Chapter Four

Don Mancini glared through the bullet-proof glass at his visitor. "I don't care what it takes! You get rid of him! We had a deal, Turner!"

"We still have a deal. Relax, Mancini. I told you, my boys will make this clean. There won't be anything to trace back to my outfit or yours, when all this is over. Isn't that what you want?"

Mancini leaned forward and pressed his fist against the glass. "What I want is to get the hell out of here! This wasn't supposed to happen! You promised that it would never happen! When I get out, so help me God I'm gonna-"

"You're gonna set up shop as usual," Commander Turner said smoothly. "And you and I will continue the productive business relationship we've had for so long. Don't forget, Mancini, that it wasn't my boys who started this whole thing. If I remember right, it was one of yours."

The Don smacked his fist hard against the glass, making Turner jump and causing the guards snap to attention. "I want that punk GONE! I want his whole family GONE! And I want OUT of here NOW! You hear me?!” Mancini stood up, his face flushed with rage.

Turner made a quieting motion with his hand. "Take it easy! My boys are already on it. By tomorrow night, the D.A.'s case will have fallen apart." Turner smiled reassuringly, his cool demeanor a sharp contrast to the Don's huffing anger.

A buzzer sounded. As the guards came to retrieve Don Mancini, the displaced Syndicate boss shook a finger at Turner. "I'm gonna hold you to that."

 The FBI commander nodded. "You'll also owe me for it. Big." Turner grinned like a wolf as the guards lead his business partner away.

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

Rosco and MaryAnne arrived at the house in the same patrol car, which Rosco brought to a slow stop just before the mailbox. When the doors of the patrol car opened and closed, Flash and Bandit suddenly perked up and they both trotted from the living room to the front door and waited for their masters.

The two officers entered the house subdued, looking like busted gamblers at the last round of the poker game.  Brian didn't look up from the chair he was sitting in. His attention was absorbed by the family photo album that he had balanced on his lap. "Hey ya'll," he called out at the sound of the shutting door. "I figured you were home, it's the only time those dang dogs take their eyes off me." Brian chuckled and continued to browse the pictures.

Rosco picked up Flash, and Bandit walked alongside of MaryAnne as the two cousins stepped into the living room. MaryAnne tried to see which photo album Brian was looking at, but she couldn't tell so she came up beside him to look at the pictures.

Brian pointed to one of the photographs. It showed a grinning, twelve-year-old girl, sitting behind the wheel of a parked patrol car. "I wonder who that is," Brian remarked teasingly, looking up with a smile.

MaryAnne grinned but the amusement wasn't in her eyes. She paused and glanced at Rosco. "Um, Brian, we gotta talk to ya."

Brian's smile didn't fade. "You two always gotta talk to me. Well, I got news for ya'll, I behaved myself today! Khee!”

"I'm serious, Brian," MaryAnne said softly. She sat down carefully on the edge of the coffee table.  "We're in trouble...big trouble."

Rosco came over to stand next to MaryAnne, his footsteps slow and heavy, like that of a Sheriff about to deliver bad news. He looked at Brian from underneath the brim of his black hat, with an expression that echoed MaryAnne's words.

Brian gently closed the photo album. "Lay it on me," he said quietly.

MaryAnne sighed and spoke slowly. "I called the D.A., more or less to give him a heads up that a dead FBI agent was on his way back to Atlanta and that the other agent who killed him was being held in custody. I told the D.A. how the three agents had approached you, how they had roughed me up and kicked the headlights outta my car, and how two of them came to the house with the intent to kill me and Rosco." She hesitated. "The D.A., however, doesn't quite see it all the same way we do..."

Rosco continued where MaryAnne left off. "He called it a ‘coincidence’, that an agent got killed while you were in Hazzard. And with me n' MaryAnne bein' the only witnesses, it looks kinda bad."

"He thinks I did it?" Brian's voice went up an octave.

Rosco held up a hand. "The D.A. didn't say that. But he wants you back in Atlanta until this is over."

Brian's dark eyes were fixed on Rosco's badge. He had a feeling where this was leading up to. "And you're gonna let 'em take me back," he said as a statement.

"Although he didn't say specifically, the D.A. thinks that all three of us are covering something up. If we go against the District Attorney all three of us are through," MaryAnne said. She could detect the obvious, that being Brian wasn't too happy about this.

"An' bein' cops and all, you have to do what you have to do." There was a faint note of accusation in Brian's voice, though it was absent from his eyes. He looked away. "The Feds pickin' me up?"

MaryAnne sighed. "State Police." She looked at Rosco and shook her head. This hurts, dammit!

Rosco gave MaryAnne's shoulder a brief pat of reassurance, then took a step closer to Brian. "You know that if there was any other way, we wouldn't be doin' this. But like I told MaryAnne, if we refuse the D.A., it's gonna look worse." Rosco cleared his throat. "Now I got a badge that says I can force you to cooperate," he said softly, which made Brian look up suddenly. Rosco continued. "But because you're kin...if you wanna run, then neither of us will stop you."

MaryAnne looked up at Rosco in surprise, her jaw slightly dropped. "Rosco!"

"The welfare of one of our own is worth more than a tin badge," Rosco said in response. "You taught me that, MaryAnne. I questioned it once, but you're right."

"Yeah, but if he runs...." MaryAnne's shoulders slumped. For some reason, she wasn't up to arguing it.

"I ain't gonna run." Brian shook his head. "I ain't gonna cost you two your badges, and I sure as hell don't wanna cost you more than that." He stood up and straightened his jacket, reaching inside to retrieve something.  He pulled out the gun he had stolen from the Sheriff's supply room. He spun it in his hand once, dramatically, before giving it to MaryAnne, handle-first. "You put that back for me?" he asked softly.

MaryAnne looked at the gun and then carefully took it. She looked at Brian and nodded, a hint of relief on her face.

"Thanks," Brian said with a small smile. He stood there a moment longer, as if he wanted to say something but couldn't find the words. After an awkward pause, he cleared his throat and walked towards the door.  "I'm gonna go out and walk around some. Don't worry, I'll be back in time for supper." He gave his cousins a weak grin from over his shoulder, then closed the door behind him.

MaryAnne watched the door close and then looked down to the floor. She felt guilty about sending Brian back to Atlanta, she was just getting used to him being in Hazzard. The three of them were starting to feel like a family...weren't they? She looked at Rosco.

"He's really changin' into somebody he coulda been, once..." Rosco said with a sigh. Flash barked in assent, and the Sheriff reached down to scoop the bassett hound up in his arms. He held the dog absently as his gaze wandered to the door.

"Yeah..." MaryAnne sighed. "I just hope we can keep that change happenin', even when this is all over with."

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

Brian walked towards town. As usual, doors closed and windows shut as he walked by the homes on the outskirts of Hazzard. He was used to it by now, and was even sort of amused by it. He waved to the occasional brave soul that peered at him behind a curtain or through a blind. As he strode into Hazzard Square, he found himself enjoying the quaint scenery, even if the locals were hurriedly crossing the street to get away from him. There was one elderly lady, however, that took absolutely no notice of him whatsoever. The post-mistress was busy removing the day's mail from the curbside box, and stuffing it into her mailbag. The over-full mailbag was losing envelopes, and Brian stopped to pick up the few that had strayed. "Here ya go," he said as he handed them to the post office matron.

"Nobody but an authorized mail carrier can handle the mail! Postal Regulations, you know!" Miz Tizdale snatched the envelopes and crammed them into the bag, shouldered the impossible load over her back and trudged towards the post office. Brian annoyed her further by holding the door open. "Hmph! I did my job just fine before you were even born, but thank you kindly," she muttered. Brian chuckled and went on his way. It occurred to him, as he walked through the late afternoon's light among the tree-lined streets, that he liked this town. He was going to miss it more than he thought possible.

And he was going to miss his cousins. Brian was worried, deeply worried, about Rosco and MaryAnne. Anything could happen, and a thousand "what-ifs" played in his mind. He mulled over the best and worse-case scenarios and let his walking take him where it may. Suddenly he heard familiar voices ahead, and he looked up to see the Hazzard Garage in view. An orange stock car was parked in front, and the two Duke boys were chatting with the mechanic.

It was Brian's turn to want to cross the street and hide. But it was too late, they'd seen him. So he held his head up and walked forward, coming to stand just a few feet away from the trio of friends. The mechanic stepped in front of the two Dukes and pushed up his greasy baseball cap.

"Something we can do for you?" he said, regarding Brian neutrally.

"Maybe." Brian took a breath and relaxed his stance, trying to make it clear that he wasn’t here to fight. "Look, y'all are friends of MaryAnne's and Rosco's, right?"

Cooter detected the sincerity in Brian's voice. He glanced at the boys and then answered for the three of them. "That's right."

"I know ya'll don't owe me nothin'...but I don't know who else I can ask. There's been some trouble, and Rosco and MaryAnne are gonna need someone to keep an eye out for them. Hell, they might need all the help they can get..."

Bo and Luke had moved to stand on either side of Cooter as Brian talked. "What kind of trouble?" Luke asked.

Brian's dark eyes darted from one Duke to another, uncertain as to how much they'd believe him.  He gave in with a sigh. "An FBI agent died here in Hazzard. Now before ya'll start, I had nothin' to do with it.  Problem is, the D.A. ain't so sure of that. Meantime, there's a few folks that don't want me to testify against the Syndicate, and they're capable of anything. Rosco and MaryAnne might be gettin' set-up...and I can't do a damn thing about it, 'cause the D.A.'s havin' me hauled back to Atlanta."

"Maybe the D.A. shoulda kept you in Atlanta," Bo said.

"Bo, wait a minute," Luke said. He then looked at Brian. "You said an FBI agent died?"

Brian shot a brief glare at Bo and then answered Luke. "Yeah. Murdered by another agent, right in front of us, right in our own lawn." The ex-hitman paused and considered his words. "I've seen a lot of stuff go down in the Syndicate. But even I ain't ever seen anythin' like this."

Luke took a moment to absorb what Brian had said. Bo was looking to his older cousin, not quite understanding. He's annamosity towards Brian though had faded. "Could that be why Enos was so...flighty this morning?"

Luke nodded. "Brian, you say you've never seen anything like this before, even in the Syndicate...Are these agents....?" Luke wasn't so sure he wanted to hear the answer.

"They are. They made me an offer I wasn't supposed to refuse, to keep me from testifyin'. Next thing I know, they're comin' after my kin." Brian took a step closer to his former enemies. "There's still one agent roamin' around here someplace..."

Bo and Luke looked at each other and then at Brian. Luke then stepped back and turned to look at Maverick with his busted headlights. "Kickin' out headlights wasn't their only intent."

Brian caught a glimpse of the damanged Firebird for the first time. "No," he said in a low voice. "It wasn't. And if the D.A. wasn't breathin' down our necks, I'd..."

Luke looked at Brian, suddenly in a new light. The Coltrane was mad...mad that somebody was pickin' on his kin. And he wasn't going to let it continue. Why else would he be approaching me and Bo? Luke found he sympathized with Brian. He'd do anything to protect his kin too.

"Ain't the D.A s'posed to be on your side?" Cooter asked. "I mean, ain't he aware of what happened?" The mechanic gestured with his thumb towards the Firebird.

"He's aware that an agent was murdered, and that the Coltranes are the only witnesses. The D.A. ain't on nobody's side but the law's." Brian walked up to Maverick as he spoke, and brushed his fingertips over the hood. He was silent for a moment, as unexpected opportunity faced him. I could take Maverick and run, screw the D.A. and get the hell out of the Syndicate's reach. And leave Rosco and MaryAnne to lose their badges and their lives... "DAMMIT!" he swore and hit the hood with his fist.

The boys and Cooter were quiet, watching the young man. After a moment, Luke made the first move and approached Brian.
"I'm sure MaryAnne's mad enough about them headlights...I don't think she'd want to have her hood dented in too." Luke grinned, trying to keep things calm. "Listen..." the oldest Duke cousins expression returned to seious. "We'll look out for them. Heck, we always have."

Brian turned back around to face the Dukes and Cooter. He read the sincerity in their eyes, and answered it with a nod of gratitude. Then he cleared his throat and addressed the other topic on his mind. "I know we still got a score to settle between us. But for what it's worth...I'm glad you got MaryAnne's warnin' that night."

The boys glanced at each other.

"So are we," Bo said. He then gave a short laugh as he thought of something peculiar. "Shoot, we almost didn't believe her."

"Yeah..." Luke said, recalling how adament MaryAnne had been. "We've learned that if she tells you something, you believe it."

"Amen to that," Cooter said. He then looked at Brian. "And amen to you havin' not put these two six feet under."

"Ain't like they made it easy," Brian grinned. "Heck, I'm the one lucky not to be six feet under. You two are good shots with those bows," he said to the Dukes. He showed them the tear in his jacket, which he'd never bothered to repair.

Luke laughed. "Lucky for you, you're not an outhouse."

Bo and Cooter both bursted out laughing.

Brian knew it was an inside joke, but he chuckled anyway. "In other words, you weren't aimin' to miss, I take it!"

"Well...nope, we weren't." Luke smiled.

"And you can bet if that other FBI agent tries to make any trouble with Rosco and MaryAnne after you're shipped back to Atlanta, we won't be aimin' to miss then either," Bo said.

"Awright then," Brian said with a small grin. "We'll sort out the rest when I'm back, huh?" He raised one eyebrow in a silent, albeit more civilized, challenge.

Luke smirked and nodded. "We'll be waitin' for ya."

"I'll be lookin' forward to it." Brian cracked his knuckles as he said it. Then he chuckled and walked away.

The Dukes and Cooter chuckled and watched Brian leave. Bo walked up next to Luke, still watching Brian and then looked at his cousin. "He's changed."  Luke nodded. "Yup. A lot."

"You know, there's a lot of things I don't understand about what happened," Cooter said, "but it seems to me that fella is genuinely concerned about Rosco and MaryAnne."

Both boys nodded. "And so are we," Luke said.

Chapter Five