Chapter Eight

MaryAnne sat quietly in a chair two doors down from the surgery room where Rosco was. She felt sick to her stomach and stared blankly at the floor ahead of her, lost in a void of thoughts, most of them having to do with what would happen if Rosco didn't make it. She was still furious with Brian and hoped the Feds caught him. She no longer gave a damn about him at all, and any inkling of care about him was gone.

The 'get out of jail free card' she had referred to had been misused. She had thought he wanted out of the Syndicate which was why she let him go, figuring he would come back, not to carry out a contract but to ask for help. MaryAnne would have done it. Heck, she had half of the Atlanta police constabulary in her back pocket.

A few phone calls, a couple of letters of request,  and Brian disappears into the shadows and the Syndicate goes down. Nope, he didn't do that. Instead, he put two pieces of lead into her body, and Rosco got knifed by one of Brian's buddies. So much for discovering some long lost kin, eh Brian?

MaryAnne shook her head, hoping to never hear his name again....

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

Mayson and Kelley returned to the Duke farm and gave them the news of Brian's capture, assuring them that they were now safe. The Syndicate in Atlanta was about to be brought down as well.

"That's the best news any of us is heard in a week," Uncle Jesse said to Agent Mayson. "This county's seen enough trouble to last it for the next hundred years."

"Amen," Daisy said softly, to which Bo nodded. "That's for dang sure. I'd like to get my hands on just one of them hoodlums and -"

Bo was suddenly interrupted by his elder cousin. "And let the law handle it," Luke finished, giving Bo a 'cool-it-cousin' look. Uncle Jesse broke the brief silence that followed. "Any word on Rosco?"

"All we know is he got to Tri-County hospital. Brian Coltrane, oddly enough, took him there." Mayson shook his head. "I don't understand that, unless he tried to kill the Sheriff and then changed his mind, being cousins and all..."

The entire Duke family became uncomfortable at Mayson's statement. They all had the same questions that they never expected answers to. Luke, in particular, was especially troubled, and he finally put it to voice. "I don't understand a lot of what happened this last week...but there's one thing I can't get over."

Mayson looked at the dark haired Duke sympathetically. "What's that?"

Luke looked at Bo, including him in the conversation with a glance. "The way that hitman pulled off our 'hits' when we had everything staged. He was good...too damn good. I just got sick when I thought of how he coulda took us for real. He was capable of doin' the job, right then…and he’d had a few other chances to do it, before that."

"But he didn't," Bo added.

"He didn't," Luke agreed, not having any answer to the burning question of why.

Mayson made a face, agreeing that the Brian could have taken the Dukes out, yet he didn't have an answer to the question. "I don't know," he said honestly. "I myself, have many questions about this case, some of which I don't think will ever be answered." The agent paused. "And some of those questions, I fear the answers to."

That froze the Dukes. If the known facts were awful to contemplate, the unknown aspects had to be worse. "Thank you for fillin' us in, Mr. Mayson," Jesse Duke said with a firm handshake. Bo and Luke offered their gratitude as well. Daisy, with her usual grace, gave a sweet thank-you that left Agent Mayson distracted.

He quickly collected himself and nodded to the Dukes. "We thank you again, for what you've done. Hopefully in the next few days we'll have some answers, which we'll share with you, if possible." On that note, Agent Mayson returned to the waiting sedan and Agent Kelley.

The Duke family stood in front of the house, grouped together in their waves of farewell.

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

MaryAnne snapped out of her void and looked up. Dr. Michaels stood with a folded piece of paper in his hand.  "Rosco--?" She lurched a little as she tried to stand and the doctor gave her a supportive arm. "Easy now...things are looking okay. He still has a chance. We're still working on him but I wanted to give you this." He held up the paper.

"What is it?"

Dr. Michaels shrugged. "I don't know. It was in the pocket of his uniform and it has your name on it. I'm assuming that it's something you should read if he passes on, but considering what you two have been through...I'm going to leave it up to you as to whether to read it now, later or never."

MaryAnne reached a shaky hand to the folded paper. She nodded and then slowly sat back down, looking at her cousin's handwriting of her name. "There's still a chance?" she asked suddenly, looking up at the doctor.

Dr. Michaels nodded. "It'll be some time before we know for sure. But yes, there's still a chance."

MaryAnne nodded and looked back at the paper. Dr. Michaels quietly turned and walked back to the ER surgery area.

MaryAnne fingered the edges of the paper for a moment, her eyes tearing up once again. Then, slowly, she pulled the note apart.

I guess you were wrong, sweetheart. He didn't want out of the Syndicate. I almost wish I could tell him how he's like his father, stubborn as a mule and a firm believer in doing everything himself, his OWN way. We had no way of knowing if he would have gone along with what you wanted to you said it would have depended on how badly he wanted out of the Syndicate.

But the contract on you...wounding you at the Boar's Nest...I dunno about you but at that point I figured all bets were off.  He didn't want out, but he thought he could take you, or us, out gently, just because we're kin.

At the time I write this, you're safe in the hospital. Everyone thinks you're dead. If nothing happens to me, and the FBI finds out I've been lying, I could get charged with obstruction of justice...and I think you're aware that you could too, having let Brian go last time.

To be honest, if the whole thing gets blown wide open, and the Syndicate is busted apart in Atlanta...I'd rather lose my badge over lying to keep you alive then to lose it....another way. I'm just sorry that all of this could ruin your career. You're a good deputy, MaryAnne. A damn good one but if Brian were to get his way, your career would be cut very short.

If something happens to me, it's gonna be up to you and Enos to explain everything to the Feds. I lied to keep you alive, that's plain and simple. Don't let Brian make you feel guilty if he gets caught, which he deserves to be. Don't let him fill your head with a bunch of bull about being 'kin' and 'how could you do this to your kin?' He's manipulative with that, we both know it. He's been dishing it out to us for however long it's been.

He kills people, MaryAnne. He tried to kill you. He tried to kill the Dukes. He'll probably get me, if not, one of his partners will. If that happens, they better be ready for a fight.

I don't know what else to say...other than I'm sorry. (I seem to say that a lot don't I?) Anyways, I hope things will turn out okay, but if not, just remember that I love you very much and that you mean very much to me.



MaryAnne quietly sobbed, holding the note to her chest, her hand over her heart. She prayed, harder than she ever had in her life and she didn't bother to wipe the tears off her cheeks. She just let them fall.

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

"Yes sir..." Agent Mayson spoke into the phone in Rosco's office at the courthouse in town. "No sir, we're waiting for word on the Sheriff....I'm aware of that, sir.....No, sir we don't know who attacked him. It could have been Brian Coltrane or it could have been one of the other hitmen we picked up. The boys found a switchblade knife with one of the others....yes, sir, we'll be running it through the lab to be sure."

Mayson sighed. "To be honest, sir, me and my boys here have a mess to sort through, and I figure it's going to be a couple of days before I have more answers for you....yes, sir, I will." Mayson disregarded a 'goodbye' and hung up the phone.

Kelley looked at Frank. "What did the commander say? ‘Get the answers and get them now’?”

Frank nodded. "You got it."

Kelley rolled his eyes. "You really think we can piece this whole dang thing together into something coherent?"

"We’d better, if we want to keep our jobs."

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

In the Federal building in downtown Atlanta, a tense conversation was being held between Dirk and three FBI agents. Throughout his interrogation, Dirk relied on the same statements, over and over. "I'm telling you Suits was Brian that hit the Sheriff. He stole my knife and then put it back after he was done. Deuce and me and the rest of us were sent to Hazzard to get Brian under control. He was a loose cannon. The Syndicate didn't have any interest in anyone named Duke. No, they didn't want any hit made on the law either. Brian's crazy, man."

Dirk looked at the agents without blinking, and continued. "Anybody that could kill their own relatives in cold blood...." Dirk made as if to shudder. "We were all scared of this Brian guy. The Don couldn't handle 'em...."

"The bottom line is that Brian Coltrane went to Hazzard on some personal vendetta, and he's gonna try and frame me and Deuce for his dirty work. Just watch." Dirk paused. He knew that Deuce, from the confines of the hospital, was giving the same story. "Look, I'll cooperate with you guys. Me and Deuce are just small-time players in this thing...we were sent after Brian because we were expendable."

The agents questioned Dirk at length. Dirk seemed to crack under the strain. "Look man, I'm scared of this dude! But okay, okay! I'll give ya the names off all the hits that Brian made on his own, without Syndicate orders...." An agent flipped open a notepad and started scribbling down the information Dirk gave.  It was someone else’s job to decide if there was any truth to it.

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

Five hours later, at Tri County Hospital, light came to him like the opening of a floodgate. When Rosco woke up and opened his eyes, his heart rate jumped considerably, forcing Dr. Michaels to turn from a report he was writing to the Sheriff to see what was wrong.

"Sheriff?" Dr. Michaels stepped over to the side of the bed, looking at the patient carefully.  Rosco looked at the doctor and then looked around the room, the confusion clear on his face.

"Sheriff? Do you remember me? I'm Dr. Michaels..."

Rosco looked at the man. Slowly, he nodded. "Yes..." He paused, the realization hitting him now. "I'm...alive..."

Dr. Michaels gave a tiny smile. "Yes, you are. You're a very lucky man, Rosco. Very lucky..." He adjusted his stethoscope and took a listen to Rosco's heart and lungs.

"I don't feel so lucky..." Rosco said softly.

"Considering the wound you had, how much blood you had lost and your age, you're blessed."

Rosco looked at the doctor, and realized he was being somewhat inconsiderate. "I'm sorry..."

Dr. Michaels rested his stethoscope back around his neck. "It's alright, Sheriff, you've had a rough week. I have to ask though, do you recall anything before you came here?"

"I don't remember coming here," Rosco said. "The last thing I remember is being picked up..." Rosco paused, wondering if what he remembered was right. Brian?

"Your cousin," Dr. Michaels said. "The young man. He's the one that brought you here." The Dr. paused. "Sheriff, there are many among my staff who believe that he attacked--"

"He didn't." Rosco said suddenly, looking the doctor in the eye. "Doc, it wasn't him, I know it wasn't!"

"Okay, okay...just take it easy," Dr. Michaels soothed. "MaryAnne's out in the hall. I'm going to wait till the morning before telling the FBI that you're okay though. You need to rest."

Rosco took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay."

“However, there’s no keeping your cousin waiting, so I’ll give MaryAnne a few minutes to visit.”  Dr. Michaels smiled and made for the door, holding it open to admit MaryAnne.  Once the doctor was gone and MaryAnne and Rosco were alone in the room, the two cousins dissolved into a tearful, wordless reunion.  MaryAnne walked over and took one of Rosco’s hands in hers, squeezing it gently.  He clasped her hand in return, the strength in his grip offering reassurance.  Finally, when she thought she could voice the words without breaking down altogether, MaryAnne spoke.  “I’m so glad you’re okay,” she whispered.

“I’m glad to see you up and walkin’ around, sweetheart,” he whispered back, giving her a tender smile.   For some reason, just the sound of his voice made more tears of relief spill from MaryAnne.  Rosco let her purge the emotion for a moment longer, knowing his own eyes were far from dry.  Then he spoke softly.  “Hush,” he said with another squeeze of her hand.  “I’m gonna be fine.”

MaryAnne snuffled and wiped her eyes. 

"You read my letter didn't you?" Rosco asked.

MaryAnne nodded, looking at him with a watery expression.  "I'm sorry," she said. "You probably didn’t want me to read it unless…unless…”

“Oh, hush.”  Rosco smiled at her again, then pulled her forward.  MaryAnne leaned over and hugged him as best as she was able, mindful of the I.V. hookups in his other arm, his injuries, and her own still-healing wounds.  All the same, she felt stronger for it.  She straightened back up, and brushed a lock of graying hair from Rosco’s temple.  His steel-blue eyes looked up at her fondly, and he took on an expression of mock-seriousness.  “Now quit carryin’ on,” he said in Sheriff-tones. 

MaryAnne grinned, then giggled a bit as Rosco made one of his Fierce Lawman faces at her.  It was a look reserved for out-of-state drivers and Yankees, but it never failed to amuse his young cousin.  She laughed as he gave in to his own chuckle, the familiar “khee” drying her tears like nothing else could.

“I guess I shouldn’t have read that letter,” she said with regained composure.  “When the doctor gave it to me tho’, I wasn’t sure if we’d be havin’ a chance to talk again.”

Rosco smiled and patted her hand. "Nah, it's okay. It's just that when I wrote that, I had a different opinion about Brian."

"And now?"

Rosco hesitated. "I think we've been a little wrong about him...."

MaryAnne rolled her eyes. "Right..."

"No, listen to me. He's a professional hitman, MaryAnne. If he had really wanted to, he could have taken you out with one shot in town, instead of blowing the gumballs off your patrol car. He could have taken you down with one shot at the Boar's Nest...he didn't. He told Deuce to use penicillin, making his partner believe it would kill you, when he was fairly sure it wouldn't. When he found me by the side of the road, he could have finished me off and gone on his merry way." Rosco paused. "He didn't. And I thought he was goin' to..."

MaryAnne mulled over the facts. And everything Rosco pointed out, bothered her. She shifted her weight off her healing hip and looked at her cousin.

"There's gotta be some rhyme and reason to his actions," Rosco continued.

"You think that us being kin actually meant something to him?"

"Maybe. I think, if there's a chance, we owe it to him to try to talk to him...assuming he would want to see either one of us again."

MaryAnne gave a snort, recalling what she has said to Brian in the ER, which she seemed to start to regret. "I'm sure he's developed a genuine hatred for us by now."

"Considerin' all we've said to him...and that he thinks I set him up..."

"Aww..dammit.." she whispered. The whole dang thing was one big huge misunderstanding. Which nearly cost some lives. And quite possibly cost somebody a chance to get to know family...if that was what Brian had ever truly wanted.  Still, he probably deserved what he had coming…

“But Rosco, he's a hitman...he's a killer..." she shook head, as if to say, 'how can we associate ourselves with someone like him?'

"Something musta happened. I mean, you're right he's a killer, and all the police trainin' I've ever had says that professional hitmen are emotionally detached from everything they do. They're like robots. They feel no remorse for their actions. But Brian…somewhere along the line, remorse hit him. Or something hit him."

"Yeah, I'll tell ya what hit him. My right cross!" MaryAnne glanced at her wounds, at Rosco and then around the hospital room. "Rosco, he's sure got a damn funny way of showing remorse if that's what it was.”   Confusion and anger was evident in MaryAnne’s voice.  She had always dealt with people in a straightforward and direct manner, and Brian’s double-edged maneuverings grated her nerves.  Maybe she had been a little wrong about him, but he still had a lot to answer for. 

Rosco sighed. "Maybe we can talk to him, if the Feds will let us. Assuming the hospital lets you and me outta here before the turn of the century."

"Yeah...umm...are you gonna tell the FBI about me actually bein' alive?"

Rosco nodded. "I gotta. Although, I ain't gonna do it until I know the Syndicate in Atlanta has been busted."

MaryAnne nodded, agreeing that it was the right thing to do.  She and Rosco would have to tread carefully until it was all over.

He suddenly looked at her, sharp and intent.  "And if they'll let us talk to Brian, you're gonna go too…right?”

MaryAnne looked back at him, debating it. She thought a moment, about everything that had happened upon Brian’s first visit to Hazzard, and everything that had happened recently.  Had she been wrong about him before, when she let him go? Or was she wrong now?

She sighed and nodded.  If there was one thing she truly wanted at the end of all of this, it was closure.

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

Brian sat on the wooden cell bench with his head in his hands. He didn't move, didn't react to the voices in the hall. Just more Feds, he thought bleakly. He'd never seen so many damn agents in his life. And they all had an endless supply of questions for him.

He had been through enough interrogations already. The Feds had given him threats, promises, free advice, and finally tried bribing him with cigarettes and coffee. Brian had given them nothing.

Though he didn't cooperate with the agents, Brian hadn't been abusive to them either. He understood them. They only wanted a few facts, some names, and a nice open-and-shut case. And then they would move on to the next one, forgetting him entirely. Any promises the Feds had made to him would be forgotten as well. It wasn't that the agents intended to lie. They truly believed that the District Attorney in Atlanta would go easier on him, if he'd only answer their questions. It was balm to their own conscience.

Brian had made one-sided deals with the law before. Hazzard law.  He'd be damned if he'd do it again. So after another fruitless interrogation, he had been returned to his cell. The Feds would let him contemplate the error of his ways for several hours, and then return, and start with the threats…and the whole interrogation would repeat itself.

They would keep it up until they wore him down. Then they would break him, take him away, and no one would miss him.

The thought was sobering. Brian knew he had probably seen the last of MaryAnne and Rosco, much to his regret. He broke his silence to the Feds to ask only one question. "Scuze me...but anythin' on Rosco's condition yet?"

The agent looked at him, surprised. He knew Brian was a relative to the Sheriff and the deceased Deputy, and even though there was suspicion about who attacked the Sheriff, the agent figured Brian deserved to know, and didn't see what, if any, difference it would have made to withhold the information.  “Yeah, he's alive. He's a lucky man to survive the wound he got apparently."

Relief was plain on Brian's face. The news of Rosco's survival was some consolation to him. "Thanks," he said to the agent, and withdrew back into his silence.

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

Not too far from Brian’s cell, agents Mayson and Kelley worked to piece the evidence together.  They had been constantly on the phone with the Atlanta Bureau upon arrival, and were up to date on the statements that Dirk and Deuce had provided, as well as the disjointed facts provided by other Syndicate apprehensions.  The FBI had been gathering information on Mancini’s forces for months.  There were holes, gaping holes, in some of the compiled evidence.  Mayson hoped that maybe the missing pieces would turn up when he researched things back in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, there were a few other things that didn’t make sense – such as the statements from Dirk and Deuce, concerning Brian Coltrane.  Mayson re-read his notes, compared them to remembered headlines from the Atlanta newspapers.  To Mayson’s knowledge, the Syndicate had always regarded Brian as a ‘rising star’.  Yet the young man’s own peers were now calling him a ‘loose cannon’ and saying that the Don himself couldn’t control him.  Mayson uttered a mild obscenity and pushed the notes aside.

"You don't believe that static, do you Frank?” Roger Kelley asked before taking a sip of his coffee.

Mayson shook his head. "I've the feelin' those two are gonna say whatever they want, except what we want to hear."   He slid the notes across the table to his partner. 

Kelley glanced at them, nodding. “They just want to lay everything on Brian, to get a better deal from us."

Mayson agreed.  "They can talk all they want. I'm determined to get to the bottom of all of this."

"What about that list?"

Mayson made a face. "Some of those names mentioned...I dunno, the cases don't fit any similarities. Each hit man that Mancini has does things his own way. It's like a signature or a calling card, all of them saying Mancini, but all of them a unique way of saying it." Frank shook his head. "I don’t think those hits were done by Brian Coltrane.  For one thing, the timelines don’t match up…”

"He's been designated the fall guy on this for them?"

Mayson nodded.  "I don't think we'll be seeing the Syndicate's lawyer asking to talk to him. I mean, they were gonna kill him off right there at the Duke farm.”

"You make it sound like he's a victim,” Kelley said in surprise.

Mayson paused, looking his partner in the eye. “There's a lot of things about this case that have been bothering me. To be's quite possible he is."

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

It was early afternoon of the next day, when Agent Frank Mayson arrived at Tri-County Hospital.  He flashed his badge and ID to the nurse’s station in the Intensive Care Unit and was escorted to Rosco's room. The head of the Sheriff's bed was propped up, and the black and white tv across the room was on, but Rosco's eyes were closed, the Sheriff finally enjoying a chance to doze.

"Sheriff Coltrane?"

Rosco opened one eye and then the other as he turned to look at Agent Mayson. "Oh, hello Mr. Mayson." Rosco started to move to sit up straighter.

Frank held up a hand. "Stay in that relaxed position, Sheriff," he said with a smile. "I just came to see how you were doing."

Rosco nodded. "I'm doin' alright. How goes takin' down the Syndicate?"

Frank gave Rosco a victorious smile. "I think you'll be happy to know, Sheriff, that our agents in Atlanta were very successful in making arrests today. The Syndicate will certainly not be a threat to Hazzard County again."

Rosco took a deep breath, relieved. "That's good to hear." Rosco paused. "Do you have a moment? I think now's a good time to tell you something I should have told you before..."

Mayson looked at the Sheriff, already getting an idea of what the Rosco was about to confess. But he looked at him neutrally, and spotting a chair near the door, pulled it towards the bed and took a seat.

"Mr. Mayson, I'm aware that what I'm about to tell you, could get me into a lot of trouble. But knowing that the Syndicate's been taken down, I'm willing to accept whatever consequences arise because of this."

Rosco’s words were met with a raised eyebrow, and a one-name question.  “MaryAnne?”

Rosco looked the FBI agent in the eye and nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "She ain't really dead...I'm sorry for lying, but I was so scared that if too many people knew she was still alive the Syndicate would try to take her out again.  I don't know if you can understand this or not but she's more than just a cousin. See, I don't have any kids of my own...and she's about the closest thing I've got."

Mayson nodded. "I can understand. I have a 17-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son. And Lord knows I'd do whatever I had to do to keep them safe." Frank paused. "You're aware though, that I'm going to have to put this into a report for the District Attorney."

"I know," Rosco said. "And I'm willing to bet a charge of obstruction of justice will be coming down."

"It's possible, but I'm certainly not going to recommend it in my report. The actions of you and the Duke family helped us finalizing our take down of the Syndicate in Atlanta. I think the DA would be foolish to pursue charges against you."

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

Mayson nodded. "You get some rest. I am going to have to ask some questions of you at some point later. But you've been through enough as it is. The questions can wait."

Rosco nodded. "Thanks."

Chapter Nine