This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The Dukes of Hazzard characters, settings, locales, ect. are owned by other entities who have not endorsed this fic nor have they given express permission for the character's use. Author makes not claims to these characters and is not making any profit from their use.

All original characters are the property of the author(s).

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the author or any legally assigned agents of the author.

© Copyright: 2000. Cuz Bonita and Lisa Philbrick

KIN

Morning came with the sunlight that glared through the windshield. Brian drove resolutely towards the known location of his targets; some backwater locale called Hazzard County. He flipped the visor down to retrieve the photograph of the Syndicate’s next victims. He glanced at the photo as he drove, committing the two faces to memory.

They were about his age. Awfully young to die. Brian dismissed the twinge of guilt as quickly as it had come. His promotion within the Syndicate, and subsequent training, had been recently completed. It had been a thoroughly harrowing experience…and Brian knew his soul would never be the same. Fate had given him this hand, in a cold game of life and death in which he was a player. So be it. His fortunes had changed, his future both brighter and more bleak than he had ever imagined possible. But it was better than nothing…better than the alternative. It had to be.

Brian rolled down the car window and let the wind toss his mane of brown hair. The rumbling purr of the Chevy’s high-powered motor soothed him, as the long, primer-black hood absorbed the sunlight and reflected nothing. Only the chrome grill caught flashes of light and sent it back, blindingly, to the sun that offered it.

He didn’t notice the patrol car parked in seclusion over the county line. Being a wheelman had given Brian a lead foot that was second to none, and he blasted through the speed trap unawares. The patrol car leapt out instantly, the sudden blast of it’s siren answered by Brian’s string of curses. “Just what I need, dammit to hell…” He could make a run for it. And be a fugitive from the get-go, when he had a job to do. Or he could pull over…and make sure the cop never made a report. The second idea came from his Syndicate training. He blanched at it, for several reasons. Personal reasons. Ones he’d been trying to forget, ever since he found out his assignment would lead him to Hazzard.

“Damn.” Brian pulled over, and tucked the photograph within the inside pocket of his leather jacket, next to his gun. The weight of the weapon was an evil comfort as he got out of the car. God, don’t let this officer be the ambitious sort.

“Howdy,” the blue-clad Deputy said as she got out of her patrol car. Brian sucked in a breath and held it. It was true. She was a Coltrane. She was…

“Dang surprised to see you doin’ seventy in a thirty-five,” the Deputy accused, the seriousness of her voice offset by the rural twang in her speech. She held out her hand expectantly, and Brian reached into his jacket. His hand rested on the handle of his gun a moment. The Deputy changed posture immediately, her eyes widening in surprise; and then she exhaled loudly as Brian pulled out his wallet instead. “Don’t ya know you should stay in your car, when ya get pulled over?” The Deputy’s complaint made Brian’s mouth twitch. She was gutsy. She was also amazed by the name on his driver’s license. She looked up at him suddenly, her blue eyes reflecting suspicion and curiosity.

"Rosco never told you about me, MaryAnne." Brian’s casual reference to the Hazzard County Sheriff had the desired affect. The Deputy gaped at him, forgetting about the speeding ticket.

"Apparently not. Umm...."

"It's because I'm a bad guy."

"Ya are?" It wasn’t an admission that MaryAnne heard very often.

"Not every Coltrane wants to wear a badge. Ever wonder why Rosco could turn to corruption so easily?"

MaryAnne creased her eyebrows at the stranger. “Easily?" she looked at him a moment and then chuckled. "Right....Never mind Rosco. What's your story? And just WHO exactly are you anyway?"

Brian grinned like a jackal, and leaned against his late-model Chevy. He had her riled up, all right. “I’m a relative of yours.”

MaryAnne studied him, mentally comparing his profile against the latest “wanted” posters. She committed a few details of Brian’s appearance to memory, just in case. He had dark brown hair that matched the color of his eyes. He was clad in black denim jeans, a black shirt and a leather jacket, an image that set him apart from the usual breed of drifters that wandered through Hazzard. Still, he bore a slight resemblance to the rest of the Coltrane line...save that no blue was in his wardrobe, and no badge shone on his chest.

"Really? Duh... By way of whom...and what? And to answer your question, you're right, not every Coltrane wants to wear a badge. Many of them haven't."

Brian took a knife from his jacket pocket, flipped it open, and casually cleaned under his fingernails. "I'd tell ya, but...."

MaryAnne crossed her arms over her chest. "You're afraid you'll embarrass yourself? Will you knock of this horse shit and tell me who you really are?”

"You got spunk, MaryAnne." Brian flipped his knife shut abruptly. "I can't tell ya more than I already have. It would be wise for you and Rosco to stay outta my way, while I finish a little job I have to do in Hazzard."

"Well, now see you've already made your first mistake, that being driving seventy through a thirty-five. And if you're keeping tally, you just made your second mistake. If you wanted me and Rosco to stay out of the way, you shouldn't have said anything. But you went and opened your big mouth." MaryAnne eyed Brian for a long moment. "I don't know who the hell you are, and whether or not you're really a Coltrane remains to be proven. But I'm gonna be watching you. And you won't know when I am...and when I'm not."

Brian's dark eyes hardened. "If I wasn't a Coltrane, there'd be no warnin' for the local law.” The words were weighted with implied threats.

"If you WERE a Coltrane, you and I would probably be having a much more pleasant conversation. And uh..." she looked at the front of his leather jacket. "...you wouldn't be carrying so much heat."

"Oh? I'd be in some backwater police department, instead of the Syndicate, I suppose.”

“Uh huh,” MaryAnne chuckled tolerantly, filing the word syndicate away with her other facts.

“Not every Coltrane that had a badge worked in a back water police department. Then again, you'd know that now, wouldn't you?"

"I'd know that, but prefer not to dwell on it." Brian was getting edgy; long-term exposure to cops tended to have that effect on him. "Think what ya want, MaryAnne. But soon enough, you'll figure out why I came to Hazzard." Brian plucked his license out of the Deputy’s fingers, and got inside his car before she could protest. He left her standing there without a backwards glance.

MaryAnne watched Brian depart, a sense of foreboding knawing at her gut. Coltrane or not…I don’t like you.

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

Brian waited until nightfall to risk the roads again. The Chevy was well-suited to evening skulking, having four headlights on permanent high-beam in front, and inoperative taillights in the rear. There were no dashboard lights to illuminate the interior of the car, nor were there turn signals or license plates. But what the aging Impala lacked in legalities, it made up for in maneuvers. Such was the option package on Syndicate get-away cars.

A day spent in hiding, after his encounter with MaryAnne, made Brian anxious to complete his assignment. He needed information first, however, and that meant he had to rub elbows with some locals. The best place to do that was at a bar, and from the looks of it, half the town hung out at some dive called the Boar’s Nest. Brian pulled the Chevy into the dirt parking lot, and put his car next to a Dodge Charger that had the loudest paint job he’d ever seen in his life. He shook his head at the gaudy orange color and flag-painted roof. “Hicks,” he muttered, and walked inside the tavern.

The interior of the bar didn’t impress him anymore than the outside had. He’d been in seedier places in Atlanta, thinking nothing of it, but the rustic charm of the Boar’s Nest made him feel out of place. It was hard for him to blend into a honky-tonk, with being clad in black and looking like a stereotypical criminal. It works in Atlanta…oh well. Brian sat at the bar, ordered a beer, and tried to look friendly so that people quit staring at him. It didn’t work. Especially with the pair of farm boys that watched him from their nearby table. Brian pretended to ignore them and sipped his beer.

As he drank, he took the picture of his assignments out of his jacket pocket. Sure enough…there they were, one dark-haired, the other blonde…their features the same as the hayseeds who watched him now. Bo and Luke Duke. Well, they were easy enough to find, Brian thought. On an impulse, he flagged down the long-legged waitress and had her take two beers to the soon-to-be-doomed hicks. As they received their drinks and looked at him in puzzlement, Brian chuckled and toasted them silently. To natural enemies. This job was going to be easy. He would follow them around for a day, and pick the time and place…then go back to Atlanta a richer man. Self-absorbed in his plans, Brian didn’t see the blue shirt and silver badge until it was too late.

“Daisy, when MaryAnne comes in, tell ‘er that Maverick’s runnin’ a little rough. She might wanna have Cooter check ‘em out.” The Hazzard County Sheriff leaned against the bar, not two feet away from Brian.

“Rosco, don’t tell me you’ve been drivin’ poor Maverick again,” Daisy teased as she wiped down the bar. The Sheriff denied it at first, but then gave in to a naughty grin. “Khee…well, only once in a while.”

Brian sat rock-still and kept his nose in his beer glass. The Sheriff was standing right next to him, talking idly with the waitress. He hadn’t noticed Brian yet. Maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe…

“Rosco, are you drinkin’ on duty? Good, maybe it’ll help your drivin’!” The friendly barb came from the blonde Duke. Raucous laughter filled the Boar’s Nest, drowning out Rosco’s barks of “Hush!”

Brian used the opportunity to slip out the door without paying his tab.

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

The orange stock car roared by at high speed and whipped around a curve. Pursuit followed closely, in the form of a white Plymouth Fury with a shrieking siren. The two cars tore by the hidden black Chevy, and Brian cursed under his breath. How was he supposed to make the hit on the Dukes, with the law as their shadow? It was his second day in Hazzard, and Brian was no closer to finishing his task than he had been upon his arrival. Everywhere he found the Dukes, he had also found the Hazzard law. It seemed that the locals spent every waking minute in their cars.

Brian decided to try his luck in town. The Dukes were reputed to have a friend at the Hazzard Garage; maybe they would show up there and give him an opportunity to finish his job. The black Chevy was soon pacing through the small town, and Brian made note of alleys, hiding spots, and escape routes from the town’s center. Unfortunately, the Hazzard Garage was in close proximity to the Sheriff’s department. “For bein’ at odds with the law, these two spend a lot of time temptin’ fate,” Brian muttered to himself. He parked a few feet away from the garage and waited.

His patience was rewarded a half-hour later. The orange car came screeching into town and fishtailed around the corner, making a beeline for the garage. Jackpot, Brian thought, and reached into his jacket.

“Howdy!” Brian jumped at the voice, finding Deputy Coltrane standing outside his car door. He eased his empty hand out of the jacket and glared silently at MaryAnne. “You’re double-parked,” she announced cheerfully, writing a ticket and handing it to him. “Oh, and I almost forgot to give ya this.” MaryAnne gave Brian the speeding ticket he had coming from the day before.

“Thanks, Deputy,” Brian said sarcastically. Just then a roar sounded from the garage, and the orange car peeled out and shot right by them. MaryAnne waved to the passing Charger, which honked “Dixie” in return. Great, Brian thought. They’re friends of hers. My exit route better be water-tight when I finish this job…

“I’m gonna be watchin’ you,” MaryAnne warned as her attention returned to him. “I don’t know what you’re up to, Mister, but my gut tells me it’s no good.” The Deputy shook a finger at him and left. The orange car was long gone, and another opportunity to make the hit was down the drain.

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

Brian made little progress the rest of the day. After moving his car to an alley, he wandered around the small town on foot, making subtle inquires as to the habits and whereabouts of the Dukes. The local mechanic hadn’t told him much, and Brian came away with the impression that the Dukes had very loyal friends. He had better luck at Rhuebottom’s, where the trusting storekeeper described the location of the family farm. Brian committed it to memory and walked to the Hazzard Café, a sickeningly-charming eatery that looked like the only cup of coffee in town.

A handful of locals sat in inside the small restaurant, and they avoided Brian’s gaze as he walked to a corner booth. Hazzard seemed like a friendly enough town, but Brian surmised that his city-bred walk and cold expression went a long way towards his unpopularity. Only one person looked at him boldly, another out-of-towner like himself, and Brian gave the man a curt nod as he took a seat in the adjacent booth.

After the shy waitress took his order and fluttered away, Brian stared out the window towards the courthouse. Two patrol cars sat in front of it, and he presumed that the third one was out on patrol. As a blue-clad officer came out of the building, Brian’s eyes narrowed and his posture stiffened. Sure enough, the Deputy was scanning the town square, probably looking for a certain black car that she had a special interest in.

“Trouble with the law?” The out-of-towner moved from his own booth and seated himself across from Brian.

“You could say that,” Brian answered warily. The two professional criminals eyed each other, then the stranger spoke again. “You here on business?”

“Yeah,” Brian said guardedly. “You?”

“Sure am.” The light-haired stranger looked over to the courthouse, to where MaryAnne stood. “She’s a sharp one,” he said conversationally. “If you got her suspicious, then you’re gonna have problems.”

Brian sized up the older man across from him. By the stranger’s cool detachment, Brian figured he was dealing with one of his own kind. He decided to throw out a suggestion. “Yeah, that deputy, MaryAnne...she's been in my way. Why don't you take care of my problem for me?”

“What's in it for me?”

Brian sipped his coffee before answering. “Thirty percent of what I’ve got comin’ for a hit. If you’re for real, you’ll know about how much that amounts to.”

The stranger didn’t hesitate. “Thirty-five percent and you got a deal.”

“Done.”

“When and where?”

Brian pushed aside his barely-touched meal and leaned back in the booth. “I figure she'll be on patrol again tomorrow. If you can't talk sense into her...I leave the details to you.”

“She’ll listen to reason…or else.” The stranger smiled confidently. “I’ll leave no traces.”

Brian found the man’s attitude unnerving. “I'm glad you're on my side,” he said as he cleared his throat. “You sound like you have some experience at this sort of thing. Ever consider a job with the Syndicate?”

“No, I'm strictly freelance. I've done work for the Syndicate before. Let's just say things didn't work out.” The stranger’s tone invited no comment on the matter. “Who ya doin' the job for? Might be someone I know.”

“Can’t answer that,” Brian said, treading more cautiously. “You look like a professional, but there’s just one thing…how do I know you're not already working for MaryAnne, and playin' double agent? Or do you always hang around here just to watch her?”

"Are you blind? What red blooded American male wouldn't want to hang around THAT?" The stranger smiled slyly. "I assure you, my intentions with Miss MaryAnne are less than honorable. She doesn't know my profession. I've just been working on that pickup for some time now. She's a tough cookie to crack, but she'll ask me out."

Brian grinned wolfishly. "You think so? I'm willin' to bet she'd bust your ass faster than you could say 'hey baby.' "

"You know, you may be right. But I'm willing to risk it," the stranger grinned back. “Wouldn’t you, for a piece of that?”

"If she wasn't my cousin, maybe." Brian paused, considering his words. "Listen, man…you ain't gonna get distracted from the job at hand, are ya?"

"Nah, I'm a professional, man. No chick's gunna keep me from doing my job. Gals like her are a dime a dozen."

Something in the man's callous attitude bothered Brian, but he kept it from showing. "Good...because I wouldn't want any misuderstandin' between the two of us."

"No misunderstanding. I read you loud and clear. Either the girl deputy backs off or she's taken out of the picture.... permanently."

"Right...but make it clean. I don't want her to suffer."

"She won't know what hit her." The stranger paused and looked thoughtfully at the young Syndicate member across from him. "You have some feelings for her, don't you? You said she's your cousin, right? Look, emotions don't work in this business so you'd better toughen up quick if you're going to do your job. But... because she's your cousin... I'll make it quick and painless if it comes to that. Ok?"

Brian nodded, acknowledging the wisdom of a peer. "I'm ...new at this," he admitted. "And I appreciate your professional courtesy, concernin' the Deputy."

"I figured you were a little green. You didn't look quite the type. Just keep an eye on me and I'll teach you a few things.” The stranger glanced at MaryAnne again. “I tell you, it'll be a shame to waste those good looks. Let's both hope she'll listen to reason."

"Yeah," Brian said sincerely. Then he leaned forward, confiding in the fellow criminal. "Ya know, I started out small. A few robberies, and shaking down small businesses for 'insurance'...that sort of thing.” He took a nervous sip of cold coffee. “Then I moved up to bein’ a wheelman, and I’ve enjoyed that. But now…I've got my big break, a shot at being a hitman, no pun intended."

"Well, don't get too excited about it, kid. It's not a glamorous life."

"It's more than I got now."

"Don't be so sure. You may have more than you think."

Brian laughed, a hollow 'khee' sound that was devoid of true mirth. "I have the clothes on my back, stolen weapons, and an old Chevy. But I'll make do." He became all business again. "Look...you know the county? You know anyone named Duke?"

"Yeah, I know of a Daisy Duke. Boy, you know, she's next on my pickup list," he let out a low whistle. "I think I've seen her two cousins hanging around the Boar's Nest a few times.. drive a bright orange car, '01' on the side."

"You gotta one track mind, don't ya." Brian chuckled. "Yeah, I’ve seen their car. Know anythin’ else about ‘em?”

"Not much, except they do pack a punch. Seen 'em tangle a few times in the Nest with fellas hittin' on their cousin." He let out a chuckle as he rubbed his chin, "I must admit... I've taken a few right hooks from 'em. One track mind. Heh. Be careful with those two."

"You've taken some right hooks from 'em? Then why are they still breathin’?"

"Are you kidding? Staying ahead of the law in this business is tough enough without making my own trouble. They were just protecting family. Gotta respect them for that."

"Just protectin' family..." Brian echoed the words quietly, and stood up from the booth.

The older man slapped his new-found partner on the back and offered, "Hey, I'll buy ya a beer. We gotta make this partnership official. Besides, if we go to the Nest, I can take another shot at your cousin.” He flashed a wicked smile.

Brian didn't like the way that sounded. The double meaning bothered him more than he thought it would. Telling himself that the Syndicate came first, he forced a grin. “Sure. Hey...what's your name, anyhow?"

"Keith. And that's all you need to know, kid," he said with a tinge of threat. "Didn't catch yours..."

“Brian Coltrane.” Brian offered a handshake to his new partner. Keith accepted it, shaking hands a little too heartily for Brian’s taste.

"Ow." Brian flexed the pain from his knuckles. "What brings a bad guy like yourself to Hazzard, Keith?"

"Opportunity." He lowered his voice to a near whisper. "I've heard this county's ripe for the picking. The sheriff's incompetent and the county commissioner lets greed cloud his better judgment. Winning combination, buddy."

"Then why ain't it been picked already?" Brian said casually, as they walked towards the door.

"Best kept secret in the South, I guess," Keith shrugged. "All I know is, I aim to make it pay off."

"And with MaryAnne out of the way, it'd be that much easier."

"Right. Now, are we going to get that beer, or what?"

Brian nodded and left the café, with Keith following. As they walked to their cars, Brian put two and two together, thinking of something Keith had said earlier. “If you got her suspicious, then you’re gonna have problems.” Brian realized that Keith had just found a way to get paid for something he probably planned on doing anyway. He’d been in the business a lot longer, after all.

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

“Rosco, I gotta talk to you,” MaryAnne said urgently.

The Sheriff lifted his head from the booking desk, which caused him to stamp his hand instead of the police report he was working on. “Doh!” Rosco rubbed his stinging hand and gave his cousin a ‘what-is-it-now’ look.

“Rosco, there’s some varmint that just breezed into town claimin’ to be a Coltrane,” MaryAnne said as she walked up to the desk. “But I get a feelin’ he’s also a career criminal.”

“Arrrrrre you kiddin’ me, MaryAnne the only Coltrane left outsida Hazzard is your brother,” he answered gruffly. “Despite what he went through, he ain't no career criminal.”

MaryAnne grabbed a legal pad and a pencil, and drew a rough sketch. “This is somethin’ kinda like him here. About five-foot-eleven, a hundred and eighty pounds…dark brown hair, brown eyes…”

Rosco watched over her shoulder. “If he’s a career criminal, shouldn’t his eyes be a little more beady?”

MaryAnne smiled and finished her sketch. Both she and Rosco had a knack for art, though police work was their life. “Here. Look like any Coltrane that you ever heard of?”

Rosco took the sketch and almost immediately dismissed it, but something about it troubled him. There was a similarity in the angled features of the face, a likeness in the deep-set eyes that bothered him. He hesitated, then passed it back to MaryAnne. “Hard to tell,” he remarked neutrally, and went back to his reports.

"Rosco..."

Rosco looked up to see MaryAnne looking at him, almost with a hurt look. I'm serious cousin... She knew there was more to his answer. He did too....how do I explain it?

The Sheriff cleared his throat nervously. "It's possible..." he said softly. "MaryAnne, how old do you think this fella is?"

MaryAnne looked at the sketch again. "I dunno...maybe about my age?"

Rosco nodded. "That would fit."

"Rosco, what are you talking about?"

"All I know is a rumor, MaryAnne. That's all I've known for almost 25 some-odd years." He paused. "Somewhere out there is another Coltrane cousin....um...not necessarily a legitamate one." Rosco looked at the sketch. "He could be it..."

MaryAnne cocked her head. "How?"

Rosco hesitated. "Well, I think it was Uncle Isaiah. I don't know for sure...and Dad wasn't exactly going to let something like that end up in the printed pages of Coltrane family history."

"No..." MaryAnne shook her head. She glanced at the sketch and then gingerly turned it faced down. "Damn..."

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

Keith downed his third beer and belched noisily. “So that’s the layout. The bank’s got a decent vault, but I know that it gets audited every Friday night. The clerk will have it open, and I’ll have that clerk fillin’ money bags for me as if his life depended on it.” The freelance criminal chuckled, and Brian laughed with him. Keith wiped his mouth on his sleeve and went on. “The jewelry store ain’t got much, but I’ll take it as an appetizer before I hit the bank. Then I’ll knock over that dry goods store just because it’s on the way out.” Keith lit a cigarette and eyed Brian speculatively. “If you’re gonna do your little job on the same night, it’ll keep the cops runnin’ every which way. That is, if there’s gonna be any cops left in this town.”

“Friday,” Brian said uncertainly. “That’s a few days later than I had planned on. The Syndicate don’t like it when a job’s done late.”

“They’ll like it even less if the job doesn’t get done.” Cigarette smoke drifted across the table with Keith’s words. “I’ve been in the business a lot longer than you, kid. Trust me, you don’t want to let them Syndicate boys down.”

“Hell no.” Brian took a sip of his room-temperature beer and changed the subject. “Looks like MaryAnne ain’t workin’ here tonight. What say we meet here again, day after tomorrow. That’ll give you time to talk sense into the Deputy, and give me time to plan my job.”

“Sure, kid.” Keith stood up and crushed out his cigarette. “Watch your back.”

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

The next morning, Brian was up with the dawn. Bleary-eyed but determined, he ventured out in his black Chevy with his job in mind. Nailing the Dukes would be the easy part of his task. The hard part would be evading the law, thanks to MaryAnne having a make on him and his car. Deciding that it would be wise to learn the patrol routes in order to avoid them later, Brian drove the county roads until he spotted a familiar Plymouth Fury. He tailed the police car at a slight distance, the black Chevy hovering like the shadow of a hawk.

The feeling of being watched made MaryAnne look up. She looked around, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The arrival of another "relative" in Hazzard had done nothing but fray her nerves…and heighten her instincts.

MaryAnne continued to drive along and then started to turn her patrol car onto another road. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a bright but small flash of light...almost like the sun hitting a mirror. She turned to look, and saw the black Chevy on the road she had just left. The sun was reflecting brightly off the broad chrome grill.

MaryAnne drew in a sharp breath. "That son of a---" She stopped the patrol car suddenly and swung it around. She floored the accelerator and raced back to the other road, heading straight for the black car.

"Damn, she saw me. Well, let's see what she's made of." Brian hammered the accelerator, tearing towards the patrol car fearlessly.

"Oh you wanna play chicken?? BOCK!! BAWWWK!!!" MaryAnne didn't care anymore. Coltrane or not...the guy gave her the creeps. Bad creeps. The kind she had learned to listen to from working in Atlanta. She would hit the car head on if she had to. Whatever he was in Hazzard for, she was going to stop him...no matter what it took.

"Bwaaawk bwawk bawk...." Brian clucked, a sinister chuckle mingling with his taunt. But when he realized that the patrol car's grill was locked onto the nose of his Chevy, his grin faded.

"She's crazy!" At the last possible moment, Brian swerved the Chevy hard to the right, running off the road. Not letting up off the accelerator, he tore towards the back country, intending to disappear.

MaryAnne yanked the steering wheel hard and swung the Plymouth around, throwing dirt in a shower over the road. She slammed the accelerator and charged after the Chevy.

Looking in his mirrors and seeing pursuit, Brian gave the deputy a grudging nod of admiration. "You're good, I'll give ya that. But I can't let you interfere with my job...I warned ya, Deputy." Pulling out a handgun, Brian held it out the window backwards, using his thumb on the trigger, aiming by using the mirror on his driver's door. "Time to show a little marksmanship."

MaryAnne saw the gun and started to weave the patrol car from side to side, to reduce his shot. "You shoot that gun, you are gonna be in even bigger trouble boy..." MaryAnne muttered.

Brian grinned and swerved the Chevy to match the patrol car's sway. Before MaryAnne could counter-maneuver, he squeezed the trigger, blowing out the right front tire of the squad. "Nothin' personal," he chuckled.

MaryAnne gripped the steering wheel and stepped on the brake, bringing the wounded patrol car to a sliding stop. She watched the Chevy disappear down the road and she slammed her hand angrily on the steering wheel. She sat for a moment, fuming. I'm gonna git you...I'm gonna git you and throw you the hell outta Hazzard if it's the last thing I EVER do.

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

After evading MaryAnne, Brian spent the afternoon observing the Duke farm. The activity around the farmyard was nearly constant, and the two Duke boys came and went at random. Brian watched an old man in a red cap scatter cornmeal for the chickens. He was a kindly old soul, from the looks of it. A young woman came out of the barn, and Brian recognized her from the Boar’s Nest. She was practically glowing over something she held in the palm of her hands, and Brian adjusted his binoculars to see. It was a fluffy ball of yellow, a baby chick that she cupped tenderly in her hands to show her uncle.

Brian forgot about everything as he saw the smile on the young woman’s face. The old man was smiling too, and he took off his red cap, holding it like a net. The girl put the baby chicken into the makeshift nest, and the old man sprinkled a pinch of cornmeal into it. The chick scratched and pecked in the old cap, content.

The orange car returned. Brian set down the binoculars and picked up his gun. The blonde Duke had been driving, and he slid out of the car with a whoop. The dark-haired one slid out of the other side, and they both joined their family in fussing over the newborn chick.

The backs of the two farm boys were in the sights of Brian’s gun. After a long minute, the hitman put it away, unused. The black Chevy backed away from the ridge a moment later, and it received no more than a passing glance from the Dukes as it headed down the road.

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

Brian found himself pulling into the Boar’s Nest as the twilight sky grew darker. A royal blue Firebird was parked outside, the personalized plates spelling COLTRANE. Brian knew he should turn around and leave right then, and not take any further risks. But a new sense of loneliness had hit him when he watched the Duke family, and he went inside the tavern against his better judgment.

MaryAnne was in police uniform, leaning against the bar and talking to the town mechanic. Brian walked by them and sat down at a corner table. His entry had not gone unnoticed, and MaryAnne walked over to him and sat down uninvited. She must still be mad about losin’ that tire, Brian thought to himself.

“I think you know that you’re in big trouble,” MaryAnne said coldly.

“I think you’ve met your match, cousin,” Brian answered with a chuckle.

“Yeah? Well, you just keep right on laughin’. We’ll see.”

"You might as well tell Rosco to post a 'help wanted' sign in the courthouse....'cause if ya keep it up, Hazzard will be minus a deputy."

MaryAnne rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Whatever.”

“Don’t believe me, eh?”

“No, I don’t.”

Brian raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t used to his threats being taken lightly. "Why not? Is it because ya can't believe a Coltrane could be a bad guy?"

"Oh no, I can believe a Coltrane can be a bad guy...hell, we have a family tree to prove that. But you...I just plain don't like you. You come waltzing into town, I've never seen you before in my life, and you "warn" me and Rosco to stay outta your way while you get a "job" done. And you do this because we're supposedly ‘kin.’” MaryAnne snorted and shook her head. "Kin? I don't think so.”

Brian looked hurt, of all things. “I was born a Coltrane."

“Yeah, I bet you're real proud, too." MaryAnne crossed her arms over her chest and continued to glare at him.

“I am," Brian said defiantly. "Proud of my family name and my bloodline. Believe what ya want, Deputy...but if y'all weren't kin, there woulda been no warnin', and my job would be already done by now."

"Oh, I see. So, you warn me because we're kin and now that you've got me meddlin', you tell me to suggest to Rosco that he put a help wanted poster up. If you're so proud of your family name, why are you so hot to wipe the remainder of us out?"

"Dammit, MaryAnne! Just heed my warnin' and stay clear! That's all I'm askin'!"

MaryAnne was undeterred. "Well then you shouldn't have come tearing into Hazzard at 70 miles an hour!"

"That ain't the point! I'm talkin' about somethin' bigger than a speedin' ticket here! I'm talkin' about-"

"Yeah? Whatchya talkin' about, Brian, huh? Whatchya talkin' about, you're 'line of work'? The profile that you fit, that I learned about in Atlanta? Is that what you're talkin' about? Lemme tell you something, if you complete this 'job' you will be nothing but a disgrace to your bloodline. I mean, we've had a horse thief, an accomplice to a bank robbery, even a member of the early KKK. But you...uh, I wouldn't want to be a Coltrane descendent some 100 years from now reading about you."

"You forgot a crooked Sheriff," Brian added to MaryAnne's list, his voice quiet but his dark eyes intense. "Think we're so different, Rosco and me?"

"At the core, probably not."

Brian blinked in surprise at MaryAnne admission. "Probably not," he agreed. "Yet he does exactly what Boss Hogg tells him to...just as I do what my boss tells me to. There's not much of a difference...we both break the law...except that I ain't a hypocrite with a badge."

"I said at the core, y'all probably ain't different. On the surface, you're at complete oppostite ends of the spectrum. Rosco's motivator is money..what's yours?" She eyed him a bit. "Life?"

That remark hit home, but Brian covered it. "Life, as in without parole," he joked, a shallow laugh escaping from his throat.

MaryAnne kept a straight face. "You know what I mean..."

"What's it to you, anyway?" Brian's tone was annoyed. "You don't know me, you don't wanna know me, and the sooner I'm outta Hazzard, the better for everybody, right?"

Ooh…I struck a nerve…MaryAnne smiled. "I think you know the answer to that question already."

Brian nodded curtly, his expression controlled. "The sooner I'm outta Hazzard, the better for me, too. I'll get done with the job, and then I'm gone. I got no fight with you and Rosco...an' there's few enough Coltranes as it is.... so don't get in my way."

“All I can promise is that I won't do anything an experienced officer wouldn't do."

"Figures. Two Coltranes with a badge...one dedicated and honest, the other dedicated and corrupt. Maybe if I ask Rosco, he'll keep ya outta my way, so ya don't get hurt," Brian said with some vinegar.

MaryAnne smirked. "You go right ahead an try."

The corner of Brian's mouth almost twitched, but he prevented it. "I might. Or maybe...” an evil grin spread over his face, as an idea hit him.

"Or maybe what? Bah, don't know why I'm asking you, you probably won't tell me anyway..."

Brian leaned forward, so that his dark brown eyes were directly across from the blue of his cousins. "Or...maybe I'll just take out some 'insurance', to make sure you don't get in my way."

MaryAnne didn't flinch from her "cousin's" gaze. She spoke evenly. "Well, I hope you have enough money to afford it."

"Cash and carry,” Brian said lowly, opening his jacket to show a handgun and a knife. "You suppose Rosco would be expectin' a long lost relative to pay him a social call?"

MaryAnne looked over Brian's 'accessories' and then looked him in the eye, and with a facetious tone said, "I'm sure he'll be just as delighted as I was when you first got here."

"I'm sure he'll be surprised, at the very least,” Brian said calmly, concealing the tools of his trade once again. "Listen to me, MaryAnne. My job may or may not have to do with some folks you know. Just remember...it ain't nothin' personal. But to make sure you don't try and stop me, I'm gonna have to take a hostage, till I'm through. And Rosco's the best one I can think of."

MaryAnne suddenly reached over and grabbed Brian's jacket with one hand and twisted the material, pulling on it hard "You listen to me pal," she said through gritted teeth. "You just can't keep your mouth shut can you? You've already blown your cover, now you think you can stop me from stopping you by holding Rosco hostage? THINK again..." She forcefully let go of the jacket, pushing Brian back against the seat. "Maybe you really are a Coltrane...cuz you sure ain't too bright!"

Brian's answering laugh was a family trait, but right now it sounded dark and deadly. "I've gotcha rattled, cousin. You don't know whether to chase me, protect Rosco, or wonder who I'm after. You can't be everywhere at once...and sooner or later, you'll need sleep. I'll make my moves when you least expect it, Deputy. I may be a Coltrane, but I'm damn good at my job."

"Maybe so...but you don't know how things work here in Hazzard. You'll goof." MaryAnne grinned without humor. "And I'll be right there when you do. "

Brian stood up. "I don't goof...and I don't miss. Unless you've forgotten that tire you lost already."

"Lucky shot. And I don't care about tires. It's OTHER targets that I care about. Shooting a tire is one thing. Shooting one of those other targets is a little more involved. You'll miss. You have no idea what you're dealin' with here..."

"Neither do you, cousin...neither do you." Brian's voice was a mixture of threat and regret. He turned and slowly walked towards the door.

MaryAnne watched out of the corner of her eye as he left. When the door shut, she whispered. "Bye bye..."

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

A bad morning followed a restless night. After talking with MaryAnne at the Boar’s Nest, Brian had been unable to sleep. At dawn, he dragged himself from the hideout and wandered into town, tired enough to do something careless like park his Chevy out in the open.

With his mind on a cup of coffee and a cigarette, he didn’t see the shadowed figure in the alley. A strong hand grabbed the sleeve of his jacket and yanked him out of sight. Brian was about to lay the attacker low when he recognized the ruddy face. “Vinnie! What the hell are you doin’ here?”

The Syndicate cohort let Brian go. “The Don’s getting a little worried. The job should be done by now. You having a problem with it?”

“No, no problem,” Brian said, straightening his jacket. “Just taking me awhile to set it up right. It’ll get done.”

Vinnie’s scarred face was full of skepticism. “I’ll be here to make sure it gets done. Don’t take too long, Brian.”

“I won’t. Look, if I need any help, I’ll ask ya for it. Meantime, lemme do my job, my way.”

“Fine. But don’t blow it.” Vinnie left other parting words of advice, none of them friendly.

By the time Brian walked out from the alley, he’d lost all interest in breakfast. He headed back towards his Chevy, only to find a certain Deputy scribbling in a ticket book. Damn, I forgot to put change in the parking meter. Leave it to MaryAnne… Brian groaned and ran up to his cousin, grabbing the ticket that she had just put under the wiper blade. MaryAnne smiled thinly. “You should know better than to give me a reason to bust ya. I’m just waitin’ for you to give me another one.”

Brian glared at the ticket, then at MaryAnne. "Is that a threat, Deputy?"

"Threat? Nah...guys like you don't have time for threats, and I don't have time to give them."

“But you have time to write parkin’ tickets.”

“For you, I’ll make the time.” MaryAnne was obviously enjoying herself.

Brian snorted. "So what else do you do in this one-horse town?"

"Oh, I find cures for disease, contemplate the worlds problems, try to find the meaning of life..." MaryAnne rolled her eyes. "Come on, I'm a cop, I'm a waitress. Enough of my time is divided between those two jobs."

"And in your spare time, you play detective. Or do you always pick on black Chevrolets?”

"Suspicious strangers lurking around Hazzard, who ain't up to no good...well, I tend to get curious. Either that, or you can believe that I'm just a General Motors nut."

"You're a nut, alright."

MaryAnne grinned. "Yeah, it's a...family...trait."

Brian smiled slightly, though his eyes reflected regret. "I know."

MaryAnne watched him for a moment. She saw the look in his eyes and started to wonder if maybe there really was a human being underneath that tough guy in black. She was still highly suspicious of him, and a little disbelieving of his claim to being a Coltrane, but she figured she was doing pretty good at collecting some information about him, albeit emotional. She just hoped she learned more, soon enough to stop him from whatever he intended.

"How about you?” she asked him.” What do you do to keep busy, besides show up in a small town and claim to be a relative to the local Sheriff and a deputy?"

Brian took a deep breath. He wanted to talk to somebody...anybody. But he was raised in the streets of Atlanta, and the Syndicate was the only family he'd ever known...until now. He wanted MaryAnne's acceptance more than he would admit...but friendship was something his profession couldn't afford. "You don't want to know," he said quietly.

"I don't? Is it because I'm wearing a badge or because I'm your...cousin?"

"Both," he said honestly. "I shouldn't even be talkin' to you...I should have never told you nothin'."

"Considerin' your line or work, you're damn right you shouldn't have said nothin’. But it's too late for that now isn't it? You told me anyways. I'm standing there with a badge on and you come waltzin' right up to tell me that me and Rosco should stay outta the way while you do your "job." You did it because we're...kin." MaryAnne stopped and eyed him for a moment, thinking of all that has been said before, how he had warned her so that she and Rosco wouldn't get hurt. Then how he said that if she continued to snoop, something could happen. One thing was clear, he was very inconsistent.

"I've the feeling," she added softly, "That you're making promises you don't intend to keep."

"I ain't makin' any promises," Brian said in the same quiet voice. "I made the mistake of gettin' sentimental, is all. I won't repeat it."

Yes, you will.... Something was nagging at him, deeply. The fact that he seemed troubled by something had been the only thing thus far preventing MaryAnne from tossing him into Hazzard Lake. If he really was kin, and was in some kind of trouble, MaryAnne would consider helping him out. But not before he decided to help himself first. And learned to stop being such a smart ass.

"Sentimental?" MaryAnne smiled a little. "Do I remind you of someone per chance?"

"Yeah....somebody that I would have liked to have known, before ...." Brian abruptly got in his car and started it up. MaryAnne let him go, figuring she'd poked and prodded enough for now. She smiled though, knowing he'd be back again and they would soon have another short, but revealing conversation. Very soon…

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

Brian spent a few hours making plans and gathering information. By the time noon rolled around, he drove to the Boar’s Nest in search of a meal. He was relieved that there was no blue Firebird parked outside, and no patrol car in the vicinity. Looking forward to a quiet lunch, he went inside and found his usual table in the back.

He wolfed down a burger and a beer, taking no notice of the shift change of the waitresses. As he munched the complimentary popcorn, a different waitress brought him his check. “Just so ya know,” she said directly, “There ain’t gonna be no dine n’ dash happenin’ on my shift. Pay up.”

Brian looked up and saw MaryAnne in a waitress outfit. He sighed and dug out money for the bill, but he couldn’t resist needling her a little. "How much does waitressing pay, anyhow? Is it more than bein' a Deputy?"

"No, it's not."

Brian smiled. "Countin' tips?"

"Including tips. It's less."

"Really. I'm surprised,” Brian said between bites of popcorn.

"Yes, really. Why would you be surprised?”

"If bein' an officer in Hazzard County pays so well, why's Rosco more crooked than a dog's hind leg?"

MaryAnne was getting really sick of Brian's constant reminders of Rosco's slip from honesty. "I didn't say it pays well, it just pays a bit more than waitressing. And why are you asking me about Rosco being crooked? I thought you had him all figured out."

"Just verifyin' my info." Brian's dark eyes betrayed nothing. "Is it true that he's incompetent, and that he's owned by the County Commissioner?"

"Incompetent? No. Owned by the County Commissioner? Unfortunate, but true. Does that verify with your info? What else would you like to know? His sign?"

"No...but you might want to keep his blood type on file," Brian said mildly.

MaryAnne looked at Brian in a cold stare. She didn't say anything for a long time, just looked at him, at first a little shocked then the look passed to a touch of amusement. "Really? I'll keep that in mind. Oh, and I'm sure somebody somewhere has your blood type on file as well, yes?"

Something in MaryAnne’s tone made Brian open up. "Dammit, MaryAnne...." he looked up at his cousin. "I ran into somebody a couple days ago, who's plannin' to take everythin' this town's got....includin' you."

MaryAnne met Brian's gaze and her eyes pierced into his. "I suppose they're gonna do it to help you right? Well, they can go right ahead and try," she said and then gritted her teeth. "And I hope you get caught in the god dammed debris!"

Brian clenched his jaw so hard, that a nerve twitched in his face. "We'll see," he said in a low voice. "And if you’re done makin' threats, take my advice. I'll be here tonight, meetin' this guy for a drink. All I know is, his name's Keith. If you see 'em here with me...get a good look at him, then run some checks on his profile. Bust him for somethin'...before it's too late."

MaryAnne regarded Brian for a moment. First he gives me threats, then he gives me leads. Flip flop, flip flop…man, I don't think this guy's playing with a full deck. "Thanks for the information," she said. Yeah, right, he's gonna have me be busy trying to nail this guy while he's off poppin' somebody off. Where the hell does he think I got my police training from, a freakin' cracker jacks box?

"I mean it," Brian said, dropping his guard for a moment. "Please...just be careful."

"Oh I will," MaryAnne said coolly. She then suddenly had a light in her eye and she decided to try something. "Hey, I'm always careful...that's why I still got a full set of teeth! Khee!"

Brian gave her a smile. "Atta girl."

"Seeing as you gave me some advice...can I return the favor?" MaryAnne pulled a chair and sat down at the table, her voice low.

Brian looked uncomfortable for a moment, and he considered leaving without another word. Instead, he nodded fractionally.

"You, my troubled friend, are facing a crossroads and you know it. There's the road you've been traveling all your life and now there's this new road...and the things you see down there have caught your attention. My only advice to you is that one road requires you to listen to your fears. The other, to your heart. You may not "hear" me as I say this, but I know your listening. Listen to your heart, Brian." She paused, and just before getting up to leave she added, "Before it's too late..."

On some level, it occurred to Brian that MaryAnne cared about him, though she had no reason to. Just as he cared about her. But he wondered if any of it made a difference, this late in the game. "See ya around, Deputy," was his soft spoken answer, as he also stood up and walked away.

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

After spending more time in Hazzard than expected, Brian's wallet was becoming too lean for his comfort. The black Chevy was a gas-hungry beast, and the hitman's personal expendatures such as food, beer and cigarettes had thinned his wallet. There was only one thing for it, until he got paid for the hit on the Dukes. He would need to make a quick little robbery to tide him over.

There were few targets to pick from, however. Keith had laid claim to the choicest setups, and Brian had no desire to cross the more experienced criminal. So he decided on the Hazzard Cafe as his next source of cash flow, and he parked the Chevy in front as if he were simply returning for lunch.

Brian walked into the cafe' and walked straight up to the cash register with a smile. "Excuse me, miss," he greeted the shy waitress. "Would you mind giving me all the money in that drawer?"

With that, Brian pulled the gun from the inside of his jacket. "Don't scream, just stay calm and put the money on the counter. Hurry," he said as the waitresses complied with shaking hands. Brian stuffed the money in his jacket. It was a paltry sum, amounting to about sixty dollars. Accustomed to the pickings he normally found in Atlanta, the hitman was disappointed. "If that's all ya got, you'd better throw one of those candy bars there." The waitress cringed and handed him a chocolate bar, her expression terrified. "Thank ya," Brian said, ignoring the shocked customers who clutched thier purses and wallets in fear. He spun around and bolted out the door, pocketing his gun as he lept into the Chevy. He squealed the tires on his way out of Hazzard square.

Two things happened that very moment. Rosco had just stepped out of the courthouse and MaryAnne had just come into town in her patrol car. MaryAnne swerved widely out of the way of the Chevy, sending the Plymouth bouncing onto the sidewalk that surrounded the gazebo and almost up on two wheels. Tires screamed and skidded and the patrol car skipped to a stop.

The waitress at the Cafe, meanwhile, came running out, yelling there had been a robbery. She looked around the square frantically and spotting Rosco she cried out. "Rosco! Sheriff, we've just been robbed!!"

Rosco had been watching the commotion with MaryAnne's patrol car and the Chevy and he didn't have to ask who had done it. The waitress was pointing in the direction the black car had roared off in anyways.

MaryAnne looked at the waitress than towards Rosco, who was running towards her car. "Git after 'em!!" he ordered as he jumped into the patrol car. MaryAnne obliged, leaving rubber behind on the pavement as the Plymouth tore out of town, in hot pursuit of the Chevy.

"Now I'm gonna git 'em," MaryAnne growled. "NOW I'm gonna GIT 'EM!!"

"You gotta catch him first!" Rosco reminded his young cousin.

"Yeah? Watch this..."

"Uh oh.." Rosco knew better than to have to tell her what he did. He held on to the door handle as MaryAnne drove.

Brian swore profusely as MaryAnne's cruiser swung around in his mirrors. Minutes later, the Plymouth was growing larger in his mirrors. Without urban landscape to hide in, and without city traffic to use as a line of defense, Brian was in trouble. He knew it wouldn't be easy to evade the Hazzard law in it's own territory. And by the looks of the Plymouth grill creeping up on his bumper, it might be impossible. "DAMN!"

He drew his gun and held it out the window, pointing the barrel up to the sky. It was a warning gesture to the pursuit.

"MaryAnne..." Rosco warned, seeing the gun.

"I see it. If he's serious....If he's damn serious about anything, he'll shoot that gun. And he'll shoot it at us, with purpose."

Rosco looked at MaryAnne in horror. "What?!?"

MaryAnne offered no explanation and continued the pursuit.

The patrol car wasn't backing off. Brian adjusted his grip on the weapon and turned the barrel towards the patrol car, his thumb on the trigger. He had a sense of deja' vu, recalling how he'd shot out MaryAnne's tire before. But this was more serious. Syndicate training and criminal instinct told him to aim for the squad's windshiled. Using his drivers's side mirror to aim, Brian pointed the gun high. "Dammit, back off, back off..." he muttured.

"This ain't no time for games!" Rosco exclaimed.

"I ain't playin' games, Rosco!" MaryAnne swung the patrol car to the right side of the Chevy and punched the accelerator. "He says he's kin...we're gonna find out once and for all..."

The nose of the patrol car began to creep up on the back passenger side fender of the Chevy. The unexpected move took Brian by surprise. He spun the pistol in his grip, adjusting his hold but retaining the weapon. If the patrol car kept moving up on his right, he'd have a clean shot. He passed the gun to his right hand and held the steering wheel with his left. With seconds to make a decision, Brian suddenly yanked the wheel hard, knocking the Chevy's broad rear flank into the front fender of the patrol car.

The patrol car swerved a little, but MaryAnne dragged the car back to center. "Hang on, Rosco," she said. She pulled the Fury away a bit and then rammed the nose into the back door, pushing the accelerator to the floor and pushing on the Chevy.

Brian grabbed the wheel with both hands as his car was forced into a spin. MaryAnne had used a common police manuver that he should have expected, but his hindsight was too late. The Chevy spun off the road, the front of the car turned around to face the way it had came. Brian scrambled out the passenger side and hunkered down behind the front fender, still holding his gun.

MaryAnne swung the patrol car around, drove, and then swung it again, the driver side of the Plymouth facing Brian. Rosco was already scrambling out the passenger door when MaryAnne turned to look towards Brian.

Brian peeked over the hood to see the patrol car sitting across the road, it's flank facing him. Rosco and MaryAnne were coming out of the car with their hands on their weapons. Brian ducked back down, but not before shouting a warning. "DON'T COME ANY CLOSER!"

MaryAnne and Rosco stopped. The young deputy looked at the Sheriff and nodded for him to stay put. His stern look was suggesting she do the same.

"Whatchya gonna do, Brian? Shoot us? I mean, there's two of us and one of you and no matter which one you shoot at first, the other one will get you."

"Just GIT!"

"Rosco and I got time to kill....oops, wrong word huh?"

"MaryAnne..." Rosco muttered.

As a professional criminal, Brian had always faced the possibility of going out in a blaze of glory. However, he never expected it to happen on a dirt road, at the hands of his cousins, over an amount of sixty dollars, more or less. Brian fired a warning shot in the air. "I MEAN IT! GIT!!"

MaryAnne turned to Rosco and pointed to the other side of the patrol car. They both scurried behind it and then MaryAnne aimed at the windshield of the Chevy. "No can do!" She opened fire, returning the warning.

As the Deputy's bullet cracked the Chevy's winshield, Brian gritted his teeth. He jumped up and squeezed off a shot over Rosco and MaryAnne's heads. "LAST CHANCE!"

The cousins flinched. MaryAnne looked ready to spit nails and she figured it was now or never. MaryAnne dropped her gun and started to stand up.

"What are you doing?!?" Rosco hissed and grabbed her arm.

"I'm gonna prove a point. If his Coltrane blood line means anything to him he won't shoot. If being a hitman is more important to him then...." MaryAnne didn't finish and tried to stand up again.

"No! MaryAnne, that's suicide! I won't let you do this!"

"Rosco, dammit, I don't believe he can pull that trigger. On us...or anybody. My theory is that he won't shoot to kill."

"But--but--"

"If he shoots, nail 'em."

Rosco shook his head. "No. MaryAnne," he pleaded. "For God sake's, think of what you're doing..."

"I'm gonna prove a point."

"As Sheriff I'm ordering you, DEPUTY, to NOT do this!"

"What deputy?" MaryAnne said and slipped her badge off. She could feel her chest tighten, knowing she was putting undue stress on Rosco but she slapped the badge in his hand and got up before he could grab at her again.

"Alright, Brian," MaryAnne said as she slowly walked around the patrol car. Her hands were raised. "I'm unarmed..."

Brian suspected that it was a trick. They were cops. Enemies in uniform. He peered over the Chevy's hood to see MaryAnne approaching without her weapon. In the background, Rosco was watching, and a mask of worry clouded the Sheriff's expression. If it was a trick, it was a good one...but the Syndicate never took chances. "Hold it right there, Deputy."

MaryAnne stopped. Her hands remained raised.

Brian straighted up, his weapon aimed at MaryAnne. "Sheriff! Throw your gun out where I can see it...or else."

"Dammit," Rosco whispered. The pearl handled pistol skipped in the dust a few feet away from MaryAnne. "Keep your hands on the hood of your patrol car," Brian ordered Rosco. Then he turned his attention back to MaryAnne. "You don't know when to quit, do ya," he said quietly.

MaryAnne chuckled. "I think that makes two of us...cousin."

"Dammit, you're gonna git yourself killed. Why can't you just look the other way, for your own sake!"

MaryAnne looked at Brian in the eye for a long moment. Longer than Brian probably liked. The deputy's blue eyes bore through the hitman straight to his soul. She then turned her gaze skyward, silently mocking his 'look the other way' statement. Rosco watched, his hands spread on the white hood of the patrol car, the reflection of the paint adding to his pale look. His heart was racing. MaryAnne, don't do something stupid...

As MaryAnne's heavenward gaze dropped back down to look at Brian, a shudder went through the hitman. The gun in his hand was no match for the Deputy's calm courage. Brian realized that she had left her weapon on the ground because she didn't need it. She was armed with much more. The gun was slowly lowered to point at the ground, but Brian couldn't bring himself to let it go. The steady blue eyes watched his every move, neither challenging nor conceding. After a long, silent pause that held no use for words, Brian put the gun back in his jacket pocket. He took out the stolen money and the candy bar, and held it out to MaryAnne.

MaryAnne stepped to him and took the money and candy bar. She counted the money and looked somewhat disappointed at the amount she arrived at. She made no comment, and slipped the money in her shirt pocket looking at Brian. To make things look good, MaryAnne pulled out her hand cuffs and motioned for Brian to come around the Chevy.

"That's all I got from the cafe'," Brian protested. He put himself within MaryAnne's reach, but his dark eyes held ambivalence.

"That cafe' always was good for nothin' but slim pickin's," she said and started to reach to Brian.

"I'm not comin' down to the station, cousin," Brian said quietly.

"I ain't expectin' you too...right now. But if you carry through with your job, I will catch you and personally nail your posterior to the jail house wall." She grabbed his arm and silently issued a challenge to the hitman.

"We'll see, Deputy." Brian removed himself from MaryAnne's grasp, declining to state his intentions. He turned his back on her and got inside his car. The engine sprang to life with a mighty roar, and the black Chevy tore away.

Rosco went face first onto the hood. He took several deep breaths and then lifted his head and propped his elbow up on the hood, looking at MaryAnne.

She turned to him. "Rosco, I'm sorry..." she said as she hurried towards him.

The Sheriff sighed. "It's alright..I think." He stood up. "I don't think you shoulda let him get away like that tho'."

"Who said I let him get away?"

Rosco studied his cousin for a moment. Trying to figure her intentions was making him dizzy. But he had always trusted MaryAnne's judgement and something inside him was telling him to go with flow, yet be wary of the danger.

Be very wary...

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

The remainder of the day passed by quickly, and Brian met Keith at the Boar’s Nest that night. The senior criminal was well into his third beer when Brian sat down at the table. Without preamble, Keith brought the Syndicate member up to date. “Well, she's not very cooperative. Looks like I'm gunna have to take her out.”

"What happened?"

"I hit her with some of my best lines and she STILL turned me down. I couldn't believe it...Oh, you mean what happened when I told her to keep her nose out of our business..."

Brian held his breath.

"She cussed me out when I mentioned your name. Accused you of bein' a chicken for not confronting her about this yourself. Kicked me in the shin..." Keith cringed, still feeling the soreness in his lower leg. "Tossed a glass of beer in my face and shoved me toward the door." He smiled. "I got the feelin' she don't like you too much."

"Sounds like she ain't taken none by your charms neither."

"Well, your cousin just ain't got NO taste," Keith replied. "What the hell did you do to get her so riled up?"

Brian shrugged expansively. "No idea.”

Keith hissed through his teeth, "Shyeah…right." He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his jacket, offering one to his cohort. "Anyway, to make a long story short, looks like she's determined to do anything she can to keep her nose in our business."

Brian took the cigarette, and waited for Keith to light it. "Listen, Keith...there may be other ways to guarantee her silence, without resortin' to murder."

Keith looked doubtful. "Did you tell her anything that can be used against us?"

"No," Brian said quickly, shaking his head for emphasis. "Do you think I'm a fool?"

Keith laughed. "You really want me to answer that?" He took a long drag on his cigarette. "Look, if you told her ANYTHING that could be used against us, you'd better tell me now, boy. Or things could get even messier later. Get the picture?"

Brian blinked in surprise, blanched, and then controlled his expression with all the coolness that youth spent in the Syndicate could offer. "I get it...and don't push me too far, man. We're partners, and partners trust each other. Right?"

"I trust Syndicate boys about as far as I can throw 'em. Hell, I don't even trust myself." Keith looked at Brian hard. "You're SURE you didn't tell her ANYTHING? She knows you're up to something."

"I just told her not to get in my way.”

"GREAT way to keep her from being curious," Keith said sarcastically.

"Relax. She can't be in two places at once...and she don't know what to do first. I can take care of my job while you lead her on a merry chase through the county. Then when I'm done...she'll be after me so hard, she'll never know that you’re in town, takin' everythin' that ain't nailed down."

"Hmm. How many deputies in town?" Keith queried.

"Two...her and somebody called Enos Strate. The Sheriff's usually too busy bein' Boss Hogg's personal gopher, to be much trouble."

"You know anything about this Strate fella?"

"Bits and pieces." Brian coughed from the cigarette. "He's honest, dedicated...but easily distracted."

"What do you mean 'easily distracted'?"

"Two words...Daisy Duke. Put her in any proximity of Enos, and he forgets how to function."

"Yeah, but FIRST you gotta get her to in his proximity. And I DOUBT she'll want to help the likes of us. Got any plans?"

"Of course I do. But seein' as how you don't think I'm too smart...I'll spare you the borin' details." Brian took drags on the cigarette and fell silent.

"Aw, c'mon. Don't be sore. What's a few friendly jabs between partners, right? Besides, if you expect me to work with you on this, I gotta know the whole picture."

"Awright." Brian ground the cigarette butt into the ashtray. "I'm gonna take out some 'insurance' on this deal. You kidnap Daisy Duke, and leave a note for Deputy Strate. And then I'll have Sheriff Coltrane taken out of the picture, which will occupy MaryAnne."

"And just how’s that gonna help, and where are we gonna stow these people?"

"MaryAnne will comb the county lookin' for the Sheriff. She won't tell Deputy Strate, because we'll leave very specific instructions about the consequences. And Deputy Strate won't tell MaryAnne about Daisy for the same reason. We just stash the Sheriff and Daisy Duke in the same place. I've got a couple ideas...feel free to name a spot if you got one."

"You know the county better than me. I'll leave the details up to you."

Brian nodded. "So you like the plan?"

"Yeah." Keith smiled. "Yeah, I do. Gotta hand it to ya, partner. You surprised me. Let's do it."

"Your car ready?"

"It will be. Any place in town I can get it in tip top shape?"

"Hazzard Garage," Brian said. "But be careful...that mechanic is a friend of the Dukes, and the Coltranes, and the Strates...damn near everybody in this backwater town."

"Well then, if he's that friendly, he won't mind me."

Brian snorted. "Can't imagine anybody resistin' yer social graces...'cept MaryAnne."

Keith chuckled. "Her loss."

"And you remainin' on the market is a boon to women everywhere," Brian remarked wryly.

"You'd better believe it," Keith smiled. "C'mon. Let's get this plan rolling." Keith dropped his cigarette on the floor, and crushed it with the toe of his boot.

"You got it."

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

Brian crept down the hallway towards the booking room. A dog began to bark from behind the doors. The hitman drew his gun, flattened himself against the wall, and waited for the dog to settle down.

"Flash, honey, what's wrong?" Rosco went to calm down his beloved velvet ears. He followed Flash's gaze towards the hallway. "Oh, sweetie, MaryAnne's not gunna be back for a few hours now." He patted her on the head. "C'mon, I'll get you some doggy num nums." He started to walk away, but then turned back as he noticed she wasn't following. She always followed at the mention of doggy num nums.

Rosco cocked his head to one side in thought as he looked at his dog and then the hallway again. Flash barked some more and Rosco began to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. As he started to walk cautiously towards the door, his right hand instinctively went to his holster.

Footsteps were slowly coming closer to the doors. The dog was barking it's head off, rattling Brian's nerves. He cocked the hammer on his gun and remained frozen, knowing the Sheriff was about to come through the doors and investigate.

Rosco tiptoed towards the door as quietly as possible. His heart started to pound in his chest and he wasn't quite sure why. He swallowed hard and reached a shaky left hand out to push the door open, his right hand still perched on his gun. He opened it a few inches and moved forward to peek outside.

Flash barked again and Rosco jumped. "Over here, Sheriff," Brian said calmly, and leveled the gun.

Rosco jumped again then froze as he stared down the barrel of Brian's gun. Brian's view of Rosco's right hand was still blocked by the door. Rosco tried to slowly remove his gun from his holster without drawing Brian's attention.

"Come outta there," Brian ordered. "Hands up." He waved the gun for emphasis.

Rosco's heart was going a mile a minute and all of a sudden he wasn't feeling too well. Flash ran over to the door and continued barking loudly at the intruder. Beads of sweat began to form on Rosco's forehead as he weighed his options.

"NOW!" Brian yelled, tensing up.

Rosco flinched. He slowly raised his hands. His right hand was still behind the door, but Brian could see the silhouette of a gun through the frosted glass. "Drop it," he snarled.

Rosco shakily lowered his right hand and the gun clattered to the floor.

"Smart move. Now call off that damn dog, or I'll be forced to waste a bullet."

"Flash, honey…hush!"

A whine came from the dog, but the barking stopped. Brian hauled Rosco over to the wall and put the gun in his back. "You have the right to remain silent," he snickered as he grabbed the handcuffs from the Sheriff's belt.

Rosco echoed Flash's whimper as Brian pulled his arm hard behind his back. After the initial shock wore off, Rosco scrounged up enough courage to talk to his assailant. "What do you think you're doing? You know I'm the sheriff around here. You won't get away with this," he said with false bravado.

The snap of the handcuffs preceded Brian's answer. "I'm doin' what I have to do, Sheriff. Don't give me any trouble and ya won't get hurt."

"And just wh-what do you have to do?" Rosco asked, not quite sure he wanted to hear an answer.

"I have to do what the Syndicate told me to do. MaryAnne's been gettin' in the way of that." Brian checked the cuffs and let go of Rosco, allowing the Sheriff turn around.

Rosco didn't like the sound of that. "You leave MaryAnne alone or I'll...I'll..." he stuttered, realizing too late that he was in no position to back up his threat.

"I'm sure you will." Brian began to lead Rosco down the hallway, to the back exit of the courthouse.

"Doh," Rosco whispered under his breath.

Brian led Rosco out the door, to the waiting black Chevy. "Inside," he said as he opened the car door. "You're going for a little ride."

Rosco gulped. "Whaddya mean 'a little ride'?"

Brian shoved Rosco into the back of the car. "That all depends on MaryAnne."

When Brian closed the door, Rosco leaned his head against it for support. The earlier feeling of nausea he had first experienced upon discovering Brian, was coming back with full force. He tilted his head and looked out the window. He spotted Cooter as he walked past the alley on his way back to the garage. Cooter turned to glance at the car at the back of the alley. Rosco thought he had made brief eye contact with the mechanic and hoped Cooter would notice something amiss.

The baying of a basset hound could be heard all the way outside. Brian got in the driver's side and threw the Chevy into gear. "Just relax, Sheriff. If everythin' goes right, MaryAnne will be pickin' you up later tonight."

That didn't reassure Rosco any. And just how will she be picking me up? In a body bag? Rosco shivered at the thought. Flash's mournful cry just about summed up Rosco's feelings as well. Velvet ears, who's gunna take care of my velvet ears? Rosco closed his eyes hard and sighed heavily, trying not to dwell on whatever fate Brian had in store for him.

Brian drove to the hideout with due haste, but he spared some conversation for the sake of Rosco's nerves. "So you and MaryAnne are cousins, huh." It was stating the obvious, but he wanted to gauge Rosco’s reactions.

Rosco looked up, seeing Brian's eyes peering at him in the rear view mirror. Rosco wasn't in much of a mood for small talk. He just wanted out of there. "Yeah. We are," Rosco replied curtly. "What's it to you?"

"And you'd do anythin' for your kin, wouldn't ya?"

That caught Rosco's attention. He sat up and looked seriously at Brian. "Just what are you getting at?"

Brian's dark eyes glanced in the mirror again. "The Coltrane line is short enough, Sheriff."

Rosco's eyes narrowed. Uh huh...I see yer heart is just bleeding over that... "I'd do anything for MaryAnne. And if you hurt her.. I'm gunna..I'm gunna..." Rosco fumed. He got more and more riled as he wrestled against the tight metal grip of the handcuffs.

"That's the spirit," Brian said with a mild grin. "Listen, you gotta behave yerself when you're at the hideout. I'm droppin' you off, and then I'm gonna go see MaryAnne in town.”

Rosco lunged forward and slammed his shoulder hard into the back of the driver's seat. He mumbled a muffled "Ow" as his shoulder made contact.

Brian was startled by Rosco's move, and the Chevy swerved wildly for a second. "Damn, don't do that!"

A smile cracked on Rosco's face. He leaned back, brought his knees to his chin, and kicked the seat again as hard as he could.

Brian slammed the brakes hard on the Chevy, making Rosco fly forward into the back of the seat. "Next time I'll use my gun! Now stoppit!!"

"Oof", Rosco exhaled as he collided with the seat. He growled as he settled back into his seat, giving one last defiant kick before giving up the fight.

"You're a pain in the rear, Sheriff. You're lucky you're kin or I'd...." Brian bit off the rest, lurching the Chevy forward.

"You'd what?" Rosco challenged. "Toss me right out of this car with a bullet 'tween my eyes?" Good Lord, how could a Coltrane end up like this? Everything MaryAnne had told him, all the warnings the 'advice' that Brian kept giving. It started to make a little more sense now... "If you and I weren't kin, I wouldn't even be in this car and you know it!" Rosco exclaimed.

"You're right, Sheriff." Brian's eyes glanced back in the mirror.

Rosco met the young man's gaze long enough to see that there was more to his answer, probably a story Rosco didn't particularly want to hear. Plus, Brian's answer could have very well answered either question Rosco had just posed. When Brian looked back to the road, Rosco dropped his gaze and sat in silence for the rest of the ride.

The Chevy pulled up to a rustic cabin nestled in Georgian pines. Brian opened the door and pulled Rosco out. "My partner, Keith, ain't a charming cuss like I am. Mouth off to him, and he'll blow your head off. Sit tight and MaryAnne will get you later."

Rosco turned to look at the young hitman, his eyes questioning. He moved forward hesitantly as Brian prodded him along into the cabin.

"I ain't gonna hurt MaryAnne," Brian promised. "But I can't say that Keith is gonna feel the same way about you. So don't rile him, huh?"

"Why should I believe you?" Rosco spat. "How do I know you ain't goin' off to kill MaryAnne and leave me here for Keith to finish off?"

"You remember your Uncle Isaiah?" Brian asked in response.

Rosco stopped. It wasn't a rumor now... "Yeah."

"That's why you should believe me." Brian led Rosco to a kitchen chair inside the cabin, sitting the Sheriff down. "Don't go nowhere. Keith would nail you before you got ten yards from here...and MaryAnne needs to know where to find you." Brian turned to leave.

"So in memory of Isaiah you're gonna make sure me and MaryAnne are okay after all this huh?" Rosco didn't believe it, and if Isaiah was looking down on them now...he better be feelin' one hell of an amount of regret!

Brian looked back over his shoulder. "Think what you want, Sheriff," he said, and walked away.

Rosco watched Brian leave and sighed and hung his head...

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

Brian met Keith in Hazzard’s town square, right on schedule. “I got the Sheriff,” he reported to the other criminal. “You get that Duke gal yet?”

“Gonna take care of that right now.” Keith gestured towards a white jeep that was parked on the curb. Then he showed Brian the battery cable in his hands. “See, her jeep ain’t gonna start for some reason, and I’m gonna be right there, waitin’.” As Keith spoke, Daisy came out of the Hazzard Emporium with a shopping bag. Keith gave a last nod to Brian and walked over to the jeep.

Brian didn’t have time to watch the rest. He jumped into his car and sped off towards the other side of town, the timing critical.

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

The black Chevy parked a short distance from the police car. Having studied the patrol routes of all of Hazzard’s finest, Brian had known exactly where to find MaryAnne at this time of the day. She was standing a block away, writing a ticket for expired license plates on a local clunker. Brian got out of his car, and made his way to MaryAnne without making a sound.

Hmm..... MaryAnne turned to the individual approaching.

Brian stopped, surprised that MaryAnne sensed his approach. Silence had been one of the talents of his trade.

MaryAnne gave a sly smile, seeing he wasn't expecting to be noticed so soon. "Howdy."

"Hey, Deputy." Brian greeted MaryAnne without looking her in the eyes. He came nearer, casting furtive glances over his shoulder.

MaryAnne looked past Brian and then at him. "Ain't nobody behind ya...at least, none that I can see."

Am I that obvious? Brian shook his head at himself. He was losing it. And the stakes were so high...

MaryAnne studied him for a moment. Was the 'game' wearing thin on him? "So, what brings you here?"

"Did you run a make on that guy I warned ya about?"

"Yeah, I did. You should be more careful of who you drink with."

Brian rubbed a hand over his eyes. Exhaustion and stress were taking their toll on him...and hell would soon be demanding it's paycheck. "MaryAnne, this might be the last time we're able to talk."

MaryAnne exhaled slowly and quietly. "Time is nigh, isn't it?"

Brian nodded. "Yeah." His voice sounded dry and rough from lack of sleep. “MaryAnne, don’t look around. Don’t react to what I’m about to tell you. Both our lives depend on it.” Brian's dark-eyed gaze drifted up to lock with the Deputy's.

Uh-oh.... MaryAnne gritted her teeth and kept her gaze with Brian's. "Alright..."

"Keith... the guy I warned ya about....has Daisy Duke. I took Rosco hostage earlier today. They're both safe, for the moment." Brian took a long breath. "Another axe man from the Syndicate is in town, watchin' me. He might not be alone. Tonight, I'm going out to the Duke farm...and at the same time, Keith will be heading for Hazzard.”

MaryAnne stared at Brian for a long moment. A long and hard moment, her blue eyes nearly boring a hole through his. If a simple look could kill, Brian would be history. MaryAnne broke the gaze and looked at the ground. "Why are you tellin' me this?" she asked quietly.

Brian had borne the Deputy's furious glare without flinching; he knew how MaryAnne felt. Lord help me, I'm in this too damn deep to get out now. "Cousin...." Brian said the word as a plea. "Before...before I tell ya that...will ya tell me somethin'?"

MaryAnne looked at him. Her look remained cold. "What?"

"Do you consider me kin?" The words held both hope and despair.

Kin?! What has he lost, his mind?! "Kin? KIN?!" MaryAnne paused and suddenly felt the threat of tears. "What the hell difference does that make? You've allowed two people to be kidnapped, one of whom is Rosco, your kin and you're probably gonna kill somebody before the day's out, maybe more than one person! Maybe I'll be one of them! What THE HELL difference is it gonna make then, huh?!"

"I guess it don't make no difference," Brian replied when he was able to find the words. He had never felt more alone, more forsaken in his life. "Deputy....the reason why I'm tellin' ya all this... is so you can do somethin'. Keith is plannin' on robbin' Hazzard blind, around nine o'clock tonight. Enos won't be in town, because Keith told him to avoid it, for Daisy's sake." Brian shut his eyes briefly, as if gathering strength. "Stop Keith. If he's able to get want he wants from town...he'll go back and dispatch Daisy and Rosco, and there won't be a damn thing I can do about it."

MaryAnne clinched her hand into a fist. "And what are you planing on doin' around nine o'clock tonight? Blowin' somebody's head off?? Maybe I shoulda blown yours off the day you walked into town." MaryAnne spun around on her heel and walked away from Brian.

"Listen to me!" Brian hissed through his teeth, taking two quick steps to catch up. He put a hand on MaryAnne's shoulder and spun her around. "Hush up long enough to do some good!"

MaryAnne looked at him for a split second and then raised her hand and slapped him hard across the face. "I do plan on doing some good! Now just stay the hell away from me so I can do it!" She marched off again.

Anger rose in Brian, as well as the conviction that they were definately related. “Goddammit, MaryAnne, I'm already dead...but if ya want to keep the body count down, you'd better damn well listen to me!"

MaryAnne stopped and her shoulders dropped. She turned back to him for some reason, one she couldn't quite figure and looked at him. She was breathing a little heavier, as if trying to keep from sobbing. "Well then say what you have to say for Christ's sake!"

"My contract is on the Dukes. The Syndicate wants 'em dead, I don't know why.” Brian saw the widening of MaryAnne’s eyes, and the shock in her expression. “I'm already in trouble, MaryAnne, I took too long to do the job. I've probably been seen talkin' to you, and talkin' to Keith...I'm gonna pay for it all, Deputy, if it makes any difference to you. Meantime, you git your badge and ass out the Duke farm and warn 'em before I get there. Tell 'em to shoot first and ask questions later, when they see my car." Brian took a last look at the stunned Deputy, and turned away.

MaryAnne watched him for a moment and then turned and ran to her patrol car. She had little time to do what she had to do to save the Dukes…and some kin.

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

Night had fallen in Hazzard County, and the Chevy’s high-beams cut the blackness with blinding intensity. The lights came to center on another black car that was parked along the dirt road. Brian pulled over to retrieve Vinnie, who had waited for him as planned.

“About time you got here,” Vinnie grumbled, climbing in the Chevy’s passenger side. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Just tyin’ up loose ends.” Brian looked at his watch; it was nine p.m. on the dot. Keith would be hitting the bank by now.

“Yeah, well you’d better hurry up and finish this job.”

“I plan on it. Hush up, man. We’re almost there.” Brian saw the Duke’s driveway coming up. He snapped off the car lights and turned off the engine, letting the car drift in neutral. Vinnie drew his gun and cocked it, and Brian did the same. The farmhouse was dark except for a small light in the kitchen window.

“These farmers really go to bed early, don’t they,” Vinnie muttered. Brian nodded and stopped the Chevy a good distance from the house. The two of them got out of the car and crept towards the front porch, guns at ready.

Suddenly the lights of a pickup truck shone on the faces of the hitmen. Disoriented by the bright light in his eyes, Brian could barely make out the silhouettes of Dukes standing on either side of the truck, compound bows drawn. One of them shouted an order. “DROP THE GUNS!”

Vinnie took aim at the voice and fired, the bullet ricocheting off the truck’s grill. A snapping twang followed, and then Vinnie screamed as an arrow imbedded itself in his left thigh. Brian immediately dropped to the ground and rolled away from the headlights. An arrow nicked the sleeve of his jacket and tore it, and another thunked into the earth near his head. Brian reacted and fired three wild shots in defense. The Dukes took cover, leaving Vinnie to lay wounded on the ground. Brian scrambled to his feet and ran like hell towards his car, his black clothing affording him some camouflage in the night. Another arrow sliced through the air beside him, a chance shot and a near miss.

Brian was almost to his car, but a police siren was drawing closer to the Duke farm. He saw the patrol car’s lights flashing up Mill Pond Road; the squad would be there in moments. Dirty, exhausted, and just plain wore out, the hitman didn’t care enough to run.

MaryAnne drove towards Brian and brought the car around in front of him and stopped. She stepped out and Brian saw she looked about as haggard as he did. The deputy's blue eyes looked at her kin with both regret and the small light of victory. MaryAnne didn't say anything and waited for Brian to speak first.

The hitman took a breath. "Rosco and Daisy....are they okay?"

"They're fine."

"And you?"

"Well...I'm talkin' to you ain't I?"

Brian nodded, supposing that he hadn't deserved more. "You got Keith, then."

"Damn right I did." It seemed MaryAnne was going to say something else, but she held back.

"Good." Brian turned his tired eyes to the Duke farmyard, where the Syndicate watchdog lay on the ground. Two angry Dukes held ready bows at the prone figure. "Seems as though Vinnie took an arrow in the leg," Brian remarked dryly.

"Lucky his leg and not his head."

"I suppose. The Dukes seemed to have gotten your warnin', sure 'nuff." Brian's black jacket had an obvious tear of it's own. "Near miss," he said with a grin, showing MaryAnne the slash.

MaryAnne nodded. She then pulled her handcuffs off her gun belt and tossed them onto the hood of the patrol car. They landed with a clatter and MaryAnne looked from the cuffs to Brian. "Seeing as you've pretty much told me what to do during this whole thing, what do you suggest I do now?"

"Arrest Vinnie."

"I ain't talking about any of that. That'll be taken care of soon enough. I mean with you, Brian. What do you suggest I do with you?"

Brian ignored the question, and slowly reached into his jacket, pulling out a cigarette and a lighter. He lit up, the small flame making shadows on his face. He put the lighter away and looked MaryAnne in the eyes. "When you ran that profile on Keith...did you run anything else?” He asked mildly.

MaryAnne decided to stop goofing around now. "Yeah, I did. And I don't need to tell you what I found out tho', do I?" MaryAnne grabbed the cuffs and held them in her hand.

"You found out one side of the story." Brian didn't flinch from the handcuffs that MaryAnne held. He looked at her for a long time in silence, the slow drag on the cigarette his only motion. He finally flicked it away, and leaned his back against the patrol car, folding his arms. It was the same pose he’d struck when MaryAnne first found him, one week and a lifetime ago. "Cousin," he said wearily, "You ain't gonna arrest me."

MaryAnne sighed heavily, now finding herself extremely tired of everything. Her eyes started to sting with tears and she dropped the cuffs on the hood, turning away from him. "God damn you, Brian," she said hoarsely.

There was movement behind MaryAnne, and an awkward cough. Then Brian put a hand on her shoulder, and gently turned her around to face him.

MaryAnne looked at him, trying to stop the tears. Why did she care? He was a killer, a member of the Syndicate. She was supposed to take the cuffs, put them on him and haul him away. But she couldn't do it. "Brian, I'm sorry," she said softly. "I wish the circumstances were different in our having met. You know there ain't many of us Coltranes left and I just thought that there was a chance that maybe Rosco and I could pull you out of the grips of the Syndicate. But even I know I can't do that...."

Brian's eyes weren't dry themselves. "Thanks for wantin' to try," he said thickly. "MaryAnne...you're a good Deputy. A damn good one...and if I ever let anybody arrest me, it'd be you." Brian smiled a little, trying to lift the pain that was crushing his heart. He'd found his family. His kin. And to keep them safe, he'd have to leave them behind.

"Cousin...I have to go back to Atlanta. Maybe the Syndicate will leave them Dukes alone, since this job cost ‘em Vinnie...they might decide it ain't worth it." Brian didn't voice what his own fate might be.

MaryAnne shook her head. "But they won't leave you alone." She quickly wiped away the tear off her cheek that had fallen. "You didn't carry out the contract. I've heard of what happens when the contract isn't carried out. I've seen it. Brian, I just wish there was something I could...do..." MaryAnne stopped when her voice caught.

"Hush," Brian said quickly. "Don't worry 'bout me none. I'm a bad guy, remember. I can take care of myself." Brian suddenly pulled MaryAnne into a brief embrace. He knew he had to leave. Now. Before he changed his mind, before his courage failed him.

MaryAnne hugged him as long as he would allow. When she felt him pull away she let go and nodded. "Just walk away, Brian," she whispered. "Go on, get the hell out of here."

Brian nodded, his dark eyes saying a farewell that his voice could no longer manage. He turned away and walked to his Chevy, aware of the eyes on his back. As he opened the car door, he turned around for a last look.

The Dukes were eyeing him warily from the yard, one sharp arrow cocked in his direction. And from the other side...a lone deputy, in full uniform. But Brian had seen past the silver badge...and found kin. "Goodbye, Deputy."

The End

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

Copyright 2000 by Cuz Bonita and Lisa Philbrick

"Damn, what a ride..."

Co-Author’s notes:

Cuz: THANK YOU to a great many people. Special thanks to LostSheep2 and LostSheep3 who first saw the evolution of this character. There would have never been a Brian Coltrane without you.
Lisa: Yeah, look what ya started!! LOL
Cuz: Special thanks, and an enormous amount of admiration, to Lisa for co-authoring this story. (Lisa co-wrote this story ‘blind’ with no forewarning of the character I was introducing; and no idea as to the plot.) You have more accolades coming than what I can list here. It’s an honor to write with you.
Lisa: Aw shucks. And thank you...for giving me WAAAYYY premautre grey hair, ulcers and bascially aging me about twenty years during this. =) Seriously, the honor is mutual. You're a helluva writer. Now, you think next time you could give me a little more of warning?? =)
Cuz: Special thanks to MeadowMufn, for co-authoring some great scenes involving Keith and also Rosco. Also for the ongoing support, encouragement, and humor you provided throughout.
Lisa: That's a big ten-four on that! Khee!
Cuz: And thank y’all for readin’. You put the fan in fanfic.
Lisa: And you make it all worthwhile. Thanks to everyone!