**** **** ****
When Rosco returned to the courthouse, he phoned Mayson and told the Commander what he had found, including the photograph of the street crossroad.
Upon hearing the address, Mayson knew it wasn’t in Atlanta. “I’m not sure Atlanta even has a 9th Street. And the only Carter Street I know of here is mostly residential. You’re saying the photograph you have shows commercial office buildings?”
“Yeah, a couple of them. Might be a parking garage. It’s a pretty wide intersection.”
“Hmm. And you think it might be in Chattanooga?”
“Well, Chattanooga’s the only place close enough around here to have office buildin’s like that. And I figure if these boys were hidin’ out here in Hazzard and didn’t wanna be too far away from their target, then Chattanooga’s the closest big city we got t’ here.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Rosco, there is one potential target in Chattanooga right now that the suspects Maxwell’s been trailing might be looking to strike.”
“Ooo, there is? Is it a big one?”
“It’s a big one…”
**** **** ****
After hanging up with Rosco, Commander Mayson left his office and immediately went to the bullpen. He burst through the doors so fast and hard it prompted every agent in the room to turn their heads toward him.
Mayson made a beeline for Maxwell’s desk and called for Roger Kelley, who was at the other side of the bullpen. The deputy agent came over at once.
Mayson picked up a handful of file folders from Bill’s desk. He picked out the ones he wanted, verified the information, and handed the folders to Kelley. “I just got off the phone with Sheriff Coltrane in Hazzard and it looks like something’s happened to Maxwell. MaryAnne and Enos are mixed up in it too. I want these people Bill was checking up on about Diamante’s car brought in for questioning. I want to know who hired them to work on the car and I want to know to whom they delivered the car. It’s possible that whoever has the car right now is heading to Chattanooga.”
“Chattanooga?” Kelley was skeptical. “You think they’re going to target the conference?”
“We got seven governors that are going to be there. You don’t think somebody might like to make a statement?”
“Want me to alert Chattanooga?”
“Yes. Also widen the area of Maxwell’s APB on that black Dodge Charger.” Mayson turned and walked over to a file cabinet. “I also want an APB on a plain white Plymouth Fury and on Maxwell’s sedan.” He opened the drawer and pulled out a city map of Chattanooga.
“Rosco said there was a photograph found at the place where they found the hit car in Hazzard. It was marked as ‘Carter Street looking toward West 9th Street on ramp north’…” Mayson found Carter Street on the map and then traced his finger along the route. He found West 9th Street and saw there was an onramp to Route 27.
Roger watched. “Escape route.”
“More than likely. And our conference is here…” Mayson drew his finger southward and pointed to where Carter Street and 13th Street met, where the hotel convention center that was hosting the conference just south of the TVA complex was located. He looked at Roger. If the deputy agent had any lingering doubts they had been pretty well put to rest.
“Notify every law enforcement agency that’s working the security on this,” Mayson said. “Absolutely no governor should go anywhere near that hotel tomorrow morning until we find Maxwell, MaryAnne, Enos, that hit car and the suspects with it. Got it?”
“I’m on it.” Kelley took the map and the file folders and immediately left the bullpen.
**** **** ****
Bill tried taking a deep breath and found his abdomen still hurt. Being tied standing up to one of the building’s support beams wasn’t all that comfortable either. It had been a few hours since he, MaryAnne and Enos had been punished for their last demonstration of defiance. Bill had a feeling it was going to many long hours before they met their permanent fate.
The least they could do is let us sit down. Geez! Behind him, he could hear the men talking quietly over maps and diagrams that were laid out on a workbench. A small radio was tuned to a talk station. At six o’clock, the last local news broadcast of the day came on.
Bill had largely ignored the yamma, yamma of the talk station, some political call in show where the host and the listeners complained about the local issues and problems that currently plagued Chattanooga and the United States as a whole. When the news broadcast came on, Bill paid attention hoping there would be some kind of clue as to who or what these guys could be targeting. Jay had said something about this being the most spectacular thing the country had ever seen and that it would in fact be murder. They seemed to have as much firepower as Bill’s 72nd Armored Division did in Korea. They certainly had a tank…
“Tennessee Governor Martin Duncan will host six other southern regional governors and several business and government leaders from Canada and Europe tomorrow for the first Southern Regional Conference on Economic Development….”
The men suddenly went quiet and Bill heard the volume go up. Bingo… Jay, taking the opportunity to gloat, picked up the radio and walked toward the middle of the shop floor, so that Bill, MaryAnne and Enos could hear the announcement.
“…The conference, to take place in Chattanooga, has been touted by Governor Duncan’s office as an opportunity for not only Tennessee but for the entire southern region of the US to highlight the opportunities that exist for business and development in the American South.”
“I am honored to host the governors of several southern states in Chattanooga for this conference. As you know, Chattanooga was once an iron horse of industry and manufacturing in the South and has seen the loss of those jobs in recent years, thus putting an incredible strain on the local economy. The goal of this conference is to showcase that cities like Chattanooga and other areas of the south are prime for new development and have the available resources and infrastructure to achieve those goals.”
“The historic conference will take place over a span of three days and begins tomorrow with state receptions and a breakfast summit hosted by Governor Duncan.”
The announcer paused before going into the next news item. Jay turned the radio off.
“There you have it,” he said. “The most spectacular assassination this country has ever seen.”
“Just how many people are you plannin’ on killin’?” Enos asked timidly.
MaryAnne interjected her own answer. “As many as he can, Enos.”
Bill was studying Jay. “Awright, so what’s your motive? What’s your big message? You guys always have some big screamin’ deal, some point when you’re looking to blow away government figures. What’s yours?”
Jay paced thoughtfully, purposely building the suspense. He had a rapt audience and he knew it, but he gave a modest shrug. “My motive is very simple, Agent Maxwell. Capitalist venture.”
“Hired killers,” Bill clarified.
“Crassly put, but yes.”
“Who hired you? Why?”
Jay chuckled. “Let me just say that my sponsor along with myself are displeased with the direction this great fine nation of ours is going. And it’s “conferences” like these that are the biggest threat to our country. Pandering to foreign interests. Making it easy for business here to drop an American worker like nothing and pick up cheaper labor overseas. We shouldn’t be begging for Canada or Europe to bring their business here and employ our people. They should be begging us for the opportunity. Therefore, I intend to make a very bold statement tomorrow morning when I cut down seven US governors – traitors – at once along with the carpetbagger Canadians and Europeans that will be there as well.”
“Why target the governors?” MaryAnne asked. “They’re just trying to find opportunities and jobs for their respective citizen’s. That’s what they all promise when they run for office.”
“But they do nothing when a company closes its doors here and moves its operations overseas,” Jay countered. “They do nothing, Deputy, when 250, 300, 500 people are put out of work by one of these plant closures. This has been the story throughout the South in the past few years.”
“I’m all for Made in the USA and American pride and all that, but killing seven governors isn’t going to bring any of those jobs back,” Bill said. “You’re not going to reverse what’s already become the economic reality in this country.”
“This country is losing its edge, Agent Maxwell. Rather, this country has lost its edge. American made goods were once the envy of the world. Finest craftsmanship anywhere. We make nothing in this country anymore. We have no ingenuity! No innovation! No spirit! And we’re being overtaken by foreign interests. My message will be obvious when the smoke clears tomorrow. Our political leaders should be seeking new development from within. We have the resources and the people right here in the US. We don’t need Canada, or Europe or anybody else.”
“So you’re an old fashioned isolationist,” Bill concluded. “Only, in your particular case, you don’t want anyone else playing in your sandbox so you’d rather soil it?”
“I’m trying to save it,” Jay retorted. “And I am not the only one who feels this way. Many Americans feel just as I do but no one is listening to us. Unfortunately, to send my message it has to be bold and spectacular. I have to make sure I get people’s attention. And this will get people’s attention.”
“Were you paid in advance?” MaryAnne asked. “Because it’s gonna be pretty hard to spend that money after they catch you and fry your hide. It’s also gonna be tough to make speeches from the grave.”
Jay looked at MaryAnne and walked closer toward her. “Deputy, I can’t loose. This entire operation has been planned and mapped out like a military strike. Contingencies have been considered and the plan is flexible for any variable. Even you three have been taken into consideration. Before the law even knows what’s happening, there will be seven dead US governors come tomorrow morning. All the same… if I should perish, I have no qualms about dying for my cause. Do you?”
“I don’t care to die your cause, no. Sorry. But for my own cause, law and order, I am.”
Jay snorted. He then turned and walked toward Enos. “What about you, Deputy? Are you willing to die for a cause?”
“My duty is to serve and protect,” Enos said. “Nobody has to die for a cause and I don’t think the kinda violence you’re lookin’ to do is the answer.”
Another snort. “Noble,” Jay said before turning to walk past MaryAnne again and to Bill. “What about you, Agent Maxwell? As a representative of the federal government are you willing to die for your country?”
“If you’re trying to compare notes to see who the bigger patriot is here, Jay, you lose.”
Jay merely smirked. “We’ll see about that, Agent Maxwell. We’ll see…”
**** **** ****
For the remainder of the evening, Bill, MaryAnne and Enos could do nothing more than watch as Jay and his crew completed their preparations. The law officers’ legs were becoming tired from standing. Occasionally the sound of somebody’s foot slipping could be heard. Were it not for the ropes that held them secure to the beam, they would have collapsed to the floor.
If any of them had any ideas on how to escape, it was impossible to confer with the other two quietly. The support beams were too far apart for the three to carry on any kind of hushed conversation with one another. They could still talk to one another and be heard, but not without also being heard by Jay, Ronnie, David or Carl. In addition, the three had been tied up in such a way that they couldn’t see the other two.
It was looking pretty hopeless. For Bill, it only reminded him of how much he had relied on Ralph. With the suit, Bill never worried much in situations like this. Ralph would’ve just come crashing through a window or a wall or something and helped even up the odds.
Wistfully, Bill looked up at the old windows of the building and pictured Ralph busting through one of them. He chuckled at the image but the humor was short lived. What he wouldn’t give to see Ralph come smashing through one of those windows now.
“Long climb up to the windows, Fed,” Ronnie’s voice interrupted Bill’s thoughts. Bill looked at the wheelman as he approached with Carl.
“I was counting the stars,” Bill grumbled. He shifted his posture within the ropes, shifting his weight from one tired leg to the other.
“Looked more to me like you were wishing on one.”
Bill groaned. “What time is it?”
“Nine-thirty. Since you and the deputies have behaved yourselves, Jay’s going to allow you to sit down.”
“He thought you’d be thrilled.” Ronnie and Carl proceeded to loosen the ropes from around Bill and allowed him to slide against the beam and down to the floor. His tired legs welcomed the relief but the new position wasn’t necessarily any more comfortable. His hands were still bound behind his back, his arms ached as a result and now his legs throbbed. The ropes were tightened up once again.
Ronnie and Carl repeated this procedure with MaryAnne and Enos, allowing the deputies to sit down on the floor and then tightening the ropes again.
Although her body ached, MaryAnne couldn’t resist a smart remark. “I suppose now would be a bad time to ask to use the lil’ deputies room?”
“You’re already sitting, Deputy,” Ronnie said. He and Carl didn’t wait for a retort and walked away, exiting the back of the building where Bill and Enos’s cars were parked.
“Yeah, I’m sittin’ awright,” MaryAnne grumbled. “I’m a sittin’ duck!”
“We all are,” Bill said. “I don’t mean to be stating the obvious here but I don’t think we’re going to be getting any more chances to turn the tables here.”
“You reckon they’re just gonna leave us here?” Enos asked.
“Probably, Deputy,” Bill said, “but I don’t think we’ll be allowed to count the paint chips or admire the broken glass.”
“He means they’ll find us when they renovate the building,” MaryAnne said. “Someday.”
“Somebody’s gotta figure somethin’ ain’t right,” Enos offered. “Sheriff Rosco’s gotta figure somethin’s wrong with us not bein’ back in Hazzard by now. And Commander Mayson’s gotta figure somethin’s wrong when we never showed up in Atlanta!”
“That’s true,” Bill said, “but I don’t think Commander Mayson or Sheriff Coltrane are going to have any idea where to begin to look for us. And even if they do somehow figure it out, it may be too late. Unless these creeps left an obvious clue at that cabin, nobody’s going to have any idea where to begin to look. The APBs were cancelled, that Charger is tucked away in a parking garage. It’s not looking very good at this point.”
“What were you saying before about stating the obvious?” MaryAnne said.
There was a pause. MaryAnne turned her head a little, though she still couldn’t see Bill. It seemed unusual for the Federal agent not to have a reply.
“I’m sorry I got you two involved,” Bill said. “Chasing the hit car was my battle and it should’ve been kept that way. You’re both good officers and you’ve handled yourselves well.”
“Agent Maxwell,” MaryAnne said, “I’d prefer not to have a eulogy yet. This game’s not over.”
“Deputy,” Bill said heavily. “If we’re going to get out of this, we’re going to need something short of a miracle. If not a miracle itself.”
What happened to the take charge Fed that pissed me off earlier today? MaryAnne wondered. She kept these thoughts to herself, however, as Enos posed a question to Bill.
“Agent Maxwell? What exactly is it about that car that made you go after it so hard? I mean, I understand the way it’s modified an’ all and what it could be used for…but this seems a lot more personal than it just bein’ a car you had impounded back in California.”
Another pause. “It is…Ah, but you don’t wanna hear some old Fed’s war stories…”
“I’d like to,” Enos said.
“I’m curious too,” MaryAnne added. “Heck, Enos and I don’t have anywhere else to be at the moment…”
So Bill told them the story. He told them about his fifteen-year pursuit of Johnny Diamante. He told them how Diamante’s girlfriend, Starlet Wilde, set him up. He told them about the Hit Car, the shootouts, even dumping spaghetti on Johnny’s lap. He told them just about everything.
He even told them about Ralph. He just didn’t mention the suit.
It helped passed the time. Ronnie and Carl had returned in the interim and paid little attention to Bill’s story or the idle chatter between the law officers afterwards. Let them talk, they thought. Nothing else they can do.
**** **** ****
“Look man,” Jeff Carson said to Commander Mayson. They were seated at a table in an interrogation room at FBI headquarters in Atlanta. It was after 10pm. “I had this dude come into my shop, put cash down on my desk and tell me he had a special ’66 Dodge Charger coming in in a few days and it needed some work. The guy wanted it done fast and discreetly. Off the bat, he said it needed bodywork. I’m not a body man, but I know people who are, so that’s why we used Blakefield’s. Joey works for me as a mechanic, that’s how we knew of a place to work, a place we thought would be discreet. I don’t know who the dude was, we never got real chummy, ya know?”
“You didn’t think this transaction to be odd?”
Carson chuckled and eyed the manila folder that he knew held his previous record with dealings with the law. “You think I’d find something like that strange? The dude had cash on hand, was willing to pay a good price and I couldn’t have cared less what the hell he was gonna use the car for.”
“Did he give you any indication about the history of the car before you saw it?”
“Nope. Soon as we rolled that sucker off the flatbed though, I had an idea what the thing could be used for.”
“Who did you end up giving the car to? Who picked it up?”
“Same guy that paid me for the work.”
“Just him or did he have anyone else with him?”
“It was him and three other guys. They looked over the car, liked the work, he paid cash for the final payment and they were off.”
“Did you hear from him at any point after that?”
Carson shook his head and lied. “Nope.”
“And he never told you his name?”
“Only that his first name was Jay.”
Commander Mayson sighed and leaned back in his chair. The other agents in the room were all standing tensely. It was apparent their boss didn’t like the answers he was getting. Mayson tapped the end of his pen on the edge of the table and looked across it at Jeff Carson.
“Mr. Carson. As of this moment, there is the potential to be facing a lot of charges for your shade tree work on this car. Dealing with stolen property, conspiracy, accessory to murder. Do any of those charges strike you at all?”
“Murder? What the hell are you talkin’ about?”
“We have reason to believe the men who picked up the car from you are going to use it quite possibly to assassinate a few government officials. At the same time, I’ve got an agent missing along with two county sheriff’s deputies as a result of that car. If those men are successful in their plot and if anything has happened to my agent or the two deputies, you and I are not going to get along very well after this. Either you start giving me some better answers, Mr. Carson, or the only thing you’ll be doing with cars is pounding out license plates at the Georgia State Prison. For the next twenty years.”
Carson was unruffled. “I’ve told you all I can, I can’t tell you somethin’ I don’t know,” he said. “I suppose I could make up some crap for ya, give ya all the answers you want to hear, but then when you figured out I was lying, you’d fry my butt. I figure you’re gonna fry it anyway, to which I say, bon appetite.”
Mayson tossed his pen on the table. “Get him out of here…”
Two suited agents hauled Carson out of the chair and escorted him out of the room. The door clicked closed and Mayson remained seated by himself in the interrogation room.
He could only pray that Agent Maxwell, MaryAnne, and Enos hadn’t already lost their lives…
**** **** ****
The hours passed. The empty machine shop eventually became very quiet as Jay and his team settled down for some sleep in the second floor office space that overlooked the shop floor. Bill, MaryAnne and Enos each tried to loosen their way out of the ropes, tired, drifted in and out of uncomfortable sleep and awoke to repeat the process until Jay and the others awoke again around quarter to six.
There were no parting words or speeches. Not even a cheap shot. The four men simply walked down from the second story offices and left through the back of the building.
Outside, they paused by Bill’s Crown Vic. Knowing what was coming next, Ronnie turned to Jay.
“I thought you wanted to leave those three at the dump site for the Charger and be picked up by the law?”
“Did you honestly think I would leave those three to live after all this? I only let them live this long because we couldn’t afford to have their bodies found before the strike. From here we continue as planned.” He nodded toward the building. “Burn it.”
Ronnie, David and Carl obeyed the order without an extra thought. They gathered up the kerosene canisters they had bought at Rhuebottom’s in Hazzard, along with a couple of cans of gas and returned inside the building, going to the back room that Enos and Bill had been placed in when first arriving in Chattanooga. In there they had already placed the maps and photographs they had used to plan their operation. With zero hour a mere two hours away, they no longer had any use for these documents.
The papers along with other miscellaneous debris in the room were drenched in the gas and kerosene. They discarded the cans and exited the room. Ronnie stood at the doorway and lit the end of a folded map, let the fire catch and then tossed the map on to a pile of papers on the floor. It only took moments for the small flame to race across the fuel-slicked floor and grow into a full-fledged fire.
The men didn’t hang around to watch. They quickly exited the building and jumped into the Crown Vic where Jay was waiting. The federal sedan roared down the alley and out into the empty street.
Bill, MaryAnne and Enos heard the car drive away through the broken windows.
“Well, there they go,” MaryAnne said. “Off to make history. And we’re stuck here like slabs of meat.”
“I wish ya hadn’t put it like that, MaryAnne,” Enos said.
“Because we’re gonna be barbequed,” Bill said.
MaryAnne was about to ask what Bill meant and then she saw the smoke drifting by the open archway at the back of the building.