Chapter Ten

It had taken some doing, but Brian finally convinced the public defender that he wanted a meeting with the D.A., alone. Once it had been arranged, Brian dismissed his goverment-sponsered attorney, who promptly suggested that perhaps an insanity plea would be fitting.

Two days later, despite objections by the warden, the FBI, and Brian's former lawyer, the District Attorney met with a member of the Syndicate. A small and heavily-guarded office was given to the D.A. to facilitate the meeting.

Brian was led into the room, and directed to sit across from the D.A. As the guards left to wait outside, Brian cleared his throat nervously. This got him noticed by the District Attorney, who looked up. The prosecutor’s face was creased with deep lines, giving him an unsympathetic appearance. Wire-rimmed glasses perched on his hawkish nose, and the DA adjusted them as he spoke to Brian. "Mr. Coltrane, I understand that you've refused your right to legal counsel. Before we proceed any further, I strongly suggest you reconsider that decision."

"Legal counsel won't be necessary," Brian answered, sounding braver than he felt.

The DA pushed a thick legal file across the table. "These are sworn statements we've collected from several of your peers. I won't warn you again, Mr. Coltrane."

Brian didn't open the file. "Understood."

The expression on the DA's face was grim. He clasped his hands together on top of the table and leaned forward. "If you're here to plea bargain, you'd better have something considerable in the way of exchange. Otherwise, I intend to seek the maximum penalty in accordance with your conviction."

Inwardly, Brian was starting to wonder if this was such a bright idea. But then he thought of MaryAnne and Rosco, and what was at stake. He faced the D.A. and made eye contact. "I suppose one conviction is better than none."

"Not from where you're sitting."

Damn, this bastard's gonna be tough, Brian thought to himself. "You're right. Too bad you won't get any other convictions on the Syndicate. Nobody will testify against the big boys, ya know."

"Nobody?" The D.A. removed his glasses and studied Brian intently.

"Almost nobody." Brian leaned forward. "And on top of it, the FBI's got an internal problem. I’m sure there’s gonna be some political maneuverings, due to the lean evidence they've come up with...."

The D.A. was fully interested. "And how are you aware of this internal problem with the FBI?"

The chess game had begun. Brian played each piece in his possession, starting with the threats that the FBI commander had made to MaryAnne's and Rosco's badges. The D.A. took notes, which Brian considered to be a good sign. "I'll solve your problem and the FBI's," Brian offered, moving his last piece on the board. "I'll give you everythin' you need for your case against the Syndicate. A bunch of high-profile convictions like this could make you the next Governor of Georgia."

"I'll be sure to remember you when I am," the D.A. said dryly, continuing his notes. "Keep talking."

"I want some assurances first, in writing.  I want your guarantee that the Hazzard County law will keep their badges, and get the recognition they deserve for their work on this case…and that you won't let the FBI commander contort the facts."

The D.A. looked up from his notes, peering over his glasses. "Not the first request I expected from you. But agreed." He paused, tapping his gold pen against the legal pad while studying Brian. "What's in it for you, Mr. Coltrane?"

Brian took a breath and steadied his nerves. "Anything your willin' to give. I've got enemies here in Atlanta Federal. After the Syndicate trials and my testimony, I'm gonna have even more enemies...and at that point, any sentence the court hands to me could be damn near irrelevant."

The D.A. seemed unconcerned. "I imagine so. However, it would save the State an enormous amount of trouble and expense."

Brian began to ruffle until the D.A. pointed the pen at him. "Give me your statements, and I'll see what I can do. I'll also be talking to your cousins. Fair enough?"

"Yes sir," Brian sighed. He gave his statements to the prosecutor.  The game was over.

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

A day later, Rosco and MaryAnne sat with Agent Frank Mayson in the D.A.'s office in Atlanta. The prosecutor had requested a meeting with them, telling them that Agent Mayson would be there as well. He informed them of the discussion that he and Brian had the day before, yet neither Rosco nor MaryAnne were sure of what the D.A's next move was going to be, if anything. So they sat, and waited for the meeting to begin.

The D.A. adjusted his glasses and got down to business. "Thank you for coming," he said as if there had been a choice. "Sheriff, I'll start with you. Your deputy, MaryAnne Coltrane, had an opportunity to arrest a suspect several weeks ago and failed to perform her duty. What disciplinary measures did you take concerning the matter?"

Rosco looked at the D.A. stone faced. Although he and MaryAnne had agreed to tell the truth, he had to admit that he wasn't expecting such a question right off. He swallowed. "Um...none."

"Apparently the very idea takes you by surprise. As Sheriff, you're responsible for the conduct and performance of all the officers under your command. Deputy Coltrane's performance is questionable, but at the moment I have serious qualms about your own." The D.A. looked down at a report from the F.B.I., then back up at Rosco, inviting rebuttal.

Rosco wasn't going to take the invitation. MaryAnne's badge was the more important issue here, not his. He looked at the D.A. coolly. "The performance of any of my deputies has never been questioned. What MaryAnne did was not done with malicious intent." Rosco glanced at the paper that was before the D.A. then at the man himself. He said nothing, but issued a silent ultimatum. Go ahead...use that little report you got.

The D.A. seemed immune to Rosco’s stare. "I find that your performance has been questioned on a number of occasions, Sheriff.  If I wasn't already occupied with the Syndicate cases, you and I would have nice, long talk." The D.A. gave Rosco a look that clearly held a warning.

Yeah, we can have a nice long talk. I'll tell how it feels to have your innards cut outta ya. "Just git on with it." Rosco wasn't amused at how this was starting.

The D.A. folded his hands, resting them on the F.B.I. report. "There are allegations of nepotism within the Hazzard County Sheriff's Department. If I were to use this incident as a single example, I would have to assume the allegations are correct." The D.A. let that statement linger as he turned to MaryAnne. "Deputy, when you failed to arrest Brian Coltrane, you showed either an unwillingness or an inability to perform your sworn duties. At the least, you should have detained Brian and had another officer make the arrest."

MaryAnne pulled her badge off, knowing she wasn't going to be able to keep her cool. "Let me cut through the garbage here and lay it out for you. I came this close to arresting him, but I stopped because a bigger picture began to unfold. If he had been arrested, the Syndicate would most certainly have taken revenge for the botched hit on the Dukes.  Their first target: Me. Along they way they would probably finish the Dukes and then wipe out the entire Hazzard County Sheriff's department.  I mean, what the hell, we're only three officers, a buncha country bumpkins. Easy as squashing a bug. Also, Brian’s a cousin. If you wanna accuse me and Rosco here of nepotism, go ahead, whatever floats your boat. YES, I let him go, and I did so because I thought he could take the chance to get out of the Syndicate. I found out later, when he returned that he indeed wanted help in getting out, but he had been followed, making the attempt to talk to either me or Rosco damn near suicidal.”

MaryAnne’s temper built to a crest and her fist hit the table. “The Syndicate's been smashed to pieces, thanks to us.  Now, if you want to waste the good tax-payin' folks of Atlanta's money trying to finish me and Rosco's career, go ahead! Neither of us expected much of a thank you from the City of Atlanta anyways."

The scratching of the D.A.'s pen on the legal tablet followed MaryAnne's words. He said nothing as he made his notes, reviewed them, and checked against the F.B.I. report. "It wasn't my office that prepared these allegations, Deputy. Permit me the opportunity to identify the facts as they occurred." The D.A. glanced up at MaryAnne in mild reproach, then turned to Agent Mayson. "Mayson, you and I have worked together on a number of cases. Do you concur with the Deputy's line of reasoning?"

Mayson nodded without hesitation. "I do, Councilor. The Deputy knows how the Syndicate works. She's seen it, right here in Atlanta."

"Hmm." The D.A. took off his glasses and leaned back in the chair, and pushed the F.B.I. report forward. "Agent Mayson, can you explain why your commander recommended the immediate suspension of these two officers, while your personal report suggested commendations?"

Mayson ignored the report. He eyed the D.A. "It is my belief that the commander recommended suspension for political reasons, Councilor. And I think, Darrell, you can figure the why on that."

The D.A. tapped his pen on the desk. "The F.B.I. has been planning a Syndicate sting operation for years. And they would be still planning, except that a certain rural police department showed initative and forced some action. I've got a bad feeling, Frank, about your commander...and about why these Syndicate arrests were so long in the making." The D.A. reached to the F.B.I. file and flipped it open. "Your commander also recommends the filing of capital charges against Brian Coltrane, and suggested that I refuse any plea bargains he proposed. Yet Brian is the one man that will testify against the Syndicate." The D.A. leaned forward again, urgency in his voice. "There may be a vested interest at stake in the Syndicate trials. Do you understand where this is leading, Frank?"

Mayson looked at the D.A. He understood. "If my commander, or anyone, has a vested interest that could be threatened by Syndicate convictions, it's not something I have been made aware of. I stand by what I wrote in my report, Councilor."

The D.A. nodded, having expected the answer. “There's more than coincidence at work here. I may have to rely heavily on Brian Coltrane's testimony to obtain convictions in these cases. I loathe cutting deals, Frank. But I may have to make an exception." The D.A. turned back to MaryAnne. "Put your badge back on, Deputy. You and the Sheriff have another job to do."

MaryAnne looked at the D.A. and then at Agent Mayson. Now things were finally starting to make sense. She put the badge on. "What do we need to do?"

"Escort a witness with you back to Hazzard, and make sure he doesn't leave your sight until these trials are over. Do you expect any problems with this assignment?"

MaryAnne's mouth dropped slightly in surprise, and she glanced at Rosco. "Um...who's the witness?"

The D.A. didn't answer with words. Instead, he put the finishing touches on a Release Order that he presented to Rosco. "Take that to Atlanta Federal and give it to the warden. Tell him to call my office if there's any questions."

Rosco looked at the name on the Release Order, turned pale, and showed it to MaryAnne. The name on it read Brian Coltrane.

MaryAnne stared at the name and then nodded approval to Rosco. “I don't see any problem with this assignment at all."

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

Alone in his cell, Brian was attempting to doze on the narrow bed.  The sound of jangling keys startled him and he bolted up. Two gaurds and the warden were standing at his door.

"Out, Coltrane," the warden said as the cell door swung open. A guard handcuffed Brian as a matter of procedure.

"What's the occassion?" Brian asked. It was rare for any inmate to receive a personal visit by the warden. Even more rare for the warden to venture into the cellblock.  Curiosity mingled with the young man’s fear as he was lead off.  “Where you takin’ me?”

"To my office," the warden said sharply. 

“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it…awright, I’m movin’!”  Brian fell into step with the guards as they gave him a short shove. Jeers and catcalls rained from the rows of cells as the small group made it's way to the security door. After a long walk through various checkpoints, Brian was led into the warden's office. The handcuffs were removed, but the guards remained. "Sit down," the warden said.

Brian eased into one of the office chairs, which seemed inordinately comfortable to him after sitting on his prison bunk. The intercom on the warden's desk buzzed, and a curt "send them in" was the warden's answer to it.

After a moment, the door to the office opened and the Hazzard County Sheriff and Deputy stepped in. MaryAnne glanced at Brian, gave a smile, but had to force it away to keep to business with the warden. She and Rosco each took a seat and looked at the man.

"I received a disturbing phone call from the D.A.'s office about a half hour ago. I trust that's why you're here." The warden gestured for the paperwork that Rosco was holding.

"Yes, sir." Rosco passed the release order to the warden, who read the papers with a frown.

Brian cast a questioning look at his cousins, but Rosco and MaryAnne were both in cop-mode, their expressions unreadable. The warden finally signed the documents, then passed them to Brian. "Read them carefully," he suggested.

Brian took the papers nervously. Much of the writing was legal language that evaded him, but the words "Conditions of Release" made his heart skip. Something about a plea bargain and an agreement to testify, and a guarantee of his appearance.

One part of the document stood out at him, and he read it twice.  Then he read it aloud to convince himself. "In accordance to the terms of the plea bargain, the defendant will receive a suspended sentence, conditional upon..."

He wasn’t entirely sure what it all meant, but it sure sounded better than the alternatives.  He hastily skimmed the rest of the document and gave the warden a hopeful look. 

"Sign it if you understand it, and agree to abide by it," the warden prompted, handing Brian a pen.

Brian took it and signed quickly, handing everything back to the warden, who in turn presented it to Rosco. "By signing this, you're taking on an awful responsibility," the warden cautioned.

Rosco looked at the document for a brief moment. He then glanced at MaryAnne and then Brian who looked like he was about to burst. Rosco hoped Brian wouldn't blow the chance he was about to get. If he did, neither him nor MaryAnne would be pleased. He glanced at the warden and then signed the document.

"My responsibility only goes so far," Rosco said. He looked briefly at Brian. "Brian here has an obligation to keep and a responsibility to accept as well.  Meantime, I'm certainly going to do everything I can to make sure the conditions of this release are met…and nothing less.” 

With those words, the Sheriff handed the papers back.

"Then he's all yours." The warden stamped the documents with an official seal, tore off a copy of the triplicate form, and handed it back to Rosco. "Good luck, Sheriff."

"Thank you." Rosco nodded and took the receipt. He stood up, along with MaryAnne and they both looked at Brian.  "C'mon, Brian."

Brian got up from the chair and took a step over to his cousins. Tentatively, he offered his right hand to Rosco, the simple gesture given as a promise.

Rosco looked at Brian's extended hand and then at him. In the younger Coltrane’s dark eyes, the Sheriff was sure he could see that Brian was going to live up to his end of the bargain. He looked at Brian and took his hand, giving it a firm shake.

"Thank you, Sheriff," Brian said with heartfelt gratitude. He released the handshake and turned to MaryAnne, presenting his right hand again.

MaryAnne smiled and shook his hand. Like Rosco, she could see that Brian was serious about keeping his promise. But if he had any doubts along the way, she and Rosco would be there to remind him of what he was doing and why.  "You just remember," she teased. "You gotta BEHAVE."

"I'm gonna try, Deputy. I'm gonna try." Brian's own smile answered MaryAnne's.

Rosco started to escort his two cousins to the door. He spoke in a serious tone, like a Sheriff. "Don't worry. We'll make SURE you do...Khee khee!"

Rosco's infectious laugh made Brian grin. "Just git me outta here, before y'all change your mind."

"Yeah," MaryAnne agreed. "Let's get outta here." The three walked out of the office and marched down the hall. They left the building and walked out into the warm southern sun. MaryAnne hung back a bit, watching Brian and Rosco walk to the patrol car, shoulder to shoulder.

The misunderstandings between the three of them had been severe.  The emotional and physical pains they had visited upon each other would be a lot to live down.  But while the events of the last several weeks would certainly never be forgotten, perhaps with time, they could be forgiven.

Now that she knew why some things had happened, MaryAnne was willing to try and put everything behind them and start over. She believed her cousins felt the same way.  She also believed that with time, they would come to know one another as family…

As kin.




Copyright 2000/2001 Bonita Breit and Lisa Philbrick

Co-Author's Notes:

Cuz: And if you believe this is really the end…we got a bridge to sell ya…  KHEE! 

Lisa:  Along with some beach front property in Oklahoma...palm trees in Canada and tickets for skiing in Florida.. =)