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

 

Confident he spooked Turco enough, Bill poured through the files. Most of it was refresher but there was new information that showed Noah Vincent was definitely trying to show more force. An incident three weeks after Bill left LA pitted some of Castillo’s men in a shootout with Vincent’s. Vincent’s men won, leaving two of Castillo’s runners dead and taking off with a shipment of cocaine.

 

Vincent was definitely getting bolder.

 

So it made some sense that Vincent would be looking to get the Hit Car back. Would he have financed a political assassination? That was the only part Bill couldn’t fathom a theory for yet.

 

Bill left the bureau a few minutes early and stopped at the hospital to visit Kenny. Kenny was glad to see him. Bill pulled up a chair and noted that Kenny seemed to be recovering well.

 

“Yeah, I’m feeling okay all things considered.”

 

Bill smiled. “You mean you’re feeling great considering the alternative.”

 

“Exactly.” Kenny grinned. “Thank God you were there to get me out of that car, Bill. That’s gotta be the closest call you and I ever had.”

 

“Hmm, yeah I’d say that’s right up there with a couple of hairy times we had in Phoenix.”

 

Kenny remembered and nodded. “You know it. Any idea who did it?”

 

“Not specifically. The theory is whoever ordered the hit on the governors has sent a crew here to clean it up. It would appear the price of failure for Jay was absolute.”

 

“Damn.”

 

“Yeah. They also snatched back the Hit Car this morning and tried to kill me.”

 

“What?! Damn, Bill, be careful out there! I don’t want you in here as my roommate.”

 

Bill smiled. “Bah, they’re not gonna get me, Kenny.”

 

“You better not let them. The Commander’s riled enough about losing Davis and Phelps. We lose any more, he’ll really be fit to be tied. Especially you.”

 

“What’s so special about me?”

 

“You’re high caliber. I know you’re not going to be here for good, but if he could keep you here for good the Commander would.”

 

“Well,” Bill said, not used to hearing such an accolade. “It’s nice to be appreciated by the boss.” He smiled.

 

Bill stayed for another half an hour visiting with Kenny and then headed home. He drove his Crown Vic into the parking garage across the street from his apartment building.

 

Piper and his boys were waiting.

 

Piper was in his sedan, parked near the entrance and he saw as the grey Ford rolled in. He picked up a walkie-talkie after the car passed by.

 

“He’s here.”

 

Up on the second level, Nicky, Hugh and Moose were waiting. Hugh acknowledged the radio call and the three men dispersed to their positions.

 

A moment later the Crown Vic emerged on to the second level. Bill passed Moose as the big thug was walking casually toward the stairs.

 

The events at the salvage yard happened so fast that morning that Bill never got a really good look at the men in the pick up truck. To busy dodging bullets. Knowing the kind of intelligence these guys had access to, the thought crossed Bill’s mind that they would know where he lived. And be waiting.

 

Bill pulled into his parking space but kept the motor idling. He looked back toward the stairs. The man he passed was standing there. Waiting.

 

“Hmm…” Bill faced forward and shut the engine down. He looked around but saw no one else or any other movement. That didn’t mean somebody wasn’t hiding behind a car or behind one of the concrete pillars. The attack on the highway and the salvage yard had been sudden and fast and Bill knew the minute he stepped out of the car he would have scant few seconds to react to something. If he was lucky enough to even have that much time.

 

If he stayed in the car too long though, he’d be trapped for sure. Hell of a choice either way.

 

Feeling his holstered gun close to his ribs, Bill reached across the seat and grabbed his worn leather satchel. He kept his aviator sunglasses on due to the glare of the sun off the apartment building and shining into the parking garage.  Ready for anything, he popped the door open and stepped out of the car.

 

He moved normal, closing the door, and took a step toward the back of the car. Once he cleared the parked vehicles, he would be in no man’s land…

 

He carried the satchel in his left hand, leaving his right free to grab his gun, if possible. He stepped beyond his Crown Vic.

 

Down from where Bill had parked, Nicky was waiting behind one of the concrete pillars. He peered around and saw as the Fed was walking toward the stairs, his back facing Nicky. The target was wide open. Nicky brought his rifle up to bear.

 

Across from Nicky, obscured by another concrete pillar, Hugh watched with gun in hand. Maxwell would go down before he knew what hit him.

 

Moose hid himself down the stairwell seeing the Fed approaching. If Nicky missed – which didn’t seem likely – and Maxwell ran for the stairs, Moose would be waiting. And there would be no escape at that point.

 

Bill was half way across the aisle when he noticed the man at the stair well was gone. He spun around to look behind him, walking backward toward the stairs and saw Nicky down the aisle with rifle raised at the ready. Bill spun to his left and dove for the concrete floor as Nicky opened fire. Bullets traced after Bill as he rolled between two parked cars.

 

The leather satchel spilled in front of Bill and he lost his aviators. His right arm stung with pain and he looked to see the hole in the sleeve of his suit jacket. Gritting against the pain, Bill reached in for his gun, pressed himself against an Oldsmobile and waited for a break in the gunfire.

 

Bullets pierced metal and the glass from the Olds’ taillights shattered. Bill heard somebody yelling. The gunfire stopped long enough for Bill to peer over the trunk of the car and take a shot back at Nicky.

 

The would-be assassin skidded and pivoted to his left, seeking cover behind another car across the aisle. Bill fired off a few shots after him, imbedding bullets into the trunk of the car. Hugh moved up to a Buick on the same side of the aisle Bill was on and fired back a response. The back window of the Oldsmobile Bill was crouched near, broke apart.

 

With total war breaking out in the parking garage, Bill realized he was outnumbered. He reached with his left hand for his satchel, pulling it closer toward him. He then popped up and fired off a shot toward Nicky and another at Hugh before ducking back below the fender of the Oldsmobile again. His right hand still holding his gun, he opened the bag with his left and pulled out another gun. He brought his knees together, putting the second gun between them with the handle up as he found a cartridge and slapped it into the second gun.

 

He held the second gun with his left hand and scooted to the tail of the Oldsmobile. He then popped up over the trunk, both guns aimed in Nicky and Hugh’s respective directions.

 

Nicky was waiting and opened fire as soon as he saw Bill. The .45 in Bill’s right hand flew out and skidded underneath another car. Bill yelped and pulled back below the fender of the Olds, holding his now wounded right hand close to him.

 

Moose, meanwhile, had moved out of the stairwell and was heading toward Bill’s position, walking at the front side of the parked cars, keeping low and keeping out of Bill’s view.

 

Bill had all but forgotten about the third man in the stairwell.

 

Hugh signaled to Moose and pointed toward where Bill was sheltered. Nicky saw Moose moving too and held his fire.

 

Bill grimaced from the pain in his right arm and hand but took a chance at the lull and straightened up on his knees, aiming the gun in his left hand toward Nicky and then firing a shot off in Hugh’s direction before ducking back below the car again.

 

Police sirens were howling distantly now.  Nicky, Hugh and Moose knew they had scant seconds to finish the job or risk being caught. Down on the first level Piper was sitting anxiously. He could hear the gunfire upstairs and could hear the sirens. The engine of the sedan was running and the car was already in gear, held back by the brake. He couldn’t go up to retrieve them, if the cops came into the garage they would be blocked in. He had to wait for Nicky, Hugh and Moose to come down to him.

 

Upstairs, Moose was moving in closer on Bill’s position. Bill was still pressed against the Olds, waiting for more gunfire. He thought it odd that it stopped so suddenly. “What’s the matter, ya creeps?! Give up?!”

 

It was too late before Bill realized somebody was behind him. He started to turn just as Moose wrapped a heavy muscular arm around Bill’s neck and hauled the Federal agent up to his feet.

 

“Eeyaugh!!” Adrenaline numbed the pain in Bill’s right arm and hand and he grasped at the vice grip around his neck, still hanging on to his gun in his left. Moose ignored the gun and reached his other arm to tighten the grip, figuring to snap the Fed’s neck quick, but the move opened him up to Bill’s elbow.

 

Bill swung his left elbow back and made contact but it hardly had any effect. The big thug’s arm was starting to restrict the airways and the man’s grunt sounded more like an evil chuckle. Desperately, Bill swung the gun in his hand behind him and made contact with Moose’s head.

 

The hit dazed Moose and the grip loosened only a little. Hugh and Nicky, meanwhile, were moving in for the kill.

 

Bill saw them coming and fired a wild shot at both of them. Neither one could fire back or else they would risk killing Moose.

 

“Finish him Moose!” Nicky yelled.

 

Enraged at the Fed’s resistance, Moose tightened his grip around Bill’s neck again. Bill grappled at the clench and struggled to breathe.

 

Sirens screamed closer and squealing tires echoed on the lower level as a black Buick Grand National and a marked police car raced into the parking garage.

 

“That’s it!” Hugh yelled. “Let ‘em go, Moose, we gotta git out of here!”

 

The police cars were roaring through the turn on their way to the second level. Moose growled and suddenly threw Bill like a rag doll against the trunk of the car next to the Olds, letting the Fed fall in a heap to the concrete. He, Hugh and Nicky started to run away but not before Nicky paused to turn back to where the Fed was still laying on the ground and raised his rifle to ensure the job was finished.

 

The black Grand National was suddenly leaping toward him. Nicky aborted the shot and fired off at the Buick while turning to run the other way. Moose and Hugh were already at the other stair well on the other side of the garage and were racing down them.

 

The Buick followed after Nicky all the way to the stairs. The assassin hit the stairs and leapt down them. The Buick squealed to a stop and the young plain-clothes detective, Matt Franklin, took to running down the stairs after the fleeing gunman.

 

Hugh and Moose were almost to Piper’s sedan. Hugh stopped and looked to see where Nicky was at and saw the pursuing cop. Hugh raised his gun and fired.

 

Matt dove behind a car. Nicky kept running. Piper was yelling at everybody to get into the damn car.

 

The three made it to the sedan and jumped in. Piper hit the accelerator before he even took his foot off the brake, leaving a path of rubber as the sedan fled the parking garage.

 

Matt had jumped back up when he heard the sound of the fleeing car and ran to get a look at it. It was a red car, that was as much as he could see before it slipped out of the garage. With that much, Matt turned and jogged back to the opposite stairwell, going back up to the second level and to his car.

 

The uniformed cop was on his radio when Matt turned his Buick around the corner and brought it up to where Bill was laying on the concrete. He quickly got out and approached.

 

“I’ve called an ambulance,” the cop said. “He’s wounded but still alive.”

 

Matt nodded and kneeled down to the fallen man. As soon as he got a good look at Bill’s face, he recognized him. “Agent Maxwell…”

 

“Who is he?”

 

Matt looked up at the cop. “He’s a FBI agent. You better call Commander Mayson.”

 

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

 

Back at their motel room, Piper and his men assessed their failure to kill Agent Maxwell. Moose seemed to be taking it the worst. The big thug paced around the room restlessly, punching his fist into his hand. When that wasn’t enough, he took to crushing empty beer cans and throwing them against the wall. Finally, eat up with frustration he hauled the mattress off the bed and threw it across the room, taking out the cheap lamp and sending Nicky’s guns scattering off a table.

 

“Moose! Cool it!” Piper yelled. ”Christ, Hugh, get him out of here. Take him some place where he can work out his frustration.”

 

“I failed!” Moose replied.

 

“We all failed,” Piper said.

 

“I had ‘em in my grip, boss!” Moose raised his arm in a hook position, as if the Fed’s neck was still there. “I had ‘em!”

 

“Damn Fed resisted like hell itself,” Nicky said. “He just isn’t gonna die easily.”

 

“ARGH!!!” was all Moose had to say about it. He followed Hugh out of the motel room.

 

Nicky looked at Piper after they left. “What do we do? We won’t get a shot again at Maxwell where he lives.”

 

“No. And tracking him down after this might be difficult unless he’s damn fool enough to go back to his apartment. And we still have those two deputies in Hazzard to hit too.”

 

“Well, how about Hugh and Moose and I go up to Hazzard, take care of those two while you stay here in Atlanta and track down Maxwell? It shouldn’t take us more than a couple of days to finish that job, them hillbillies can’t possibly be as difficult as Maxwell’s been.”

 

Piper nodded. “Good idea. Plus it’ll keep Moose from tearing the wrong heads off. Namely ours.”

 

“It’ll keep him focused, yeah. He’s gonna be looking to redeem himself, so he’ll be extra focused on the job.”

 

“All right. You guys pack up tonight and head out in the morning. Take the Suburban. I’ll stay here, get a bead on Maxwell again, and if I have to…finish the job myself.”

 

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

 

At Atlanta Memorial hospital, Bill felt some déjà vu as he sat on an ER bed once again, being patched up by a doctor and the same black nurse who had tended to him the morning of the highway attack. Commander Mayson was there, along with Atlanta police detective Matt Franklin.

 

“I hope you’re not gonna be a regular customer, Mr. Maxwell,” the nurse said.

 

“I hate hospitals,” Bill said, his voice raspy from Moose’s vice grip. “So no, I don’t intend to be a regular customer of this coffin factory.”

 

The doctor worked on the flesh wound on Bill’s arm. Bill’s hand, also a superficial wound, was already patched up. “Fortunately for you, Agent Maxwell, the chunk of skin you lost today doesn’t grant you an extended stay in our fine facility.”

 

“Good,” Bill said. “Because I can’t be hanging around here when there’s killers running around out there. The creeps…”

 

“Did you get a good look at these guys, Agent Maxwell?” Matt asked.

 

“I did, this time. I can getcha a description. I’d know them again if I saw them.”

 

“I’m hoping to avoid that,” Mayson said. “These guys tried to kill you where you live, Bill, I don’t think it would be wise to go back to your apartment tonight.”

 

The doctor wrapped gauze around Bill’s arm. “Bah, they won’t try to hit me again there. They’ve lost the element of surprise and they know it. I’d be expecting them.”

 

“What, you gonna sleep with one eye open?” Mayson shook his head. “They shot the hell out of that parking garage and you nearly ended up with a broken neck. They’re gonna be looking to finish this job, Maxwell, the least you could do is make it harder for them to find you.”

 

“What do you want me to do? Sleep under my desk at the bureau?”

 

“No. You can hole up in a safe house for tonight or for as long as you need. These jerks blew away two of my boys, Bill, so I’m feeling just a little protective right now of any of my agents.”

 

The doc finished wrapping Bill’s wounded right arm and told him he was all set. Bill looked at the bandage on his arm, then looked to his bandaged hand and recalled Moose’s vice grip around his neck. He then looked at Mayson and nodded with a sigh. “Awright,” he said. “I’ll take the safe house.”

 

Detective Franklin nodded. “Wise choice, Agent Maxwell. Once you’re set here, let’s have a chat. I want a description of those guys.”

 

“You got it.”

 

After leaving the hospital, Bill accompanied Detective Franklin to the Atlanta police department headquarters and gave his descriptions of the three men. It was sufficient for a police sketch artist to come up with three reasonable representations of the men. The car Franklin had seen had been a dark red and, near as he could tell, was an older model Dodge. With the descriptions of the men and the car it was at least enough for alerts to be sent out for law enforcement to be on the look out for the suspects.

 

When they finished, Detective Franklin offered to drive Bill to the bureau where, after a brief meeting with Commander Mayson, another agent then escorted Bill back to his apartment to pack a few things and get his car. After a quick stop for some food, Bill drove to the safe house address Mayson had given him. He checked in with Mayson to let him know he arrived and then settled in for the night.

 

It was just as well he was somewhere safe. His arm and hand ached and he was bone tired from the day’s events. The bed was comfortable enough and Bill found it very easy to give in to sleep…

 

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

 

Hazzard County, Georgia

 

The next morning, Nicky, Moose and Hugh loaded up the Suburban and left Atlanta early, arriving in Hazzard just before nine o’clock. They found the old hunting cabin Piper had given them directions to, unpacked their gear and then headed back to town to do some intelligence work.

 

They had quite a bit of information on Enos Strate and MaryAnne Coltrane already, as provided by their informant at the Los Angeles FBI and other sources. They had photographic images of the two deputies, images used in newspapers within the past few years. With Hazzard being a small town, it didn’t take them long to make visual contact with both of their targets.

 

They watched Enos and MaryAnne both as they came and went from the courthouse. They listened to the police frequency on the CB. They took note of MaryAnne’s bright blue Firebird. They took note of MaryAnne too when she walked out of the courthouse again late in the afternoon, no longer dressed in a deputies uniform. Instead, she wore a pair of dangerously short shorts, high-heeled sandals and a short-sleeved blouse.

 

When she got into her car and drove off, they followed her to the Boar’s Nest. They didn’t go inside, but watched from the parking lot as she went into the building.

 

“Hmm…” Hugh said after the front door of the Boar’s Nest closed. “Damn shame…”

 

The three men didn’t venture into the Boar’s Nest, instead returning to their cabin to plan. Before they got there they over heard the Sheriff on the radio.

 

Now remember Enos, I’m doin’ the early patrol tomorrow since MaryAnne has to work late tonight doin’ inventory at the Boar’s Nest. So you better be at the courthouse bright n’ early!

 

Yessir, Sheriff! I’ll be there!

 

“Perfect,” Nicky said. “The Sheriff will be out on patrol and the little lady will be home all alone. This job’s gonna be easy…"

 

Chapter 4