Chapter Three

Brian returned home to find the house dark and his cousins gone. "MaryAnne? Rosco?"

The dogs answered for them, as Flash and Bandit barked and growled their warnings. The dogs were upset, at something more than just Brian's presence. He was starting to get a bad feeling about the too-quiet house. Suddenly the CB in the living room crackled with a broadcast from Rosco to Cooter. Brian listened to it carefully. The Sheriff's voice was tight and controlled, the usual drawl absent. Brian recognized the tone.

Something had happened to MaryAnne. Something that Rosco didn't want broadcast over the air.  And whatever it was, the Sheriff wasn’t calling it an accident.

Brian looked at the pictures on the fireplace mantle, and saw the images of Rosco and MaryAnne smiling back at him.  The decision was made. There was no real choice. In his heart, he wanted to do what was right, and testify. Yet he couldn't do that if it meant that his family would be at risk. And what guarantee do I got that they’ll be safe once I’m gone, anyway? Damn, I wish I'd never come to Hazzard. With that thought, Brian ran upstairs to gather his things.

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

At the hospital, Rosco stood in the hallway just outside the emergency room with the phone to his ear. He listened as the home telephone rang...and rang...

Brian, meanwhile, came down the stairs with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. The dogs were barking their heads off, both at him and the ringing phone. He hesitated, letting it ring a few more times. If it stopped, he wouldn't have to answer it…but finally he couldn't help himself. What if it's about MaryAnne? He grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"

"Brian, it's Rosco. Listen, MaryAnne and I are gonna be a little late gettin' home..."

Brian heard the hesitancy in Rosco's voice, noted the deliberate lack of detail. "Why? What happened?"

Rosco paused in debate. He'll know I'm lying.... but if I tell him what really happened he'll think that if he leaves everything will be okay, and it won't. Rosco decided hiding it from Brian wouldn't have succeeded much.  "Your special visitors from earlier today beat her up," he said softly. "If you leave that house, I swear I'll...."

There was a long pause before Brian said anything. "How bad is she hurt?"

Rosco sighed. "She's hurtin'...but she's gonna be alright. They slapped her around a couple times, tellin' her that if you didn't accept their 'opportunity' they would put her in worse condition than she is now. Brian, taking their offer isn't going to make things better, nor is it necessarily gonna keep ALL of us alive. If you run, the DA throws me and MaryAnne in the clink for 'letting you escape' and when they catch you, you might be lucky to have your jail cell next to mine."

"Just watch your back, Sheriff.... and MaryAnne's too. Tell her...ah, hell." There was a click, then a dial tone as Brian slowly hung up the phone. He adjusted the black duffel bag on his shoulder, turned off the lights, and walked out the front door. He locked it carefully, his hand resting on the doorknob for a moment longer. This had almost been his home. Then he turned away and headed out on foot, intent on a private mission.

"Brian?" Once Rosco heard the dial tone, he slammed the phone on it's cradle. "Dammit..." He closed his eyes, took a deep breath trying to keep his fury to a minimum. He then turned away from the phone and walked to the emergency room.

MaryAnne looked up when Rosco walked in. "Did you get a hold of Brian?"

"Oh yeah...he hung up on me when I told him what happened and that he shouldn't take the offer." Rosco paused. "I think he's gonna take it, despite my tellin' him that taking it wasn't necessarily gonna keep you an' me safe!"

"Great," MaryAnne muttered. "That's just great, Rosco. Absolutely wonderful. I hope he has a nice life."  MaryAnne paused. Real families stick together, Brian, you idiot. "Now what the hell am I supposed to do with that damn Impala?"

"If the DA finds out Brian's gone..."

MaryAnne looked at her cousin. "You and I go bye-bye."

Rosco grabbed a nearby chair and sat down. "Do you think he'd believe us if we told him that some rogue FBI agents made Brian the offer?"

MaryAnne sighed. "Maybe. That's all we've got...and that ain't much."

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

As Brian made his way through Hazzard's town square, he made sure to stay in sight of the grey sedan that was pretending not to follow.  His mind poured over the problems at hand, and presented solutions that he didn't particularly like. But old habits, and old thinking, died hard. Brian ran up the courthouse steps and burst into the booking room, startling Enos. He brushed by the surprised Deputy, heading for a storage room in the back.

"Wha--Brian? Hey! HEY!" Enos spun around to see the erstwhile Coltrane barreling to an off-limits area. "What are you doin'?"

Brian didn’t answer. He found the storeroom unlocked, and started checking drawers and boxes until he'd found what he was looking for. Spare revolvers, police issue.

Enos watched from the door, stunned. Was he taking them?? Whatever for?? "Brian, thems police issue guns, you can't take those!"

"I got no choice, Deputy Strate. Stay outta my way."

"Why are you doing this? Rosco and MaryAnne---"

"Are gonna get killed if I stick around here. I just wanna defend myself, Deputy, I hope it ain't too much to ask." Brian selected a gun, spun the chamber, and nodded in satisfaction. He tucked it into his jacket, and grabbed a box of bullets.

"But that gun...if somebody gets hurt or killed, and you disappear but the gun gets left behind...they trace it right back to here and the Sheriff...." Enos hesitated. "Somebody might not believe you stole it, even if I report it..."

The thought froze Brian. He glanced at Enos in surprise. "You're smarter than ya look.”  Damn, he's right, I could be playing right into their hands! But what choice do I got?

Enos studied the fugitive Coltrane for a moment. "Why are Sheriff Rosco and MaryAnne at risk if you stay here?"

"Because some folks got a vested interest in me not testifyin'. I got me one of those offers you can't refuse...and MaryAnne's already paid enough." After a moment's hesitation, Brian shook out a few bullets from the box, and took the gun out of his pocket. He loaded it, right in front of Enos.

"MaryAnne...? What happened?" Enos had no idea, having not heard any of the CB transmissions.

"Ask Rosco," Brian suggested as he moved by Enos and headed out the door.

"Brian!" Enos ran out after him. "I can't let you take that gun!"

"Too late!" Brian ran for it, hitting the double doors to the Sheriff's station at full tilt, making them swing open so hard that they hit the wall with a bang. He tore down the courthouse steps and ran across the street, cutting in front of the parked grey sedan as he ran for cover.

Enos ran down the steps but came to a stop when Brian faded with the darkness of the street. "Ding dang it, Brian..." he sighed. He glanced at the grey sedan and briefly made eye contact with the passenger who could be seen in the light from the courthouse. Enos didn't like the look.  He tried to figure out why as he turned around back up the steps.

"Looks like our boy's following the program," Agent Nellis said to his partner. "Let's move." The grey sedan jerked into gear and headed towards Brian's direction.

Brian heard the engine and felt the headlights sweep across his back. He dove for the bushes and rolled out of view, then froze and remained motionless on the ground. Go, he wished silently to the grey car.

"Don't lose 'em!" Agent Nellis barked. His partner swerved the grey sedan around the corners of Hazzard square, but was soon frustrated. "There's no telling where he's gone off to. Nellis, why didn't we just stage an accident with this guy when we had the chance?"

"Because the D.A. would figure we had something to do with it," Nellis growled. "It would look damn suspicious if something happened to the star witness here in Hazzard. Now if that same star witness cuts and runs, it ain't OUR fault if he gets nailed somewhere across the border. Right?" Nellis smiled wickedly. His partner, Agent Murphy, gave an answering grin.  "And what about the Hazzard law?"

"The Commander's taking care of that. Just drive, Murphy. We need to make sure that Syndicate pigeon gets on his way."

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

After an hour, MaryAnne was released from the hospital. During the drive home, Rosco checked in with Enos and was asked to come to the courthouse immediately.  "What's wrong, Enos?"

"Please, Sheriff, just come on by. I'll explain when you get here."

"Hit it, Rosco," MaryAnne said. Rosco didn't even bother with a 'ten-four' and he pointed the patrol car to town.   When they came into the booking room some twenty minutes later, Enos was putting the finishing touches on his stolen weapon report.

"What is it, Enos?" Rosco asked.

Enos stood up from the booking desk and stepped down closer to the Sheriff and his fellow Deputy. "Brian was here," he said. "He took one of the spare guns." Enos handed his report to Rosco.

MaryAnne read over Rosco's arm and then looked at Enos. "Oh isn't that great..."

"I'm sorry y'all, I tried to get him to stop...."

"It's alright, Enos," Rosco said softly. He dropped his hand that held the report to his side and sighed.  The deputy looked uncomfortable.  "Do you want me to send out this report?"

Rosco looked at MaryAnne. She nodded.  "Go ahead."

Enos paused. "Sheriff...Brian said something about folks not wanting him to testify...and that MaryAnne here had already paid enough..."

"Somebody made him an offer that if he didn't testify, no harm would come to me or Rosco," MaryAnne answered.  "To make a point, a couple of guys hit me a few times." She gestured to the bruise on her face. "Rosco and I figure Brian's took off. Which doesn't leave us any better off than before. Now we can all get charged for allowing him to escape."

"What are y’all gonna do?"

MaryAnne shrugged. "Pray. A lot."

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

A few minutes later, Rosco and MaryAnne sat in silence in the patrol car outside the courthouse.  "What are we gonna do besides pray?”  Rosco asked.

MaryAnne thought about it. "I'm not sure.  But I do know that first thing tomorrow we're calling Agent Mayson. I sure as hell ain't talkin' to the DA."

"Then what?"

MaryAnne shrugged. "I dunno, maybe the Syndicate would be interested in a couple of rogue cops?"

"Huh?" Rosco was startled. "You don't mean...follow Brian?"

MaryAnne shook her head. "We don't know where he is. Wouldn't work if we did."

"What about them agents?"

"They'd know we were shuckin' and jivin' in a heartbeat."

"Then why'd you suggest it?"

"Because it sounded better than saying 'we can have Enos take our damn mugshots now, and save the government a coupla bucks!'"

Rosco fell silent. The quiet that hung in the car was deafening. "We're really in trouble this time ain't we?" he asked softly.

MaryAnne snorted and nodded. "Oh yeah...You an' I are gonna lose our badges that's for sure. We've probably lost our kin, now we're gonna lose our badges. Dang it...."

"You mean I'm gonna lose my badge," Rosco said. MaryAnne looked at him in time to see his eyes go distant. "The DA would have field day with me..."

"With both of us."

"Me!" He looked at her. "Dammit, MaryAnne, he ain't gonna bother with you!" He stopped short and then bit his lip.  "You ain't a....crooked lawman," he whispered.

"I'm pretty damn close right now." MaryAnne suddenly reached out and grabbed his arm. "Rosco, listen to me. Maybe there's a way out of all this mess, but until we can figure something, we have to face the reality! That being that you an' I are gonna be without badges and quite possibly in jail!"

"Unless we figure out something," he echoed, and then a mischievous smile came to his face. "Come on, MaryAnne, I know you can figure some kind of idea. You have before."

MaryAnne sighed. "I know...I just hope I haven't run outta ideas."

Rosco held her hand. "I believe in ya, sweetheart."

MaryAnne looked at her cousin and smiled. "Thanks. And the same goes for me too."

Rosco smiled. He then took a deep breath, started the patrol car and headed for home.

As Rosco and MaryAnne pulled the squad into the driveway, Agents Nellis and Murphy watched from across the street. Nellis picked up his CB and radioed his report. "Nellis to headquarters, we've got two pigeons in the roost, repeat, two pigeons in the roost." A burst of static crackled from the receiver.

"Copy that, Agent Nellis. What's the 20 on bird number three?"

"Unconfirmed, but appears to have flown."

A pause came from the CB as the Commander made a decision. "You can obtain confirmation by approaching the roost. Make a strike."

"I didn't copy that, Commander, you said make a strike?" Nellis was surprised by the order.


"Ten-four," Nellis said and hung up the mike. He looked at Murphy. "You heard the man. Let's get this over with."

"But...they're cops!" Murphy's face was white.

"That didn't stop the Syndicate," Nellis answered. "And it's not going to stop us." He got out of the car, and his partner followed. They crossed the street and walked directly up to the front door of the Coltrane residence, as if simply there on routine business. Nellis knocked at the door and waited, one hand within the folds of his sport coat. "Not on the street," he whispered to Murphy. "Wait until we’re inside.  And relax, we got silencers, remember?"

Inside the house, Rosco and MaryAnne were sitting at the kitchen table.   They both looked at each other when the unexpected knock was heard at the door. 

Rosco frowned. "Who'd be here at this hour?"

MaryAnne shook her head. "I dunno..." She walked out of the kitchen with Rosco right behind her. Bandit and Flash were on their feet, watching from the living room. Even the dogs found it odd for a knock at the door at such a late hour, and they growled softly.

MaryAnne stepped to the door as Rosco snuck a peak out the side window. In the glow of the old yellow porch light bulb, he could make out two men standing in suit jackets. He looked at MaryAnne.  "I don't like it," he said. "I think it's them agents from earlier today."

Another knock came and Rosco withdrew his pearl handled pistol. MaryAnne, still in her waitress outfit, was unarmed. Rosco gave a nod and MaryAnne slowly opened the door, just enough to poke her head out.  "Good evenin' gentlemen," she said. "Can I help you?"

Agent Nellis smiled. "Sorry to disturb you and the Sheriff at this late hour, but we have some affidavits we need you to review. May we come in?"

MaryAnne made a face. "I must apologize, I've had a really rough day. Can it wait 'til the morning?"

"I'm afraid not. We have to be on our way to Atlanta immediately after this. It'll only take a minute."

"Lemme see 'em."  MaryAnne did not open the door any further.

"Certainly." Nellis pulled out a folded document and handed it to MaryAnne.  She took it cautiously.  "Excuse me for a moment." She closed the door and quickly looked at the papers.

"They legit?" Rosco asked.

"Yeah..." She quickly skimmed through the opaque legalities. "But they're not anything very important. Certainly nothing requiring our review right now…or at all." She opened the door again and passed the document back to Nellis. "Everything appears to be all in order, as I would expect from fine FBI agents as yourselves."

Nellis kept his smile as he put the document away and smoothly drew his muzzled pistol. "You're a good cop, miss Coltrane. You sensed danger, didn't you. Now step back inside."

MaryAnne eyed the gun and had no choice but to slowly step back and open the door.

Nellis and Murphy took a step foward, then a loud click sounded somewhere behind them. It was an ominous sound, and it froze the agents in their tracks. "Murphy, check it out," Nellis said in a hushed order, keeping his eyes on MaryAnne. Murphy turned around nervously. In the darkness, he could see nothing beyond the small front porch.

MaryAnne kept her gaze on Nellis, her heart pounding in her chest. The darkened living room was to her right and out of the corner of her eye, she could see Rosco crouched in the shadows of the window and chair. Bandit let out a loud growl.

"Go!" Nellis hissed to Murphy, who was hesitating at the edge of the porch. Murphy stepped down into the lawn and cautiously searched the perimeter of the Coltrane property, his gun extended in front of him. A rustling came from the brush a few feet away. "It's probably just some raccoon or possum," Murphy called back to Nellis.

"Hurry up and make sure!" Nellis growled. Murphy took a few steps forward, until he was standing near the brush, barely visible in the faded yellow glow of the porch light. Then he suddenly froze as if he’d turned to stone.  Nellis noticed this and didn't like it. "Murphy, what is it?"

Murphy didn't answer. His only motion was the drop of his weapon, and the slow raising of his arms.

Nellis knew what it meant. He wasted no time in diving inside the house, his own gun still pointed at MaryAnne.

The big German shepherd reacted. MaryAnne lunged to the floor as the dog leaped onto Nellis, claws and teeth tearing at the sleeve of suit jacket, on the arm that held the weapon. Rosco quickly stepped out of the shadows to assist Bandit.  The German Shepherd was snarling and growling savagely as he tried to force Nellis to let go of the gun.  Within seconds, the sleeve of the suit coat was nothing more than tattered ribbons.

Nellis dropped his gun, but Bandit didn't let go. Swearing, Nellis rolled and struggled with the enraged animal, determined to reach his weapon if he got the chance.

Flash trotted over to the gun and stood over it barking at Nellis, until MaryAnne crawled over and took it. She got to her feet and aimed the gun at the agent.  "Stop, Bandit! Stop!"

Panting and baring his teeth, the dog obeyed, and Rosco grabbed Bandit's collar with one hand, and pointed his gun at the agent with the other.

"Good job, Bandit," Rosco said, bending on one knee and putting his arm around the dog. He then glared at Agent Nellis. "Alright, you just hold it right there."

Nellis moved slowly, rising from the floor and straightening his suit. Despite the loss of his weapon and the tangle with the dog, he seemed strangely unruffled. "You won't use that weapon," he said factually. "You're just honest enough not to shoot somebody in cold blood. Especially a Federal Agent." Nellis adjusted his tie and smoothed out his hair.

Rosco grinned. "I don't need to use this weapon, I'll just let Bandit tear ya apart."

"I don't think anybody in the FBI would miss you anyways," MaryAnne added as she stepped towards the front door.  She kept her gun trained on Nellis and then glanced out to see Murphy still standing with his arms raised.  As MaryAnne watched, someone came out from the seclusion of the brush, with a gun trained on the surrendering agent. The dark clothing of the gunman blended him in with the night, his form almost indistinct.

"Send the other one out here!" he called to MaryAnne, his familiar voice sounding sharp and loud in the stillness of the night.

MaryAnne turned around and grabbed Nellis' arm. "Come on, time to take out the trash." She pushed him out the door and onto the porch, poking his own gun into his back.

As the gunman guided Murphy back towards the house, the glow of the porch light revealed Brian's face. His expression was cold fury. "Leave that other one out here, shut the door, and turn off the porch light," he told MaryAnne. "I'll take care of this."

MaryAnne's stomach turned. I don’t think I like the sound of that.... "Brian, don't do something that's gonna make the situation, look, we've caught these two, all we gotta do is put 'em on ice for awhile."

"Cousin, this here's a problem that can't be solved with the law," Brian answered. He put the barrel of his gun under Murphy's chin, who was visibly shaking. "See, these two were just ferrets to flush us out. Messengers. Gophers. They were expendable by whoever sent 'em. Know why?" Brian said as he jabbed the gun in harder. "Because if they don't live to report back, the Syndicate's buddies will know that I probably didn't leave town. And if they do report back, the Syndicate's buddies will know that I did leave town."

"He has a point, MaryAnne," Rosco said as he came out of the house. MaryAnne turned her head to face her older cousin, her mouth dropped in shock. She was about to protest when she saw Rosco wink. The Sheriff then stepped off the porch and looked at the two agents. "Which raises the question. Who sent you two...and why?"

Murphy made a small squeak as Brian's gun jabbed at him again, but Nellis silenced his distressed partner with a look. Then Nellis faced the Hazzard County Sheriff. "I think you know the answer to that. And let me assure you and your bloodthirsty cousin, that if Murphy and I don't report back, then our associates will wipe your little town off the map."

"Oh really?" Rosco chuckled. "Are your associates aware that me and my 'bloodthirsty cousin' and my other fair cousin there, helped smash the Atlanta Syndicate?"

"That's right," MaryAnne added, deciding she better go with the flow. "We made somebody awfully mad didn't we?"  She poked the gun into Nellis' back. "Now why don't you answer the Sheriff's question?"

"They ain’t gonna talk," Brian said. "I don't want you and MaryAnne to see this, Rosco. Take her and get in the house. I'll get rid of the bodies." Brian then tilted his head in curiosity. "Cousins, y'all got a chainsaw?"

"WAIT! WAIT! " Murphy screamed. "I'll tell ya anything ya wanna know!! ANYTHING!! For God's sake! "

Rosco perked up. "Ooh!" He stepped closer to the squealing federal agent. "Awright, who sent you here?"

Nellis would have shushed Murphy, but the terrified agent was beyond his influence. “The head of the Atlanta Bureau! Our commander!"

"Commander Turner??"

"Yeah," Murphy said with a gasp, his breathing made difficult by the gun barrel in his throat.

 "Why did he send you? Why did you try to get Brian here to cut and run?"

 "Trap," Murphy choked out. Brian pulled the gun back slightly so that the agent could continue.  "They were gonna-"

Murphy' eyes went wide with sudden pain at the same time that Nellis lunged at him. MaryAnne pulled Nellis away from Murphy, but the small knife which Nellis had concealed up his sleeve, had already found it's mark. Brian caught Murphy as the agent swooned and fell, easing him gently to the ground. He felt for a pulse as MaryAnne and Rosco held a struggling Agent Nellis.

The weak beat under Brian's fingertips slowed, then stopped as a rasping shudder took Agent Murphy.  Brian shut his dark eyes briefly in regret, and then looked up at MaryAnne in apology. "He's gone," he said quietly.

MaryAnne's eyes flared in anger. She grabbed Rosco's handcuffs off his belt and proceeded to place them on Nellis, yanking his arms hard behind his back.

Rosco looked at Nellis in shock. The Sheriff then looked at the dead FBI agent laying in his front yard and then at his two cousins. Murphy’s last words were still sounding in his ears. A trap??

MaryAnne pushed Nellis towards the patrol car, her own fury barely held in check. 

Brian stood up from Murphy's body, unnerved. He hadn't expected Nellis to kill his own partner, especially in front of three witnesses, two of them cops. But the act was within the bizarre code of honor that the Syndicate and it's allies held dear. A code of honor that Brian himself had once subscribed to. He felt suddenly ill and turned away.

MaryAnne shoved Nellis into the back of the patrol car and slammed the door. She turned back to Rosco and Brian, looking for some kind of answer, or for one of them to say that it was all a joke. The young Deputy was shaking.

At the slam of the car door, Brian looked over at MaryAnne, and saw the fear and rage in his cousin’s sapphire-blue eyes. This is what we're up against, she seemed to be thinking. Brian swallowed and ran a trembling hand through his brown hair. "I didn't see that comin'," he said to his cousins. "I wasn't gonna hurt either of 'em, I was just bluffin'..." he then felt a hand on his shoulder. Rosco said nothing, but with a silent touch, spoke without blame.

MaryAnne stepped towards her cousins. Her eyes were downcast as her face contorted in desperate thought. Despite her shock and anxiety, she was able to take a moment to assess the situation.  "We're lockin' that one up," she said, jerking her thumb to the occupant of the patrol car. "And we gotta git this other one outta here."  She paused. "God dammit it all...."

"Trap," Rosco said aloud. He looked at Brian. "Whatever it was they offered you, my guess is you weren't gonna git it."

Brian took a breath. "Maybe not," he said softly. "But now there's a dead FBI agent in your lawn, and there's another one that's gonna be in jail...and somehow, I think any report you make to Atlanta is gonna get turned around...." Brian rubbed a hand over his exhausted eyes. "Dammit, I've still got to leave town. Hell, I think y'all better follow suit."

"I'm not running away," MaryAnne said suddenly, looking directly at her two cousins. "I ain't hangin' around to be another target...but I'm not running away either." She pointed her finger at Brian. "Rosco and I promised the DA we would deliver you to the Federal courthouse next week and that's just what I intend to do! I'm not playing by their rules's time we made our own rules."

Brian absorbed MaryAnne's words before speaking. "I agree with ya in spirit, cousin. But I can't let you risk any more than ya already have." He could see MaryAnne's bruises under the glow of the porch light, and the sight pained him.

"Need I remind you Brian, that as an officer of the law, I take risks everyday. However, the laws this officer was sworn to uphold aren't going to work in this situation." She looked at Rosco. "I think you and I are gonna have to step out of uniform...for an indefinite period of time."

Rosco took a deep breath. "You mean turn in our badges to Boss?"

MaryAnne nodded. She glanced back at the patrol car. "They're treatin' you and me like common criminals. I'm not gonna let them degrade the uniform of a Hazzard County Sheriff or deputy like that. These guys are gonna go down and they're gonna go down hard. And the only way we can do it, is to stop being law officers."

Brian was too shocked to say anything for a minute. He looked from MaryAnne to Rosco, reading the determination on their faces. But the authority of their badges, and the scant protection that those six-pointed stars afforded, wasn't something to be left behind lightly. "No," he protested finally. "I can't let y'all do that. It's bad enough that they're comin' after y'all as cops. Without your uniforms, you won't have any chance at all against 'em!"

"Are you forgettin' there's a dead FBI agent right behind you?" MaryAnne snapped. "A dead FBI agent!! Albeit a dirty cop, he's dead! His badge didn't do a damn thing for him now did it?!?" MaryAnne paused for a breath.  "I'm turning in my badge," she continued evenly. "If Rosco here decides not to, that's fine. Maybe it would be better if it was that way anyways. Then they can't accuse us of nepotism again."

Brian looked to the dead FBI agent and then back to MaryAnne. "I don't know how to tell you this," he said thickly. "But there's a difference between a criminal that's willin' to kill a cop, and a criminal that ain't.  You take off that badge, then it's open season on y'all. You make it THAT MUCH EASIER for 'em!

"God dammit!" MaryAnne yelled. She spun around away from Rosco and Brian more or less so they wouldn't see her tears of frustration. "Will somebody please tell me then what the hell we're supposed to do?!?"

"I ain't sure," Brian said resignedly. "But the only thing I can think of, is that y'all can call Atlanta and tell 'em I skipped town. Tell the D.A. I stole a gun and a car and headed outta here. That should get the attention of the Syndicate's cohorts...." Brian turned and started to walk away.

"Whoa whoa! Wait just a pea pickin' minute here!" Rosco exclaimed as MaryAnne spun around. "Brian, that's crazy!"  MaryAnne ran up to him and grabbed his arm, turning Brian to face her. "You're damn right that'll get their attention and the DA's attention too! He'll say to hell with you, and Rosco and I will be left to take the heat for you runnin’ afoul! Now look, we need some time to think and regroup. And having you take off all the time is NOT gonna help matters any!" She let go of his arm and wiped the tear off her bruised cheek.   Time for crying later; right now she had to think rapidly.

"Now the first thing we're gonna do is take that skunk to the jail house in town and lock him up. Then we're gonna box this guy up and ship him back to Atlanta. There's a third agent still roaming around somewhere, in case you've forgotten." She paused. "We use him as our messenger. Somehow we have him go back to the Syndicate's cohorts and tell them that you've taken off, that Nellis and the other guy here were going to take you out but you fought back.  This guy's body is all that was found. I tell the DA nothing...unless he asks. I can't stand the guy personally, but I told him that me and Rosco were gonna git you to court next week. And that's what we're gonna do. Do I make myself clear??"

"Yeah," Brian answered softly. "You're gonna get yerself killed, or die tryin'." A ghost of a smile drifted across his face.

MaryAnne held her gaze with her cousins, showing just how serious she was. She then chuckled. "That's what they'll think."

One raised eyebrow drifted up into Brian's bangs. "You ain't takin' no for an answer, are ya."

MaryAnne shook her head. "Nope."

"Neither am I," Rosco piped in.

"Aw, hell...." Brian sighed. "I suppose, just this once, I could listen to ya'll. Don't get used to it, though."

MaryAnne grinned. She then looked at Brian thoughtfully. "You know it's not about you listenin' to us. It's about kin stickin' together."

In response, Brian rested a hand on MaryAnne's shoulder. He didn't speak for a moment, but his dark eyes held the appreciation that he didn’t know how to voice.

MaryAnne smiled and winked. She patted his hand and then let out a long sigh. "Okay, fellas, we got a lot to do..."

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

Rosco and MaryAnne had a long talk with Enos when they brought Nellis in. They told the deputy what they knew, wrote it down on a report, but asked Enos not to share it with Atlanta. The other agent was collected from the Coltrane front lawn, boxed up and shipped to Atlanta by the time the sun came up.

Rosco and MaryAnne sat in the Sheriff's office, waiting to be connected to the DA in Atlanta.  "What are you gonna tell him?" Rosco asked.

"Half of the truth. I'm gonna tell 'em that a coupla rogue FBI agents came to Hazzard looking to make sure that Brian didn't make it to the courthouse. I’ll tell him that they tried to kill you and me but we caught them. When we confronted them about who sent them and why, one of them started to talk but was killed by his partner, right in front of us. The dead agent is on his way back to Atlanta, the other one is in jail and we have a third one still running around somewhere."

Rosco nodded.  It seemed prudent to keep it as simple as possible. "Sounds good. Think he'll believe it?"

MaryAnne shrugged. "He better. I'd rather not tell him anything at all, but we gotta explain why a dead FBI agent is coming in from Hazzard County." She stopped suddenly and adjusted the phone to her ear.

A terse voice came over the receiver. "Yes?"

"It's about time you were finally available," MaryAnne shot out first. She couldn't help it. She didn't care if he was the District Attorney big shot. "We've had a little bit of a disturbance down here in Hazzard, I thought I should let you know."


"There's a dead FBI agent heading your way. He was killed by another FBI agent and both of them were trying to kill me and Rosco."

"WHAT ?!"

"Just what I told ya. These two agents, and another agent, first beat the hell outta me, kicked out the headlights on my car tellin' me that if Brian didn't take their offer, Rosco and I would pay. THEN not even TWO HOURS later, they come out to my house and home with guns drawn! Rosco, Brian and I were able to outflank them.  When we asked them who and why they were sent, the now-dead agent started to talk. His partner wiggled his way free from me and Rosco long enough to slip a knife into him, shuttin' him up!"

The D.A. kept his voice under control, with some effort. "What offer?"

"I'm assuming an offer of money or a free trip outta the country in exchange for Brian not testifying. I don't know the details. All I know is that I saw a man get killed last night, Mr. District Attorney. I have not gotten any sleep in the past 24 hours and to be perfectly honest that makes me really mad."

"You're not the only one." The D.A.'s speech was clear and crisp. "Deputy, the incarcerated agent falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI. You'll be required to release him to the custody of another agent...." the D.A. paused to let MaryAnne absorb this.

"Councilor, there is a third agent still at large here in Hazzard somewhere. I'm not to particular on releasing the incarcerated agent to him because they’re in cahoots! You could very well end up with a dead Sheriff, dead deputy and dead government witness. If the FBI wants this guy, Agent Mayson can come and pick ‘em up.  I trust very few people right now, councilor. Mayson's the only one Rosco and I are gonna release this agent to, and considerin' recent events I would hope that you would honor that. Otherwise, the agent stays right here, screw what the FBI says!"

"I understand your reservations, Deputy. I'll contact Agent Mayson immediately. However, I must tell you that it's disconcerting, not to mention more than coincidental, to have a dead body in the same whereabouts as Brian Coltrane. For the safety of all concerned, I'm going to have the State Police transport him back to Atlanta."

"Nope! You put Brian in Rosco and mine's custody and that's where he's gonna stay. You didn't hear a word I said did you? The Fed we have sittin' in our jail right now killed this other agent! Not Brian! To be perfectly honest, I don't believe Brian's any safer in Atlanta than he is here. I mean, who's to say these 'other' federal agents aren't gonna try to dupe the State Police?" MaryAnne paused. "Councilor, I don't take you to be very big on shuckin' and jivin', but let me remind you that Rosco and I told you that we would deliver Brian to the federal courthouse next week, and we will. And we'll do it how ever we have to."

"Deputy, the death of a federal agent is no small affair. Even if I allowed you to retain custody of the witness, there's a high possibility that the FBI would demand to have Brian under their custody. It would be in your best interest, and his, to cooperate with his transfer back to Atlanta."

"If the FBI requested custody of Brian, it would be so they could prevent him from testifying. Councilor, you understand what's happening here don't you?" MaryAnne paused and suddenly remember something. "Would it make a difference if I told you that the dead agent did manage to tell us who had sent him and his two buddies here to Hazzard?"

"It would...if you had proof to back it up," the D.A. said calmly.

"I got three witnesses who heard this agent speak." MaryAnne said. "But even I know that's not good enough. Someone very high up with in the Atlanta bureau of the FBI gave the order for these men to come to Hazzard. Based on that alone, Councilor, Brian stays here. Period."

The D.A.'s calm eroded. "Those three witnesses wouldn't be your two cousins and yourself, by any chance, would it? Deputy, I'm trying to be fair...especially considering that Deputy Strate submitted a report of a stolen gun to Atlanta just a couple hours ago. Would you know anything about that incident, Deputy? Or have we reached an understanding?"

"Yup, I know about that incident. And I understand you completely, Councilor. Have a nice day."  MaryAnne slammed the phone down on it's base.

Rosco had watched MaryAnne during the uneasy conversation. "Bad news?"

MaryAnne looked at Rosco, and nodded. "Bad news, bad news," she said, imitating her cousin. She then sobered back to herself. "I hate D.A.'s. The little schmuck wants to have the State Police transport Brian back to Atlanta. He finds it "coincidental" that a dead body would be within reach of him."

"Doh!" Rosco shook his head. "It looks bad, tho'. You gotta admit, MaryAnne, it looks bad! I mean, if the D.A. questioned what happened, then the FBI is gunna be worse! And here we sent that stolen gun report in to Atlanta..."

"Yeah I know...but the evidence is gonna show that the agent wasn't shot. He was stabbed! Why do you think I took so much care in baggin' up that knife and putting it in the evidence lock up?" MaryAnne paused and rolled her eyes. "Not that they'll believe that either. Dang it all...." She sighed. "You know what bothers me the most, Rosco? The fact that a man was killed in our front yard. Our front yard!"

"Eeeep! You know what, MaryAnne? It's gunna look all had in on it!"

MaryAnne nodded slowly and then stared at the desktop. "We're gonna lose our badges. Even if we get Brian to the court next week, we're still gonna lose our badges. I mean, look at everybody who's against us." She looked at Rosco. "We ain't got NOBODY on our side! So much for the brethren of law officers huh?"

"We'll be lucky if the only thing we lose is our badges!" Rosco's nervousness was contagious. "That D.A. is gonna send somebody here to collect Brian, and maybe us too! And if some other FBI hoods beat Agent Mayson here, there won't be anybody to be picked up anyhow!" Rosco dragged a finger across his throat for emphasis.

"Rosco, stop it! Nobody's collecting anybody, except Agent Mayson to pick up that fella downstairs.  That's it! Now instead of runnning scared why don't you do something Sheriff like? Like help me figure how the hell to get out of this mess!" MaryAnne's anger and frustration were clear and Rosco was usually the last person she ever took anything out on.

"I'm still tryin' to figure out how we got into it!"

MaryAnne let her sigh out explosively. She propped her elbow on the desk and buried her face in her hand. She said nothing. She couldn't figure out how they got into it either.

There were footsteps as Rosco came around behind the desk, and put a hand on MaryAnne's shoulder. The Sheriff sighed, not saying anything for lack of optimistic comment. Finally he cleared his throat.  " an' me have been through a lot together, and we've always found a way out of the scrapes we've got ourselves into...up until now," he said softly. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I don't see a way out of this one. If we go against the D.A., we're through."

MaryAnne put her hand on Rosco's. She sighed and said, "What I don't understand is, why he doesn't believe us? I mean, if Brian had killed that agent and you and I were accessories before, during and after the fact as the D.A. is suggestin'… I wouldn't have even called him! I mean, does he really think we're that stupid?" MaryAnne paused and then turned in the chair to look at Rosco, now looking for some kind of guidance from her older cousin and more experienced law officer.  "So what do we do now? Do we tell Brian that the D.A. wants him to go back to Atlanta under State Police escort? Do we tell him that all three of us are unofficially being accused of the murder of a Federal agent and of covering it up? Do we let Brian go back to Atlanta?"

"Do we even have a choice, MaryAnne?" Rosco's voice was rough with emotion. "I mean, it looks bad already. If we refuse to give 'em up, it'll be even worse. I don't like it, but I think we have to give in this time."

MaryAnne was quiet for a moment, knowing Rosco was right, but silently wishing there was some other way. She took a deep breath and nodded. "Alright," she said softly. She stood up and stepped towards the door, stopping for a moment to look at Rosco.  She didn't say anything, her expression spoke enough. She felt defeated. For the first time in her law enforcement career...she had lost.

Rosco's steel-blue eyes held MaryAnne's for a moment, seeming to say I know how you feel. Then he adjusted his black hat and walked forward. "You want me to tell 'em, when we get back home?"

"We'll both tell him," she said. "I think that'd be only fair...considerin' nothing else seems to be very fair.  For any of us."

Chapter Four