Chapter Six

"He who plays and runs away, lives to run another day."
-- "Pappy" Maverick


Rosco was shaking badly now and his eyes were turning hot with tears. He felt her weapon come to rest on his back and then she removed something else from her jacket. He listened as the barrel of the silencer was twisted onto the revolver. He then felt MaryAnne's hand on his head, smoothing his hair. A seemingly twisted gesture of comfort when her other hand was probably busy doing what? Pointing the gun at the back of his head?

"MaryAnne," he cried, closing his eyes. "Please...MaryAnne!"

"Shhh...this'll be all over soon..."

She continued to pat his head and he felt the gun rest on his lower back again for a moment. The comforting then stopped, and the cold barrel of the gun touched the back of his neck.

"Oh God...nononononononooooo.."

MaryAnne pushed the barrel a little harder and pulled back the safety. Once Rosco heard the click it was all over. His fear took mercy on him and pulled him into unconsciousness.

When he stopped shaking, MaryAnne edged the gun off his neck and pointed it away from him. Her other hand quickly maneuvered the swiss army knife and popped the small plastic pouch that she held. She spilled the red liquid contents over Rosco's neck and head. Her other hand pulled the trigger of the gun, sending two bullets into the dirt.

She quickly hid the empty pouch beneath Rosco's shoulder, and then leaned in and gave her unconscious cousin a kiss on the cheek. "Forgive me, Rosco, for scaring the bejeezus outta ya..." she whispered. She shoved the swiss army knife into her pocket.

Ace had heard the muffled ping as the two bullets left MaryAnne's gun. He stared at her as she stood up and stepped out of the ditch. She unscrewed the silencer off her gun and pocketed it. The gun was then returned to the shoulder holster inside her jacket.

Ace walked over as MaryAnne started hauling brush and branches over Rosco. The hitman glanced down and saw the red on the back of the motionless Sheriff's neck and head. No further examination was needed. He kicked some dirt into the ditch with his boot.  The lawman's black jacket was soon covered with a dusty brown.

"You leavin' him here?" he asked MaryAnne.

"For now. If it's all the same to you, I would prefer that I be the only one to know where this body is buried. I'll come back and move him later."

The hitman nodded. He looked down at Rosco again, and then at MaryAnne, noting the red spots on her hands. What she had done was incredible, even to him. "You just killed your own kin..."

"I just killed a Sheriff." MaryAnne held up the badge and her gaze pierced the hitman's. "Let that be a lesson to you...if anybody doubts who's side I'm on..." She tucked the badge into her breast pocket and then looked at her hand covered in red. She closed it into a gentle fist.

Tiny pins of ice went up Ace’s spine. He had been in this line of work for a long time. One had to be cold and calculating...but what MaryAnne had just done, and the mindset she had to have in order to do it...that made her dangerous.

"Let's get the hell outta here," he said, not sure if he wanted to be in her presence anymore.

MaryAnne didn't argue, she wiped the red onto her black jeans and they returned to the Trans Am. 

Brian sat on the ground, frozen in shock.  He'd been too happened too fast.  If only he would have risked bringing Diablo closer, if only he would have made it through the woods faster, if only…

If only he and Rosco had never come to Atlanta.

Feeling numb, Brian watched MaryAnne and her partner discuss the hit she'd just accomplished.  He heard them speaking, but the words fell uncomprehending to his ears.  One thought over-rode everything.  She killed him...she killed him...

He didn't snap out of it until another black car pulled up behind the Pontiac, blocking it in.  It was another Syndicate car, some vaguely familiar Ford of some kind or another.  Two men stepped out of the car, both black-jacketed and wearing sunglasses.  They walked up to MaryAnne and Ace, asking a question without speaking a word.

Mole stared at MaryAnne and read her eyes.  Rusty looked away. 

"What the hell you two want?" MaryAnne demanded. She was in no mood for company.

"We're Plan B,"  Mole explained.  "Just in case you had a change of heart."  He looked around at the forest.  "Nice pick.  Where's the body?"

Ace jerked his thumb behind them. "It's back there, face down in a ditch."

"Wanna see??" MaryAnne asked with a sneer.

Mole walked to the edge of the ditch without another word.  He'd apparently exhausted his social skills in the brief exchange, and reverted back to his traditional silence.

The Syndicate spy lifted his sunglasses as he considered the sprawled body in the ditch.  It was the textbook picture of a violent crime.  He wasn't surprised that MaryAnne had chosen to put the bullets in the back of the Sheriff.  It was natural for a rookie killer to avoid facing the victim.

The Coltrane line was through, save for one. MaryAnne.  Ironic, that she'd pulled off a job that her cousin Brian hadn't been able to do, even after spending years in the Syndicate.  No doubt about it, Miss Coltrane had potential.  Satisfied, he turned away and walked back to Rusty, giving his partner a nod.  They were done here.

Rusty looked over his shoulder at MaryAnne before shutting his car door.  He didn't raise his sunglasses. The Ford backed away a moment later, as Mole and Rusty headed back to Atlanta to make their report.

"Now that everybody's happy, let's get the hell outta here," MaryAnne said to Ace, who nodded acquiescence The Trans Am threw dirt from the wheels and headed towards Atlanta.

Brian remained secluded until the tailpipes of the Trans Am were no longer audible.  He came out from the woods, walking against his will towards the ditch.  He didn't want to look.  He didn't want to see. He wanted to turn around, run for Diablo, and drive to God knows where until this nightmare was forgotten.

Regardless, his black boots took him to the edge of the ditch.  He couldn't stop himself.  He looked. And then fell to his knees, sickened. "Aw, jeezus....Rosco...why'd you have to let her do it? WHY?!"

Brian's vision blurred and his throat burned.  His breathing came in heaving gulps, as he fought the wave of guilt and grief that was going to pull him under any moment. It wasn't just that Rosco was dead.  It was that he was face down in the rocky ditch, in full uniform, with blood and dirt for a blanket.

MaryAnne had put him there.  She had taken his badge before laying him to the earth.  She had said something to him, something beyond Brian's hearing, before pulling the trigger.  Had it been an apology?  An explanation?

Whatever it had been, was it allowing Rosco any peace? Brian didn't know how long he'd sat there, as the sun went down and he was wrapped in shadows like oblivion's womb. Tears came and he didn’t fight them.

Dimly, a slow thought crept into his grief. He couldn't leave Rosco there. Brian stood up, shakily.  He cleared his eyes and slowed his breathing.  He had to take Rosco home.  He wasn't leaving the Sheriff face down in the ditch like this.

Brian slid down into the ditch, and approached Rosco's body. He knelt beside it, bowing his head in respect.  He then scooped his hands beneath the Sheriff's shoulders. Gently, he rolled Rosco onto his back, easing him up from the harsh, rocky earth, holding him.  But there was no need.  His cousin's eyes were shut, the body limp. The Sheriff wasn’t feeling any pain…

"Rosco...oh, God, Rosco...I'm sorry,” Brian murmured.

Consciousness swirled thickly. Feeling pricked back into his limbs, and Rosco twitched a little, drawing in a short breath. The feeling of impending doom returned, and his heart slammed against his rib cage all before he opened his eyes and stared up into the twilight sky. Somebody was next to him...

Brian saw the blue eyes snap open into a vacant stare, and nearly dropped Rosco. Then he figured rigor mortis was setting in, nothing more…but he had to check…he reached a hand down to the Sheriff's throat, looking for a pulse, afraid to hope…

Rosco flinched at the touch and his voice caught. His mouth gaped open for a bit and he tried to see who was beside him. But with a hand on his throat he realized it didn't matter.

Rosco suddenly got his arms to move and he grabbed frantically at whoever was about to strangle him. "" he managed to whisper, feeling for sure he was going to scream next... "N-N-NOO!!"

That did it. Brian officially had the hell scared out of him. He gave a short yelp of surprise, and would have dropped Rosco flat down and ran for the next county, except the dead Sheriff wouldn’t let him go. “EEYAAAAHH!!”

"GAAAAHHH!!!!!" Rosco gripped Brian's arm for a moment and then listened to his heart pounding in his ears.  Rosco suddenly bolted upright and looked at the person next to him, recognizing him.  Brian!

Brian surpressed the cardiac arrest he was on the verge of.  "ROSCO! Rosco, you're not dead!”  He grabbed the Sheriff’s shoulder and shook him just to make sure, then grinned with utter relief. “Good Lord, I thought she'd done it! I thought you were dead…" 

Rosco was breathing at a rate comparable to hyperventilating. He gripped Brian's jacket sleeve tight recalling the last moments with MaryAnne. Dead....I thought I was dead too!

"So..did I," the Sheriff gulped. "God, I thought she--she was really gonna....she had that gun right on my neck I really thought---!!"  Rosco's eyes were wild, and it was clear the Sheriff was spooked clean through.

Brian wasn't feeling to stable himself at the moment.  "Easy there, cousin Sheriff…you're okay..." he let Rosco rest against him, as his cousin’s terror slowly receded like a bad dream. 

"Oh man..." Rosco took several deep breaths and let go of Brian's sleeve. He turned and got to his knees. "She didn't tho'...she didn't kill me..." Rosco was still breathing fast but soon started laughing for some reason. "Hot damn she didn't!"

"Hell no, she didn't!"  Brian grinned, giving Rosco an embrace just to prove to himself that the Sheriff was, in fact, real.  "Damned if you didn't look convincin', layin' face-down in the dirt...." 

"Damned if she wasn't convincin' in her act...she scared the hell outta me." Rosco subconsciously brought his hand to the back of his neck and head. "Eeww..." He brought his hand to his eyes, trying to see what it was he had touched. He rubbed his fingers together, feeling the gook. Whatever it was, it was dried and caked now.

"You hurt?"  Brian asked in concern.

"No..." Rosco touched the back of his neck again, and felt the substance in his hair. "Something all over the back of me tho'..."

Brian took a look at it.  "Eeeyuck.  Sure looks real, but it ain't.  Rosco, you lucky cuss, you ain't got so much as a scratch on ya!"

"I know," Rosco replied, just as surprised. But he could still see MaryAnne's expression, and hear her death-laced voice. Something still didn't quite sit well with him. The Sheriff was quiet in thought but soon spoke softly.

"Brian, she was really convincin'....I mean..." He looked up at his cousin. "You thought I was dead, I thought I was gonna die. But she shucked and jived it...enough that the Syndicate's gotta think I'm dead. Enough that....they're gonna think she can....she can kill...." The last word hung in the darkness between the two Coltranes. "Ain't no doubt in my mind that she's not in there because she wants to be. She's in there...because the FBI put her there!"

Brian swallowed.  "The Syndicate thinks they got a killer they can work with...and the Feds think they got an undercover cop that can survive in the Syndicate...and we got a cousin in deep, deep, trouble..."

Rosco nodded. Slowly, his hand went to the spot on his jacket where his badge had been. "They'll be asking her to bring back more than a badge..." Rosco suddenly shook his head at the thought of MaryAnne being turned into a cold-blooded killer by accident. "We gotta do something to get her the heck outta there!"

"Well, I'm with ya, but I'll be damned if you're pullin' any more stunts like this last one."

Brian brushed the dirt off of his jeans as he stood up and let himself rant.  "The Syndicate could have had somebody else dispatch you, ya know. You were lucky that their sick sense of loyalty required MaryAnne to do the job...and luckier still that she had a contingency plan!  Goddamn..."

"I'm sorry," Rosco said, sincerely. "I know it was crazy hell." He sighed and then said, "It was worth it...even if it was just to notice you were snivelin' a bit about it, weren't ya? Khee!"

Brian hastily turned away and dragged his jacket sleeve over his eyes.  "I was not snivelin’...I'll have you know I was bawlin' outright." 

Rosco looked at Brian, and his expression softened but held a little surprise.  "You were?"

Brian chuckled at Rosco's tone. "Yeah, I was, dammit all.  I had tailed MaryAnne and her Syndicate buddy here, 'cause I knew you were in trouble."  He turned back to Rosco with a sigh.  "I was sneakin' up to do somethin', but then MaryAnne was already leadin' you off, and before I knew it...I heard the shots.  And she came walkin' back from that ditch with hell in her eyes, and I...."

"Thought it was all over..." Rosco finished. He hadn't even thought of Brian following him, having been too caught up in his seeming death-wish approach in trying to find out just who's side MaryAnne was on. But now...Lord knew he appreciated Brian having followed though. He looked at him and then put a hand on his cousin's shoulder. "I'm glad you did follow," he said. "And I am sorry, Brian. But I just couldn't stand it..."

"S' awright," Brian answered with a small smile.  "I know you had to do it.  Just don't do it again."

Rosco shook his head and chuckled. "Believe me, I don't plan on it. Ain't gonna be no repeat performance of that!" He stood up now and brushed the dirt off his pant legs and the sleeves of his jacket. "But I sure can't be walkin' around in this uniform. If the Syndicate figures out I'm still alive..."

"They'll not only correct that lil' oversight, but also see to it that MaryAnne gets to join ya this time.  Ever get the feeling that a Coltrane in Atlanta has a snowball's chance in hell?"

The Sheriff nodded. "All the more reason we gotta find her..."

"Or she's gotta find us."  Brian raised an eyebrow.  "You know, criminals always return to the scene of a crime..."

Rosco paused. "You think...she'll come back here?"

"She doesn't know I followed y'all.  For all she knows, you're still out cold, or wanderin' around lost in the woods.  She wouldn't leave ya like that."

Rosco nodded. "You gotta point there." He then smiled. "Well then...why don't we just wait for her?"

"Why don't we.  In fact, I gotta idea as to how we might be able to get somethin' outta her..."

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

While Brian had been witnessing Rosco's return from the dead, MaryAnne was back at the Jigsaw, contemplating what she had accomplished with her shuck and jive. Rosco was still alive, but she knew she was going to have to get back out there to "move the body." Certainly he'd be awake by that point...and probably wandering around in the woods or walking the highway. Lord knew, he was gonna have to get out of sight and stay out of sight until she could get out of the Syndicate. But would he listen to her? Probably not. He hadn't up to this point, why should he start now?

And just how do I plan to get outta all this....?

MaryAnne sighed and took another drink from her second bottle of beer. She sat at the bar alone, the rest of the Syndicate seeming to practically ignore her now for some reason.

Hell, I just killed my kin. Ain't I a bad mother f----. Gotta keep away from that one!

Softly, she swore and slammed the bottle on the top of the bar. She liked it better knocking over the bakery and everybody cheering for her when she came back. Nobody had been seriously hurt with that. Now she had proved her loyality to the Syndicate, by "killing" her cousin and nobody cheered for her or offered any sympathy.

MaryAnne glanced up at the clock, finding herself looking forward to going back out to find Rosco. His wrath would be better to face than the void she was sitting in now.

The empty stool next to her suddenly became occupied.  Rusty came in, sat down and waved for a beer, his permanent sunglasses covering his eyes.  "Congratulations," he muttered to MaryAnne.

She finished her drink of beer and snorted. "Yeah. Thanks."

Rusty said nothing until his beer was delivered.  Then he took a few fast swallows, and sat the bottle down with a thunk.  "Brian was sure wrong about you," he said.

"How's that?"

"He said you were worth it all.  I remember talking to him before they sent him to Hazzard for the last time."

"I was worth it all?"

"He knew he wasn't comin' back."

MaryAnne was quiet for a moment, tracing her finger along the edge of her bottle. "So what are you sayin', Rusty? That I shoulda let you take care of Rosco for me? That I shoulda just stood back and watched as you took him down in some god-knows-how awful manner? You think you and I would be having this conversation right now if I had let that happen?"

"You coulda let somebody else handle the job, yeah,"  he growled.  Then Rusty leaned nearer to MaryAnne and lowered his voice to a confidential whisper.  "Somebody that could of saved the Sheriff's ass, if you would have given him a chance.  But no, you had to show how tough and cold you were!"

Rusty paused, then shook his head in disgust. "Brian was sure wrong about you," he said again. "Damn it, he died for nothing..."

MaryAnne placed her beer bottle down and grabbed Rusty by the jacket. She then pulled his sunglasses off his face, forcing him to look her in the eyes. In an equally low voice she said, "Look at me...Brian didn't die for nothin', and Rosco didn't die for nothin' either...I handled the job my way. How did you expect me to think that anyone would have tried to save Rosco for me anyway?"

Rusty was ready to snarl a retort and he grabbed MaryAnne's wrist. But then he saw the desperate calm in her sapphire blue eyes, one that held him still and made him think about it all.

"My God..." Rusty whispered, things starting to make sense to him. There was a possible double meaning in MaryAnne’s words, and the implications were overwhelming to ponder.  But it couldn’t be spoken of. Not here. Not now. Maybe not ever.

"How the hell did you and Mole find me out there?" MaryAnne asked suddenly, letting go of Rusty and returning his sunglasses to him.  It was time to change the subject.

Rusty stuck a hand in his jacket and brought out a small electronic gadget.  "Tracked you with this little gift we took off a Fed once.  It's nothing more than a hot n' cold signal, but once you were out in the sticks you were easy enough to find.  The bug's on the inside of your gas tank flap."

MaryAnne looked at the tracking device and then at Rusty. She figured on there being distrust with her in the Syndicate and still didn't quite believe that anyone would have been able to handle the job of taking care of Rosco, and saving his life. So why did Rusty just tell her where the bug was located on the car?

MaryAnne remained cautious, taking the information in stride. The number one rule of undercover work was to never confide in anyone, even if they offered you information that was helpful in your investigation. Rusty had done that...but MaryAnne went and nearly told him that Rosco wasn't dead. All because she wanted to prove that Brian hadn't been wrong. God dammit...I gotta git the hell outta here... 

"I thought maybe it was a popular burial ground..." she said quietly, speaking of the location she’d chosen for Rosco’s staged demise. "Wanted to comment on something else too, speakin' of death. It was pretty damn quiet in here this morning. I thought maybe something went wrong with your job last night and you hadn't come back. It felt like somebody had died..."

Rusty nodded and his voice roughened.  "Somebody did.  Bruno and I went on a job...and something went wrong.  We're minus a loanshark, MaryAnne. Bruno’s gone."  

"Damn...what happened?"

"We went to pull a coup on one of Frankie's operations.  Mole had good information, the job was supposed to be easy. We were gonna hijack one of Frankie's couriers, take the goods and run."  Rusty shook his head.  "It's like they were hoping we'd show up.  We got the van pulled over alright, but instead of some hot merchandise, all that was inside was another guy with a gun.  Bruno opened the back off the van, and...pow."

MaryAnne paused in thought for a moment. "Frankie's dudes were waitin' for me when I did my delivery this morning at the Night Owl Grocery...Spade even said he had lost a driver on that run recently..." MaryAnne's investigative side was waking up now...There's a connection there somewhere...

She looked at Rusty. "It's like...they were waiting for me..."

Rusty grunted. "They probably know all our routes by now. First the Feds thinned our ranks, and then Frankie started dicing up the pieces.  I don't know how many guys we've lost in the past few months, but I tell ya, it's a lot harder to get new recruits than it used to be.  You'd think I'd be used to losing friends."

"You don't ever get used to it," MaryAnne replied softly. She pushed her empty beer bottle away. "Listen, watch yer back. I gotta sneakin' suspicion about something...and if I'm right, Frankie's been having some help in dicing up those pieces." MaryAnne stood up and dug out a few dollars for the beers.

"I will. You watch yours, Miss Coltrane. You're the big thing in the Syndicate right now, which means Frankie Tyler is gonna know your name."

MaryAnne grinned. "He should already know my name."  The young woman gave Rusty a wink and headed towards the exit of the Jigsaw. She walked to her Trans Am and drove away from the Jigsaw, headed towards mid-town and stopped at an all night gas station. She pulled the car up to the self-serve pump and went about gassing up.

She opened the flap and saw the nice little bug was attached, just as Rusty had said. With the pump nozzle in one hand, she pulled the bug off with the other and waited for the tank to fill up. She palmed the bug and returned the nozzle to it's place. She then went inside to pay...and leave a little gift.

The bug ended up at the bottom of the trash can near the doorway and MaryAnne returned to the Pontiac. She still looked around as she drove away, checking her mirrors and making sure she hadn't been tailed. Satisfied she hadn't, she headed out towards the city limits where Rosco - and also Brian, little did she know - were waiting for her.

She made good time and pulled into the dirt path off the highway.  She had barely found it during the day; at night, the pull-off into the woods was scantly visible.  She launched the Trans-Am into it quickly, not wanting to chance being spotted.  The headlights of her car suddenly flashed on something reflective, which turned out to be the red tail lights of another parked car.  It was pulled into the brush off to the side, heavily camouflaged with it's black paint and the dark of night surrounding it.  There was no mistaking, however, the wide swath of the rear chrome bumper and the shape of the long red tail lights.

MaryAnne kept driving, but eyed the Impala that was parked there. She actually felt relieved...but suspicious at the same time. If Brian had found Rosco, that was great. If the two of them were still there, however...

She turned the car so the headlights faced in the direction of the ditch where she had left Rosco. The engine clicked off, but the headlights continued to blaze for the moment. All was silence, save for the crickets.

MaryAnne sat in the car for a moment and then sighed. "Aw hell," she muttered. She opened the door and stepped out of the car, standing next to it and looking towards the ditch. Nothing moved, except the insects swirling in the headlight beams.

MaryAnne looked around, back down the dirt drive and then at the ditch again. Slowly, she walked towards it, her eyes flicking towards the woods with every step. When she reached the edge, she stopped and looked down into the shadows.

A single sound, at her back.  Click.

MaryAnne's gun was out of her jacket and in her hand in a flash.  Her own click answered. Them two should know better....

"Put it down," Brian said roughly, his voice sounding somewhere behind her and to the left.

"Yeah? You gonna land me in this ditch if I don't, Brian?"

"Why the hell not."  He stepped out from the shadows, letting MaryAnne see him.  The sparse moonlight revealed the harsh expression on his face.  

MaryAnne shrugged. "Good point."  The gun returned to her holster and she turned to him.

"I see you made it to the big time," he said acidly.  

"I see you get around..." She looked towards the ditch and then at Brian. Her raised eyebrow asked the question. Where is he?

"You may have found a way to keep Rosco off your tail - permanently - but you left a loose end, MaryAnne.  I never thought you were capable of somethin' like this, but you said it yourself, didn't ya...'we should know what you're capable of.'   Now I know.  You can just guess what I'm capable of..."

MaryAnne looked at Brian for a long moment. When she had left, Rosco was still alive. She decided to call her cousin's bluff.  "Yer right, I can only imagine. Especially after all I've seen as of late, in this grand game called the Syndicate."  She took a step closer to Brian, her eyes traveling back and forth between his eyes and the gun in his hand. "I did Rosco a favor...I took him down easy...." She paused. "Maybe you wish to do me the same favor?"

The corner of Brian's mouth almost twitched, but he turned it into a scowl.  "All I know is I found Rosco layin' face down in the dirt, lookin' like the worms had already got to 'em.  This was after I saw you lead 'em off, and after I heard the shots you fired.  And now here you are, cool as ever, daring me to shoot you."   He sucked in a heated breath.  "Goddammit, I'll tell ya I'm tempted!"

"Go ahead," she barked. "You've done it before..."

It was genuine anger that burst into flame behind Brian's dark eyes.  He'd been pushed far enough, long enough by MaryAnne's act, and he suddenly gave her a backhanded swipe across the face with his left hand. "If you've got a reason," he hissed between clenched teeth, "For this little game you're playin'...I think you'd better tell me what it is. 'Cause you've just went too damn far."

MaryAnne massaged the side of her face, not looking at Brian yet. When she did, her eyes held an equal amount of anger but she didn't strike out at him in response. "Ain't no game, Brian," she said hoarsely. "You have no idea how far I've gone...or how far I may end up goin'...and assuming I'm still alive when it's all over with, maybe I'll tell ya why. That is if you don't hit me again."

To hell with all this! MaryAnne turned and started marching back to the Trans Am.


MaryAnne pulled open the door of the Trans Am but stopped and looked at him. "Go to hell, Brian," she growled.

Gunfire was her answer.  Brian aimed and fired, taking out both the rear and front left tire of the Pontiac.  "You ain't goin' anywhere until I get some answers," he said grimly.  He walked up to MaryAnne slowly, keeping the smoking gun pointed at her.  Dear God, he was furious. She was not only denying him…she was mocking him, daring him, and after all they had been through, it was too much by far.

But she wasn’t going to give him a freaking word.  That much was clear.  He could shoot her if he wanted to, and she’d die without blinking at him, and probably spit at him with her last breath. If it was all an act, it was so damn good that Brian truly wanted to kill her…for all of one half of one-tenths of a second.

“AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! DAMMIT!!”   He raged, throwing his gun away in frustration before he hurt somebody.  The cheap piece of crap went off as it crashed down through a tree, the shot ricocheting into the night and sending a bird squawking away in protest.

Shoulders heaving, Brian spun back around and glared at MaryAnne. “You’re little shuck n’ jive was just almost too goddamn clever…I was there…”

MaryAnne looked ready to say something at last, but Brian cut her off, waving his hand down in dismissal. “No. You don’t need to say anything to me. Just go ahead and try to explain yourself to him!”

Brian stalked off, brushing past Rosco, who had stood unnoticed off to the side.  “Good #@&%* luck,” Brian said to him, walking away.  The Sheriff shook his head, sighed, and walked towards MaryAnne. He walked slowly and with his head held low, as if he were much older than he was…and dear Lord, he felt it.

He came to stand in front of her, and found he couldn’t speak. He couldn’t meet her eyes, for fear of the coldness he’d see there…

"Yes, Rosco?" MaryAnne questioned, uncertain of his behavior.

“I’d…just as soon you shot me for real,” he whispered.  He almost felt like crying. Where was the MaryAnne he knew?

MaryAnne felt a stab of regret. She took in a deep breath and patted him on the arm. "Awright," she replied softly.  Maybe now was the time to say goodbye, in case she didn't make it out of Atlanta. “I'm sorry I scared the hell out of you, Rosco. I only did it to keep you alive. I didn't ask you to walk into the Jigsaw." 

“I had to know…what side you were really on. Only I still ain’t sure, sweetheart…”

“Don’t,” MaryAnne said, the word sweetheart tearing her apart. She couldn’t afford to lose it now…

"Can't spare it?"  Brian suddenly asked her, reappearing at Rosco’s side.  "After what you've put him through, you can't tell him anything?"

MaryAnne didn’t look at Brian, but she did look at Rosco for a long moment, until her eyes started to burn. “No,” she whispered finally. 

The air went out of Rosco. He was hurt, but he was more afraid for MaryAnne than he’d ever been in his life. In the awkward span of the moment, MaryAnne offered her own advice to her cousins.  “Leave Atlanta…please.”

“Can’t do that,” Rosco said quietly.  The impasse remained.

MaryAnne looked at the two of them calmly, and sighed. "I figured that much…I also figure that even if I did tell you what I was up to still wouldn't leave."

She looked directly at Rosco again.  "You two come before everything else..."she admitted, her voice wavering a bit. "That's why I have to keep my mouth shut. If you can't understand that, then I'm sorry. And I'm sorry for everything that's happened, and anything that will happen. I have a job to finish, and dammit it all to hell I'm gonna finish it!"

She spun around on her heel and started walking back to the Trans Am, bringing a hand to her face, feeling the faded sting from Brian's slap on her cheek, and the sting burning in her eyes. She had to get out of there before she gave in with a sobbing apology and full explanation.

Brian’s anger had faded with MaryAnne’s words, and sorrow replaced it.  He walked towards Diablo, intent on doing what he could for amends.  He could at least change the tires he’d shot out, and with that thought in mind, he dug around in the Chevy’s trunk for the jack and spare tires. Life in Hazzard had taught him to carry a full compliment of spares at all times.

Rosco sighed as MaryAnne reached the Trans Am. She was already opening the trunk, furiously digging for a jack.  "We'll take care of it, sweetheart," he said to her gently. "I’m sure Diablo’s carryin’ spares.”

"Well this friggin' car would have spares if it were mine!" She slapped her hand on the open trunk lid when her search for a jack, let alone a spare turned up empty. "Dammit..."

"I know." Rosco kept near her, yet avoided coming too close.  MaryAnne's facade was brittle thin.  He heard it in her voice, saw it in her aggressive behavior.  She was trying not to break.

The instinct to protect her, comfort her, was tearing at him.  He had always been part of MaryAnne's life; he had always looked out for her. Especially when her father died.  Now she was beyond his protection, and what's more she wouldn't let him do anything to help, anything to help carry the burden that was weighing on her soul.

He looked at MaryAnne, literally dressed to kill in her black jeans and black denim jacket, and wondered again where his young cousin had went. When all this is over, will she ever be back?

The clanking noise in the background announced Brian's return with a jack and a tire iron.  He sat them down by the Pontiac and went back for the tires.  Rosco stuck the jack under the frame of the car and started to get to work.  He wanted to be useful to MaryAnne, to show support, to help her in any small way he could.

MaryAnne was going to shoo him away, but didn't. She stood and watched him in the shadows of the lights from the car and then suddenly found she couldn't look at him. The effect of his uniform she had blocked out earlier, but in her mind she could see him standing there in the Jigsaw, ready to lay it all on the line just to know why she was there. Just as he had laid it all on the line times that same uniform, to right the wrong, to save a life, to do his duty as a sworn law man. While MaryAnne had used his crookedness to fuel her exit from Hazzard County, Rosco was reverting back to the lawman that he used to be.

Don't you see, Rosco? Can't you see what I'm doing? I'm only doing what I looked up to you for. I'm doing this because my duty tells me to. Because my sense of justice says that this has to be done in order to prevent innocent folks from gettin' hurt. The FBI thinks I've got what it takes to do it...will you think so too when this is all over? Or will Brian be right? That I was in over my head...

She glanced up as Brian returned with two tires and Rosco finished removing the lug nuts.

Brian rolled one tire over to Rosco.  Working in unison, the two men each removed a damaged tire and set a new one in place.  But since there was only one tire iron, Brian could only stand in uncomfortable silence as Rosco finished bolting them in place.  Reluctantly, the younger man walked over to MaryAnne, his eyes to the ground.

He tried apologizing, but the words died on his tongue. So he stood there, mutely, hating himself and hating the impasse the three of them were in.

MaryAnne sighed heavily. She too wanted to talk to them, to apologize. But she couldn't do it. She had to get out of there, get back and finish what she had said she would do. Maybe then, when it was all over...

Rosco, however, was taking his time bolting the tires on. And the silence was deafening.

"I've met some old friends of yours..." she said to Brian.

Brian looked up, quickly.  His expression betrayed his hunger for news.

"Rusty's been helpin' me out, gave me a crash course on Syndicate procedures when I first got there..some dude named Tony got mad when I beat 'em at poker." She chuckled. "Had to get wheels man..."

"Rusty and the Feds didn't get 'em when they did the big raid." Brian sounded relieved.  "What about Bruno, he still sharkin' loans?"

MaryAnne paused. "He was," she replied softly. "He and Rusty went to knock over one of Frankie's operations last night...Bruno didn't come back."

"Aw, hell."  Brian swallowed and looked down.

"They were set up," she growled. Suddenly she grabbed him by the arm and asked him in a voice that almost sounded like the old MaryAnne. "What do you remember about a dude called Mole?"

Brian didn’t hesitate with his answer. "He's a cut-throat killer. Insider that always worked exclusively for Mancini. He spied on the rest of us.  I always hated 'em...and it was mutual.  I swear it was his idea to send me after you, when I came back empty-handed from my first job in Hazzard."

MaryAnne nodded. "Yeah...he spies awright..." The gears were turning furiously in her head, but she held her suspicions to herself. She let go of Brian's sleeve. "I don't like 'em either..."

Brian met her eyes.  "Listen cousin, he hated me, big.  That means he's not gonna have a broken heart if somethin' happens to you.  I wouldn't be surprised if he made it his personal mission to get rid of ya...especially if he thinks you're workin' undercover..."

MaryAnne kept her focus on her cousin’s dark eyes as Rosco came to stand beside him. Her smile betrayed her just enough. "Way ahead of ya on that. I think he's got more than one personal mission going on anyway..." She looked at the Pontiac, that now had four tires ready to roll.

"Wait," Brian said urgently.  "MaryAnne...if you are in there undercover, then you're goin' up against a lot more than Mole.  You're a damn good cop, but this...this is like tradin' your life for a badge."

MaryAnne walked to the driver side door of the Trans Am. "I know what I'm up against..." She got into the car.

Brian turned away, ambivalence in his heart and helplessness in his eyes.  MaryAnne was risking her life, for what?  "Good luck," he murmured softly as he walked away.

Rosco held the Trans Am door open a moment, so that MaryAnne couldn't shut it on him. MaryAnne looked up at him. He stared at her, his eyes a mixture of pleading and fear. "MaryAnne...." he said, his voice soft but rough. "Sweetheart, you know I believe you're a good cop. But Brian's right...yer up against people who could take you out in a heartbeat and think nothin' of it. Why are you risking everything?"

"Because a lot of innocent people could get caught in the crossfire of a very bloody gang war. The whole point is to keep it from spillin' out of the city limits to other places...places like Hazzard." She pulled on the door, knowing she had to leave. Now.

Rosco held the door open. He couldn’t let her leave again…

MaryAnne met her older cousin's gaze for a moment, the moonlight gleaming in her eyes like a knife’s edge. She yanked the door out of his hands and slammed it shut. The Trans Am roared to life and spit dirt as it backed up and then turned back down the road, driving away with fury.

Rosco's fight left him with MaryAnne.  His face fell back into the troubled lines that he'd wore since coming to Atlanta.  He walked over to where Brian waited by Diablo.  Apparently Brian had managed to relocate the pawn shop pistol he’d tossed away earlier, as he was busy digging dirt from the barrel with a stick. 

Rosco watched the ex-criminal clean the gun, still thinking of MaryAnne's words.  Suddenly he spoke clearly, sounding very much like the Sheriff he'd always been, deep down inside. "Brian," he ordered, "I want you to tell me everything about the Syndicate.  I want you to tell me everything you know about everybody in it.  I want to know who your friends were, who your enemies were.  And then you're gonna tell me anything you know about Frankie Tyler and his gang."

Rosco walked up to Brian and got nose to nose with him, the Sheriff's posture of authority leaving no room for objections.  "And so help me, if you leave anythin' out, no matter how much you think I ain't gonna like help me, I'll kick yer posterior like it ain't never been kicked before."

Brian gawked at Rosco for a minute, taken aback.  He knew Rosco's cop-mode when he saw it. There wasn't a badge on Rosco's chest at the moment, but it wasn't needed.  The glint of silver remained in the Sheriff's steel-blue eyes.

There was no denying him.  "Awright," Brian answered quietly.  "I'll tell ya."

Chapter Seven