Inside the Jigsaw, MaryAnne's condition didn't offer optimism.
"Get Sophie!!" Rusty shouted to anyone that could hear him, anyone that had enough ability and wit left to move. He had taken off his jacket and folded it under MaryAnne's head, and was using his torn-in-half shirt to compress the wounds on her side and shoulder. The young woman was pale, her breathing shallow and uneven. "SOPHIE!" Rusty yelled desperately.
Someone answered his shouts and said that help was coming. Frankie's gang was gone and the front door was now barricaded, the windows being hastily boarded. Official police inquiries were not going to be welcomed; neither were the police, period.
Spade was shouting orders, mobilizing people and organizing the aftermath of chaos. MaryAnne was oblivious to it all.
"MaryAnne," Rusty said softly, "Please hang on. Please wake up, talk to me..."
MaryAnne could hear voices but barely comprehended them. She forced her eyes open and looked straight up at the ceiling. Rusty was beside her putting pressure on her wounds.
She looked at Rusty, her eyes drooping and unfocused.
"MaryAnne," he said gently, leaning down a little closer. He wanted to comfort her, but he didn't dare take his hands off the pressured wounds. He could already feel the saturation of the cloth. "MaryAnne, tell me...tell me what you're really doin' here," he whispered, anything to get her talking, to keep her conscious and with him.
Her head turned from side to side. No. "It doesn't...matter now..."
"It matters to me," Rusty said as his eyes started to film over. "It’ll matter to your kin...."
"Not after...all I've done..." She shook her head again and stared at Rusty. "Did we...get 'em?"
"We got 'em, yeah. We got 'em alright, " Rusty said, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice. Sophie was taking a long time to get here. He wasn't even sure there was anything she would be able to do for MaryAnne at this point, and he had to prepare for the worst. He looked at MaryAnne urgently, glad for once his damned sunglasses were nowhere to be found. "I have to ask ya," he said softly, "Who should I tell, if...."
MaryAnne met his gaze, and she was sure her own eyes betrayed her, but she wouldn't speak it. "There ain't...nobody..."
Sophie was suddenly there beside them, and she moved in to check MaryAnne's wounds, having to literally pry Rusty's hands away, though she did it kindly. The shoulder wound wasn't the problem. The one in the side, though...the bullet couldn't be dug out by Syndicate skills. All Sophie could do was clean the wounds and bandage them. She, like Rusty, knew the Syndicate's ways. No cops. No reports. That meant no ambulance and no hospital. And unfortunately for the wounded whose injuries were beyond battlefield medicine...no hope.
In the Atlanta streets, hope was something that Rosco was slowly losing. Brian had led Frankie's boys on the most white-knuckled chase that the Sheriff had ever seen outside of Hazzard. Even with that, however, the foreign cars stuck to them like horseflies. Rosco had held Frankie's men at bay with some well-placed gunfire, but the pawn shop pistol was getting hot in his hand. It was a cheap gun and had the hammer was working loose. Aside from that, Rosco's gun belt was nearly out of bullets.
Brian had both hands locked on the wheel, and his eyes were fixed ahead through the few visible spots left in the cracked windshield. The Syndicate wheelman tricks he had used had bought them time, but nothing more. Soon, they would be out of that as well.
He'd be damned if he would make it easy for Frankie's boys, though. If nothing else, he'd make sure they paid a high price....
"Hang on, Rosco. Put your seatbelt on, where we're goin, the gun ain't gonna do no good."
"What're you gonna do?"
"I'm gonna pull one of your stunts. I'm going to find a tree and run the car right up it. I'm going to jump a gully. I'm going to find a pond and sink the damn car to the bottom!" Brian started to laugh, maniacally.
Rosco stared at him, but then gave a brief smile. He knew his cousin was rallying himself. "Show 'em a little Hazzard-style mayhem, " he agreed.
"Ten-four." Brian looked in the mirrors, scowled at the enemy, then stuck his hand out the window and flipped them the bird. He punched Diablo’s gad pedal and headed straight for the train yards.
"I wonder if the 9:45 is runnin' on time," Brian said conversationally. "You like trains, Rosco?"
"Well, that depends, ya see...."
"You'll like this one."
Diablo roared up to the gated entry to the train yards, busting through the cyclone fence at the expense of the chrome. Docked freight cars dotted the multi-linked rails, and Brian guided the Chevy between two lines of tracks. The Mercedes and BMW's followed, figuring their quarry was about to trap itself.
Brian swerved the wheel, and Diablo skimmed over one set of rails, changing lanes. Frankie's boys followed, single file.
Brian swerved again, cutting between two docked freight cars that weren't very far apart. "No different than freeway driving," he said to calm Rosco. It didn't help.
The Sheriff's lips were moving silently, either in prayer or cursing. Brian grinned and slowed down a little to let Frankie's boys gain some more ground. The foreign cars were lower to the ground than the Chevy, and they couldn't skim the tracks as quickly.
Diablo headed towards the active trains. Some of them were idling. A few were moving on the far tracks. Brian tightened his grip on the wheel and focused his eyes straight ahead. He ran a line down between two humming diesel engines.
Then there were wide open tracks to the left. Brian slowed Diablo. He prayed the rail yard had kept the same schedule.
He cut over sharply, and heard a diesel horn blast the car like tornado. The 9:45 was pulling out, parked behind the other idling trains they'd just passed. The lead Mercedes, slowing for the tracks, didn't make it across. There was an impact that sounded like a garbage can hit by a cement truck.
The rest of the pursuit, following in single file, could only watch helplessly as their companions collided with the train and were pushed down the tracks. The remaining cars in Tyler’s pursuit could not get around the train to keep up the chase.
"Good move," Rosco said to Brian. "Damn good move..."
"Saved the best for last," Brian said. He moved the Chevy back towards the streets, hopping the last of the tracks in short bounds. Diablo’s tires screeched over the pavement, and the long black car cut a path to the Jigsaw.
Brian and Rosco had a single, direct concern that remained to them. They had to know if MaryAnne was all right, consequences be damned.
They made it to the Jigsaw quickly, encountering no opposition. Brian pulled Diablo up to the front door, heart pounding. It was homecoming time. Maybe if he and Rosco were lucky, they'd live long enough to learn of their cousin’s fate.
Rosco was out of the Chevy and already pulling on the front door. "It's bolted," he said in aggravation. "Brian, help me."
The two men backed up, turned to their sides, and took a running start, striking the door with their shoulders. BLAM! The door creaked but didn’t give.
It took another try, and this time the wood was no match for Coltrane ire. Rosco and Brian tumbled into the Jigsaw, startling the Syndicate’s survivors.
Stunned, the assorted Syndicate members, now too few and already winded, watched the two ghosts walk slowly through the bar. "Where's MaryAnne," Rosco demanded. "WHERE?"
Spade walked up to the two determined Coltranes, looking at the Sheriff with disbelief. Then he looked at Brian, whose dark eyes were unmistakable. Maybe the two kinsmen remained flesh and blood, but the expressions they wore were wraithlike in their visage.
It had been a bad day anyway, and Spade's thirst for blood wasn't what it might have been otherwise. He pointed to the loft, and moved aside. MaryAnne had paid the price them.
The door was being boarded up again in the background. Rosco and Brian mounted the stairs to the loft as the Syndicate gave way in front of them. The few people who had gathered around MaryAnne moved away, letting Rosco see his worst fear. There, soaked in her own blood on the floor, lay MaryAnne. "Oh no...sweetheart, what did they do to you..."
Rosco took off his hat, knelt beside her, and took her hand. "MaryAnne...we're here...we're gonna take you home," he choked out.
MaryAnne gazed up at Rosco when she felt his hand in hers. "Ros..." She shook her head, knowing he wasn't supposed to be there! Her eyes brightened, not all in relief to see him, but in fear and dread.
"Shhh..it's alright. Brian and I are here...we're gonna git you outta here and take you home."
Her hand gripped his with all the strength she could muster. "They'll...kill..."
"I don't give a damn about the Syndicate!" he hissed. "I think we've paid enough in blood to these people...." He gently put his arm under her head and cradled her to sit up. "All I care about is gettin' you to a hospital. If they wanna blow us away too, they can do it before we walk out the damn door..."
She grabbed at the front of his jacket, pulling on it for him to lean over to hear her soft words. He paused and listened.
"I'm sorry..." she whispered. "I'm sorry, Rosco...I'm so...sorry,." she cried in anguish and pain, still holding on to his jacket lapel even as her eyes finally failed her.
Rosco felt her start to go limp and he shifted his position, hanging on to her. He started to move to lift her up.
Silently, unobtrusively, Brian knelt on the other side of MaryAnne and helped lift her up, giving Rosco the leverage he needed to move their wounded cousin as gently as possible. MaryAnne's anguish was a knife in both their hearts.
Rosco held her and looked at her. He lifted his arm and shoulder to bring her head forward and against him, "Ok...I got her.."
MaryAnne's arm dangled limp, her 9-millimeter gun loose in her grip. The weapon dropped free and clattered to the floor.
Rosco paid little attention to it. He stood for a moment, looked at Brian and then glanced at the Syndicate people who were watching. A young, red-headed man with hazel eyes looked at MaryAnne with what appeared to be genuine grief. Rosco found it odd and almost came close to dismissing it completely...but he had a question he had to ask.
The Sheriff's voice was all business despite his pain at the condition MaryAnne was in. "Can one of you tell me who shot her?"
"One of Frankie's boys," Rusty said when no one else spoke up.
"What's yer name?"
"Rusty," he answered uncomfortably.
Rosco glanced at Brian, who nodded an affirmation. "He's okay, Rosco. He's a friend, if I've got one left in this viper pit."
Rosco nodded and looked back at the other young man. "Thank you, Rusty...that's all I need to know..."
The Sheriff gave Brian a glance that said, let’s get outta here, and then turned and carried MaryAnne to the stairs.
Rosco’s eyes dared anyone to get in his way. No one did. The few Syndicate members hovering near the stairs edged back, giving Rosco plenty of room. Brian followed close behind, his dark eyes glaring and his shoulders set high, protecting Rosco's back with his own.
Down the stairs they walked, one at a time, slowly, MaryAnne's heartbeat almost audible to them like the sound of their boots.
The main floor. Broken pool tables, shattered glass. Bodies, both alive and dead.
The front door, boarded shut across the room in front of them. The remains of the Syndicate standing in their way…
But only for a moment. At a nod from Spade, the thin ranks stepped back, even to each side. It was not unlike an honor guard.
She was one of theirs.
Rosco recognized a handful of faces that Brian had described to him. He noted this fact dully, the lawman within him never shutting down, even as he shifted MaryAnne to hold her a little closer. She was a grown woman, but weightless in his arms at this moment.
Behind him, Brian was catching the barely perceptible nods from both friends and rivals. He returned them without joy, but he matched the gestures of respect as they were offered. Old memories and new pain were mixing like a bitter drink that he was forced to swallow.
The front door was still shut and they were almost upon it.
Spade snapped his fingers and Brian tensed, expecting hot lead to fill his back, and then pepper Rosco's, with the Coltranes to never leave Atlanta. But it was only a signal for the door. It was unbolted, pryed ajar, and forced apart wide. Freedom. Life. A few more steps.
Rosco sped up his pace slightly. He was this close to getting MaryAnne the hell out of there, and he was not going to be stopped now.
The Sheriff stepped through the doorway, MaryAnne safe in his arms. Brian turned at the last moment to face the one who had followed them so quietly down the stairs.
Rusty stopped, looked at Brian with a year's worth of questions in his eyes.
There was no time to answer them now. The two former Syndicate friends held a moment's reunion in the brief clasp of one another's shoulders. Under other circumstances, they might have smiled.
Brian turned away and stepped out the door. Diablo had to make another run. He hurried to the car, opened the passenger door and shoved the seat back. It wasn't the first time the Chevy had turned into something of an ambulance. It had to be a fast ride to Atlanta Memorial Hospital - or it was going to be MaryAnne's last.
Rosco strained every muscle in his arms and back to make sure that MaryAnne was laid down on the back seat as gently as possible. He then settled onto the back floor of the Impala and heard the passenger door slam shut behind him.
"Hang on, MaryAnne...please hang on..." Rosco held her hand in his and looked at her pale face. While her heart rate had slowed, his own was pounding furiously. He was trying to stay calm, but the sight of her wounds, seeing her dressed in black, recalling all they had gone through...the Sheriff's head just spun.
Brian got in the driver's seat and cranked the engine over. The sound of Diablo's familiar va-hoom almost covered the rasp in MaryAnne's breathing. Almost, but not quite.
Rosco held onto her as Diablo pulled forward. And he didn't let go. "Come on, sweetheart....stay with me, please...tell me you can hear me..."
He felt her hand meekly squeeze his. He returned the squeeze and continued to talk softly to her. Brian adjusted the rearview mirror slightly. He could see MaryAnne cradled in Rosco's lap, secure as she could possibly be in these conditions. Brian's eyes went back to the road. He tightened his grip on the wheel, hit the brights, and sent Diablo into high gear smoothly, cutting towards the uptown district via the main roads. Normally, he'd avoid the central highways of the city and the cops that went with them. However, every minute counted. MaryAnne's breathing was quiet, uneven, and raspy when she took in each shallow breath.
It was ten minutes to the nearest hospital. To folks in the country, that seemed like next door. To the Coltrane men who were trying to keep the family tree from losing a branch - it was an awful distance.
Cars honked at the demon Chevy that flew up on their bumpers and passed them without a second glance. They were eight minutes away yet. Brian checked the outside mirrors. No pursuit. He checked the rearview mirror, afraid to look. "How's she doin'?" he asked gently.
Rosco wiped a tear away. "She's still breathin'...barely." He drew in a shakey breath. "Dammit, Brian, can't you make this car go any faster?" he said as he exhaled.
"Just hang on," Brian answered, and let Diablo loose. They were on the main boulevard now. Brian pulled the switch for the hazard flashers, the blinking orange lights signaling move away to the few cars that stubbornly held to the fast lane in front of them.
The streetlights passed overhead rapidly, while the whick-whick-whick of sound came from the paved concrete beneath Diablo's wheels. The Chevy hadn't taken this road at this speed since the heist of First Southern. The motor thrummed deep and mellow as the Impala made it’s flight.
Sirens, lights suddenly pouring from a side street and bursting onto the boulevard. "Dammit," Brian whispered, but he didn't slow down or even look twice.
Atlanta's police cruisers lacked for nothing under the hood. There were two squads, sure-footed and fast growing in the mirrors. Any other time, Brian could have shaken them with a detour, some clever moves, and then a flat-out road race down the freeway. No such luxury now.
Three minutes, and the red lights were on the rear bumper. Brian held the wheel steady, not showing any sign of evasion. He prayed the cops were smart enough to figure out where he was going, driving like maniac in the middle of the night. At least the red lights kept traffic at bay....
Two minutes. "We're almost there," he said to Rosco, trying to sound calm, but his voice cracked.
Rosco nodded. MaryAnne's breathing was extremely quiet now. He barely noticed the red lights flickering around him. He just held on to her, praying. "Keep drivin', Brian," he said, closing his eyes. "Just keep drivin'..."
The tone in Rosco's voice held another meaning between the spoken words. She's dying, Brian...she's dying...
One minute, and a sharp, sharp turn that caused the Chevy's wheels to squall noisily. Diablo's chassis shifted on the frame and settled again. The hospital was right there. Brian had to downshift and brake hard to make the next turn into the emergency entrance. The squads followed, cutting their sirens now that the pursuit was closed.
A gliding, howling stop in front of the E.R. doors, a beep of the horn, and Brian jammed the transmission into park. He jumped out of the car and opened the door for Rosco, then got out of the way as a trauma team rolled out a stretcher.
Rosco lifted MaryAnne out of the car and the trauma team gently reached for her, guiding and lifting her onto the stretcher. They quickly assessed what they had before them: One gunshot wound to the shoulder, and another to the side, near the abdomen. A doctor started calling out orders as they wheeled the stretcher into the the ER.
Rosco watched his cousin disappear and he took a few steps to follow but stopped knowing he couldn't go in.
A nurse came up to him with a clipboard and pen at the ready. She asked him who the young woman was, did he know her, was he a relative?
Yes on all accounts. The Atlanta police officers were now surrounding the Sheriff and Brian. The nurse shot them all a glance, telling them to back off until she got the information she needed from Rosco. He supplied what she requested. She then asked when did the shooting take place.
Rosco looked at Brian. He had no idea how much time had passed between when MaryAnne had been shot and when he and Brian had shown up at the Jigsaw. It seemed like...hours ago. "Uh...I-I ain't sure. Maybe twenty minutes? Half hour?? I...don't know..."
The nurse nodded and noted it on her clipboard. "Ok...you go in the doors here and down the hall is the waiting room. We'll let you know what we know, when we know it."
Rosco gave a nod. "Thank you." He wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly feeling cold standing in the night air. He glanced at the four Atlanta police officers now. "What the hell do you want?"
The four officers turned to each other, hesitant. They had been sure of themselves until Rosco had bit their heads off. The youngest of the four, a light-haired cop that looked vaguely familiar, spoke up. "Was that...MaryAnne Coltrane?" he asked respectfully.
The Atlanta cops moved a little closer, postponing their duty for a moment. "What happened? How..." the questions came from them urgently. Though she had left the Atlanta force after her rookie year, the cops still regarded her as an officer of theirs.
Rosco held a hand up. "It's a very, very long story which I would love to tell you if I knew half of it myself. All I know is there was a shootout earlier tonight at the Jigsaw...and MaryAnne got caught in the crossfire."
At the word Jigsaw, Officer Franklin took a good, hard look at Brian. The black Chevy, the young man in the black jacket, the high-speed pursuit to the hospital...."My God," Franklin said, starting at the apparition in front of him.
Brian had a look on his face that didn't invite speculation over his presence or purpose in Atlanta. He did, however, take a step closer to Rosco. There was no way either of them were leaving the hospital or leaving MaryAnne.
"Now just hold it a second..." Rosco said, not wanting the officers to come the wrong conclusion. Of course, he wondered just exactly how to explain the right conclusion. "Being good cops you'll keep an open mind about things long enough for MaryAnne in there to survive. You can at least do that...for one of your own can't you?"
Another exchange of glances. Franklin looked to his peers, saw them hovering near neutral, and decided to call the vote. "That could have been a Monte Carlo we saw on the boulevard," he suggested. "Guess we made a mistake. Sorry to trouble you." The officers smiled at the inside joke. It was good to walk away from duty once in awhile, especially when one's duty conflicted with the heart. "You didn't see us either," another cop said to Rosco as he walked back to his cruiser.
Franklin gave Rosco and Brian parting words of advice. "You two are supposed to be picked up and kept off the streets. Don't bump into us again if you can help it..."
Rosco raised an eyebrow. He had a feeling he knew the answer already but asked the question anyway. "Who wanted us picked up?"
"You mean wants you picked up. Commander Mayson of the FBI, no less."
The Sheriff's eyebrow went up a little further. "Ohhhhh..." He glanced at Brian, and then back at the cop. "Thank you, Officer Franklin. You won't be seeing us again. At least, not in this kind of circumstance."
"Amen," Brian agreed. Franklin made a cop-face of disapproval.
"No offense," Brian added. Franklin let it go, gave a short salute to Rosco, and took off. The squad's departure left the two Coltrane men standing alone in the parking lot.
Rosco turned back to Brian and gave a nod of his head towards the emergency room. "Come on, you said you got nicked as well. Let's get you checked out too..."
In all the excitement, Brian hadn’t had time to pay attention to the sting of the bullet graze he’d taken. It was nothing more than a bug bite, in the scheme of things, but during the run from Tyler’s hitmen it had startled the hell out of him.
"It's just a scratch." Brian reached up inside the base of his jacket collar, and rubbed the side of his neck. His hand came away bloody, and he wiped it away on his black jeans. "I just got nicked while I was drivin', and it spooked me. Man, one good Fed bullet got me that time, and now I'm turnin' yellow." He dismissed it with a shake of his head.
Rosco grabbed the jacket collar and inspected the wound himself. "Just a scratch, my foot." He let go and began to escort Brian into the ER. "Let's at least git ya patched up."
"I'm awright, I don't need no band-aid..." Under protest, Brian let Rosco drag him inside. He knew the Sheriff's guts were inside out with worry over MaryAnne, just like his own. They both had to know what her condition was - and they were both afraid to find out. Meanwhile, the Sheriff took care of what he could, and ushered Brian towards a nurse.
Rosco thought of MaryAnne’s chances as he sat waiting in the waiting room by himself. He propped his elbows on the arm rests and cupped his hands in front of his face, half contemplating, half praying. He stared towards the window, looking out into the darkness which seemed to match his soul at the moment.
He couldn't comprehend loosing MaryAnne. The mere thought of her not being there anymore shaked him to the core; and combined with recents events...if she were to go now, the scar would run deep. Burning. Nothing would ever be the same.
Rosco turned his gaze away from the window and tried to muster together his hope. He had to stay strong and pray for the best. Pray that she would survive. Pray that Coltrane luck maybe was with her somehow.
It had been no more than fifteen minutes when Brian emerged from the corridor that led to the ER and came into the waiting room. Rosco made eye contact and his cousin walked over.
The ex-criminal smelled of antiseptic, and was already picking at the fresh bandage at the base of his neck. He seemed to be nervous, agitated with having to wait for news about MaryAnne. Rosco felt the same way. The Sheriff stood up. If Brian was going to pace, he’d join him.
Before they had the chance, an E.R. doctor walked up to them. "Sheriff Coltrane?"
Rosco looked to the doctor immediately. "Yes??"
"You're kin to MaryAnne Coltrane?"
Rosco nodded. "Yes." He gestured to Brian. "Him too."
The doctor nodded. "Will you come with me please?"
The Sheriff paled. It didn't seem like the doctor was about to deliver bad news...but then again, he didn't appear very hopeful looking either. Rosco and Brian followed the doctor to the corridor of the ER.
Once out of ear shot of the other people in the waiting room, the doctor turned to the Coltrane men. "I'm Doctor Thomason. MaryAnne is still in surgery at this point, but I wanted to let you know what was going on." He picked up an object off his clipboard. "First of all, we found this on her..." He handed the black leather wallet to Rosco who took it with shaky hands. He opened it to see the shiny Federal badge.
Rosco stared at it to the point that the badge blurred before his eyes. "Aw man..."
Brian, too, looked at the badge until he had to look away.
"My assumption," the doctor continued gently, "is that she was involved in an undercover operation for the FBI. I apologize if...you were not aware of this."
Rosco shook his head. "She never...said. I don't think she could tell us..." He closed the badge cover and looked at the doctor. "Is she gonna live?"
"At this point her chances are good, but her condition is still critical. Like I said before, she is still in surgery. It could be awhile before we have something more concrete." Doctor Thomason paused. "I should also let you know, that in this circumstance I have to contact the FBI. I'm not sure but...as you brought her in, they may want to speak with you."
Rosco made face. Wonderful. He nodded, however, thumbing the edge of the badge holder for a moment. "Will you let us know if anything changes? If she gets better, or..."
The doctor nodded. "I will do that. We're going to do everything we can for her.”
Rosco nodded. "Thank you."
The doctor returned the nod and turned down the hallway, back to the hub of the ER. Rosco watched him go, but wasn't really paying attention to where the doctor went. His eyes blurred again and he gripped the badge in his hand tightly, out of fear...and a little anger.
Brian leaned against the wall, arms folded, eyes to the floor. "If you want peace...work for justice," he said haltingly, MaryAnne's words visiting his memory like a ghost.
Rosco turned to his kin, but not to say anything. He stood close to his black-clad cousin, sharing Brian’s anxiety in silence. Inside of Rosco’s mind, however, the thoughts and feelings ran in all directions.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was quickly becoming a convenient target for his wrath. What were they trying to do with putting MaryAnne into the Syndicate undercover?? Didn't they realize that such a mission was practically suicide?
And why did MaryAnne accept it??
Actually...Rosco figured he knew half the answer to the last question. MaryAnne was a cop just as he was. Whatever the FBI's purpose, MaryAnne must have felt it was her duty to try to carry it out.
Thing was....was it worth nearly getting killed over?
With a sigh, the Sheriff slowly walked down the hall back to the waiting room. He almost didn't care about any of that. He didn't care about the badge in his hand that MaryAnne had sworn to serve with. He didn't care what the FBI's plans had been. He didn't care about the Syndicate or even the city of Atlanta anymore. All he cared about was her life, her survival.
All he cared about was for MaryAnne to live. All else could go to hell.
The two Coltrane men waited, paced, drank coffee and prayed while MaryAnne remained in surgery. Brian and Rosco said nothing to break the solemn silence, each of them keeping vigil as they listened for word on their cousin's condition.
Brian waited with a mix of rock-still tension and restless pacing. Every so often, he wandered out to the ER entranceway and stared out the windows, watching for the inevitable. When he finally spotted a grey sedan pulling in, he growled a warning to Rosco. "We got company."
Rosco eyed the doorway, steel-blue eyes waiting for the first Fed to walk through the door.
Commander Mayson and his lieutenant, Roger Kelley, walked into the hospital to find Rosco and Brian waiting for them. None of them seemed surprised to find the others there. "Sheriff Coltrane," Mayson greeted Rosco.
"Hello, Commander," Rosco replied. He didn't stand up from his chair he was seated in. He just looked at the Commander, waiting.
Having two angry Coltranes to deal with, Commander Mayson picked his poison. Ignoring Brian for the moment, he focused on Rosco for information. "What is MaryAnne's condition?"
"Critical. Doc says she may have a chance tho'. She's still in surgery." Rosco tapped MaryAnne’s badge wallet on his knee as he spoke.
The gesture wasn't missed. "Yes, MaryAnne Coltrane is a Federal Agent under my command," Mayson said to get it over with. "As much as I can appreciate your concern, it would be better for her if you both left Atlanta - immediately."
Rosco stood up now. "Try again, Commander."
Sensing trouble in the air, Roger Kelley moved to cover Brian and discourage any trouble. The ex-criminal would have none of it. Brian grabbed the agent by the front of his suit, spun him to face the wall and twisted Kelley’s right arm hard behind his back.
Mayson tuned out the squeaks of pained surprise that were coming from his associate, and tired to calm Rosco. "Sheriff, I know this is an extremely difficult situation for you. However, MaryAnne agreed to this assignment of her own free will, and further agreed to retain it's confidential nature. I'm sorry, but I can't allow you to jeapordize her mission - beyond any damage you may have already caused."
Rosco fumed for a moment. Jeopardize her mission? Damage we've done??? He breathed slowly and held Mayson's gaze. "Her mission is done, Commander," the Sheriff said. He took a step closer to the federal agent. "You better hope to hell that she lives, or I'm gonna come down on you so hard you'll have to reach up to tie your shoes." He slapped MaryAnne's federal badge against Mayson's chest, hard enough for the man to cough a little, and stepped away nodding to Brian to let the lieutenant go.
"Air's a little stale in here, Brian. Let's go outside."
"Awright." Brian shoved the agent into the wall once more before letting go of him. He gave Commander Mayson a glare on the way out, his dark eyes sending a loud-and-clear message. Then he joined Rosco in the cool air of the Atlanta night, reaching for a cigarette to calm his nerves. "Bastards," he muttered as the cigarette settled between his teeth.
"To put it nicely..." Rosco glanced back at the door. "I can't believe he said that to us. He's actin' like all she got was a scratch and that she'll be right back out on the streets within the hour." He shook his head. "I came this close to sayin' that if it weren't for you an' me, she'd be dead by now...but I know he'd twist that around somehow and make it sound like it was our fault she got shot!" Rosco's shoulders shook in anger.
"I don't know how the hell we're gonna get her outta the Bureau's hands, though," Brian said with a puff of smoke. "It's like she's outta the fire but into the frying pan."
Rosco nodded. He then drew in a deep breath. "Let's take it one thing at a time. Let's pray she pulls through this alright..."
"Yeah..." Brian dropped the cigarette, ground it out with his boot heel, and bowed his head.
***** ***** *****
Elsewhere in Atlanta, a conference was taking place in a plush office. Frankie Tyler looked at the remnants of his hitmen with nothing short of digust. "Four? There's four of you left, out of what, twelve, thirteen?"
"We're the lucky ones," the senior hitman said. Ketterhagen had reported the facts impassively; he alone could face Tyler’s scorn without flinching. "Mole never made it out of the Jigsaw. I think that Coltrane woman got him."
Tyler’s pupils dilated. "Don't tell me she's still breathing, after that."
Ketterhagen shrugged. There was indifference in his pale blue eyes, and he displayed his complete unconcern with a shake of his curly, platinum-blonde hair. Ketterhagen was vain, deadly, muscular, intelligent, and skilled with weapons. He’d become a professional killer for hire because nothing else held a career challenge. He had remained in Frankie Tyler’s employ simply because the Big Man’s mad schemes offered the highest pay and the boldest jobs. Tyler was crazy; but he was an ambitious sort, and given his due, could accomplish the unthinkable. Ketterhagen didn’t like the man personally, but he was endlessly fascinated by Tyler’s ideas…especially when they called for clever assassinations on a broad scale.
“Did you kill her or not?” Tyler demanded, losing patience.
"I got a shot at her. She went down. Then we got the hell out of there before we were completely trapped. There was no time to do the homework."
The Big Man slammed his fist down on the desk. MaryAnne Coltrane...the name was like nails on a blackboard. "I want that homework DONE. Two of you are going back to the Jigsaw and watch the back door. They'll be taking out the bodies to bury them at the quarry. I want a count of how many bodies are carried out - and I want to know if any of them have long brown hair and blue eyes!"
"You got it, Tyler." Ketterhagen turned to leave with his wheelman partner. But Tyler suddenly thought of something else, while his mind was still grinding over the name Coltrane.
"One more thing. That black Chevy you chased into the train yards. You said it looked Syndicate?"
"No mistake," the hitman answered. "Either that, or it came straight from hell."
"Keep an eye out for it," Tyler ordered. "You know what to do if you see it."
"Business as usual," Ketterhagen said. "Right." He left with the wheelman.
Tyler turned his attention to the two enforcers left in attendance. "Tell me how much of the Syndicate was still standing when you left. We've got more work to do."
***** ***** *****
At the Jigsaw, things were operating as Frankie Tyler had predicted. Fortifications were being made, the wounded were being treated. The dead and dying were given what last dignities could be afforded. Spade kept anyone that was reasonably able-bodied busy with work.
Sophie's girls were cleaning the place up as best they could, though they paused frequently to wipe their own tears. Meanwhile, "Toothless" Tony, the big gambler, was hefting both broken wood and bodies off the floor. He exchanged a sorrowful glance with Rusty, who had just closed the eyes of one of their fallen compatriots.
So many of them, gone. The thought was shared by all who had survived the siege. Not the least of which by Spade himself. So many gone, and no way to replace them.
Spade had relied on the drug money to keep the Syndicate members paid and to keep new recruits coming. But new recruits had been far and few between, thanks to the Fed raids and street wars with Frankie's gang.
Now that Frankie Tyler had their suppliers, their stock, and would soon have his own distribution channels, Spade knew the Syndicate was facing ruin.
He looked at the shambles of the Jigsaw's bar and gaming area. Even the basics of business were inoperable at this point. He was the general of a decimated army whose supply lines had been effectively cut.
And like any army, a few quiet desertions had helped deplete the ranks even further. Spade had noticed one or two missing faces, but he couldn't spare the manpower to hunt them down.
The situation was like a bad poker game that he wanted to quit. He had a lousy hand, a short deck, and was out of chips. There were, however, some wildcards. He only had to wait and see if they'd deliver themselves back into his hands.
***** ***** *****
Rosco and Brian stayed just outside by the doors of the ER entrance for almost an hour. They cast occasional glances to Commander Mayson and his partner who were now sitting in the waiting room.
Brian paced. Rosco leaned against the wall restlessly. His hands rested in his pockets and he constantly looked towards the waiting room, watching for the doctor to come back out. He didn't like the FBI sitting there waiting, and he sure didn't like the idea of the doctor coming out and being approached by them first.
So Rosco kept watch. Not that it did much good. When he looked up again, the two agents were on thier feet surrounding Doctor Thomason, who was looking around the waiting room and then shaking his head.
The Sheriff nudged Brian with his elbow, catching his attention. "Brian, it's the doc..." Rosco said and quickly stepped towards the door. He pulled it open and ran into the waiting room with Brian following.
"...I must speak to her kin first," Dr. Thomason was saying.
"This involves a Federal investigation," Commander Mayson said.
"THIS involves the life a young woman," the doctor said sternly. "I'm sorry, Commander, you're just going to have to WAIT until after I've spoken with the family."
Rosco and Brian were next to the doctor now. "Doctor Thomason?" the Sheriff said urgently.
The doctor took a step back from the federal agents and looked at Rosco and Brian. "Please...if you'll follow me."
The Coltrane men not only followed, they practically walked side by side with the doctor down the corridor.
"Doc...Doc, wait a minute," Rosco said suddenly, jumping in front him. He held his hands up on the doctor's lab coat lapels. "She's not...? For God's sake don't tell me she's...."
The doctor grabbed Rosco's shaking arms. "No, she's not," he said, looking the Sheriff straight in the eye. "She's alright...she's gonna be alright."
Rosco stared and a grin tugged at his mouth. "She's...she's ok?? She's gonna live?"
The doctor chuckled. "Yeah, she's gonna live. That's one tough cousin you got."
"Khee khee!!" Rosco clenched his fists, doing one of his unique gestures to go with his giggle. "Oh that's good news, good news!" The Sheriff's tears were now of joy.
"Thank God," Brian breathed out, having expected the worst a few minutes ago. "Doc, can we see her? Is she conscious?" Is she gonna have a full recovery? He added the last thought silently.
The doctor held his hands up. "Easy...easy, one thing at a time. She's in recovery right now and unconscious still. I'm afraid I can't let you see her for at least a couple of hours. And even then it will be short. She's going to need rest. Besides the two gunshot wounds, she's also physically exhausted, which is going to slow up her healing process a bit." He wagged a finger at the two Coltranes for them to follow him further down the corridor and out of view of the FBI agents.
"My guess is your cousin's middle name is 'Luck,'" he said as he picked up a clipboard off the nurses station. "I've seen a lot of gun shot wounds in my time...and based on what I've seen before, she is very lucky to be alive." The doctor pointed to his own right shoulder. "The shoulder wound was not life threatening, per se. However, she will have limited mobility with it for at least three weeks. The bullet entered "clean" as opposed to changing trajectory and ripping apart bones and cartilage."
He turned the clipboard to face the two Coltranes. On it was a drawing of the human body with skeleton superimposed over it. "The wound here," he pointed to the left side of the ribcage, opposite the heart, "is a different matter. Mere centimeters made the difference between life and instant death."
Rosco swallowed. "What do you mean?"
"The bullet entered here," he pointed at the bottom rib, "entered on an upward angle and hit the bone. It broke her rib. That broken rib is what saved her life. The bullet deflected and lodged here," he pointed to a spot, still near the ribcage but a few inches towards her back. "If it had not hit her rib bone and had entered just below her rib cage here, the worst possible direction the bullet could have taken was straight to her heart." The doctor drew a line from the bottom of the rib cage to the heart. "She would not have survived the ride here."
Rosco was shaking his head. "She would have been dead by the time we found her..." he said softly.
Brian studied the doctor's clipboard with a practiced eye, and voiced his own conclusion. "Whoever took a shot at her knew exactly what he was aimin' for, even though he mighta had a bad angle to shoot from...."
The doctor nodded grimly. "Exactly."
Rosco looked right back to being uneasy again. They were shooting to kill...and he wondered if they would try again if they find out she was still alive. He wanted to get her back home to Hazzard now more than anything.
Brian's thoughts were along the same lines. He also knew, however, that there may not be a haven for the Coltranes anywhere...ever. He kept the thought buried inside, for the moment. Right next to the slow, burning anger he felt at whoever was responsible for the whole thing. The Feds, for getting MaryAnne into this...the Syndicate, for it's very existence...and Frankie's gang, especially for whoever pulled the trigger on his cousin.
The realization that he was responsible too, in his own way, made him sick. If I would've stayed outta Hazzard County...she and Rosco wouldn't have gone through all this. We just about lost her for good this time...
A hitman of Tyler’s had taken a shot at MaryAnne. Two shots, actually. Just like he had, himself, about a year ago...except Brian had deliberately aimed for the fleshy parts of MaryAnne's body, knowing she'd survive. This time, someone had taken shots at her that she wasn't meant to recover from. Only luck - that bizarre, fickle Coltrane luck - had saved her.
Brian had the feeling that MaryAnne had about used up all the luck she had been allotted in life.
The doctor noticed the two men seemed lost in their own thoughts. "Gentlemen, you're welcome to stay here for the next few hours. I'll let you know when we've moved her to ICU and at that point I'll let you see her, but it will only be for a short time."
Rosco looked at the doctor and nodded. "Thank you, Doc. Thank you for everything."
The doctor nodded. "You're welcome. I'll see you two later."
The doctor left to inform the FBI of MaryAnne's condition now, leaving Rosco and Brian standing in the corridor.
"Rosco," Brian asked quietly, "You mind if I go out there and bust Mayson one right in the mouth?"
Rosco chuckled. "Naw, ya can't." He paused and looked towards the waiting room. "Because I'm going to..."
The look in Brian's eyes was pure mischief. "Ya know, they've threatened to lock us up or haul us outta town. Wanna earn it?"
"Hmmm...." The Sheriff's blue eyes deepend in hue. The law man in him was saying 'no, don't go causing trouble.' The other half of him was saying, 'the hell with it, they're the one's causing trouble! He looked at Brian. "Whatchya got in mind?"
"I think if we walk out there and beat the hell outta 'em, they'll chalk it up to our worry over MaryAnne. The doctor ain't told 'em her condition yet. So if we're ever gonna get away with it..." Brian smacked his right fist into his left palm.
Rosco nodded. No, it probably wasn't becoming of a Sheriff to go throw punches at a Federal agent...but Rosco just didn't care anymore. "Let's go."
Brian grinned wickedly, and walked down the hallway at Rosco's side. They walked fearlessly up to Mayson and Kelley, who looked back at the two Coltranes with guarded curiosity.
Without preamble, Brian hauled Roger Kelley to his feet, and bodily dragged him outside, much to the agent's stammering protest. "Nothing personal," Brian said as courtesy before throwing the agent outside and proceeding to rough him up.
Agent Kelley, after the first couple of punches, realized he'd have to fight or be ground to a pulp. Fortunately for him, he quickly recalled his agency training and began to even things up. Brian felt a brutal joy in the matched combat, and as he blocked another punch, wondered how Rosco was doing.
The Sheriff was handling himself pretty well. Mayson had tried to resist being pushed out the door, but Rosco gave him a hard shove to show he was serious. Though there were few people in the waiting room at this hour of the night, they gaped at the sight. Once out the doors, Rosco pushed Mayson against the concrete wall.
"Sheriff, wait a minute...wait a minute!"
Rosco had one hand gripping the agents jacket and the other wound into a fist and held up to be delivered. He paused a moment, thinking over the Commander's plea. He made a face. "Aw hell..."
BAM! Right across the jaw. It was a good hit...but unfortunately it would be Rosco's only one. Not one for fist fighting, his hand throbbed in pain and he flexed his fingers. "Damn..." Still angry, he looked at Mayson, pulling him away from the wall and then pushing him back again.
"You understand where I'm comin' from now, Commander? Do ya?!" Another push followed the words.
Mayson flinched and then lightly touched his freshly bruised jaw. He glared at the Sheriff, certainly not liking being punched; but when he saw the fire in Rosco's eyes he realized the older Coltrane had every right in the world to lash out. MaryAnne was his kin, and Mayson remembered a conversation he had once with the Sheriff…how the young woman was the closest thing to a daughter that Rosco had. The Commander honestly couldn't blame the man for throwing a punch. "Rosco...look, I'm sorry..."
"Yer sorry?? Yer SORRY?? You expect THAT to make me feel better?"
"You're lucky my hand hurts or I'd hit ya again!"
"I'm sorry!" Mayson exclaimed louder now. "I'm sorry she was shot, but dammit she's a good cop, Rosco! You know that! She was the best one I could think of for this assignment!"
"And just exactly what is that assignment, Commander?"
"I--I can't tell you that."
Rosco tightened his grip on Mayson's jacket. "I can't tell you!! Rosco, you must understand! Not only is it a dangerous case but it's extremely sensitive! And as of this moment, it's not closed!"
"Your top agent was damn near blown away! If I was you, I'd be closing it right now!"
"Sheriff, we've lost too many men already! There's the interest of public safety here!"
Silence. Rosco stared at the federal agent and slowly relaxed his grip on the man's jacket. The Sheriff never liked it when officers went down in the line of duty. "Just...how many have you lost?"
"Too many. The State Patrol...the city PD...they've lost officers too..."
Rosco sighed heavily, some of his ire returning. "Just how many officers are gonna have to die before the FBI declares itself the winner?"
Mayson paused, meeting the Sheriff's gaze. "This is war, Rosco. You understand? War..."
The Commander nodded.
War, on a smaller scale, continued in the parking lot. The FBI lieutenant and Brian were thoroughly engaged in a fight to the finish, having gone well beyond the simple trading of punches.
The snarls of fury coming from the two men were more suited to wild dogs than rational adults. Agent Kelley, while initially less of a fighter, had rallied to the challenge. The way he saw it, Brian looked Syndicate, acted Syndicate, and fought Syndicate...so therefore, Brian represented all that which the lieutenant had sworn against. Not to mention the memories of fellow agents who had gone on assignments against the wide Atlanta underground and never returned.
No less enraged himself, Brian attacked and fought the lieutenant with single-minded viciousness. The sight of MaryAnne's injuries, along with remembered wounds of his own from Federal hands, put venom in his blood. If there was one thing Brian never wanted to see again, it was another Fed...and now this one fought with him with the kind of smug impunity that made the ex-criminal seethe. One of them wouldn't walk away from this.
Rosco let the Commander away from the wall, and they both watched the fight for a moment.
"Jeeesus...they're gonna kill each other," Mayson said. He started to walk towards the fight to break it up when Rosco stopped him.
"Just a moment..."
"Just hold on." Rosco kept his eyes on the brawl.
Agent Kelley timed his next move. He let Brian take a heavy right-handed swing at him, but instead of blocking the blow or ducking, the agent moved slightly aside and grabbed Brian's arm, pulling the young man off-balance with the sudden tug. The agent quickly turned and twisted the captured arm behind Brian's back, forcing a yowl of pain from him. All Kelley had to do now was force Brian to the ground, the leverage and momentum working in the Fed's favor.
Brian gritted his teeth and fought the tearing pressure in his shoulder. It felt like it was being twisted off. The agent fighting him had little pity. He was taking a criminal down, and by God when he was down, the cuffs would keep him there.
Brian seemed to weaken, finally giving in to the unbearable pain of slow dislocation. Then just as suddenly, he rammed his left elbow back into the agent's stomach just as hard as he could. The split-second of surprise gave Brian another opportunity, and he stomped a black boot-heel hard into the agent's toes, grinding them like a discarded cigarette.
Kelley released his hold, and it was over. Brian spun, and with a double-handed blow across the agent's jaw, sent the Fed to the asphalt.
Rosco was shaking his head. "Coulda tole ‘em that wouldn'ta worked..."
Mayson looked at the Sheriff. "What?"
"He only grabbed one arm. Ain’t no way to handle a violent criminal. You ain't teachin' that at the FBI are ya?"
Mayson just stared at Rosco. He then looked at his lieutenant, still sprawled on the pavement, and at Brian, who stood over him victoriously. Mayson suddenly realized that the law man who stood next to him...was a pretty damn good one.
The Commander cleared his throat. "Umm...we'll have to work on that..."
Brian gave his defeated opponent a nudge with his boot. The agent groaned, proof enough for all in witness that he was still alive. The ex-criminal turned towards Mayson, and stared walking towards him, his dark eyes centered on the federal commander.
"Uhh...." Mayson took a step back, half hiding himself behind Rosco. "Listen, son, I understand you’re feeling angry, the Sheriff made that very clear..."
Still panting with exertion from his fight, Brian strode up to Mayson and gave him the evil eye. "You..."
Mayson swallowed and held a hand up. "Now Brian...just stay calm..."
"Remember when you busted me? When you chased me damn near to hell on that one-way street? And when you about ran me down in the parkin' lot, when I was reduced to runnin' for it on foot?"
Rosco was standing very still during all of this. He made no effort to hold Brian back...although Mayson would have liked him to.
"Yes..." Mayson replied.
"Remember what you said when you slapped the cuffs on? ‘Better get used to the jewelry son, you'll be wearin' it for a long, long time’?"
The Commander actually looked a little regretful. "I remember. But Brian--"
"But nothin'!" Brian yelled. "You were so damn proud of yerselves, you and your agents...and where were y'all after that, when Mancini's boys came callin'?”
Mayson was quiet. He didn't have a nice, tidy FBI ready-made answer for that. "Look...things became very complicated after that. Very complicated...."
Brian's voice deepened to a growl. "You won't be satisfied until a Coltrane's dead."
The Commander's eyes flared. "That's not true!" he declared and stepped out from behind Rosco now. "That's not what this is all about!"
"All I know," Brian retorted as he clenched his fists, "Is that you owe us - not the other way around! And so help me God, if MaryAnne would have died here....I would’ve given you problems that would make the Syndicate look like nursery school."
The words dropped off into a cold silence, Brian's rage held in check by one thing only. Rosco's presence.
The Commander paused at Brian's words. The ex-criminal’s threats were dire enough to call for his arrest, in ordinary circumstances. But nothing involving this case had ever been ordinary. Mayson’s posture relaxed a little, no longer hostile, but his eyes still held an edge. "Young man...I'm already facing a problem that makes the Syndicate look like nursery school..."
Brian knew that much was true. In his heart, he knew that if Frankie Tyler was trying to re-acquire Atlanta, there wouldn't be anything that the Big Man would stop at...just as the Syndicate would do anything it could to retain power. The result would be blood spilled by all.
Then there was MaryAnne, in the middle of it, by virtue of a sense of duty, an oath, a badge. Brian's eyes flicked over to Rosco with a silent question. Should I kick Mayson's ass anyway?
Rosco gave a slight shake of his head. They had the Commander's attention enough as it was.
Brian accepted Rosco’s decision. He also made it clear to Mayson what had saved him from a solid punch. "You're just lucky the Sheriff's here," Brian said. He held Mayson's eyes with his own, and nodded towards Rosco. "Bein’ busted by Feds is one thing. Bein' busted by Rosco is a whole 'nuther thing altogether. You can thank him later for the fact you're still standin'...." Brian took a step back, letting Mayson chew that one over.
And the Commander thought long and hard about what Brian said, especially the fact that Rosco had caught Brian once...well before anyone else did. The Sheriff had done so practically single-handedly, whereas the entire Atlanta Bureau had never quite been able to close in. Only the fateful chase from the hospital had caused Brian to suffer Mayson’s arrest, and that event had been with assistance from the Hazzard PD.
Mayson glanced at the Sheriff. Rosco's blue eyes looked at him, inviting judgment.
This was definitely not the fallible, simple Sheriff the Commander had heard about in rumors. Mayson suddenly couldn't understand why such rumors had ever begun. Then again, even if they had been true...it was clear that the Sheriff who stood before him wasn’t that same man.
"You're right," Mayson said to Brian. "I am lucky the Sheriff's here..."
"Uh huh." Brian glanced at Rosco with a khee of mirth in his eyes. Maybe next time, the Feds would think twice about riling up a Coltrane. Brian disengaged himself from Mayson and Rosco's presence, returning to check on the beat-up Fed he'd left in the parking lot. Now that his anger was somewhat purged, Brian held no grudge against the enemy.
Rosco watched Brian help Agent Kelley to his feet. The Sheriff kept an eye on them, making sure they didn’t go back to fighting one another. They didn’t, and Rosco’s attention turned to the pain throbbing in his hand.
He massaged his bruised knuckles and turned to Mayson.
"You hit hard," the Commander said.
"And I only hit once," Rosco replied. "Khee, don't make me hit ya again!"
Mayson smiled, then stopped half way and touched his jaw. "Believe me...I don't want you hittin' me again."
The Sheriff issued his ultimatum. "Then MaryAnne goes home when she's well enough."
Mayson's expression brightened a little in the harsh lights of the parking lot. "You talk to the doc?"
Rosco nodded. "Says she's gonna be alright. It's gonna be awhile...but she'll be okay."
"Do you really think Hazzard County is going to be that safe for her? For all of you??"
"Rosco, listen to me..." Mayson spoke gently and in a hushed tone. "I told you it's a gang war. And it has the potential to spill out of the city limits. You know as well as I do that if Frankie Tyler regains control of the underworld in Atlanta...you, and MaryAnne...and even Brian...won’t be safe anywhere. Tyler's still got contracts on you and MaryAnne and a couple other folks in Hazzard. There won't be any place safe for you to go."
Rosco paused. He stepped away from the Commander to hide his shiver. It wasn't that there were still contracts on him and his kin, that seemed par for the course at this point. But the other contracts on other folks in Hazzard...that bothered him. "The Dukes?"
"Yes... The Big Man's getting bolder with each day. His resources are building up, his position is stronger. Only time will tell before he's more powerful than he ever was before...and more innocent people start getting hurt." Mayson stepped up to the Sheriff. "I'm only telling you this so that you can consider the circumstances. Plus...it's really MaryAnne's decision to back out of all of this. Not yours."
Brian overheard Mayson's last pronouncement as he returned with the battered agent. Although he had missed some of the conversation between the Commander and the Sheriff, he could take a guess at it's content. "MaryAnne won't quit," he said to no one in particular, though it was voiced in echo to Rosco's thoughts.
Rosco sighed, knowing that was true. "Yeah, I know..." he muttered, making it clear that he wished otherwise.
Before anyone else could comment, the door to the hospital opened, the doctor motioning for Rosco and Brian. "She's awake," he said as the two Coltrane men jogged up, Feds on their heels. "She's very weak, and I'll have to ask you to keep it short - but you can see her."
They followed the doctor down a corridor away from the ER. The signs pointed to ICU. Just before entering, the doctor turned to the four men. He looked at the Federal agents. "I can only allow MaryAnne's family in to see her right now."
Mayson nodded and he and his lieutenant took a step back. They would wait.
Doctor Thomason gently pushed on the door and it clicked open. When Rosco and Brian stepped inside, they found they weren't in a hospital room, per se, but in a Triage almost like the ER...but much more subdued. The light was dim, the sound was muffled. Doctor Thomason walked to the nurses’ station and spoke softly, announcing that he had visitors for MaryAnne. The nurse nodded and the doctor turned back to the Coltrane men and motioned for them to follow him.
They walked past two dimly lit, yet occupied rooms. The doors were open and the wall that faced the Triage was glass, making it easier to check on a patient visually without having to open the door. Rosco glanced into each room. One patient was asleep, the other stared right back.
The Sheriff kept walking, the faint beep of heart monitors and other life-sustaining machines following him and Brian. The doctor stopped at the next room and turned back to them. "She may or may not realize you both are here. Don't be alarmed. Speak softly to her...don't do anything to upset her. I can only give you a couple of minutes."
Rosco nodded. The doctor gestured for them to go ahead in.
The Sheriff walked into the room followed by Brian. They both paused and looked at MaryAnne laying there.
Neither of them moved for a moment, as if they were hesitant to wake her. The absolute stillness of the hospital room was only disturbed by the sound of the machines, beeping and pulsing with the life of the young woman who lay pale in the bed.
Brian didn't think he could get any words past the lump in his throat, so he simply took a step aside, indicating for Rosco to go up to her first. The older cousin did, stepping slowly towards the left side of the bed.
Rosco stared at her face for a moment. He sighed heavily and reached out, touching her hand. "MaryAnne?" he said softly. "It's us. Rosco and Brian. We're here, sweetheart..."
The young woman's eyes slowly opened. She looked up at Rosco, a very faint smile tugging at her tired face. "Hey..." she croaked.
Rosco smiled. "Hey yerself. Doc says yer gonna be okay..."
She gave a slight nod, and then a slight shake of her head. "I'm...a lousy undercover...cop."
"Naw ya ain't." He held her hand in his. "Don't worry 'bout that now..."
"Yep, he's right here..." Rosco looked up him.
Brian walked to the other side of the bed, and looked down at MaryAnne with sorrow in his dark eyes. "Hey, Deputy," he said quietly.
She looked at him. "Hey," she said, happy to see both her kin now. She looked back and forth between the both of them. "Fellas...I'm sorry..."
Rosco shook his head. "There'll be time for that later, MaryAnne. We just want you to get better."
"Yeah," Brian agreed. "Besides...we're sorry too...so we're all even." He deeply regretted the fact that he’d struck her during their last meeting. He reached out gently with the fingertips of his right palm, and drew a light caress along MaryAnne's cheekbone. It was a gesture of apology, a request for forgiveness.
MaryAnne turned her face towards Brian's hand, her reply of acceptance. Her left hand gave Rosco's a meek squeeze.
"It's all right, sweetheart," Rosco said. "Everything's gonna be all right..."
She nodded, her eyes starting to droop and close.
Rosco gently let go of her hand and smoothed some of her hair away from the side of her face. "I think that's our cue..."
"I think you're right," Brian whispered. He let his palm rest against the side of MaryAnne's face for a moment in farewell, then removed it slowly. MaryAnne settled into the pillow and gave a small sigh as she drifted back to sleep.
Rosco and Brian stepped away from the bed just as the doctor returned, saying time’s up. Rosco nodded and they left the room, walking with the doctor down the hall a ways.
"Thank you," the Sheriff said.
Doctor Thomason nodded. "She's doing very well so far, and I expect her to make as much of a complete recovery as possible. But it won't be overnight."
Rosco nodded. "We understand."
"Thanks, doc," Brian added as the physician went off on his rounds. Mayson and his lieutenant were soon pressing towards MaryAnne's door like expectant fathers with wives in labor. Brian threw out an arm and stopped them in their tracks. "Whoa, y'all. She's sleepin'. Your o-fficial Fed business is gonna halfta wait."
Mayson drew in a deep breath. Time was of the essence. A debriefing was needed, he had to know anything MaryAnne may have found out but never got to get through the informant channels. He had received the evidence she had collected...but there were questions. Lots of questions....
"We really must speak to her...as soon as possible...."
"And ya will," Rosco spoke up. "But yer just gonna have to wait."
"But if we wait to long..." He looked between Rosco and Brian. "Everything about this case from this point on is very time sensitive."
Mayson's nervousness was palatable. Brian studied the Bureau Commander and then voiced a question. "Tyler's just getting started, ain't he."
The Commander met the ex-criminal's gaze. He nodded. "There's no telling how far he's going to go. The Frankie Tyler that's emerging now...is more dangerous and could end up being more powerful than he ever was before..."
"More powerful than the Syndicate was under Mancini." Brian looked at Rosco, remembering the sight of the Jigsaw when they had left it with MaryAnne. The place had been in shambles, and the Syndicate's numbers hadn't looked too impressive. "The power in town has already changed hands," Brian ventured. "And no matter what Frankie's taken back from the Syndicate, odds are, he ain't gonna be satisfied with it."
Another heavy sigh from the senior agent. He shook his head and slightly turned away from the two Coltranes, rubbing his hand over his face wearily. "Not only more powerful...more deadly..."
"What is it?" Brian asked, seeing that Rosco, too, had looked away with those words.
Rosco spoke softly. "Tyler's gonna be lookin' to settle some old scores..."
The tone of Rosco's voice set off warning bells in Brian's head. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together, and the picture was ugly. Brian suddenly remembered the Atlanta newspaper headline from MaryAnne's rookie days, on how she, and a country Sheriff, had helped dismantle Tyler's position in the Atlanta underworld. Undoubtedly, Tyler would want to repay those who had cost him so much in the past.
The fall of Frankie Tyler had created a civil war in the Syndicate of those days. A select, dangerous few had remained loyal to Tyler, while most of the Syndicate had fallen into Mancini's ranks...Brian himself included in the latter. Mancini had bribed Feds to fortify his position as Syndicate Don, while Tyler quietly laid his plans and bided his time...planning for a triumphant return as the king of the underworld. Now, it looked as if Tyler was more than halfway there.
But he had to be stoppable. There had to be a way. “Tyler's got a long list of enemies," Brian mused aloud, looking at the faces around him in example. Feds. Police.
And with a glance to the door to MaryAnne's room, Brian wordlessly acknowledged Tyler’s worst enemy. There, through the window, was MaryAnne…laying in pale, medicated sleep. Tyler would stop at nothing to have her head mounted on the wall. Absolutely nothing.
In the meantime, Atlanta was the worst possible place for anyone named Coltrane to be. So naturally, that’s where they were.
"Tyler's been planning this for a long time..." Mayson said, interrupting Brian’s thoughts. "We took notice when he reinstated the contracts on the Sheriff and MaryAnne a couple years back. But one of his hitmen blew it and grabbed another girl by mistake."
"That bein’ Daisy Duke…which earned her a contract of her own...dammit!" Rosco spun around and faced the door of MaryAnne's room. He now rubbed his own tired eyes and sighed. It had all started with a murdered state senator...but where would it end?? A couple of dead Sheriffs? Some more city cops, a few Feds thrown in for good measure, and an innocent citizen or two to top everything off? Rosco silently fumed.
"Y’all don't mess around when you make enemies, do ya Sheriff," Brian said softly to Rosco. "Contracts on you n’ MaryAnne…from both Mancini's organization, and Tyler's."
Rosco threw Brian a glare. "Give me a medal why don't ya?"
It hit Brian like a slap in the face. His cousins had never told him about Tyler’s independent efforts at revenge. "I never knew Tyler had come after y'all. I never knew...." Brian looked at Rosco, and then looked past him to MaryAnne's room.
He wondered how long it would take before Frankie Tyler knew about MaryAnne being at the Jigsaw. Maybe he already knew...and what would Tyler do then, with such an enemy within his reach?
Brian stepped up to Rosco and leaned towards the Sheriff's ear. "We'd better talk," he said quietly, indicating that they should do it out of earshot of the Feds.
The Sheriff's ire was still clearly visible. He looked at Brian and was about to bark something else, but he had picked up on the young man's tone of voice. He held in his retort and looked at Agent Mayson. "If you'll excuse us..."
Brian led Rosco a short ways down the hall, glancing about to make sure no one that could overhear. "Rosco, I think we'd better call in some reinforcements."
"Like who? The National Guard?" Rosco couldn't help his snap. He also didn't believe there were any reinforcements out there to help them.
"I'm on your side," Brian reminded him, tugging Rosco’s uniform sleeve in emphasis. "Listen, we can't stay here around the clock. MaryAnne's gonna be awhile healin' up, and we gotta know what the Syndicate's doin', and what Tyler's bunch is doin'. Not to mention what havin' Feds hangin' outside of MaryAnne's door is gonna look like, should either of those sides send a representative to check things out...know what I mean?"
"Why can't these people just fall off the face of the earth," Rosco muttered. He drew in a heavy sigh. "Yeah, I know what you mean. But just how do you propose we keep our eyes on both the Syndicate and Frankie Tyler? Especially seein' as the Syndicate was supposed to think I was dead...and I ain't. Don't you think they're gonna wonder?"
"Hell yeah, they're gonna wonder. They seen two ghosts today, yours n' mine. If the Syndicate wasn't short on manpower, they'd already be correcting the situation. But maybe that's why we got a chance." Brian let that thought rest a beat before continuing. "I'm gonna go back to the Jigsaw and talk to Spade. Meanwhile, I was thinkin' that you could call in the Dukes to help watch MaryAnne."
"Whoa, wait a minute. Talk to Spade??" The Sheriff was suddenly confused. And alarmed. "What are you gonna do that for?"
"He let us walk outta there with MaryAnne," Brian pointed out. "And I've still got a couple of friends there, from what it looked like. Against the Syndicate and Tyler, we've got no chance in hell. But since the Syndicate took a shine to MaryAnne, maybe we can build on that, at least to buy time."
You mean buy MORE time... Rosco thought. He stood quietly for a moment. They were already living on more than their share of borrowed time it seemed...but Brian did have a point. Spade had let them leave with MaryAnne...
"Are you suggesting that Spade...may favor us for having a common enemy?"
"He just might. Spade's a cold-blooded one, but he's rational." Brian kept his private, nagging doubts to himself.
Rosco growled softly. "Somehow that doesn't make me feel better..." He looked at Brian. "But I guess, if we have any chance at all...we'll have to take a chance with Spade." He paused. "Callin' the Dukes ain't sucha bad idea but..." The Sheriff glanced back in the direction of the two federal agents. "...you think them two are gonna like what's cookin' up here?"
"I don't see how havin' the Dukes here will bother 'em. They're gonna halfta admit that their presence could cause even more trouble for MaryAnne than ours. See, us bein' here don't make MaryAnne an undercover cop, but theirs...all we need is for some unexpected visitor to catch sight of them hoverin' there, and it's all over."
Brian looked down the hall at the agents, then back to Rosco. "As far as them knowin' anything else...well, let's not tell 'em I'm goin' to the Jigsaw."
Rosco smirked. He thought of how the FBI had refused to tell him what was going on. He was more than happy to return the favor. "Trust me, they won't be hearin' it from me..."
Brian grinned and clasped Rosco on the shoulder. "Awright, then it's settled. I'll hang around while you call the Dukes, and I'll wait until they get here. Then while you're introducin' the Dukes to 'em and explanin' how it's in MaryAnne's best interest to be minus Federal visitors...I'll slip out quiet-like."
Rosco nodded. "Awright. Let's go find a phone."