Chapter Two

A shadowed figure sat alone at a table in the Boar's Nest, with his back to the wall. His dark eyes watched the entrance, as he pretended to sip his beer.

Outside, MaryAnne and Rosco stepped out of Maverick. MaryAnne was dressed in her waitress uniform, navy blue short shorts and a white poet blouse. In her hand was her gunbelt. The belt did nothing for the appearance of the outfit and MaryAnne had no intent to wear it, but some how felt better knowing she would keep it behind the bar. Not that the Boar's Nest was where she wanted a shoot out to take place.

Rosco's presence was self explanatory. Either he or MaryAnne seperately, or together, were in some kind of danger, and he was not going to let his cousin out of his site.

Brian eye's flicked to his watch. MaryAnne's shift would start...or maybe end, soon......

MaryAnne pulled open the old grey weathered door and she and Rosco walked in.

Brian pulled something out of jacket pocket, then concealed it by folding is arms and leaning on the table. He heard the door open, and he caught the flash of silver that was sunlight hitting a badge. Brian's body tensed, and only his eyes moved as Rosco and MaryAnne came inside.

There were a few folks seated at the tables, talking and drinking. MaryAnne scanned her eyes over the ground briefly as she made her way towards the bar.

"MaryAnne, what the devil you got that thing for?" Daisy asked. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she looked at the gunbelt slung over MaryAnne's shoulder.

"Shhh," MaryAnne said. "It's a long story. Just pretend you don't see it ok?"

"Are you in trouble?" Daisy looked from MaryAnne to Rosco.

"Yeah, something like that," MaryAnne said.

Seeing the gunbelt that MaryAnne carried, and noting that she was being protectively flanked by Rosco, Brian played chameleon. He bent over his beer and sipped it as if it was the only thing in the world, and picked up a menu to hide behind. His eyes darted over the top of the menu in brief glances.

MaryAnne walked behind the bar and slipped the gunbelt off her shoulder. She placed on the shelf underneath, near her's and Daisy's purses and then looked at Rosco.

"You better find a place to sit. I figure it's gonna be a long shift."

Brian kept drinking and browsing the menu, as if he were just another drifter passing through Hazzard.

Rosco settled into a booth, near the bar with view of the front door and the rest of the Boar's Nest, and laid his pearl handle pistol down on the table in plain view for everyone to see. MaryAnne grabbed a notepad and pencil and began to make her rounds checking on customers and seeing if they needed a refill on beer.

Having the Sheriff sitting a few feet away, with a ready pistol, was forcing Brian to adjust his strategy. MaryAnne was making the rounds at the tables, and he knew that she'd stumble upon him shortly. Brian looked at Rosco, and looked at the exit, and debated his chances.

Rosco was watching MaryAnne and would look ahead to the next person before she got there. When he looked at the shadowed individual in the corner, he suddenly got an awful feeling. Despite being hunched behind a menu, Rosco had the feeling he recognized who the individual was, and MaryAnne was only two feet away.

Brian put his beer glass down, and held the menu with his left hand. His right was tucked out of view.

Rosco saw the menu was being held with only one hand now and MaryAnne was about to step towards the table. Rosco couldn't let all hell break loose, not with several innocent folks in the Boar's Nest, three loaded guns and a killer in their midst. He had to do some to difuse things before the spark took. So he grabbed his gun and jumped up.

"Khee! MaryAnne, I just got an idea."

MaryAnne spun around to her cousin, somewhat startled. "Ah! Rosco....What?" She saw his gun was still in his hand and he had it down by his side, waving it towards Brian.

"Do you think you can get the juke box to play?"

Rosco's sudden animation startled Brian, and it took all his professionalism to remain still. The exchange between MaryAnne and Rosco was not lost on him, and he knew that he might be forced into a sudden move.

"The juke box?" MaryAnne said, still a bit startled. She met her cousin's gaze in a heartbeat figured it out. "Oh, sure. What song would you like to hear?"

"Well..." Rosco appeared as though he was going to take a minute to think about it when suddenly he grabbed Brian's menu and tossed it. With the pearl handled gun now trained on hitman, Rosco asked in a even tone, "Why don't we ask Brian?"

Brian's right hand was clutched around his own weapon, the nose of which was poking out between his folded arms. The polished gunmetal gleamed in contrast to the black leather jacket, and an eternal minute passed as Brian and Rosco tested each other's nerves. "Why don't you pick the song, Sheriff," he finally said in a soft voice.

Rosco saw the end of the gun but held his stance. MaryAnne saw it too, and both cousins stood perfectly still.

"Rosco..." MaryAnne whispered her pleading warning.

"You shouldn't have come back here, Brian," he said.

"Clear out the Boar's Nest. Now."

"Why don't you just clear out yourself," Rosco said. "Only I ain't sure we got a broom big enough to brush out trash like you."
Brian's dark eyes flickered, and his voice dropped an octave. "Get the customers out. I won't give you another chance to do it."

MaryAnne looked over at Daisy who had been watching the peculiar conversation. "Get everybody outta here. Now!" she hissed. Daisy nodded and went about telling folks to leave. Although everyone did as told, they asked why and Daisy just repeated for them to leave. After everyone was out, Daisy was the last one left. She looked at MaryAnne, who waved her hand to shoo the Duke woman away. "Go on," MaryAnne said.

Daisy still hesitated, not sure just exactly what the trouble was, but remembering how MaryAnne had brought in her gunbelt, she got an awful feeling and wondered if she would see Rosco and MaryAnne again. Slowly she stepped back to the door, MaryAnne waving her off again.

"Git!" the deputy ordered.

The young Duke woman finally disappeard out the door and the Boar's Nest was thick with silence.
From his periphrial vision, Brian saw the other waitress finally leave. Her reluctance to depart bothered Brian. "That other waitress. Who is she," Brian interrogated.

"You don't know?" MaryAnne said, looking at Brian in a cold stare. "That's Daisy Duke. Remember her?"

"Duke," Brian muttered. He had only seen Daisy brielfy, the last time he was in Hazzard. Keith, his one-time associate, had kidnapped her. "Damn." If Daisy was anything like her cousins...there would be a reception committie when Brian left the Boar's Nest. One with arrows, if past experience was any indication.

"Hmm...yeah, damn is right," MaryAnne said.

The mexican standoff was beginning to fray Brian's nerves. The rumors of Rosco's incompetence had evidently been exagerrated, from the looks of the pearl -handled Colt. "Truce," Brian said plainly.

"You're actions, unfortunately, are speaking louder than your words," Rosco said, eyeing the gun that Brian still had pointing at him.

"So's yours."

"You're the one who called it. You can't honestly expect me to trust you after the little shootout we had in town do you?"
Brian's expression was carefully gaurded, betraying nothing. He avoided looking at MaryAnne, who seemed to be ready to either cry or bash his head in, maybe both. As it was, Rosco had his full attention anyway. "Sheriff....either use the goddamn gun....or put it away." Verbally, Brian had just upped the ante. Weather the Sheriff would call or fold, remained to be seen.

Rosco's grip was turning sweaty. The whole room suddenly seemed warm and Rosco found himself in a situation he had been in only once before. Slowly, his thumb started to move towards the hammer, but he hestitated in resting his thumb on it and pulling it back, so it lingered.

"Rosco..." MaryAnne pleaded.

"Can't do either one, can you Sherrif?" Brian's own gun tilted up marginally, as if to make a point.

"Shut up," Rosco said through clenched teeth. He stood there, slightly dropping his gaze and feeling like something was trying to drain the life out of him. After a moment, he rested his thumb on the hammer and pulled it back and looked at Brian, his blue eyes cold as ice.

MaryAnne held her breath. She wouldn't blame Rosco for pulling the trigger, Lord knew she probably would if she had gun in her hand. But he was putting his own life on the line and MaryAnne could see in his eyes that he was aware of that and that it suddenly didn't matter.

Brian read the game's conclusion in the Sheriff's eyes. He had watched Rosco's expression and body language very carefully, and he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Rosco had something to live for......but also something to die for. That being his cousin, MaryAnne. His kin, whom he would die to protect...and kill to protect, if necessary. Brian took a deep breath....and moved his trigger finger off the gun, slowly.

Rosco watched and in equal gesture, started to let the hammer back down on his gun.

Seeing that Rosco had eased off the trigger as well, Brian let out some of the breath he'd been holding, and unwrapped another two fingers from the grip on his gun. He turned his wrist at the same time, pointing the gun away from the Sheriff. It was a risk, and he knew it...and he knew the Sheriff knew it. Brian's dark eyes watched Rosco's intently.

Rosco's eyes seemed distant, yet perfectly aware of what was going on. He watched the gun, saw that Brian was turning it away and decided to leave everything in the hands of fate. Perfectly aware that Brian could turn the gun back on him and blow him away, Rosco laid his .38 on the table.

The Sheriff's courage was impressive, but nearly foolhardy.  Brian knew that any of his peers would have capitalized on the opening Rosco was giving. Yet the cold blue eyes of the Sheriff spoke a challenge...and Brian could do no less. He slowly moved his gun to the table, and sat it down carefully, pointing the barrel away.

MaryAnne was praying harder than she ever had in her life. She was shaking too, thinking that Brian was going to kill her only remaining family - which would have been worse than having him just shoot her. When both guns were finally lying on the table, her knees buckled a bit but she kept from going to the floor and she grabbed Rosco's arm, thankful that at the moment at least, they were still standing.

Brian felt the fear eminating from MaryAnne...equaled only in strength by the cold rage he sensed from Rosco. Brian held up his right palm, in a gesture of 'wait'....and then slowly reached inside his jacket.

The two cousins watched him carefully, MaryAnne now tightly gripping Rosco's arm, the Sheriff's cold stare remaining unchanged.

Brian took extreme care in his movements, suspecting that Rosco would make a grab for the gun any minute. Brian withdrew a folded document from his pocket, and wordlessly offered it to the Sheriff...with the same, deliberate slownesss.

Rosco looked at the paper for a long moment. He then took it with his right hand and carefully unfolded it and looked at it. If he hadn't felt like the life was being drained out of him was now.

"Oh Lord..." he whispered.

MaryAnne was still keeping an eagle eye on Brian when Rosco's hushed declaration drew her attention away. She peered at the paper, and Rosco saw the color drain from his young cousin's face.

The Contract bore the name of Deputy Coltrane.  Brian said nothing as they read it.

When MaryAnne had read enough she turned away suddenly and faced the front doors of the Boar's Nest. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to contain the sickening shiver of her body. "Well," she said after a long moment, "so much for 'kin' huh?"

"I didn't order it." Brian's voice held no apology, though MaryAnne's words cut him deeply. "And I won't be the last axe man that the Syndicate sends."

"Oh shut up!" MaryAnne spun around to him now. "You didn't order it, but you have every intention of carrying it out, don't you?" MaryAnne paused and in an even voice said, "I take back everything I ever said to you before. EVERYTHING! You are NOT a cousin, you are NOT kin and you sure as hell are NOT a COLTRANE! You understand? You're nothing! So you go ahead and try to carry out that stupid little contract, and I don't care how many axe men the Syndicate sends!!"

"No, you don't, do you." Brian's eyes were narrowed, his trigger-vision focusing out of reflex. "You have no idea what you're up have no idea what I'm up against!" Suppressed emotion was thick in his voice.

"I don't give a damn what you're up against," MaryAnne said matter-of-factly. "You've been given a contract, you're here in Hazzard. Nothing else needs to be discussed. I sure don't need to hear no sob story from you. You think if I feel sorry enough for you I'll just get down on my knees and you can blow my head off and be done with it? Think again. I may have let you go before...I don't intend to make that mistake again."

Brian stood and picked up his gun. "Then so be it...cousin. I don't intend to repeat any mistakes myself.”

The word 'cousin' had been spoken like Brian had called MaryAnne a witch with a capital B. At this point, all bets were off and Rosco and MaryAnne knew there was no more time for talk. In a matter of split second intervals several things happened. At the site of the gun in Brian's grip, MaryAnne dove for the floor. Shots followed her under a table and Rosco already had his .38 in his hand. Before Brian had a chance to squeeze off more shots or turn the gun on the Sheriff, Rosco rammed the barrel into Brian's right shoulder....

And pulled the trigger.

The flesh in Brian's shoulder was torn apart by the Sheriff's bullet, and he stagged backwards, in shock and surprise. His gun hand opened slowly, and he dropped the weapon. His left hand moved to hold the wound together, which bled profusesly. The sleeve of his black leather jacket was covered in blood, evidence of the burning pain that must be tearing through his body...pain he desperately ignored, as he fought to hold onto conciousness.

Rosco watched in a daze, his gun still in his grip, his knuckles white. When Brian looked at him, Rosco showed no remorse, yet no intent on pulling the trigger again. However, the .38 remained pointed at Brian, even as Rosco kicked the gun on the floor away.

From under the table, MaryAnne watched, numb at the sight and dizzy from her own wounds. A flesh wound to her upper thigh and a wound in her side, just above her left hip. The smell of gun power mixed with the silence and tension. This was long from over.

" MaryAnne...." Brian said weakly, and edged towards the door.

Rosco moved the table out of the way and kneeled down to MaryAnne. The sight of his cousins wounds made him start to shake in both fear and rage. MaryAnne saw his scared look and raised a hand to him. "I'll be alright..." she said in a difficult breath. "I' alright. Get Enos...get help."

Brian's vision was black around the edges, and MaryAnne's voice sounded tinny and distant.

Gotta get outta here....showing either courage, stupidity, or pure desperation, Brian turned his back on them and walked to the door.

"Hang on, MaryAnne," Rosco said, his voice faltering a bit. He looked over at Brian stumbling to the door way. Rosco stood up and went out through Boss's office and came running around the front of the Boar's Nest were a crowd of people were gathered several feet away, including the Dukes and Enos.

"Rosco!" Daisy exclaimed. She and the boys, with Enos ran over to him.

"Sheriff, are you alright?" Enos asked.

"No! MaryAnne's been shot. Brian...." Rosco looked to the doorway and then grabbed Enos by the arm. "Come on, Enos!"
The deputy followed, while Bo, Luke and Daisy went around to the door way on the side of the Boar's Nest and went in through Boss's office.

Brian leaned against the wall, gathering his strength in order to walk through the door. He swallowed nasuea that was rising from the pain, and shut his eyes in an effort to clear his vision. He heard voices outside, but most of all, he heard the soft moans of pain that came from MaryAnne.

Rosco yanked open the front door and he and Enos saw Brian leaning against the wall. The boys and Daisy were in the bar and they kneeled down to MaryAnne.

"Bo, go call for an ambulance," Luke said. "Daisy, you better get some of the towels from behind the bar."

Bo and Daisy did as they were told. Luke than looked over to the door way.

Brian saw Rosco and Enos suddenly blocking his exit. He quickly glanced over to where MaryAnne lay, and caught the eyes of the dark-haired Duke, who was glaring at him with open hostility. Surronded by enemies and out of options, Brian consoled himself with the thought that the Syndicate would probably avoid Hazzard for years, after this. With his left hand, he reached inside his jacket.

Both Rosco and Enos saw the motion and the two law men grabbed Brian's arm.

Caught in the officer's grasp and too weak to fight, Brian made an effort to explain his actions....though he was almost disappointed that Rosco hadn't fired on him again. " Hazzard alone...." Brian gasped. "Duece....." and with those words, unconciousness took him.

Enos looked at Rosco in trepidation. "Duece?" he said.

"He ain't alone," Rosco said. "Dammit, this is never gonna end!" He motioned with his head to Enos and they dragged Brain into the Boar's Nest and placed him down on the floor. Rosco then went over to where MaryAnne lay, Luke carefully applying the towels to her wounds while Daisy tried to comfort the young Coltrane. MaryAnne looked at Rosco as he took his cousin's hand in his and spoke softly to her. "MaryAnne, you're gonna be alright. You hear me? I ain't gonna let nothing happen to you..."

MaryAnne nodded slowly as the sound of a distant siren could be heard. She gripped Rosco's hand with all the strength she could manage, afraid to let go, afraid to surrender to the darknes.

"Keep her concious, Rosco," Luke said. "The ambulance will be here shortly."

"Brian didn't come alone," Rosco said. "There's still somebody here in Hazzard, another hitman."

MaryAnne shook her head. "Don't....let 'em....get ya...please, Rosco..."

"I don't intend to. Believe me, sweetheart, I don't intend to..."

Enos, meanwhile, had tended to Brian's injury the best he was able. After that, he checked for weapons inside Brian's jacket. He removed a knife and some ammo...and several folded documents.  Enos glanced at the first paper and handed it to Rosco.  “Sheriff! Look at this!”

Rosco, still holding on to MaryAnne's hand, took the paper from Enos and looked at it.  It was a handwritten note, hastily scribbled. To whom it may concern: If you're reading this, Deputy Coltrane is wounded. Tell her I'm sorry, there was no other way. Tell her to forget she ever knew my name.  And most importantly, tell her to call in reinforcements. The Syndicate won't let the loss of an 'associate' go unanswered. Beware of Deuce.  I protected Hazzard as much as I could – but in order to buy time, MaryAnne had to be injured. The Syndicate had to think I was doing my job, and MaryAnne is safer in the hospital.

There was no signature on the note, and nothing else on the back of it.

Rosco let his hand that held the note drop to his lap. His head seemed to spin with questions, ideas, sadness, anger...everything came at the same instant. The wail of the siren was right outside the door now, and not even a minute after it quit, paramedics were rushing inside the Boar's Nest. Two went to Brian and everyone cleared out of the way as two others tended to MaryAnne. Everyone but Rosco.

The Sheriff sat like a stone. One of the paramedics looked at Rosco. "Sheriff? We'll take care of her, she'll be alright." Basically the paramedic was trying to say 'could you get out of the way please?' nicely. Rosco knew this and he looked at MaryAnne, who kept her eyes open long enough to nod to him. He gently squeezed her hand and then let go and stood up. He looked at the note and re-read it again, not noticing Enos stepping closer to him.

"Sheriff?" Enos questioned respectfully, the blank look on Rosco's face alarming the Deputy.  Rosco snapped out of his daze long enough to look at Enos.  "What....what else did you find, Enos?"

Enos swallowed and handed Rosco the rest of the documents. Each listed the name of a prominent Atlanta businessman. Most of the documents were assigned to “Deuce", though there were a couple assigned to Brian - likely to be completed after his assignment in Hazzard.

Rosco looked over each document and sighed. He suddenly felt very tired and it seemed like with each passing minute, the situation was getting worse and more worms were coming out of the can. Something had to be done, with minimal consequences.  And casualties.

The words of Brian's note echoing in his head, Rosco started to get an idea. He handed the papers, all of them, to Enos. "Hang on to these, Enos. We've got a lot of work to do."

"Yessir, Sheriff." Enos cleared his throat. "What about the hospital? Shouldn't we be keepin' that Brian fella under guard? You want me to do that, while you watch MaryAnne?"

Rosco nodded. "Yeah..." He then shook his head, not believing he didn't think of that too. "I'm glad you thought of that, Enos. Because by the time I would have thought of it, it would have been too late."

Enos nodded, his expression strained. "Sheriff...I'm awfully sorry this happened to MaryAnne," he said quietly.

Rosco was fighting tears now. He remained brave and 'Sheriff' like and nodded. "It wouldn't have happened...if I had shot first," he said softly.  Rosco then turned away and slowly walked to the front door.

Enos watched his superior officer depart, giving Rosco a moment of privacy before heading out to his own patrol car.

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

Enos arrived at Tri-County hospital shortly after the ambulences. He had a long, agonizing wait as MaryAnne had lead-removal surgery. The doctors finally advised him that that MaryAnne was stable and recovering, and a relieved Enos reported the news to Rosco. Then he went to see MaryAnne, opening the door quietly as to not disturb her. A drawn curtain seperated MaryAnne from the other patient in the semi-private room. Enos took off his hat and went to the side of MaryAnne's bed.

"Rosco's on his way, " he said softly.

MaryAnne stirred slightly, but remained in her slumber. A few moments later, the door opened again and Rosco quietly stepped inside. He nodded to Enos and whispered 'hello' and then looked at his cousin, whom he was relieved to see sleeping soundly. He took his hat off and stepped closer to the bed railing and watched her for a moment.

Enos stepped outside the room, without Rosco having to ask.

Rosco turned his head slightly when Enos left. He then looked at MaryAnne again, trying to sort through his rampant emotions.  "Sweetheart, I'm running out of options," Rosco said softly. "I feel damned if I do, damned if I don't. And I'm scared. More scared than I ever have been in my entire life. I can't believe the Syndicate would have a contract on you and I don't understand why they assigned it to Brian…”

“And now that I think I was able to stop Brian, I find out there's someone still in Hazzard to finish where he left off. As long as you’re here, you’re safe, but who knows how long that'll last." Rosco paused and looked to his right, where a chair was. He sat down with a sigh and rested his hat on his lap.  Now he was starting to feel the burden. He had to keep MaryAnne safe and the folks in Hazzard safe and figure how to get the Syndicate to leave all of them alone - altogether.

Snap my fingers and we can all disappear...Rosco had an idea for a shuck and jive, but it would count on Brian not knowing what was going on. And if he did know, he would have to cooperate...but Rosco wasn't counting on that.  He tried to protect Hazzard...yeah, right. Since when was he so concerned about protecting Hazzard?

Rosco leaned forward and rested his head on the heel of his hand wishing Brian had never showed up in Hazzard at all. And wishing a certain uncle had never gone to Atlanta all those years ago.

He stood up and paced around the end of MaryAnne's bed.  "MaryAnne, I'm so sorry..." he whispered. "I promised...I promised I wouldn't ever let anything happen to you." He paused and gently wrapped his fingers in her hand that was resting beside her. "You mean a lot to me. A lot..." Rosco let his gaze drift from his cousin's face to the railing on the other side of the bed.
MaryAnne came out of her slumber at the feel of someone holding her hand. She opened one eye and looked at Rosco standing over her.  "That's good to know," she said. "Because you mean a lot to me too."

Rosco looked at his cousin, startled. She smiled at him and gripped his hand tighter.  Rosco grinned and quickly brushed his other hand across his cheek, not quite removing every trace of the tear. "I'm glad you're okay," he said.

"Me too, Rosco..." she sighed. "Me too."

Enos stood outside in the hall, guarding MaryAnne's door, along with that of the next room - each for it's own reason. He decided to peek in the other room, just to check on the patient-prisoner that was the cause of MaryAnne's suffering. Enos saw that the hitman was asleep...looking almost human. The Deputy shut the door, not caring to look upon the cause of Hazzard's troubles too long.

A doctor soon walked up to Enos, holding a medical chart under one arm, both hands tucked inside a surgical overcoat. Few doctors were as intimidating as this one, who gave the Deputy instructions in a clipped, forward manner. As if he was accustomed to being obeyed. Instantly.

"Deputy, see to it that no one visits Mr. Brian Coltrane. No one. I'll check on his condition now, and then I'll see to Miss Coltrane. If she has any visitors in there, tell them to leave." The doctor opened the door to Brian's room and shut it behind him without a backwards glance. He stood at Brian's side, and tapped the wounded shoulder to get his attention. "Wake up."

Brian's eyes opened slowly, and then flew wide with alarm. ", you shouldn't be here....two cops next door...." Brian didn't have to pretend he was feeling weak. He was.

Enos knocked politely on MaryAnne's door before opening it. "Scuze me Sheriff...but the doctor says any visitors halfta leave."

"What doctor?" Rosco asked.

"Looks to be a surgeon, maybe the one that operated on your...." Enos almost said cousins, but he only knew for sure that it applied to one. "Anyhow, he's in the other room now, and he's comin' here next."

"Brian's next door??" MaryAnne said. "Good grief..."

Duece loomed over his associate, blocking the light, blocking the door, blocking any thoughts Brian might have had about ringing the nurse's buzzer. The pulse moniter went blip...blip...blip...and Duece looked at it, then back at Brian, a subtle statement made without any words at all. "What went wrong?" he demanded.

blip..."Sheriff surprised me. I had the Deputy cornered....the place cleaned out, and the damn Sheriff blew my shoulder apart. What's it look like?" Blip blip blip...the monitor sped up on it's own.

Enos straighted and put a hand on his gunbelt. "Don't worry MaryAnne...ain't nobody gonna hurt ya while I'm outside here. And Brian was out cold when I checked. I'm thinkin' of askin' the doctor to keep him that way...." Enos swallowed his anger and collected himself. "I'll be out here waitin'," he said for lack of anything else and shut the door again.

MaryAnne watched the door closed and smiled. She then looked at Rosco. "Well, you might as well wait outside. I ain't scared of no doctor."

"You sure? I mean, in me waiting outside?"

MaryAnne chuckled. "Yes, Rosco, I'm sure. I'll be fine. Go on."

"Alright." He let go of her hand. "I'll be right out the door, k?"

MaryAnne nodded and watched her cousin step out of the room.

The Doctor was pushing past Rosco and Enos, already on his way into MaryAnne's room. "I'll be a few minutes. You officers take a break while I'm checking her progress. Oh, and your prisoner is out, he shouldn't give you any trouble. Don't disturb him for a few hours." The doctor shut MaryAnne's hospital door behind him, as well as any opportunity for arguement.

Rosco looked at the door, somewhat miffed that the doctor had just marched right past them. "So much for a pleasant bedside manner," he muttered.

The doctor gave MaryAnne a cold smile and pretended to study the medical chart. "So what happened, Deputy? How did you take two bullets at close range and survive?" It was an odd question from a doctor.

MaryAnne regarded the doctor for a moment. can't figure it out?? "Pure luck, I guess."

"That man next door is a professional. He's not supposed to miss." The doctor took a syringe out of his pocket and studied the fluid level under the light.

"Well, I guess he was having a bad day." MaryAnne looked at the syringe. "What's that for?"

"Just something for your pain." The doctor put the tip of the needle into MaryAnne's IV feed, just above her wrist. "Don't move, or this will take longer than it has to."

MaryAnne watched the doctor administer the syringe. She remained still and looked at him when he finished.

A smile curled up on the compassionless face. "You won't feel a thing, now." The doctor prepared to leave, but he turned at the door. "I'll tell your cousin Brian that you didn't suffer."

MaryAnne's eyes widened when she figured out the doctor’s hidden meaning. After the door closed, MaryAnne grabbed the bed railing and pulled herself up to a sitting position. "ROSCO!!"
Rosco felt ice go through his spine when MaryAnne cried out.  The doctor was walking quickly down the hall as the Sheriff and Enos burst into MaryAnne's room.  "What's wrong?"

MaryAnne was shaking her head, her face pale in fear. "He wasn't no doctor...Rosco, he just put some kind of poison or something in the IV!!"

Rosco turned to Enos, but the deputy was already out the door and running down the hall. He looked back at MaryAnne, who shooed him out frantically.  “Go get a nurse!!”

Rosco bolted to the door and ran down to the nurse’s station.

Outside of the hospital, a black Chevy waited with the motor running. Deuce shed the surgeon's coat on the fly and jumped into the passenger side. "HIT IT!" he ordered before he was completely inside. Brian hit the gas, driving left-handed and in a lot of pain.

"Have any trouble?" he asked casually, keeping the emotion out of his voice.

Deuce laughed. "None at all. She didn't suspect a thing."

Brian nodded stonily, all business in front of his peer. "Then we can head back to Atlanta," he said factually. Deuce held up a finger. "No. We stay, and we get rid of the loose ends."

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

Meanwhile, MaryAnne's hospital room had turned into organized chaos, as frantic doctors and nurses scrambled to counter-effect whatever Deuce had injected. Suddenly one doctor looked at MaryAnne and asked a calm question. "You allergic to penicillin?"

"Umm....amoxicillin...yeah. I broke out in hives."

"Then you're going to get a bad rash. But that's all." The doctor gestured Rosco aside. "We can only be thankful that the would-be murderer had misinformation. She'll be okay."

MaryAnne let out an incredible sigh and leaned back on the bed.  "Oh thank you Lord!!"

Rosco looked at the doctor, a little confused. "You mean, he stuck amoxicillin in there?"
"Penicillin, actually. But MaryAnne's sensitivity to the antibiotic isn't lethal. Apparently the assassin thought otherwise...someone's watching out for that girl." The doctor excused himself and left Rosco to his thoughts.

Thoughts which Rosco couldn't put together into anything coherent. Who would have suggested penicillin be used to try to kill her, knowing fully well it wouldn't? Rosco shook his head a bit and looked at MaryAnne who was breathing heavy coming down off her adrenaline, but smiling otherwise.  He stepped closer to her. 

“You okay?" he asked, his own smile breaking free.

MaryAnne was gushing. "I'm fine...I'm wonderful! Oh man...."

"Listen, I'm gonna go see if I can find Enos, okay?"

MaryAnne nodded. "Be careful, Rosco."

"I will. You take it easy okay?"

"I will."

Rosco nodded and quickly stepped out of the room.  Now that MaryAnne was momentarily safe, he remembered that Enos was chasing a killer on his own.

Meanwhile, Enos had run out of the hospital just in time to see the Chevy streak off. He couldn't be sure of the driver, but he had a bad feeling. He ran back inside, hustling back to a room that was forgotten in all the commotion, nearly colliding with Rosco in the process. Enos whipped open the door to Brian's room...and found it empty.

Rosco spun around, looking at Enos. "You dipstick, what are you---?"

"He's gone, Sheriff," Enos spurted in frustration and self-admonishment. "He's gone."

"WHAT?!" Rosco came up beside Enos and looked into the room. Bare as a starving hounds tooth and the only evidence that anyone had been in there was the still messed up bed. "Dammit."

"Sheriff, MaryAnne--?"

"She's fine, Enos. She's alright." Rosco paused seeing Enos sigh in relief out of the corner of his eye. He then looked at the deputy. "But from this moment on, Enos, she's dead. You understand? They got her."

Enos looked confused.

"Just go with it, Enos. It's the only way we're gonna keep her alive, okay?"

"Yes sir. But..."


"Does that mean we have to tell everyone that she's...dead?"

"For now. Enos, when things are safe again, we can explain to everybody what was going on. They'll understand."

Enos nodded. "What was put in the IV?"

"Penicillin. She's only slightly allergic to it, but for everyone else she had a lethal reaction to it, ok?"

"Penicillin? Why did that fella think that would kill her?"

"Somebody told him to use it. Somebody who knew that it WOULDN'T kill her."

"Like who?"

Rosco shook his head. "I'm not really sure...."

Chapter Three