Chapter Nine

After calling Enos and Anna to let them know that Brian was alive and okay, Rosco walked into the living room from the kitchen and looked at MaryAnne who was sleeping soundly on the couch. The young deputy had succumbed to her exhaustion during the drive home, and like her, the Pontiac sedan didn't even make it into the driveway. It finally quit not six feet from the mailbox, so Rosco left the car at the side of the road and carried MaryAnne to the house with Flash tailing behind.

The ex-Sheriff sighed and sat down in the chair across from the sofa. He scooped up Flash, settling the dog on his lap and petted her head and back.  "I don't know how we did it, Flash," he said quietly. "I really don't..."  Rosco closed his eyes, enjoying the chance to actually rest for a moment. The moment turned into nearly twenty minutes as Rosco dozed, his head bobbing a bit as he drifted in and out of sleep.

Flash heard the car pull up to the house before Rosco. She shifted her weight on Rosco's lap and gave a short howl. Rosco opened his eyes in time to hear a car door slam. He helped Flash to the floor and stood up to greet the visitor at the door. A quick glance out the window, he saw the colors of a State Police cruiser. The lone officer was already on the porch.

After two knocks, Rosco opened the door to see Anna standing there alone.  "Hello, Lt.," Rosco said and gave a weary smile.

"Hi...Rosco," she said. She realized she had never really called him by his first name. "Um, I came out to see if you two were okay? I'm going to be returning to Atlanta soon, but I have one more thing I have to do before I leave."

Rosco nodded. "Yeah, we're alright." He glanced inwards to the living room. "MaryAnne done fell asleep, khee. Heck, I did too."

Anna smiled. "After all you've been through, you deserve some peace and quiet. On behalf of the State Police, we're going to do everything we can to close this case tight. We'll need your testimony of course, but there's no hurry on that."

Rosco nodded again. "Whatever you need, Lt. All I ask is that me, MaryAnne and Brian and all the folks here in Hazzard get that peace and quiet."

"We're going to do all we can." She paused as her eyes locked with his for a moment. She then looked away and dug into her pocket. As she pulled the badges out once again, she said, "I'm not leavin' Hazzard until you and MaryAnne take these back."

Rosco swallowed and looked at the badges in her hand. Why was it so hard to take it back? He was so lost in this thoughts and hesitations he almost didn't hear Anna speak.

"You're the best Sheriff in the state…”

Rosco looked at her suddenly with surprise. She had sounded like...MaryAnne.

"From what I've heard," she added quickly. Her eyes gave her away. She was silently pleading with him to take both badges. And for some reason...he couldn't say no. With a shaky hand he took the two silver badges off her palm.

Anna couldn't help her smile. "I return the county of Hazzard to your control, Sheriff Coltrane," she said. She then stood up straight. "Hazzard is lucky to have fine officers such as yourself, MaryAnne and Enos. You all serve your duties well."

"Thank you, Lt." Rosco drew in a breath, his heart skipping a beat with emotion and pride. He managed a smile for Anna.  "You're a pretty good officer yourself," he said. "I've been in law enforcement a long time, and I ain't never known a State Police Lt. as young as you. I do know that you gotta be one hell of an officer to make Lieutenant." He put his hand out. "I wanna thank you for your help, and for believing in me, MaryAnne and Brian. You took a risk by doing that."

Anna returned the handshake, having to fight the urge to give Rosco a hug. "If I hadn't taken risks in my career before, I wouldn't be a Lieutenant now." She smiled.

Rosco chuckled. "That's true..." After a moment, he bid Anna farewell and the Lt. said her goodbyes.  She walked back to her cruiser, stopping briefly to look back at Rosco standing on the porch. She wanted to tell him...but she fought back the urge and simply gave a smile and a wave. She then continued on to her cruiser and a minute later, she was driving away.

Rosco was still standing on the porch, the two badges still in his hand. The Lieutenant's blue eyes...he knew he'd seen them somewhere before…

The re-appointed Sheriff shook away his thoughts and turned back into the house. He walked over to where MaryAnne was still asleep, the deputy's badge in his hand.

"MaryAnne?" He waited a moment and then spoke her name again. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked up at Rosco.  "Ain't no deputy in my department gonna be sleepin' on the job. Git up."

MaryAnne looked at him in a fog. "Huh?"

"I said, ' ain't no deputy in my department gonna be sleepin' on the job. Git up!'"

MaryAnne sat up, still trying to figure out what Rosco was talking about. He held his hand out to her with the badge in it. MaryAnne took it, thinking he was helping her to stand. When she felt the cold metal she stopped and looked.

"The Lt. was here," he said. "She wasn't gonna leave until you and I took our badges back."

MaryAnne looked at the badge in his hand and slowly took it. She gently ran the tip of her finger over the top point of the star, lost in thought. She then looked at Rosco and nodded.

He smiled and took the badge from her hand and pinned it on her shirt, making it official. "I now declare you, MaryAnne Coltrane, to be a Deputy Sheriff of Hazzard County." He spoke softly, almost as if he were going to cry.

"Thank ya, Sheriff," MaryAnne said and grinned. "Khee!"

Rosco giggled.

"You know..." MaryAnne paused. "That Lt.'s a pretty damn good officer."

Rosco nodded. "Yep, she is." He had to fight to suppress his grin. "She kinda reminds me of you."

MaryAnne chuckled and then shook her head. "I dunno...I think she's a better officer than me."

"Actually..." Rosco hesitated. "I meant she looks similar to you."

"Oh." She giggled and then paused, remembering how odd it was that the Lt. seemed so familiar, but MaryAnne was sure she'd never met Anna before. She looked at her cousin. "Yeah...she does look oddly familiar doesn't she?"

"Then it ain't just me?" Rosco said.

MaryAnne shook her head. "No, I thought that too. But heck, I've been outta Atlanta for almost two years now. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet her then." She shrugged. "Maybe it was a convention or something."

"Maybe," Rosco agreed.

But even that reasoning didn't seem to work. Anna looked too familiar...and Rosco's statement about how Anna looked similar to MaryAnne, held more explanation than either Coltrane cousin realized.  It was a story of it’s own, of silver badges and grey seals.

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

Several days later, Don Mancini entered the Atlanta Federal Courtroom with confidence. The trial would be nothing more than an inconvenience. Even the few weeks in jail had been productive. News of Commander Turner's arrest didn't faze the Syndicate Don at all. The way Mancini saw it, he could buy anyone.  Replacing Turner would be no problem. And for himself, Mancini expected a decisive acquittal.

The witness was out of the picture. With the arrest of the rouge agents, word had spread through Atlanta Federal of a Syndicate hitman that had been taken out by Federal  sharpshooters. Mancini sincerely hoped that Brian had gone slowly. What I wouldn't give to have seen the look on his face when the bullet hit, he thought darkly.

The young hitman's betrayal had taken Mancini by surprise. He refused to believe it, at first. Vinnie had warned him about Brian’s divided ambitions. But the Don had thought well of the young hitman, having watched him grow from a teenage sneak-thief to a complete professional over the years. He had plans for Brian. He was loyal, dedicated to the Syndicate and to his profession. He'd been a rising star, working his way up the ranks relentlessly. And then, for reasons no one could completely explain, Brian threw it all away.

Mancini cut his musings short. There would be plenty of Brian's kind waiting for a chance to join the Syndicate. Eager, desperate, hungry young men with no future and no family, that needed a place to belong.  Give them a few jobs and a few years, and they became professionals. Cool, calm, detached and efficient. Mancini turned his thoughts to his empire as he sat down with his attorney. He scanned the courtroom for any sign of a brown-haired young thug in a black jacket. Nope.

Mancini smiled to himself and waved cordially to the D.A., who looked like he was about to pass a kidney stone. The bailiff motioned in the last few jurors and shut the doors on the crowded courtroom. The judge entered, the courtroom arose, and then the Syndicate trials began.

As Turner had promised, the material evidence against Mancini and company was thin. His lawyer punched holes in the evidence as fast at the D.A. presented it.  The Don was contemplating a golf outing upon his return to freedom when the D.A. approached the bench.

"Your honor, I'd like to call a witness to the stand," The D.A. said with his usual drone. Mancini sneered. Probably some shaking delivery boy they'd picked up and fed some lines to. He wasn't worried.

"Proceed," the judge said, and the bailiff swung the courtroom doors open. Mancini heard the hushed mutterings of the courtroom and looked up. A Sheriff walked in, clad in a blue and black uniform with a Stetson hat, which he removed politely. Behind him was a female deputy of the same county, and Mancini saw the accusing look she shot in his direction. It amused him.

Following the deputy was a ghost of a young man that he once knew. The black jacket that he wore had seen better days, and he was pale and drawn-looking, perhaps a little thinner. He walked slowly and stiffly as if it hurt to be alive. His eyes, though, were exactly as Mancini remembered. Sharp, dark, and serious.

As Brian Coltrane took the stand, Mancini knew he had lost. He gave the young man a glance that made outrageous promises, if only the ex-hitman would choose to have some memory lapses. It was to no avail.

Speaking quietly and clearly, with an occasional look in his cousin's direction, Brian told the jury of the Syndicate's heinous, crime-filled pastimes, and of Mancini's undisputed reign of the Atlanta underground. The defense attorney for Mancini voiced objections and was overruled.

The jury hung on every word. Once or twice, the witness seemed to hesitate, unsure of himself, the realization that he was hanging himself with the Don sinking in. But then he would look at the Sheriff and deputy and catch a nod, and it would be enough for him to go on.

Several hours later, Don Mancini showed no reaction to the verdict. As he was lead away, however, he turned and gave the witness a look that spoke deadly volumes. Brian shuddered and turned away.

Later that week, the same young man sat opposite of the same District Attorney in a hearing of his own. He kept his eyes down on the table as the judge read the charges. First-degree homicide. Attempted homicide. Armed robbery. The list went on, and Brian couldn't meet his cousin's eyes anymore.

The judge asked a question. "How do you plead?"

Brian's heart slammed frantically in his chest. What if the judge didn’t go along with the deal? What if the D.A. told the judge somethin' else? The judge repeated the question, sternly.  “How do you plead?”

Brian turned back over his shoulder to look at his uniformed cousins.  He didn’t trust the D.A.  He didn’t trust the judge.  But he trusted them.

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco, whose expression held concern and resolve.  He nodded at MaryAnne. She then looked back at Brian and brought a hand to her face, covering it. Hesitantly, she gave him a nod.

Brian swallowed and turned back to face the judge. "Guilty," he said softly.

The judge entered the plea and looked at the D.A, then back to Brian. "The defendant will rise for sentencing..." Brian stood, hoping his knees wouldn’t buckle. This was worse for him than the shootout in Finchburg.

"Brian Coltrane, by your own admission of guilt to the stated charges, this court finds you guilty of the same. The nature and degree of these offenses require a mandatory life sentence....

"Which is hereby given and suspended, as per the recommendations of the prosecuting attorney. Any objections, councilor?"

"None, your honor."

The judge eyed Brian. "Will the defendant please approach the bench."

Brian walked up slowly, still not sure what a suspended sentence meant, and afraid to find out. The judge leaned forward. "Do you know what a suspended sentence means?" he asked.

"No sir..."

"It means, young man, that if you so much as get a parking ticket...the court can, at it's option, immediately activate the sentence and put you in prison for the rest of your natural life. Don't give me a reason to ever see you here again, Mr. Coltrane."

"Understood," Brian squeaked. The judge banged the gavel, and the court adjourned. The D.A. packed his briefcase up, satisfied with the results.

Rosco and MaryAnne jumped up and gathered around Brian.  "Alright!" MaryAnne cheered and gave Brian a hug.

Brian returned it hesitantly. His testimony at the Syndicate trials had given MaryAnne and Rosco a detailed synopsis of his career. And now they'd heard him admit to his own crimes. The D.A. had been considerate enough to abbreviate the charges, but hearing them spoken aloud had been more than unsettling. When the judge had listed his offenses, Brian remembered the first time he came to Hazzard, and had remembered MaryAnne's reaction to him. He wouldn't blame her if she'd had the same reaction now.

MaryAnne noticed the clouded look on Brian's face. He was waiting for his real sentence, the judgment against him that counted most. He was waiting for his cousin's reactions now that they heard just about everything. "Crime doesn't quite pay, does it?" she said, her voice not scolding, but showing some disappointment.

"No," Brian said softly. "As a matter of fact...there ain't nothin' with a higher price...but back when I had nothin' to lose...it seemed like a bargain."

Rosco nodded. "And if you mess up now, you've got a lot to loose," he said. "I think some times a suspended sentence is more of a punishment than actually goin' to jail, because you're going to think of it everyday, with everything you do. Especially if you don't want to end up there.”

The Sheriff crossed his arms. “But MaryAnne and I ain't gonna just dismiss them charges the D.A. read and pretend we didn't hear 'em." He paused, glancing at MaryAnne. "It won't be easy for you anywhere, and if you stay in Hazzard, it won't necessarily be any easier." Rosco thought of how MaryAnne reminded him every so often of his own slip with the law, and he dropped his gaze a bit, realizing that this was the closest he had ever come to having to face up to everything he had done.

Brian looked at Rosco and saw the uncomfortable expression. He tried to read it, then decided he'd better know for sure. "Sheriff...are you sayin'...that I still have a home with y'all?"

Rosco and MaryAnne looked at each other and then MaryAnne looked at Brian. "If you want it. If you don't want to stay, we'll understand..."

The D.A. chose that moment to approach the Coltranes. He cleared his throat to draw their attention. "You're eligible for the Witness Protection Program," he told Brian. "You could live anywhere in the United States. New identity, fresh start. Commander Mayson will make the arrangements; you just have to give the word."

Brian considered it seriously. It would be almost a relief to leave Hazzard, to go somewhere and be anonymous. It was the easy answer to his problems.

He glanced at the D.A and then back to his cousins. The silver stars on their uniforms caught his attention. They were cops. They would always be cops, with or without the badges. They'd proved that back in Finchburg, under fire. Rosco and MaryAnne had gone through hell. They looked it, even now. Dark circles shadowed their eyes, and a certain weariness softened their proud posture. But their blue eyes held an edge to them, an ever-present readiness that Brian respected. Staying in Hazzard wouldn't be easy. They'd see to that...for his own good.

MaryAnne had let him go, once. And then some months later, Rosco had given him the choice to run again, or to stick with them, to see things through and testify. Now they waited patiently for this last decision.

Brian made up his mind and turned to the D.A. "I'm goin' home," he said quietly. "But thanks anyway."

The D.A. actually smiled, a rare thing for the stern-looking man. "I think you made the right choice." It was all he gave Brian, but it was genuine. The D.A. adjusted his glasses and spoke to Rosco. "I'll be in touch with you when we prepare the Bureau cases with Internal Affairs. In the meantime, I'd like to thank you for enduring all this with professionalism. There were some...earlier misunderstandings by my office, but Commander Mayson has convinced me of my errors." The D.A. offered a handshake.

MaryAnne watched her cousin as he regarded the D.A. for a moment. In all honestly, Rosco wanted to deck the man, but he maintained the professionalism the D.A. had spoke of. "Just don't be forgettin' them errors too soon," the Sheriff said and shook the D.A.'s hand. Not all was forgiven, but Rosco appreciated that the D.A. had acknowledged his mistake.

"I never do." The D.A. let an ounce of humanity show in his face for a second. Then the professional mask was back on, and he took his leave.

The three cousins watched the D.A. walk away. When he disappeared down the hall, MaryAnne spoke.   "I'll be darned..."

Rosco snorted. "Eh, I'm not completely impressed. I'd like to knock him in the middle of next week..."

"At least he acknowledged his 'misunderstandings.'"

"I suppose."

Brian had no comment. The week's proceedings had drained him, and now that it was over, he wanted to find a nice, quiet basement and hide in it for the next twenty years. He started for the door, walking slowly and with his shoulders low.

Rosco and MaryAnne were worn too and they quietly followed. The young man before them had gone through the most difficult week of his life. Even harder than the shoot out in Finchburg. Shooting a gun at the enemy was one thing. Facing a bullet was another. Facing the Don, the man Brian had been employed by for so long, who had provided him with something close to an existence in Atlanta...that was all together something different.

And Brian had done it. It was understandable that the young man's shoulders slumped, almost as if in disgrace. But he had done the right thing...even though sometimes the right thing wasn't always the most pleasant.

The ride back to Hazzard was quiet. As she drove her cousins home, MaryAnne occasionally glanced in the mirror. She saw Brian looking out the back window towards the Atlanta skyline more than once.

Rosco noticed it too, and he exchanged a look with MaryAnne. It'll work out...somehow...Rosco seemed to be thinking. MaryAnne was telling herself the same thing, and she held the thought as they made their way home. When she pulled the patrol car into their driveway, the sound of barking dogs came from the house. Flash and Bandit were giving a hearty welcome. Rosco was out of the car first, and the moment the house door opened, he had an armful of bassett hound. The German shepard came out a second later, his charge slowed somewhat by the cast on his leg, but his tail wagged broadly as MaryAnne stooped down for a hug.

Brian watched the reunion of cops and canines and smiled a little bit. Then he went inside the house and headed for his room, figuring the less he was seen on the street right now, the better.

A few minutes later, after the dogs had settled down, the middle step on the stairway creaked, announcing that someone was coming. Brian had closed his door, not tight, but enough that no one could look in. He sensed somebody standing by the door and silently wished for whoever it was to go away, just for a little bit. He watched the shadow under the door, and then it disappeared. Whoever it had been was heading back to the stairs. They hadn’t gone too far, though, because that middle stair didn't creak again.

Brian sighed and got up, nudging the door open with the toe of his boot. Without saying anything, he sat back down on the bed, going back to reading the book he'd half-heartedly started.

"You alright, Brian?" a voice asked. It was Rosco, and after a moment, the Sheriff's weary face peered into the room.

"Yeah," Brian answered without looking up. His voice, however, didn't sound convincing.

"Do you wanna talk about it, or would you rather I left ya alone?" Rosco would understand if Brian told him to go away.

"I don't know..." Brian sat the book down. "Sheriff, how can you even look at me after what you've heard..."

Rosco stepped into the room and sighed quietly. "I dunno...maybe the same reason MaryAnne can still look at me, knowing what she knows." The Sheriff sat down on the other end of the bed and looked at Brian.  "MaryAnne and I both knew that something would come out about you before this was all over. And we figured it would be something...not particularly flattering to you. But even after hearing all that the judge said, the fact remains that you went up against the Syndicate.  You ain't off the hook for what you've done in the past...but you've got a hell of a good start on it."

Brian absorbed the truth in Rosco's words. Then he looked Rosco in the eye for the first time since their return from Atlanta. "I know you bend the law as much as I break it, Sheriff...but for what it's worth....you're a damn good cop when it really counts."

Rosco looked at Brian for a moment and then dropped his gaze in thought. "Maybe it needs to count more often." He sighed. "My shady badge almost didn't shine through all of this. Thought for sure that D.A was gonna start digging...or somebody was going to give him information NOT relative to the Syndicate case."

"He sure as hell had somethin' on ya, he more than hinted at it. It's one of the reasons I told 'em I'd testify. Ya see, the D.A. coulda hung you an' me both, and had MaryAnne's badge permanently removed. But why mess around with little fish when you can have a real trophy for the wall? Those Syndicate convictions and the FBI shakeup will do a lot more for his political career."

Brian let that soak in, then added a thought. "Not to say that you shouldn't be careful, Sheriff. God forbid if this guy gets bored and wants another headline."

Rosco propped his elbow on his knee and rubbed his hand over his face. He was sure they'd get him...someday...if he wasn't careful. "As long as I stay small fish..."

"That's exactly what I used to say."

Rosco sighed heavily now. The regret that was showing on his face, was nothing compared to the disappointment that was in his eyes. He stood up and started towards the door, pausing a moment. "If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. There's nothing I can do about it."

"So what you're sayin', is that you ain't gonna change until you're caught," Brian stated mildly. "Because you don't know how."

Rosco turned back to Brian. "Oh I know how...it's just...that I can't..."

"MaryAnne seems to think otherwise...and you don't wanna let that girl down."

"I already have," Rosco said softly. "Besides, she ain't the one that would loose..." He glanced at Brian and then shook his head. There was no way Brian could understand Hazzard economics.

The ex-hitman stood up and took a couple of steps towards Rosco. "You work for somebody you can't say 'no' to. Just like I did."

Rosco hesitated, almost not wanting to admit it. Certainly not wanting to admit the similarities. He nodded slightly.

"And there's nowhere for you to go...no other way to make a livin'..." Brian's voice was sympathetic. "And you tell yourself that you're not as bad as some...that if it wasn't for your circumstances, you'd play by the rules..."

Rosco nodded again. "Brian, I shoulda lost this badge years ago..."

"But at the same time, you've done some rotten stuff to keep it. I understand, Rosco. Maybe I understand better than anybody else ever could."

"Perhaps you do..."

"You know somethin'..." Brian said as he stepped towards at Rosco. "When you look at MaryAnne...you see the kind of cop you used to be. The officer you still are, deep down inside."

Rosco nodded once again. "I'd hate to see this happen to her."

Brian pointed a finger at the Sheriff. "And she hated to see it happen to you."

Rosco hung his head now. There was nothing left for him to say. 

The sound of Brian's boot steps came closer again. The ex-hitman reached a hand out, hesitantly, and rested it on Rosco's shoulder. "Sheriff...I was a kid when I joined in with the Syndicate. At first it was kind of fun...all adventure and easy money. I always told myself that there were things I wouldn't do. You know, lines I wouldn't cross...like gettin' anybody hurt." Brian fell silent for a moment, and took a long breath. "Maybe someday I'll tell you and MaryAnne the whole story. But until then...you gotta know somethin'.

"I thought I could walk in the middle of right and wrong...and still be on the straight and narrow. Then I took a man's life in a liquor store robbery...I didn't mean to, it just happened...and after that, there was no turning back anymore." Brian's next breath seemed to catch in his lungs. "You still got choices, Rosco...you still got a chance to turn back. When you look at MaryAnne, you see the pride she has in her badge...a badge she went out and got onconna you. And when you look at me...you're gonna be reminded of the consequences of breakin' the law."

Rosco was very quiet for a long moment. He could still hear MaryAnne going up one side of him and down the other when she first learned he'd gone crooked. She was only sixteen at the time, but the young woman had scolded him unlike he had ever been scolded by anyone in his life. Eli had given him hell too, but MaryAnne...that had been pure wrath.

It was a long time before he could explain everything to her, so that she would understand. And even though she understood, Rosco knew she had never forgiven him. And she probably never would...unless he changed.  "I'm startin' to change...a little. Ain't I?"

"You're the only one that can answer that, Sheriff. The stuff that I know about your dealin's, I got from rumor, and then from the D.A. Some of it I got from MaryAnne." Brian gave Rosco's shoulder a pat and let his hand drop. "I ain't tryin' to tell you your business. There are some things a man's gotta find out for himself and decide on his own."

Rosco sighed heavily and nodded. What if Boss don't like what I decide? "You probably know all of it then," he said, looking at Brian. "Makes me wonder how you can look at me."

"Maybe 'cause I see a little bit of myself when I look at you. Only in your case, you ain't crossed that last line yet, that point of no return. And if MaryAnne and I have it our way...you won't.”

Rosco looked at Brian suddenly. A smile tugged at the Sheriff's mouth, a slightly amused, yet appreciative look came to his face. "You and MaryAnne huh? I've already got more grey hair than I care to admit ya know."

"Hell, you're lucky you still got hair at your age." Brian smiled a little bit, and Rosco giggled.

"Hey!" MaryAnne's voice drifted up the stairs. "You fellas hungry or what?"

Brian leaned out the doorway. "Yeah, we'll be right there," he called down. He turned back to Rosco and offered his right hand. "Sheriff...thanks for givin' me a chance, and for givin' me a home," he said sincerely. "And thank you for savin' my life. I owe y’all."

Rosco took Brian's hand and nodded. "You're kin, Brian." He paused. "And thank you...for helping us."

The gratitude was plain in Brian's face as he shook Rosco's hand. Then he turned for the door.  "Better not keep her waitin', or we'll be eatin' cold grits for a week," he said with a chuckle. He bounded down the stairs nosily, riling up the dogs who barked at his descent.

Rosco followed, and MaryAnne looked up to see Rosco pick up Flash and cradle the basset for a moment. He then let her back down as the three cousins gathered around the dinner table.

Rosco settled into his chair and spoke a simple yet elegant grace. Brian left his head bowed a second longer than his cousins, then ate his meal quietly. He snuck a couple pieces of meat to Bandit and Flash when he thought his cousins weren't looking. A thought then occurred to him in mid-chew, and he set his fork down to voice a question. "Either of y'all know where I can get myself an old car? I'm gonna need one to find a job somewhere."

Rosco and MaryAnne glanced at each other. MaryAnne finished her mouthful and looked at her plate for a moment. "Actually, we got a car for you awhile back. Umm...it's a little rough, Cooter's been doin' some work on it..." She looked at Brian. "But I think you'll like it."

"Ya did? You musta known I was gonna stick around then, huh."

MaryAnne chuckled. "Yeah, I musta."

"That, and she don't wantchya joy ridin' in Maverick. Khee!" Rosco said.

"Don't worry, that's somethin' I ain't gonna do twice! Not while MaryAnne is lookin', anyway...khee!" Brian got up with the pretense of putting his plate in the sink, effectively getting out of arm's reach at the same time. He grinned over his shoulder at MaryAnne. "So is there any chance of lookin' at this car tonight?"

MaryAnne gave him a look for his former remark. She then laughed. "Yeah, I think we can do that."  She looked at Rosco. "What do ya say?"  Rosco grinned and nodded.

Brian cleared the table after Rosco and MaryAnne finished their plates. Then the three of them piled into Maverick and headed to town. Once at Cooters, Brian looked around at the collection of beaters that perpetually surrounded the old garage. They all looked serviceable, but a wistful sigh escaped the young man.

"I think Cooter's got it out back," MaryAnne said as the three of them walked towards the side of the garage.  They walked single file down the alley that separated the garage from the building next door. Brian was the last one in line and when they cleared the alley, Rosco and MaryAnne stood out of the way so that Brian could see the lone black Chevy Impala sitting there.

"Ta-da!" MaryAnne said. "Looks a heck of a lot better than when I got it outta the Atlanta impound that's fer sure!"

"Wha...it can't be...how did...." Stunned, Brian gave up trying to form a coherent thought. He walked towards the car cautiously, as if he half-expected it to disappear like a mirage. He traced the lines with his fingertips, feeling the smoothness of new black paint. He walked around the front, and saw gleaming, straightened chrome. After circling the car twice, he opened the door and got in, the wear in the upholstery convincing him that it was, in fact, real. Brian ran his hand over the dashboard with affection.

Rosco and MaryAnne watched, grinning. MaryAnne then took a couple of steps towards the car. "I think Cooter's still got some engine and undercarriage work to do. But other than that, the ol' boy...or girl or whatever you refer to it as, will be roarin' sooner than you think."

MaryAnne leaned on the window and looked at her cousin. "Now, Brian, this car is gonna be legal. That means functioning taillights, instrument lights, directionals, the whole bit. I'm only tellin' ya this because Cooter spent a fortune on fuses alone for this car."

Brian wiped a hand over his eyes, pretending that it was dust that made them water. "Diablo and me go way back," he said to MaryAnne. "I don't know how you pulled this off, but..."

"I got connections, khee!" She paused looking from the front fender to the back. "Diablo huh? This car must have one hell of a story." She looked at Brian. "And you're welcome, by the way."

Brian leaned out the open car door to give MaryAnne a sudden hug. "He sure does. Someday I'll tell it to ya. Meantime, I'm gonna give you and Maverick a run for your money..." As Brian spoke, another car rolled into view at the end of the alley, an "01" becoming visible as the car idled to a stop. The occupants of the orange car looked in the direction of the Coltranes, and no one spoke for a moment.

Luke climbed half-out of the General Lee, as Bo peeked up over the flag-painted roof. Luke jerked a thumb back towards the black Chevy and made a comment to Bo, loud enough to be overheard. "Looks like Cooter left junk in the alley again!"

The Dukes snickered as Brian got out of Diablo. The second the ex-hitman took a step in their direction, they whooped and squealed off, leaving behind a spectacular set of skid marks and the echo of a Dixie horn. Brian ran to the end of the alley and yelled at the orange car as it careened around the town square.

"THIS AIN'T OVER!" he shouted at them, getting another "Yeehaaa!" for an answer. Brian watched them tear off, the Coltrane instinct for chase rising in his blood. 

Rosco and MaryAnne couldn't help but giggle. MaryAnne then looked at Rosco and said, "I dunno about you but he looks ready for hot pursuit!"

"Khee!"

"And I thought life in Hazzard was gonna be slow," Brian muttered as he walked back towards his grinning cousins, a smile of his own answering them. He slung one arm around Rosco's shoulder and the other around MaryAnne's. "Khee...ya know, I think between the three of us, them Dukes are gonna have their hands full."

THE END


Copyright 2000/2001 Cuz Bonita and Lisa Philbrick

Co-author's notes:

Lisa: Brian said it best. THIS AIN'T OVER! ....Khee! =)