Chapter Two

Brian left the courthouse with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He looked around and saw an unmarked sedan parked near the town square. The Feds were there, alright. Odds were, they knew where he and his cousins lived. They probably knew the patrol routes, too. More than likely, they had mapped out everything just like Brian had, when he first came to Hazzard.  Hell, the Feds have probably been here since I got back, he decided.  I bet they got their homework done.

Brian walked down the street towards the Coltrane homestead, which lay on the edge of town. If he simply disappeared, he knew MaryAnne and Rosco would be worried about him. It was going to be hard enough on them as it was. The D.A. might even suspect his cousins of letting him sneak out of Hazzard.  Damn.

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

Rosco and MaryAnne were quiet as they went about their work. MaryAnne couldn't help but think that the agent had made some kind of offer or issued an ultimatum to Brian regarding his testimony against the Syndicate. Thing was, would Brian tell them if they asked him about it? Would he accept the offer?  Or not? Would he go back to Syndicate life and forget he ever met her and Rosco? Would the family name of Coltrane make a difference to him now?

Rosco had many of the same questions. The Sheriff sat in his office contemplating the possible turn of events. Nothing he thought of gave him a positive outlook. He glanced out the window, spotting the same unmarked sedan the Brian had seen. positive outlook....

Each officer mulled over his and her own thoughts as the day wore on and they continued their duties.  A few minutes before four, MaryAnne knocked on Rosco's already open office door.  "I'm off to the Boar's Nest. Well, actually I'm off to home to change and then to the Boar's Nest."

Rosco looked up, a little startled. "Today's the day you go back?"

MaryAnne nodded. "Yeah." She then rolled her eyes, thinking of all the things everyone at the Boar's Nest could possibly say to her tonight. "And I'm soooo looking forward to it."

Rosco stood up and approached his young cousin. "You sure you wanna go back?  I mean, Boss said if you weren't ready you didn't have to."

"Yeah, I know. But we gotta try to continue on with things as normal as possible, Rosco. Besides, I don't recall Boss giving me any paid leave time."

Rosco made a face. "Yeah, I know. "

"I'll be alright," she said, giving Rosco a pat on the arm. "I'm more worried about Brian anyhow."

Rosco paused. "Do you think them three agents were legit?"

"In terms of Agent Mayson sending them here, nope, I don't. I think they represent that 'other' interest that the Feds apparently have in the Syndicate. I think they issued Brian an ultimatum, probably threatening something happening to you and me if he didn't go along with it. That has to be why he was so quiet when he came out. At least, that's my theory anyway."

"You gonna approach him about it?"

MaryAnne thought for a moment. "I might." She then chuckled. "Unless, you'd like to?"

Rosco smiled. "Only if you back out."

"Deal." She glanced at her watch. "Oops, I better git. I'll see ya later tonight, 'k?"

"Yup. You be careful, ya hear?"

"I will!"

Rosco listened for MaryAnne to leave the booking room and then he turned to look out the window. He watched her walk to her patrol car, get in and drive away. On the other side of the square he saw the same unmarked sedan. It moved and followed out after the patrol car.   Please be careful...

Back at the Coltrane homestead, Brian was upstairs in MaryAnne's room. He hated himself for what he was doing, but he felt he had no choice in the matter. He spun the dial of the gun safe carefully, listening for the tiny clicks that only Syndicate training allowed him to hear.  Sixteen…no, seventeen, left…eighty-three right…or eighty-five? ”Damn!”   Evidently, MaryAnne's police training had taught her something about combination locks, and it was taking Brian a long time to crack this one. Cursing under his breath, he wiped his sweating hands on his black jeans and tried again.

MaryAnne walked into the house and quietly closed the door. She tossed her deputy's hat on the couch in the living room and then headed for the stairs. As she walked up she pulled her tie off and gingerly folded the black material up. She took two steps towards her room when she heard the sound of her gun safe dial being spun. Quietly she continued to the door and watched Brian trying to carefully listen for the clicks.  "The day you break that combo is the day I turn in my badge."

Brian froze, his right hand still on the black dial. He shut his eyes and sighed. "Didn't hear you come home, Deputy."

"Of course not. You were busy, I see." She stepped into the room. "Then again, even if you had opened that safe, the only thing you'd find would be my father's old service revolver from World War II. Which don't work."

Brian turned away from the safe and looked in MaryAnne's direction, though he avoided her snapping blue eyes. "I 'spose I'd better cease and desist, then."

"Good idea." MaryAnne dropped her tie on the end of her bed. "Now, you mind tellin' me why you were trying to break into that safe?"

"Just stayin' in practice."

MaryAnne wasn't buying it. "Strike one. Try again."

"I need a gun," Brian said quietly.

"What fer? So you can accept whatever ultimatum was offered to you by that slimy FBI agent?"

Brian's poker face was second too late. "No, so I can return to my life of crime. I gotta career to consider."

MaryAnne regarded Brian for a moment and then started to chuckle. "You’re funny," she said. She then stopped laughing and looked at Brian deadly serious. "Yer also lying."

Brian debated telling MaryAnne everything. But with her headstrong ways, she was almost too gutsy for her own good. Telling her the truth could get her killed. "Think what you want, cousin," he said and walked around her, heading through the door.

"You know I will!" MaryAnne called back. She didn't bother to go after him. His admissions, or lack thereof, were enough for her to believe that he'd been offered something to prevent him from testifying. She turned and closed the door loudly and then proceeded to change from her uniform to her waitress clothes. In the course of changing, she noticed the scars on her hip and upper leg. The shorts hid the ones on her hip, the nylons made the ones on her upper leg barely visible, but they were still there.

And they would always be there…and she couldn't help but wonder if more would be added before things were over with.

MaryAnne fumbled with her high heeled sandals and then grabbed her purse and left the room.   Her heels tapped down the stairs, but she compensated for the otherwise-gentle exit by slamming the front door.

From his bedroom window, Brian watched MaryAnne leave. The blue Firebird spit some gravel as it left the driveway, another small display of his cousin’s temper. Brian stared out the window long after the taillights were gone, trying to make an impossible decision.

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

MaryAnne drove into the parking lot of the Boar's Nest, which was pretty much deserted at this time. The only vehicles present were Daisy's Jeep and Boss's Caddy. Each day, Boss had the Nest close down for an hour so that she and Daisy could get things wrapped up from the afternoon crowd and prepare for the evening ruckus.

MaryAnne walked in and could hear Boss clicking away on an adding machine in his office. She glanced towards the open office door and saw him working intently at the numbers. She smiled, realizing she had missed the sight and walked over to the bar to put her purse behind it.

"Hi, Daisy," she said. MaryAnne actually was cautious as she spoke to the female Duke, thinking that Daisy wouldn't be very friendly now.

"Hey, there! Welcome back." Daisy surprised MaryAnne by giving the young Coltrane a hug.   "Thanks, Daisy,”  MaryAnne answered.  She still couldn’t help but feel cautious towards Daisy. Surely, Daisy would approach her about Brian staying in Hazzard at some point in the evening.  And Daisy ain’t gonna be the only one bothered by that thought…

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

After a long hour of indecision, Brian left his room and headed downstairs. He roamed the Coltrane house, which was slowly starting to feel like home to him.  Pictures of MaryAnne, Rosco, Flash and Bandit adorned the walls. A harsh-looking photo of an elderly woman was above the fireplace mantle, the description in the frame simply reading "Momma Coltrane." Despite her sour expression, the photograph made Brian smile.

His curiosity aroused, Brian rummaged around until he found some old photo albums. He sat down on the floor with the picture books in his lap, studying everything with keen interest.  Black-and-white photos of Rosco's childhood made him grin, particularly the shot of a five-year-old Rosco with a toy Sheriff's badge and a cowboy hat. Pages later, there were photos of a little girl with long brown hair, sitting on Rosco's knee. The little girl's head was completely hidden by the black Stetson hat she had apparently 'borrowed' from her older cousin.  If there was a word to describe her expression, it probably would have been “Khee.”

Another picture followed, showing a family gathering. If the photo was any indication, the Coltrane family had never been especially large nor prosperous. Brian scanned the faces in the picture, and found Rosco standing shoulder to shoulder with two other men. One of them seemed to be MaryAnne's father; he was tall, strong and honest looking, and he held the little girl with undisguised pride. The other man next to Rosco was also tall and broad-shouldered, but he had a thin-lipped expression and dark, haunted eyes.  His face spared no smile for the camera.

Brian recognized him immediately. He suddenly had no further interest in looking at family photos, and he carefully put the books back where he'd found them. Grabbing his black jacket, he left the house.

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

In the shadows of the trees across the field from the Boar's Nest, Special Agent Nellis looked towards the establishment, waiting.

"You really think that washed-out hitman will take our offer?" one of the other two agents asked.

"Of course he'll take it. He has no choice. However, if he has any doubts, he'll be getting a clear message shortly."

Inside the Boar's Nest, MaryAnne and Daisy were busy closing up the bar. MaryAnne locked the door and started to put the chairs up while Daisy took the money from the register to count up the evening’s receipts.  

MaryAnne wiped down each table first before putting a chair up. Occasionally she stepped on scattered popcorn or a pretzel here and there. Somehow, the routine of crunchy, discarded food breaking under her shoes felt pretty good.

"It was good to see you back in the swing of things, MaryAnne," Daisy said as her pencil scratched away on the tally sheet.

MaryAnne gave a contented sigh. "Yeah, it feels alright to be back."

"You haven't thought of...what happened?"

MaryAnne put another chair up. "Yeah, I have...but that's only natural."

"Does it bother you?"

MaryAnne paused in thought. "A little bit. But I remind myself that if I hadn't been shot here...I wouldn't be working here right now." She looked at Daisy. "Daisy, I understand if you don't believe Brian, or trust that what he said at the courthouse was true.  But I'm determined to turn him right. Whether or not I succeed tho', depends more on him than me. He has to want it. If he doesn't want it, then there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it."

"MaryAnne, I don't blame you for wanting to help your kin. I've wondered a lot today of what it would be like if the roles were reversed. If a unknown Duke cousin who was on the way wrong side of law suddenly showed up in Hazzard." She shook her head. "Then I find myself getting really confused and I stop."

MaryAnne chuckled. "Well that's about the gist of it."

The two women continued their closing chores. Boss came out of his office, puffing away on his cigar.  "Goodnight, ladies," he said. "MaryAnne, it's great to see ya back again."

"Thanks, Boss."

Daisy put her hand on her hip. "You gonna tell MaryAnne how not having her here was like listening to the radio for some customers?" 

"Listening to the radio?" MaryAnne said.

"Nothing to look at," Boss said with a smile.

MaryAnne giggled. "Good night, Boss!" 

When the white Cadillac had left the Boar's Nest parking lot and only two vehicles remained, Nellis and his two partners moved in closer. They waited on the far corner of the building, near Boss's office and on the side that the Firebird was parked.  "Goodnight, MaryAnne," Daisy said as they came out the front door. The two women dispersed for their vehicles. 

"'Night, Daisy. See ya tomorrow."

"You bet!" The Jeep CJ roared to life and Daisy was soon tearing out of the parking lot.

MaryAnne was still fumbling for her key. "That's what I oughta do, Maverick. Take yer T-top AND yer doors off." Just as she got the key in the lock, she was suddenly hit from behind.

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

When MaryAnne came to, she was on the ground sitting in the glare of a car's headlights. She squinted, looked off towards the side and determined that she was in an old barn, and that it was Maverick's own high beams that were blinding her. "Alright, what the heck is this?"

"A quick lesson in common sense," a man's voice answered. A familiar sounding voice, but MaryAnne couldn't quite place it.  "Your cousin Brian doesn't belong here with you and Rosco," the man continued. "He's a criminal...a TALENTED criminal. He has no place staying with two country bumpkin law officers such as yourselves. You're a fool to think you can 'reform' him. You should just leave him alone, forget he's even related to you and let him go."

"There's one small flaw with that,” MaryAnne shot back. "We 'let him go' and we get in big trouble with the DA in Atlanta.  I don't know if you've ever met him, but he's not very nice. I'd prefer not to be in trouble with him."

"You may already be in trouble with him," the man snickered. "He knows of Rosco's 'questionable' acts as Sheriff.  If he finds some time, he may just pursue the removal of your cousin from his elected office, and take that nice shiny badge right off his shirt."

MaryAnne snorted. "I think the DA is more interested in finding bigger fish to fry. Like...questionable agents of the FBI perhaps?"

"With the right amount of persuasion, the DA could decide that a crooked country Sheriff is well worth his time..." the man trailed off, letting MaryAnne chew his statement over. "At this time, however, I'm only interested in your cousin Brian - and I'm going to use you to send him a message."

"What makes you think he'll listen to me?"

"Oh, you don't need to tell him anything…other than if he doesn't want to see you worse off than you're gonna be, he should accept the opportunity that has been presented to him. As much as it’s a waste of time for him to care about you and Rosco, he'll listen to this message."

With that, MaryAnne suddenly had rough hands grabbing at her and pulling her up from the dirt floor.  "What--wait a second--"

"I normally don't condone beating up on a woman...but your other cousin didn't offer much of a challenge." 

MaryAnne soon found herself on the receiving end of a couple of punches, jabs, slaps and all around rough housing. At least they were nice enough to avoid her old wounds on her hip and leg. When they finished with her, they let her drop to the dirt and they walked to Maverick's front end. Swift kicks took out the four square headlights and the old barn was suffocated with blackness.

Nellis flicked a folded hundred dollar bill into the Firebird as he walked out of the barn. A token of his appreciation, seeing as MaryAnne had been such a good sport. He and his men returned to their cars and drove away without another thought of what they had just done.

MaryAnne crawled to the front of Maverick and touched her fingers to the hot and broken headlamps. "Aww, Maverick...look what they did to us..." She paused, touching the back of her hand to the edge of her lip, feeling for sure it was split. "Wonderful..." she muttered as she staggered to her feet, leaning on the Firebird's hood for a moment. She then felt along the fender of the car to the door. Once inside the car, she found her CB mike and picked it up.  "Rosco...ya got yer ears on?"

At the house, Rosco walked across the living room to the CB radio.  "Right here, MaryAnne. Where the heck are you? I expected you home fifteen minutes ago...”

"Yeah, well, I got held up a bit. Me and Maverick just got the petunias kicked out of us."

Rosco caught MaryAnne's distressed voice and paused. He knew she wasn't talkin' about bein' beat at a race.  "Where are you?"

"To be honest, I don't know. I'm gonna attempt to drive Maverick outta here. They kicked out his headlights."

"Alright, but I'm coming out to find ya and give ya an escort. Are ya hurt bad?"

"Eh, bad enough. I'll tell ya about it when I see ya. I'm gone."

"Okay. Ten-four." Rosco put the mike down and grabbed his hat as he headed to the door.

Once she figured out where she was, MaryAnne managed to make it as far as the Boar's Nest. Without headlights, the road before her was a virtual black pit and Maverick's parking lights didn't do much to light the way.  Plus, she wasn't feeling particularly kipper after her fight.  She brought her Firebird to a stop in front of the double doors and picked up her CB mike. "Rosco, I'm at the Boar's Nest."

"Hang on, I'm just about there."

After a couple of moments, MaryAnne saw the headlights come in off the road. The patrol car came to a stop beside the Firebird and Rosco got out.   MaryAnne opened the door, so Rosco could see her with the dome light.

"What happened?" he asked as he kneeled down between the open door and MaryAnne.

"I was given a message to give to Brian. If he doesn't accept the proposition these dudes gave him, you and I could end up in worse condition than I am right now."

Rosco sighed. "Dang it..."

"It had to be those "FBI" agents. The ones that talked to Brian earlier."

"Didja get a good look at 'em?"

"No. All I could see was Maverick's pearly whites. The guy that did most of the talking sounded familiar tho'...I think it was that Nellis fella, or whatever his name was."  MaryAnne paused and let her head roll to the side. Rosco reached in and gently grabbed his cousin.

"Sweetheart, how bad did they hit you?"

"They hit me. It's not how bad they hit, just the fact that they hit!"

"Come on," he said. "I'm gonna take ya to the hospital, I wanna make sure you're okay." He tugged on her arm and MaryAnne moved to get out of her car. Rosco assisted her and closed the door once she was out. Leaning against her older cousin, she walked to the passenger side of the patrol car.  "Maverick will be alright here," Rosco said. "I'll either call Cooter or I'll bring Enos out here later to get him."

"Okay..."  Once MaryAnne was settled in, Rosco closed the door and ran back around to the driver side.  The Plymouth then disappeared into the night.

Chapter Three