**** **** ****
The next morning, Bill, Roger and Agent James Daugherty, a fifteen year veteran of the bureau, rode in separate cars and stopped at a gas station convenience store in Atlanta to gas up before heading out to Hazzard. While Kelley and Daugherty filled up their cars, Bill went inside to get some coffees and the morning paper.
He looked at the headlines before going to the counter. On the left side of the paper, above the fold a headline caught Bill’s eye.
FBI Falsely Accuse Man in Killings.
“Uh oh…” Bill read the article quickly and there it all was. The story Mayson feared would make the papers. The one Bill was sure wouldn’t have made the papers. “Geeze! This guy really told them? Doesn’t an apology count for anything anymore??”
Bill tucked the newspaper under his arm and went to get the three coffees. He paid for everything and returned to the gas pumps a few minutes later.
Kelley and Daugherty were waiting for him. He distributed the coffees and then handed the paper to Agent Kelley. “I can’t believe it,” Bill said. “Mayson was right. Did you see that?”
Roger nodded. “Yeah, I saw it when I stopped at the bureau this morning. Mayson’s seen it too. He’s not happy.” He handed the paper to Daugherty to see.
“We said we were sorry,” Bill said.
“It’s just like Mayson said,” Roger replied. ”When the FBI screws up in this town, it’s front page news, Bill. The media has had us under a microscope since the Turner fiasco. They feel they have the obligation to keep us honest.”
“Well, where the hell were these fine ace reporters during that whole Turner reign?” Bill asked.
“Exactly.” Roger turned and got into his Crown Vic. Bill and Agent Daugherty dispersed for their vehicles as well and a minute later the three sedans drove away from the gas station.
Two hours later, they arrived in Hazzard. Roger, already quite familiar with Hazzard, led the other two sedans around the town square to the front of the courthouse. They passed a bronze colored 1970 GTO in the square.
The three federal sedans caught the attention of all three occupants of the GTO. They watched as the civilian dressed Feds exited their vehicles and it was with surprise that they recognized Agent Bill Maxwell.
Hugh muttered and oath. “That’s him. That’s Maxwell.”
“It is,” Nicky said. “Guess Piper had about the same amount of luck we’ve had.”
“We probably better check, make sure Piper didn’t end up in jail or something.”
Hugh started the car and the GTO circled around the square, passing the courthouse as the three FBI agents headed up the stairs.
Hugh drove to the same country store with the payphone that they used the night before. Nicky went into the booth and dialed Piper. Nicky was both surprised and relieved when Piper answered.
“Glad to know you’re not in the slammer,” Nicky said by way of greeting.
“What do you mean?”
“Maxwell. He’s here in Hazzard, just rolled in this morning. What happened yesterday?”
“Damn Feds were waiting for me. Some poor schmuck approached Maxwell before I got to him and a dozen Feds suddenly fell out of the trees and nabbed the guy.”
“They suspected you?”
“We’ve drawn this out too long. We need to finish it pronto. Since all three of them are in the same place, I’m heading up. I’ve got some ideas. We have to get them all at once.”
“Piper, wait.” Nicky glanced at Hugh behind the wheel of the GTO. “What about that hit car? We could use that thing if we could get it up here. The Suburban’s out of the question now, too many people have seen it. Hugh got another car but it runs like crap, he’s been trying to fix it. We could use that hit car.”
“Mr. Vincent isn’t going to be happy when I report to him that the job isn’t complete. I doubt he’ll give permission to use the hit car.”
“Worth a try isn’t it? These damn rubes drive too good and shoot too good. We need something for an advantage if we’re going to finish this job. He’ll understand that.”
Piper didn’t think so. “I’ll see what I can do. I’ll be up there later today.”
**** **** ****
“The Hit Car?” Noah Vincent said later when Piper made his fateful phone call. “Are you crazy? You should’ve had this job done two days ago. I’ve already made the arrangements to have the car picked up and shipped out.”
“The targets are not going down easy. The Hit Car would give us a much needed advantage.”
“One lousy Fed and two hillbilly deputies and you can’t get the job done otherwise?”
“Mr. Vincent, I guarantee the job will be completed. The Hit Car is built for a job like this, we can use it effectively and take care of this business once and for all.”
Vincent paused, considering the request. After getting the car back he was leery to let it go again. But at the same time, it was built for one thing only and perhaps, if he wanted to know that Piper could finish the job the car would help. “Are you personally guaranteeing this, Piper?”
“Of course. What other guaranty do I have to offer?”
“None.” Vincent let the response hang for a moment. “You can use the Hit Car. But remember this, Piper. This is your last chance. I don’t want any more phone calls unless it’s to report that the job is complete. If you can’t finish it then don’t bother coming back to California.”
“And don’t lose the Hit Car like those other idiots did. Even if you succeed in completing the job, if the law gets a hold of that car don’t bother coming back to California.”
“The car will not be sacrificed.”
“It better not be. And this job better be finished. Now where do you want it delivered…?”
**** **** ****
Back at the courthouse, the three Federal agents were bringing Rosco, Enos and MaryAnne up to speed on who the gun men were and what their motive was.
“Well,” MaryAnne said when they finished. “Doesn’t make me feel any better but at least it makes some sense. So these guys are still hiding out in Hazzard somewhere looking to get me n’ Enos again.”
“Yeah,” Bill said. “And once they figure out I’m here, they’ll be looking to pull my number too.”
“Which they’ve tried to do four times already,” Kelley added.
“Possumonagumbush!” Enos said. “Four times?!”
“Nah, only three,” Bill said. “The first one doesn’t count.”
“Well it don’t matter if it’s fifty times,” Rosco said. “What matters is we gotta make sure they don’t succeed next time! So how do we do that?”
“Well,” Kelley said, “given what you told us and what we’ve dealt with in Atlanta with Agent Maxwell here, these guys have done their homework. They know where you live, where you work, probably know your patrol schedules and everything. Short of having everybody go into hiding for the rest of their lives, the best thing we can do is try to carry on as usual.”
“What’s wrong with everybody goin’ into hidin’?” Rosco asked.
“The problem with that,” Bill started, “is there’s the distinct possibility that these creeps would go after friends and family to flush us back out again. They’re soldiers. So far they’ve kept their attacks to just the three of us, but if they get desperate enough – and they might because I think they’re running out of time -- they’ll burn through anybody to get to us.”
“It’s risky but as long as you’re out there there’s a chance we can catch these guys,” Kelley said. “My thought is to have Agent Daugherty and Maxwell here ride with each of you when you do your patrols.”
MaryAnne and Enos both nodded. Rosco suddenly thought of something. “Wait a minute,” he said. “That means whoever Agent Maxwell rides with, these gunslingers are gonna have double or nothin’.”
“What they’ll have is double trouble,” Bill said. “We all stand a better chance if we’re not wandering around out there by ourselves. There’s a possibility these guys could split up in trying to get everybody. There’s four of them that make up this hit squad. Two against two is better odds.”
“I’d rather have somebody ridin’ shotgun with me,” MaryAnne said, “especially if these dudes try to pull that road ambush again like they did on Enos.”
Enos nodded. “I was lucky to get y’all on the CB. But if these fellas hit us when we’re out of range or if we’re on the other side of Iron Mountain, nobody will ever know what happened to us!”
“Exactly.” MaryAnne looked at Rosco. “There’s really no other way to try to catch these guys, Rosco. They gotta come out after us, if we don’t somehow find them first.”
“Yeah, I know. I just wish there was another way.”
“We can try to find these guys before they find us,” Bill said, “but otherwise, knowing their looking for us and keeping ourselves visible is the closest we’re going to get to drawing them out on our own terms. Unless, you want them shooting up your house again, Sheriff?”
“Uh, no…” Rosco shook his head.
“Okay then,” Kelley said. “Daugherty can ride with Enos, Maxwell with MaryAnne. Sheriff, if you can stand a Fed in your booking room, I’ll set up a command post here.”
“Well, just as long as you ain’t gettin’ in my way, Kelley,” Rosco replied. The glint in his eye contradicted the stern tone of his voice. “This is still my office, this is still my county and I’m still the Sheriff.”
Roger smiled. “Yes sir!”
**** **** ****
Later, Bill accompanied MaryAnne on her early afternoon patrol. “So what are you really?” he asked once they were out of town.
“What do you mean, what am I really?”
“Well, are you a cop who’s a waitress, or are you a waitress who’s a cop? And don’t tell me you’re a waitress who’s a cop, you handle yourself too well as a cop.”
MaryAnne grinned. “Why thank ya. For the record, I am a cop…who just happens to be a waitress.”
MaryAnne shrugged. “Economic reality here in Hazzard. Boss won’t take me back full time with the Sheriff’s department and he didn’t want me to quit the Boar’s Nest.”
“Boss? Mr. Hogg you mean?”
“Yeah. He’s the County Commissioner, the Police Commissioner and he owns all of Hazzard.”
Bill chuckled. “Gotcha. So why won’t he have you back full time as deputy?”
“He’d have to pay me more. It’s cheaper for him to have me part-time at both. Plus something about maintaining the atmosphere at the Boar’s Nest...”
Bill thought about that for a second and recalled how MaryAnne looked in her waitress outfit. He laughed.
“Nothing. I see his point though.”
MaryAnne snorted. “Yeah, well, you walk around in high heels serving beer all night and then talk to me about atmosphere.”
“Well, a pretty dame like you makes stopping at the place worthwhile, especially for old lost Feds like me who need directions.”
MaryAnne glanced over at Bill. She smiled. “You’re welcome.”
“Yeah. Though I gotta be honest with you, deputy, I would have never suspected you were a cop after that. But after the way you handled yourself in Chattanooga, working at some beer joint is really not where you belong.”
MaryAnne shrugged. “I don’t mind it.”
“Why’d you stop being full time as a deputy?”
MaryAnne hesitated, staring out at the road ahead of her. The memory of her short lived Federal career and her eventual exit from law enforcement was too complicated to explain. “I uh…got out of law enforcement for a while,” she replied. “Took a break. Just came back into it recently.”
“Oh.” Bill sensed there was something a little touchy there so he left it alone. “Well I’m glad you did otherwise things in Chattanooga might have turned out different.”
MaryAnne appreciated the accolade and nodded. “I’m just glad everything worked out,” she said. With a pause of the conversation, MaryAnne turned it around to Bill. Her patrol would last a couple of hours and she really didn’t want to spend it talking about herself much. “What about you?” she asked. “How long you been a Fed?”
“Over twenty years.”
“Always in LA?”
“No. I started in Detroit actually. Worked in Phoenix. Been in LA the last seven years or so.”
“Now you’re in Atlanta.”
“Now I’m in Atlanta,” Bill said, though he didn’t seem all that enthused about it. “It’s not bad,” he added, “but I am hoping to go back to LA someday.”
“I thought you would’ve been long gone a couple of weeks ago.”
“Yeah...well...they’re not ready for me yet. Listen, I had an idea,” he said, abruptly changing the subject. “What do you think the odds are that these hit guys are using the same cabin Jay and his boys used when they were hiding out here?”
“Worth a look,” MaryAnne replied. “We haven’t checked out that way yet.”
“Then let’s go take a look.”
**** **** ****
Later, while most of Hazzard was having supper, Piper arrived at the cabin. Hugh was under the hood of the GTO, while Nicky and Moose were inside the cabin tending to weapons. They came out when they heard Piper pull in.
Hugh straightened up from under the hood of the Pontiac and looked at Piper expectantly as his leader exited the sedan. Hugh had heard Nicky ask about the Hit Car earlier. “Did you get it?” he asked.
Piper nodded. “It’s being delivered tonight. You and I will be waiting for the truck on the main highway, they’ll turn off and unload it. We’ll bring it back here ourselves.”
Hugh smiled. Finally!
Piper didn’t share the enthusiasm. “Just keep in mind that using the car comes with strings attached. Vincent isn’t happy that it’s taking us so long to finish this job.”
“We can’t lose now,” Hugh said. “That Fed and those deputies don’t stand a chance.”
“A chance is all we’ve got. If we don’t complete this job we can forget about even going back to California after this. If we lose the car, we can forget about going home too.”
“We won’t lose the car,” Hugh said. “And we won’t lose that Fed and the deputies either. I predict we can wrap this whole thing up tomorrow and go home with reputations intact.”
“Well short of shooting up everybody in this town, I’ve run out of ideas,” Nicky said. “The car will be an advantage but what kind of strike are we going to make?”
“I have an idea,” Piper said. “We’ll work it out tonight.”
**** **** ****
Later that night, while Hugh and Piper waited just off the highway in the GTO for the truck delivering the Hit Car, Bill and Roger went to the Boar’s Nest.
The place was packed. The Dukes and Cooter were there, along with what seemed like half the county. Bill and Roger were in a booth, watching the crowd and MaryAnne while conducting a briefing.
“Any issues during her patrol?” Roger asked.
“Nope,” Bill replied. “Got the grand tour of Hazzard looking in some places to try to find them, but our creeps didn’t show their faces.”
“Yeah, Daugherty didn’t have any problems either. He’s with Enos now for his portion of the night patrol.”
“It’s just the calm before the storm,” Bill said. “They’re out there, regrouping or planning or something. You can bet on it.”
“No doubt. I just don’t care to play a waiting game. It’d be better if we could find them first.”
“Yeah, well, given the territory MaryAnne and I covered today, we could have the whole bureau up here and I’m not sure we’d find them in time. A lot of woods and swamp, lot of places to get lost.” Geeze, I wish the kid had come along with me. He could find these creeps in no time and we’d be done!
Roger nodded. “Yeah, moonshine country. There’s probably a couple of ATF guys from 40 years ago still roaming around out there.”
Bill grinned. “Well, that’s where we may all end up trying to track down these dudes. There’s one guarantee though, they’ll come to us sooner rather than later.”
Roger nodded as MaryAnne walked over to their booth.
“Howdy fellas,” she said with a smile. “Can I get ya something? Or are y’all considering yourselves to still be on duty?”
Bill looked at his watch. “What do you say, Kelley, is this briefing over?”
“Yeah, I’d say we’re off the clock now.”
“Great! Y’all hungry? I’d get ya a menu but Boss Hogg is cheap and we don’t have any.”
Roger snorted. “This place hasn’t changed a bit.”
MaryAnne smiled. “Nope. Whatya say, spare ribs, French fries and a couple of beers?”
“Sounds good to me,” Roger said. “Bill?”
“The spirit is willing.” He grinned at MaryAnne.
“Excellent choice, gentlemen,” she said smiling back at Bill. She then scribbled on her notepad. “I’ll be back shortly.” She turned and headed toward the kitchen.
Bill looked at Roger. “You’ve been here before?”
“Well, not here, necessarily,” Roger pointed to the table, indicating the Boar’s Nest. “But Hazzard, yeah, a few years ago for a case.”
“Oh?” Bill looked at Roger waiting to hear more details. The juicy stuff.
“It’s a long and complicated story, Bill. It’s when things started to unravel with former Commander Turner.”
Bill was incredulous. “You mean to tell me a bunch of hillbillies had something to do with that?”
“They had just about everything to do with it.”
Bill stared at Roger for a moment and then looked toward the bar, where MaryAnne was pouring beers and talking and smiling with some people at the bar. He thought back to their conversation in the patrol car and how she had conducted herself in Chattanooga. There was a lot more to her, and all of Hazzard it seemed, then what was on the surface. Bill knew he wouldn’t be able to resist his curiosity now. He predicted he would find himself in Atlanta bureau library at some point reading up on some recent Atlanta FBI history.
In the meantime, there were hit men out there looking to kill him and the two Hazzard deputies that had to be stopped. But the more immediate concern was the gorgeous dame walking across the floor of the Boar’s Nest with an arm full of spareribs and mugs of beer.
Bill watched MaryAnne as she delivered their hot food and cold beers. She met his gaze and smiled, not sure what his look was for. He grinned back at her and thanked her before she left the table again.
MaryAnne walked to the kitchen and pushed through the double doors. She paused to look back through one of the small square windows at Bill and smiled to herself but something bothered her. She was glad Bill Maxwell hadn’t gone back to LA just yet but she hated to think of the possibility that someday he would. Why’s that bother you? What difference does it make? C’mon, don’t be silly now…
MaryAnne turned away from the door and went into the kitchen.
**** **** ****
Out on County 14, the driver of the tractor trailer truck slowed down when he saw the dim taillights of the GTO parked by the side of the road. Piper got out from the passenger side of the car and flagged the truck down.
The driver stopped and they spoke briefly. Piper told him to follow to another road just up a ways and then to back the truck in when they got to it. They would unload there. The driver nodded and Piper returned to the GTO. The Pontiac led the way a moment later.
County 14 was well deserted at this hour of the night but Piper wanted to take no chances on being spotted by a routine county or state patrol while they unloaded the car. When they reached the road, Hugh pulled the GTO in. The driver of the truck pulled up ahead and then carefully backed around into the road. Thankfully, the road and terrain on either side of it were fairly even so there was no ditch to worry about dropping the trailer into. A few small trees and brush were trampled as the rig turned backwards into the road and the driver adjusted his turning to straighten the trailer with the road. Tall thick Georgia pines covered both sides of this dirt side road and it wasn’t long before the truck was out of view of County 14.
Piper was back at the window again. “Kill the lights,” he said. The driver did so. He then exited the cab of the truck.
The light of the moon and a couple of flashlights were all that was needed. The driver walked with Piper to the rear of the truck and unlocked the padlock. Metal clattered in the night and the doors were pushed open. Lights inside the trailer automatically came on when the doors opened. Wooden shipping pallets were stacked half way up inside the cargo hold.
“Just one row of pallets,” the driver said. “The car’s right in back.”
It took only a couple of minutes to unload the pallets. Then Hugh and the driver moved the portable loading ramps to the end of the cargo hold, slid them out and situated them into place far enough apart for the width of the Hit Car. Once the ramps were secured, Hugh looked at the driver.
“Does it run?”
“Yeah, they got it running when they loaded it. There’s a key in it.”
Hugh hopped up on the loading ramp and walked up into the cargo hold. The Hit Car was further in the trailer with a black cloth cover over it. He squeezed between the side of the car and the inside of the trailer to the back of the Dodge, pulling the car cover off and bunching it into the corner. He then squeezed his way to the drivers’ side and climbed into the open window.
The Hit Car rumbled to life. The throaty exhaust echoed inside the trailer and the overhead lights shined off the black paint as the car glided forward and rolled out and down the ramps.
No sooner did Hugh have the car off the ramps, the truck driver and Piper immediately lifted the ramps and shoved them back into the truck. Hugh joined them a moment later and helped to reload the stacked pallets. The doors of the truck were shut again, locked and the driver bid the two men good night, and good luck.
The truck pulled back out on to County 14 while Piper and Hugh with the Hit Car and the GTO, disappeared further down the dirt road. A mile from the unloading site the truck passed a Hazzard County patrol car…
**** **** ****
Early the next morning, Piper, Hugh, Nicky and Moose were up early to prepare for their final strike. Piper took the GTO on a scouting mission, while Nicky and Moose prepared weapons and Hugh went over the Hit Car with a fine tooth comb. The car ran fine, but it wouldn’t run for long without some more gasoline.
Moose and Nicky were sitting on the porch of the cabin, cleaning and loading weapons. Hugh had the hood of the Hit Car up, making some adjustments. Piper was gone for almost an hour. He hadn’t said much about where he was going which left the others only to speculate. When he did return, emerging from the GTO with a map in hand the other three men were sufficiently curious.
“Everything set?” Piper asked as he approached.
Nicky and Moose nodded. “Guns are ready.”
Piper looked at Hugh with the same question.
“We’re going to need some more gasoline but otherwise, she’s running beautiful.”
“Where the hell you been anyway?” Hugh asked.
“Scouting. We’re going to finish this job today and we’re going to nail all three targets at the same time.”
“How are we going to get them all in the same place at the same time?” Hugh asked.
Piper handed the key to the GTO to Hugh. “You go and get the fuel for the Hit Car. When you get back, I’ll lay out the details.”