Chapter Three


While Rosco and Brian were heading back to Hazzard, MaryAnne was completing registering her weapons and Maverick with the FBI.  The 9mm, the silencer and her non-police issue revolver were registered, the Firebird's schematics and license number were given and even her CB radio was registered. MaryAnne dared not bring any other communications devices. She told the clerk what her usual CB channel would be and that she would answer to the handle of "Thunderbird" if Commander Mayson needed to reach her for some reason. The chances of that, MaryAnne realized, were probably slim.

MaryAnne did make one selection of an FBI provided weapon. A shotgun. She had carried one when she ran shine. Good luck charm or added insurance, she wasn't sure. But if Maverick was going to be used as a runner for anything, the gun for some reason had to be there. Maybe it was because not having one was like being in church without a shirt on.

Once she was settled with her clerical duties with the FBI, MaryAnne left headquarters and drove to the other side of town, to a parking lot not far from the old apartment building she used to live in.  She parked Maverick and spent the next half hour preparing the car and herself for her undercover work. The shotgun was settled in the trunk, the duffle bags were shuffled and repacked after various things had been removed; weapons, holsters, ammunition, ect. MaryAnne made sure Maverick didn't sport anything that would cause suspicion if the car was searched for any reason. But then she had to stop and remind herself that with the situation she was going into, it would have looked suspicous if she didn't have any weapons or hastily packed clothes....

It ain't easy living like a gypsy, tell ya honey how I feel...

Maverick received a new decal as well. MaryAnne had bought the Confederate flag decal months ago, but had never put it on the car. The four-by-two-inch sticker was now in the bottom middle of the back window. She wasn't sure what compelled her to put it on now. Certainly no one would understand her own personal symbolism with the Southern Cross.

With her holster now over her shoulders, hidden under her denim jacket and weighted down with the 9mm, MaryAnne got into Maverick and began the drive to the Jigsaw.

The busy streets led MaryAnne deeper into the heart of the city.  On the corner of an intersection, in the heart of old downtown Atlanta, stood the Jigsaw.  The bar and lounge took up the entire first floor of the seedy hotel, which seemed nothing more than a heap of dirty red bricks piled ten stories high.   Neon lights flickered and winked through the bar's narrow glass windows, but the colorful glow did nothing to improve the forbidding character of the building.

It's construction, having occurred sometime during the early 1900's, reflected a spartan design with little attention to aesthetics.  It didn't help that some of the hotel's windows appeared to have been sealed up over the years, with a hodge-podge of mismatched brick and stone.  Others were simply boarded up.

MaryAnne parked along the street in front of the hotel.  She got out of Maverick cautiously, and peered more closely at the second and third floor windows of the hotel.  The reason for the sealed windows became obvious, as she noticed the small gaps between the bricks and stone.  Gaps wide enough for a well-aimed gun barrel.  She wondered if there was already a rifle being pointed at her head.

She walked resolutely towards the only visible entrance of the bar.  The heavy wooden door had no window, and there was no telling what waited for her behind it. She pulled it open wide with a single, fierce tug.

Loud music, coarse laughter and thick cigarette smoke hit her all at once, like a pan of dirty dishwater in the face.  The sparse number of cars parked outside on the street had been misleading; the bar was full, packed with everything from black-clad street thugs, to business-suited gentlemen, to faceless, desperate people who were mixed up with the wrong crowd and knew it.   A few women who were under-dressed and overly-friendly circulated in the crowd, with most of them congregated to the back tables where dice rattled and poker chips clicked together.

Her throat burned with each breath she took. She coughed a few times, trying to adjust to the pungent air. Some people stopped to look at her and looked hard. Seeing a stranger in their midst, they watched her as she walked over to the bar. MaryAnne glared back at those who she felt had stared too long. No one flinched.

Hell of a lot of good that did...  She walked up to the bar and sat down on a stool.

The bartender ignored her for a few minutes, just long to enough to give her time to change her mind, had she wanted to.  When it was clear she intended to stay, the big man wandered over.  He talked through the toothpick that was clenched between his teeth, wiping his hands on a greasy bar rag.  "Yeah, whatcha want?"

"I'm lookin' for Spade. I'll pass on the refreshments."

If it was an uncommon request, the bartender gave no sign.  He only shrugged, took the toothpick from his mouth, and whistled shrilly to another section of the tavern.

Two hoods came up to the bar, moving through the crowd without disturbing it.   They were well-built but not overly muscular, typical of the breed who spent most of their time either running or fighting.  Other than the color of their hair, which was red for one and a grimy russet for the other - they looked uniform and non-descript, wearing black clothing and sunglasses. 

The bartender pointed to MaryAnne.  "Rusty, I got a live one here that wants to see Spade."

"Got it,"  the redhead answered.  The bartender went back to pulling tappers without another word.  Rusty stared at MaryAnne through his sunglasses.  "You a cop?"  he asked bluntly.

"Do you always wear sunglasses indoors?"

Rusty stood in silence for a moment, and those sitting closest to MaryAnne scooted away a few inches.  Rusty then reached up and slowly raised the glasses to his forehead without removing them, revealing a set of narrowed hazel eyes.  "That's right," he answered.  "Unless I see something I like."

"Well, I can tell you right now that you ain't gonna like what you're lookin' at. But I don't answer to somebody unless I can see their eyes." MaryAnne turned on the stool to face Rusty completely. "No, I'm not a cop. Not anymore."

That caused some bristling to those closest to MaryAnne, including Rusty and his silent sidekick.  He let the glasses fall back into place.  "Follow me."

The two men escorted her through the haze of smoke and neon, and the bar seemed to get darker the further back they went into it.   Even the lights above the pool tables were dimmer than they ought to be, but the thugs playing 8-ball were apparently used to it.  They didn't pause in their game, didn't look up as MaryAnne was led past them.  The jukebox started to belt out Bad Moon Rising, the lyrics fading from MaryAnne's hearing as her escort led her through the gauntlet of stares, sneers, and indifference.

She was lead to the very back of the tavern, where a partitioned wall separated a private room from the tavern.  There, seated comfortably at a long table and nursing a glass  of bourbon, was the self-appointed Don.  He was well-dressed and impeccably groomed, and his expensive cologne rose above the reek of smoke and alcohol.  His hair, which had probably contributed to his trademark nickname, was black and slicked away from his forehead.  It was his eyes, however, that gave his enemies pause and made his friends wary.

Heavy-lidded and dangerous like a well-fed snake, Spade's green eyes regarded MaryAnne with a flat, cold expression.  He lit a cigarette with a gold lighter, snapped it shut, and put it away without breaking eye contact.  He puffed smoke at her for a few seconds, then made his own conclusion as to her reason for being there. 

"I'm not hiring any more prostitutes," he said with dismissal.

MaryAnne nodded. "Wise choice, because I don't do that kind of work."

"Who are you,"  Spade growled with mild irritation.

Your worst nightmare... MaryAnne smiled. "The kind of help you need, perhaps. My name is MaryAnne Coltrane."

Click, click, click...The sound of three ready guns answered her statement.  Spade held his own .38, which he'd produced from under the table without blinking.  Rusty and his partner trained their weapons at MaryAnne's back.  "You're a cop," Spade said as if pronouncing a sentence. 

MaryAnne's heart had skipped a beat, but she calmly regarded the .38 in Spade's hand and turned her head slightly to look back at the other two. "Easy gentlemen...." She looked at Rusty. "I'm disappointed in you, son. I told you the truth."

"She told me she's an ex-cop, " Rusty explained grudgingly.  Spade continued to stare at MaryAnne.  He rose from the table, and keeping his gun trained on her with his right hand, took her face in his left.  He turned her profile, looking at her face as if comparing it to a mug shot.   Then he let her go and sat back down, withdrawing his cigarette from his mouth.  He rolled it between his thumb and forefinger, thinking.

"I'll buy that you're MaryAnne Coltrane,"  he said at last.  "The rest, I'm not so sure about."

MaryAnne ran her hand over her face and flexed her jaw. She looked at Spade, not pleased with her face being manhandled. "Of course not. You'd be dead by now if you were too trusting." 

"Like your cousin," Spade said blandly.  "Like you're supposted to be."

MaryAnne smiled but it was cold. "But I ain't.  And that's why I'm here."


"I'm already dead," MaryAnne said. "Not only did Mancini's group of pea shooters try to get me, factions within the FBI wanted me toasted too. Needless to say, my dedication to law enforcement is now out the window. I got the hell outta the sheriff's department in Hazzard for that very reason. I no longer saw any sense in workin' for the side that I least expected would try to kill me."

Spade took another drag on the cigarette, his green eyes locked to MaryAnne's blue.  He read her, studied her, while giving no reaction of his own.  Finally he gave in to his own curiosity.  "Is it true that a Fed sharpshooter nailed Brian?"

MaryAnne made like she didn't want to relive painful memories. In a sense, she didn't. "Yeah," she replied plainly, with a touch of disgust.

Rusty muttered a soft obscenity, but Spade silenced him with a look.  "So Mancini's pet Feds did the job," he said as he flicked ash from the cigarette.  "After Duece and Dirk and my boys blew it."

Spade took a sip of brandy, his green eyes still locked on the young woman in front of him.  "I told Mancini it wasn't worth it," he continued.  "Hazzard had already cost us Vinnie.  It ended up costing us too damn much, in the end."   The .38 was still on MaryAnne, and Spade gestured with it slightly. "If Hazzard cost Brian his life, don't you think Atlanta might cost you yours?"

MaryAnne looked at the gun, giving an amused smile. "Eh, perhaps. The last time I saw Brian he was lying on the floor of my father's farm house, half alive and with a bullet in his chest. Ya see, I have a little unfinished business here and personally I believe that some people owe me for past services rendered. If I should get what I'm lookin' for, but die afterwards...I'll still have won. "

A thin smile spread across the Don's face. "Cryptic.  I like that in a girl."  He picked up the brandy again, sipping leisurely, as if he always held conference with people at gunpoint.   "Tell me about your 'unfinished buisiness.'"

"It's the same unfinished business you got: Frankie Tyler."

Thoughtful now, Spade leaned back, nodded, and put his gun away.  Rusty and his partner followed suit.  "I remember that incident,"  the Don remarked. "You were the bane of the Syndicate long before you set foot in Hazzard.  I should just have you dumped in the sewer on general principle."  He gestured to the chair across from him at the table.  "Sit down and talk me out of it, if you can."

MaryAnne nodded and sat down. "Is dumping me in the sewer anyway to say thank you? After all, you wouldn't be in the higher position that you're in right now if it weren't for some of my actions." MaryAnne held her breath. She wasn't sure if Spade would take to kindly to her suggestion that it had been all her doing that he got his position. But then again, one couldn't deny that if not for events that she had been a part of, Spade would not be so honored as a Syndicate Don now.

"I've already said 'thank you' by letting you live this long. Charming as you are, Miss Coltrane, you're in my world now. Your next breath, and the one after that, happens until I snap my fingers."

MaryAnne let the breath out slowly. Figures...jackass.  "Doesn't cut it," she replied sharply. "You and I both want Frankie Tyler taken down permanently. You're here because I  helped knock him down a couple of pegs. You're here because Mancini's FBI connections backfired, because my cousin wanted to find his real family, and because of me.  If you can't comprehend all that in your brain, Mr. Spade, maybe you oughta rethink your position in this game called the Syndicate.  And if you're gonna blow me away right now with a measly .38, you better be rethinkin' your fire power if you want Frankie Tyler off your back for good. Because you'll never get him off your back with that pea shooter!"

The hoods behind MaryAnne sucked in their breath, and the rest of the tavern became quiet. Apparently her voice had carried, and now a small crowd of the Syndicate faithful were gathering from behind.

Spade's eyes never left MaryAnne.  Unlike his predecessor, he was able to control his temper.  The only sign of his ire was to pick up his cigarette again and give it a long drag.  He exhaled heavily, blowing a plume of smoke with his words. "No wonder Brian couldn't kill you.  You're the most goddamn audacious woman I've ever seen."  He pointed towards Rusty.  "Bring her a drink."

It was a sign of favor, and a collective breath of relief came from the Jigsaw.   As bottles and glasses clinked again, Rusty thunked down a glass of brandy in front of MaryAnne.  The Don leaned forward.  "You have a proposition, Miss Coltrane?"

MaryAnne paused a moment and took a sip of the brandy. She certainly needed the shot at this point. She nodded, indicating that Spade's stock was good and looked at the Don. "I figure Frankie Tyler is to blame for all my troubles as of late. I don't like him, I know he doesn't like me, and he makes a convenient target for my anger. And somewhere floatin' around still is a contract with my name on it, and one for my cousin Rosco, I'm sure.”

She took another swallow of liquor. “I make a simple proposition, Mr. Spade. Allow me to help in permanently taking out Frankie Tyler…and if the endeavor is successful, the contracts are torn up. We wipe the slate clean, as they say. I have no personal grudge against you, otherwise I wouldn't be here."

Spade looked interested, but before he could answer, one of his hoods stepped up to the table and slid something over to the Don.  Spade caught it with a slap of his hand, and turned it over.  It was a badge wallet, and even in the dim light, the silver shield reflected like a mirror.  Spade glanced at it with a low flick of his green eyes, then skidded it across to MaryAnne. "Anybody you knew?"  he asked conversationally.

MaryAnne picked up the badge and looked at it. She noted the name and badge number but made no change to her expression. Truth was, she didn't know the name on the badge but she was sure Commander Mayson did. She tossed the badge wallet back on the desk. "Nope."

Spade took the badge and pocketed it, noting her indifference. "You really aren't friendly to the Feds anymore, are you."  He picked up the brandy glass.  "There's a time-honored expression - 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'  You seem to fit that category, Miss Coltrane...although you will be required to prove yourself useful."

MaryAnne nodded. "Of course." She then smiled. "I think you'll find me to be quite useful to your organization."

"You'll have opportunity to prove it."  The Don stood up and raised his glass high, and his eyes swept across to the gathered host of the Syndicate.  "The name of Coltrane is part of our family once again!"  

Spade then looked at MaryAnne directly.  "Welcome," he said to her, offering a toast.

MaryAnne stood up as well and raised her glass to the Don. She gave a nod and a smile, accepting his welcome.

Glasses and bottles chimed together, and the word welcome was echoed by everyone in earshot.  It had barely faded when a rough cheer rose from the same throats, and the Don smiled as the chorus gained volume.  It took a few beats to get going, but soon the chant of "Col-trane! Col-trane! Col-trane!" swelled to fill the Jigsaw, surrounding MaryAnne like a storm.  

MaryAnne's heart skipped a beat as the sound of her name filled her ears. She smiled out of a little embarrassment and a touch of odd pride. She raised her glass to the group that had gathered near the entranceway and gave a nod, looking at Spade.

"Now that you're a part of our family, feel free to take one of the rooms upstairs. Rusty will see that you're settled in."  At the sound of his name, Rusty came forward. 

"Show her the basics, explain the quotas, and help her scout the jobs,"  The Don told him.  "If there's any problems, I want to know about them."

Rusty nodded, and Spade returned to his seat at the table, looking over at MaryAnne once more.  "I think your cousin would be proud," he said with a smug grin.  "Now get out there and bring in some money."

MaryAnne took one final sip of the brandy and left the glass on his desk. "Loosen up your counting fingers." She gave him a wink and then turned to Rusty.

Laughter burst from those closest to MaryAnne, and Spade smiled despite himself.  As MaryAnne followed Rusty back through the bar, the chant of Col-trane! Col-trane! Col-trane! resumed, the raising of voices, glasses and pool cues saluting the newest Syndicate member.

MaryAnne flashed them her most charming smile. There was a strange comfort in how they all accepted her. She apparently had their good graces...but she would have to tread carefully from this point on. But so far, everything was going well.

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

The mood at the Coltrane household was much more somber.  After stuffing a few articles of clothing in an overnight bag, Brian put out extra food and water for the dogs.  The Dukes would take good care of them, he knew.  He had to admit the Duke family made better friends than they did enemies.

"Rosco, ya ready?"  Brian called from the doorway.

"Comin'," the Sheriff replied. After a moment, Rosco emerged in the stairway, now changed from uniform to jeans and a flannel shirt. He had thrown some clothes into a duffle bag and he carried it down with him. He looked at Brian when he came off the landing of the stairs. "Didja put out food and water for the puppies?"


Rosco nodded and then sighed. "Alright then, let's get goin'."

Brian opened the screen door and they headed out to Diablo. The black Chevy was running and ready, and in moments the Coltrane menfolk were on highway 36 and on their way to Atlanta. 

The first several miles were traveled in silence.  Brian was driving fast, as was his habit. The Sheriff looked through the windshield with a fixed gaze, his mind preoccupied.  Brian glanced at Rosco from the corner of his eye now and then, remembering the other occasions Rosco had been in this car.  None were likely to be pleasant memories for the Sheriff.

The first time Rosco rode in Diablo, Brian had kidnapped the Sheriff and hauled him off to be a hostage.  The second time, it was as Rosco’s life was draining from him, thanks to a deadly wound from the Syndicate.  It was a lot for Brian to live down, and he was amazed that he'd gotten along with Rosco as well as he had.  He coughed uncomfortably, breaking the silence with a neutral sound.

Rosco barely noticed. He remembered both times clearly and even found himself subconsciously grabbing for the door handle, hanging on as the car sped along. "Will you slow down, dammit..."Rosco said.

Brian eased up on the pedal.  His dark eyes flicked to over to the Sheriff, then back to the road.  The ex-criminal could feel Rosco's tension, and an edgy Sheriff was never good news.  Brian licked his teeth, wondering if was best to keep his mouth shut, or to put the strain to voice and let Rosco get it out.

There was no good way to broach bad memories.  Brian took a breath.  "Still hurts sometimes, don't it...that old knife wound."

Rosco didn't reply right away. He didn't want to be reliving the bad memories and he didn't want to be riding in the car.  Rosco looked out the side window, trying to hide his clouding eyes from Brian. "Everyday," he replied softly. "It's a constant reminder that I don't need...and I'm sorry, but riding in this car is not helping matters any."

"Your patrol car would kinda stand out in Altanta,"  Brian said as apology.  "And it ain't like patrol cars don't give me the creeps, for that matter."

Rosco had a response but vetoed using it. He didn't want to argue and at this point he didn't feel like talking about it anymore. The Sheriff remained quiet.

"What?" Brian asked to Rosco's silence.  "Go ahead, say it."

Rosco shook his head. "No," he said. "Just drive."

"Cops,"  Brian muttered absently.  Just when I thought I was startin' to figure 'em out...

"Dead cops," Rosco countered.

Brian turned his head at that one.  "Ain't that the way most of y'all would like to go?  'In the line of duty' and all that?"

"Yeah, pretty much..."

Brian nodded, understanding the mentality.  "Back in days, guess you could call 'em...I was always waitin' for that cop-bullet with my name on it.  You know, hopin' for a cop to take me down for good instead of bustin' me."  He shrugged nonchalantly.  "Beats dyin' in jail." 

"Or on the side of the road...I was supposed to die that day," Rosco mumbled. He couldn't help his somewhat morbid train of thought. It was something he had thought of a lot since that day. "I think we all were," he continued. "But heaven don't want us yet, and apparently hell is too easy...." He looked at Brian. "I don't know if I ever told you this, but...I really thought you...were gonna finish me off that day...." Rosco didn't know why this was all coming out now. They were supposed to be worrying about MaryAnne and what she could possibly be mixed up in. But at the same all seemed relevant.

Brian let out a slow breath.  There was such a thing as too much honesty, and he wasn't sure how much truth the two of them could handle.  But it was time to put the cards on the table.  “When I saw your patrol car on the side of the road, I was hoping you were already dead. Hell, at the time, I thought you had set me up..." 

Brian's voice lowered with the memory.  "I couldn't see past your badge just yet.  I thought MaryAnne was gone, and then with the Syndicate bein' after me, and the Feds on my tail...I didn't have a lot of sympathy for your condition."

The ex-criminal sighed. "But I couldn't just drive on by.  I never forgot, ya know, that you shot me in the shoulder instead of blowing my head off at the Boar's Nest.  So I pulled over, and there you were, alive, dammit.....just alive enough to give me problems."

"Feds comin' up the road, and the Sheriff of Hazzard County bleedin' at my feet.  Oh, I knew how that one was gonna look..." Brian gave a short, humorless laugh. "Diablo's tire tracks, my footprints in the fingerprints on your clothes from checkin' your pulse."

He glanced at Rosco again.  "I had dragged you into the car before I knew what I doing.  I just couldn't leave ya there. I dunno...I thought MaryAnne was dead, and I figured the Feds or the Syndicate would nail me before too long.  Might as well make it all count for something."  Brian sighed once more, his voice becoming rough.  "And were kin, badge or not.  For some damn reason I cared."

Rosco was quiet for a very long moment. Slowly, he nodded. "I figured as much..." he said softly. "You and I didn't exactly have an understanding of one another at first. I thought MaryAnne was crazy, thinkin' you could turn your back on the Syndicate in favor of a couple of cousins you'd never met before.  She was dogged determined...." Rosco looked at Brian. "But...that's why I didn't blow your head off at the Boar's Nest. You were kin and MaryAnne was so fired up on saving you from the Syndicate."

"I wanted to tell ya she was alive, but I couldn't trust anybody at that point. I lied to everybody, Brian, even the Dukes. I even had Enos lyin' right with me. Of course, the dang Feds had to know about her medical history which blew my shuck 'n jive practically outta the water. I couldn't even trust the Feds!" Rosco paused, lowering his voice. "I was so afraid of losing her...and now..." He paused and looked out at the passing scenery. "Now I much more blood and bullets are gonna be between us..."

It was a question that Brian couldn't answer.  He quietly digested the facts and feelings that Rosco had just shared, and glanced over at the Sheriff.  Their eyes met, briefly, and within the silent exchange was a mutual understanding of sorts.  The ride to Atlanta was made without further conversation.

Highway 36 led them to the freeway, and from there it was about an hour's ride to the city limits.  The skyline of Atlanta rose majestically in the windshield, and traffic thickened in the five-lane route.  Brian adjusted his mirrors and took to glancing in them continually.  He felt deja vu', coming back to the city with Diablo.  But once he had parked the Chevy in front of the Federal Building, he was downright nervous.  He turned off the car and looked at Rosco.  "I think it'd be better if you did the talkin' in there."

Rosco nodded. "Alright." He drew in a deep breath and pulled open the door.

Rosco led the way to the front entrance of the Federal Building.  Inside, the stately lobby was filled with roaming government employees, FBI agents, attorneys, and a handful of the general public.  Brian stayed close to Rosco's shoulder as the Sheriff registered their visit.  As Rosco announced himself and Brian being here to see Commander Mayson, the receptionist's eyes widened.

The name Coltrane, combined with the dual presence of the Sheriff and a known criminal at her desk, left no doubt in her mind.  She made the obligatory call to Mayson's secretary, announcing the two visitors.   Then she hung up the phone and nodded.  "He'll see you immediately."

"He damn well better," Brian muttered, getting an instant "Hush!" back from Rosco.  And after seeing the expressions worn by the agents who processed them through the checkpoint, Brian knew better than to make any more remarks.  Something was up with these guys, something big.

The elevator took them to Mayson's office, and the secretary escorted them inside, shutting the door behind them.  Mayson rose from behind his desk, his face serious but his voice congenial.  "Sheriff Coltrane, good to see you again."

Rosco shook the Commander's hand. "I wish it was under different cicumstances tho'."

Mayson raised an eyebrow and seated himself behind his desk, gesturing to his visitors to sit down as well.  "Yes, well...I've heard the stray rumor or two about your cousin MaryAnne.  What can I do to help you?"

The Sheriff countered with his own raised eyebrow. "Oh? Stray rumor huh?" Rosco glanced at Brian who looked ready to strike. "And what rumors have you heard?"

Mayson cleared his throat and pushed some papers around on his desk. "Only that she resigned suddenly from her position as Deputy in your police department, and hasn't made any effort to seek new employment with law enforcement."

Rosco looked at Brian with a sideways glance. "Hmm..." The silent question being posed to his cousin was, You realize that she only resigned a few hours ago, and somehow this rumor has started to circulate? Nobody outside of Hazzard really knows she quit....

Brian thought about the A.P.B. that Rosco had put out on MaryAnne earlier.  He caught Rosco's look and decided to speak up. "You musta caught wind of the radio call Rosco had out on her.  Don't suppose any of your boys have seen her," he said mildly.

"No," Mayson answered.  "I wish that I could say otherwise."  The FBI Commander made eye contact with Brian.  "I trust you won't be leaving the company of the good Sheriff while you're in town."

That stiffened Brian's spine.  He said nothing, but his dark eyes narrowed dangerously.  Mayson added his trump card.  "I don't mind you being here, personally.  But these are turbulent times in Atlanta.  Your sudden appearance on the street could be misunderstood by the District Attorney." 

Rosco was close to having absolutely no doubt that the FBI knew more about MaryAnne's resignation than the Commander was letting on. "It could be misunderstood by some other people too, couldn't it Commander?"

"Absolutely. For the safety of you both, I'd recommend that you concluded your business in Atlanta quickly."  Mayson tapped a pen on the desk, punctuating his words.

Rosco nodded. "We'll certainly try to do it as fast as we can." He paused. "Let's see...ain't too many blue Firebirds like Maverick. Shouldn't take more than a couple of days to find..."

"What makes you think she's in Atlanta?" 

Rosco eyed the FBI Commander. His expression clearly said, she's here but the Sheriff only replied, "True, she may not be here. We'll know fer sure in a couple of days. Unless...."

Commander Mayson raised another eyebrow.  "Unless what, Sheriff?"          

Rosco thought about it a moment and then said, "Naw, a distinguished law man such as yourself wouldn't lie to me about the whereabouts of my kin now, would you?"

"I'd lie no more than you would,"  Mayson said evenly, and kept his face neutral.   "Gentlemen...go back to Hazzard. If MaryAnne turns up, I promise I'll call you."  

Rosco made a move as if to get up and then stopped. "Oh...well, why don't you save yourself a dime and tell me now?"

"Sheriff,"  Mayson warned, "I don't like what you're insinuating.  If you insist on roaming Atlanta in search for MaryAnne, I won't stop you.  However, I'm not above having your cousin Brian in custody for his own safety, during the interim - do I make myself clear?"

Brian was half-out of his chair, but Rosco put a hand on his shoulder and he sat back down.

"You've made yourself quite clear, Commander," Rosco said. "Having Brian in custody will not be necessary."  The Sheriff stood up now. "If your boys spot her, I wanna know about it. Do I make myself clear?"

"Completely.  Now if you'll excuse me, Sheriff...I'm a bit backlogged today."   Mayson hit the intercom switch, and his secretary opened the doors behind them. 

Rosco looked at the doors and then at the Commander. The Sheriff was very disappointed with the federal agent, but the man's lack of answers only served to support Rosco's major question. MaryAnne was doing something for the FBI. Something big. Rosco said nothing and glanced at Brian. The two then marched to the door.

Neither Coltrane said anything until they had completely left the Federal Building.  Once outside, Brian let out a low whistle. "Man, I don't know what Mayson's got up his sleeve, but I don't like it."  

"I don't either," Rosco replied.  "What bothers me more is that MaryAnne's somehow mixed up in it." The Sheriff paused. "My only guess is that they've got her undercover." He looked at Brian. "Which might explain why he wants you under wraps."

Brian nodded.  "Can't say I completely disagree with 'em.  Being here in Atlanta ain't the brightest thing I could do these days."   The two of them walked to the black Chevy and got inside the car.  "But if MaryAnne is workin' for the Feds, and if she's doin' anythin' remotely connected to the Syndicate - then she's in more trouble than you an' me put together."

"I know," Rosco said. He propped his elbow on the armrest and sighed. "But why MaryAnne? What could the Feds be tryin' to achieve by puttin' her in there?"

"And why the hell would she take the assignment to begin with?  It'd be...suicide.  Hell, the Syndicate probably still has an old Contract out on her."  

"And on you, and me. Unless the Syndicate thinks you're already dead or in jail. Shoot, if we go poking around tryin' to find her, we could just end up succeeding it gettin' all of us killed."

"Hmm. You're makin' sense, Rosco...and that's scarin' me too."  Brian leaned back in the seat for a second, then sighed and started up Diablo.  The vah-hooom responding from the motor seemed to agree.

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

As Brian and Rosco were pondering MaryAnne's fate, the ex-Deputy was leaving the Jigsaw with Rusty.  "Which one's your car?" he asked her.

"This one," she replied, pointing to the blue Firebird.

Rusty lifted his shades and gave Maverick the once-over, whistling in appreciation. “Nice wheels.  We'll take your car."  He tried the passenger door and found it locked.  "If that's okay with you," he added, gesturing for her to let him in.

MaryAnne dug out her key and unlocked the door. "Not a problem." She walked around the front of Maverick and got in the driver's seat.

"Okay," Rusty said as he sat down in the car, pulling his sunglasses back down over his eyes.  "There's a few things you gotta know about working in the Syndicate, " he told her. "First, you've gotta bring in at least $5,000 a week to the Don.  You're new, so he'll let you keep about five hundred of that.  Now, since you get room and board at the Jigsaw, plus Syndicate protection, it ain't that bad of a deal.  If you get busted, one of the boys will post bail for ya, too."   Rusty looked at MaryAnne to see how she was reacting.

The Deputy was listening and nodded. "Okay."

Randy took out a cigarette.  "How you bring in your five grand is up to you.  You can knock over a few stores, or connect some 'deals', fence some stuff, whatever.  Brian, now he used to case banks all the time.  He'd go in on payday when people were cashing their checks, and just get change for a twenty or something - but all the while he'd be watching to see what customers were going to be walking out with the biggest wad of cash. Then he'd tail 'em, and then 'accidently' tag their bumper on the street somewhere…that'd get 'em to pull over, and then he'd hold 'em up and take off."   Rusty's voice held some admiration with the memory.  "He never held folks up on bank property, so he kept the Feds and the Secret Service off his back.  Cops always treated those scores as random thefts." 

MaryAnne nodded again. "Clean and uncomplicated."

"Right. You gotta line up some alternate scores though, 'cause once in awhile the heat figures out your pattern and you gotta change things up.  Sometimes it's easier to recruit new business, know what I mean?  You talk to folks on the street, find out who's flat for cash, and you set 'em up to talk to Bruno about a loan.  He'll give you a cut of the loan-sharking take.  Or there's the bookie, or the drugs, or the girls - everybody wants something in this town, and you can make a killing just by giving them what they want."   

Rusty finally lit the cigarette, then continued. "The more money you bring in, the more of it you get to keep.  Then you get to move up and do corporate jobs, like the big heists - Man, you shoulda seen that score on First Southern Bank that we did!  Took in 100 g's in five minutes.   That's when Brian really came of age, getting me and Vinnie and the boys outta the heat.  There was one cop we almost didn't shake, though.  Some Atlanta P.D. rookie that didn't know when to quit."

MaryAnne smirked a little but then licked her lips to wipe the look away.  "Yeah, gotta watch out for rookies," she said. "They think they’re indestructible and second in command to Moses, carrying them Ten Commandments."

Rusty chuckled.  "That's right, they're dedictated to a damn fault.  Most cops outgrow that, though. Those are the ones that live long enough to retire."  He took another puff from the cigarette.

"Very true..."

"There's routine jobs too, like keepin' watch at the Jigsaw, patrolling territory, making deliveries, scouting hits, and collecting 'insurance.'  Sometimes it's the little jobs that go wrong, so don't ever let your guard down.  That's somethin' else your cousin taught me."

Rusty shook his head at some private thought.  "Anyway, that's all you need to know - for now.  I'll ride with you on your first job.  Since you're an ex-cop and a Coltrane, you probably won't need much training."

"Alright...uhh, you'll have to pardon my stupid question, but when, and how the hell do I start?"

Rusty grinned.  "Funny you should ask.  Your first score is gonna be an initiation of sorts.  You pass this, you're in.  You fail - you're done."   The tone of his voice lent a double meaning to the word done.  "You familiar with a doughnut shop near the police department, called Ali's Bakery?"

"Aw jeezus..." MaryAnne couldn't help but chuckle. Nice pick for an  initiation. "Yeah, I'm familar with it."

"There ya go," Rusty said, leaning back in the seat.  "All you gotta do is hit the bakery and clean out the cash drawer.  Oh, and you gotta bring back some doughnuts, too.  The Don likes the glazed ones with crushed peanuts."  

MaryAnne rolled her eyes slightly. "Glazed with crushed peanuts. Gotcha..." she turned Maverick down a street and headed towards the side of town where Ali's Bakery was located.

Rusty looked like he was enjoying himself.  He let MaryAnne mull over her assignment without commenting further.  When the bakery came into view, so did the City of Atlanta Police Department headquarters.  "Location, location, location," Rusty chuckled, counting the squads parked outside the bakery.  "You're in luck, looks like there's not more than two or three cops in there right now."

MaryAnne nodded and even smiled. "That should work juuust fine..." She drove Maverick around the corner of the bakery and parked by the curb, near the corner. Rusty could watch her through the side window of the bakery, but at least Maverick wasn't rubbing shoulders with the cruisers.

MaryAnne put the Firebird in park and pulled the emergency brake. She looked at Rusty.

"May I borrow your shades?"

Rusty lifted up his glasses and peered at MaryAnne, then shrugged.  "Don't lose 'em," he said and handed them to her.

"Not to worry, they'll be safe." She took the glasses in hand and then got out of the car.  She put them on and then went to Maverick's trunk. She opened it, pulled out an empty handbag and then walked up on to the sidewalk. She walked by the doughnut shop, looking in the window out of the corner of her eye without turning her head. She walked slowly and spotted the three cops sitting at a table near the front window to the left of the entrance. She paused near the window and pretended to be looking at her reflection and fixing her hair. There were no other cops in the shop, the register was directly across from the entrance, and four other people were seated the little tables, drinking coffee and eating whatever pastry suited them.

One of the cops turned to look at her. She pretended not to see him at first, then shifted suddenly and turned her face towards his. She smiled sweetly, gave a little wave and then walked out of view of the window.

The cops returned to their coffee and conversation. MaryAnne stood near the brick wall just a couple feet or so away from the window. She pretended to be looking for something in the empty handbag, sputtering softly about having "left it at home." No one walking past gave her much of a second glance.

MaryAnne didn't recognize any of the cops faces in the bakery and figured they were probably rookies, or had started working for the PD after she had left.  She waited about a minute more. Knowing Rusty couldn't see her at the moment, she didn't want him to think she'd bailed...but she didn't want him coming to look for her either. That would blow the whole thing.

She turned and walked to the entrance of the bakery. She came in quickly and went straight to the three cops. She still had the sunglasses on.

"Some little kid just got hit on his bike by a car! Damn city drivers, they don't pay attention nowadays...." She had the three cops’ full attention.  "Listen, I didn't see what happened but the driver at least didn't hit and run, ya know? They're down the block. Ain't no cop showed up yet...I saw you fellas here when I passed earlier so I came back."

"Okay, ma'am," one of them said and started to get up. The other two followed suit. "We'll go give 'em a hand. Thank you."

MaryAnne nodded. She stepped back and watched them leave, smiling at their dedication to the citizens of Atlanta. Two other people got up to go see the "accident." Once the cops were out of sight, MaryAnne moved quickly. She walked up to the counter and register, placed her bag on the counter and spoke softly to the girl.

"Take all the money in the drawer and put it in the bag. Don't do anything silly or try to play hero. I ain't gonna hurt ya, just give me the money."

The girl stood frozen and MaryAnne started to reach in for her gun, as much as she didn't want to. Luckily the girl took the hint and shakily hit the button on the register to open the drawer. "Ok...ok..." she said, and started grabbing up bills and placed them in the bag.

MaryAnne left her hand on the butt of the gun and watched the girl. "That's it..." she said. "Now grab me a bag full of doughnuts. I don't care what they are as long as one is a damn glazed with crushed peanuts."

With the register empty, the girl turned and grabbed a paper bag and piece of wax paper.  She grabbed two glazed with crushed peanuts and then filled the bag with others; plain, glazed, chocolate, sugar, powered.  The paper rattled and crinkled more than MaryAnne would have liked. But the girl did well. She filled the bag and handed it to MaryAnne.

"Very good. You're a smart girl..." MaryAnne said like a genuine compliment, which it was. She then quickly turned towards the door where she was blocked by one of the customers.

"You ought notta done that," the man said. He stood about six feet and was considerably heavier than MaryAnne. He stood with his arms crossed in front of him.

"You shouldn't be getting in my way, mister," MaryAnne said. "I ain't lookin' to hurt no one..." she reached in and pulled out her gun, hoping he would take the hint. And hopefully he would do it before the cops came back looking to see why she made up seeing an accident.

When the 9mm came into view of everyone left in the bakery, stone silence prevailed. The man, however, was undeterred.  MaryAnne stared him down for a moment and then decided on a dare. She looked towards the window and let her shoulders slump. "Aww damn, the cops..."

That did it. The man turned to take a glimpse and MaryAnne stepped towards him. She turned the butt of the gun in her hand and hit the man on the back of the head, just enough to stun him. She pushed him out of the way and ran out of the doors of the bakery.

She ran quickly around the corner to Maverick and threw the doughnuts, money and gun in at Rusty. She got behind the wheel of the car and the blue Firebird soon left a trail of rubber behind it, just as the three cops were running back to the bakery after discovering there had been no accident.

Rusty watched the bakery disappear in Maverick's mirrors.  By the time the cops got themselves organized, it would be too late.  "Not bad," he conceded.  "Not bad at all."  He turned back around in the seat and started counting the money. 

"Twenty....thirty....forty...fifty...eighty...hundred...fools, they haven't emptied the register at all today....hundred n' twenty..."  Rusty counted up to almost two hundred dollars.  "Congratulations, chick.  You only need another $4800.00 to meet this week's quota." 

"Yeah...sure, no sweat." Her voice was a bit shaky and MaryAnne took a deep breath. When they were far enough away from the bakery, she slowed Maverick up a bit. Didn't need to get caught for speeding after her first robbery.

The CB scanner in Maverick burst into life, announcing the robbery.  "Suspect female white, armed robbery of bakery on Central and Main, witness injured...suspect fled in a late-model blue Pontiac, repeat, late-model blue Pontiac..." 

Rusty threw his head back and laughed.  "You're famous! How's it feel?"

MaryAnne's stomach turned. "Great. Just great..."

"Ha haaa!"  Rusty whooped and grabbed a doughnut from the bag.  He held it up.  "To the fuzz!"  Stuffing half of it in his mouth, he chewed gleefully as the police chatter on the CB continued.  "You know something, honey? Wherever your cousin Brian is now, he's gotta be proud."

At that moment, however, two men in a black Chevy were feeling anything but pride.  Brian looked at the CB scanner with incredulity.  "Can't be...."

Rosco was shaking his head. "Naw...I mean...they could be talkin' about any late model blue Pontiac..." Even as Rosco spoke, his voice held doubt. Doubt that the radio chatter was about anything BUT a late model Pontiac Firebird.

"That's what I figured,"  Brian said, seeing the look in Rosco's eyes.  A second later, Diablo leapt from the curb and roared into the street.   "Whoever's nuts enough to rob the bakery by the police depart is probably nuts enough to loop around the boulevard and double back...."

Rusty was licking frosting off his fingers.  "Better swing around Dustin Boulevard and double back.  The cops've spread out over the main arteries by now.  The fuzz takes a doughnut robbery like a personal insult."

MaryAnne snorted. She followed Rusty's directions and Maverick headed down Dustin Boulevard.

The Federal Building was not far from the police station.  After a few fast-driven city blocks, Brian and Rosco could see police cars swarming out of the station like riled hornets.  The CB was repeating the A.P.B., the actions of "Armed Robbery and Assault" listed with  "female white" and "blue Pontiac."

Brian veered to the side to give a flying squad room to pass.  "They don't have a heading on the suspect," he said to Rosco.  "Which means the last road they're prolly gonna block is right here...."

The bakery was surrounded by flashing lights, but the police cars there were stationary as witnesses were being interviewed and reports were being written.  Brian gave the scene a good gawk like any passing motorist, though he silently appraised the criminal's handiwork at the same time.  "Looks like there wasn't any gunplay, clean take...."

Rosco looked over the scene as well. "Almost looks too clean..."

"Yeah..."  Brian sped Diablo up, not wanting to draw attention by lingering.  His eyes scanned the cars on the busy four-lane street.  "Maybe I"m wrong.  I don't see anything lookin' like a blue Pontiac, least not anything fast enough to make a decent getaway..."

Up ahead, a blue late-model Pontiac was heading towards them. Split grill, with four square headlamps set at the outsides of the grill...there was no mistaking this car.

At the same time the Firebird had been spotted, MaryAnne saw the black car up ahead, but made no connection at first. She kept on driving.

Rosco, meanwhile, was looking like he'd just seen the coming of the Lord. "Brian..."

"What? Aw, hell!"  Brian saw Maverick pass in the opposite direction.  He hit the Chevy's brakes and cranked the wheel, skiing Diablo's tail around to follow.  He punched the gas, gaining, but kept a couple cars in between them and the blue Firebird.

"I don't believe this...I just...I don't..." Rosco stared ahead and sighed heavily.

MaryAnne, unfortunately, was completely unaware of the tail she'd picked up. She was too busy thinking of how to get Maverick off the street without being spotted and how the hell she was supposed to round up $4800 by the end of the next week.

Rusty had re-counted the money and considered another doughnut, when his eyes checked the mirrors out of habit.  The cars behind them were routinely moving, changing lanes, turning off on other roads, ect.  One, however, remained too consistent in it's behavior; no matter what the rest of the cars did, it remained two cars directly behind them.  "We might have a problem," Rusty stated mildly.  "Could be Fed, could be unmarked cop, or could be one of Frankie's boys.  Turn it up a notch."

MaryAnne snapped out of her stupor and looked in her mirrors. Seeing the grill of the black Chevy, albeit at a distance, brought back strong memories. She hit the gas and cut Maverick down another street.

"This ain't another part of initation is it?" she asked. "Because if it is, you better put them doughnuts aside and fasten yer seatbelt."

"This aint' a drill, honey, step on it!"  Rusty reached inside his pocket and snapped open the chamber on his gun, making sure it was loaded.

"Hang on, I don't know how accustomed you might be to my style of driving..." MaryAnne let off the gas and timed the upcoming clearing in the oncoming traffic. With just enough room to cut across, the Firebird darted across the two lanes of traffic and sped down a side street.

"There she goes...damn, Brian, she's probably spotted us. Maybe followin' her ain't sucha hot idea..." Rosco said.

"Losin' her is a worse idea."  Brian punched the throttle and cranked the steering, sending Diablo into the same maneuvers that Maverick had just accomplished.   The tail of the blue Firebird darted into the side street that MaryAnne had just chosen.  Instead of following exactly behind, Brian cut down one street past and gunned it.

Rusty looked over the seat.  "I think you lost 'em."  He relaxed the grip on his gun slightly.

MaryAnne wasn't so sure. She glanced at her mirrors and looked out at the street ahead of her.  That black car had looked too familiar... She quickly accessed the upcoming intersection and went left, figuring to hurry up and get back to the Jigsaw.

The scream of rubber on asphalt announced the black Chevy before the mirrors did.  It burst wildly from the side street that MaryAnne had just passed, fishtailing a second before straightening behind the Firebird like a long, black arrow.  Brian pulled Diablo's lights on, knowing that even in broad daylight, the beams would raise havoc with Maverick's mirrors. "Who's that with her?" he asked Rosco as they closed in.

Rosco shook his head. "Dunno..." The Sheriff really had a bad feeling about this car chase. 

"She could be a hostage, or maybe she's beein' coerced," Brian said worriedly.  "If that's the case, the jerk ridin' shotgun with her's gonna be damn sorry..."  When Maverick turned down the next street, Diablo followed without missing a move.  The black Chevy hung relentlessly on the Firebird's tail, and the two cars cut through traffic like hunting dogs through a flock of geese.

MaryAnne spotted the black Chevy before Rusty did. She gaped at it for a split second in her mirror. "Argh...idiot's got his damn headlights on," she muttered. "I'm gonna show this turkey I can play dirty too."  She quickly turned the rearview mirror down, and then turned the outside mirror down. MaryAnne figured a destination in her mind, prayed the City of Atlanta's landscape hadn't changed much in the past few years and turned Maverick down another street, inviting the Chevy to follow.

Rusty shrank down in Maverick's passenger side.  "Frankie's boys are getting better.  Don't worry honey, let 'em come up on our right flank a little bit, and I'll dust 'em."   He cocked the gun. 

"Let me try something first," MaryAnne said. She watched the oncoming traffic again, and then when a break came she swung the Firebird around in a U-turn.  A trail of rubber was left behind and smoke bellowed from the car as MaryAnne slammed the accelerator. She glanced at the driver of the Chevy as Maverick sped past.

"Hang on, Rosco!"  As the Firebird shot by them, Brian cut the steering hard and punched the brakes, swinging Diablo into a 180-degree spin to face the way it had came.   It was a compensation maneuver, as the Chevy was too long to copy the tight u-turn that Maverick had executed.   It took another couple of precious seconds to cross traffic and cut over into Maverick's lane.

Rosco held on to his seat, and kept his eye on the evading Firebird. "Brian...dammit..." The Sheriff had a zillion possibilities going through his mind about the robbery of the bakery, if MaryAnne had done it why she had done so, and who the other person riding with her was. As much as Rosco wanted to get her back...he wondered if now was really such a good time. The Commander's hidden warning, all of MaryAnne's actions leading up to this...Rosco couldn't quite ignore the gnawing feeling in his gut.

"Don't worry, we'll catch back up."  Already, Diablo was weaving through the few cars that were between them and the fleeing Pontiac.  The sound of sirens was building from the distance, but Brian didn't look in the mirrors.  He didn't need to; he could feel the flashing lights coming up from behind.   The CB, which had been ignored during the chase, was crackling with the broadcast of the Pontiac's direction.

That was it for Rusty.  When the black Chevy moved open, he turned around in the seat and stuck his arm out the window, taking aim.

MaryAnne was fuming! Her whole cover was either about to be blown, or her life was about to come to a blazing car crashing end. Them two! Dang it, I TOLD THEM!! Didn't I tell them??? Dammit!! It was a wonder she didn't scream out loud when she recognized Brian at the wheel of the Chevy,, and there was no doubt who his passenger was.

"Take out their tires, dammit!" MaryAnne yelled at Rusty. "Take out their freakin' tires and knock out a headlamp or two while yer at it!"

Rusty's aim was for the windshield.  The driver of the Chevy spotted the gun, and started to sway the big car defensively. It gave Rusty a perfect shot at the rear passenger-side tire, and with a single squeeze of the trigger, he took it out.

The exploding tire sounded like a bomb going off to Rosco and Brian.  There was no time to react; the rear-wheel drive car turned into the direction of the blowout like a wounded animal, and when Brian slammed the brakes it worsened.  He hung the steering wheel into the direction of the skid, his only thought being to pivot Diablo around to a stop rather than lose control altogether. The urban scenery spun crazily in the windshield and the driver's side tilted up, as the laws of physics and velocity worked on Diablo and threatened to turn the car over.  Brian gave a short yank of the wheel in the opposite direction and the car fell back on all fours with a teeth-jarring bang, stopping at last in the middle of the road...and in the direct path of the oncoming law.

Brian took in a breath and eased his white-knuckled grip from the wheel, looking over at Rosco.  "You okay?"

Rosco slowly let out the breath he had been holding. He looked at his cousin and nodded. "Yeah...for the most part..." He looked at the police cruisers heading towards them, never feeling so queasy at the sight of fellow law officers as he did at that moment.

Brian followed Rosco's line of vision.  "Uh oh....cousin Sheriff, better polish up your badge, 'cause I think we'll need a shuck n' jive for this one."  

Rosco groaned and he and Brian waited in the car as the two cruisers stopped around the wounded Chevy.

MaryAnne quickly flipped up the rearview mirror again and saw the lopsided Chevy in the distance. "Nice shootin'," she said.

Rusty grunted.  "If it wasn't for the heat coming on strong, we would've went back and finished 'em.  Frankie's gang is getting too damn bold."  He put the gun away.  "'Even driving cars like the ones we had - it's enough to piss ya off."

MaryAnne made no comment about it the car having been part of Frankie's gang. She merely nodded in agreement. "Yeah..." Maverick's nose pointed on towards the Jigsaw.

Once they had returned to Syndicate headquarters, Rusty and MaryAnne were greeted as heroes.  The police scanner in the tavern had reported the action as it happened, and the Don himself was sitting at the bar to listen.  Spade beamed as MaryAnne handed him the money and the bag of doughnuts, impressed with his new recruit.  "Good start," he told her. 

MaryAnne smiled. "Yeah, not too shabby."

"She did great," Rusty said, taking off his permanent sunglasses in deference to Spade.  "We had picked up a tail, one of Frankie's gang, from the looks of it - and she pulled some real moves.  I'd say she can handle about anything."

Spade's deep green eyes were reading MaryAnne again.  He continued looking at her as he spoke to Rusty.  "Take Bruno and Sampson with you down to Frankie's favorite disco, and show them some 'professional courtesy' for trying to muscle in on Miss Coltrane's first score."

"Yes sir,"  Rusty said with a wicked grin.  The chase had whetted his appetite for violence.  He excused himself to round up his cohorts, leaving MaryAnne on her own.

"Miss Coltrane, I think you'll work out just fine,"  Spade said in compliment.  "In fact, I think you can pull in the rest of your week's quota in 24 hours."

"Hmm...I dunno. That's a lot of doughnut shops to knock over," she said with humor.

The Don chuckled softly.  "You're an ex-cop, I'm sure you know where our boys used to make their big scores.  Plus you'll have an advantage; Rusty and the boys will keep Frankie's gang, and the cops, very busy.  Take advantage of it."  

MaryAnne nodded and gave the Don a smile. "I appreciate the vote of confidence. I'll certainly do the best I can."

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

Being surrounded by red and blue lights was nothing unfamiliar to Brian, but Mayson's threat to have him forcibly removed off the streets was worrying him.  That, and he didn't want the D.A. to have any wind of a run-in with the law.  He leaned back in the seat and tried to look innocent as an Atlanta officer came up to Diablo...but he gave Rosco a nudge with his elbow at the same time.  "Sheriff, how 'bout you take care of this, huh?"

"Pray..." Rosco replied. He looked out his window and up at the officer. "Afternoon, officer."

"Want to tell me what happened here?"  The cop asked, looking over the interior of the car.  

"Certainly. First of all my name's Rosco P. Coltrane, I'm the Sheriff of Hazzard County. I realize I'm outta my jurisdiction and all, but my kin here and I believed that the occupants of that blue Firebird had...uh..taken part in some sort of criminal activity. We followed 'em but they spotted us and promptly blew out our back tire. I know what yer gonna say, I know what yer gonna tell me about notifyin' y'all and all that...but we heard some stuff on the CB radio here and quite possibly that car was at that bakery that got knocked over." Rosco looked at the officer directly the whole time he spoke. The hard part was pretending that he had never seen that Firebird before in his life.

"Get a make on the license plates?"  The cop asked.

"Got half of it," Rosco lied. "Alpha numeric plate...BGN..something, something..."

Well, that was half-right...he had noticed the first three letters on Maverick's new plate were BGN...but Rosco didn't pay much attention to the rest of the plate, and had stuff on his mind besides memorizing a plate number.

"Yeah, and it looked like a Pontiac LeMans r' somethin'," Brian added, trying to maintain a wide-eyed and innocent expression as he confused the facts on purpose.

The cop nodded.  "Appreciate the help, but next time I'd just as soon you radioed the information and kept yourselves safe.  Atlanta's been a dangerous town lately."   The cop stepped back from the Chevy and signaled his fellow officers.  "Let's get traffic moving again, and get this car moved!"

Brian shut his eyes a second and then looked at Rosco.  "Owe ya one."

Rosco turned his head to watch the cop walk towards the back of the Chevy. He then turned back to Brian. "We're gonna owe them. You gotta spare for that tire?"

"Yeah, I do.  'Spose I'd better get it."  Brian took the keys from the ignition and got out of Diablo, muttering "scuze me" to the officer and keeping his head down.   The cop gave Brian a critical look for a moment, as if he half-recognized the young man, but then Rosco cleared his throat and the cop turned around.  "Going to be in Atlanta long, Sheriff?"  

"Got some personal business here, probably a couple days," Rosco replied.

"Heard about MaryAnne leaving your department," the officer said mildly. In the background, Diablo's trunk opened and Brian clanked around with the jack. 

Rosco looked at the officer for a moment, cautiously. It was a couple moments before Rosco spoke. "Did you know her?"

"Knew of her.  They still talk about her rookie days back at the station."  The cop smiled.

Rosco couldn't help his grin of pride but it was mixed with a little pain. "Really?"

"You bet. Someday if I had the time, I'd sit down and write them all out, they'd make good reading."  The cop smiled again, a little ruefully.  "You know, if she'd stayed on the force here in Atlanta, she'd have made Captain by now, or Detective at least."

Rosco's expression briefly bordered close to grief, but he hid it as best he could. "Ain't no doubt about that," he said. "She was a damn good cop...."

"One of the absolute best."   The officer paused over the noise of the car jack ratcheting up the Chevy.   "I'd always heard that MaryAnne went into law enforcement out of admiration for you.  It's an honor to meet you, Sheriff."

Oh man...Could the officer possibly come up with more stuff that would make Rosco feel miserable? The Sheriff tried to make light of all of it, however. "Shoot, she was ten times the officer I never was."

The cop laughed.  "That goes for all of us."  Then he looked at Rosco a little more closely, and saw that maybe he should change the subject. "I'm sure she just needed a little time off," he finished awkwardly.  Then to cover a new topic, he added,  "Heard about your other cousin too, the one that was in the Syndicate.  Sorry you had to lose 'em like you did...must have been hard." 

Rosco nodded, absent-mindedly. "Yeah..." he said. "We...uh...we tried. It just wasn't meant to be I guess."  Jumpin' Geehosafat, they think he's dead! No wonder Mayson was ready to put Brian in "protective custody"!

"That's just the way it goes, sometimes.  Believe me, the Atlanta Police have never forgotten him, either."

The Chevy came down off the jack with a thud, and the tools clanked back into the trunk along with the ruined tire.  Brian slunk back to Diablo's door, just about the time the cop had leaned over to shake hands with Rosco.  "I'd better get back to work.  If you need anything while you're in Atlanta, Sheriff, just call for Officer Franklin."

Rosco returned the handshake. "Thank you. 'Preciate it." The officer headed back to his patrol car and Rosco returned to the passenger seat of Diablo. After closing the door, he looked at Brian. "I dunno if you heard that cop or not but you're a dead man walkin', Brian. Let's find someplace to regroup."

"That's a big ten-four...."  Brian fired up the Chevy and eased it back into traffic, while officer Franklin watched it pull away.

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

Chapter Four...