**** **** ****
If a trashed Crown Victoria sedan upset Commander Mayson at all, it never showed when he finally got to Chattanooga. His concern had been for Agent Maxwell and for MaryAnne and Enos. Having not liked the reports, or lack thereof, coming from Chattanooga, Mayson had alerted every Fed in the area and had hopped a short plane ride from Atlanta to the Scenic City. Chattanooga city police met him at the airport and essentially kept him there because things were chaotic downtown, with the fire and the pursuit. The best Mayson could do from the airport was confirm Maxwell was indeed a Fed, direct local FBI personnel to assist the local law in whatever capacity necessary and suggest that the city police follow whatever lead Maxwell and the two Hazzard deputies were providing in the field.
Mayson was furious, however, that his warning to the Tennessee State Police about a possible assassination attempt had apparently been ignored or mitigated. But Chattanooga police, luckily, were willing to listen and the assassination attempt was not only thwarted but the suspects captured.
A wrecked car? Who cares about a wrecked car? Once assured that Maxwell, MaryAnne and Enos were okay and there had been no reports of any bystanders being injured in the melee, Mayson focused his ire on the poor performance of the State Police, an opinion he voiced very clearly when he arrived at the Chattanooga police department once things finally came under control. Mayson never raised his voice, but he had a way to make even the most seasoned of cops look away in shame.
MaryAnne missed the dressing down, as she had been busy providing statements, as were Bill and Enos, to the Chattanooga cops. Commander Mayson found her a little later in a lieutenant’s office nursing a coffee.
He stood at the doorway. “You just can’t stay away from trouble can you?”
MaryAnne looked over and gave a weary smile as Mayson came in. “It’s not for the lack of trying.”
Mayson chuckled and sat down in the office chair next to MaryAnne. “I see you got a new beauty mark there…”
“Yeah, ya like that?” She turned her face just enough so Mayson could see the bruise. “These dudes tried to kill seven governors and all Rosco wants is to make sure they get charged with assaultin’ an officer.”
“I’m adding it to the list. I have to admit though you were the last one I ever figured on being mixed up in this thing. But I want to thank you for you and Enos’s help.”
“You’re welcome,” MaryAnne said. “And you know what they say… Only in Hazzard.”
“Your new Fed did pretty good too,” MaryAnne said. “For being from California and all.”
“Yeah, well, he’s talking about going back to LA already. Personally, I’m hoping I can keep him around here for a little awhile. I need agents like him here.” He looked at her. “I need agents like you too.”
MaryAnne gave a small smile. “You had agents like me once. It didn’t work out. But Maxwell seems like good stock.” She paused, hoping her next question didn’t appear obvious. “Is his assignment here temporary?”
“Seems like it will be. He didn’t exactly leave LA under the best of circumstances but it’s unknown when LA is going to welcome him back.”
MaryAnne raised an eyebrow. “What happened, if I may ask?”
“He ran the Mayor of LA into a swimming pool. It was all over the papers out there.”
MaryAnne blinked. “He ran the Mayor of LA into a swimming pool?”
“Unintentionally of course, but it seems there was something of a PR problem after that.”
MaryAnne grinned at the Commander. “No wonder you want to keep him.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“He fits right in!”
**** **** ****
It took most of the rest of the day for Chattanooga to recover from and come to grips with what had nearly taken place. After a slight delay, the governors, once assured that the danger was past and they were safe, decided to continue with the conference. Although they were unaware as of yet the motive behind the attempted attack, they were not about to allow the grudge of a few men derail an important and much touted event.
The news media, of course, ate all this up once they descended upon the city in the hours that followed. Chattanooga was somewhat back in order by the afternoon and it was against this deceivingly calm backdrop that reporters told of the harrowing story that had unfolded that morning. The fire on Market Street had long since been brought under control, although the old building was a complete loss. The only evidence of the chase through the streets was the tire marks on the pavement and the varied descriptions from witnesses. All the disabled vehicles were collected up and placed out of view of the public.
Out of view of most of the public at least. From a break room window on the second floor of Chattanooga police headquarters, Bill could look out and see the black Charger parked in the back parking lot. It irritated him that the car had suffered only minor damage in the fracas. Why couldn’t it have been the car to flip over off the highway instead of his government car? Bill’s average back in LA for wrecking cars, according to Carlisle, was about one a month. He’d been in Atlanta about a month and seemed to be well on his way to maintaining that average.
Bill turned away from the window and sat down at the table. He sighed in exhaustion. An empty donut box was on the table along with his nearly empty coffee cup. It was almost noontime and he wanted nothing more than to sleep. He had finished with his statements about a half an hour earlier and was waiting to hitch a ride back to Atlanta with Commander Mayson. Despite the hit car not getting its just desserts, Bill felt proud about having prevented Jay and his men from carrying out their attack. If nothing else, it made his pool party with the mayor of LA an almost forgotten memory.
Yeah, they’ll want me back after this. They’ll see that what happened with the mayor was just an accident. They need me back in LA and they know it…
Commander Mayson was at the door. “Ready, Maxwell?”
“Oh. Yes, sir. “ Bill stood up and followed Mayson out into the hall. After they rounded a corner, they met up with MaryAnne and Enos coming the other way. Enos simply looked disheveled. MaryAnne had since shed her black necktie and let her hair down. Although exhausted they both smiled in greeting.
“Headin’ back, Commander?” MaryAnne asked.
Mayson nodded. “Yeah.” He looked at the two deputies and then at Bill. “The three of you all look like you could sleep for a week.”
“Where do I sign up?” Bill said.
“By the way,” Bill continued, looking at MaryAnne and Enos. “Uh, I’m not one to give out accolades and praise often but you both did a fantastic job. You’re good troops, and I thank you for your help.”
“Are you saying we evened up the odds?” MaryAnne asked.
“You did more than even up the odds.”
MaryAnne grinned and looked at Enos, who also smiled.
“Glad to know that,” MaryAnne said. “Oh, a little bird told me that you’re hoping to return to Los Angeles after all this. I’m sorry our slow Southern living doesn’t appeal to you. Don’t leave too soon tho’.”
Bill raised an eyebrow. “Why’s that?”
“Because I want the chance to return the coronary.” MaryAnne met Bill’s gaze directly. The four law officers laughed but for MaryAnne, it was part serious. Damn if this handsome Fed was going to waltz into her life, turn half the South on its ear and then leave before she had a chance to either get to know him better…or return the favor.
They said goodbye and parted ways after that. Commander Mayson and Bill continued down the hall while MaryAnne and Enos disappeared the other way.
“You know,” Bill said, “for a couple of small town deputies, those two really did handle themselves well. I was a little surprised.”
Mayson thought of how Enos had served on the Los Angeles police force for just over a year. MaryAnne had served with Atlanta and had even worn a Federal badge for short spell. “Oh?” he said.
“Yeah. I mean, how often do they get mixed up in big city crime and chaos like we had today?”
Mayson held back a smile. “Oh, probably not as often as you and I have, Bill…”
**** **** ****
There were still loose ends in the assassination attempt case that would take awhile to sort through, not the least of which was how Jay managed to finagle having the hit car sent from California. But in the days that followed the attempt, Bill graciously accepted the accolades he received from fellow agents in Atlanta while he pined for the news that the LA bureau would request to have him return to the west coast. But no request came through. He was sure they must have known about the case, it had made the national news. If LA wanted him back, however, it wasn’t making an obvious indication of such.
Unable to stand it much longer, Bill took the initiative and phoned Deputy Chief Caine in Los Angeles.
“Maxwell?” Caine answered. “Oh yes, Agent Maxwell. Fine job you did in Chattanooga there a few days ago. We heard about it here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“Well, sir, I was calling to see if it was possible I could be assigned back to Los Angeles? I would hope that by now my incident with the mayor is long forgotten.”
“Not quite, Maxwell. The editorial writers in this town are still having a field day with it and added to that the fact that the car used in that assassination attempt was stolen from the impound here in LA, it’s starting to raise some questions.”
“Questions?” Bill prompted.
“That there may be an inside connection. If it’s true, Maxwell, and I unfortunately have enough suspicion to believe it could be, then that merely is a symptom of the potential issues this bureau could be facing.”
Damn, Bill thought. When he had finally caught up to Ralph on the phone to follow up on the tip from his ‘number one nephew,’ and to thank Ralph for helping get him out of that fire, Ralph told Bill about the possible connection to David Turco. Although Bill didn’t doubt what Ralph had seen in his holographs, it wasn’t easy for Bill to accept that the hit car was stolen with help from inside the bureau. Now it appeared things were even worse than he could have imagined.
“Well, sir,” Bill continued, “if there’s some kind of problem that you see coming down the pike then I think I should be assigned back there. I know that bureau and if there’s something wrong I want to be there to help fix it.”
“I can’t do that, Maxwell.”
“I can’t let you come back here. Not yet, anyway. I had you sent to Atlanta for reasons other than the fall out with the Mayor. Yes, I had to get you out of town because of that. But I also had to get you out because if what I see for potential trouble here in LA is true, I don’t want to see you, or myself, caught up in it. Maxwell, you’re the only agent who has a waiver from submitting to a polygraph test. You and I cut that deal as you may recall. I’ve got a batch of agents coming up for polygraphs and I suspect several of them are not going to pass. Internal Affairs is going to have a field day and it is no time for an agent with a special waiver to be wandering around LA. Do you understand the implications of this?”
Bill was stunned. “I believe I do…”
“I’ve never had cause to doubt your integrity, Maxwell, but you did, for fact, fail your last polygraph. Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe you really are hiding something and cutting that deal with you was fool hearted. Nonetheless, an agreement was made. Nothing in your conduct since then has suggested any corruption on your part, but as it stands and as things are right now here, the best place for you to be is right there in Atlanta.”
Bill took a deep breath. He knew exactly what the Deputy Chief was alluding to. If something rotten was about to bubble up at the LA bureau, agents would be subjected to internal investigations. Internal Affairs would be working overtime to clear out the bad agents, to the point of risking clearing out good ones too in the process. If a tin collector got to looking at Bill’s records, found it had been a couple of years since his last polygraph and then found the waiver, the pressure would be relentless. The Deputy Chief would be put on the spot to explain the granting of the waiver. Bill would be scrutinized for having offered up the trade of a captured Russian agent for the waiver. And the questions….why? Why were you unable to pass your last polygraph, Agent Maxwell? Why the waiver? Why the deal? You say you have nothing to hide? Then you should have no problem passing another polygraph…
No amount of fast-talking, and possibly not even the power of the magic jammies, could stop the avalanche. There was nothing more powerful, or disastrous, than an FBI field office swept up in a corruption probe.
Bill gulped. “Uh, well, sir, for the record, I can swear that there has never been any wrong doing on my part or any inappropriate conduct or circumstances unbecoming of a federal officer. You know my record, I think it speaks for itself.”
“It does, Maxwell. That’s why you’re in Atlanta until further notice…”
**** **** ****
Los Angeles, California
“Looks like I’m here for awhile, kid,” Bill said on the phone to Ralph the day after his conversation with Caine. “There’s something big going on at the bureau and they won’t let me come back apparently until it’s resolved.”
Ralph was confused. “Why not? What’s going on?”
“Well, lemme put it this way. David Turco may be just the tip of the iceberg, Ralph. There’s something rotten in LA and it’s got the deputy chief on super sensitive alert. He doesn’t want me back there just yet due to our agreement with the polygraph.”
“Yeah. Sooo…. uh, you’re practically an honorary FBI agent, Ralph. Your bureau needs you.”
“What…Bill, I can’t get involved in internal affairs of the FBI! I’m a civilian. You forget that Carlisle always points that out?”
“Ralph, you’ve got the suit. You’ve got the counselor. You’ve got the ability. Whatever’s going on there, you might be the one that can tip the scales in the right direction. Keep the lid from blowing off the place. Caine isn’t going to let me back home until LA takes care of its internal problem.”
“How am I supposed to help?”
“Any way you can. Otherwise, your choices are to brush up on your southern accent or give up the suit entirely.”
Ralph sighed. “You know, Bill, this stinks. This really stinks!”
“You’re the one that doesn’t want to come south and doesn’t want to give up the suit. You can’t have it both ways, Ralph. You’ve got to decide how you want this. If you want me back in LA someday, which I would like to go back to LA someday, then the internal problem at the bureau has to be dealt with. You can’t just ignore this, kid. You’ve got three options. You’ve got to make up your mind.”
Ralph sighed. “Yeah, I know. All right, Bill. I’ll see what I can do from here.”
“If you’d like some advice, I suggest you start with Turco. Remember that dope case we were working on before I got sent here? Paco Castillo?”
“I found out Turco was assigned the case after I left. If he’s getting chummy with Castillo’s organization and is playing favorites, that case alone is going to bust any internal problem in LA wide open. The sooner you can cut the cancer from the patient, Ralph, before it spreads, the sooner the patient can heal.”
“Yeah. And Turco is somehow connected with Diamante’s hit car being sent to Atlanta.”
“Right. There’s a lot of questions there that I’d like to know the answers to. I have a hunch, Ralph, that Turco might be the worst of the worse…” Bill sighed as several nasty scenarios crossed his mind. “…I’m just not sure I want to know how worse of worse he really is…”