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: 2001. Cuz Bonita and Lisa Philbrick


Chapter One

Brian came home with a frustrated slam of the kitchen door.  He looked at his blue-uniformed cousin, seeking an unbiased opinion. “Deputy, you know I'm not a total jerk, right?"

MaryAnne sipped her coffee with a smile. "A total jerk? No...but have areas that still need improvement."

"Like what?"

“Aw hell, I don’t know where to start.”  MaryAnne grinned.

“Come on, I’m not that bad.”

"Maybe not now. But you were..."

"I was, yeah." Brian sighed and grabbed a beer from the fridge. "Trouble is, half the town still sees me that way. When I walk down the street, people run to the other side. Stores put up "closed" signs, and moms yank their kids back inside the house."

"Well, of course they still see you that way. It's gonna take them a LONG time to trust you and to realize that you've changed. A very long time."

Brian sipped the beer and peered at MaryAnne. "Same go for you an' Rosco?"

MaryAnne paused and sighed. "A little. I know that sounds really stupid but you know what happened. To me, to Rosco. He and I have enough demons to battle on our own in trying to recover from everything." She looked at him. "People don't change overnight, Brian. But they can change, as long as they keep at it and have folks to keep them keep at it."

Brian nodded at the answer, having expected as much. "It's kinda hard not to change, livin' with two's almost like bein' under house arrest."

MaryAnne snickered. "Then I guess we've started off on the right foot, huh?"

Brian picked up a dishtowel and flung it at the giggling Deputy. "Smarty cop."

"Khee khee! Lemme ask ya somethin’,” MaryAnne said after she finished laughing.

"What's that?"

" you like it here?" There was a deeper question being asked, that of “is this better than what the Syndicate offered...or would you rather be back to that?”

The dark eyes studied MaryAnne for a moment. "Yeah, I like it here," Brian answered. "I just wish Hazzard liked me bein' here..." he crumpled the empty can and stared out the window.

MaryAnne put her hand on his shoulder. "They time, Bri. They'll see you're changing, and for the better. It's gotta give it some time..." she finished softly.

"Yeah, maybe..." Brian sighed. "Meanwhile, I can't get a job in this town. Hell, I can't walk down the dang street." Brian took a step away from his cousin. "I like it here, but I may not belong here. "

MaryAnne's hand dropped from Brian's shoulder. She was quiet for a long spell and kept her gaze lowered to the floor. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "When the snap of my fingers changes everything, I'll let you know." She turned and walked out of the kitchen.

The slam of the door made Brian turn around.  “MaryAnne…aw, dammit.”

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

After being alone in the house for a couple hours, Brian was bored. He saw the peg on the kitchen wall that held the spare keys to the Coltrane household. "No harm in goin' for a little ride," he encouraged himself, and plucked MaryAnne's spare keys from the peg. Whistling, he walked out to the barn where Maverick was tucked away.

"Hello, Maverick!" Brian opened the barn doors wide, and sunlight glanced off the blue hood of the Firebird. It was a beautiful car. Still, it wasn't his old Chevy, and Brian felt a pang of loss as he touched the sleek hood. That, however, didn't prevent him from opening the car door and sitting inside. He adjusted the seat and mirrors, fired the ignition, and listened to the rumbling pipes. No, it wasn't his Chevy, but it would do in a pinch. Maverick was soon in gear and heading towards the Boar's Nest.

Meanwhile, MaryAnne had just turned her patrol car on to Route 71. The Plymouth cruised down the dusty road way and MaryAnne took a moment to enjoy the scenery. Coming down the road perpendicular to Route 71, MaryAnne saw a blue Firebird. Before she had time to think that the car looked a lot like Maverick, she realized it WAS Maverick.

"What the---?" She squinted her eyes to see the driver and saw it was Brian. She slammed her hand on the steering wheel of the Fury and punched the accelerator. "Argh Brian, I gotta teach you EVERYTHING??"

Unaware of any problem, the Firebird turned sedately onto Route 71, not seeing the white Plymouth coming up fast from behind. 

MaryAnne didn't allow Brian any time for get away or for play. She snaked the Fury around to the side of the Firebird and before Brian could find out what Maverick was capable of, the nose of the Firebird was inches from the gold star on the door of the deputy's patrol car.

MaryAnne threw the transmission into park and jumped out of the car. She glared at Brian through the Firebird's windshield. "OUT!! Get the hell outta that car right now!!"

"Uh oh..." Brian shut down Maverick's engine and removed the keys from the ignition. He got out of the car and shut the door gently, giving it a little polish with his sleeve before turning to face his enraged cousin.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? You think you're still in the Syndicate or something, you can take anyone's property that you feel like taking? I got news for you buster, you're here now, and you're gonna have to learn some MANNERS. There's just some things you don't do. Like take this car without the owner's permission. I hope you're up to walking, because that's probably what your gonna be doing for awhile!"

"I just borrowed Maverick to make a run down to the Boar's Nest! It ain't like I took 'em out to rob a bank or somethin'..."

"I don't care. You got two feet. You wanna run to the Boar's Nest? Do it that way."

"Aw, MaryAnne, it's seven miles from here!" Brian saw no sympathy in the Deputy's blue eyes.  I forgot, there's no talkin' reason to her when she's in uniform.

"So? You'd get a good cardiovascular work out wouldn't ya?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "Remember this, cousin, nobody "borrows" my car, unless I tell them they can borrow it. Even Rosco knows that. Now you're gonna take this car BACK to the house, and I'm gonna follow you. And no, I will not give you a ride to the Boar's Nest. You can walk!"

"I'll hitchhike, if it's all the same to you...but hell, it's probably illegal!" Brian got back into the Pontiac and fired it up, turning towards the Coltrane homestead.

"Sonofa---" MaryAnne muttered as she got into her patrol car. She slammed the door shut and started the car. "Now I gotta babysit him, for Chris’sakes..." She followed Maverick.

As he drove home, Brian deliberately did five miles an hour under the speed limit. The grill of the patrol car loomed in the mirrors impatiently, but he ignored it. Any driving was better than no driving.

MaryAnne picked up her radio mike. "Move it, Brian. Or I'll nail you for impeding traffic."

Brian heard the no-nonsense tone over the CB and knew better than push his luck. He sighed and sped up to the speed limit, knowing his joyride was probably going to cost him more than it was worth.

When they reached the house, MaryAnne got out of her patrol car and watched as Brian returned Maverick to the barn. She then held her hand out for the keys as he walked out of the barn.

"Sorry," Brian offered as he handed back the keys, his dark eyes downcast.  MaryAnne pocketed the keys. "If I catch you driving Maverick without my permission again, I won't be so nice next time..." She turned and walked back to her patrol car, furious.

MaryAnne's spirit, if not her words, made Brian grin. "I'll try not to jaywalk," he called out at her back.

MaryAnne ignored her cousin's comment and got into the patrol car. She tore out of the yard, leaving a huge cloud of dust behind.

The flying dust made Brian cough, and bits of gravel rained down from MaryAnne's heated departure. Brian looked wistfully back towards the barn. He knew he could hotwire the Firebird, if he had a death wish. Instead, he struck out on foot, his black boots kicking up dust as he walked down the road.

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

In town, MaryAnne was sitting behind the booking desk with the phone to her ear. "Yeah, that's the one...Oh, no I got somebody here who can pick it up, just fax the paper work over to me here at the courthouse, please?" MaryAnne listened and then smiled. "Yeah, I know and you still owe me. Thanks, Ricky!" She hung up the phone and looked up at Rosco.

"You sure about this?" he said.

MaryAnne nodded. "Yup." She paused and then said, "If he's really nice, I'll gift wrap it for him."

"If he appreciates it at all."

"We'll find out won't we?"

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

It had taken Brian about three hours to reach the Boar's Nest. He had attempted to hitchhike, but there were few cars on the country road. The only vehicle that had even slowed down was a familiar orange Charger...and upon identifying him, it sped away without hesitation. "Country hospitality," Brian complained as he spat more dust. "Ha!"

Footsore and weary, he eventually made it to the local watering hole.  He staggered in, plunked himself down at the bar and ordered a beer. It was served to him without courtesy by a long-legged waitress. People who had been sitting near his proximity got up and moved to other tables. A few patrons left altogether, and the idle chatter that normally filled the roadhouse was reduced to hushed murmurs. Being in the Syndicate had made Brian thick-skinned, and he bore it all with relative good grace...until two familiar farm boys strode through the door, their sharp blue eyes inviting him to leave.

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

MaryAnne picked up the last sheet that came off the fax machine. She shuffled the papers together and then called to Rosco that she was leaving and would be back in a few minutes. She left her deputy's hat on the booking desk and walked out of the booking room and courthouse and over to Cooter's garage.

The mechanic was under the hood Mr. Densmore's old Buick and she called to him as she approached.  “Hey Cooter!”

Cooter straightened up from under the hood and looked at MaryAnne. "Oh, hey there MaryAnne," he greeted with a smile.

"Hi. Could you do me a favor?"


"Can you pick up a vehicle at the Federal impound in Atlanta for me?" She handed the papers to Cooter, who looked at them. After a moment, Cooter gave MaryAnne a look. Recognizing the make and model, he may as well had just been asked to go collect the plague. "Uh...MaryAnne, are you sure you want me to get this car?"

"Yeah. I know, Cooter, I know..." MaryAnne sighed, now understanding Brian's frustration with the way the town had been treating him. "Because he needs wheels. Which means the car needs to be repaired, can you do that too? I'll even help."

Cooter pushed his dirty green John Deere hat back and scratched his head for a moment. He looked at the papers in thought and then looked at MaryAnne apologetically. "I dunno, MaryAnne, a lot of folks here in Hazzard don't like the fact that he's here...."

"Cooter, are you gonna go get the car, or am I gonna have to borrow the tow truck and do it myself?"

Cooter raised his hands in surrender. "I'll do it for ya," he said. "But I'm just tellin' ya, as your friend. There's a lot of folks here in town who are wonderin' just why you and Rosco have got him here. And in yer own house! After everything he did..."

"Well the town of Hazzard should stop wonderin' and start realizin' that me and Rosco are merely trying to reform our kin. If the town wishes to not help, that's fine. It's not like Coltranes ever got much from here anyway." MaryAnne turned to walk back to the courthouse. "Let me know when you've got the car...." she said before marching back across the street.

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

As Bo and Luke Duke strode up to the bar, the only sound in the Boar's Nest was that of chairs scooting out of the way. Brian took stock of his situation as he drank the rest of his beer. Just walked seven miles, I'm unarmed, and I'm outnumbered two to one. The Dukes were directly behind him now, facing his back. Brian didn't' turn around. He knew enough about the Dukes to know they were fair fighters…something that would give them a disadvantage when the blows started flying.

"What's the matter, Mister? Can't face us without a gun in your hand?" The blonde one spoke up first.

Brian gripped his beer glass a little tighter, and turned slightly towards them. "No, I just can't face you without feelin' sorry for ya'll.  You've lived here your whole lives?"

To Brian's surprise, it was the dark-haired one who threw the first punch, hard enough to send him reeling over the bar. Scattered applause and cheers rose from the tavern as the ex-hitman went down.  Brian shook the ringing from his ears and struggled to climb up, then felt a pair of hands hauling him off the floor. It was the blonde Duke who had a grip on his jacket, and Brian rewarded him with a hard right cross that made the young Duke stagger.  It didn’t go unanswered, as his dark-haired cousin plunged a heavy fist into Brian’s midsection, making the Syndicate fighter fall back into a table.  The free-for-all was in full swing.

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

MaryAnne walked into the booking room just in time to hear the phone ring. She looked at Rosco, who picked up the receiver.

"Hazzard County Sheriff's Office, Roscoooo P. Coltrane speak--" Rosco stopped and listened and then flinched and held the phone away from his ear for a moment. MaryAnne stepped closer and thought she heard the sound of glass breaking and Daisy Duke's voice ordering Rosco to, "come get your dang cousin!" He set the phone back to his ear and listened for a moment longer. "I'll be right there," he said finally and hung up the phone.

"Now what?" MaryAnne asked.

"There's a fight at the Boar's Nest. Brian and the Duke boys." He grabbed his black cowboy hat. "Come on..." The two cousins hurried out of the booking room.

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

The dirty tricks had evened up the odds somewhat, and to the surprise of many, Brian was still standing. Luke remained doubled over from a cheap shot below the belt, and his cousin was no better off. Unfortunately for the ex-hitman, the sight of the Dukes in trouble rallied the Boar's Nest regulars, and Brian was fighting a losing battle. Even the waitress had gotten into the act, and the fight ended as Daisy smashed a beer pitcher over his head, sending him down for the count.

When Rosco and MaryAnne came rushing into the Boar's Nest, they spotted Brian on the floor and the two Duke boys nursing their wounds. Various patrons were trying to put the place back together, moving chairs, picking up glass. Rosco kneeled down the check on Brian while MaryAnne looked at everyone. "Somebody wanna tell me what the hell happened here?"

Everyone avoided the Deputy's question for a moment, leaving an awkward silence in the air. Daisy looked at her cousins, who didn't seem inclined to answer just yet.

"What's the matter? Need some time to think about your answers? Would a night in the county jail help?"

Luke tucked in his shirt and took a step forward. "He mouthed off, that's all."

"Oh really? All he did was mouth off huh? So one of you threw the first punch is that it?"

Luke waved an arm defensively.  "MaryAnne, for God's sake, he’s the one who-“

"Hush! Did you or did you not throw the first punch??"

"I did." At Luke's admission, Bo added his two cents. "If he hadn't I woulda." Murmurs of assent came from around the bar.

MaryAnne looked at the boys, not at all pleased with their actions. She nodded though and then said:  "Yeah, I bet Jesse's proud of you two. A guy walks seven miles for a beer, says a snide comment that you didn't like and you nail him in the face with a punch. Let me ask this, who SPOKE first? Was it one of you, or Brian?"

MaryAnne's words hit home. "It was me," Bo said with a sigh. Daisy came over to stand by her cousins, showing support.

"I see. So you couldn't leave him alone to drink one lousy beer.”  MaryAnne glanced back and saw Brian starting to stir. She returned her serious look at the Dukes. "Ya wanna give me one good reason why I shouldn't cuff and stuff the both of ya and call your Uncle Jesse to come bail ya out?"

The Duke cousins were incredulous. Luke saw the expressions on Bo and Daisy and spoke for them all. "MaryAnne, if anybody outta be in jail around here, it's him," he said quietly with a look at Brian. "But you can arrest us if ya want."

"That's just what I intend to do." She stepped out of the way of the door. "The patrol car's out front.  I'm sure y'all know how to get into it by now."

"MaryAnne!" Daisy protested.

"I'd be callin' Jesse if I was you, Daisy," MaryAnne said. The Deputy then made a swishing motion with her hand for the boys to go to the door. "Go on, git." Deep down, MaryAnne didn't want to do this, but she figured the boys had to learn a lesson and hopefully uncle Jesse would be some help in that lesson too.  Hopefully.

With a last look at their adversary, Bo and Luke walked sullenly towards the door. Luke glanced at MaryAnne over his shoulder, communicating something without words that was better left unsaid.

"Don't you be givin' me no dirty looks..." MaryAnne muttered. She then looked at Rosco and Brian, who was now standing up. MaryAnne gave her older cousin a look and hand motion that basically said, 'you better git him outta here, NOW.'

Rosco nodded. "Come on, Bri, I'll take ya to the Doc to look at that bump."

"I'm awright..." Brian took a couple steps and shrugged off Rosco's aid, walking unsteadily towards the exit. The Boar's Nest customers watched the Coltranes leave, speculation filling their eyes.

"That's great that yer alright, but I'm still takin' ya to the Doc," Rosco said as the three walked out to the parking lot. The Sheriff left no room for argument.

Brian offered no protest, since his head was ringing like church bells on Sunday. He walked to Rosco's patrol car, having to pass by MaryAnne's car in the process. The Dukes glared at Brian as if to say this ain't over.

Once Rosco and Brian were on their way, MaryAnne began the drive back to town. She said nothing to the boys, letting the silence feed itself upon them. If they wished to speak, she would let them, but she was not going to start conversation.

Bo and Luke were beside themselves over the whole turn of events. It was bad enough to see Brian in Hazzard; worse still to see MaryAnne sticking up for him. It was like a bad dream, and they sat stoically in the back of the patrol car.

MaryAnne drove the patrol car into town and came to a stop in front of the courthouse. She got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side to open the back door for the Dukes.  "Let's go."

"Yes ma'am," Bo said neutrally, though he couldn't help but mutter something to Luke.

MaryAnne only caught a piece of it, something that sounded like "takin' a page outta Rosco's book."

"And that would be the pre-1974 edition that you speak of," MaryAnne shot back, referring to the year that Rosco lost his pension. By 1976, he was working exclusively for Boss. "Now shut up and get inside."

The Dukes marched up the courthouse steps. During their long friendship with MaryAnne, they couldn't recall a time where she had turned against them. Now, the Coltrane-Duke feud looked ready for a new chapter.

As they stepped inside the courthouse, Enos looked up from the booking desk. The deputy smiled.  "Howdy, fellas," he greeted cheerfully. His smiled faded when he caught the looks on the boys' faces. They weren't here by choice.

"Hey Enos," Bo answered with that I'm-ticked-off tone of voice, and Luke nodded a silent greeting. The Dukes walked up to the holding cell, looking thoroughly annoyed.   "MaryAnne, what's goin' on?" Enos asked.

"I'll explain in a minute, Enos."

Suddenly the door to Boss Hogg's office clicked opened. The County Commissioner stepped out and couldn't believe the sight before him. MaryAnne Coltrane was ordering the Dukes up to the holding cell. He briefly contemplated going back into his office, shutting the door and then coming back out again. He absolutely could not believe his eyes.  As MaryAnne locked the cell door, Boss stepped towards the booking area.  "What in Holy Hannah is going on here?"

MaryAnne turned to Boss. "Oh, they were fighting at the Boar's Nest."

"You arrested them??"

MaryAnne looked at Boss seriously. "Yeah."

"You arrested them?!"

"Yes, Boss, I arrested them!"

"MaryAnne, I'd give anything to see a Duke behind bars, but whatever possessed you to arrest them?"

"They were fighting with Brian. I figured I better teach them a lesson."

Boss's expression changed to that of understanding. "Ohhh, I see. They don't know, do they?"

"No, Rosco and I ain't had a chance to tell 'em."

"Tell us what?" Luke asked. "MaryAnne, what's going on?"

"You'll find out when Jesse gets here," MaryAnne answered.  She swung the cell door open and ushered the boys in. The Dukes settled into the small cell, curiosity lifting the sour looks on their faces. They knew MaryAnne well enough to know that they'd find out what she had up her blue sleeve, when she was good and ready.

MaryAnne went through the motion of locking the door, suddenly feeling she had both Enos's and Boss's full attention. A Kodak moment...I'm locking the Dukes in the holding cell. Next thing ya know pigs will fly and hell's gonna freeze over.  Which was about the same sentiment Boss and Enos had.

On the other side of town, Rosco was watching Doc Appleby finish cleaning Brian's wound. Brian flinched a few times but was otherwise well behaved during it all.  "There you go," the Doc said.

"Thank ya," Brian said as he and Rosco left the small medical office. They walked over to the courthouse together, as Rosco wanted to check in with MaryAnne. The booking room doors swung open and Rosco walked in, followed by Brian. "Bad news, bad news," Rosco said to MaryAnne, as he jerked his thumb towards Brian. "Doc Applebee says he'll live. Khee!"

Brian grinned at the humor. "The Doc also told me to lay off the beer. Seems it gives me a splitting headache," he joked back, rubbing the sore spot where the beer pitcher had landed.

MaryAnne chuckled. "I get a headache smelling the stuff when I have to serve it. Ninety percent water and ten percent fizz." She glanced towards the holding cell, where the Dukes were watching her, and then looked back to her kin. "Listen, can you two hang around for a minute? I'm waiting for Jesse to come, but I wanna talk to the both of ya right now." She pointed towards Rosco's office.

"Okay," Rosco said and headed to his office. Brian, however, was distracted by the sight of the Dukes behind bars. He couldn't stop himself from going up to the holding cell and looking his adversaries in the eye. Tense silence hung in the air as the three stared at each other.

A slow grin finally spread on Brian's face. "Khee khee khee!" he chuckled, ducking back as Luke made a grab for him through the bars.

"Brian! Stop harassing the prisoners and git over here!" MaryAnne ordered.  Brian strolled away from the holding cell, still grinning. He went to Rosco's office and joined his cousins.

MaryAnne sighed and then shut the door. She turned and faced her kin.  "Okay. First of all, Rosco and I were gonna tell the Dukes that you are gonna be testifyin' against the Syndicate, and that would explain why you're back in town. Unfortunately, we ain't had time to do that. So, I figured seeing as I have them in jail, I'm gonna have their undivided attention." She grinned.

"Secondly, and Brian you don't have to do this if you don't want to, I was thinking maybe they'd like an explanation of a few why you shot me in front of Rosco. I'd like your help to explain it to them, but if you don't want to that's fine, I understand."

Brian became serious, and paced the floor as he spoke. "I dunno, cousin. I mean, is it such a good idea to have everybody knowin' I'm gonna testify? And as far as the rest of it...hell, I can try to explain it to them, but I don't know if they're gonna buy it."

"Well, it's worth a shot. And I agree with you that we don't need everybody knowin' you're gonna testify. Some of the things the DA said about this's gonna be prickly and the less people who know, the better. But I'm just tryin' to figure some way to keep a little peace in this county. I think the Dukes deserve some answers and I think we could at least try to give them some."

"Awright," Brian relented.

MaryAnne nodded and looked to Rosco. The Sheriff nodded as well.  "Okay," she said and stood up. She started to walk to the door and then stopped and turned to Brian.  "Um...while we're waiting for Jesse, try to restrain yourself from making any comments to the Dukes okay?" she asked with a smile. "Hard as I know that's gonna be for you."

"Aw, man...there goes my fun."

"Yeah, I know, but this IS a booking room after all," she giggled.

Brian smiled ruefully. "Believe me cousin, I know that as well as anybody." He remembered his incarceration here all too well. He sighed and followed MaryAnne and Rosco out the door.

MaryAnne was right back to business as she came out of Rosco's office. The hard part, however, was waiting for Jesse. She was sure he was going to fit to be tied when he arrived, especially upon finding out that MaryAnne made the arrest.  But MaryAnne was not going have it be that the Hazzard County Sheriff's department be referee between the Duke boys and Brian. An understanding had to be reached and the sooner the better. The Coltranes had other things to deal with, and bar room brawls were not on that list.

Almost on cue, a riled Jesse Duke came barreling into the booking room, with Daisy right behind him. "MaryAnne Coltrane, I thought I'd never see the day where you put my boys in jail for no good reason." The elder Duke's wrath made Brian and Rosco duck behind MaryAnne.

MaryAnne stood her ground. "Now Jesse just simmer down. And I do have your boys in jail for a good reason...but it ain't necessarily for fist fightin'." She pointed to the chairs that were below the booking desk. "Sit down."

Jesse sat, grumbling a little as he did so. "It's gonna cost that much to get 'em out, that yer gonna make me sit down first..."

MaryAnne rolled her eyes a bit and turned to Rosco and Brian. "Why don't you fellas take a seat.  We's gonna have us a pow wow." MaryAnne walked up to the holding cell and grabbed the cell keys off the wall.  She looked at each of the boys. "Now, I'm lettin' ya out, but you're still in custody of the Hazzard County Sheriff's Department. So don't y'all go nowhere until I tell ya."

"Yes ma'am," Bo answered for the both of them. Though their hackles were still raised by the sight of their enemy, they were curious enough to see what MaryAnne had to say. MaryAnne stepped out of the way so the boys could walk out. As they joined with Jesse and Daisy, MaryAnne stood at the top step of the booking area and looked at everyone gathered around.

"A lot of things have happened in the past few months. A LOT of things, and I can understand why what happened at the Boar's Nest a little while ago, happened." MaryAnne stepped down from the steps and faced the Duke family. "Rosco and I meant to explain to ya what was going on, but we didn't have a chance." The young Coltrane paused, putting her explanation together in her mind.  She then took a breath and said, "Brian is here in town and staying with me and Rosco because the DA in Atlanta asked us to do this. There are some...particulars...with the FBI's case against the Syndicate that are forcing the DA to seek an alternative towards getting convictions. That alternative is the testimony of a ex-Syndicate member." She looked at Brian. "His testimony."

The Dukes sucked in a collective breath, and then Luke put it to words. "He's wrigglin' off the hook!"

"No," MaryAnne said firmly, glaring at Luke. "You're wrong about that. He ain't off the hook for nothing! If he was, he wouldn't be staying with us." She paused and glanced at Rosco, who nodded. MaryAnne then looked back at the Dukes.

"The FBI for some reason took their sweet time in bringing about the bust of the

Syndicate in Atlanta. They didn't like the fact that Rosco, Enos and I essentially set the whole thing in motion with what we did. They were so mad, they wanted my badge!"

"What?" Bo said, echoed by his family. Luke stared off into space for the span a heartbeat, the implication sinking in fast. "You mean there could a be tie between the Syndicate and the..."

"Feds," Brian finished for him, stepping forward. "Somebody in the upper ranks of the FBI has a vested interest in the Atlanta Syndicate. You might guess that some crucial bits of evidence are turnin' up missin'.  The same bits that they'll probably try to blame MaryAnne and Rosco for."

The Dukes looked at MaryAnne in disbelief.  MaryAnne nodded. "As Coltrane luck would have it, Rosco and I managed to really tick somebody off."

"Coltrane luck," Bo snorted, looking at Brian with hostility. "There's one reason why all this happened, far as I'm concerned!"

Brian caught the supportive glance from MaryAnne. Tell 'em, it seemed to say. Brian cleared his throat nervously and looked back at the Duke family. He couldn't meet the eyes of the elder Duke. The old man had a bearing of dignity and honor that shamed Brian without a word. The girl was no better. She looked at him with a fiery gaze that invited him to drop dead and keep going.

And the two Duke boys, whom he'd been sent to destroy, looked at him with mistrust and anger.  They were raised to be hardworking, honest, and God-fearing people, and Brian was anathema to all that they stood for.

Brian met the hard blue eyes of Bo and Luke, and addressed their smoldering tempers.   "I know y'all figure you've got some unfinished business with me. I can understand that, but I'm gonna ask y'all to wait till after the Syndicate trials. If not for my sake, for MaryAnne's and Rosco's. Fair enough?"

"Fair 'nuff," Luke answered, and Bo nodded. "Awright," Brian continued. "Now let me tell ya somethin'. My kin means as much to me, as your kin does to you. I know you don't believe me yet, but just listen." And with that, Brian told the Dukes of his purposes in Hazzard, being painfully honest about his original intentions. He went on to explain how he'd later deliberately blown the contract on Bo and Luke, and by doing so, how he jeopardized his own life and MaryAnne's. As Brian told them the reasons behind his wounding of MaryAnne, the Duke's eyes widened and their faces went pale.  But there was more.

"Rosco shucked n' jived me, and told me that MaryAnne was dead," Brian said quietly. "Right there and then, I figured all I'd done to protect everybody was for nothin'. I was gonna finish you two for good and go back to Atlanta." The dark eyes were full of emotion. "I'm glad Rosco stopped me."

Brian went on with the rest of the story, including the Syndicate’s attempts to eliminate both Rosco and himself, and then told them of his last, desperate run from the Feds. He told them of his grilling by D.A, and of the leverage that the prosecutor was prepared to use against him and his family. Brian paused now and then to keep his composure, and no one spoke a word during those heavy silences. As he finished his story, he lifted his dark eyes to the Dukes and said two words that they never expected to hear from him.  "I'm sorry."

Jesse Duke rose from chair and came to stand in front of Brian. "Young fella, I'm inclined to believe you. But it's gonna be a long, long time before I can look at you and not feel sick to my stomach." The old man prodded Brian's chest with one gnarled finger. "I'm gonna give you a chance to prove how sincere you are. But only one. You don't cause any more trouble for me and my family, and you testify like you're supposta. After that, we'll talk about apologies." Jesse Duke showed no fear to the ex-hitman, who could only swallow and respond with a "Yes sir."

Jesse turned to MaryAnne. "Are my boys free to go?"

MaryAnne nodded. "They are."

"C'mon, boys." Jesse walked out, as Daisy hesitated, waiting for her cousins. Bo and Luke stood a moment longer, some of the hostility gone from their expressions as they looked at the stray Coltrane before them. Still, they felt that their Uncle Jesse had spoken for them all, and they turned away without comment.

Brian sighed and watched the Duke family leave. MaryAnne stepped up to her cousin and gave him a pat on the arm. "It's alright, Brian. Jesse reacted the way I pretty much figured he would. At least you won't have the boys throwing punches at ya."

"I 'spose." Brian sighed again and forced a small smile. "At least I still got you to fight with."

MaryAnne chuckled. "That's right. And don't you forget it. Khee!"

Brian gave MaryAnne a tiny shove, just enough of one to tease. Rosco broke it up before MaryAnne roughed up her cousin. "Alright, alright, we've got work to do," Rosco said gruffly, though his eyes were gentle. 

"I'll walk home," Brian said, heading towards the door. "See ya'll later."

"Hold up a sec," MaryAnne said. "I'll give ya a ride."

Brian looked like he was about to decline. He'd been enough trouble for one day. "You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. Come on."

"Thanks." Brian followed MaryAnne through the double doors of the booking room. He pushed open the outside door to the courthouse, finding three grey suits coming up the steps. He pulled the door shut hastily, panic on his face. With one word, he ran back towards the booking room, pulling MaryAnne with him. "FEDS!"

"What the---?" MaryAnne had no choice but to follow Brian's grip. "Whoa, whoa Brian calm down!"

Brian had already burst back through the booking room doors, with MaryAnne in tow. "Rosco! Feds!" With that, Brian let go of MaryAnne, and ran into Rosco's office, slamming the door behind him. He left a bemused Sheriff and Deputy to greet the three agents who came into the booking room seconds later. The FBI men displayed their badges with casual flips of their wallets. "You must be Deputy Coltrane," the lead agent said.

MaryAnne straightened her uniform sleeves. "Yes, sir.  And this is Sheriff Coltrane. What can we do for you?"

"Agent Mayson sent us to interview a witness that's under your protection."

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco. Interview? "Okay. Um, why don't you gentlemen have a seat and we'll go get the witness."

"Thank you." The agents selected chairs and seated themselves, seeming patient enough.

MaryAnne took Rosco by the arm and they ducked into the Sheriff's office. After she shut the door she looked at Rosco. "You buy any of that?"

"I dunno. I'da thought that Agent Mayson would have been kind enough to tell us ahead of time if he was sending anyone to talk to Brian."

Brian voiced his opinion from his hiding spot under the desk. "Tell 'em to go away!"

"Now, hold on Brian, just take 'er easy for a minute," Rosco said. He then looked at MaryAnne. "Maybe it's legit?"

"We'll find out in a minute..." MaryAnne grabbed Rosco's phone and waited for Maybelle to come on the line. "Maybelle, would you connect me to the FBI in Atlanta? I want to speak to an Agent Mayson..."

"Sure thing, MaryAnne." The call was patched through in moments. The line rang a few times before a recorded message began. "You've reached the office of Special Agent Frank Mayson, Division Four. I'll be out of the office today..."

MaryAnne grumbled and waited for the beep. "This is Deputy MaryAnne Coltrane in Hazzard County. I've got three of your agents in my booking room claiming to be here on your orders to interview Brian. By the time you get this message, it'll probably be a moot point, but I'm just trying to find out if this is legit. Please call. Thanks." MaryAnne pushed the hang up to disconnect the call. She then waited for Maybelle again.

"It's me again. I didn't reach anyone at the FBI. Can you connect me to the DA's office in Atlanta, please?"

"You got it," Maybelle said cheerfully, and patched the call through. The line rung without answer, and was finally picked up by the D.A.'s secretary. "I'm sorry, Deputy Coltrane, but he's not in today. Care to leave a message?" 

MaryAnne rolled her eyes. That's two strikes. Three I'm out. Sheesh. "Could you just let him know that I called and if and when he gets in if he could call back? I'd appreciate it."

"Yes ma'am." The secretary added the usual courtesies before disconnecting.  MaryAnne hung up the phone and looked at her cousins. "Well, this is wonderful. Neither one is in their office today."

"So what do we do?" Rosco asked.

"Well, we can't leave them sitting out there to rot. Why don't we see what they want?"

"Why don't you push me in front of a moving truck? It'd be less stressful," Brian complained as he crawled out from under the desk.

"Some how I get the feeling that all three of us are gonna be pushed in front of a moving truck if we're not careful," MaryAnne said. "Now I know that the DA's gonna wanna be asking you some questions and getting your testimony down on paper and all, but I figured it'd be him, or at least one of his deputy attorneys or something showing up to ask the questions." MaryAnne looked at Rosco. "Not the FBI."

Rosco nodded in agreement.  "And I figured they would have let us know before hand, if for nothing than at least outta courtesy!"

MaryAnne sighed. "Alright, why don't we just amuse these fellas. Let 'em ask some questions."

“Let's jump out the window and run for it."


He gave in at MaryAnne’s expression. "Awright."

"Rosco and I will be right there with ya. If it gets too weird or sticky just feign illness, we'll get ya outta there."

"Nothin' to fake there. Cops make me offense. But Feds make me right down queasy." Brian held his stomach and followed MaryAnne and Rosco out the door.

MaryAnne led Brian to the agents.  "Here ya are, gentlemen. And if you don't mind, the Sheriff and I are going to be present during this interview. The DA said it was okay." MaryAnne eyed each Fed as she spoke.

The lead agent, Special Detective Nellis, looked annoyed. "That's surprising to hear, Deputy, considering the legal irregularities. Of course, that's nothing new for your Sheriff's department."

MaryAnne looked at Rosco, who suddenly had fire in his eyes.  "That's funny," MaryAnne said, turning her attention back to the agent. "You're in the wrong line of work for being a comedian."

Nellis forced a fake smile. "Let's get to down to business. You and the Sheriff can't be present during the interview. But if you're concerned about your witness, I'll limit the meeting to myself and Brian. Fair enough?"

"I gotta better idea. You prove to me that you're here on Agent Mayson's orders and maybe I'll consider your offer."

"Excellent suggestion." Nellis reached into his sport coat and produced the documentation. "Let's not turn this into another incident for the Hazzard County Sheriff's Department," he said caustically.

MaryAnne sneered and took the documents that Nellis presented.  The papers were in perfect order, with the current date and Federal seal.   MaryAnne eyed everything carefully and then handed the documents to Rosco.  She was still leery, despite the apparent authenticity of the documents - but her trust in the FBI had gone out the window when the Commander had threatened to take her badge. She was trusting of no one with a Federal badge anymore. She nodded to Rosco, however, when he looked to see if she was satisfied with everything.

"Alright," she said to Nellis. "But just you. If Brian wants out at any time, you let him. And you can come back and finish it some other time." She then looked at Brian, trying to give him a look of encouragement, and one that said 'they'll crucify me if I push the idea of me and Rosco being present.'

"Thank you for you cooperation," Nellis said coolly, and looked at Rosco, gesturing towards the Sheriff's office. "Mind if we use your office, Sheriff? This won't take long."

Rosco frowned.  Actually I thought y'all could use the jail cell downstairs you... "Go ahead."   

With those words, Brian's dark eyes darted to MaryAnne's, acknowledging that she'd done everything she could in the way of precaution. Then he walked to the Sheriff's office with Nellis following. The door closed shut behind them. Brian immediately turned to face the agent, standing against the wall with his arms folded. Nellis smiled and reached one hand into his sport coat.

Brian stiffened in alarm.  Nellis chuckled and pulled out a wallet. "Relax, Mr. Coltrane. I brought you something..." he said as he opened the wallet, and removed a thick stack of bills. "Five thousand dollars, to be exact."

"What?" Brian was curious despite himself.

"I also am giving you a contact in the Mexico City mafia. Their Don is looking forward to working with you." Agent Nellis scribbled a name and an address on a slip of paper.

Brian stood there, incredulous.  Nellis went on as if he was talking about nothing more than the weather.  "And I'm also giving you some advice,” he warned. “Take this offer now, because it's not going to be repeated." Nellis put a hand on Brian’s shoulder in a confidential manner. "You see, it wouldn't be good for Rosco and MaryAnne if you testified."

Brian absorbed the information and kept a poker face. "I'll think about it. And I'll consider this an advance," he said as he pocketed the money. "My testimony's worth a lot more than the peanuts you’re offerin’..." he added with Syndicate cockiness. "A lot more."

"Is it worth them?" Nellis gestured coldly towards the booking room. "You may recall that the Sheriff and Deputy are not alone.  I’ve got two Federal sharpshooters sitting out there.  When I walk out this door, I'll give them a signal. The signal I give depends on your answer."

With his bluff called, Brian had no choice but to fold. "Awright," he said quietly. "But I’ll need a couple days to finish some business in Hazzard. Then I'll head for Mexico."

"You can have it, but be very, very careful with who you talk to and what you say. We'll be watching,” Nellis said with calm menace. "Now that we've reached an understanding, our little meeting is over." He opened the door and walked out, giving a positive nod to the two waiting agents.

Brian held his breath and walked out to the booking room, taking care not to look nervous in front of his cousins.  But Nellis had their attention anyway  "Thank you again for your cooperation," he said to Rosco and MaryAnne. "Our business here is concluded."

MaryAnne snorted as the three agents left the booking room. She then turned to Brian. "That was quick. What’d they wanna know? Your birth date?"

"They just had a question for me," Brian said distantly.

"Just one question?" Rosco said. "After all that rigmarole?" He shrugged but looked to MaryAnne, having noticed Brian's sudden reserve.

Brian tried to defuse the suspicion.  "It was no big deal.  That's the Feds for ya, makin' a big production outta nothin'.”  He gave his cousins an easy smile.  “Well, I'm gonna head on home, I'll see ya'll later,” he said as he walked towards the doors.

MaryAnne didn't reinstate her offer to drive Brian home. She and Rosco watched him leave and they gazed at the swinging booking room doors for a moment.

"I don't like it, MaryAnne," Rosco said.

"I don't either," she sighed. "I don't like it at all...."

Chapter Two