Chapter Seven

When the brown Pontiac and orange Dodge pulled into the yard of the Coltrane farm in Finchburg County, they were the first cars to leave tracks on the dirt drive in over a year. When Eli Coltrane had passed on, MaryAnne had tried to stay at the farm alone, but the chore of taking care of the house and trying to maintain the surrounding acreage was too much for the then Finchburg County Deputy, who had just spent the previous year in Atlanta.

The desire to return to her Hazzard roots, and be near the remaining family she had left helped her through the tough decision to leave the home she had grown up in. However, she had taken care to see that the house would be okay for long spells without anyone being in it. She never considered selling the property and decided she would return every so often to check on the house. She wished now that maintenance was her sole purpose for being here.

Rosco stepped out of the car and looked at the old house. He slowly walked around the front of his car, looking at the faded grey paint on the clapboards, the weathered porch, the windows on the first and second floor. He stood next to MaryAnne and could see in his mind Eli, standing in the open front door waving to him as he was pulling in, he could see MaryAnne, then just a teenager, hammering away at the boards of the steps on the front porch.  This house had become like a second home to the Hazzard Sheriff. He knew he had put a lot of mileage on his patrol cars over the years just from driving back and forth between Finchburg and Hazzard. There were many times when Eli had been more than an uncle, and had been the support and gave the encouragement Rosco needed at the time he needed it the most, when his own father was no longer there.

Rosco couldn't help but feel a tinge of guilt now, as he looked at MaryAnne. He knew she was thinking of her Papa.  "You okay?" he asked, as Bo and Luke quietly walked from the General.

 MaryAnne turned to her cousin. She nodded, even smiled a little. "Yeah, I'm okay."

Rosco put a hand on her shoulder and nodded. She fished her hand in her pocket to get the keys out. "Let's go in and see how the place has held up."

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

Wilson pulled his grey sedan up to the wrecked State Police cruiser. The two men that had impersonated State Troopers were waiting impatiently. "Dammit, Wilson! Thought you'd never get here. Got your job done?"

Wilson frowned at the agent who went by the handle of Osprey. "Hell no. But neither did you, according to the Commander. He's mad enough to chew nails."  The police-uniformed agents got in the grey sedan.

"Not a lot else he can do about it. Nailing a Syndicate hitman is harder than you think. I'll trade you, for the cops," Osprey suggested.

"Good luck. These yokels aren't the pushovers we were led to believe. In any case, we're not on the job alone anymore. The Commander's coming down here with reinforcements."

"About damn time," Osprey said, and his partner nodded in agreement. "Let the Commander see what it's like to get his hands dirty for a change." The three agents chuckled as the grey sedan drove away, leaving the wreckage behind.

Once the sedan had been out of sight for several minutes, Brian risked coming out from hiding. He climbed down from the tree he had taken refuge in, and scrambled over to the remains of the patrol car. He rustled through it for weapons, and found none. As he ferreted around the seats, he found the CB microphone. Using it would mean alerting the world to his whereabouts. But since I don't know where the heck I am, I got no choice, he decided. He turned the channel to the Hazzard police frequency. "Callin' Hazzard County Sheriff's Department, over," he said quickly, not identifying himself on the air. A loud crackle of static followed his transmission. The accident had damaged the antenna, and the broadcasts were broken up.

Brian thought he heard a distant answer, but he couldn't make it out. "Hazzard County Sheriff's Department, come in," he said with urgency, knowing that the Feds could be listening to every word.

Enos brought his patrol car to a stop and pushed the talk button on his radio mike again. "This is Deputy Enos Strate of the Hazzard County Sheriff's Department. You're coming in awfully broken up, I hope you can hear me."

It sounded like a familiar voice to Brian. "Deputy Strate, that you?"

"Affirmative. Who do I have out there? Over."

Brian chewed over how to answer. So far, he hadn't said anything too damaging. The Feds might assume that he was just a stranded motorist, if he was careful enough. He racked his mind for a safe way to respond.   Rosco had called him something once, in answer to MaryAnne’s handle of Songbird.   Have to guess and hope I’m right.  "This is...Blackbird," he said cryptically.

Enos paused. The voice was barely distinguishable through the static and break up of the transmission, but Enos couldn't help having a suspicion. There was something about the word bird. Firebird, Songbird... Enos closed his eyes, trying to think. Rosco had referred to Brian using a bird reference on the CB earlier, and the voice on the radio now...  "Possumonagumbush!" Enos took a deep breath and raised the mike, forcing himself to sound calm.

"Affirmative Blackbird. Songbird and Bear are wonderin' where you are and if you're okay? What's your twenty? Over."

"I'm okay, but I got no idea where I am," came the relieved answer. "But it looks like I’m on the other side of Iron Mountain from here. I'm right off of a two-lane highway goin' up into the hills. That help?"

Enos hit the gas. "Ten-four. I'm on my way."

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

MaryAnne wiped the dust off her hands after opening another window to get some fresh air into the living room. Everything was just as she has left it, only now covered with a light layer of dust. The chairs and couch were covered with sheets, the old bookcase and coffee table were covered in grey softness. Rosco was down in the kitchen checking things there.

MaryAnne turned as Bo and Luke came in with a suitcase a piece, the last pieces of luggage that Rosco and MaryAnne brought with them out of a total of five bags.  "Thanks fellas," she said. "Rosco and I appreciate y'all helping."

"Heck, it's no trouble at all," Luke said with a smile. "You sure you an' Rosco are gonna be okay here on your own?"

"Yeah, we'll be alright." MaryAnne chuckled. "If we gotta go to town for anything we'll probably end up walking. We got Rosco's car, which barely made it outta Hazzard, and out in the barn I've still got my old Tornado, but I'm pretty sure that won't start."

"You know if you need anythin' y'all can give us a holler," Bo offered. Like his cousin, he was hesitant to leave the Coltranes on their own. The Duke's reluctance to depart was obvious.

MaryAnne smiled. "We know." She walked over to the boys. "Don't worry about us, we'll be alright.  It's not like me and Rosco are in unfamiliar territory here."  The Dukes sighed and shuffled their boots a moment longer, then gave in to the inevitable. "Alright, we got chores waitin' for us at home, so we'll git. Now y'all take care," Luke said with a quick hug to MaryAnne, and a handshake to Rosco. Bo followed suit, tickling MaryAnne in the ribs a little to make her laugh.

"We will. Don't worry, you'll be seein' us again," MaryAnne said. 

"Yep, in yer rearview mirror, even if it's a different car we’re drivin’. Khee!" Rosco added.

"With you, it's always a different car," Bo joked. "How many patrol cars have you used up this year-" Luke elbowed his cousin. "Come on, Bo. We'll rile Rosco when he's got time for a chase."

MaryAnne laughed and looked at Rosco who had a thoughtful look on his face, like he was trying to calculate how many patrol cars he had gone through. Deep down though, both she and Rosco knew he meant a car that wasn't decked out in Hazzard County Sheriff's garb. Who knew, after all, if they’d get their badges back?  Regardless, the two Coltranes kept up the good spirit as they walked with Bo and Luke out of the house. 

"See ya later," Bo said as he hopped into the General. Luke scooted into the Charger's passenger side and waved goodbye as the orange car kicked into gear. A minute later, the dust settled and left MaryAnne and Rosco on their own.

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

The white patrol car coming up the road was a beautiful sight to Brian. He'd never been happier to see a cop in his life. Enos had no sooner rolled to a stop when Brian jumped out of hiding and scrambled up to the "Deputy Strate, it's good to see ya!"

"Hey Brian!" Enos answered. "Just give me a second here to investigate this state police car and we'll get goin'-"

"No! Just git movin', Deputy!" Brian insisted. "There's no tellin' when they're gonna be back. HURRY!" At the young man’s urgency, Enos hit the gas. "If you say so, Brian, but I still gotta call it in..."

"No! Don't! Listen Enos, you can't trust nobody in another uniform right now. NOBODY. Just get me back to Hazzard with Rosco and MaryAnne."

"They ain't there," Enos said. Seeing the look on Brian's face, he hastily explained. "They've gone off to Finchburg until all this settles down. Ya see, that State Police Lieutenant done took over when Rosco and MaryAnne were relieved of duty..."


"It's a mess," Enos said to sum it up. "And if I don't call in that I found you, I could lose my badge too-"

"If you call in, you could lose more than that. " Brian could tell by Enos's expression that more had went on in Hazzard than the Deputy was telling. "You know what the stakes are, Enos. Those "state troopers" had no intentions of seein' me to Atlanta. And the Feds got no intentions of lettin' Rosco and MaryAnne go peaceably about their lives.”  Brian took a breath and looked away, staring out the passenger window.  "There's some problems the law can't solve," he added quietly. "All I wanna do is be with Rosco and MaryAnne until we figure somethin' out." He looked back at Enos. "Please," he added.

Enos saw the earnest dark eyes and couldn't refuse. He nodded and drove towards the southern counties, and the two men let silence accompany their thoughts. They pulled up to the homestead of Eli Coltrane just as night was starting to swallow the fading sun.

Brian jumped out of the car quickly. "Get on back to Hazzard and forget you ever saw me," he told Enos. "And make sure you ain't bein' followed on the way home." Brian shut the car door with a slam and hustled towards the back of the house.

"Be careful," Enos called out after him, and saw Brian wave an affirmative. The patrol car sped away, it's engine noise becoming distant as Brian surveyed the back of the old farmhouse. It wanted a coat of paint and clean gutters, but it looked welcome in the same way that the Hazzard homestead did.  He crept up to the house cautiously, keeping to the overgrown brush and staying low to the ground.  Not being a country-bred trespasser, a few twigs snapped under his black boots.

After a long afternoon of cleaning, unpacking and reacquainting themselves with the Finchburg property, Rosco and MaryAnne stood in the middle of the kitchen, realizing the refrigerator, bread box and cupboards were all empty. They were trying to deicide if they should make a run to the pizza shop in town, or if they should just go and pick up a few groceries.  Flash gave a bark, voicing her vote firmly. Rosco and MaryAnne both looked at the dog and realized they were going to have to make a trip to town for groceries and supplies.

"That's assuming we can get your car to start again," MaryAnne said.

"Yeah." Rosco stopped suddenly and listened.

"What's the matter?"

Rosco didn't reply and walked quietly out of the kitchen, down the hall to the living room.  Crack...

The living room was warmly lit with the old lamps MaryAnne had got working again. Rosco looked towards the windows, but didn't see anything right away, the light from the lamps reflecting off the curtains making seeing out impossible.  Seeing in, she realized with a chill, would be possible.  "You think there's someone out there?" MaryAnne asked quietly.


The old window curtains were thin with age, allowing Brian to see the silhouettes inside the house.  Before he could identify them, the two figures ducked out of sight. The suspicious behavior made the ex-hitman nervous. Looks like trouble, any way ya slice it. Wishing he had a gun, Brian snuck closer, listening for voices.

"Dang it, Rosco, we've only been here for five hours! How can anybody know we're out here---don't answer that." MaryAnne raised her hand, acknowledging it was a ridiculous question.

"I dunno. Maybe it's just critters or something wandering around outside." He walked back into the kitchen and grabbed up the old shotgun he had spent the last hour cleaning, oiling and loading. "You stay here, I'm gonna check it out."

"Uh-uh, I'm goin' with ya."


"I'm goin' with ya," she said firmly.

Rosco sighed. "Alright. But stay right behind me."


Having made it up to the house, Brian edged over to a dark window. He pushed up on the old wooden window frame, and it moved an inch. Good. It's not locked. Country folk are too damn trustin'...Brian thought as he slowly slid the window up, cringing as it make the occasional creak.

Rosco and MaryAnne were half way out the door when MaryAnne stopped at the sound of the window creaking. It was the dining room window, she knew by the fact that it made the same sound it had made earlier in the day when she opened it to help air out the house. And I didn't lock it, duh... she quickly grabbed Rosco by the arm and told him what she heard. Rosco then lead the way back through the house and towards the dining room.

Brian held the window open and swung a leg inside. He pulled himself in and then turned to shut the window, sliding it down carefully. The first rule of breakin' in. Cover your tracks, he reminded himself. The darkness of the old dining room made him feel secure. With his black clothing, he would blend in enough to avoid being discovered. Khee!

Rosco and MaryAnne stood near the open doorway of the dining room, listening to the intruder move around. With Rosco on one side and MaryAnne on the other, the two cousins realized their police training died hard. MaryAnne carefully reached in and found the light switch with her hand and waited for Rosco's cue.  They heard two steps be taken and then Rosco nodded. MaryAnne hit the switch, the room exploding into light and Rosco pointed the shotgun into the room.  "FREEEEZE!!!"

"EEEYAAA!!" Brian felt his heart break through his rib cage, fall onto the floor and run away. He flung his hands up in panic and blinked against the sudden light.

Rosco peered around the door frame. "DOHHO!! Brian!!" 

MaryAnne quickly peeked in as well, as Rosco entered the room and lowered the aim of the shotgun.  "BRIAN!!" she exclaimed and burst into the room.

Brian let out a huge breath and let his arms drop. "Dammit, y'all! Can't you just say howdy like most folks?" he said with a grin.

"Yeah? Can't you just come to the front door like most folks?!" Rosco exclaimed. He then broke into giggles.  MaryAnne gave Brian a hug. "We were worried sick about you! What happened to ya? And how the heck did you get here???"

"Aw, hell, I just changed my mind about goin' to Atlanta, that's all," Brian answered. Then he saw MaryAnne's out-with-it expression and gave them the rest. "Those state troopers weren't sent to take me anywhere but out. I'm only here 'cause I used one of Rosco's seat-kickin' tricks and got 'em to crash. I took off and hid from 'em, they gave up lookin' and had one of their cronies pick them up. I was lucky that the CB still worked and I got through to Enos. He dropped me off here."

Rosco placed the shotgun down on the table. "When we heard that a state police car had been stolen, and then Enos found out that the real troopers who were supposed to pick you up had never set foot in Hazzard, we knew something sneaky was goin' on."

"Yeah. And that third FBI agent tried to take me and Rosco out at the Boar's Nest, about three hours after you left," MaryAnne sighed. "Then that snot-nosed District Attorney decides that it's all me and Rosco's fault, that we set the whole damn thing up for you to disappear and he saw it fit to strip us of our badges! He either doesn't realize that all this is happening because the man in charge of the FBI in Atlanta is also in charge of all this CRAP, or he just refuses to believe it."

"In any case, were all in a fix." Brian took a good look at his two cousins, unaccustomed to seeing them out of uniform. His own words came back to haunt him, with something he'd told MaryAnne before. It's bad enough that they're comin' after y'all as cops. Without your uniforms, you won't have any chance against 'em...

"Yeah, and I want out of it all, now." MaryAnne stormed out of the dining room and walked down to the living room. "They think they can force me and Rosco out of our house, they take our badges, they try to take all of our lives! Dammit, I'm so sick of dodging bullets and running for cover, and I'm sick of being pushed around legally by that D.A. in Atlanta. If it weren't for the fact that I'm afraid I'd be spotted by one of them FBI agents, I'd try to get to Atlanta now and kick his posterior!"

Rosco and Brian followed MaryAnne. "Cousin, I know how ya feel, believe me," Brian said as they caught up. "But there's some problems the law just can't solve. I know you ain't one for the criminal lifestyle, but maybe the only chance we got anymore is to run."

"Run?" MaryAnne said, turning to face her two cousins. "Now just where the hell are we gonna run to? Nowhere? So we spend the rest of our lives running? I'm not to particular on that!"

"The key phrase there," Brian said gently, "Is the rest of our lives. Runnin' or otherwise, it beats gettin' picked off on some back road."

MaryAnne was quiet in thought. Rosco watched how the light reflected from his cousin's eyes. The situation just seemed to get more and more dire and Rosco wondered if she felt as alone as he did.  "I can't do that," she said softly. "I just can't run...I'm sorry, Brian, I've been on the right side of the law long enough to know that although it doesn't solve every problem, it still works. Even tho' you gotta claw and scream and kick to get it to do it's thing."

Brian saw the resolve in MaryAnne's blue eyes. "Maybe you believe in the law too much...and I don't believe in it enough..." He took another breath of indecision.

"If you wanna run, Brian, that's fine. I mean, that's your thing ain't it? To run? Ain't that what you've been doin' all your life anyway?" MaryAnne turned and walked over to the front window. She gingerly touched the faded material and could smell the musty scent of time. MaryAnne wasn't trying to be mean, but she was clearly fed up with everything. Her point was that Brian could survive on the run. She and Rosco probably could not. And if it came right down to it, if she had a choice between running or being 'picked off on a back road' somewhere, the latter was only a hair bit more appealing than the former, only because she knew she would have no life running from shadows anyway.

Brian looked at Rosco, only to see the same opinion in the steel-blue eyes. The ex-hitman sighed and leaned against the wall. "You don't know what these kind of people are capable of," he said finally.

"I don't? I watched as that FBI agent threw my dog to the ground and broke his leg. If that's what he does to a dog, I know damn well what he's capable of. And when you boil it all down, these people are capable of two things. Either making my life a living hell, or taking my life completely. I know what they're capable of...but I wonder if they know what we're all capable of."

"Considerin' they think we're just a couple of country bumpkins," Rosco said quietly. "Idiots with badges. They're wrong. If we're so damn stupid, how come we ain't dead yet?"

MaryAnne looked at her cousin, silently answering the rhetorical question. Even though they didn't have their badges anymore to fight with, they weren't going to give up fighting.

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

"Condor to Eagle One," Wilson called on the Buearu-frequency of the CB. "Team assembled, is there a twenty on the coordinates, over?"

"Eagle One to Condor," came the response. "The state property records show connections to Finchburg. Pigeons tend to flock in the same roost, and I'm willing to bet that they're holed up in the same coop." The FBI commander proceeded to give Wilson the address and further instructions. "I'll rendevous with the rest of the team in twenty minutes. Eagle One out."

"Roger." The grey sedan headed down the same road that Enos had taken a short time ago. His passengers, the imitation troopers, readied their weapons. The one nicknamed Osprey picked up the CB. "Osprey to all units, centralize at the following location. Suspects located." As the fake trooper read the address, grey sedans moved out from thier various positions in the tri-county area, converging on a quiet, rural farmhouse.

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

Inside the home of Eli Coltrane, the three surviving members of the family bloodline continued their debate. "I can tell ya why you ain't dead yet," Brian said quietly. "Luck." Something in the born-criminal's voice wavered.

Rosco snorted. "Luck? Yeah right...How lucky we are to have FBI agents gunning after us. Lucky, lucky, lucky."

"It ain't good luck on our part," MaryAnne said. "It's been bad luck on everybody else's."

"You been lucky to last this long," Brian stated factually. "So have I." He shook his head and moved away from the wall, joining MaryAnne in looking out the window. There was nothing to be seen through the old curtian but the shadowed trees.

MaryAnne, however, could see the past. The yellowed headlights of Eli's shine runner making their way across the drive as he drove it towards the barn upon returning from a successful run. When she was old enough to stay at the house alone, MaryAnne would stand at this very same window and watch for Eli to return. Had he been lucky? Or just fortuntate to have a steady driving hand and fast car?

"I'm not running," MaryAnne said firmly and turned to Brian. "I'm not gonna do it."

Rosco stepped closer to his two cousins but said nothing.

Brian sighed in defeat. There's no convincin' 'em, he thought sadly. He wondered what kept MaryAnne and Rosco here, when it seemed as though they'd lost everything. "Y'all lost your badges," he said in that same, troubled voice. "You're bein' framed as accomplices to a criminal. The justice system you're fightin' for could be the same one that takes you out by mistake-" He bit off the rest and turned away, knowing he was making it harder on them.

Rosco and MaryAnne were quiet. They knew, everything that Brian said was true. But they held on because they had each other still. A badge was just a piece of metal tacked to a shirt. The bond of family was worth more than that. They were innocent of what the Feds and D.A. was accusing them of and if the justice system made a mistake...that was their problem.

The truth of the matter was, Rosco and MaryAnne believed they could beat the bad rap. They weren't counting on getting their badges back, but they believed that somehow, some way they could win. Even if they lost a little something in the process.

"The worse they can do is send me and Rosco to see Papa and Uncle Raleigh," MaryAnne whispered, her voice caught with her silent tears.

Rosco put an arm around MaryAnne and pulled her into a hug. "Shhh, sweetheart. It ain't gonna come to that," he said softly. "I ain't gonna let it."

Brian left the room, having done enough damage. He startled rustling through the old farmhouse for weapons, supplies, anything that might be useful. His own instinct was telling him to run and keep running, but if his cousins were staying - then so was he.

MaryAnne looked up from Rosco's chest. "Brian, what are you doing?"

"If you two are so damn set on stickin' this out, then we're gonna need more than one old shotgun," he called from the other room. The sound of drawers and cabinets slamming followed his words.

MaryAnne looked at Rosco, gave a tiny crack of a smile and walked to the other room where Brian was rummaging around. MaryAnne quietly took her cousin by the arm and led him out of the room.

"Come on, you ain't gonna find nothing in here...Rosco, you better grab that flash light we brought."

"You're daddy was a moonshiner, he had to have more in this house than a sawed-off shotgun," Brian said hopefully. "That shotgun's only got a range of about 150 feet."

"Uh huh..." MaryAnne said nothing more and she and Brian met up with Rosco at the front door. They walked out into the yard and across to the barn. Rosco held up the flash light while MaryAnne found the key on her key ring to the padlock. The doors then opened revealing two cars covered with dusty cloth tarps. Rosco flashed the light towards the back of the barn and led his two younger cousins to a crate. MaryAnne selected another key and unlocked the crate. She opened the lid and Rosco shined the light in.

"There ya go," she said to Brian. "They ain't all too modern, except for that hunting rifle, that's about 6 years old. But I think you'll like the selection."

It was like finding gold, to the ex-Syndicate member. Brian lifted up the hunting rifle. It was a well-kept Winchester with a scope, intended as a deer hunting gun. He opened the chamber, found it clean, snapped it shut and hefted the gun for balance. He checked the sighting, dry-fired it with a click and found the trigger easy. He spun the rifle one-handed and gave it to MaryAnne, handle-first. "This one's gonna fire clean and easy, and the sight's right-on. Whoever had this gun took damn good care of it."

MaryAnne smiled. She gave no hint as to who the caretaker had been and she looked towards the other guns in the crate, waiting for Brian's opinion on those.

Brian was digging through shotguns and rifles like a kid in a candy store. "Damn, y'all run a militia in your spare time?"

MaryAnne laughed. "Nope...Papa had one he carried in his car, I had one in one of my service guns from the Finchburg County Sheriff's Department is in there somewhere. I think a couple of these are even yours, Rosco. One's we never got around to returning to ya."

"Khee...good thing, considerin'."

Brian was taking guns out and leaning them against the barn wall. He inspected each one as he had the Winchester, with a deftness and surety of experience. "These are good guns, cousin. Y'all got a thousand dollars worth of iron here," he said as he chose a rifle for himself.

"Tell me this ain't the police gun."

"It ain't." MaryAnne took one of the other rifles from the wall. "This one is. It's the only one." MaryAnne chuckled. "It was giving to me as gift just before I moved to Hazzard."

Brian glanced at the powerful rifle. "That's a bad-guy-b-gone special," he remarked casually. Then he turned his attention back to the other guns. "We'd better bring it all in the house, no sense leavin' it out here for the wrong hands."

MaryAnne nodded. "Spare ammo's in the basement." Rosco handed the flash light to MaryAnne and then he and Brian lifted the crate and carried it out of the barn and to the house.

As they sat the heavy crate down in the living room, Brian thought of something else. "How we fixed for other supplies? We got food?"

MaryAnne made a face. "The cupboards are as bare as starving hound's tooth."


MaryAnne looked at Flash and smiled. "As I was saying..." She looked at Brian. "Before you came sneakin' in through the window there, Rosco and I were gonna take a run to town and get some stuff."

An expression of worry crossed the ex-hitman's face. "You two are gonna have to be damn careful in the process."

MaryAnne nodded thoughtfully. "We know. And we will." She glanced at her watch. "And we better move or we won't be able to do it again until tomorrow morning around nine."

Rosco grabbed the sawed off shot gun. "Let's not waste any time."

"I'll get the guns loaded while you're gone. Make it a quick trip, huh?"

"You got it. We'll be back." MaryAnne grabbed her purse from the table near the couch and she and Rosco walked out the door. Rosco's Pontiac struggled to start but eventually turned over and the tail lights faded down the drive.

Brian watched from the front window until the red taillights of the '77 Lemans were gone. Then he hustled down to the basement and found the spare ammo, and brought up several boxes of bullets and shotgun shells. He filled his jacket pockets with ammo, and proceeded to load each gun. He took a loaded gun to the main rooms of the farmhouse, setting one by each window along with a box of ammo. Though there were only three of them, Brian knew something about standoffs.

He also knew they couldn't win. But by God, if it comes down to it, we'll take a whole lot of 'em with us, he thought to himself as he positioned the last gun. The rifle of his choice was slung over his shoulder, giving him a feeling of comfort. He picked an upstairs bedroom window to use as a sentry post, and mentally reviewed his strategy as he watched the road. If the Feds find us, they'll figure on no more than three of us here. With a gun in every window, we can switch positions and fire and keep 'em guessing....for awhile....

A nagging question kept interefering in Brian's thoughts. Will MaryAnne and Rosco be willin' to fire on a Fed, even if it means savin' their lives? He thought of the agents he'd run into during his criminal career. Some he wished dead, like the FBI commander. Others, like Agent Mayson, were decent people. Brian felt the weight of the rifle on his back become heavier.

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

Rosco pulled his car into the small parking area of the Finchburg General Store. He and MaryAnne were the only customers and they turned out to be the last customers for the evening. The store keeper, an older black man, glanced up at who had entered and gave a smile. He then went back to his book, stopped and looked up again.


MaryAnne turned to the gentleman. "Hello, Mr. Templeman."

"Good Lord, what are you doin' here? I thought you was in Hazzard now?"

"Oh I am. Rosco and I are just here in Finchburg to check on the house and see if the old cars will start. We're gonna be here for...probably a couple of days or so."

"Oh. Well, it's good to see you again. If there's anything y'all need that I ain't got here, let me know. I can probably get it."

MaryAnne nodded. "Thanks." She and Rosco then went about gathering food and supplies. They each filled a hand basket full of stuff and paid for the items with the few dollar bills they had left between the two of them. MaryAnne thanked Mr. Templeman and he watched them leave. Once Rosco's car started, he quietly closed the door and locked it. The Pontiac sedan drove away.

There wasn't another set of headlights on the road, behind or infront. The LeMans' highbeams cut through the night and the dire expressions of the former Sheriff and deputy were illuminated in the soft light from the dashboard.

"MaryAnne?" Rosco said softly.

MaryAnne looked at her cousin. "Yeah?"

The former Sheriff was quiet. He had something he wanted to say..but he couldn't figure how to put it in words.

"Rosco, what is it?"

Rosco shook his head. "I dunno...I can't figure out how to say what I want to say to you right now."

MaryAnne gently touched his arm. "It's okay...I think I know what you wanna say." She paused. "They're gonna find us either way. You know we can't run..."

"No, that's not it. I know once we get back to the farm that we're pretty much gonna be waitin' for them to show up. But that's not what I'm tryin' to say..." Rosco shook his head, not knowing where to start in what he was trying to express. He then suddenly brought the car to a stop in the middle of the road.

"I'm proud of ya," he said. "And you know I love ya and would do whatever I had to to keep you safe. You know that."

MaryAnne nodded. "I know."

He took a hold of her hand. "You're very special to me, you know. You're a lot more than a cousin, and whatever happens when this is all over with, I want you to know you're the best dang deputy in the state. Maybe the whole country. And whether or not we get our badges back, I was proud to have ya as one of my deputies." He paused. "And if something bad should happen, I'm sorry that by following after your cousin, landed you in all of this."

"Rosco," she said, and looked him in the eye. "I'd have it no other way."

Rosco paused. "Really?"

MaryAnne chuckled. "Yes, really! Besides, the best deputy in the state, only got that way because of the best Sheriff in the state."

Rosco looked somewhat bemused as he pushed on the accelerator. "You mean because of the 'once-used-to-be' best Sheriff in the state."

"No. I'm talking about the best damn Sheriff in the state right now, and that's you. And that always will be you. No matter what, Rosco, I still think you're the best." MaryAnne paused and then added a "Khee!"

Rosco smiled. "You're something else, you know that?"

MaryAnne grinned. "Yeah, a lot of people tell me that. And you mean a lot to me too there mister, and don't you forget it."

"I don't ever intend to."

A few moments later, they pulled into the yard. Rosco parked the car, at MaryAnne's suggestion, around the back of the house and the two cousins hastily brought in their bags of food and supplies.

From the vantage point of the upstairs bedroom, Brian watched his cousins return. He stayed in the lookout post he had made and yelled down a greeting. "Hey ya'll!"

Rosco and MaryAnne looked up at Brian in the window. "Well hey there!" MaryAnne said. "How's the view?"

"Quiet, so far," came the answering holler. "Have any trouble in town?"

"None," Rosco said. "We were the only one's in the store."

"Good," Brian said from his post. The next sound was that of his boots thumping over the ceiling, the upstairs floorboards creaking with age. "Y'all gonna fix somethin' up to eat?" Came the hopeful question.

"Sure am," MaryAnne said. "Y'all sit tight."

"Ten-four." The bootsteps could be heard pacing back and forth between the upstairs windows.

After helping MaryAnne put things away in the kitchen, Rosco headed towards the stairs. "Hey, Brian, I see ya put a gun at every window..."

"Yer damn right," Brian answered without turning around. He continued to watch out the window. "I figure if them Feds show up, we can switch firing positions and keep 'em guessin'."

"Yeah." Rosco stepped into the room and looked out the window behind Brian. The window faced the front of the house, and showed a clear view of the barn and drive all the way out to the road, which was too dark to see at this time. The only sounds were that of the crickets chirping, MaryAnne down in the kitchen and the distant bark of a dog. It was funny how the different noises brought back specific memories.

"Good view from here. Are we gonna rotate the watch?"

"I reckon we should...though I don't think I'll sleep much tonight." Brian couldn't admit it, but he was nervous.

"I don't figure any of us will," Rosco said softly.

A deep sigh came from the ex-Syndicate member, and he shut his eyes a moment in regret. "You're outlaws now, ya know," he said quietly.

Rosco snorted. "Yeah. Outlaws because we tipped over the FBI Commander's Syndicate cookie jar.  You know, MaryAnne and I have tipped a few cookie jars in our time before...but this..."

Brian nodded. "Welcome to the big time, Sheriff."

Rosco sighed and looked at Brian. "You think we're in too deep don't you? Maybe we are...but there's nothing else me and MaryAnne can do. You gotta understand, Brian, we're fightin' this to the bitter end because there's nothing else we can do."

"I know." The dark eyes looked back at Rosco somberly. There was a moment spent in silence as the ex-hitman and suspended lawman considered one another. It was Brian who spoke first, the dry words coming with difficulty. "Rosco...look...I could be wrong. They might not find us. But just in case, I want you to go downstairs and rip up some floorboards...cover the downstairs windows. All of 'em. Just leave a gap in betweenwide enough for a rifle barrel."

Rosco nodded. "Alright." The former Sheriff slowly started for the door. He then stopped. "I hope you are wrong...but I have a feelin' you won't be. Which is okay, I pretty much figure they're gonna find us at some point anyway." Rosco paused. "I'm glad you're here with us tho', even though I'm sure you're thinking you could be somewhere else by now."

Brian looked over his shoulder at Rosco. "Yeah...I'm thinkin' where I mighta been...without you and MaryAnne." He turned back to the window.

In the shadows of the doorway, Rosco smiled. He then quietly stepped out of the room.

Down in the kitchen, MaryAnne was busy preparing the pork chops and collard greens. Most of what she and Rosco bought at the store were just staple items, crackers, bread, cereal, bottled water, milk, juice, canned vegetables, deviled ham, ect. The only fresh, perishable items they got were the pork chops and greens. The kitchen smelled inviting as Rosco walked in and saw MaryAnne standing at the stove.  "How's it coming?"

"Great! A couple more minutes and then we can eat."

Rosco looked down at Flash who was sitting on the floor, looking up at MaryAnne patiently waiting for something. He smiled and went to get the small bag of dog biscuits that was still in the shopping bag on the table.  "C'mere Flash, yer daddy's got some doggy nums nums for you."  The basset's head turned when Rosco opened the bag. She immediately got up and trotted over to Rosco. He took out a couple of the biscuits and waited for Flash to sit. When she did, he gave her one of the biscuits.  "Brian suggested we board up the windows down here, leave enough space for a rifle barrel to peek through."

MaryAnne nodded. "Alright. I think there's some plywood in the basement...don't know if it's any good to use or if there's enough of it."

"Or floorboards."

MaryAnne chuckled. "Use the one's on the back porch, if yer gonna do that."

Rosco smiled. Flash received two more nums nums and Rosco figured he better fix her something more sustaining to eat. He wrapped the bag of biscuits up and put it on the table and found a can of dog food from another bag.

"I was thinking we oughta grab those emergency radios outta the Tornado," MaryAnne said. "I figure we got enough batteries for those and the flashlights." She paused. "Anything else we need to do?"

"I think we got everything. If not, I'm sure we'll think of it at the moment we need it."

"Yeah, really." MaryAnne poked at the collard greens. "Okay, this is about ready." She left the pot on the stove and opened the cabinet above her. She looked at the plates and glasses and pulled out one of each. They still looked clean and untouched so she set out three on the table and three glasses.

Once Flash was content with her meal, Rosco stood waiting for something to do.

"We eatin' at the table here?" he asked, starting to move the bags to the counter.

"Actually I was thinking we'd just eat up at Brian's look out point upstairs."

Rosco nodded. When the three plates were covered with pork chops and collard greens and the three glasses were filled, MaryAnne balanced two plates on her arm and carried one drink in her other hand.  "Just like at the Boar's Nest," she said as she headed for the stairs.

"Yeah, only not as greasy." Rosco thought to try to carry two glasses, but quickly decided against it. He followed MaryAnne.

"Khee!" She carefully walked up the stairs. "Alrighty Brian, dinner is served!"

Brian left his post long enough to grab a plate out of MaryAnne's arms. "Looks good," he said in appreciation.  He almost dug right in, but then stopped himself. He had learned a few manners while in Hazzard.

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco, who nodded. He folded his hands and slightly bowed his head.  MaryAnne did the same.  "Lord," he started, "We thank you for the bounteous table you have placed before us and ask for your continued strength and guidance to see us through. We also thank you for letting Brian be here with us as well. I know how easily things could have gone the other way. Amen."

Brian slowly lifted his head as the prayer ended. He was deeply moved by Rosco's words, and his brown eyes glanced up to meet the ex-Sheriff's. Though he had known that his cousins cared about him, hearing the sentiment aloud, unexpectedly, warmed Brian's heart and pleasantly embarrassed him.

"Nicely put, Rosco," MaryAnne said and smiled.

"Yeah," Brian agreed with a smile of his own, not knowing for the life of him what else to say. 

"Yeah, I shoulda been a preacher man huh?  Khee!"

MaryAnne and Brian both chuckled. "" MaryAnne said. "I honestly can't imagine ya doin' that."

"I can't either," Rosco said.

"Though ya'd make a better one than I would," Brian joked and retreated to the window. He started in on his meal, eating at a casual pace. The family dinner hour was something he'd come to appreciate.

"You know, he's right," MaryAnne said to Rosco. She paused to take a sip of her drink. "You're good at preachin'. Only I ain't talkin' about preachin' of the Lord."

"Khee khee," Rosco said. "You know I've been thinking about that since we've been here. I mean, this old house has a lot of memories, but that one sticks out the most."

"What memory would that be?" Brian asked.

Rosco finished his mouthful and looked at Brian. "This crazy cousin of yours ran moonshine. Three times. I didn't find out until the last run...and that dang near gave me a coronary."

Brian nearly choked on a collard green. "My Deputy cousin, runnin' shine?" he said after a swallow.

MaryAnne giggled as Rosco pointed his fork at Brian. "THAT was my exact same reaction. Only she wasn't a deputy at the time. About a year away."

"We needed money," MaryAnne explained. "The crop didn't do so great that year, Papa was behind three payments on the mortgage on this place and things were hairy scary because the ATF was already doing a major crackdown on moonshine in the county, thanks to the then County Commissioner. They were trying to nab him, but they're grabbing anybody else they could. Anyways, I wasn't about to let Papa lose the farm, so I made the runs."

"Which Eli never told me about. Until I showed up one day to visit and MaryAnne wasn't here and he had a tough time coming up with a shuck and jive on where she was."

Brian was grinning ear to ear. "Why, MaryAnne Coltrane. I didn't know ya had it in ya. Khee!"

"Yeah?" MaryAnne laughed. "You shoulda seen who ran blocker for me on the last run and I was trying to get back here. Only I didn't get back here, I went to Hazzard." She eyed Rosco and gave a devilish grin.

Brian froze, with a forkful of pork chop halfway to his mouth. He set it down slowly. "You're kiddin'."

Rosco kept his gaze on his plate. He was grinning, but at the same time seemed embarrassed.

"Nope," MaryAnne said. "Ye olde towne Sheriff here, was my blocker. He had Papa's T-bird and was running them ATF boys every which way but loose." She paused, remembering the scene in her mind. Vivid. Dirt flying, the T-bird swinging around one way then the other keeping the ATF cars at bay so she in the big Oldsmobile could slip across the county line. She then shook her head, even after all this time it seemed unbelievable. She chuckled. "And he's never driven that way since."

Brian looked at Rosco and MaryAnne as if seeing them in a new light. "Drivin' moonshine and runnin' interference with a Federal officer is a real crime," he said in awe. "I'm proud of ya’ll!!”

MaryAnne giggled and looked at Rosco. "I figured he'd be impressed."

"Khee..." Rosco looked up from his plate, still grinning. "Listen, don't let it get around huh?"

"What's it worth to ya?"


MaryAnne giggled. "I think he meant don't let it get around that he can actually drive pretty well. Nobody'd believe ya anyway. Khee!"

Brian snorted with laughter. "Y'all are just too damn much, ya know that," he chuckled.

MaryAnne placed her now empty plate aside. "Yeah, we work hard at that." She giggled. "Now I hope you boys enjoyed that dinner...because that's the last hot meal yer gonna git for awhile."

The words last hot meal were sobering. Brian finished his plate and stacked it on the floor with MaryAnne's. "That was good, cousin," he said. "Thank ya."

"Yer welcome."

"Yep," Rosco said and placed his empty plate on the floor with the other two. "Delicious." He finished his drink.  "Well," he said with a sigh, "I guess I'll go see about gettin' them boards up."

"Alright. I'm gonna see if I can find them radios in the cars." MaryAnne gathered up the plates.

"I'll keep watch," Brian said over his shoulder, though it probably wasn't necessary. He'd shown no signs of doing anything else.

Chapter Eight