Chapter Four

Bo and Luke had also made their journey home in silence. Bo glanced occasionally at his older cousin, who sat pensively in the passenger seat, glowering out the window as if the scenery held the answers. As they pulled into the farmyard, their Uncle Jesse came out of the house. He read the expressions on his nephew's faces, and felt worry seep into his bones. "What is it, boys?"

"That hitman found us," Luke said brusquely. "But Rosco showed up in time."

"Yeah, and that ain't all," Bo said. "The hitman said he was kin to Rosco and...MaryAnne," he finished awkwardly. Jesse Duke's mouth fell open. "Rosco talked to 'em and got him to drop his gun," Luke added. "Arrested 'em right there. But Rosco says this guy's got a partner still in nobody's out of the woods yet." Luke took a breath and let the rest out. "Uncle Jesse...MaryAnne was killed by her kin and Rosco just arrested the same. I just wonder if Rosco coulda stopped that damn hitman before MaryAnne was killed."

"Luke, you got no call to think that way 'bout Rosco," Jesse said in gentle reproach. "He's been through enough. C'mon now, we'll talk about it."  He led his nephews inside the farmhouse, as questions of his own haunted his mind.

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

After several moments of uninhibited emotional release, Rosco got into Brian's Chevy and started the car. He listened to the engine, lonesome and afraid than he ever had in his life. The looks on the Dukes faces just a little while ago, added with the entire family's reaction to Rosco's lie of MaryAnne's condition, only served to make Rosco realize that when he came clean with would be the hardest moment he would ever face.

But he knew he was going to have to do it at some point. But not until the threat to the Dukes was gone and the chance of any more axe men coming to Hazzard was squelched.  The Sheriff sighed and put the Chevy in gear, directing it down the road, back to town. 
Sometimes I I've been the whippin' post....

Rosco shook his head at the thought, yet the line from a song from one of MaryAnne's tapes, fit to a “t” at the moment. Rosco listened to the drone of the engine, barely comprehended the passing countryside and hoped to have an idea of what to do next by the time he got back to Hazzard.

He eventually drove the Chevy into the impound  behind the courthouse.  He had a couple of ideas, nothing particularly promising or easy and he wasn't sure if he could get anyone to help him. He decided he was going to have to chance a trip to the hospital, to see MaryAnne, to get his bearings and hopefully some insight that only his younger cousin could provide.
Rosco walked into the booking room, didn't give a glance towards Brian and went over to the desk near Boss's office. The Sheriff sat down, grabbed a pen and paper from the desk drawer and began to write.

Brian's dark eyes watched the Sheriff's every move. Pent-up anger and deepening fear ate away at the young man until he had to say something.  "How does it feel, Sheriff…having to put away a cousin," he said abruptly. "You gonna open a bottle of champagne when Atlanta Federal throws the switch?"

Rosco kept writing for a moment. Without breaking stride he said, "I'm not putting away a cousin. I'm putting away a killer. However, Atlanta Federal won't be throwing a switch on you for attempted murder. That's gonna be on your buddy, Deuce."

"Good luck," Brian growled. "Deuce ain't gonna deliver himself to your waitin' arms, for one thing." Like I did, being the stupid sucker that I am, he thought to himself bitterly. "And for another thing,'re kiddin' yourself if you think attempted murder is the only charge I'm gonna face. But what the hell do you care, anyway."

"No, you're right, attempted murder won't be the only charge you'll be facing. They'll be throwing the book at you. And as for Deuce..." Rosco's pen stopped and he looked over at Brian now, his blue eyes cool. "It wouldn't be much of a challenge if he just gave himself up now would it?"

"It wouldn't. And I'm damn sorry if I disappointed you in that respect," Brian said sarcastically.

"Oh you didn't disappoint me. Heck, you did pretty good, considerin'...." Rosco looked at Brian, the Sheriff’s blue eyes laughing a little now.

“Considerin’ what? That I was busted by a cop with a dirty badge?  What’d you sell it for, anyway? I’ve heard the talk in town. What was your price?”

Rosco’s eyes faded to dead seriousness. "The price of my badge? Let me just say it wasn't bought with blood."

"Good for you. I'm glad your corruption is so goddamn clean and convenient."

"Clean as a whistle..." Rosco turned back to his paper and continued writing.

Brian smacked the iron bars with one hand and turned around, fuming. He leaned his back against the bars and faced the brick wall, arms folded across his chest.

Rosco kept writing for a few more minutes and then put his pen down. He re-read what he had written, making sure it all sounded right. Satisfied it did, he folded it up and tucked it into his shirt pocket, near his badge. Some of the burden he'd been carrying felt lifted and he took a deep breath. He looked over at Brian who was still standing with his back against the bars.

Rosco decided to really turn the knife in the already open wound. He stood up and walked to the middle of the booking room. "You know when you stop and think about it, it wasn't the fact that you didn't get the Dukes the first time that resulted in MaryAnne being killed. It was your big mouth. If you hadn't told us who you were, and what you were gonna do, and had just come in the dark of night, wiped out the Dukes and left…NONE of this would have happened. You would have gone on to a glorious career as a Syndicate hitman, the town of Hazzard would have mourned the boys death and you wouldn't have been so concerned about two cousins who you had never known before and will never have the chance to get know now."

Brian turned around with sudden fury, his dark eyes holding something close to hatred. "And I would have never found out that some criminal freelancer was lookin' to rob this damn town blind...and lookin' to take MaryAnne for his own. Any way he could get her." Brian was nearly shaking with rage. "And you probably don't care to know this, but if I hadn't have shot MaryAnne...Deuce would have. But he would have taken his time, Sheriff...he would have done just as you said, picked her up in the middle of the night...and had his fun first." Brian's chest heaved with the thought. "You're a damn fool," he spat, "If you think I ever had a choice in this whole thing."

Rosco kept his expression neutral, but felt like he had just been slapped in the face. He stood silently for several moments, listening to Brian's words over and over in his head. From the warning about Keith, to the wounding MaryAnne at the Boar's Nest, the warning about Deuce, the penicillin...everything Brian did had been to try and protect MaryAnne. But why? Yeah, okay so she's a cousin, but he barely knows her!

Rosco looked at Brian, his eyes softening a bit, almost apologetic. "Brian..." He couldn't do it, he had to keep up his charade, catch Deuce and be done with the whole thing. Besides, there was no way of knowing Brian would offer any suggestions or try to help. The Sheriff kept his sentence unfinished and turned to walk to his office.

"Keith and Vinnie are gonna be real happy to see me join 'em in Atlanta Federal," Brian added at Rosco's back. "Assumin', of course, that Deuce lets things get that far. It's a toss up whether he goes for the Dukes or comes here first. If you had any sense, Sheriff, you'd call in some reinforcements in a hurry...'cause Deuce is probably doin' just that, right now."

Rosco didn't turn to acknowledge Brian's statement. The Sheriff's blue eyes were right back to burning again and he continued to his office and then slammed the door behind him.

With the slam of the door, Brian's anger faded, only to be replaced with feelings of utter desolation. His shoulder still hurt, and he rubbed it absently as he sat on the hard bench in the holding cell. The slow-healing gunshot wound was the least of his problems, however, and he sighed despondently.

"Lost it all," he muttered to himself, just to hear a voice, even if it was his own. He took a mental walk through his memories, recalling his first visit to Hazzard, his first conversations with MaryAnne and their farewells at the Duke farm, before he returned to Atlanta. "Just walk away, Brian," MaryAnne had whispered. "Go on, get out of here."

And he had, taking a last look at the Deputy, the bright star on her uniform reflecting the moonlight, her patrol car's lights cutting the darkness behind her. "Know why I had the guts to return to the Syndicate?" Brian asked the ghost of her memory. "Know why I could face 'em, despite what I expected to be in for? 'Cause I thought I found somethin' they couldn't take away."

Brian's throat tightened up, and he felt the onset of tears which he no longer fought. "I was wrong," he whispered. In the empty silence of the holding cell, Brian let himself greive.

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

The remainder of the afternoon passed into evening without incident. Rosco told Enos he would be a little late on his night patrol but would have his walkie talkie with him. Enos didn't ask where Rosco was going, he figured it was the hospital and knew it was best if the location was left unspoken. So the deputy simply nodded.

At quater to twelve, Rosco stopped at the house and changed into civilian clothes. He switched cars as well, leaving the patrol car in the drive way and taking his brown Pontiac sedan to Tri-County Hospital.

It was after midnight when Rosco walked into the emergancy room entrance. Only one person was seated in the waiting area, a frail looking older woman who clutched her cane with a shaky grip. She didn't look up as Rosco walked past her and towards the Triage nurse's station. He took out his wallet with his driver's license and his black leather badge holder with I.D. card and Sheriff's badge. He waited only a moment before the Triage nurse came to the window.

"Hi, can I help you?"

"I spoke with Doctor Michaels earlier today," Rosco said and opened up the badge holder to reveal his shiny Sheriff's badge. "I'm here to see a patient. He told me to come in this entrance and that you would be aware of what was going on."

The woman looked at the badge and ID card and then at Rosco. She then looked at the driver's license.
"Okay...umm, can I borrow these for a moment?"


The nurse took the badge holder and driver's license and disappeared behind the wall, out of view of the Sheriff. She sat down at a desk and picked up the phone.

"Doctor Michaels? I apologize for the late hour, but you said to call you if he came so that we were sure....yes....he gave me his driver's license, and his badge.....yes....Rosco P. Coltrane.....about six feet, blue eyes, grey hair, he's actually kinda cute..." the nurse smiled. "Sorry....yes, Doctor. Thank you." The nurse hung up the phone and collected the badge and driver's license and returned around the wall. She smiled at Rosco and handed him his things. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to the patient."

Rosco nodded. "Thank you."

The nurse came around out of the Triage and led Rosco down the hall. "I apologize for the secrecy," she said, "but Doctor Michaels asked that I call him when you arrived so that we could be sure it was you."

"No apology needed. I wouldn't want y'all to just let anybody in to see her."

"Doctor Michaels didn't tell me much, only that the patient was under protective custody...that someone had attempted to kill her?"

Rosco swallowed. "Yeah...I don't want anything to happen to her."
"Of course," the nurse said. They arrived at the elevators and the nurse pushed the 'up' button. As they waited for the elevator, the nurse looked at Rosco who was staring at the doors of the elevator, lost in thought. The bell rang and the doors opened and Rosco stepped in, followed by the nurse.

"You're very worried about her, aren't you?" the nurse asked after the doors closed. She pushed the button for the fourth floor.

Rosco nodded. "Very."

"Is she someone you know?"

Rosco looked at the nurse. "She's my cousin," he said softly.

The nurse nodded. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be asking all these questions."

"No, it's okay. Just don't repeat nothing I've told you."

"I'm sworn to secrecy." She raised her right hand and smiled. "Just ask Doctor Michaels."

A corner of Rosco's mouth turned into a partial smile. "Thanks."

The doors opened to the fourth floor and the nurse led Rosco around the corner. A metal gate blocked passage down the rest of the hall. The nurse unlcoked the gare and let Rosco through first. She followed and then closed and relocked the gate and led the Sheriff down the hall.

MaryAnne's room was directly across from the nurses station. She led him right to the door and told him that when he was done visiting, one of the other nurses would take him back to the ER.

"Thank you Ma'am," Rosco said. "I appreciate this."

The nurse smiled and nodded. "You're welcome. Take care, Sheriff."

Rosco nodded again and the nurse turned and walked over to the nurses station. Rosco gently opened the door to MaryAnne's room and stepped inside.

The young Coltrane was wide awake, sitting up and reading the Hazzard Gazette. MaryAnne dropped the paper half a page and looked up. When Rosco came out of the shadows of the small hallway, MaryAnne's face lit up.

"Rosco!" she whispered excitedly.

Despite his weariness, Rosco smiled. "Hey, sweeheart," he greeted as he stepped to her bed. MaryAnne put her paper down and reached out to her cousin for a hug. Rosco obliged, giving his cousin a gentle yet tight hug, glad to see her smiling face again. They let go and he looked at her. "How you feelin'?"

"Oh, alright. My leg and hip are pretty stiff and of course, I have these lovely hives." She showed Rosco the red bumps on her hands and lower arms. "Now I know how Flash and Bandit feel sometimes." She made a motion with her right hand, as if to scratch her neck, like one of the puppies would have.

Rosco smiled.

MaryAnne gathered up the newspaper and put it on the table beside the bed. "Here, sit down," she said. "I've been worried sick about you!"

Rosco sat down on the edge of the bed. "I'm doin' alright," he said and sighed as he did so. He then looked at MaryAnne, and saw her regarding him with that 'yeah, right' kind of look. "Rosco, talk to me...tell me what's going on."

Rosco sighed again. "I don't know where to start..."

"Well, what's happened since Brian's partner tried to stick it to me with penicillin? I'm aware you've told everyone I'm dead. How are they taking it?"

Rosco shook his head. "Not too good. I think Brian took it the worst."

"Brian?" MaryAnne made a disgusted face. "What the hell difference does it make to him?"

"I dunno...but, MaryAnne some of the things he's done, he did to try to protect you. I know that sounds really bizarre but--"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. How does shooting me in the leg protect me? How does letting his buddy shoot me up with penicillin protect me?"

"Brian told Deuce to use penicillin. He figured since he wasn't allergic to it that you weren't either. The whole idea was to have the Syndicate think you were dead. He wounded you at the Boar's Nest because he had to lead the Syndicate to believe he was doing his job. Plus he figured if you were in the hospital you would be safe." Rosco paused. "Not that THAT did much good. His partner's ruthless. I mean, he walked right by me and Enos and into your room to try to finish you off!"

"Which they now think has been taken care of. Now have you and Enos caught these two yet?"

"I arrested Brian," Rosco answered and then shook his head, "which isn't gonna do any good either!"

"Why not?"

"Because the contract on the Dukes is still open. When I arrested Brian he was about to try to finish them off. Then he tells me that Deuce is probably gonna go finish the boys off and break Brian outta jail." Rosco was getting flustered at this point. "I'm gonna need an adding machine to keep track of the dead!"

"No you ain't...." MaryAnne placed her hand on her cousins arm supportively. "Just calm down a second here..." The young

Coltrane took a deep breath and thought for a moment.

"MaryAnne, I wish I could just wave a magic wand and have them all go away!"

"I know, I know..." She patted Rosco's arm. "Well, Brian ain't the problem now...atleast he's not your major threat. It's Deuce. He's the one you gotta worry about."

"What do I do?" Rosco asked. No...begged.

"First of all, have you called the FBI?"

"Yeah. I called them after the incident at the Boar's Nest. Nobody's showed up yet."

"Call them again in the morning. Tell them to get their posteriors down here to Hazzard OR ELSE. As for Deuce breaking Brian outta jail, just let him go. You and Enos just stay out of the way, don't do nothing to get yourselves killed."

Rosco nodded. "Alright." He held her hand now. "What about the Dukes?"

MaryAnne paused. "You're gonna have to go talk to them. I know they're all grieving about me being dead, but they should be more worried about their own hides at the moment." She looked at her older cousin for a moment. "Do they know Brian's a Coltrane?"

"Yeah...I'm sure they've got enough questions that can't be answered in a month of Sundays about him."

"Well, they ain't got time for that either. Listen, you know them Dukes are as good at shuckin' and jivin' than anybody. Suggest to them that they're gonna have to 'play dead' in order to keep from experiencing it for real."


MaryAnne put her hand in the air, waiting for the thought to come. "I...don't know." She shrugged. She then looked down at her leg and hip.

Rosco saw where she was looking, and had an idea of what she was thinking. "MaryAnne, you ain't suggestin'...?"

"No," she said, looking at him now. "That's too dangerous. Besides, as you said, Brian wasn't aiming to kill, only to wound. Deuce will be aiming to kill." She paused. "Deuce and Brian would have to think they got the boys...." MaryAnne sighed. "I dunno, Rosco, you're gonna have to let the boys decide what they're willing to do. I suppose you could always go get all that red food coloring we have at home."

Rosco raised an eyebrow. "Food coloring?"

"Like they do in the movies. Only it ain't food coloring...I don't think. Anyways, when they have a scene where somebody gets shot, the gun has a blank in it and the actor's wearing these little packets that have the red liquid in it. When the blank hits the packet, it bursts open just like they were being shot. Then the director yells 'cut' and they get up and walk away."

"This ain't the movies," Rosco said seriously.

"I know that! I'm just making off hand suggestions! Rosco, you have to go talk to the Dukes and help them figure SOMETHING out to keep them alive."

"Well, even if we do figure something out, and Brian and Deuce think the boys have been killed, you gotta be nuts to think I'm gonna try to arrest them two."

"You don't have to. Put up a chase, let them go back to Atlanta, let the FBI pick up the pieces. Because if you arrest them here in Hazzard, we'll have more people coming in the middle of the night and they'll wipe out you and Enos and take off with Brian and Deuce. I mean, wiping out a small Sheriff's department like ours is small potatoes to them. As long as the Syndicate thinks I'm dead and that the boys are dead, they won't give a damn about Hazzard County again."

Rosco sighed. "Sweetheart, I hope you're right."

MaryAnne grabbed both of Rosco's arms and she looked at him in the eyes. "Listen to me, help the Dukes okay? Do whatever you have to do to keep them alive and to keep the rest of Hazzard safe, including you and Enos. Don't leave me here to have to come back from the dead by myself."

Rosco shook his head. "I won't. I promise, MaryAnne, I won't. I'll be coming back for ya."

MaryAnne smiled. She then gave Rosco a hug. "You'll be all right, Rosco. We'll get through this."

Rosco nodded and returned the embrace. The words were caught in his throat and he closed his eyes feeling the tears burn. He wasn't going to let go of his cousin in the figurtive sense, and he held her for several moments to reinforce that notion. When he was strong enough to speak, he whispered to her a simple phrase.

"I love you..."

"I love you too, Rosco," MaryAnne replied. She blinked, her eyes no longer dry now. "We'll survive...don't let anyone tell you different. We'll survive."

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

When the late evening became moring without Brian's return, Deuce put in a call to Atlanta. "We have a situation in Hazzard," he reported to the Don. "Brian's missing. Yeah, we got the Deputy, though he missed the kill at close range, and I had to finish her off in the hospital. No, just used penicillin. Brian's idea, turns out it worked." There was a pause as the Don asked his top hitman a question. "I don't know about the Dukes," Deuce answered. "That's what he left to take care of, about a day ago. Ain't seen him since."

Another pause, another question from the Don. "The Sheriff's name is Coltrane, just like the Deputy, that's right...." Duece began to get a feel for where this was going, but he didn't interrupt. He listened to the Don's orders with the same detached professionalism in which he handled all his jobs.

"I'd like some backup on these," Duece requested. "Yeah, that outta do it. Route Seven and County Line Road, I'll be there to meet them. Thank you sir." Deuce hung up the phone and began planning his assignments, without the burden of guilt.

Chapter Five