Chapter Nine

Roger Kelley drove to Hazzard with a list of questions to ask the Duke family. Agent Mayson figured to cover all ground. The Dukes were apparently good friends with atleast Deputy Coltrane, perhaps they knew something that could help the case, without realizing that what they knew was helpful.

Kelley pulled the grey sedan into the Duke yard and saw the family patriach outside of the barn, sitting on a converted saw horse with a piglet in his arms that was feeding on a bottle of milk. The two young men were loading hay bales onto the back of an old Ford pickup truck and the girl was folding laundry off the clothes line. Each one of them looked at the car as it pulled into the yard, and Kelley felt as though he was being a pest. Surely they had had enough happen in the past week or so, they didn't need an FBI agent asking questions.

But Roger had a job to do and he figured the sooner he got started the sooner it would be over. As he stepped out of the car, he cleared his throat and looked towards Jesse. "Hello, Mr. Duke."

Jesse stood up, piglet and all. "Hello Mr. Kelley. What can we do for ya?"

Roger looked at the boys as they approached, and then at Daisy. He returned his look to Jesse and said, "Mr. Duke, if it's okay with you, I'd like to ask all of you a few questions about the case."

Jesse glanced at his nephews and niece, who came up to stand close to their uncle. The looks the Duke family exchanged held caution. "Go right ahead," Jesse answered finally.

"For the past day or so, we've been trying to piece things together and to be honest, not much of it is making sense. Sheriff Coltrane admitted to Agent Mayson that his deputy, MaryAnne, is actually still alive. It seems to us that the other cousin, Brian, had no intention of killing her and we have reason to believe the Syndicate was going to wipe him out." Roger paused, realizing he didn't even have a coherent question formed in his mind.  "The first time he was here in Hazzard, do any of you recall anything...I dunno, odd that occurred? Either between him and the Sheriff or Deputy, or just something in general?" It was a lame start, but it was better than nothing.

Bo and Luke exchanged a fast look to their Uncle Jesse, one that held a question. Should we tell him?

Uncle Jesse nodded imperceptibly, and Luke cleared his throat. "Well, now...I can't say for sure what happened, but last time Brian was in town, he tried to fill the contract on us. MaryAnne warned us about it before he showed up with his Syndicate buddy..." Luke didn't want to say the rest.

Roger thought over the young Duke's answer. "Then she somehow knew before hand..."

Bo and Luke looked at the agent intently. "Maybe, but she didn't tell us any details, just that there were some thugs gunnin' for us...." Inwardly, Luke's mind was racing. He couldn't shake the image of MaryAnne letting Brian go. It makes sense! Good Lord, he thought to himself.  MaryAnne knew because Brian told her about it!  For now, he kept the revelation to himself.  After all, he could be wrong…

Roger nodded. "Was there anything else that happened that seemed odd?"’

Bo saw that Luke couldn't say it, so he spoke up with the rest. "Thanks to MaryAnne's warnin', we were ready when Brian and his buddy showed up. We got the other guy. MaryAnne got Brian, but...." Bo looked at his uncle, saw the nod, and continued. "She let 'em go."

Roger looked at Bo quick. "She let him go?!" The FBI agent's mouth hung open in shock.

Bo shot a look of apology at Luke, who sighed wearily and spoke the rest.  “Yeah. We could see 'em talkin'. She took out her handcuffs, but...I dunno, they seemed to have a long talk, and then he just walked away."

Roger shook his head. "That doesn't make any sense...."  He looked at the Dukes. "From what you could tell, she made no strong attempt to arrest him? She just let him walk away?"

Luke shrugged. "We had to keep an eye on the Syndicate henchman we caught. We kept him covered, and saw MaryAnne and Brian talkin' over by the road. We couldn't hear what they said, but it seemed kinda heated." Luke paused and asked a blunt question. "You ain't gonna have her get in trouble over this, are ya?"

"I'm afraid that's not for me to decide. The DA in Atlanta would take one look at this and probably throw the book at her." Roger paused and shook his head. "I've read her record. Why in the world would an experienced and highly regarded law officer such as her, just let a criminal like that walk away? Even if he was her cousin."

Luke took a step closer to the agent.  It was time to share his insight.  “And why would a Syndicate hitman tell a police officer his plans, and give her the chance to warn us? Even if that officer was his cousin..."

Roger was quiet in thought for a moment. He looked at each of the Dukes. "I see my quest to get some answers has only resulted in more questions," he said with apology. "I do want to thank you for your time." Roger turned and started to walk to his car.

"Dang it," Bo muttured. "Luke, somethin' tells me we shouldn't a said nothin'..."

Uncle Jesse spoke the voice of reason. "Now, Bo, us Dukes don't lie." The elder Duke put a gentle hand on each of his nephew’s shoulders. "Though I'm startin' to git the feelin' that Rosco and MaryAnne are gonna be in as much trouble as that Brian fella, at this rate." The Dukes stood and watched the agent leave, foreboding in their hearts.

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

Several days went by slowly for Brian. The interrogations were less frequent, the agents less interested in his answers. He wasn't sure if it was a psychological trick, or if they were really giving up on obtaining information from him. In any case, loneliness and fear were his constant, and only, companions.

His routine was occasionally broken by eavesdropping on the agents. Most of them guarded their words more diligently than they guarded him. But he had caught snippets of enough discussions to know one thing for sure. He was about to be transferred to Atlanta Federal, to await formal charges and a hearing date.

There was nothing to do in the meantime, other than pace in his cell.  The lyrics to a popular Styx song kept running in his head, haunting him.  The jig is up, the news is out, they finally found me…the renegade who had it made retrieved for a bounty…never more to go astray, judge will see the end today, of the wanted man…

The District Attorney would have a field day with him. The Syndicate had been a thorn in the side of the Atlanta city government for a long, long time. The government was about to have it's revenge.

It was a dark future, and Brian knew he'd face it alone.

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

Five days after the Syndicate in Atlanta had been busted, Frank Mayson submitted his preliminary report to Commander Gregory Turner, head of the FBI office in Atlanta. The Commander appeared pleased with the result of the bust of the Syndicate and offered high praise to Agent Mayson, calling it the FBI's smoothest and most effective bust in recent years. But as the events that had taken place in Hazzard started to come to light, Commander Turner was soon not so pleased.

MaryAnne had been released from Tri-County a day before Rosco. As Agent Mayson was handing his report to the Commander, MaryAnne was picking her cousin up at the hospital. The battered Firebird, like it's human family, still ran strong, despite the holes in the fenders and doors. As soon as Rosco was in the car, MaryAnne stepped on the accelerator and drove out of the parking lot.

Dr. Michaels had told both of them to get rest, which they said they would. As soon as they did some things first.

The town of Hazzard was relieved to see the two cousins out and about again, after they got over the initial shock that MaryAnne was infact still alive. But the shock quickly gave way to joy. Boss and Lulu held what they thought was going to be a small get together, but everyone in Hazzard, the Dukes included, stopped by say 'howdy' and to tell Rosco and MaryAnne what a relief it was that they were okay and that the Syndicate threat had been removed.

The day after Brian had been transferred to the Federal pen in Atlanta, Rosco and MaryAnne took a drive to the city. They were to meet with Commander Turner, who had asked for them to come to answer some questions. Rosco and MaryAnne figured to try to see if they could see Brian at some point as well.

Rosco noticed MaryAnne's limp was getting less and less noticable as they walked from the curb to the door of the FBI headquarters. Rosco's back was still sore, but it too seemed to become less noticable as time went on. The images that flashed at him once in awhile from the incident, however, refused to fade.

They waited only a few minutes outside of the Commander's office. When they were admitted, both cousins could sense they were about to be chewed out for something. They weren't surprised, they figured a toungue lashing would be coming at some point from somebody.

The Commander directed them to take a seat in the two chairs directly across his desk. He sat down and looked at the two officers in their clean new uniforms with shiny badges.

"I'm going to get right to the point. In light of you admitting that your Deputy here was never killed, Sheriff, your...cousin...can only be charged with consipiracy, conspiracy to kill and officer of the law, reckless driving and resistin' arrest. I can't even throw the book at him for chris' sake! I've got charges stemming from past cases that I could submit to the DA, but there's not enough evidence to convict!" Turner paused and looked at the Sheriff and Deputy. "Then I received Agent Mayson's report. Now I find out that you two have comitted acts of obstruction of justice, which leaves me to wonder just exactly what side of law are you on?! Would you care to give me one good reason why I shouldn't have the DA strip the both of you of your badges?"

"Because the Syndicate was busted," Rosco said. It was bold to speak back at the Commander, especially seeing as the question had not been asked with the intent on receiving an answer. "Nothing we did has any direct affect on the FBI's charges against them."

"Maybe so. But for Brian Coltrane it makes a difference." The Commander sat forward and looked at Rosco. "And off the record, Sheriff, your badge should have been stripped years ago. It amazes me how it can be so tarnished, yet your hands are so clean. Luckily for you I'm not interested in busting you, and opening up nearly 15 years worth of a can of worms. I would highly recommend, though, that you retire." The Commander leaned back from his desk.

"Agent Mayson made a good case for you Sheriff, but I'm seriously considering asking the DA to drop all charges against Brian Coltrane in charge you, Deputy Coltrane, with obstruction of justice. This would be for your complete negligence of the law in letting this known criminal 'walk away' before. Care to explain why you let him go?"

"WHAT?!?" Roso exclaimed. "Wait just pea pickin' minute here!"

MaryAnne reached out and grabbed Rosco's arm, shushing her cousin. "Rosco, please..."

The Commander looked to MaryAnne for her answer.

"I thought he wanted out of the Syndicate," MaryAnne said, trying to keep her professionalism despite being on the verge of losing her badge. "I figured if he wanted it bad enough he could have come to me and Rosco, seeing as it apparently meant something to him that we're kin." She shook her head. "I was a fool. He didn't. He came back and start shootin' at me from the top of a building in Hazzard Square." She paused a moment. "Sir, I understand if I'm to be charged with obstruction of justice. After all, Brian's a criminal and he should have been arrested at that point and I just let him walk away."

"The FBI believes you made a deal with him. He told you of the contract on the Dukes, you agreed that if it wasn't carried out, you woud let him go. If the DA charges you, and your found guilty, you may be lucky to avoid the ten year prison term due to your past record as an officer, but you'll lose your badge for sure and will never serve as a police officer in this state or this country again...."

MaryAnne hesitated and looked down at her badge. It was one of the most important things to her, and she had been so honored when Rosco pinned it on her new Hazzard County Sheriff's uniform just a few years before. But the life of Rosco...and hers were more important. To the surprise of Rosco, she slipped the badge off and looked at the Commander. "Sir, instead of doing all that...what if I agree to just be stripped of my badge now?"

The Commander looked at MaryAnne, somewhat surprised. Rosco was dumbfounded.

"MaryAnne...." Rosco pleaded.

"No deal was made," she continued. "I failed in my duty as an officer of the law. I put more lives at risk, including my own and Rosco's, along with the Dukes. Thankfully, no one was killed but the alternative could have been disasterous." MaryAnne paused and glanced at Rosco, who was looking at her sorrowfully. "I nearly lost Rosco here," she said to the Commander. "An officer can not expect to continue to perform her duties as expected if she is going to exercise the kind of poor judgement as I did."

Rosco was completely crestfallen. He gave the Commander a pleading look, silently asking him not to let her do this. He couldn't believe his young cousin was about to throw away her entire career, all over something that wasn't her fault and wasn't done maliciously.

"Deputy, I'm willing to keep that in mind, if the Disctrict Attorney in Atlanta is insistent on charging you."

MaryAnne nodded. She and Rosco stood up and were about to leave when Rosco turned back to the Commander. "Would it be a crime if MaryAnne and I talked to Brian?"

The Commander snorted. "No. I'm sure he'd like the chance to thank you for helping him get off scot free..." Without another word, Rosco and MaryAnne left the Commander's office, MaryAnne still holding the badge in her hand. When they were half way down the hall, Rosco gently took his cousin by the arm and turned her to him. "You're gonna throw it all away?"

There were already tears on her face. "Rosco, you were nearly killed!" she sobbed. "I don't care that Brian shot me in the leg, it's what happened you! If I had been doing my job the way it was supposed to be done, maybe none of this would have even happened!" She dropped her gaze.

Rosco now held both of her arms. "MaryAnne, look at me," he said, forcing her to turn her tear filled eyes up to him. "When Brian shot you at the Boar's Nest, I thought I was gonna lose you right there. You may not care that he shot you, but I do."

"But Rosco, you were there, and then the Dukes showed up. I had help. When you were attacked, it was out in the middle of a country road. I heard when the FBI radioed to Enos about how the tires had been slashed and the CB radio had been destroyed on your car. Even if you hadn't been badly wounded, the man who attacked you didn't want you driving the patrol car back to town or calling for help...he wanted you to die," she said softly. " can you ever forgive me?"

Rosco pulled MaryAnne into an embrace, letting her cry into his shoulder. "Sweetheart, it's not your fault," he whispered. "Please don't think that everything's that happened is your fault. It's not."

"But Rosco, I nearly lost you, I'm sure I completely alienated Brian. I mean, now that the Syndicate's been destroyed, we could have had the chance to get to know a cousin. And after all we've done and said...he's not gonna want to have anything to do with us. I suppose I can't blame him."

"Do you still want to try to talk to him?"

MaryAnne looked up at Rosco. "I suppose."

"He owes us some answers. And we owe him some. We all find a way to put all this behind us somehow."<BR>
"Closure," MaryAnne said. "We need closure."

Rosco nodded.

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

A buzzer sounded at the end of the cell block, and the electronically-secured door opened. Two gaurds walked through it, heading purposefully towards Brian's cell. "You got visitors, Coltrane."

Reluctantly, Brian walked to the cell door. Probably the public defender, here for the challenge of his career, he mused. He stuck his wrists through the slot in the cell door, letting one of the gaurds handcuff him. A moment later, the cell door was opened, and Brian was led towards the visitor's area. Another electronic door buzzed open, and then another. To Brian's relief, his handcuffs were removed prior to accessing the visitor's area. Dignity was hard enough to come by these days. Brian was allowed inside the visitor room. He took a seat in front of the bullet proof glass,which seperated him from anybody nuts enough to come here willingly.

After a moment, the electronic door on the other side of the glass buzzed and then opened. Three uniformed people walked in, two in blue and black, the other in white and green. Rosco and MaryAnne stopped and looked at Brian, waiting to see if he would get up and ask to leave immediately.

Brian couldn't keep the surprise off his face. His dark eyes studied the Hazzard County officers, noting the improved posture of MaryAnne, and the healthier color of Rosco's complexion. "Bring any cigarettes?" he asked as an icebreaker.

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco and then held her empty hands out and shook her head apologetically. "Don't smoke." She and Rosco approached the chairs across from Brian. "It's bad for yer health ya know," she said, in a cautious tease.

"That ain't my big concern, these days." Brian said without malice. "You two okay?"

The two cousins sat down, MaryAnne shifting slightly to compensate for her hip. "Yeah, we're a point. That damn Commander..." She adjusted herself on the seat and then looked at Brian. "How about you?"

"I've been better, Deputy. But I suppose that's true of us all."

MaryAnne nodded. "Well, if Commander Turner has his way, you may be a free man....and I won't be a deputy anymore."

"WHAT?!" Brian leaned forward in his chair.

"The Commander wasn't pleased to find out that MaryAnne let you go last time. He thinks some kind of 'deal' was struck and that MaryAnne was obstructing justice on purpose. He's threatening to drop all charges against you and nail her with that." Rosco hesitated and looked at MaryAnne. "That is, if she doesn't turn in her badge herself first."

"Rosco...." MaryAnne scolded.

Brian gaped at Rosco in shock. "Who told the Feds that MaryAnne let me go? And what would the Feds have to gain by droppin' charges on me and goin' after MaryAnne?" Brian thought about it a second and then looked at the Deputy. "And don't you dare turn in your badge. It's practically an admission of guilt if ya do. Don't think for one second it would really make a difference to the D.A. He'd hang us both just for laughs."

"We don't know how they found out. They have ways, just like they found out that MaryAnne wasn't really allergic to the penicillin which blew my whole shuck and jive."

"I already admitted it to the Commander anyways," MaryAnne said softly. "I'm guilty as hell and if I'm lucky the DA will accept my resignation. He better, because that's all I'm giving him."

"No," Brian said firmly. "You ain't resignin'. Goddammit, justice ain't only blind, it's deaf and dumb!"

Brian thought up a quick way to try and get his cousins off the hook.  "Listen to me, Deputy. You let me go so that I could lure the Syndicate hitmen back to Hazzard...ain't that right? You and I did have a deal. Save the Dukes, and take the teeth out of the Syndicate so the Feds could move in. And it worked. You're heroes. And that's exactly what I'm tellin' the Feds. I ain't told 'em nothin' up to this point, they'll buy it."  Brian’s dark eyes were watching MaryAnne intently. 

MaryAnne leaned forward a bit. "Will they? Is that really why you came back to Hazzard? Was you shootin' at me from the top of the building in the town square your way of saying, 'hey, I wanna take down the Syndicate?' You're right, I had let you go because I was hoping you would take the opportunity to get the hell out of the Syndicate. But when you introduced yourself again that way, I began to seriously doubt it."

"Deputy, there's only two ways out of the Syndicate. This-" Brian gestured to the prison walls. "And this." He made a slashing motion with a finger across his throat. "But you knew that much. What are you really doin' here? Did that FBI commander put some pressure on you, to get me talkin'? Maybe I'd tell my cousins what I wouldn't tell the Feds, is that it? "

"No. I just want answers dammit!" MaryAnne stopped and stayed in control. She spoke evenly. "I'm gonna loose my badge pal, I want to know if I'm gonna be able to sleep at night knowing I at least tried to do something to get you outta the Syndicate--without havin' to send ya to jail or gettin' you killed. I wanna know if being kin meant or means anything to you!  I wanna know why the hell you didn't take me out with one shot, finish Rosco and why you even told me the first time that there was a contract on the Dukes. Can you answer any of that for me? Huh? Any of it??"

Brian held eye contact with MaryAnne. "Take off your badge. You too, Rosco. Both of ya give 'em to the guard outside there, and tell 'em your off duty."

MaryAnne whipped her badge off and looked at Rosco, who was already standing up. The two officers went to the door and took a moment to speak to the guard. The guard looked at the badges in his hand and then gave an odd look to the two. "Okay," he said bemusedly.

Rosco and MaryAnne then returned to their chairs, their faces expectant.  "Spill it," MaryAnne said.

"Awright," Brian said quietly. "I'd better start at the beginnin'..”

“You were a rookie cop on assignment in Atlanta, 'bout the time I was a wheelman for the Syndicate. If you've ever wondered who was drivin' that getaway car when First Southern Bank got knocked over, well…" he shrugged modestly, and avoided MaryAnne's eyes. He had a feeling she wouldn't be proud of him.

“Anyway, you made a big arrest sometime after that. You solved a Senator's murder case. A couple of Syndicate boys got busted in the process.  The boss, Frankie Tyler, fell from grace.  He went underground with a few of his closest thugs, and Mancini took over the Syndicate.”

“MaryAnne, when you solved that murder case, you and Rosco got your pictures and your names in the paper. That's when I figured out that ya'll were the kin from Finchburg and Hazzard that my momma used to talk about, God rest her."

Brian lowered his eyes to the floor. "Deputy, your name also got on the Syndicate hit list. They watched every move you made in Atlanta. Leavin' the city probably saved your life."

Brian could feel the tension in MaryAnne and Rosco's silence. He lifted his head, and his dark eyes were empty as he explained the rest. "MaryAnne, there was a time when I used to think of lookin' you up and askin' for help. But your badge was too new and shiny, Deputy. You treated the law like your own holy crusade. I figured you'd look at me as just another arrest to make.”

Brian sighed and went on. "And when you left Atlanta, I abandoned the idea of tryin' to leave the Syndicate. Besides, I liked bein' a wheelman. The money was good. The Syndicate was all I had....”

His voice dropped lower. "I was a good wheelman, but I was also a good shot. The Syndicate found this out when somethin' went wrong during a heist, and I…got promoted."

"I was sent to Hazzard shortly after that, to take care of two local heroes by the name of Duke. They interfered with Syndicate operations a couple years ago, and they've been on the hit list ever since. Don Mancini wanted that list caught up, startin' with them . I got the job. By this time, I'd seen a lot of bad things in the Syndicate, and I was ready to do whatever I had to do."

Brian suddenly looked directly at MaryAnne. "If you hadn't been in Hazzard, I would have done my job and gone back to Atlanta. Sometimes I wish I would have."

"Anyhow...when I went back to Atlanta 'empty-handed'…I caught hell from the Syndicate. I did some fast talkin', blamed the botched hit on Vinnie. You remember him. You busted 'em at the Duke farm, after you took care of that freelancer, Keith."

Suppressed emotion was now in Brian's voice, and he began the next statement with difficulty. "My fast talkin' saved my hide but was gonna cost you yours. The Syndicate figured out that you were the Deputy that arrested Vinnie, and that you were the same cop that made the Syndicate busts in Atlanta. Your name went to the top of the list…and I got the job."

"Mancini figured he was bein' generous with me, Deputy. He gave me a second chance. All I had to do was nail my cousin. They helped me out, though. They let me hang around Deuce for a couple weeks to get some retraining. God help me, but when I came back to Hazzard…I felt like I could actually do my job this time. I'd seen the kind of work Deuce does, and if I failed, he was gonna finish your Contract…and he wanted your Contract, he enjoys his work."

Brian's voice was close to breaking. "And he was right there with me in town, watchin'…so I took some shots at you from the roof across the courthouse."

"I had no other way to warn you. I couldn't talk to you and Rosco with Deuce watchin' my every move. I had fired enough shots around the courthouse to get your attention, but there was no way to get information to you. I had to do somethin' desperate 'cause Deuce was getting edgy. So I did the only thing that would satisfy Deuce and maybe allow me a way of getting word to y’all… I shot you at the Boar's Nest, right in front of Rosco."

Brian swallowed. "I had a note in my jacket. I figured Rosco or somebody would find it. Ya see, I never expected to walk outta there."

He made eye contact with MaryAnne again, and his brown eyes weren't dry. "MaryAnne, I'm sorry I hurt you. I don't know if any of this matters to y'all, but I'm sorry.” 

MaryAnne and Rosco were quiet for a long time, both officers staring blankly at the table top. Absently, Rosco reached out and took MaryAnne's hand. "We're sorry too..." he said softly. MaryAnne nodded and wiped the tear away. 

Brian took a breath, recovered his own composure, and cleared his throat. "I know," he said quietly. "I've had a lot of time to think, lately, about all that's been said and done between us." He looked at MaryAnne specifically. "You still feel the same way about… somethin' you told me recently?"

"My wish for the Feds to fry your---" she glanced at Rosco, knowing he wouldn't want to hear what she was really going to say. "--posterior?" She paused. "No, I don't feel the same. Not to say you ain't guilty of a few things."

Brian smiled slightly, crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. "Of course I am. And that's why the FBI commander is lyin' through his teeth when he's talkin' about not filin' charges on me. He's also got no interest in your badge, Deputy. He's just ticked off that it was the Hazzard law that got the sting operation mobilized."

MaryAnne snickered. "'Country Bumpkin Sheriffs Nail Atlanta Syndicate.' Yeah, I can see where that would tick him off." She smiled at Rosco and both gave a "Khee!"

"The DA's the one that makes the decisions about who to charge and what charges to drop anyways," Rosco said.

"Yeah," MaryAnne said. She then looked at Brian. "What are you gonna tell the Feds now, or are you gonna not say anything?"

Brian thought about it. "If that Fed commander is tryin' to rattle you, then that means that the FBI may not be turnin' in enough hard evidence to the D.A...and I'm sure the D.A. already had a nice talk with the FBI about it. The way I see it, is if the prosecution against the Syndicate falls short of full convictions, the whole thing's gonna come down on y'all."   He looked at the two officers pointedly. "And I guess I can't let that happen."

"Now, I ain't gonna let the Feds take my statements and twist 'em around to suit their purposes. So I gotta talk to the D.A. myself, and give him the facts that Deuce and the boys held back from the Feds. You'll keep your badges," Brian promised.

"You would do that?" Rosco asked, somewhat dumbfounded. "I mean, after all that happened? It's not like you owe us anythin'...I didn't purposely set you up, but I was tryin' to do my job..."

"Rosco, if you hadn't called the Feds, we'd all be dead. Including Brian." MaryAnne said.  Rosco looked at her questioningly.

"I had a police radio in my hospital room,” she explained, “and I heard that the FBI had found out that the Syndicate was going to dispose of Brian after the hit on the Dukes was complete. If the Feds hadn't gone tearin' into the Duke yard when they did, we wouldn't be here talkin' to Brian now."  MaryAnne paused. "You wouldn't be here either, Rosco."

Brian nodded in agreement. "She's right, Sheriff. It took me sittin' in the cooler for a week to realize the same thing." He looked at them both, his expression serious. "I'll talk to the D.A." He stood up, his expression resigned. "You two go on back to Hazzard...and forget all this, if ya can."

That was pretty much the cue that the visit was over. MaryAnne was too tired to argue and Rosco was just too shocked to believe Brian was going to bother with it. The two cousins nodded and stood up. They started to turn towards the door when MaryAnne stopped and turned back to Brian.

"Brian?" She waited for him to look at her. When he did, she spoke softly and sincerely. "You take care of yourself, ya hear?"

"Yeah, you too." The door behind him buzzed open, and two guards came inside to retrieve Brian. He hesitated a moment longer. "Rosco,'re both brave officers. Whatever happens, I ..."

The guards tugged on his arm, interrupting him. Brian shook loose and put a hand on the glass. "I'm proud to call you kin."

MaryAnne took a hold of Rosco's hand and then matched her other hand to Brian's on the glass. She didn't say anything, just nodded and looked Brian in the eyes. She wasn't proud of his past, but was glad he was going to try to do something good now. Her eyes held a mixture of regret and sadness but also peace. She remained looking at him, even when the guards each took a hold of an arm and started to lead him to the door.

Rosco and MaryAnne sat in silence in Rosco's patrol car for several moments, still parked in the parking lot of the Federal jail. MaryAnne held her deputies badge in her hand and stared at it. Rosco watched her, looking from her badge to the expression on her face.  "You okay?" he asked.

MaryAnne took a deep breath. "I'm as well as can be expected."

Rosco sighed. "We lost him, didn't we."

"Yeah," she whispered. She then shook her head. "He was in too deep. If he had tried to find me when I was in Atlanta, things may have been different. I would have helped him." She looked at Rosco. "Dammit, I know I would have."

"I know," he said.

"You know what I feel like right now? A really big stinky pile of horse manure. I mean, you were right, everything he did, he did to try to protect us. And I just can't help but think of all the rotten things I said to him."

"And the rotten things I said to him," Rosco added.

MaryAnne nodded and then shook her head sadly. "What's that Elton song? 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word'?"

"Yeah..." Rosco whispered. "Ain't that the truth."

MaryAnne looked out at the brick prison and up to the bars on the windows. She then closed her eyes, feeling tears starting to burn. Before one escaped, Rosco started the patrol car and began the long drive back to Hazzard.

Chapter Ten