanwhile, MaryAnne had been made a liar, a thief, a killer...all in the pursuit of duty.  All in the name of justice.

Brian turned his head, and looked at Rosco.  The Sheriff was still staring out the door that MaryAnne had departed through.  At the expression on his eldest cousin's face, Brian sighed.  "Sorry, Rosco...she just got to me. It all just got to me…"

Rosco didn't answer right away. He neither accepted nor declined Brian's apology. It wasn't to Rosco that Brian should have been apologizing anyway. "We've all given enough to the Feds to last a life time, Brian. But I'm afraid MaryAnne...gave everything."

"I know."  Brian leaned back in the pillow and shut his eyes.  So I’m a jackass. Put it in the report.

"You were right tho'...they asked her to stay on as a Fed..." Rosco shook his head and rubbed his hand over his face. "She said no...but she won't go back as a Deputy either...dammit." The Sheriff let out a frustrated sigh. He looked at Brian. "Would you have wanted to know you were a Fed, too?"

"Ah, hell…I dunno. Maybe. I guess I hate the fact that she still kept somethin' from me, after everything else we been through." 

" held out on her too a little bit…didn't ya?"  Rosco himself wondered about that Syndicate ledger.

Brian opened his eyes, narrowed them. "Can you blame me?"

"Can you blame her?"

"I'm tryin' to...but it ain't workin'.” Brian exhaled in defeat. “Dammit Rosco...I don't know what to say to her anymore.  It's as if the MaryAnne I knew is...gone. And I don’t know how to get along with this one.”

"I know...I've felt the same way sometimes. But she's not gone, Brian, she's still there...I know she is." Rosco paused. "We just gotta find her again..."

"I'd help if I could..." Brian said quietly.  Then he changed the subject. "I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' kinda tired...'suppose we'd better get some rest, huh?"

Rosco sighed and nodded. "I suppose..."

Brian feigned a yawn and turned away, leaving the Sheriff to ponder his own thoughts in silence.

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

While Rosco was pondering, MaryAnne was rushing back to FBI headquarters. She put the finishing touches on her report, then drafted a letter to Commander Mayson, officially declining the government's offer of a job. She finished turning in whatever she borrowed from the FBI for equipment, left the bill of sale of the '76 Trans Am with it, and went about getting the paper work started to spring Maverick from the Atlanta PD's impound.

It was time to go home. MaryAnne had had enough of Atlanta and wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of the city and back home to Hazzard. To be left alone to fight her own inner demons, and try to rebuild what she had for a life, before she went and agreed to all this craziness. She wondered if folks back home would recognize her...

With this thought in mind, she marched down the hall towards Commander Mayson's office. She dropped off her report, her decline letter and asked only for Mayson to sign the form allowing her to get Maverick released from the Atlanta PD. "I'm headin' home," she told him. "If ya need me for anything regarding this case, I'll be in Hazzard. You've got the number."

Mayson stood from his desk, and took a step towards her.  "I'd ask you to reconsider - though I have a feeling it wouldn't do any good."

"Nope. As I said in the letter there, I'm honored but...I just gotta git outta here."

"I understand."  Mayson held out a handshake.  "Thank you for serving both your country and the City of Atlanta, MaryAnne.  Your bravery won't be forgotten in this bureau."  

MaryAnne shook Mayson's hand. "You're welcome, sir. Umm..thank you." She turned and started to leave and then stopped. "Oh..." She turned back to the Commander. "Rosco had a car, and I think the pups were still in it last night. Any idea where that car is now? Or the dogs?"

"Back at the Jigsaw, from what I understand.  I believe your friends, the Dukes, are there as well.  If you prefer, I can send an off-duty agent to collect them..."

"Naw, that's okay. I'll pick 'em up after I get Maverick." She held up the release form. "Thanks again. Take care, Commander." She turned and was out the door.

MaryAnne exited the Federal building through the back exit, avoiding the reporters that were still camped out front. She walked the less-than one mile distance between the Federal building and police station, thinking of her present, remembering her past and contemplating her future. She caught her reflection in a window and paused to look.

She was still dressed in black and the face that looked back at her was half of the woman she remembered, mixed with exhaustion and clouded with a haunted memory .

She turned away and continued on her trek to the police station.  A change of clothes appealed to her. Get her car, get the dogs...go home, get out of this damn outfit and get some sleep.

A wolf whistle broke her thoughts. She looked at the man standing in the doorway of a shop that watched her as she walked down the sidewalk.

"Stuff it," she said, flashing him a death look. Apparently it was convincing enough, the man stayed put.

A few minutes later she arrived at the police station, and was greeted enthusiastically by her fellow officers. She took it in stride, politely smiled and nodded and listened to their accolades, giving thanks when appropriate. Somebody called out to fetch Captain Briggs, but by the time the Captain made it down to the squad room on the first floor, MaryAnne had slipped out to find the Sergeant in charge of the impounds.

"It's in the 6th Street impound," he said with apology.

"Ugh...that's two miles from here. I just walked from the Federal building."

"No problem, I'll get an officer to give ya a ride."

MaryAnne nodded. "Thanks." Within a few minutes, the Sergeant found an officer to drive MaryAnne over to the 6th Street impound and had signed the department's release form. MaryAnne scribbled her own signature on the form and waited for the officer to show up.


She looked up and gave a smile of recognition to Officer Franklin. "Hey, Mark, how ya been?"

"Better, now that I see you're okay.  It's been an honor to serve with you again, Officer Coltrane.  You were undercover the whole time, weren't you." 

"Yeah, I was." She stood up. "Now I'm done, I'm goin' home."

Franklin looked disappointed.  "I was hoping you'd spare some time for an off-duty cup of coffee. A few of the boys and I were looking forward to hearing how you pulled it all off..."  

MaryAnne smiled sadly. "Maybe another time. To be honest...I just wanna sleep."

"I hear that. I've worked at least double-shift myself."  Franklin let it drop and walked to the patrol car, opening the passenger door for MaryAnne.  He drove her to the 6th street impound yard without asking further questions.

"Thanks, Mark," MaryAnne said after they arrived. "We'll take a rain check on that coffee."

"Okay. You take care of yourself, MaryAnne. Stop by the station next time you're in town."  

MaryAnne nodded. "I will. See ya later." She closed the passenger door on the patrol car and headed to the impound office.

Five minutes later, the blue '78 Firebird was driving out of the impound yard and heading downtown to the Jigsaw.

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

Unaware of their impending visitor, the Syndicate was licking it's wounds and slowly recovering itself.  There was no party taking place, but a mood of optimism prevailed, even among the wounded.  Several of Frankie Tyler's less-loyal gang members had taken sanctuary within the old criminal stronghold, and Rusty tolerated them, knowing that it would be up to Brian to accept them into the Syndicate...or dismiss them in a very permanent manner.

The Dukes watched from the sidelines, helping out where they could, staying out of what business they knew better to involve themselves with.  The Syndicate was unconcerned about them - Bo and Luke had proven themselves and fought at their sides.  Only Flash and Bandit seemed ill at ease with the mix of bodies milling around the Jigsaw, their hackles raised slightly at the scent of stale blood.

Outside, MaryAnne drove up and parked behind the General Lee. The sedan Rosco had driven was parked in front of the General. She checked the car, found no dogs and marched to the front door.

The second-floor guards had alerted the Jigsaw to MaryAnne's approach.  She walked in to a warm reception, Rusty meeting her the moment she stepped inside.  "Miss Coltrane! I was hoping you'd show up."

Flash and Bandit surrounded MaryAnne's feet, finally glad to be near someone familiar. "Hey, Rusty," she greeted. "I uh...I'm not stayin' long, I'm just gonna pick up my stuff and the dogs here and head back to Hazzard."

"Not gonna stay and help us celebrate? You're the whole reason any of us are still here..." Rusty gestured around the Jigsaw.

From the second-floor balcony, the working girls were watching, dressed in their finest.  They waved at MaryAnne as if to say thank you.  The game room was clicking and ringing with the sound of dice, chips, and slot machines, and a few gamblers held up their cards in salute.

In the bar area itself, the pool tables were surrounded by thugs of both factions...the Syndicate and the defectors from Tyler's gang, all getting along amicably enough now that the war was over.  Collectively, they saluted MaryAnne with their pool cues.

And around the bar and the jukebox, the rest of the patrons, whether they wore Syndicate black or were in civilian clothes, raised their beers, their hands, and finally their voices, in tribute.

She had joined them...proven her worth...fought with them...and she had won them over more completely than any Federal agent could have accomplished with badge alone.

"MARYANNE! MARYANNE! MARYANNE! MARYANNE!" The voices chanted.  It wasn't the wild, carefree yell of her first acceptance, but rather a sober, heartfelt shout holding respect and farewell.

Even the dogs got into it. With Flash and Bandit howling at her feet, MaryAnne took a step forward and looked towards each part of the Jigsaw as the chant continued. The sound rocked her, her emotions hitched in her chest. She raised a hand in acknowledgement and in appreciation, giving them her best smile. You're welcome...

Cheers followed her as she moved through the Jigsaw.  The Dukes came out of the crowd to flank her back, smiling themselves.  The crowd moved and allowed MaryAnne to make her way to her room for her belongings. MaryAnne didn't know it, but per Rusty's instructions, the room would always be hers, waiting empty in case she ever desired to return.

After a few minutes spent gathering up her things and taking a final look around the room, MaryAnne stepped out carrying her two duffle bags. Bo and Luke immediately stepped up and eased the two duffles off her shoulders.

"We'll take these for ya," Bo said.

MaryAnne smiled. "Thanks, fellas."  The three walked down the stairs and paused in the main lobby of the Jigsaw.

There, MaryAnne beheld a sight that she hadn't been able to witness before.  The Syndicate had gathered themselves in rows along the lobby, forming an honor guard.  The last time she'd been honored this way, she had been unconscious in Rosco's arms, unable to appreciate the gesture.  Now, however, she could see every face, every eye, looking directly at her.  At a signal from Rusty, both rows took a step back and gave way before her.

She was one of theirs.

MaryAnne walked slowly towards the front door of the Jigsaw, looking at every face as she passed. She nodded to each, respectful of the honor they were bestowing upon her. When she got to the door, she paused and turned back to face the Syndicate.

She was one of theirs... MaryAnne had no idea what to think, only that in an odd way, she was grateful. She was leaving Atlanta practically a hero. The FBI, the Atlanta PD and the Syndicate all hailed her in respect and appreciation for what she had done. And the name of Coltrane would never be doubted or laughed at again...

She looked over at Rusty and gave the red-headed thug a serious nod. She then smiled and winked.

He winked back, adding a lazy salute with his right hand.  Get outta here, his smile seemed to say.

"Y'all behave huh?" She chuckled and saluted him back and then stepped out of the Jigsaw with Flash, Bandit and the Duke boys following.

"Hey, ya got Maverick back," Luke said.

"Yep." MaryAnne opened the trunk and the boys deposited the two duffle bags. "You boys headin' home too or what?"

"We'd better. Uncle Jesse n' Daisy are probably tired of doin' our share of the chores," Luke answered.

"That's for sure," Bo agreed. He patted MaryAnne's shoulder. "You gonna remember your way back to Hazzard?"

MaryAnne laughed. "Yeah, I think so." She opened the door to let the dogs into the back seat of the Firebird. She then looked at the boys. "Listen, uh...I wanna thank ya for your help. Ya'll took a big risk in stickin' this out with me."

"Just don't try and take on the world yourself, 'cause we'll always horn in," Luke told her.  He pulled MaryAnne into a hug.  Having her alive and well was thanks enough for their help.

Luke had no sooner let go of MaryAnne, than when Bo scooped her up.  "That's right, and there ain't no gettin' away from us Dukes," he said cheerfully, squeezing her until she let out a cough for air.  "Now can you get to Hazzard without us callin' the National Guard for backup?"

"Bo..." She chuckled. "Yes, I will make it to Hazzard just fine, thank you." She smiled at them both and then glanced at the other sedan, remembering something. "Oh, y'all better bring that thing back to Hazzard too. I know Rosco's got it all packed up with stuff, might as well take it home."

"You got it."  Luke took a set of keys from MaryAnne.  "We'll drop the car off at Cooter's.  We gotta stop there on the way home and get the General repainted, or Enos isn't gonna recognize us."

MaryAnne smiled. "You ain't kiddin' there. He won't recognize you two dressed like that either." She looked down at herself. "Or me for that matter!"

"Uncle Jesse would take one look at us all and think the farm's bein' burglarized," Bo agreed.  "C'mon, Luke, we can change clothes at Cooter's."

The Dukes gave MaryAnne another smile, and then headed towards the cars.  "Last one to the Boar's Nest is buyin'," Luke called out as they pulled away.

MaryAnne laughed and got into Maverick. She watched the General and the sedan pull away. Bandit poked his head between the bucket seats.

"Looks like I'm gonna be buyin'..."

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

MaryAnne certainly didn't forget her way back to Hazzard. Once she left the city limits of Atlanta, she pushed Maverick for everything the Firebird was worth. It felt good to be driving her own car again.

She was alive. The Dukes were alive. Her kin were alive. The FBI had expressed it's sincere gratitude. The Atlanta PD, the Syndicate...they all expressed gratitude towards her. They respected her, were honored by what she had done and thankful she had done it.

So why was she so hard on herself?

Perhaps because there was on important piece of the victory that was still incomplete. Her kin. Her cousins. Rosco seemed willing to forgive...but would Brian?

Could he? Should he? Would anything ever be the same again?

Where did she need to start?

Stop blamin' them for showin' up, for starters.

MaryAnne made a face and was all prepared to argue with herself when she stopped. It was their choice. They did it because they cared about her. And all she seemed to do was push them away...push them away...

Had she even said thank you? Or I'm sorry? No...not really…

And why not? Was it really that hard to say it? Would it make much of a difference now anyway?

Interstate highway faded to country road as MaryAnne contemplated the answers to those questions.  She spotted the turnoff she wanted and took it.

Rosco seemed willing to forgive...but would Brian?

When her heart troubled her, MaryAnne had always turned to her kin for guidance. She couldn't go to them now. At least not yet...not until she stopped to take good long hard look at herself.

Maverick crossed the county line and after a few minutes drive, she turned off the road and down the crumbling asphalt that led to Hazzard's Old North Cemetery.  The rumbling exhaust mixed with the birdsong, and she stopped the car near the gate.

It was not the first time she had come to seek solace at this place, but it had been a long time to say the least. She stepped out of the car, let Bandit and Flash out as well and she walked down the path, knowing exactly where the gravesite she was looking for was located.

Flash and Bandit followed, if for nothing more, than for company.

She found the headstone and paused at it.

Eli James Coltrane 1918 - 1984 and his wife SarahMae 1921- 1962.

She kneeled down and had Flash and Bandit sitting on either side of her.  She stared at her father's name etched in the granite stone.

"I think I blew it Papa..." She sighed heavily. "I really think I blew it..."

Chapter Fifteen