Bill’s notes, corroborated by both MaryAnne and Matt and combined with Joey’s attempt to destroy such was all Mayson needed to convince a judge to issue warrants to search Fehr’s rented house and place the producer under arrest.

Then, Michael Blake asked to speak to the top Fed directly. Mayson obliged him and ended up getting a full confession from the young man of his involvement in Jacy’s death.

Jacy wasn’t the only one that had been enticed into Fehr’s inner circle, Michael had as well. Promises of a career, money…it had been quite alluring. Neither Michael nor Jacy really had any idea what they were getting in to. While Jacy was being woo’d by Fehr, Michael had been asked to help with a “shipment” pick up and drop off. He had no idea what the package was and had thought it was just something for the movie. It was only after he’d assisted, and was paid a handsome bonus, that he found out what the package contained. Then when Jacy was somehow introduced to the coke, things started to go downhill.

He and Jacy fought almost constantly – and subsequently broke up. As far as she was concerned, Mike was done with the inner circle. But he still had an obligation to assist Dale Kingston with one more shipment.

So he was in Atlanta the Friday night Jacy was killed. No one at the party saw him because he never showed himself, instead using a back entrance to the house. He did the run with Dale and then was asked to meet with Fehr in his study. Jacy was there, higher than the moon and telling Fehr how she didn’t want Mike to be around anymore. Mike said he was willing to continue doing his extra job that the breakup between himself and Jacy shouldn’t be a factor. But for Jacy, apparently it was.

From there things go out of hand. Jacy became enraged, screaming that Mike was trying to ruin her, ruin her career chances, and ruin her life. Mike made the mistake of opening his mouth and saying that she was already well on the way of doing all that on her own.

She attacked him, trying to swing a punch at him, which Mike deflected. He tried to grab hold of her to get her to simmer down. She fought loose and then Fehr tried to get her to simmer down and Jacy turned her anger toward him.

Unlike Mike, however, Fehr struck back. The backhanded strike was only supposed to get Jacy to stop her tirade but instead the blow sent Jacy flying back on to a nearby glass top end table where her head struck the glass, shattering it, and killing her.

Mike couldn’t recall much of what happened after that. All he knew was that somebody he had truly cared for was now dead. Between himself and Fehr it was decided they had to get Jacy out of the house and leave her somewhere. Mike volunteered to take care of it, somehow within his own shock making a decision that the madness of Michael Fehr and his inner circle had to be stopped. It was Mike that had driven Jacy’s body to the apartment building in Fehr’s Cadillac, leaving her there with the diamond choker necklace Fehr had gifted to her still around her neck. Afterall, Fehr didn’t think to take it off her until Mike returned the car later. Mike lied and told Fehr he had taken care of the necklace too. It was the first of a string of lies that Mike would tell that would eventually lead, oddly, to the truth.

The lingering threat from Dale Kingston, who was furious once he found out what had happened, was what kept Mike from coming forward initially. At the least he had set the ball rolling when he reported Jacy missing. After the shooting of Agent Maxwell and then hearing from Fehr’s attorney of what Joey had attempted to do, Mike knew he would have to pay for his sins one way or the other. Promising to keep his mouth shut guaranteed nothing. If someone decided he should be silenced for good, he would be. Best to speak while he could.

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

In the following days, MaryAnne visited the hospital to check on Bill and was there when he finally began to awake on his own. He could hardly speak but he didn’t have to. The relief and joy at seeing her, and knowing he was alive, was clear within his dark eyes.

Too groggy and exhausted to carry much conversation, Bill simply listened to MaryAnne speak softly to him. She told him about Fehr being arrested and how his investigating had been top notch according to Commander Mayson. She didn’t speak of Joey’s attack on her. He felt her hand within his, giving her a weak squeeze with each piece of goof news. Way to go Blue! Assured and comforted, he drifted off back to sleep after a while.

MaryAnne softly whispered a promise to visit the next day and she left to allow him to rest…

On a dusty dirt road in Hazzard, he stood with MaryAnne, by the open door of her Firebird holding her close.

“Don’t drive too fast,” he was saying, “I don’t want to lose you…”

She promised. But when he let her go, she was behind the wheel and the Firebird was driving away.

He couldn’t follow her.

There was no other car around.

The road was empty. MaryAnne was gone.

He walked, finding himself arriving at the Boar’s Nest. The parking lot was full of cars.

Inside, was a crowd.

“MaryAnne ain’t here,” Rosco’s voice came from somewhere to his right.

“Yeah, I can see you’re thinly staffed…”

There was more than one waitress working the floor. He recognized Daisy. None of the other girls were MaryAnne, however.

Bill wandered through the room. He passed the bar where Bo was behind it.

“Drink?” the blonde Duke asked.

Bill shook his head. He kept walking, maneuvering around people who were dancing, drinking, laughing. It was half Hazzard, half Fehr’s house party.

He came to a door. Rosco was suddenly there.

“You can’t go in,” the Sheriff intoned.

“Like hell I can’t.” Bill tried the door knob. It opened.

It was a ball room from the Civil War era. Men in Confederate uniforms, women in fancy ball gowns. Music and chatter filled the room. Couples danced.

One woman stood alone, in a dark blue gown with dark brown hair done up with ringlets. Her back was to him. He approached.

She turned to him.

It was Mandy.

He turned away. No…

She was in front of him, trying to hold him.

He refused pushing her away.

“Your audition,” she said.

He didn’t care. He wanted nothing to do with it.

He wanted MaryAnne. Why couldn’t he find her?

The crowd around him faded.

The room became sterile, dark.

The morgue at Foulton County.

“She’s an old friend,” Matt Franklin was saying. They were speaking over a body, the sheet still covering it.

“How long?”

“Many years.”

“I’m sorry.”

Matt nodded. “I’m just glad you got her out of there…”

The words sent Bill running. Through the halls of the morgue…through the streets of Atlanta…

He found the Firebird parked along a street. She was there, standing in the open doorway of the car.

He was beside her and she smiled up at him.

He held her close. There was peace in the moment. Warmth. There were things he wanted to say to her but there were other voices. Discouraging voices coming from the street, heckling.

MaryAnne tried to pull away. He held her.

“No…” he said. “I don’t want to lose you…”

It was the wee hours of the morning when Bill awoke. A nurse was standing by his bed.

“Mr. Maxwell? Are you ok?”

It took him a moment to find his voice. “Yeah…”

The nurse watched him as he looked up toward the ceiling, looking around.

“Where…?”

“You’re at Tri-County Hospital.”

“What...state?”

“Georgia. You suffered a gunshot wound but you’re going to be fine.”

He remembered it all now. “I hate hospitals.”

“Doc Appleby will be glad to hear you said that. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to hang out with us for a little while longer.” The nurse made a note on a chart. “Your heart rate accelerated quite a bit as you woke up. Are you in any pain?”

Bill shook his head. “No. Dream…weird dream.”

The nurse nodded. “Not unusual. Were you falling?”

“No.”

“Were you hanging on to something?”

He remembered holding MaryAnne, both for real and in the dream. “Yeah…” He looked at the nurse. “How…?”

She smiled. “You were reaching with your hand when I came in.” She made a motion with her hand, creating a curve in the air. “I hope she was pretty?”

A genuine smile found its way through Bill’s otherwise haggard expression. “Yes…”

“Good. Say, it’s not that cute little lady deputy sheriff that’s been in here is it?”

Bill turned toward the nurse. “MaryAnne?”

“Yep. She’s been in here every day to see you.”

The smile was still in his eyes. “Yeah, it’s her…”

“Ah ha…” The nurse placed the chart down and took the stethoscope from around her neck. She adjusted it to her ears. “I’m going to take a listen to your lungs…” she said as she placed the device over his chest. The room was quiet as she listened to the top, middle and lower lung of the side where he’d been wounded.

She gave a nod, finding things sounded clear. “Now that you’re back to the land of the living, you’ll be able to enjoy her company when she comes to see you.”

“Yeah… how many days have I been here?”

“You’re starting on day four.”

“What time is it?”

“It is…” she looked at her watch. “Almost 3:30. In the morning.”

“Ah, gee, plenty of time to get up, shower, have some coffee and go back to work.”

The nurse chuckled. “I admire your ambition but I’m afraid it’s going to be a little while before you’re doing all that. Although we may see about getting you up later today.”

He nodded. “The sooner the better.”

“Are you having any pain, any discomfort right now?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Ok. If you need anything just push the red button there. Either myself or someone will be around to check on you again in a couple of hours.”

Bill nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.”

The nurse left the room and Bill remained awake for a little while, thinking of MaryAnne. He wished she were there with him, to hear her voice and feel the touch of her hand.

The images of the dream were gone, except the last moment as he held her. I don’t want to lose you…

He knew what he wanted.

Seems it was about time to say something…

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

By the time MaryAnne came to visit him later that afternoon, his thoughts from 3:30 in the morning hadn’t abated. The nurses had him sitting up in bed by mid-morning. By midafternoon he’d taken a chance to put his feet on the floor and stand up for a few minutes.

His side hurt and there were moments when it was uncomfortable to breathe, but with his mind focused toward recovery there would be no stopping him. Doc Appleby was encouraged by the day’s progress and for MaryAnne it was quite a surprise seeing Bill sitting up in bed and looking much more like his old self than what he had looked like 24 hours earlier.

He smiled seeing her walk in.

“Well look at you!” MaryAnne grinned wide. “Yer back!”

“Back and ready to vacate this coffin factory.”

She chuckled. “Yep, yer definitely feeling better. I don’t think they’re gonna let you go quite yet tho’.”

“No, they’re not. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by the Doc that I’m here for, at least, a few more days.”

“Well, for a guy who frequents hospitals as much as you do you should be used to this by now. This is getting to be a habit, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.” He looked at her for a moment. “And you know what’s worse?”

“What?”

“This is getting to be the only place I can get you alone.”

MaryAnne chuckled nervously. “Um…”

“Babe,” he said suddenly, “I…I gotta say something, and if you walk out of here and never come back, I’ll hate it. I’ll understand, but I’ll hate it. MaryAnne, there’s something more going on here with you and me…at least, I’d like there to be…”

MaryAnne froze and avoided his gaze. “Bill…”

“This has been on my mind since I came around this morning. It was on my mind before I ended up here.” He watched her standing there, struggling with her emotions. It was there, he was sure of it but something held her back.

“MaryAnne, I need you,” he said. “And…I want you. And maybe…you might want me too.”

It was all right there on the line. MaryAnne felt the same way about him and she could tell him right now the door was wide open…. yet she was frozen in fear. When she thought he was dying, she mourned not having had the chance to tell him how she felt. Now he was alive and she still couldn’t express it.

Bill took hold of her hand which prompted her to look at him, her heart pounding. He saw the jumble of emotions in her eyes. Fear… and the same want as him. “MaryAnne, please. Either say something or… walk out of here.”

Not that he wanted her to run away but he couldn’t stand the in between.

Still, she struggled. She lowered her gaze, let go of his hand and turned, walking away from him.

Bill watched her, his heart breaking. He had told her to go but it didn’t stop the urge to beg her not to. “MaryAnne, don’t…”

She rounded the foot of the bed and slowed to a stop.

There were so many reasons why this shouldn’t be happening. He wasn’t supposed to be in Atlanta for long, and she had so many chains wrapped around her heart for safety and protection, and had been like that for so many years, that she knew he had no idea what kind of deal he was looking at. But the attraction…was still mutual. She did want him. She didn’t know why, after so long of avoiding men, that Bill made her think any differently, but she did want him. It seemed this was…love. And love didn’t care about length of assignment or old broken hearts.

Still, MaryAnne resisted. The whole crazy mess terrified her. Absolutely terrified her. She was so long out of circulation and so far out of practice that she felt he’d be better off chasing after some other woman and forget she ever existed.

She turned to look at him. His gaze met hers with a silent plea. Finally, words formed to her mouth.

“Bill, you… you don’t want me. You shouldn’t…”

“I do.”

“No…”

“Yes,” he said firmly. “Dammit, I do…”

“Why?”

Bill blinked. “Why? Because you’re beautiful. We get along. I like to be with you…” He paused. “You’re gorgeous.”

“You said that.”

“And I’ll say it again. Babe…” He searched her expression. “What are you afraid of? Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same way because I think you do.”

“I do…” she admitted. “But I…I don’t know…” she trailed off as tears formed in her eyes.

“Don’t know what?”

“I….don’t know how. I don’t know that I can…love you.”

“Why not?”

“Because…of something that happened a very long time ago…to a very dumb deputy…”

“MaryAnne…” Bill held a hand out to her. “Come here. Please.”

She hesitated, wiping a tear away from her cheek.

“Babe, please…” he urged.

She moved and walked back to him. Her trembling hand took hold of his and he drew her closer, pulling her gently into a careful embrace.

MaryAnne held him and cried quietly and freely against his shoulder.

“I think you can,” he said softly. “I can show you…”

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

Bill hated being in hospitals and there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t ask about being sent home. Doc Appleby, however, wasn’t ready to let the patient go yet.

“You need not make my job that much harder, Mr. Maxwell. That’s a very serious wound you have and I cannot let you out of here in good conscience until I’m sure that it is healing the way it should be.”

“Well, yeah but—“

“No arguments. You’re here until I say otherwise. You live alone in Atlanta, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re better off right here, where somebody can keep a watch on you.”

“What if I stuck around in Hazzard somewhere?”

“If you can find somebody to take care of you for a few days, and God help them, I might reconsider letting you out of here.”

*** *** ****

Before heading to the Boar’s Nest for her nighttime shift, MaryAnne headed over to the boarding house to check on Bill and help change the dressing. This was first change since he’d left the hospital.

She went in to the building and up to his room, which was right next door to Enos’s. She knocked softly and gently eased the door open. He didn’t say anything and when MaryAnne looked at him lying on the bed, she realized he was asleep.

She stepped in and closed the door. He was propped up against the pillows with a scattering of magazines and the Atlanta newspaper on the bed. On his lap and under his hand was a note pad, a pen precariously balanced between his fingers.

MaryAnne hated to wake him. She sat down in the chair next to the bed and looked at him for a moment. He looked relaxed and peaceful. And yes…even quite handsome.

She smiled and gently touched his other hand that lay beside him. “Bill?”

He remained still and then his eyes opened with a sideways look toward her and he held back a smile. “I heard you come in,” he said.

MaryAnne grinned and squeezed his hand. “I’m here to change your bandage.”

“Of course you are.” He placed his notepad and pen aside and shifted his position a little on the bed to prop himself up more.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Not bad. Feeling a little stir crazy though, being cooped up here.”

“You’ve only been here since this morning.”

“Yeah, I know…” 

MaryAnne smiled and stood up, walking over to the dresser to get fresh dressing gauze, tape and other things she needed. She returned to the side of the bed as Bill was unbuttoning his pajama top.

MaryAnne tried to ignore his bare chest once the material was opened and she focused on the dressing that needed to be removed.

She worked carefully, removing the old gauze and tape from his body. The wound was quite extraordinary, since it had busted a rib in the process. There were numerous stitches and MaryAnne could see where the skin was already healing over.

“How’s it look?” Bill asked, although he could see it for himself.

“Looks good to me. No redness so no infection. Hopefully we can keep it that way…” MaryAnne tore open a packet for an alcohol swipe and gently cleaned the area around the wound. She then opened gauze packs, covering the wound and pulled strips of tape to secure them in place.

Bill watched her work and couldn’t help his grin. 

“There…” she said. She looked at him he was still smiling. “What?” she asked.

He shook his head. “You did good, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She lingered with his gaze which kept her from admiring the rest of him, but her eyes betrayed her and she looked at his lean chest briefly before turning to clean up the old gauze and tape.

Bill saw her face flush. Neither of them said anything as she gathered up the items off the bed and walked over to the dresser, returning the tape and scissors to the table top and placing the old gauze in to the trash.

With her back to him, Bill looked at her. She had her Boar’s Nest attire on, dark blue short shorts, a white shirt and high heeled sandals.  He sighed happily and looked up at her face as she turned around toward him again.

He hadn’t bothered buttoning his top up yet. MaryAnne looked at him lying there and took it all in. Damn he’s

She broke her gaze and chuckled nervously. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“No. Don’t be…”

“You’re um, you’re gonna get cold.”

“Yeah, probably.” He didn’t care. Look at me…

She looked at him again. “I uh…I gotta get going…”

“MaryAnne? Come here…”

She hesitated before stepping back to the bed. She stood next to it. He patted the bed for her to sit down next to him.

She did, facing him. She gently took hold of the lapels of his pajama top and drew them together, buttoning one button before his hands gently took hold of her arms and held her, drawing her close.

Their lips touched softly and warmly. When it ended neither of them drew back very far. The tingling warmth flowed through both of them and Bill moved to kiss her again.

When they parted again, MaryAnne opened her eyes to look at him. “I’m…a little rusty,” she said softly.

He shook his head. He didn’t think so. To prove his point, he kissed her again.

The feelings within her stirred strongly. But the little voice nagged at her. You have to go. You have a job to do. You remember what happened last time you abandoned your post and your responsibilities for a man…

The kiss melted away and MaryAnne drew back. “I…I have to go,” she said.

Bill held her. “Why are you in such a hurry to leave?” he asked.

“I’m—I’m not,” she said. “I don’t mean to be…I’m sorry.” MaryAnne met his vulnerable gaze and he gently tugged her closer to hold her.

“What are you afraid of?” he asked.

Everything… she thought. She didn’t answer right away.

“Huh?” he prompted. He loosened his hold of her enough so he could look at her. “Don’t tell me I have to compete with that slop you serve at the Boar’s Nest?”

MaryAnne shook her head. “No,” she said. “It’s just….I remember what it was like the last time I abandoned my post for a man…”

“What happened?”

MaryAnne didn’t care to relive the details, but the memories came back to her anyway.  She shook her head again. “I was just a dumb, country deputy,” she said. “Easily distracted…and easily lied to…” Her eyes stung with tears that she couldn’t hold back. She tried to move from his embrace, not wanting to cry all over him, but he refused to let her go. He tugged her back to him again to hold her.

MaryAnne relented and clung to him, laying her head on his shoulder. She cried quietly, struggling to pull herself back together again. Neither spoke. They didn’t have too. Bill could feel every jarring piece of her broken heart and it hurt him just as much.

Bill held her for a long moment, hearing her sniffle softly. “I’m not lying to you, babe...” he said.

MaryAnne knew this. And that scared her too.

“I want to know what happened,” he said. “You don’t have to tell me now, but I want to know. I want to know what this creep did to you. It wasn’t anything…violent, was it?”

MaryAnne eased back from Bill and shook her head. She swallowed, trying to find her voice again. “No… Sometime, I’ll tell you. Not now, I can’t now. I….I have to…”

“I know,” he said. “You have to go.”

She resumed buttoning the rest of his top. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“I’d rather have you back tonight.”

She raised her eyes to his and was momentarily locked in his stare, his pleading desire clear. “I… I can’t…” she stammered. She eased away from him and stood up, picking up her purse from the end of the bed. She paused, looking at him as he looked at her, his handsome face sad and vulnerable.

It was tempting to forget the Boar’s Nest and just stay with him. But she couldn’t…. she lowered her gaze. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

She started for the door. He didn’t say anything, but out of the corner of her eye she saw him nod.

She exited the room and gently closed the door. It broke her heart to leave him like that and by the time she got back down to the street and to Maverick, she was in tears again.

She let herself cry for a minute or two and then pulled herself together. She grabbed a couple of tissues from the glove box, dabbing her eyes. She looked at her reflection in the rear view mirror and found her mascara was a mess. She ignored it for now and would fix it when she got to the Boar’s Nest. Hopefully, her eyes would be dry by then.

A few minutes later, she pulled into the Boar’s Nest parking lot and parked next to Daisy’s jeep. She headed inside.

The crowd was thin. Daisy was coming around the bar with a dishpan of dirty glasses to take out back to be washed. “Hey,” she greeted with a smile.

“Hi,” MaryAnne replied, managing a smile back.

Nonetheless, Daisy noticed MaryAnne’s puffy eyes. “Are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying.”

“I’m okay.”

“Did you go see Bill?”

MaryAnne nodded. “Yeah.”

“He doing okay?”

“Yeah, he’s doing great.”

Daisy smiled. “Good.” She studied MaryAnne for another moment. “You sure you’re okay, sugar?”

“I’m fine. Listen, I gotta run to the ladies room, I’ll be right out to help ya get set up.”

“Ok…” As MaryAnne headed toward the bathroom, Daisy continued on to the kitchen.

In the bathroom, MaryAnne applied cold water to a paper towel and dabbed at her eyes. She then applied a dry towel, patting gently and then went about reapplying her mascara. A moment later, Daisy walked in.

MaryAnne looked at Daisy in the reflection of the mirror.

“You’ve never had to fix your makeup when you got here,” Daisy observed.

MaryAnne gave a half smile. “First time for everything.” She finished up on her lashes and shoved the mascara brush back into the tube.

“Everything ok with Bill?” Daisy asked.

“Yeah, he’s fine, Daisy. He’s okay. It’s just….”

“What?”

“What I….feel for him scares me. And I think what he feels for me scares me too.”

Daisy put a sympathetic hand on MaryAnne’s shoulder. “It’s been a long time for you, hasn’t it?”

MaryAnne nodded. “And the last time wasn’t good.” She paused. “Bill didn’t want me to leave. I didn’t really want to leave either but I had to be here…”

“Oh MaryAnne, honey, you could blow this place off and I’d forgive ya. I wouldn’t tell anyone!”

“Daisy, it’s not just that. It’s just….last time, I did abandon my post for a man. And…I was made a fool of. I’ve never forgotten that.”

“I don’t think Mr. Maxwell’s lying to you. I mean, he drives allllll the way from Atlanta to sit at that bar out there and it’s not for the beer, honey, it’s to see you. And you’ve both been through a lot together. Why would he lie to you?”

“I know. It’s an old fear, it’s gonna take a while to get over it I suppose.”

“You’re gonna see him tomorrow, of course? Be his nurse and all?” Daisy asked with a grin.

“Yeah, I am.” MaryAnne paused and chuckled. “He wanted me to go back and see him tonight.”

“Do it.”

“Daisy, I can’t. Rosco waits for me to get home before he goes out to do his patrol.”

“MaryAnne, you’re only a couple of minutes from town. Go see Bill, give him about 10 or 15 minutes and when you go home just tell Rosco we had a plumbing issue here and had to clean it up. I’ll back up the story!”

MaryAnne paused, considering it.

Daisy smiled. “Good, you’re thinking about it. By the time we’re done here tonight, you’re gonna go back and see him.”

Later, once the last customer was shooed out the door, Daisy locked the front doors of the Boar’s Nest and she walked back to the bar.

“Once you have the register all cashed up, MaryAnne, get out of here. Go see Bill.”

“We got a mess in the kitchen, Daisy. And we gotta sweep the floor up and—“

“Oh, I can do all that. You go give Bill a kiss goodnight.”

MaryAnne grinned as she counted up a stack of bills. She punched in the amount on the register adding it to the tally.

“You gotta take the opportunities where they come, MaryAnne,” Daisy continued, gathering up dirty beer mugs. “You said he’s only here until Doc Appleby clears him to go back to Atlanta. That could only be a few days.”

“Yeah, I know.  Daisy, I just don’t want to be one of those girls that goes running off to see her boyfriend all the time and leaves you holding the bag. It’s not fair to you.”

“MaryAnne, I know you’d wouldn’t do that. Hey, I’m the one pushing you out the door tonight!” Daisy said with a giggle. “It’s just, I see how you’ve been when he’s around. And how you were during the movie filming. You’re happier than I’ve ever seen you.”

“Even when I’m fixing my makeup in the bathroom because I was balling my eyes driving here after seeing him?”

Daisy laughed. “Believe it or not, yes, even then. So get that register all balanced and go spend a few minutes with him. And I don’t want to see any tears tomorrow. When you walk in here, I want to see you with a big bright smile on your face.”

MaryAnne grinned and nodded, continuing to count up the money.

Once the daily receipts were settled, Daisy all but pushed MaryAnne out the door. MaryAnne couldn’t help her grin as she drove back to town, although part of her was a little nervous with knowing Rosco was waiting for her to get home. She continued on though, reaching town and parking around the block from the boarding house.

Up on the second floor, MaryAnne paused at Bill’s door. She listened and thought how he really should have rest and that he was probably sleeping…

Then she remembered how he looked earlier when she said she couldn’t come back.  If he was sleeping, she had a feeling he wouldn’t mind be awoken for a few minutes.

She turned the door knob and tried to gently push the door open. Old houses tended to not have doors that opened easily and there was crack! as the door cleared the frame.

MaryAnne paused, cringing.

The noise had awoken Bill and from within the dark, she heard him grunt from the pain in his side and then he issued a warning. “Awright, whoever you are, I know you’re in here…”

“Bill, it’s me.” MaryAnne pushed the door open further and the lamp that was at Bill’s bedside came on.

He looked at her and if he was mad about being awoken so abruptly it was quickly forgiven. “Oh,” he said, glad to see her. “I thought you couldn’t come back?”

MaryAnne closed the door and stepped closer to the bed. “I can’t stay for very long,” she said. He patted the bed for her to sit by him and she did. “See, Rosco waits for me to get home before he goes out to do his patrol.”

“He’ll worry if you’re late.”

“Well, it’s not unusual to be a few minutes late. You know, like if we had a big mess to clean up at the Boar’s Nest or something.”

“Did you have a big mess to clean up tonight?”

“Sure did.”

Bill grinned. “Good.” He took hold of her hand. “I’m glad you came back.”

She smiled at him and nodded. “I’m sorry about earlier. Just…bear with me.”

“You’re scared to death, babe. Then again, so am I.” He gently squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about it now.” He smiled at her. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

So was she.