Chapter Fifteen

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

Brian opened his eyes to the stillness of the hospital room.  He remained motionless and silent for several minutes, listening to the sounds of Rosco's light snoring.

It sounded as if the Sheriff was out like a light.  Brian moved slowly, taking care not to wake him.

The removal of his own IV was accomplished without a sound.  That being done, Brian reached over and turned off the pulse monitor that had been attached to him, and took off the small sensor from his skin.  Finally, he swung his legs over the bed and stood up, standing rock-still until he was sure of himself.  The knife-wound hurt like hell, and he was light-headed, and he wanted to sleep for a week...but he was functional.  It was enough.

He found his clothing stored away in the room's small closet.  The hospital gown was shed quickly.  Brian got dressed in his traditional garb as quietly as he could, giving silent thanks to whoever had been kind enough to run it through the hospital laundry.

The black jacket, however, seemed a loss.  It was torn and stained beyond use.  Brian shrugged it on anyway, wincing with his injury.

Once his boots were pulled on and his belt was buckled, Brian was ready to leave.

But instead of walking out the door, he walked carefully over to Rosco's bed, and watched his eldest cousin snore away.

Brian resisted the temptation to wake Rosco up and talk to him.  What could I say, anyhow?

What could I say to you or MaryAnne, at this moment?

Except now I know how she felt, leaving Hazzard...

Brian felt a pain in his chest that wasn't from the knife wound.  

The words he held inside his heart would have to remain there, until he had a chance to talk to MaryAnne and Rosco again.  When and if, cousins...

Until then...forgive me.

He gave Rosco a final look, then turned away.  His black boots made only the softest sound as he walked the few steps to the door.  He opened it slowly.  A small creak of noise slipped from the door's hinges...then Brian stepped through and shut it quietly behind him.

A few minutes later, Rosco came out of his slumber. First he wondered what time it was, how long had he been asleep. He looked over towards Brian's bed and found his cousin gone.

At first, Rosco wasn't alarmed. He figured maybe a doctor had come for Brian for something or...something. Rosco was too tired to think of specifics. But as the Sheriff's weary eyes traced over the disrupted bed, he saw the hospital gown laid hastily on the foot of it. He looked over towards the closet door that had been left open.

Then, Rosco realized that Brian had checked himself out.

He leaned his head back on the pillow and looked up at the ceiling. With a sigh he wondered where Brian had to go. Maybe he already knew. Maybe he didn't want to know.  Maybe....

Rosco closed his eyes. He wanted to roar like a lion and cry like child. He wanted to get up, dress and....

Do what? Follow him?? To where?? Back to the Jigsaw? What makes you think he's going there? And what the hell difference would make if you followed him anyway?

Probably about as much as it did followin' MaryAnne.

Rosco was too damn tired. His body ached, his wounds were sore, his back hurt, his limbs were stiff. But worse than all that...his heart ached. What Rosco would have given to take both of his cousins by their ears and...

Rosco stopped his self-rant and sighed. There was nothing he could do about it now. All he could do was wait for the storm to pass. Wait to see MaryAnne again, wait to see Brian again. And pray like hell something resembling kinship could be put back together by that point.


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

Brian arrived at the Jigsaw in a city cab, and walked into the Syndicate stronghold without any of the fanfare due his station.  So much the better; it paid to keep the gang on it's toes.  His presence was quickly noted within the smoky bar, and after receiving congratulations, questions, problems, and dealing with a host of scattered business issues, he found Rusty waiting for him at the back table.

The red-headed thug blurted out the answer before Brian could ask the question.  "MaryAnne was here," Rusty said.  "She left a long time ago, with the Dukes.  Took the dogs too, thank God..."

Rusty kept running down a list of current events until he noticed that Brian wasn't reacting to anything.  "You left the hospital too soon," Rusty ventured.  "Sit down, I'll...."

"No, I'm awright..." Brian sat down nonetheless.  "I just didn't get a chance to really say goodbye, that's all."

"Goodbye?" Rusty said neutrally.  "That means you're staying in Atlanta?"

Brian hesitated a long moment before answering.  "I have to," he said finally.  "Things here are gonna be loose for awhile as it is.  We're damn near wiped out, we got stragglers here from Tyler's gang - hell, we got off-duty cops sitting at the bar, whose bright idea was that?" 

Rusty shrugged, and Brian went on.  "At any rate...I gotta make sure that what MaryAnne went through, stays good for awhile.  I'm not gonna let this town turn into a free-for-all...the Syndicate has a place here, and we're gonna get back in business and do it right.  It's the cleanest slate we've ever had..."

Brian sighed heavily. "But it's gonna cost me the cleanest slate I ever had..."

The dark-eyed Don looked down at the gold ring on his finger, falling silent.  Rusty, not wanting to pry, left for the bar, figuring that three or four beers would be a good place for Brian to start over.  

Brian, meanwhile, thought of green hills, tall cornfields, an orange Dodge Charger and two Plymouth Furys...and of an old house on the outskirts of Hazzard with a yellow porch light and a creaky screen door.

Odd, to be sitting here in the Jigsaw, back home in Atlanta…and yet, not be at home.

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

After spending three quarters of an hour at the cemetery, MaryAnne skipped the festivities at the Boar's Nest, opting instead to just go home. She unpacked Maverick of her gear, changed her clothes and was figuring to finally get some sleep when Flash's actions caught her attention.

The basset had become whiney, and her claws clicked across the floor as she moved through the house, seeming to be in dire search of something. MaryAnne watched the dog walk through the living room, go into the kitchen, down the hall, up the hall and pause at the bottom of the staircase, all the time her nose eagerly trying to sniff out a sent that wasn't there. Finally, Flash stopped before MaryAnne, sat back and looked up to her for the answer.


Flash barked. Where is he?

MaryAnne looked at the basset long enough that Flash barked again then whined.


Flash was up on all four now. Her tail wagged.

"He's still in Atlanta..."

Flash sat back down again. Both dogs were silent and MaryAnne turned to look around the house herself. It was then she realized just how empty it was. No Rosco, no Brian.

No noise. No kin. Nobody. Nothing.

"Goddammit..." All she had wanted was to come home. But her kin weren't here. They were back in Atlanta.

Her troubled heart spoke to her. The memory of her father reminded her. She had one more mission to complete. Forgoing the want to sleep, she found her purse and called to the dogs.

"Come on y'all. We're goin' back."

Flash and Bandit leapt up and made a beeline out of the house to the blue Firebird.

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

MaryAnne wasn't the only one feeling alone.  Rosco was staring at the blank walls of the hospital room, counting the hours until he'd be released.  He was healing well, the doctor told him.

Maybe on the outside, Rosco thought to himself.  Inside, I feel like I'm comin' apart.

His worry about MaryAnne kept him from sleeping easily.  She hadn't so much as called him since storming out of the hospital room.  Lord only knew where she was....

That girl definitely had a Coltrane temper.  Once she decided she was mad, she made the most of it.

Rosco was trying to decide if he was mad or not.  He certainly felt like he ought to be.  If he ever saw Brian and MaryAnne at the same time again, he'd knock their heads together. 

Right after he told them both how much he loved them.

I don't understand, sweetheart, he thought sadly. You were the one who taught me that blood came before a badge...that's how all this crazy business started.  But then you got the chance to go after Tyler, and I didn't recognize you anymore...and now that we've won, why is it that I feel like we lost?

Putting his own thoughts together was giving Rosco a headache.  He wanted to go home, get out of this sterile, lifeless room and leave this dirty, noisy town.  He wanted to forget the Syndicate, Frankie Tyler, the shootouts, and have everything back to normal.

But no matter how many times he shut his eyes, the visions of memory flared anew, and he saw MaryAnne lying on the floor of the Jigsaw, nearly dead.  He remembered the cold, empty look in her eyes when she'd told Spade that she could carry out this one old Contract, no problem....

He remembered her telling him and Brian to get the hell out of Atlanta.  He remembered it all.  

Then he remembered the little girl who always stole his black Stetson right off his head, and put it on over her own, only to have it fall down half over her face.  The little "khee!" noise she'd make then, giggling...and her beaming smile when he'd unpin his Sheriff's badge from his uniform, and carefully pin it onto her shirt.  It was almost a ritual of theirs, when she was a kid.  It was always followed by a ride in the patrol car, and MaryAnne would play with the CB and the switches for the gumballs and the sirens, and Rosco would let her.

What I wouldn't have that little girl back.  

Rosco shut his eyes, because it felt like he had tears starting to burn in them, and a seasoned lawman like himself shouldn't cry.  

The hell with it, he thought, and let a few go.

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

MaryAnne was sure she must've looked odd, carrying what looked like some kind of concealed package inside her blue denim jacket across the lobby of the hospital. She was sure if anyone had been in the elevator with her, they would have really thought her odd when she started talking to it.

"You gotta stay quiet, Flash, or else we're gonna git busted."

Perhaps folks would figure it for a baby. Damn odd way to be carrying a baby though....

She walked down the hall towards Rosco’s room and slowed, feeling her heart pound in her chest. She had left in a huff before...she wondered if maybe she should just turn around and...

Flash squirmed a bit. MaryAnne held the basset still and came to a stop just at the door. She listened, thought she could hear Rosco sniffling and she surreptitiously looked into the room.

He was crying. He looked like he was trying not to but wasn't succeeding. MaryAnne hated to see him cry. She hated it even more because she had a good idea what he was crying about, and felt for sure that there wasn't going to be anything she could do to make things right again.

Her alternatives, however, were not any more promising. She would never know for sure if she didn't try. Holding Flash for moral support she quietly walked into the room.

At the creak of the door, Rosco rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes and gave a loud, final sniff, pretending to just wake up.  Then he realized who was visiting him.

"MaryAnne?? "  He said in pleased surprise, sitting up straight in the bed.  "Sweetheart, it's good to see you..."

"Hey Rosco..." She smiled at him and then Flash nearly started climbing out of the jacket. "Oooh, easy now Flash, we still gotta stay incognito." She looked at Rosco. "Khee, I brought ya a visitor."

"Velvet ears! Oh, daddy's missed you...Ooo! Yer heavy!" Rosco said as Flash leapt onto the bed.  The basset hound started mauling Rosco with affection, licking his face and walking on him.  "Khee! Easy darlin', you're gonna disconnect somethin' and get the nurse runnin' in here...jit jit, don't chew on that, those machines cost a lotta money!"

Rosco curled the dog up into a hug and nuzzled her, feeling better than he had for days.  He looked over Flash's head to smile at MaryAnne.  "Thank you," he said warmly.

MaryAnne smiled and patted Flash on her back. "No problem. We got all the way home and she was lookin' all over the house for ya. So I figured I'd bring her back to see ya..."

"That the only reason ya came back?"

Her smile faded and was replaced with a look of one about to burst into tears. She shook her head. "No..."

"Oh, sweetheart...hush now, don't start in with that," Rosco said softly, opening his arms to admit one more.  "I didn't mean it like it sounded, it's know, everythin'."  

"Yeah, I know," she replied softly, leaning to his embrace. "I know...everythin' that happened, everything I did. I heard ya cryin' when I came up to the door...I spent nearly an hour doin' that in Hazzard."

Rosco reached an arm around MaryAnne and hugged her. Flash moved down to curl up by the end of the bed.  For a moment, no one said anything more.  Rosco knew he couldn't lie about how he had felt, but now that MaryAnne was here again...all the bad things didn't seem to matter.  It would haunt him for awhile, but by God, this was his young cousin, and no matter what all had happened, he loved her, so he forgave her.  It was instinctive, something he couldn't put into words.  So he simply held her, and looked at her with his steel-blue eyes, their hue deep with emotion.

"I came back for you and Brian," MaryAnne said. "I know I've said it a million times already but I am sorry, Rosco. For everything I've done. I'm sorry I stormed out of here before but...dammit, I did what I did and I know what I did, and I didn't need Brian throwin' it all back in my face."

A pained expression crossed Rosco's face.  "Sweetheart, you don't need to apologize anymore. You were only doin' what you had to do.  It's enough for me to have you standin''s enough."

With those words, Rosco held her all the more tightly.  Things could have turned out better, but they could have turned out far worse...and Rosco held onto that thought, and to MaryAnne, for all he was worth.

MaryAnne knew the circumstances could have been much different too. She smiled at Rosco and held him just as tight. "It's enough for me too..." Words didn't need to be spoken anymore. They'd known each other long enough, and had been through enough together, to know that what could be communicated through a simple embrace spoke louder than words.

Feeling more encouraged and a little more like her old self, MaryAnne presented Rosco with two important questions. "So when the heck they lettin' you outta here? And where is Brian anyway?"

Rosco pulled back, drew in a tired sigh, and gave the answers in order.  "I might get outta here tomorrow, from the sounds of it.  Brian checked out early."

MaryAnne was glad to hear that Rosco would be able to leave the hospital soon, but Brian having already left bothered her. "Uh oh. He checked himself out didn't he?"

Rosco nodded, looking over at the empty bed.  "I don't know how the stubborn fool was even able to stand upright, let alone walk out the door...but he did it."

MaryAnne sighed. "Dang it..." She paused in thought, wondering where Brian could have gone that would warrant him cutting his hospital stay short. An answer came to her and she shook her head. She looked at Rosco, wondering if he maybe came up with the same answer too.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Rosco answered the unspoken question.  "Tho' I wouldn't be surprised to find 'em in the Jigsaw."  The pained expression was back.  Flash noticed it and climbed up by Rosco's face again.

"That's what I was thinkin'..." She reached out and petted Flash, thinking. Nothing she thought of was particularly comforting. Maybe Brian liked being the Don and wants to stay in Atlanta...or maybe there was just some last minute loose ends to tie up before he was to leave...


Maybe I just really pissed him off this time...

She looked at Rosco, reading the troubled expression on his face and in his eyes. She took a hold of his hand and sighed. "I dunno, Rosco..."

"I dunno either. I thought we'd made a difference, sweetheart....'course I always think that, and then he goes and does the opposite of what I think he oughta."  Rosco sighed again.  "I don't know what to think now."

"I know..." She paused and then gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Listen, you just git some rest here and hopefully we can git ya outta here tomorrow. Once we do that we'll go from there..."

"I'm more than ready to git outta this hospital," Rosco agreed.  "I'm leavin' here tomorrow no matter what the doctor says.  Ain't that right, velvet ears...."

Flash gave a short "woof" and wagged her tail.  "Hush, darlin', you'll get the nurse in here, an' she's a mean one!"

Flash, unconcerned, barked again.  "You'd better git and take her with you," Rosco said with a grin.  "Or I won't get any jello with dinner tonight." 

MaryAnne giggled and lifted Flash away from Rosco. "Come on, darlin', back in the jacket. Let's let Rosco git some rest. We'll come back tomorrow with the welcome home party. Khee!"

Flash squirmed in MaryAnne's arms for a bit and then settled back inside the jacket.

"Just watch, I'll probably git caught halfway down the hall by that nurse, after makin' it this far."

"Not if ya run fast enough. G'wan, I'll cover for ya. Khee!"

MaryAnne giggled. "I'll see ya tomorrow, Rosco." She looked at Flash. "Stay quiet now, Flash, here we go."

MaryAnne and her bundled basset had no sooner made it out the door, when a black, heavy-set nurse with a no-nonsense face burst into Rosco's room. "Sheriff Coltrane," she admonished, "The next time you need something, how about using the nurse's buzzer there instead of barking? Honestly honey, they can't git you outta here soon enough to suit me.  I got more things to do with my time than mess wit you...what is this all over your bedsheet? Pawprints?"

The nurse's voice seemed to be rising as MaryAnne hustled down the hall.

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

The office of the District Attorney was a busy place these days.  There hadn't been this much activity since the Syndicate trials and the exposure of the corrupt officials in the FBI.

The D.A.'s staff was working overtime once more.  Frankie Tyler's demise has caused no tears in this sector.  For the D.A. himself, he was pouring over the report from Commander Mayson's office.  Specifically, one from an Agent Coltrane.  

She did good work, this MaryAnne Coltrane.  She was a gutsy law officer, no matter what badge she wore.  Pity that she hadn't accepted a permanent position with in the Atlanta Bureau.  She was a good source of business.

The D.A. adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses, scanned the report, then took a pen an circled the areas that he could use in prosecution of apprehended suspects.  There were also more, potential arrests that could be made...but each in it's time.  The D.A. was an ambitious man, but a practical one.  He prepared his cases with meticulous care. He wasn't the bane of public defenders for nothing.

But as with all big cases, there were unresolved issues.  The D.A. hated these with a passion.  One of these unresolved issues was going to haunt him.

The D.A. picked up a different colored pen, one with red ink.  There was a certain name in the report that he drew a large circle around, like a bulls-eye.  He had no grounds to issue the warrant...yet.  The Bureau had made quite a loophole for the "civilian agents" assisting in this case.  Their protected status, however, would soon expire.

The D.A. was a forward planner and thorough to the last.  He contented himself for now by concentrating on the immediate issues.  For the future use, however, he filed away a copy of this report in a file marked Coltrane.

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

Brian picked up his pen and struck out a few names in the Syndicate's employee roster.  Some of the men he hadn't known.  Some he had been friends with.  

As he drew a line through the name Mugsy, he had to force his hand to do it.  The gruff bartender had been a fixture of the Jigsaw for as long as Brian could remember.  He didn't even know how he had died...he didn't see it happen.

Bruno...another friend, sometimes rival. Missed, in either case.

Marty...the warehouse clerk, the most gentle person in the Syndicate.  Family man.

More names continued to be stricken out by the quiet scratch of Brian's black pen.  It was a cold-blooded inventory of human resources, but it had to be done.  Spade's record-keeping had been behind in this area - maybe because he couldn't keep up with the rapid decline in the ranks.

Brian finished the grim task, then listed what he knew of the enemy’s casualties.  Writing these down gave him no joy, even when Tyler was penned in at the top of the list.

Rico was the next name listed.  Brian didn't think the man had died from the injuries he had given him.  More than likely, Rico had challenged the law while bent on escape – and had lost. Brian felt little remorse, but regretted having to write the name nonetheless.  There was a day when he would have danced on Rico's and Tyler's graves.  Today wasn't it. 

There were more names to list, under those of the enemy arrested, hospitalized.  One of those was Ketterhagen.

This one, Brian would have preferred to see dead, in the interest of public safety.  He sincerely hoped the law could hold this man.  Brian had no love for the D.A., but he hoped that Ketterhagen went up the river damn quick.

The final list was a roster of new Syndicate members, who'd recently sworn their oaths of loyalty...after being soundly hazed. More cheerful work...I must be gettin' old, I used to enjoy this crap...

With his hand starting to ache from writing, Brian sat down the pen.  There was only so much he could do right now. Rome wasn't built in a day...and the Syndicate's rebuilding would take time. 

In the background, the jukebox was blaring out Gimmie Three Steps by Lynard Skynard.  The crowd was rowdy tonight.  The working girls hadn't been this busy in ages. The gaming tables and pool tables were at capacity.  At the bar, empty bottles were being clinked into the trash at short intervals.

It occurred to Brian that he was the only one not having fun tonight. Spade knew what the hell he was doing when he gave up this ring.

Brian sighed, resigned himself to fate, and picked up the pen again.  Business was business...and Syndicate business was nobody's business but his, and that of some future, likely opportunistic and homicidal, successor.

I wonder what the hell MaryAnne and Rosco are up to.  Probably gettin' ready to rent out my room.

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

Rosco and MaryAnne were doing no such thing. The next day MaryAnne returned to the hospital to pick up Rosco, who was more than ready to leave. The nurse from the day before was more than happy to see him go.

"Just want you to know," Rosco said, pausing long enough at the nurses station, "that it's because of your tender loving care that I'm able to walk out of here today."

"You ain't seen the worst of me, honey, but Lord willin' you seen the last,"  she answered, making a shooing motion with her hand. 

Rosco grinned and headed towards the door with MaryAnne, who shook her head at his antics. "Rosco...I swear..."

"Khee! Aw, I was a good patient. I just...tried her patience, I think."

MaryAnne chuckled. They walked out of the hospital and headed across the parking lot towards Maverick. The sun shined down on the city of Atlanta, the locals were out, walking, jogging, driving on the streets. Rosco and

MaryAnne wanted nothing more than to leave historic Atlanta, however. They didn't belong here anymore. They knew they couldn't stay. But at the same time, they couldn't leave yet.  Once they got to the car, the Sheriff looked over the Firebird's T-tops at his cousin.

MaryAnne watched him, waited for him to speak.

"You want to go see if he's there?" he asked.

MaryAnne nodded. "If he's not there, maybe they know where he is."

Rosco agreed. They climbed into Maverick and the Firebird headed towards downtown.

The day's brightness had found it's way to the Syndicate's neighborhood.  The old hotel that housed the Jigsaw and nine other floors of criminal misconduct was awash in sunlight, casting it's shadow over the street behind it.  Down the block, Lou's Deli was beginning to pick up a booming lunchtime business.  The pawnshop had a steady stream of customers as well, and those looking for black-market bargains were not disappointed.

Tyrone's liquors, and the tattoo parlor adjacent to it, were thriving too.  Former members of Tyler's gang, who had been accepted into the Syndicate, were getting new ink for their new loyalty.  They also dulled the pain with cheap wine from Tyrone's.

Inside the Jigsaw, the Syndicate's officers were standing around a table, holding an early conference.  Anything before noon was considered an ungodly time to do business, but Brian saw no help for it.  He conducted the meeting in front of bleary-eyed and surly associates, those being Rusty, Ace, and Tony.  The issue of protection money had to be addressed.  Since the Syndicate's victory over Tyler, some businesses had begun to pay their usual "insurance" again.  One or two holdouts were causing a problem. 

Brian considered the input of his peers, then made his decision.  "Leave them alone. Give honest protection to the ones paying for it. The other ones will wise up after a freelancer knocks 'em over."

"Leave them alone?"  Ace started. "But-"

"BUT that's what we're gonna do."  Brian said with finality.  "We got other fish to fry. Take the casino, here, for example.  I been thinkin'..."

Brian lowered his voice, opened the Syndicate ledger, and began explaining numbers to his associates. Engrossed in their planning, the four men didn't take notice of the customers walking into the Jigsaw. 

Rosco and MaryAnne came in without fanfare. They looked around the Jigsaw and saw the four men deep in discussion at the back of the casino. They both saw Brian, glanced at each other and then quietly started to approach, their ears picking up pieces of what Brian was discussing.

"....there's enough money in the gamblin', house odds bein' five-to-one, to more n' make up for shakedowns and protection money.  The girls here could do even more business if we spruced this place up...." Brian was saying.  Then he felt eyes upon him, and he looked up to see his cousins.

Brian snapped his fingers. "Git," he said to his associates.  Rusty, Ace and Tony left without a word.  If there was one thing they didn't want any part of, it was a Coltrane family confrontation.

MaryAnne stood there, wanting to both hug him in knowing he was okay, and then kick his rear across the casino. Then again, Brian probably wanted to gladly return the favor, and Rosco had about the same idea. But the two cousins just looked at Brian, a combination of relief and question in their eyes.

"We wondered where ya might have gone..." MaryAnne said.

"Figured y'all would be back in Hazzard by now," Brian answered. Questions were behind his dark eyes as well.

"Thought'd come with us?" Rosco asked.

The guarded expression Brian had been wearing suddenly fell. Momentarily, his gaze dropped to the floor. He finally looked back up at Rosco and MaryAnne, not as a Syndicate Don, but as a cousin. One that was tired, scared, and feeling very alone.

"I want to..." he said quietly.  "I want to go home like nothin' on this earth...but I can't."

MaryAnne stepped closer to Brian. She looked at him for a long moment, his words echoing a sentiment she felt when her mission had started. She ventured a chance at asking him why he couldn't go home, knowing she probably wouldn't get much of an answer. Considering she didn't give much of one when they had asked her.

"Why can't you?" she asked. She didn't demand...she just simply asked.

Brian stood directly in front of MaryAnne.  He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her blue eyes as he spoke.

"I can't, because what you did...needs to stay done.  We can't let another Mancini or another Tyler come up from this one.  There's too much at stake, too much up in the air...and these folks in the Jigsaw have gone through too much for me to walk out on 'em now."  Brian took a shallow breath and went on. 

"I didn't understand what you went through before," he added.  "I didn't know how you could give up your home, your family, and do the things you did…all for the sake of some mission."  He paused again.

"Now I do...." He said softly. "I'm sorry...about all of it...."

MaryAnne stood up so she could see straight eye to eye with Brian.  "Then you understand that I gave up my home and family - to try to protect my home and family?"

He nodded, sadly.  "Yeah...."

"I put the badge before you two because I was going to use it to protect you two. I'm not proud of what I did sometimes during all of this, and I'll admit my objectives changed as I got deeper into all this, but I'm thankful things worked out for the most part. Although it's gonna take awhile before things get back to normal."

She drew in a deep breath. "Brian, part of me wants to argue with you and tell ya not to stay here. If the D.A. manages to snag ya with an arrest, he'll have no mercy on you. But at the same time, your argument is valid. If another Mancini or Tyler were to rise up from the ashes of this...we'd be right back where we started." She shook her head. "And if that were to happen I would definitely never wear a badge again."

Brian nodded again, shutting his eyes for a moment. "I know...I've thought about all that...and I wouldn't stay here, if I thought I couldn't make a difference.  You taught me a few things in Hazzard, you an' Rosco. I won't forget any of 'em...."

MaryAnne looked at Rosco, wondering if he had anything to add. The Sheriff looked at Brian, a combination of pride and sadness. Rosco's only goal was to bring his family back to Hazzard together and alive. He had them alive...but he couldn't bring them all back.

"How long do you think you'll be here?" he asked.

"However long it takes..." Brian said, barely getting the words out.  It was goodbye, after everything they'd been through.  "I'll come home as soon as I can...but until then, keep clear of the pond, ya hear?"

Rosco suddenly had words caught in his throat. Wait a minute, this is too soon! He looked from Brian to MaryAnne and then finally stammered it out. "Wait a minute..." He looked at Brian. They had been through so much, and their relationship had changed the most during the course of MaryAnne's assignment. They had a better understanding of each other now, Rosco was certain.  He understood Brian's wish to remain in Atlanta; he probably would have done the same thing. But he didn't have to like it.

"Brian..." Rosco hesitated, realizing he had no idea how to put what he wanted to say into words. "Dammit...I ain't worried about no pond. I really wish you didn't have to stay..." Rosco looked Brian in the eyes, and within his own mind, could see flashbacks of all they had been through. And now it was all coming down to this.

Rosco sighed, defeated in his attempt to vocalize what he was trying express to his cousin. So he simply put his hand out and said, "Be careful huh? Git home soon..."

Brian felt like Rosco, in the sense that words weren't enough.  He took his eldest cousin's hand, shook it, and nodded.  One thing, however, had to be said, and Brian hoped his voice wouldn't crack in the process.  "Sheriff....just in case...there's something I want you to know.  Back when you signed the Release Order and let me come to Hazzard with ya’ were the first cop that signed me on, instead of writin' me off.  You never gave up on me. No matter what…you never gave up…and I'll always owe you for that."

Rosco smiled. "If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would. You get home as soon as you can, and we'll be even."

"Thanks, Rosco."  Brian smiled in return, and tightly gripped Rosco's shoulder in farewell.  If they had to part, Brian took comfort in the fact that they were parting as friends, as kin.  He gave a last nod of respect to the Sheriff, then turned to MaryAnne.  Lord only knew what she was thinking at this moment...

"That goes for me too," she said. "But Rosco wasn't quite the first cop to sign you on." She looked him in the eye. "I was."

"Yeah, you were...though you didn't get a formal receipt like Rosco did."  Brian forced a chuckle, but it was weak. He couldn't get himself to joke around.  He fished for words, looking down a moment at the floor.  Then he cleared his throat, raised his head, and his dark eyes were deep and serious as he looked at MaryAnne.

"What do you say to somebody," he began softly, "Who knew everything bad about you...and found the good? What do you say to someone...that not only made a difference in your life...but gave it to you...."

He fell silent, his soul bare for that moment.

MaryAnne placed a hand on his shoulder. "You've already said what needs to be said..." The young ex-federal agent's eyes started to shine and she pulled Brian into a hug. "You take care of yourself, ya hear? Rosco and I both want ya home. Hazzard will always be your home."

Brian hugged her back, the word home tearing at his heart.  "You take care, too...both of ya," he whispered.  After holding on for a few heartbeats, Brian sighed and let MaryAnne go.  He stepped back, and regarded both cousins with a last look.  "Hazzard's waitin' for ya..."

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco, who nodded reluctantly. It was time to leave.

"We'll be waitin' for ya," the Sheriff said. Slowly, he and MaryAnne started to edge towards the door.

MaryAnne wiped a tear away. "Don't be surprised if you see us sittin' at the bar here some night," she said, mustering up a grin.

"Hell...we serve anybody in this joint," Brian said with a watery smile.  "Don't be surprised if you see a black Chevy in your mirrors..."         

"Khee..." Rosco and MaryAnne continued towards the door, having a hard time turning away from Brian completely. It didn't feel right; they shouldn't be leaving their kin behind. But did they really have any choice? They knew the situation, the circumstances, the possibilities. They would have rather had Brian come home with them, but they knew, deep down, that what he was doing by staying in Atlanta...

Was the right thing. Despite the enormous chance he was taking with the DA. One chance, one slip up, one arrest, one conviction.

One time. And it would be all over.

When Rosco and MaryAnne finally reached they door, they gave Brian one last look. Neither wanted to think of maybe's. Each was determined to hold their belief that Brian would come home someday.

Hell, they would do whatever they had to do, to make sure he got home...

With this silent, mutual agreement, Rosco and MaryAnne finally turned and slipped out the front doors of the Jigsaw, leaving the building’s darkness, walking into the bright sunlight.

They walked quietly to Maverick, and the Firebird slowly pulled away from the curb. They drove out of the old downtown neighborhood, past the unlit neon signs, past the buildings that were boarded up, and past the pawnshop with it's upstairs apartment.  It had become such familiar territory in the past few weeks that it even felt odd to be leaving it.

An occasional sigh was all the punctuated the silence inside the Pontiac. As the decor of the city changed from dusky downtown, to the glass and granite of the modern office buildings, Rosco ventured a look at his cousin behind the wheel.

"You all right?" he asked.

MaryAnne's eyes never left the boulevard before her, but she nodded. "I'm all right."

He nodded back and looked at the passing scenery. "Can I ask ya something?"

"Go ahead."

"Well...back when you first found out he got that ring, you told him not to get used to it. Actually you...threatened for him not to get used to it." The Sheriff made a face, not sure what he was trying to ask. "I gotta be honest, MaryAnne, I thought for sure you woulda taken his head off with his decision to stay here in Atlanta…I mean, even though he's doin' it to make sure that all you did doesn't come unraveled..."

MaryAnne chuckled. "I think he was expectin' me to take his head off too..." She turned Maverick down another road. "But I know he's not continuin' to wear that ring for the bad guy in him." She briefly took her eyes away from the road.  "He's wearin' it for the good."

Rosco met his cousin's gaze and smiled. When she looked back to the road, he nodded to himself. "That's what I was figurin' too. 'Specially when he said that we taught him things in Hazzard."

MaryAnne nodded. "He learned well." She paused. "I've learned a lot too..."

The closer Maverick edged towards the city limits, the fewer the buildings that dotted the skyline. MaryAnne signaled for the on-ramp to the freeway that would take her and Rosco back to Hazzard. They came up the ramp, the moderate traffic whizzing by. Maverick merged with the other cars and it wasn't long until they were passing the sign that said, leaving city limits of Atlanta. The imposing skyline now loomed far behind them.

The speed limit changed, and just as MaryAnne was about to shift into a higher gear, something flashed in her mirrors…like sunlight off silver. She looked in time to see a black Chevy Impala start to pull off towards the exit ramp. The sunlight streaked from Diablo’s broad chrome grill, flashing back at the Firebird in farewell. It had seen MaryAnne and Rosco safely to the city limits...and now it was gone.

MaryAnne shifted gears and smiled, glancing back at the mirror again even though the Impala was no longer there.

"He followed us," she said.

"I saw."

Perhaps he was following his more ways than one.

Not every Coltrane wants to wear a badge... Brian would argue.

Nope...and not every Coltrane has too...

~THE END~ (Fer now. LOL)

I can't light no more of your darkness....

All my pictures seem to fade to black and white

I'm growing tired...and time stands still before me

Frozen here, on the ladder of my life.

To late, to save myself from fallin'...

I took a chance. And changed your way of life...

But you meaning when I met you...

Close the door, and left me blinded by the light...


Don't let the sun go down on me

Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see.

I just allowed a fragment of your life, to wander free..

But losing everything, is like the sun going down on me...


I can't find...oh, the right romantic line.

But see me once...and see the way I feel...

Don't disgard me...just becuase you think I mean you harm..

But these cuts I have...oh, they need love to help them heal...