***** ***** *****
Back in the alley where a damaged Cadillac sat, Bruno and Rusty threw out curses as they changed tires. "Goddamn gang of Frankie's is right in our backyard again," Rusty muttured as he worked a stubborn bolt. "I've seen that car before, I know it. Damn thing is giving me the creeps."
"The next time we see it, we'll make damn sure it doesn't get away. Look what they did to my wheels, man! Nobody busts up my ride without paying for it." Bruno slammed down the tire iron for emphasis, wishing he had something more satisfying to take his temper out on.
"Take it easy, Bruno. We got close to nailing one of 'em, anyway. I wish I could have got a look at that dude's face."
"You know 'em?"
Rusty worked the bolt off before answering with a grunt. "Dunno."
"Then shut up and get that tire changed. The Don's gonna be wondering why the hell it took us so long to dust that Lincoln." Bruno clanged the tire iron against the lug nuts, finishing his side of the car. "You got the hots for that Coltrane chick, don'tcha."
"Go to hell, Bruno."
"You first. I can tell, man. You get distracted when you see something you like. You start getting sloppy. You coulda picked off that dude while he was running, but you just sat there."
"I thought you had 'em."
"I would have! You shoulda made sure, though. Damn, if there's anything I can't stand it's laziness..." Bruno came over to help Rusty finish the tire. The big thug made short work of the bolts that were giving Rusty trouble. Neither of them noticed MaryAnne slipping past them.
She glanced at them quickly and kept walking. The conversation with Brian swirled through her mind, and knowing full well that Brian would tell Rosco what she said, all she could think of was how Rosco would react.
"I'm sorry" ain't gonna cover it when I get outta all this. IF I get outta all this. She walked fast, trying to push it all from her mind. She had to concentrate on other matters at the moment, such as getting another set of wheels. She had contemplated busting Maverick out of the Atlanta PD impound...but there were actually three impound 'yards' in the city. MaryAnne knew she didn't have the time, nor the transportation, to scope out the three yards to see which one Maverick had been put in. Secondly, knowing from her rookie year in Atlanta, each impound yard was a fortress. Getting in would be like trying to break out of Alcatraz. MaryAnne often lamented on how the impound yards seemed more guarded than the Foulton county jail.
Oh well, she thought. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket and turned the corner. Losing Maverick was a set back, but at the same time MaryAnne actually felt better knowing the Firebird was sitting locked up somewhere. She wasn't sure why she felt that way though. Spade obviously was displeased with her losing the car. And then stealin' the Lincoln...
What the hell did he want me to do?? Call for a ride? Sheesh! Doesn't he realize I had to get outta there and fast??? Like the FBI and city cops don't know the Jigsaw exists, or who runs it!
She looked up the street and saw the sign for Lou's Deli. After her first day in the Syndicate, she realized she had built up and appetite. She needed a few moments to think of her current situation and to grab something to eat. Getting a message to Commander Mayson might be a good idea too.
A grubby, overweight man behind the deli case looked at MaryAnne as she walked in. He seemed neither friendly nor hostile, but he had the constant wariness of all business owners in this neighborhood.
Maybe I won't be gettin' a message to the Commander tonight... She smiled at the man. "Evenin'." She looked at the meats, breads and salads that were in the deli case. She felt in her jeans pocket for a couple of bucks and looked at what she could afford.
"Can I have roast beef on sourdough with a side of coleslaw?" She turned her eyes up to the man.
"Comin' up." The man thunked a plastic tray down on the counter and built MaryAnne a heaping sandwich. Lou was still in business for two reasons; one, he was smart enough to survive in Syndicate territory, and two, he made a hell of a sandwich. "Wanna drink?" he asked as he rang it up.
"Yeah. Gimmie a small root beer. Please." MaryAnne counted her bills. Four dollars. She pulled the bills to flatten them a bit and laid them on the counter.
Lou got it for her and added it up. MaryAnne had enough for her meal, with thirty cents to spare. "You're new here," Lou remarked.
She nodded. "Yeah..." She grabbed a straw from the stand beside her and ripped the paper off, poking it into the top of her drink cup. "Yeah," she sighed. "I'm new alright."
"Rough part of town for a little lady to be alone in."
MaryAnne nodded. "I know." She took a bite of the sandwich. "Damn...." She looked at him and smiled. "That's a hell of a sandwich!"
Lou grinned. "I mix horseradish in with the mayo. My grandma's recipe." He wiped down the glass-covered deli case as he spoke. "So what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
She shrugged. "What's a good sandwich-maker like you doin' in a place like this?"
"Making money. Some folks would tell you that they can't make a run of a business in this area, but I do just fine. I've been in business twenty-five years, young lady, right in this spot. Part of that is because I know sandwiches. Part of it's because I know business...but most of it's because I know how to deal with all kinds of people."
MaryAnne nodded. She took a moment to sample the coleslaw, which was just as delicious as the sandwich. After she swallowed her mouthful, she looked at Lou. "Got all kindsa people in this town." It wasn't a question. It was a declaration, the tone implying that MaryAnne knew what he was talking about.
"Certainly do. They're all paying customers of mine."
MaryAnne nodded again. She was quiet for awhile, continuing to eat.
Lou suddenly looked up in attention as another customer came in. Without exchanging a word with the man, Lou made a pastrami sandwich on rye and tossed it in a bag. Mole paid for it and left, giving Lou a nod which passed for either "thank you" or "see you next time." Lou's eyes narrowed as he watched Mole walk down the street. "Now that one, I've got no use for. But a customer is a customer."
MaryAnne turned and looked. She'd seen the man at the Jigsaw...one of Spade's higher ups no doubt. She looked back at Lou. "What don’t you like about him?"
"Just a feeling I have. He's one of the Syndicate boys, but even then he holds himself apart from 'em."
MaryAnne nodded. "He's very quiet."
"That's an understatement. Somebody told me once that he never talks because he's always listening."
MaryAnne bit her lip in thought. "Hmmm..." She took a drink contemplating what Mole's position in the Syndicate was. She had the odd feeling now that she was being watched, that his arriving in the deli was not coincidence. But she acted undisturbed by it. "You must get a lot of Syndicate characters in here."
"Lady, I get 'em by the bucketful."
MaryAnne smiled. "They give you trouble?"
"No," Lou said with a shake of his head. "We have an understanding. They pay for their meals, I pay for my 'insurance', and we get along fine." The deli owner leaned on the counter and lowered his voice. "I've seen a lot of Dons come and go in my day. Tyler and Mancini the most recent ones. They're gone. I'm still here."
MaryAnne nodded. "Frankie Tyler?"
"Fearless Frankie, yep. He's not the power he used to be in town, but rumor has it he's fixin' to change that. So long as he pays for his sandwiches, I don't really care who comes out on top."
"A lot of people feel the same way you do. But Tyler's ruthless, and he and the current Syndicate Don clearly don't like each other." She paused for another forkful of coleslaw. "Innocent people could get caught in the crossfire..."
"They have, and it's only getting started. Frankie put a hit on the Jigsaw a couple of weeks ago. He didn't quite pull it off, but Spade didn't let it go unanswered. After that, I lost one of my best customers, an FBI man. He used to come by for a ham and swiss and a cup of coffee every day." Lou sighed, reminiscing aloud. “Always drinkin’ coffee, them Feds…”
MaryAnne nodded and lowered her voice. "You asked me a little while ago what I was doing in a place like this..." She looked at him meeting his gaze.
"You drink coffee?" Lou asked cryptically.
MaryAnne gave a short nod. "A lot of it..."
Lou's expression seemed to get heavier. "I've seen a lot of coffee-drinkers come and go here in the last couple of months," he said sadly.
"I know...I may or may not be just another one passin' through. But uh..." she looked at the last piece of her sandwich that was left. "You keep makin' yer roast beef sandwiches like this, I'm gonna keep comin' back." She gave him a wink.
"I hope so," Lou told her. "By the way...the last coffee-drinker I had here said to give his successor a message."
"Don't take your smokes at face value.” Lou shrugged to show that he didn't understand the meaning.
MaryAnne wasn't sure she understood either. But she filed the message away for future reference. "I'll keep that in mind. Listen, could you pass something along for me?"
"This coffee-drinker is okay, for now...Spade has a previous coffee drinker's number as a mantle piece. Five hundred and fifty-nine dollars worth." MaryAnne didn't figure to outright say 'badge number' so a price tag would have to do. She’d never forgotten the sight of that fallen officer’s badge, slid across to her by Spade as if it were nothing more than a bottle cap.
Lou nodded, used to passing coded info. "I got a good memory. I'll make sure that gets sent along."
"Thank you," she said sincerely. She took the last drink of her root beer and then looked at her empty plate. "I'm gonna remember that horseradish in the Mayo," she said with a grin.
"Sure, but could you mix it just right on your own? You'll be back. Now you should get going before somebody gets suspicious."
MaryAnne nodded. "Thanks, Lou." She smiled, then turned and left the deli.
She walked back to the Jigsaw and went up to her room before anyone spotted her. She pulled one of her duffle bags out from under her bed and unzipped it, taking a moment to rummage through it for something. She found the fake leather wallet and opened it, removing the money she had brought with her. She counted it, arriving at the same amount as when she had put it in there. 1200 dollars.
With the five hundred from Spade for her work so far, she had 1700. She thought a moment, figuring she was going to need more. And there was only one place at this hour of the night to get it. She left the thousand in the wallet and put it back in the duffle bag, sliding it back under her bed. With her seven one-hundred dollar bills, she went down to Jigsaw’s gaming tables.
MaryAnne had noticed the gaming tables seemed popular when she first walked into the place. There were poker tables, along with a roulette wheel and a table for throwing dice. On the opposite end, a couple of pool tables were also in use for wagering, as pool sharks hustled their trade. Just about everything in here was busy.
The dice and roulette wheel were useless to her; MaryAnne wasn’t skilled with those games. She was fair at pool, but any seasoned hustler could take her for all she had. So she went with her last option. She headed for the poker table.
Four sets of eyes looked at her as she approached. MaryAnne was undaunted. She even smiled and came up to the table. “Looks like this game could use another player," she said.
"Sit down and ante up," said the dealer. The other men grinned. MaryAnne already had a reputation for playing high stakes with the big boys, and it had little to do with cards...until now. "Five-card stud, nothing wild, twenty opens the betting and there's no ceiling," the dealer said as the cards began to fly.
"Count me in." MaryAnne sat down between two of the players and across from the dealer, and watched the cards as they were dealt out. MaryAnne pulled out one of her hundred dollar bills and traded it for the equal amount in poker chips.
The dealer moved the cards and the chips with smooth practice. As the first hand got underway, he made sure everyone had their ante in, then called for the first round of betting. The players to MaryAnne's right each tossed in chips upping the pot to fifty dollars apiece. "You in?" the dealer asked.
MaryAnne glanced at her cards and then picked the appropriate chips for fifty. "I'm in."
The player MaryAnne's left wasn't about to be outdone by a woman, and he met the stakes. Then the game got serious. Each player to MaryAnne's right took one or two cards, seeming confident in their hands. "Any cards, ma'am?" The dealer asked.
"One card please." MaryAnne exchanged the old card for the new, fanning her hand open again and checking her cards.
The man to MaryAnne's left seemed nervous. He took three cards. The dealer called the next round of betting, and the ante went up. The men on MaryAnne's right tossed in another fifty-chip each, apparently tag-teaming the competition. It was MaryAnne's turn to call, raise, or fold.
"I'll call." MaryAnne tossed in the remaining fifty of what she had. She then resumed concentrating on her cards. One of the big men sitting to MaryAnne’s right grinned at her, showing three missing teeth in the front of his wide mouth.
The nervous patsy followed with his bet, reluctantly. "Cards," the dealer prompted.
“Pair of tens,” said the patsy on the left, laying his cards down almost immediately. His only hope had been that the rest of the table was bluffing. He had the sinking feeling that this wasn’t the case.
The game was very real, in fact, and it was between MaryAnne and the two men on her right. The ringers exchanged a look, then nodded. The first of them put down his cards. "Three deuces."
The second man, Toothless, smiled and showed his hand. "Full house, tens over eights." The dealer nodded and looked to MaryAnne. "Time to show what you got, honey," he said as the men snickered.
MaryAnne looked at her cards and even scratched her head, looking unsure of what she had. She then looked at the men and laid the cards on the table. Four of a kind; Jacks of all suits.
Toothless gave the dealer a dirty look, but for sake of the patsy on MaryAnne's left, made no disparaging remarks about dealing an honest game. "Looks like you win, bubbles," the thug conceded, letting MaryAnne savor the moment.
"Bubbles?" MaryAnne gave the man a disapproving look as she collected her pot. She quickly stacked the chips as the dealer shuffled the cards. "Tell ya what. Wanna go at it again, tough guy?"
The big lug gave MaryAnne a grin that bragged of his missing teeth. He'd baited her, and she'd taken it. "I'd love to go at it with ya. But are you sure you can afford to lose?"
MaryAnne nearly laughed and almost asked why he hadn't taken any previous winnings and got himself some new teeth. Instead she maintained her gambler's cordialness and said, "I think you should be asking yourself that question instead. Dealer," she made a motion with her hand to get the game started.
The chips clattered and the cards flew. It looked like Toothless had his bet ready without looking at his cards. His partner showed less zeal, however, and studied his hand carefully. The pasty moved a couple of cards around in his hand and seemed optimistic. "Bets," the dealer called, and the men on MaryAnne's right went for the jugular. The ante was immediately $100 apiece.
"I'm in," MaryAnne said, adding her $100.
The patsy followed with his bet. "How many cards?" the dealer prompted, and Toothless took two of them. His partner took two. The dealer looked at MaryAnne.
MaryAnne studied her cards and asked for two. She exchanged her cards, fanned them again and appeared to be disappointed in what she had. She looked at the other players.
The patsy took just one card. He was happy about something. The Dealer asked for bets, and the next round was another $100.00 a-chip ante. Toothless and his partner were coolly confident. "You in?" The dealer asked MaryAnne.
She sighed and looked at her cards. "Yeah, what the hell..." Her hundred went in and she looked at Toothless with a smirk.
The patsy was nervous again. He seemed to be gambling with the rent money. Optimism won out, though, and he threw in his meager chips to call.
Toothless, all grace now that he had the attention of the table, spread out his cards with a flourish. "Straight, 5-6-7-8-9." His partner threw his cards down. Whatever he had wouldn't hold up to his buddy's accomplishment.
The air seemed to go out of the patsy, and he groaned. His four of a kind was sunk by one of the few things that could beat it. All eyes turned to MaryAnne.
Her face expressionless, MaryAnne laid her cards down. Another straight. 7-8-9-10-J.
The sudden "oooh" of voices in the Jigsaw announced that this hand had witnesses. Toothless could only simmer with resentment, and the dealer seemed to shrink in his chair. "She won!" somebody yelled from behind MaryAnne. "Two straights in the same game, hers was higher!"
Somebody put a quarter in the jukebox for AC/DC. "She's got the Jack" started playing, Syndicate humor being ready for the occasion. The dealer cleared his throat and loosened his shirt collar. "Uh...it's your table, Miss Coltrane. Congratulations."
"Thank you, gentlemen," she said, smiling as she collected her pot. "As 'Pappy' Maverick used to say, 'Patience is the best remedy for every trouble - but money is better.' I only asked into the game because I gotta git a new set of wheels. Y'all can understand that can't ya?" She looked at Toothless, his partner and the patsy.
"Tell you what," Toothless said for all of them. "Just stay outta my end of the business, and I'll stay out of yours." It was a mild threat, but one with meaning.
MaryAnne looked at the three of them, somewhat disappointed that they didn't take her offer of peace. "Okee dokee," she said. "It's been a pleasure gentlemen." She stood up and collected her winnings.
Rusty appeared out of nowhere, and raised his sunglasses to wink at MaryAnne. "Seeing as how's it's your lucky night...can I give you a hand, there?"
MaryAnne smiled appreciatively. "Can you turn this into greenbacks quick?"
"Faster than I can break hearts. Yo, Shuffles! Get the lady her bread!" Rusty's order worked well on the dealer, who reached into a pocket and started counting. Rusty held Toothless and his partner at bay, by letting his sunglasses flick back down as he pulled his jacket open with a subtle brush of his hand.
Fortunately, there were no misunderstandings. Rusty handed MaryAnne her cash a minute later. "So whattaya say, beautiful? Buy a thirsty man a drink?"
MaryAnne nodded towards the bar. "Sure. Come on." She walked towards the bar and counted her money as she went. She had well over a thousand dollars in her hand and she smiled. Now she was set to get another car. She pocketed the cash inside her jacket, near the holster of her 9mm and took a seat at the bar.
"Barkeep! Gimme double whatever she's havin'!" Rusty said with a thumb at MaryAnne. Then he raised his sunglasses above his forehead and grinned at her. "Where'd you learn to play cards like that?"
MaryAnne ordered a beer, then looked back at Rusty. "I learned from my Papa. Started playin' when I was nine years old."
Rusty whistled. "No wonder you were making such friends at the table." He guzzled half the beer as soon as the bartender brought it, then changed the subject. "Don't worry about that Lincoln. Bruno and I buried it under six tons of gravel over at Atlanta Ready-Mix."
MaryAnne nodded. "Thanks." She then paused, contemplating her beer bottle and sighed. "Spade is gonna make sure I pay for that mistake, I'm sure....dammit." She shook her head.
"Hey, don't worry. You've done real good so far, and he ain't the hothead that Mancini was."
MaryAnne smiled. "I appreciate the vote of confidence." She took a sip of her beer. "What would Mancini have done?"
Rusty peeled the label off his beer bottle. "You woulda been in that Lincoln."
MaryAnne cringed and looked at Rusty. She paused and then took another drink of her beer. "I shall be thankful for the little things."
"Good idea." Rusty had tensed up. There was a notable difference in the man when he talked business versus pleasure. "MaryAnne, when Bruno and I came back from the gravel pit, we saw that car again. The one that had tailed you after the score on the bakery."
The bottle was half way to her mouth. She acted surprised. "Yeah?"
"We almost got the one dude that was running back to it. His buddy shot out our tires though."
MaryAnne took a drink to hide her grin. She placed the bottle back down on the bar and was serious again. "Where'd this happen?"
"Just a few blocks away. Too close to home for comfort."
MaryAnne nodded. "Any idea who they might be? Have you seen this car before?"
Rusty had a sudden, urgent need for a cigarette. He dug one out, along with a lighter. "I was just gonna ask you that."
MaryAnne looked at Rusty. "What are you implying?"
"Coincidence, that's all. Didn't see that car until you came around."
"Great. That doesn't make me feel better." She took a swig of her beer.
Rusty shrugged. "Just an observation. So do ya know 'em?"
"No. Unless I've managed to pick up an admirer. Sheesh!"
"Only me," Rusty said with easy charm. He turned his hazel eyes towards MaryAnne. "Another beer?"
She shook her head. "Naw, one's my fill." Poker chips could be heard clicking and MaryAnne turned to look. She then looked at Rusty. "So what's Smiley's line of business anyway? Just so I know, so I don't do something to tick 'em off..."
“The dude with the missing teeth? That’s Tony. He's a bookie, and he's also one of our gaming hustlers. He brings in a lot of money, but sometimes he overrates himself." Rusty grinned. "Don't worry, long as you don't ruin all his poker games, he won't hold a grudge."
MaryAnne chuckled. "Unless I need quick cash, I'll stay away from the poker table then." She watched the game continue for a moment. "What about them others? They hustlers or bookies?"
"Most of 'em are one or the other, but there's at least one genuine, unsuspecting customer at each table. Ya see, Tony, works in tandem with Bruno a lot. Tony helps people go broke, and then he sends 'em to Bruno for a loan...and sometimes to try and pay Bruno back, these suckers try their luck again with Tony's operations." Rusty shook his head. "Can ya believe how desperate and gullible some people can get?"
"Yeah, I can believe it," she replied, nodding. She then snorted. "Now I understand what he meant by ‘stay outta his business’. He don't want me snookerin' anyone in a poker game and sendin' them to Bruno, or he’ll lose his cut. Guess I oughta take that as a compliment."
"Tony don't like it when people muscle in on his business," Rusty agreed.
"Understandable. I'll keep my playin' cards to myself then." She took a drink of her beer. "What about you? What's your talent?
The sunglasses dropped back down into place. "I do a little of everything."
MaryAnne nodded and paused. "Sorry," she said quietly. "I ask too many questions probably. Just tryin' to get an understanding of the rights and wrongs here, ya know? I don't wanna tick anybody off, especially Spade again."
"There ain't many hard and fast rules here. There's only a couple of people you have to really watch out for, other than Spade. So long as you don't rile suspicion, you'll stay out of hot water."
"Who else should I be careful of?"
Rusty swirled the foam in the bottom of his beer, his actions casual but his words crucial. "My partner, the guy who never talks. You remember him..."
MaryAnne nodded. "Yeah..."
"He's called Mole. He sniffs out problems, info leaks, cops. Sometimes he's the same guy that fixes the problems."
A red flag went up in MaryAnne's mind now. She had seen Mole at Lou's Deli, just as plain as he had seen her. She would have to be careful. More than likely, where she was an "ex-cop" he was watching her to make sure. He had probably pegged her for being undercover anyway, and just needed for her to goof up enough to prove it.
"Kinda like a gatekeeper," she said, to keep the conversation moving.
"Nicely put." Rusty fidgeted and checked his watch.
MaryAnne nodded and noticed Rusty looking at his time piece. She smiled. "Am I keepin' you up past your bedtime or what?" she joked.
"No, Bruno and I got a job to take care of tonight. Can't be late."
"Oh! Well hell, don't let me hold ya up." MaryAnne pulled out a ten dollar bill from her pocket to pay for the beers. "I'll even be nice and I won't ask ya what it is." She grinned. "I should probably head on upstairs anyway...count my money and get some sleep. I gotta get wheels tomorrow mornin' in time to do some delivery for Spade."
Rusty smiled at her. "You're gonna do just fine in the Syndicate, MaryAnne. Thank you for the beer."
"Thanks," she replied with a smile back. "Anytime on the beer." She stood up and collected the change off the bar that the bartender left. "Good luck tonight."
Rusty saluted her with his empty beer bottle, lifting his glasses with one hand to wink goodbye. "Later, Miss Coltrane."
MaryAnne smiled. "G'night, Rusty." She turned and left the bar.
When MaryAnne had made her exit, Rusty looked over by the jukebox and the pool tables. He let his sunglasses drop back into place.
Even through the haze of smoke and the muted images through his glasses, he could see Mole standing there, motionless, a pool cue in his hand, although he probably hadn't hit a cue ball all night.
Mole had been watching them. Rusty turned away and lit a cigarette.
***** ***** *****
Early the next morning, MaryAnne dressed in what was now becoming her standard uniform: black jeans, some kind of top and her black jacket. The tops ranged from skimpy to full coverage. For today she opted for a plain gray T-shirt.
She collected her money out of her duffle bag and headed out of the Jigsaw, walking with purpose down the street. Atlanta was already alive at this hour of the morning, and MaryAnne could hear the distant sound of a few tooting horns and passing traffic of the commuters. A police siren blared off the distance and a barking dog serenaded her as she walked towards the pawn shop.
It was an unlikely first choice in looking for a car, but not completely unheard of. MaryAnne glanced up at the shop’s weathered sign, located near the upstairs apartment window. Like the rest of the buildings in this part of town, the place didn’t look promising. Something guided her here nonetheless.
The pawn shop owner looked up from his newspaper when MaryAnne walked in. A thick cigar hung from the mouth of the big, shaggy-haired man, and he regarded the woman for a moment before going back to his paper.
MaryAnne looked around the shop as she made her way over to him. The paper dropped again. The man spoke to her, grudgingly. "Whatchya lookin' for?"
MaryAnne looked at the few small handguns that were on display and then turned her attention to him. She smiled. "You wouldn't happen to have a car, would you?"
He chomped on his cigar for a moment and then folded his paper up, placing it on the counter. He chuckled and then nodded. "I have exactly ONE car. It's out back. Follow me." He got up from his stool and pointed for MaryAnne to come through the small door at the end of the counter.
"You know, most folks don't come to a pawn shop to get a car," he said as he led her down a darkened hallway towards the back of the building.
"True...but people have been known to pawn their cars when they need cash."
"Yep." They came to the end of the hall and he opened the door out to the back of the building, coming into a narrow alley. "There it is," he said, removing his cigar and pointing down the alley.
MaryAnne turned to look and saw two cars. A black 1976 Trans Am...and a black 1967 Chevy Impala.
"Uh...which car?" she asked, surprised to see not only a favored style of Pontiac...but shocked at the familiar Chevy too. There couldn’t be two of those damn Impalas in town.
"The Trans Am is for sale,” The pawn owner clarified. “That ol' Chevy belongs to the two dudes using the apartment above the shop."
"Ohh.." Hmm.... MaryAnne held her reaction to this bit of information and approached the strong and solid looking Trans Am. "Damn expensive car to have to pawn."
"Yep. Gave the guy twelve hundred for it. It's yours for eighteen."
MaryAnne looked in the window of the car and then pulled on the door. The car was unlocked. She got in and found the keys were in the ignition. "You're lucky it ain't been stolen by now," she said.
"I know," he replied. "I've only had for about three days. But that's why I have it parked back here."
MaryAnne nodded and turned the key. The car turned over with a roar, dual exhausts rumbling and echoing off the walls in the alley. MaryAnne liked what she heard and nodded to herself. She turned the engine off and got out of the car. "Eighteen hundred dollars. I'll take it," she said.
The man nodded and smiled with his cigar in his mouth. "Come on back in, I'll draw up a bill o' sale for ya."
The turnover of the engine of the Trans Am shook Rosco out of his restless sleep. He had been dreaming about something...but couldn't recall a thing about what he'd seen. Damn, if that don't sound like....Maverick...doh... The engine ran for a moment and then shut off. Rosco was wide awake now and he listened as the muffled voices could be heard in the pawn shop below.
He couldn't make all the words out clearly. The owner was talking to somebody, a woman. The register bell rang and then Rosco heard the woman say, "Thank you." Since trying to get back to sleep was futile, Rosco got up from chair he had fallen asleep in and went over to the window that over looked the front entrance of the pawn shop. He looked down in time to see MaryAnne walk out , watching her turn the corner to go down to the alley.
Brian shifted a little in his sleep but Rosco didn't wake him. The Sheriff hurried out of the apartment and went down the hall to look out the back window over the alley. He watched her, saw her look at the Chevy for a long moment and then turn and look at the building itself. She didn’t see Rosco, but her expression indicated that she sure as hell knew he was there.
Rosco stood back from the window. Boy she looks mad.... He waited until he heard the Trans Am's door close and he watched as the car rumbled out of the alley. As the exhaust note faded, Rosco walked back to the apartment.
***** ***** *****
The Jigsaw was subdued in the harshness of morning light. MaryAnne felt it upon her return from the pawnshop. Something was wrong.
The jukebox was quiet, and no one was playing pool. The gaming tables had a couple games going, but the cheer in that area seemed forced, artificial.
Spade sat at his usual spot in the back, holding conference with Mole. The Syndicate Don spotted MaryAnne and waved her over. He smiled, which in itself was something of a bad omen. If there was something amiss, the Don wasn’t about to admit to it. "Good morning, Miss Coltrane."
MaryAnne went over to the table and nodded. "Mornin'."
"You take care of your transportation issues?"
She nodded. "All set."
Spade leaned forward. "I have a job for you today. Delivery of basic goods. You must not deviate from the route you're given, and you must deliver exactly on time at the proper location. Understood?"
MaryAnne nodded. "Understood."
Spade removed a large clip of money from his wallet and handed it to MaryAnne. The money clip was gold, and engraved with the card-suit symbol of the Don's name. "Go to the warehouse on 53rd avenue. Take the main roads only. Don't attract attention. Go to docking bay number three and hand this money clip to a clerk named Marty. He wears a nametag. Be there in thirty minutes, no sooner, no later."
"Marty will put the merchandise in the trunk of the car for you. You will be ready to leave again in exactly ten minutes. Take Seventh Street to Central and make the following stops: Tyrone's Liquors, Bennie's Gas Station, and the Night Owl Grocery. Make each stop at fifteen minute intervals. Make no others."
MaryAnne nodded again, fingering the money clip. "Alright." She glanced at Mole, wondering if she would have an audience for this trip, and then looked back at Spade.
"Get moving. You'll need every minute you've got." Spade dismissed her.
Mole was already leaving. Apparently he had either concluded his business...or was just starting it.
MaryAnne moved quickly. With the money clip secure in her pocket, she went out to the front of the Jigsaw and settled into the TransAm. The black car was soon moving away from the hotel. As she pulled away from the curb, MaryAnne looked around, not spotting anyone watching her, nor seeing anyone jump into a car. She was sure though, that somebody was probably going to follow her.
She made it to the warehouse without event. The thin, gangly clerk named Marty motioned her to back the TransAm in to the docking bay. He never worried about who the driver was, or what the car looked like. So long as it was Spade's money clip he was handed at precisely ten a.m. every Friday, he questioned nothing. Syndicate deliveries were famous for being on schedule.
Marty didn't say two words to the Syndicate woman. He involved himself no further than taking the money and loading the car. He noticed that the woman watched him without looking like she was watching. Marty didn't worry. It was just cases of cigarettes in ordinary packages. To the casual observer, nothing to be worked up over.
He slammed the trunk down and motioned for her to go. The Syndicate was out of his hair for another week.
MaryAnne drove away, taking the prescribed route. So far, she was right on schedule. But her police instincts were humming like the TransAm's motor. What was really in those boxes? Curiosity killed the cat...
And it'll kill the cop too if I stop and try to look.... especially if somebody sees me. Sheesh…
MaryAnne kept driving, sticking to the directions Spade had given. But she was thinking too...Tyrone's Liquor's was her first stop...
She pulled into the alley behind the liquor store exactly on time. Again, she seemed to have been expected. A young Hispanic man came out of the store and handed her a new wad of money when she opened the trunk. He started to unload his share of the delivery. If he was as efficient as Marty, it would take him only a few minutes to unload. It didn't give MaryAnne much time to act.
Once the liquor store employee had carried another box away, MaryAnne looked at the remaining boxes in the trunk. She reached in, moved a box around, looking like she was merely bringing the next boxes forward. She noticed that one carton of cigarettes had slid from stack. Touching it, MaryAnne felt the cellophane slide open. The carton had a cut seal on the end. She looked back at the store, and seeing no one watching, decided to chance it.
She quickly removed a package of cigarettes from the carton, cramming them into her denim jacket pocket. She hurriedly tucked the flap back in the carton and had reassumed her casual stance when the young man came out for the last trip.
She nodded to him as he took the last round and he disappeared into the store one last time. MaryAnne closed the trunk and returned to the driver seat of the Trans Am, quickly put the car in gear and headed to her next stop.
Unlike Maverick, this Pontiac was blessed with automatic transmission. Not having to worry about shifting gears, MaryAnne steered with one hand and removed the cigarette package with the other.
She turned it over in her hand. Didn't look unusual at first glance. It had the thin cellophane wrap like any package of smokes. She rubbed her forefinger across the top.
It was then that MaryAnne noticed the cellophane here had also been cut on three sides, apparently with a razor. The clear plastic wrap lay back down with such perfection, that she wouldn't have noticed, had she not been messing with it.
Or unless she was a cop, like she was. MaryAnne's instincts were ringing now, insistently. She had to know. Agents had died for this secret...as she knew she might, before all was said and done.
She balanced the package on the steering wheel and took a cigarette out. She sniffed it cautiously. Nothing.
Still, her instincts kept nagging her. It looked like an ordinary cigarette, but it held a secret. A Syndicate secret. One that people killed and died for.
Using a fingernail, MaryAnne dug at the tobacco at the end of the cigarette. Ordinary, processed tobacco...
But then the small plug of compressed tobacco fell out. MaryAnne sniffed the open-ended cigarette. Bingo.
The rest of the cigarette was filled with something other than tobacco. The marijuana scent was faint, having been faded with it's nicotine disguise, but it was now unmistakable.
She gently tapped the cigarette. The pot was finely ground, professionally textured. High quality. And by the looks of the sneak packaging trick the Syndicate was using, it was being distributed in broad daylight, in high quantities. Cigarettes like these could probably pass inspection through anywhere...
There was no telling how much was being distributed through
Atlanta. Don't take your smokes at face value....
Don't take your smokes at face value....
"Damn..." she whispered. She took a deep breath, watching traffic and continuing to drive. "Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!!" The Trans Am rolled to a stop at a red light and MaryAnne quickly shoved the cigarette back into the package and put the package back into her jacket pocket. Now she knew...and she ran a hand over her face, figuring if she wasn't careful, she was going to pay a very high price for finding out.
Two more stops. MaryAnne made the delivery at Bennie's Gas Station next. Again, the wad of money was given to her in exchange for a few cases of cigarettes from the trunk. She already had more money in her pockets than what the Don had given her to begin with. Apparently there was serious money to be made in the distribution channels.
It was almost too easy, though. She pulled out from Bennie's a few minutes later, directly on time with only one more stop to make.
The Night Owl Grocery was a large store in a decent neighborhood. As she pulled up to the rear of the store to make her final delivery, she noted a black BMW parked a few feet away in the alley. The sight of the foreign car sent her pulse to the races. She quelled her anxiety enough not to stare, and made the exchange of money for cigarettes as she had twice before.
The delivery took a little longer this time, as this store was evidently the largest customer. The stock boy who emptied the car was just a kid, and MaryAnne doubted that he had any idea what the cigarette boxes really contained. With the black BMW close enough to see everything, she was getting a real bad feeling about the situation.
She kept her back between the BMW and the stock boy. She'd protect him until he was back in the store.
Junior finally shut the trunk and returned to the store with the last few boxes. The moment the delivery door shut behind him, MaryAnne jumped back in the car. She pulled the transmission into drive and hit the gas, quickly exiting out from behind the store and back onto the street.
She drove fast, but not recklessly. The Trans Am covered pavement in no time flat. Tires didn't squeal and she barely drew much attention from folks on the sidewalk. She rode her brakes into the turn on to another street and kept the Pontiac humming. She now ventured a glance in her rearview mirror.
The hood ornament of the BMW was zeroed in on her back license plate.
MaryAnne's heart jumped and then her eyes narrowed. "Grrrr...you wanna find out what happens when you follow me mister??" MaryAnne cut the Pontiac across two lanes of traffic and down another street. She headed towards the interstate on ramp. The BMW stayed with her.
"Can't be Tyler," she mumbled. "Unless he got tired of Mercedes Benz..." Whoever it was, they had taken an interest in her that she didn't care for. The Trans Am opened up on the highway and MaryAnne punched it for all it had. She cut around cars, switched lanes and kept her eye on the BMW that was now a car length or two behind.
"Doo dee dooo..." MaryAnne swerved the Trans Am between the lanes, watching the cars in front of her and the BMW behind her, which followed the same pattern. The interstate took them beyond the city limits, heading north until the four-lane highway was divided by spaces of grass and gravel.
MaryAnne just kept driving, managing to put a little more distance between herself and the black BMW. She spotted the exit ramp she was waiting for and pulled off with out directionals at the last possible moment.
The BMW followed. The ramp curved sharply and was surrounded on both sides by trees. The curve then became severe and the Trans Am disappeared for what was only supposed to be a moment.
The BMW came to a stop at the end of the ramp roadway. There was no black Pontiac in sight. No tire marks on the road. No clues leading to the prey. The BMW idled in place for a second, searching…
Suddenly the roar of an engine could be heard and the Trans Am crawled out of the brush, coming up the few feet back to the road. The car jumped the slanted curb, came on to the road and forcibly pushed the BMW into the ramp. Tires squealed and the taillights of the BMW crunched as the foreign car was pushed into traffic.
Horns blared from other cars as traffic screeched madly around the BMW. MaryAnne quickly cut the wheel to the right and narrowly missed nicking the front fender of another car. The Trans Am fishtailed and smoked it's rear tires as it made a hasty get away, it's driver allowing herself a hearty laugh for the moment of victory.
She drove back to the Jigsaw in high spirits. Whoever had followed her in the BMW would think twice about doing it again. The bankroll of cash that the Don was waiting for was intact, and she had some information for the Feds. So far, so good...
She drove by the pawnshop on her way to the Jigsaw. She glanced up at the window above the shop and then heard the crinkling sound of the cigarette package in her jacket pocket. Several thoughts entered her mind, but the most important was making sure she didn't get caught with the package. With a quick hand, she removed the package and tucked it under the driver seat.
The pawnshop was behind her now, but her thoughts were still on Rosco and Brian. As the Jigsaw loomed larger before her, MaryAnne shook away her thoughts of her kin, feeling oddly lonesome now, even though she knew where they were. She parked the Pontiac in front of the Jigsaw, locking the Trans Am and heading inside.
The Don received her with his usual detachment, though he was pleased at MaryAnne's success. He took several hundred dollars from the wad of cash and handed it to her in payment of services. Mole was nowhere to be seen. "Any trouble?" Spade asked conversationally.
"Know anybody that drives a black BMW?"
Spade's eyes hardened. "Frankie's gang. They tail you?"
"From the grocery store. They were waiting there. I led them out on the interstate and lost them off exit 41 before I got back into town."
"They know the drops, then. My last driver was axed a week ago. I never found out what happened to him."
"Yeah, well they ain't gonna be axin' this driver," MaryAnne said, pointing to herself. "Although I'm sure Frankie would enjoy that just because it's me and just to throw more pie in the face of your operation."
Her words gave Spade an idea. "Just how much do you hate Frankie Tyler?"
"Enough that I thoroughly enjoyed crunching the rear end of that BMW."
Spade nodded, made an internal decision, and set it in motion. Only his green eyes showed a hint of the thought process going on in his criminal mind. "Stick around here for the rest of the day. I might have a big job for you soon."
MaryAnne nodded. She would need the chance to rest and get her thoughts together on what she knew so far. "Alright."
The Don waved her off, and MaryAnne strode to the stairwell. Again, she noticed that the Jigsaw was quiet, though it was the thick, heated quiet of a summer night before a storm. She made a mental note to ask Rusty what happened when she saw him next.
***** ***** *****
Brian woke up and looked at the light streaming through the window. He realized instantly that he'd slept half the day away. He hauled himself up, wondering why Rosco hadn't awaked him sooner.
Brian staggered into the washroom, the aches of his body reminding him that he'd been running for his life the night before. He felt like hell. Bad dreams had plagued his sleep, and despite the long rest, he felt as if he hadn't slept at all. Gradually, after a morning ritual that included a shower and a cigarette, Brian started feeling halfway alive.
Rosco came up the stairwell to the apartment. He had seen MaryAnne drive by and even saw her look up at the window. But she hadn't seen him. She would be seeing him soon enough. The weary Sheriff came in and saw that Brian was up, dressed in the usual black shirt, jacket and jeans, sitting slouched in a decrepit chair and having a lazy smoke. The young man seemed to be struggling with the idea of daybreak.
"Mornin'...what's left of it." The Sheriff grinned.
"There you are. Where you been? Why the hell didn't you wake me up sooner?"
"I figured to let ya rest a little. I ain't been far." Rosco sat down across from Brian. "MaryAnne's got new wheels."
"How ya know that?"
"Cuz I saw her buy it. That black Trans Am that was parked out back? Belonged to the pawn shop. She bought it this morning."
The cigarette nearly dropped from Brian's mouth. "Oh no. You don't think she went back there to see it..."
"No, I don't think. I know. I watched her go out back to get the car and she saw Diablo parked there. And then she looked at the building." Rosco sighed. "She knows we're here."
"Dammit. Dammit t' hell..." Brian stood up and started to pace around. "If we're gonna do anything, we'll have to move fast. She might go to some lengths to get us out of her hair, ya know."
Rosco nodded. "I know. Listen, I think I might have an idea. One way to really know fer sure who's side she's on..."
Brian turned to Rosco. "Yeah?”
Rosco paused, looking down first. He flexed his hand into a fist for a moment and then looked up at Brian. "I'm gonna go into the Jigsaw...and 'call her out.'"
"Just like I said. I'm gonna walk in there and call her out, and tell 'er she's under arrest!"
Brian took the cigarette from his mouth, and slowly walked over to stand directly in front of Rosco. The tone in his elder cousin's voice was one that was making the ex-criminal's hair stand up. "You mean it..."
Rosco held Brian's gaze for a moment. "Damn right I mean it. I realize I might walk in there and not walk out...." Rosco's voice dropped to nearly a whisper. "...but, I gotta know...and I can think of no other way of knowing for sure..."
The Sheriff stood up now to his full height and continued to keep his eye on Brian. "I've made up my mind, Brian." Rosco's blue eyes nearly bored into Brian's dark ones. The lawman then turned towards the window that faced the street.
"They'll kill you," Brian said lowly. "You can't help MaryAnne if you're dead."
"I already feel like I'm dead!" Rosco exclaimed suddenly, turning back to Brain. "Something inside me died last night when you told me what she said. My only remaining sliver of hope rides on me walking in there and finding out if her intent is true."
Brian dropped the cigarette and stepped on it, hard. "You can't afford to let your emotions think for ya here! You wanna do this cop-style, fine, but no cop in his right mind would walk into the Jigsaw and publicly announce he's there for a single-handed arrest!"
"No cop in her right mind would throw away her whole career for that!" Rosco pointed out the window towards the Syndicate headquarters.
There was something in the way Rosco said it that rankled Brian. The Jigsaw had been his home, after all. "Oh yeah? What should she throw her career away for, Rosco? What did you throw away yours for??"
"You dunno?? Well gee Brian, I thought you had me all figured for the crooked law man I've been for too damn long! What did I throw mine away for? All the wrong reasons! I suppose you're gonna tell me you’re proud to see MaryAnne there now, is that it??"
"No, I ain't proud! I'm a little impressed that she can survive in that environment, but I know it ain't the place for her! Hell, I'm worried about her just like you are!"
"Then I'm goin' in and that's the end of it!"
Rosco rolled his eyes. "Like hell. Yeah, well, like hell yer gonna stop me."
Brian folded his arms and stared Rosco down. "I'm gonna try."
"Aw hell, what do you care what I do anyway?" Rosco eyes were like that of a man who'd been beaten, whupped and beaten again. He managed to brush past Brian and headed towards the little bedroom. He threw his duffle bag onto the bed and started rummaging through it.
Brian was at a loss. His criminal instincts were screaming danger at Rosco's scheme. There was no way he could let Rosco walk into the Jigsaw. But what if Rosco was right about MaryAnne?
The bottom line was, Rosco was willing to give up his life for the answer. It was a noble thing...maybe not smart, but it was noble. Brian admired Rosco and wanted to kick him at the same time.
Brian decided on another approach. "Awright, fine! I'll ask nice! Rosco, please don't wander into the front door of the Jigsaw and gitcher fool head shot off!"
Rosco's black uniform jacket came out of the duffle bag and landed on the bed. "I'm out of options, Brian. There's nothing left for me to do."
"You'll die in there," Brian said again, though more softly this time.
There was a heavy silence as Brian digested Rosco's fatalism. The ex-criminal understood it, but he couldn't approve of it. "You can't do this. MaryAnne wouldn't want you to throw your life away."
The Sheriff looked reflective as he picked up the jacket and held it in his hands. He traced his fingers over the shiny star that was pinned to it. "That's why I have to go in there..." he said softly. "If she doesn't care, then I'll know my answer."
"Rosco...even if she cares, both of you are going to be seriously outnumbered. It's suicide."
Rosco sat down on the edge of the bed, hugging the jacket close to him. He stared off at the opposite wall and shook his head. "The last thing they're expectin' is for somebody with a badge plain as day to walk in there. I'll surprise 'em long enough to speak my mind. They'll want MaryAnne to prove her loyalty, and I'll be how she does it...."
The Sheriff's words chilled Brian. Lord, it's like he wants to die. Like it was all over for him the moment MaryAnne took off her badge.
Brian felt a cold resolve settle into his gut. If MaryAnne didn't approve of them being in Atlanta, she sure as hell wouldn't approve of Rosco walking into the Jigsaw like a lamb to slaughter. With that realization, along with his own unwillingness to lose Rosco, Brian made up his mind. He straightened his shoulders, and slyly reached into his jacket, tucking the gun into the back waist of his jeans. He'd clunk Rosco over the head with the butt of the gun, if he had to. He said nothing in response to Rosco's comment, and simply waited in the living room, silently daring the Sheriff to pass through him to get to the door.
Rosco figured Brian was up to something, but he went about changing into his uniform. He stood before the dusty mirror, straightening his tie and rolling his blue shirt sleeves down and buttoning them. He then picked up the jacket and put it on. He watched himself in the mirror, barely recognizing the lawman that looked back at him. It had been a long time since he'd worn the jacket as part of his regular uniform.
He tugged on the sleeves of the black jacket, straightening his shoulders, and then adjusted his gunbelt. The jacket was then buttoned up and Rosco met his own gaze in the mirror.
He knew the idea was crazy, he knew he was more than likely not going to walk out of the Jigsaw alive...but it was all or nothing now. The reasoning ran deep. A lot deeper than Brian would understand. Maybe it was emotionally driven...but nobody had offered any rational suggestions or ideas. Nobody would tell him what was going on. He was being lied to by the FBI and by his own kin. And that made him mad.
Rosco scowled at his reflection. Yeah...so what if you’re mad that we’re here, MaryAnne. I'm mad too! Mad enough to do something really crazy...
Rosco picked his hat up from the bed and put it on. He gave the Sheriff in the mirror one last glance and walked out of the bedroom.
Brian stood in front of the apartment's exit, arms folded, his stance like a bouncer on dollar-beer night. He saw the hell-bent look in Rosco's eyes and remembered it well. He'd seen it once before, at the Boar's Nest, right before Rosco shot him.
Seeing the Sheriff decked out in formal uniform, black-clothed and iced-over, was a test of Brian's resolve. This was the Hazzard lawman he'd only heard stories about...determined, incorruptible, and bloodhound-sure. The silver badge gleamed with a cool brightness against the dark uniform, shining as if it alone would be enough to keep evil at bay.
But it wouldn't be, Brian knew. It wouldn't be and he had to stop Rosco. "Don't take another step, Sheriff."
"Brian, I ain't fightin' with ya. Get outta my way..."
"I ain't losin' ya," was the quiet answer.
"There ain't nothin' left of me to keep, Brian. Let me go."
The indecision showed in Brian's dark eyes. Let Rosco go to his death, or hurt him to hold him back. Bad choices, all the way around. There was pained regret in Brian's voice as he gave Rosco his answer. "I'm sorry...but I can't." With that, he reached back and snatched the pistol, spinning it in his hand and aiming the butt end of the gun for Rosco's head.
Rosco reacted and put his arm up to block Brian's aim. He then grabbed his younger cousin's arm, pushing it against the closed door and the gun hit it hard with a clunk. Rosco grabbed the front of Brian's jacket and held him against the door with one hand, prying the gun free with the other. The pawn shop pistol came loose and clattered to the floor. At that moment, Rosco grabbed the front of Brian’s jacket with both hands, hurling the young man away from the door and throwing him into the living room.
Brian hit the floor hard. He heard the apartment door creak open and slam shut. "ROSCO!" he yelled as he picked himself up, feeling shaken at the ferocity of Rosco's self-defense. There was no telling what the Sheriff would do...
Brian found the gun on the floor and stuck it inside his jacket. He opened the door and charged down the stairs. "ROSCO! WAIT!"
The Sheriff stopped for nobody. He was already across the street and half way down to the Jigsaw. There was no turning back now...
Brian ran outside and saw Rosco marching grimly towards his destiny. "Rosco..." he whispered, knowing that there would be no purpose in blocking the Sheriff's path again.
There was only one thing left for Brian to do, which wasn't much. He ran to Diablo and brought the Chevy to life with a terrible roar. Seconds later, it shot from the alley and went down the street away from the obsessed Sheriff. Since he couldn't stop him, Brian decided to head to the other side of the Jigsaw and assign himself sentry duty.
If Rosco wanted a chance to kill himself, fine. Brian would give it to him. But if the Sheriff wasn't out of the Jigsaw in five minutes, or if a single gunshot went off within the Syndicate stronghold...then Brian would follow Rosco's footsteps and bring all of hell's fury with him.
Rosco walked to the front of the Jigsaw. He looked at the black Trans Am parked outside for a long moment and then turned his eyes to the front door. Without hesitation he pulled open the door and disappeared inside.
"My God, look at what just walked in!" a voice called out, and the music, noise, and activity of the Jigsaw descended to a halt. The sight of a Sheriff in their midst caused the Syndicate thugs to rise from their barstools and come up from the pool tables, their faces grim and their eyes full of hatred. Then a few notable clicks sounded unseen from around the bar, as weapons were readied and aimed. The questionable innocents in the vicinity fled from anything close to Rosco, spilling out the door like rats from a sinking ship. Then there was no movement, no sound at all. Only tense, foreboding silence.
Rosco stood very still, his steel-blue eyes taking in everything around him, searching every face that looked at him. He made no sudden movements, he didn't even smirk. He just watched and listened for a moment.
"Afternoon, gentlemen..." he said finally, his voice unwavering. "I'm lookin' for MaryAnne Coltrane. I'd like to talk to her..."
A figure strode forward through the bristling crowd. Well-dressed, well-spoken and ever in control of his reactions, Spade gave the Sheriff a cool examination. "You're another Coltrane," he stated.
"So that's the only reason you're not already dead." Spade snapped his fingers, and Mole appeared at his side. "Get Miss Coltrane," he ordered.
MaryAnne was half way down the stairs from her room when she realized that the bar was very quiet. She paused to listen, and then Mole appeared at the bottom of the stairway and glared up at her. He jerked his thumb towards the bar and led her to the scene.
The crowd parted as she came through and she stopped. The two cousins’ eyes met, and Rosco thought he could detect more than just surprise in MaryAnne’s eyes. She hid it by glaring at him.
"What are you doin' here?" she sneered.
"I'd like to ask you the same question," Rosco countered.
"I said good-bye to that life, cousin. If you're wise, you'll say good-bye right now and get out of here, while you still can."
Rosco crossed his arms and stood defiant.
Damn fool! MaryAnne was thinking. But at the same time...there stood the Sheriff of old...the one that had inspired her to get into law enforcement. He had to have known he had no chance of accomplishing anything by coming here! What was he trying to pull?? He was gonna get himself killed, and probably her along with him!
"Want us to handle this, Miss Coltrane?" one of the big thugs behind her asked.
MaryAnne put a hand up. "No. The good Sheriff came here to say something, let him say it." She eyed her cousin. "And it better be brief."
"I think my presence here speaks loud enough," Rosco said. "You didn't think I was gonna let you do this and think nothing of it did you?"
"I told you to leave me alone. Why can't you just accept that I'm here now and ain't nothin' gonna change that."
From behind his sunglasses and expressionless face, Mole watched the exchange with keen interest. He stood next to Spade and whispered something in the Don's ear. Then both men continued to let the remains of the Coltrane family handle their dispute.
MaryAnne caught the movement and she looked at Mole. "Care to share your comment, Mole?"
Mole glanced at Spade, who nodded assent. The internal spy of the Syndicate spoke with oily softness, so quietly that people had to hold their breath to hear him. His meaning, however, was clear in the posture of his body, and in the fixed attention he had on the Sheriff. "I was just pointing out that your cousin was condemned man before ever setting foot in here. There's a Contract outstanding on Sheriff Coltrane."
Rosco uncrossed his arms and opened them. "Here I am..."
MaryAnne thought fast, calculated her risk, figured if she was gonna die might as well go with Rosco and came to a decision. Her expression flat and emotionless, she nodded. "Yep...here you are..."
Rosco looked at her, his heart jumping a beat. The change in the Sheriff, the tinge of fear was now evident on his face. He glanced at Spade, knowing full well that the Don would offer no clemency.
Spade was ready to put this little distraction aside and get on with other business. Rosco's life was nothing more than a passing incident to him, a loose end to be cut. Only the Don's curiosity was buying the Sheriff these added minutes of life. "Why are you here, Sheriff?"
"To get an answer to a question that's been naggin' at me." He looked at MaryAnne, unable to read her expression, her eyes guarding her true feelings. "It would appear I now have the answer..."
"She's one of ours," Spade agreed. "Our gain, Sheriff Coltrane, seems to be your loss...in more ways than one." Spade looked at MaryAnne then, his unblinking green eyes seeking to read her loyalty. "Miss Coltrane," he said in command.
MaryAnne met the Don's gaze. "Yes sir?" she said, standing at attention now. Rosco's gaze dropped to the floor. This was it...
"I have a question of my own that needs answering. Are you capable, Miss Coltrane, of what your cousin Brian was not?"
MaryAnne didn't blink. "I am."
Rosco felt like an ice pick had just gone through his heart. He even reeled a little at her declaration and started to feel sick.
"Then expedite the Contract on Sheriff Coltrane, by whatever means you find appropriate. Bring me back his badge...but hide or destroy his body. Leave no trails this time, Miss Coltrane."
"Wait a minute," someone spoke up from behind MaryAnne. A tall body moved forward, and a blonde, long-haired hitman came to stand next to MaryAnne. He removed his sunglasses and looked at Rosco, MaryAnne, and then at Spade. The hitman voiced his protest. "What makes you think she's really gonna kill 'em? She could just drive him out of here and bring back his badge. We'll never know if he's really dead or not."
"You're welcome to come with me," MaryAnne offered.
The hitman's brown eyes looked at MaryAnne and he nodded with a sneer. "You're damn right I'm going with you."
Rosco paled. The veteran Sheriff couldn't help but shake now.
"Keep an eye on him for a minute," MaryAnne said. "I'll be right back."
"With pleasure." The hitman's black leather jacket squeaked as he moved to stand next to Rosco. A long-fingered hand slapped down on Rosco's shoulder, and the hitman chuckled.
MaryAnne ran up to her room and made a switch of firearms. She grabbed her revolver with silencer and then rummaged around in her duffle bag for one her "insurance policies." Finding the small package that was no bigger than a moist towelette pack, she tucked it into the inside pocket of her jacket near her gun. She then found her Swiss army knife, tucked that in the same pocket and headed back down the stairs.
The crowd had dispersed slightly when MaryAnne returned. No one gave the Sheriff another glance as MaryAnne took a hold of him by the arm and escorted him out the door, the hitman following. They took a short walk to the black Pontiac at the curb.
"Get in the car," MaryAnne said, shoving Rosco towards the Trans Am. He stumbled a little, but kept his footing enough to make it to the car. He leaned on the Pontiac's sail panel and turned to his cousin.
"MaryAnne," he pleaded as she unlocked the door. "MaryAnne, please...for God's sake..."
"Just hush and git in." She opened the door and pushed the seat forward. Rosco hesitated a moment and MaryAnne then forced him into the car. "GIT!"
The Sheriff climbed into the back of the Trans Am. MaryAnne got in and leaned over the console and unlocked the passenger door. The hitman, known as Ace, grumbled in complaint. "What the hell ya got it locked for?"
"Old habit." As soon as the tall hitman was settled in, the Trans AM's engine turned over. It then pulled away from the curb.
Brian had seen Rosco leave the Jigsaw with MaryAnne. Thank God. But then he had noticed the blonde hitman walking behind them, one of his own former kind. MaryAnne's walk showed no fear, however. In fact, it looked like she was on a mission…
"Oh, hell!" Brian muttered to himself as he jumped to the obvious conclusion. He didn't want to believe it, but it looked bad for Rosco...and it looked like MaryAnne was fully on the other side. Brian put Diablo in gear and eased the thrumming Chevy away from it’s hiding spot. The Syndicate never dusted anybody too close to headquarters; he would follow them...and hopefully stop them.
Rosco was shaking badly now as he looked at his cousin. A complete stranger was sitting in the driver's seat but the face was familiar. What happened to her? And more importantly...why?
"Why...?" he whispered. He stared at her. Hard. Her profile never changed and her blue eyes were clouded. Briefly they flicked from watching the road to look at him in the rearview mirror. But it was only a moment…
Rosco leaned forward in the seat. "MaryAnne..."
"Just keep quiet, Sheriff," Ace said.
The drive was quiet. Rosco watched as the city disappeared to country in a few minutes. MaryAnne pulled the Trans Am off the road and down a dirt path, out of view of any passing motorists. She didn't see the black Chevy follow her off the highway and stop in the woods by the entrance of the dirt path. She brought the car to a stop and got out with the blonde hitman. MaryAnne pushed the driver seat forward and reached in to grab Rosco's arm, pulling him out of the car.
Rosco kept looking at her, trying desperately to read her face. He fought her tug, frantically gripping her arm in return. But she avoided making eye contact with him and hauled him out, pointing him towards the front of the Trans Am. They marched away from the car and into the woods, where a steep ditch awaited them.
Ace held back, standing guard by the Pontiac, keeping an eye behind it to make sure no other cars were coming. But mostly, he watched as the Sheriff was lead off to his death.
Brian crept forward through the wooded undergrowth, stalking the black Pontiac. The late afternoon was giving away to early twilight, and the long shadows from the trees covered MaryAnne and Rosco as they walked towards the gaping ditch. The hitman, Brian noted, wasn't the executioner. That job was MaryAnne's...
She was going to prove herself to the Syndicate, the exact way he had refused to do. It was impossible to believe, but there was no telling what MaryAnne had gone through, no way of knowing how much was left of the cousin he knew. He crept closer, quickly now, knowing that he could do nothing until the witnessing hitman was out of the way. But the blonde man would be armed, and Syndicate enforcers were a tough lot to dispose of.
MaryAnne and Rosco reached the ditch, and she looked back to make sure the hitman could see her enough to be convinced. Ace had a decent view, despite the shadows, and he was watching them though his sunglasses.
MaryAnne turned to Rosco. She pulled his badge off and pointed to the ditch. "Get in there..."
"MaryAnne..." He made a move, as if to fight with her but she caught him, gripping the opening between two buttons on his jacket tightly. The revolver came out and poked into his ribs.
"Shut up and get in there!" Then through gritted teeth she added, "Don't fight with me unless you want the other guy to take you out between the eyes..."
Rosco looked at her, swallowed hard and saw her blue eyes were pure ice. Hesitantly, he stepped down into the ditch and MaryAnne followed.
"Get down, on your stomach, face down," MaryAnne commanded. She turned Rosco around and pushed on his shoulder. Rosco went down on his knees and laid down on his stomach on the cold ground.
The hitman watched and could hear her badgering the Sheriff. It looked like she had every intent of going through with it; there was no reason for him to interfere.
"Eli..." Rosco started babbling now. "What...what do you want me to say to Eli when I ...see him?"
"You ain't seein' nobody where you're goin'."