**** **** ****
When Joey’s Mustang left Carson’s garage, Bill didn’t follow. He also didn’t head right over to question Jeff Carson, figuring his arrival would be met with the same kind of stonewalling Joey Blakefield had done. Nonetheless, Bill had done more than just get a background check on Joey. Jeff Carson’s fingerprints had been amongst those Bill had collected at Maury Blakefield’s garage and Bill had run a background check on him too. Carson had had some minor run-ins with the law over the years, lead foot related incidents, but his most serious violations came from the various auto-racing organizations in Georgia and throughout the South that had levied fines and suspensions against him for rules violations. His known associates file linked him with various shady people, gamblers, smugglers and other lead foots, folks who, near as Bill could tell, would not have been welcomed by the likes of NASCAR.
Bill sat and watched Carson’s garage for about half an hour but Carson didn’t leave. Apparently, FBI interest didn’t upset him as much as it upset Joey. With the checkered backgrounds of both men, Bill knew he could easily haul them in to the FBI for questioning. Charges of receiving stolen Federal property and suspected arson would be fine attention getters and just as easy to dismiss if Bill got the answers he wanted. Unfortunately, it involved paperwork and the sooner Bill got the ball rolling the better. He returned to the bureau.
Despite the leads and information Bill had gotten that day, he was still no closer to locating the hit car itself. He checked on the status of the APB he had issued that morning and found nothing. There were no messages from the Hazzard Sheriff’s Department either, which he wasn’t surprised. He had no faith that that little hillbilly police force could tie their bootlaces, never mind locating a car.
With the scorecard reading all zeros so far, Bill returned to the bullpen to update his reports. He wandered over to the map of Georgia hanging on the wall half wishing the location of Diamante’s car would just reveal itself to him. Like for Ralph and one of his holographic images….
But no, that car was long gone now. Bill was still staring at the map a few moments later when Commander Mayson walked in. Bill caught sight of the Commander out of the corner of his eye and cringed. He turned to walk back to his desk.
“Maxwell,” Mayson said, catching up to him. “I heard about the garage burning down this morning.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. It looks like it might have been set intentionally.”
“Was that car in there?”
“Where’s the car now?”
“Um, well it’s ah….” Mayson was no cream puff and Bill found himself unable to come up with a good lie. He glanced around the bullpen, hating what he was about to admit and said quietly, “I don’t know.” He sat down at his desk.
Mayson pulled a chair up. “What happened?”
Bill stared at Mayson for a moment, realizing just how different Frank Mayson was from Lester Carlisle. Mayson was genuinely curious and appeared willing to offer some suggestions or advice if needed. Carlisle simply would have just gone up one side of Bill and down the other. What do you mean, you don’t know?! Where’d you lose it, Maxwell? How could you screw up something as simple as tracking a car?!
“Uh, well they finished the car yesterday afternoon. They’ve painted it black, changed it a little from how Diamante had it, probably done some other stuff to it, motorhead stuff, I don’t know. But I observed four other men show up at the garage and leave with the car, so I tailed it. I followed them….and followed them…” Bill looked to the map of Georgia that was over on the wall, “and almost ended up in Tennessee. They spotted me and took off but I gave chase. Unfortunately, I lost them in some little backwoods town called Hazzard, got tangled up with another car on the road.”
“Hazzard?” Mayson said, surprised.
“Yeah. You know it?”
“I do. Did you check with the law there?”
Bill snorted. “Oh yeah, I checked with the law there. Got a snow job from the County boss first. The Sheriff didn’t impress me but I left a description of the car with a deputy who seemed to be somewhat capable. I even asked the local yokels that got tangled up in the chase to be on the look out for it, which shows you how much confidence I have in that Sheriff’s department.” Bill paused with a sigh. “None of that matters anyway, I’m sure the car’s not around there. When I mercifully found my way back to civilization and looked at the map over there and realized how close I was to the state line I figured Diamante’s car was long gone into Tennessee.”
“Did you put an APB out?”
“Yep. Did that this morning. But when I got back here yesterday afternoon, though, I went to the garage and did some snooping around. Parts of Diamante’s car had been left behind. I dusted the place for prints, ran those through, and got some names back this morning.” Bill handed over the file folders he had accumulated so far. “I had also gotten a license number from one of the cars that had been parked there consistently the past few days. Did a check with the county assessor to find out who owns the property this morning too. Then I found out about the place burning down.”
“Is it connected?”
Bill shrugged. “It might be. The owner of the property lost his business a few months ago but doesn’t have any insurance on the place so that rules out any fraud on his part. BUT…his nephew that lives with him was involved with working on the hit car. His prints were found at the body shop and I saw his Mustang parked there.”
“You talk to him?”
“Tried to. He played stupid but I know I got his attention. Because after I talked to him he immediately drove over to this Carson’s Auto Repair…” Bill gestured to another folder. “Mr. Jeff Carson’s prints were also found inside the body shop and his car was the one that I had the plate number for. In fact…” Bill slapped another document down in front of Mayson. “If you’ll sign that sir, I’ll be happy to haul the two of them along with a third man, Ernie Moore, in here first thing tomorrow and skewer them.”
Mayson picked up a pen off Bill’s desk and signed off on the charges. He pushed the document back toward Bill.
“Thank ya. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about these chuckleheads. I’ll probably get some answers that’ll fill in some holes but they’re not the ones with the car at the moment.” Bill looked up at Mayson. “I want the ones with the car.”
“These guys might know where the car is,” Mayson suggested.
“If I’m going to go through the song and dance of dragging these clowns in here, the least they can know is where the car is now.”
**** **** ****
Los Angeles, California
The one thing Bill didn’t mention to Mayson was that he had someone back in LA working on a lead. That night, after dropping Kevin off at his mother’s for the weekend, Pam drove Ralph out to the Federal impound yard that Diamante’s car was stolen out of.
Pam pulled her VW Beetle over to the shoulder of the road, about 100 yards from the impound. Ralph had worn the suit under his clothes and in the back seat he removed them.
“Okay,” he said, “give me about thirty minutes. I figure that’s how long it’s going to take you to do the loop around the highway and back here anyway.”
Pam nodded. “Okay. Be careful, Ralph.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll see you in a bit.” He gentle squeezed her shoulder and then pushed the front passenger seat forward to get out of the car. As Pam pulled back onto the highway, Ralph headed toward the brush and stayed near it as he walked toward the impound lot.
Other than the sound of the occasional passing vehicle, the area around the impound lot was stone quiet. Floodlights illuminated the lot, but the place was so far out in the sticks and set so far back from the road nobody would have ever known it was there.
Ralph paused at the perimeter fence on the east side of the lot. He could see the guard shack at the front of the lot. The guard and a strip of barbwire at the top of the chain link fence were his only deterrents to getting inside the lot.
Climbing the fence would rattle too much and attract the attention of the guard, so the easiest thing was for Ralph to jump over it. Ralph stepped far enough back from the fence to get a good running start.
He ran back to the fence and jumped up. He cleared the barbwire, sailed over the fence and…kept going.
He was almost over the middle of the lot when he finally tumbled out of the sky and landed on the hood of a Lincoln Mark IV before bouncing off and landing on the ground beside it. “Omph!---” THUD! ”Ow….”
It took a moment for Ralph to collect himself. He got to his knees, pulled the black cape off his head, and peered over the hood of the Lincoln. As expected, the commotion had caught the attention of the guard who was opening the gate. He then came into the lot with flashlight in one hand and gun held in the other.
Ralph ducked back down behind the fender of the Lincoln and concentrated to make himself invisible. Several minutes passed as the guard investigated the source of the noise he had heard. He looked around the area of the Lincoln, shining his flashlight where Ralph was crouched down next to the car.
Ralph held his breath, not wanting to break his concentration at this point. The guard lingered for another moment and then finally decided that whatever the cause of the noise was it was of no concern now. The gun was holstered and the guard returned to his post at the front gate of the impound lot.
Ralph let out the breath he had been holding and became visible again. He stood up slowly, looking toward the front gate. The guard finished securing the gate and then stepped inside the small guard hut.
Inside the lot, Ralph looked around and spotted the four cars Bill had described to him that had been stolen with the Hit Car. They were parked on the west side of the lot, side-by-side and front row. Staying behind and between other vehicles to avoid being seen by the guard, Ralph moved toward the four.
Ralph approached the first car and touched the driver’s side door. Nothing came to him immediately, then it was just a faint, fleeting image of black dressed men scattering within the impound lot. Car headlights flashed on and then the image faded.
Ralph figured on this. It had been more than a month since the hit car was stolen and his concern was that the passage of time would diminish any vibes from the remaining stolen vehicles. Still, he would try to get what he could. He opened the door of the car and sat behind the wheel.
Hands on the steering wheel, Ralph stared at the dusty rearview mirror. An image of a man sitting at a table with some other men revealed itself. They were laughing, drinking beer. “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” one of the men said, “I think we should toast Mr. Turco for the easy money opportunity. Heh!”
“Yeah, that Fed knows all about easy money! To Turco!”
“To Turco! Ha ha!”
The vision faded but Ralph still stared at the rearview. Fed? A Fed named Turco…?
After a moment, Ralph got out of the car. He went to the next vehicle and sat behind the wheel of that one. In the rearview mirror, he saw the vision of a payoff. “A pleasure doing business, David, as always. Tell Mr. Vincent we’ll drop the car off to his boys tomorrow night as instructed.”
The man called David nodded. “Did you take care of the other vehicles?”
“Yeah, they’re spread out just enough to keep everybody busy while we move out Diamante’s car.”
The scene quit. Ralph had no idea who Mr. Vincent was but he had a bad feeling that the David who had just paid off the money was the Fed named Turco in the first vision, the one that knew about easy money. It bothered Ralph that there was possibly a crooked Fed involved in all of this.
Ralph got out of the car and went to the third vehicle. A faint vision of the Hit Car revealed itself in the rearview, the grey car being unloaded from a flat bed car hauler. Nearby was an 18-wheeler truck, the back cargo doors open and ready to receive its shipment. Several boxes were also sitting on pallets to be loaded into the truck, marked “Auto Parts.”
The scene shifted. Diamante’s car was driven into the cargo hold. The boxes of auto parts were then loaded in front of it. Once completed, the driver of the 18-wheeler was handed a false manifest and sent on his way. The name on the truck was Vincent Vanlines. Then it faded.
The fourth car revealed nothing more, only a brief faded scene similar to the celebratory vision from the first car. Ralph got out of the car and quietly closed the door.
He didn’t see the guard at the front gate and assumed the man was still in the guard hut. Ralph hurried quietly across the impound yard to the east fence and leapt up to clear it. He landed on the ground outside the fence without incident.
He waited, hidden behind the brush until Pam showed up a few minutes later.
“Did you find out anything?” she asked, once Ralph was in the car and they were back on the highway.
“Yeah, a little. I think I know how they got the car from here to Georgia but we got some homework to do. Have to see if Bill knows of a Fed by the name of Turco and we need to find out who Mr. Vincent is, and if there’s any connection to Vincent Vanlines.”
“Yeah. I hate to even think this, Pam, but there may be a rotten apple in the LA Bureau’s barrel.”
**** **** ****
Hazzard County, Georgia
Early the next morning in Hazzard, Bo and Luke took Uncle Jesse’s pick up and headed to town to get supplies. They pulled up to Rhuebottom’s General Store and parked next to a plain beige Plymouth.
Luke looked at the Plymouth a couple of times before following Bo into the store. Two men were at the counter paying for their items. Luke noted it was mostly foodstuffs, beer, cigarettes and a couple of kerosene containers. Mr. Rhuebottom, ever the ambassador to welcome visitors to Hazzard, chatted casually with the two men as he rang up their items. They explained that they were on their way to Lookout Mountain for some hiking and camping for a few days.
Luke listened as he followed Bo around the store gathering the items on Jesse’s list. Although Mr. Rhuebottom’s questions weren’t probing or invasive, the two men seemed to not want to disclose too much about their camping trip. They were cordial in their answers, but vague. Usually, folks passing through will prattle on about where they were going, whether it was their first trip or their thirtieth. If they had a camp already, they always seemed to want to say how long they had had it, or if it been in the family for many years and the like. These two men, however, just weren’t that chatty.
One might have guessed they were in a hurry too. While Mr. Rhuebottom rang up the items, one of the men packed up everything into a box on the counter quickly. Once totaled, the other man handed over cash and waited only for change. The first man picked up the box and headed out the door with the other man following only a moment later.
The boys went up to the counter and placed their items down. Luke watched through the window as the Plymouth drove away.
“Something wrong, Luke?” Bo asked.
“I’m not sure,” Luke replied. “I think I’ve seen that car before.”
“They’re not local boys,” Mr. Rhuebottom said. “Said they’s headin’ up to Lookout Mountain for some camping.”
“Well I hope they had coolers for all that beer they were buyin’,” Luke said. “Lookout Mountain’s quite a distance from here. Did they say where they were from?”
“No,” Mr. Rhuebottom replied. “They didn’t say much of anythin’, really.”
“Anybody ever tell you, Luke, you’ve got a suspicious mind?” Bo asked with a chuckle.
Luke gave a smirk and he let the conversation go, so he and Bo could cash up their items and be on their way. After they loaded up the truck and were back in the cab, however, Luke looked at his cousin.
“You remember that tangle we got into with that Fed a couple of days ago?”
“Remember the two cars he was chasin’?”
Bo paused and then remembered. “Yeah. Hey, you’re right, the car those fellas were driving did look that other car from that day.”
“Them boys ain’t goin’ to Lookout Mountain. They’re here in Hazzard, somewhere.”
“You think they got that other car stashed somewhere?”
“Dang, Luke, why didn’t you say something sooner? We probably could’ve followed those guys and found out where they were hidin’ out.”
“Yeah, we could’ve. But with the way that Fed described that other car, the Charger and what it’s built for, I just have a feelin’ these guys are bad news. Really bad news and we shouldn’t go tryin’ to track ‘em by ourselves. Let’s stop at the courthouse and we’ll let Enos and Rosco know.”
Bo snorted. “Rosco? Luke, you heard that Fed. He has about as much confidence in Rosco as we do on a daily basis.”
“I know, but he’s still the Sheriff. Besides, between Enos and MaryAnne, all’s not completely lost with the Hazzard Sheriff’s Department. C’mon…”
At the courthouse, they found Enos in the booking room. Rosco wasn’t in yet and MaryAnne was doing the early morning patrol. After telling Enos about seeing one of the cars at Rhuebottom’s that Federal Agent Bill Maxwell was looking for, Enos got on the radio to MaryAnne hoping on the off chance that she might spot it during her route.
“Did they see which way it went when it left town?” she asked over the air.
“County 7,” Luke told Enos. Enos repeated it to MaryAnne.
“Ten-four. I’m just about back to County 7, I’ll keep an eye out for it.”
“Ten-four, MaryAnne. As soon as Sheriff Rosco’s in I’ll let him know.”
Enos put the radio mike down and looked at the boys. “Thanks, fellas.”
“Sure thing,” Luke said. “Listen, Enos, if you need any help just give us a holler. From the way that Fed was talkin’, that car doesn’t sound like anythin’ that we need to have around here in Hazzard.”
“Yer right, Luke. I dunno what them fellas could be up to, but it can’t be good with a car like that. I’m gonna give Mr. Maxwell a call and let him know we’ve spotted them.”
Luke nodded. “Awright. We’ll see you later.”
“You got it, Luke.” As the boys left the booking room, Enos turned to the telephone.
**** **** ****
Deputy MaryAnne Coltrane, meanwhile, was turning her patrol car south onto County 7 which would take her back to town. Her chances of meeting up with the beige Plymouth were fairly good, provided it hadn’t turned off onto either Old Mill Road or Route 112. Of course, the other possibility was that the car had already passed by before MaryAnne had reached County 7, but they would’ve had to have been flying at a pretty good clip.
Approaching the Route 112 crossroad, MaryAnne saw another car up ahead coming north. It turned off onto Route 112 and MaryAnne recognized it as a Plymouth Fury by its familiar shape. She picked up her radio mike.
“Enos, this is MaryAnne. Gotcher ears on?”
“Right here, MaryAnne.”
“I have that beige Plymouth heading north on Route 112. I’m gonna try n’ follow ‘em.”
“Ten-four, MaryAnne. Be careful.”
“Enos,” MaryAnne smiled into the mike, “I’m always careful…”
MaryAnne trailed the car, staying back far enough so as not to appear to be purposely following but not so far that she couldn’t see the car. It took about a mile for the men in the Plymouth to spot the police cruiser in the distance. They sped up to put further distance between themselves and the car behind them. Sure, the cruiser could have just been doing a routine patrol, but after being tailed by a Fed car a couple of days before, neither man figured too heavily on that.
“I think they spotted me,” MaryAnne reported. “They’re speeding up.”
“MaryAnne, this is Rosco. Where are you?”
“Well, if I’m not into Tennessee by now I’m gonna be in a little bit—wait a sec, they just turned off onto a road...”
“Who the heck are you tailin’?” Rosco asked. “Come back.”
Enos answered for MaryAnne. “The Duke boys spotted one of them cars here in town that Federal Agent Mr. Maxwell’s lookin’ for.”
“That black Charger?”
“No, sir. The Plymouth sedan that was with it.”
“Where in town did the Dukes see it?”
MaryAnne, meantime, was at the end of the road that the beige Plymouth had disappeared on.
“They just went up White Ridge Road…” she said.
“That’s a dead-end road,” Rosco said. “Ol’ Zeke Jones lives up in there and there’s a couple of other cabins too. Listen, I’d rather you didn’t go snoopin’ around up in there by yourself, sweetheart. Please.”
“I called Agent Maxwell,” Enos broke in before MaryAnne could answer. “He said he’s leavin’ Atlanta for here right away so he should be here in a coupla hours. Maybe we should wait for him? After all, it is his cars he’s lookin’ for.”
“Enos is right,” Rosco said. “He only asked if we spotted them cars to let him know so that’s what we’re doin’. Far as I’m concerned this is a F B an’ I problem and they can just come and collect up their riff raff and get it outta my county.”
“What’s the matter?” MaryAnne asked. “Boss got somethin’ cookin’ he don’t want anyone to know about?”
“HUSH! No. At least, I don’t think so. Or, at least, not anythin’ new beyond what he always has goin’ on …”
MaryAnne snorted. “Awright, Rosco. Are you ordering me to return to town?”
“Yes. When that Fed gets here you and Enos can show ‘em where that car went and he can take care of it from there I think.”
“Ten-four, I’m on my way back.”
**** **** ****
Bill had left Atlanta immediately when he got the call from Enos. Just about two hours later, he arrived in Hazzard and parked his Crown Vic in front of the courthouse.
The news of the Plymouth sedan being spotted in Hazzard was a pleasant surprise, but Bill didn’t get his hopes up too high. He was cynical enough to think that it was possible the car had been mistaken for something else. After all, he couldn’t figure on any reason why these guys would remain out in the boonies with the hit car in the first place.
Bill moved swiftly up the stairs of the Hazzard courthouse and went inside. He burst through the doors of the booking room like a man on a mission that suddenly caused the German shepherd police dog that was laying on the floor to spring to all fours, alert and ready for action.
“Woah,” Bill said, and took a step back. “Hello…” The dog hadn’t been there when he had first come to Hazzard.
The dog looked up at Bill, its ears perked up at attention. There was no sense of threat from the stranger but there was some kind of confusion. The shepherd looked over to Enos at the booking desk.
“Oh, howdy Mr. Maxwell. Don’t mind Bandit there, he won’t hurt ya.”
“Sure…” Bill said, unconvinced. He tucked his aviators away. “K-9 unit?”
Enos grinned. “Sorta. Tho’ Bandit there was a K-9 dog in Atlanta a few years ago.”
Sensing that nothing was about to happen, Bandit sat back on his haunches and the ears relaxed. He watched as the brown suited Federal agent approached the booking area.
“Okay, deputy, where’s that car you saw?”
“Well sir, Deputy Coltrane and myself are going to escort you out to where we last seen ‘em.”
“I thought Coltrane was the Sheriff?”
“He is. Hee! We have a deputy named Coltrane too.”
Bill really had to work to hold back his smile. I’m really in a small town. “Oh ho…are they, by any chance, related?”
“Yes, sir. They’re cousins.”
Bill laughed and then sobered it. “Ah, well. Okay. Um…” Wipe the smile of your face, Maxwell, come on… He cleared his throat. “So, where is Deputy Coltrane?”
“I’m Deputy Coltrane.”
Bill turned around at the feminine drawl. His face registered in surprise when he realized he was looking at the barmaid he had met at the Boar’s Nest just a couple of days earlier. Now she stood in the doorway of the Sheriff’s office in a blue and black uniform of a deputy sheriff and appearing rather comfortable in it. The Sheriff stood just behind her, looking a little sour.
“Wait a minute,” Bill said. “Aren’t you…?”
MaryAnne smiled. “Yup. That was me that gave you directions to town from the Boar’s Nest the other day.”
MaryAnne nodded. “Yes, I am.”
Bill was having a hard time believing all this. “Ahh. Okay. Um…” Whatever comments he had about it, he kept to himself. If she was the Sheriff’s cousin and was more or less a barmaid moonlighting as a deputy, she couldn’t have possibly had that much law enforcement experience.
MaryAnne sensed that this Fed had his doubts about her but she ignored it and continued on. “Agent Maxwell, it’s been a couple of hours since we last saw that Plymouth you’re lookin’ for. I suggest we get goin’ to see if those folks are still out there or not.”
“Yes, of course,” Bill said. “By all means lead the way.”
MaryAnne glanced at Enos and started for the exit of the booking room, pausing to grab Bandit by his leash. The shepherd stood to all fours and walked with MaryAnne out of the booking room, with Enos and Agent Maxwell following.
Out on the street, MaryAnne loaded Bandit into her patrol car and then turned to Bill. “The road we last saw them on is about ten miles north of here. It’s a dead-end road and it’s out in the boonies. They’re about spitting distance from the Tennessee state line. If they are still out there, there’s a couple of old cabins that they might holed up in.”
Bill nodded and put his aviators on. “Well, whatever they’re up to, they found a nice quiet place to scheme.”
“It’s pretty remote and they certainly wouldn’t be bothered by anyone. Thing is, we don’t want them botherin’ anyone around here so the Sheriff has a request of ya.”
“If these folks are still out there, you’re gonna round ‘em up and get ‘em out of our county, right?”
“Well, I may be just a little outnumbered as I believe there’s four of them and only one of me.”
“Enos and I will try to even up the odds for you.”
Bill smirked a little. “Well, you’ll understand if I don’t have much confidence in that.”
MaryAnne just stared at the Fed. “Oh sure, I understand,” she said cooly. “Just get those bums out of Hazzard. That’s all we ask.” With that, MaryAnne turned and walked around her patrol car to get behind the wheel.
Bill watched her and chuckled to himself sarcastically. “Little girl wearing a badge. Ain’t she cute,” he muttered and walked to his Crown Vic.
Bill followed the two cruisers out of town on the paved two-lane highway of County 7 past rolling farmland and open fields. They then veered off to the right onto Old Route 112 so marked on a wooden road sign at the split. Here the woods began to thicken up and the pavement was broken and crumbling. The road ascended upward into the hills and around curves. Bill tried to ignore the severe upslope on his left and the very steep gully on his right. There was no guardrail.
Eventually, the splintered pavement dissolved to compacted dirt and they soon reached a turn off to another road. This too was marked with a weatherworn wooden sign that said “White Ridge Road.”
The parade of cars stopped just after the entrance to the road. Bill stepped out his car, as did Enos and MaryAnne from theirs, and he looked at the narrow ribbon of dirt that disappeared into the thick of the forest.
Whoever these guys were, and assuming they were up that road right now, they had picked a nice desolate area to plot and plan in. But the remoteness of their choice really made Bill wonder what the hell they were up to.
MaryAnne carried a county map in her hand and she and Enos walked to Bill’s car. “I dunno who you’re after Agent Maxwell,” Enos said as MaryAnne unfolded the map on the hood of Bill’s car, “but they sure did pick a remote spot.”
“I’m not sure who I’m after either or even what they’re up to. But they are going to an awful lot of trouble for whatever it is.”
MaryAnne pointed to a spot on the map. “White Ridge Road goes for about a mile before it peters out. There’s three places up in there, the first is Roger Mosley’s, a businessman out of Florida. Usually comes up two or three times a year for a couple of weeks. I reckon that one could be commandeered by your hoodlums. The second is Zeke Jones, he lives out here and will gleefully blow your head off if you get within two hundred feet of his place. Used to be three hundred but he’s mellowed in his old age. And lastly, is old man Hartshorn’s place which has been empty as he’s been dead for about ten years. He lived in Atlanta, used to come up here a lot to get away from the rat race.”
“Would this Zeke Jones have noticed anyone coming or going from either of the other two cabins?” Bill asked.
“Probably not,” Enos answered. “All the cabins are set back from the road and the woods are pretty thick up here. Ol’ Zeke likes his privacy and he don’t pay attention to what’s goin’ on otherwise. The cabins are far enough apart that you can’t see one from the other.”
Bill nodded. “Okay then. Let’s check the Mosley place first and then Hartshorn’s. We’ll take one car as we don’t need to lead a Sunday parade to their front door. You probably better wait here, honey, in case something goes wrong.”
MaryAnne gaped at Bill and then glanced at Enos, who shrugged. Obviously, this Fed was going to run the show and run it his way. MaryAnne wasn’t sure if he wanted her out of the way because he didn’t trust her ability or if he really thought she was going to be some kind of help if something did go awry. She figured it was more the former and if this damn fool wanted to roam around the woods of Hazzard with little to no help that was his problem. “Um, sure. I’ll stand by on the radio here…”
“Right,” Bill said. He looked at Enos. “We’ll take your car.”
As MaryAnne folded the map up, Bill and Enos walked to Enos’ patrol car. A moment later, the white Plymouth police cruiser disappeared up White Ridge Road.
A quarter of a mile up the road, Roger Mosley’s cabin was the first stop. Bill instructed Enos to pull over at the end of the driveway and they would approach the cabin on foot.
“You have a shot gun in this car, Deputy?” Bill asked.
“Then you better dig it out, just in case.”
Enos nodded. They exited the car and Enos retrieved the shotgun from the trunk. He and Bill then walked up the driveway to the cabin. Bill removed his aviators and looked around carefully into the woods and brush as he and Enos approached the cabin. When they finally reached it, they discovered it was empty and undisturbed.
“They must be in the Hartshorn cabin,” Enos said. “That’s the last one down the road, just before the road ends.”
Bill nodded. “How long ago did she say Hartshorn died? Ten years?”
“And he was from Atlanta?”
“What’d he do in Atlanta?”
Enos paused. “I ain’t all that sure to be honest. I only met him a couple of a times. Didn’t really know him.”
“Did he have family? Somebody that might’ve inherited that place after he died?”
“I dunno. We could probably find all that out back in town with a look at the property deeds and such.”
Bill nodded and paused in thought as he looked toward the woods. “All right,” he said finally, “let’s check that other place. Better keep that gun handy.” They started back down the driveway.
“You really expect some serious trouble from these guys, Mr. Maxwell?” Enos asked.
“I told you about that car they’ve got,” Bill said. “Wouldn’t you expect some serious trouble?”
“I reckon so. But you said yourself you don’t even know what they have it for.”
“That’s true. I don’t. But they’re hiding out in the sticks here and they’ve got a car that’s built like a tank. I don’t have to know what they’re up to, to know that they’re up to something.”
They returned to Enos’s patrol car and continued down the road. Enos radioed to MaryAnne that the Mosley cabin was clear and that they were heading to Hartshorn’s.
Bill chuckled when she replied back with a serious sounding ten-four. “Ok, what is she really?” he asked, unable to help himself. “An auxiliary-type officer? Part-timer? Rent-a-cop kind of thing?”
“No, sir. She’s a duly sworn deputy sheriff.”
“She’s the Sheriff’s cousin, and I mean no offense but I’m sure it’s all prettied up to look like she’s a duly sworn deputy. But seriously, she doesn’t have any real law enforcement experience does she? I mean, I met her a couple of days ago when I first came here. I stopped to get directions at this charming little roadhouse where she’s a waitress. A waitress. Then I get here today and she’s wearing a deputy’s uniform and has her ex K-9 dog and drives around in a patrol car and I’m supposed to believe she’s really a cop?”
Enos frowned at Agent Maxwell’s attitude. In his own quiet and unassuming way, Enos defended his fellow deputy. “MaryAnne’s been in law enforcement for over 15 years. She works part-time at the Boar’s Nest to make a little extra money is all…”
“Fifteen years?” Bill said, disbelieving. “She’s been a deputy for this county for fifteen years?”
“No. Only for a few years. Before that, she worked over in Finchburg County. She worked in Atlanta at one point too.”
“Huh…” Bill still wasn’t sure he could believe what he’d been told but there was no time to continue the discussion further. They arrived at the end of White Ridge Road and the dirt drive that led up to the Hartshorn cabin on the left.
They exited the car. Bill saw that even though White Ridge Road officially ended at this point, there were ruts that led up and over a knoll and the woods opened up into a clearing. He and Enos both could hear the sound of a racing engine.
They walked up the knoll, staying within the tree line so as not to be spotted. Out in the clearing, a black car was tearing around the field, maneuvering through some kind of obstacle course. Poking out of the front windshield on the passenger side was a rifle barrel.
“Possumonagumbush…” Enos said softly.
Bill wasn’t quite so impressed. “Look like Bay of Pigs commandos training for D-Day…” he muttered. The obstacle course looked crudely made, with wooden targets set up on posts in the field and a couple of old cars and a pick up truck placed about. The rutted path extended from where he and Enos were standing down into the field and far across the clearing to another line of woods. Several other paths cut across the terrain going in different directions.
The hit car, looking like a black ant crawling across the green of the field, raced around the course, kicking up a cloud of dirt now and then. No gunfire came from the rifle however. It took a moment for Bill to realize that the targets were being hit not with bullets but with paint, when a fresh spurt of red paint bled upon the white board of one of the targets that he and Enos could see.
The car turned sharply to another target and then passed the pick up, which suddenly came to life and pursued the hit car. The truck wore splotches of red paint on its dimpled yellow hide and streaks of red paint were splashed across the hood. The chase wound around the course and the rifle barrel disappeared from the front windshield of the hit car.
From what Bill could see, the gunman was aiming the rifle from the side window of the car. Blobs of red paint flew through the air back at the truck, exploding on the grill and front bumper and splashing across the hood of the truck. Then a glob of red paint hit smack upon the windshield of the truck directly over the driver’s line of sight.
The truck skidded to a stop at that point. Had it been bullets, the driver more than likely would’ve been dead.
The black hit car wound its way around in the field and drove back toward the truck. The driver of the truck stepped out and congratulated his compatriots for a good shot.
“I’ve seen enough,” Bill said. “Since these boys are busy, let’s take a look at that cabin…”
Upon turning around, however, another man was standing there with rifle in hand, pointed at them. This one was real. “Unfortunately,” the man said, “I’m afraid you’ve seen too much.”