**** **** ****
Jesse and Daisy drove Bill to Tri-County hospital. MaryAnne wanted to go too but there wasn’t enough room in Jesse’s truck, unless somebody rode in back. She knew Bill was in good hands with the Dukes anyway, and it allowed her to concentrate on assisting Rosco and Agent Kelley with tending to the business of Piper and his men.
Daisy, sitting between her uncle and Bill, held on to Bill’s arm as the truck negotiated the roads. Jesse dove as quickly as possible but apologized for the rough ride. Bill waved it off. “It’s all right, Mr. Duke, I’ve been over rougher terrain than this. Don’t spare the whip.”
Jesse didn’t. The truck wasn’t built for speed, but the old moonshiner pushed it for everything it had. At the same time, he negotiated the hills and turns with an expert hand, developed from years of driving such so as not to upset any precious cargo.
They arrived at Tri-County hospital in record time and Doc Appleby was waiting for them, having been alerted over the radio to Bill’s arrival by MaryAnne. Bill was transferred from the truck to a wheelchair and whisked into the emergency room. After parking the pickup, Jesse and Daisy waited in the waiting area.
**** **** ****
Bo, Luke and Cooter, meanwhile, helped the Hazzard law and Feds collect Piper and his men together and bring them and their Suburban back to town. The Hit Car would be picked up later with Cooter’s tow truck.
The hit men were locked in the Hazzard County jail for the afternoon and night, leaving them to stew over having been foiled by a bunch of country rubes. A search of the Suburban yielded additional weapons, maps and directions to their hideout, where the law found the GTO, Piper’s sedan and more evidence. Sorting everything out kept the law occupied for the rest of the afternoon.
Despite being busy with sorting the evidence, Bill was never far from MaryAnne thoughts. As she sat at the booking desk, still in her t-shirt, working on tagging all the guns the hit men had been carrying, she hoped he was okay. But she wished she could get the look that had been on his face in the barn out of her mind.
You’re being silly. Yeah, he’s a good lookin’ guy but you got caught up in the moment, that’s all. Will you knock off this foolishness? He’s going back to LA sometime, he ain’t stickin’ around remember…?
“You okay?” Rosco asked.
MaryAnne didn’t realize she had her head in her hand, like she was trying to alleviate a headache. Considering the thoughts of Bill and the mixed emotions she was feeling, it was a wonder she wasn’t. She looked up at Rosco standing in the middle of the booking room. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
No she wasn’t. Physically, she may have been fine but Rosco could sense something was weighing on his younger cousin’s mind. He didn’t probe though. Not yet, anyway. He looked down at the uniform shirt he held in hand and then stepped up the steps to the booking area. “I found ya another uniform shirt.”
“Thanks.” MaryAnne turned away from the guns that were spread on the booking desk and accepted the shirt. She unfolded it and put it on. Before buttoning it she pulled her badge out of her back pocket and pinned it to the shirt.
Rosco was looking at the guns. “This the last of ‘em?”
“Yep,” MaryAnne said as she buttoned up the shirt. “That makes two lots. These guys were carrying enough firepower to start World War Three.”
Rosco looked over the firepower and was amazed by the number of guns the men had been carrying to try to kill MaryAnne, Enos and Agent Maxwell.
MaryAnne saw his expression. “Pure dumb luck is the only thing that kept us alive,” she said as she finished tucking in her shirt.
“Well, Agent Maxwell wasn’t so lucky.”
MaryAnne nearly had a coronary and sat down again at the booking desk. “What? What do you mean? Don’t tell me he’s dead?!”
“No, I mean just that he got wounded at all. You n’ Enos were spared but Maxwell there was dumb enough to stand in the middle of the barnyard with that car gunnin’ right for ‘em…”
MaryAnne leaned on the booking desk and put her head in her hand again.
“What?” Rosco asked.
“Nothing.” She sat up straight again. “Nothing. Uh, have you heard from the hospital or Jesse or Daisy by chance?”
“Oh. Well, when I finish up here maybe I’ll swing over and see what’s going on.”
“You worried about him?”
MaryAnne looked at Rosco. It was a loaded question and MaryAnne was sure she couldn’t hide her expression from her cousin. Nonetheless, she avoided the direct answer. “I just want to make sure my handiwork worked. That’s all.” She picked up a tag and her pen for the next gun.
MaryAnne’s roundabout answer said enough and Rosco left it alone. For now. He had a patrol to get to anyway. “Well,” he said. “I’m just glad they didn’t get you.”
MaryAnne smiled. “Me too.”
He gave her a pat on the shoulder before turning to step down from the booking area. Once he left the booking room, MaryAnne sighed. She couldn’t believe how Rosco’s offhand comment about Bill’s luck made her think Maxwell had died. And though it only lasted a moment, the possibility had upset her greatly.
“This can’t be happening…” she whispered to herself.
**** **** ****
Once Bill’s wound was tended to and sewn up, he was placed in a hospital room for overnight observation. Jesse and Daisy went to see him before heading back to the farm. Doc Appleby was already there, checking on his patient. He and Bill both waved the visitors into the room.
Doctor Henry Appleby was an old, no nonsense country doctor. A heavy set man with wispy white hair, he spoke in an easy, gentle, reassuring tone although he could be stern when needed. And in dealing with Bill Maxwell, Doc found himself being quite stern once the Federal agent decided that since he was patched up he was free to leave.
“Absolutely not,” Appleby said. “Mr. Maxwell, you’re not going anywhere! At least, not until tomorrow.”
“Doc, ya got me all stitched up here and you did a beautiful job. I feel fine. I can take care of the dressing and all, I know the game. You said it’s just a flesh wound, they didn’t hit anything important.”
“It’s a deep flesh wound and my concern is infection and giving your body a chance to recover from the blood loss. Maybe you’re not concerned with those things but I am.”
“Well, I think you’re being a little overly cautious, Doc.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Besides, what are you gonna wear if you walk out of here right now? Your johnnie?”
“No, I’ll put my clothes on.”
Doc Appleby raised an eyebrow and then turned and walked over to the counter across from Bill’s hospital bed. He picked up Bill’s bloodied khaki pants, turned to face Bill again and held them up. Well, what was left of them from being cut apart.
Daisy brought her hand to her mouth in a vain effort to hide her smile. Bill just looked at his shredded pants and gave a sigh.
Doc nodded and put the pants back on the counter. “I’ll see you in the morning, Mr. Maxwell.”
Jesse and Daisy watched Doc leave and then turned to Bill. “You best be mindin’ the Doc now, Mr. Maxwell,” Jesse said. “He don’t cotton to any dang fool that goes runnin’ out of this hospital before they’re supposed to.”
“Well sir, I don’t have much choice but to stay put until tomorrow. Hopefully I can find somebody who will be kind enough to go to the hotel and get me a change of clothes.”
“Just give us a holler if you need to,” Daisy said.
“Thanks. And thank you for all your help. You folks helped nab some nasty people. I don’t know what you did to shanghai Moose but it was appreciated.”
“Moose?” Daisy said. “That’s the fellas name?”
“His nickname, anyway.”
“Fits. He was big!”
“And like a moose, he wasn’t too smart,” Jesse added. “We’re just glad everythin’ turned out awright and you weren’t hurt any worse than ya were.”
“Just a through hole, Mr. Duke.” Bill smiled.
Jesse nodded. As far as the Duke patriarch was concerned, Agent Maxwell was lucky the through hole was in his leg and not through his head.
“Well, Daisy and me should be getting’ back to the farm. We still got chores to finish up. You get some rest, Mr. Maxwell and behave for the doc.”
Bill smiled. “I will sir.”
“Take care, sugar,” Daisy said. She smiled at Bill and followed her uncle out of the hospital room.
When Jesse and Daisy returned to the farm, Bo and Luke were already there working. Daisy called the Sheriff’s office in town to let them know that Bill was okay.
As fate would have it, MaryAnne was still working cataloging evidence and answered the phone. She was relieved to hear that Bill was okay and wasn’t surprised to learn that he tried to walk out of the hospital as soon as he was stitched up. She thanked Daisy for the message and after hanging up, went to report the same to Agent Kelley.
It took MaryAnne the bulk of the afternoon to finish her evidence list and prepare everything to be handed over to the FBI. Commander Mayson, once news reached Atlanta that the assassins had been captured, made plans to arrive in Hazzard the next morning to see Piper and his men escorted back to Atlanta. Although he didn’t like to hear that Maxwell had been wounded, again, he was relieved for how all had turned out considering the way it had begun.
It was early evening when MaryAnne left the courthouse and she was beat after such a long day. She sat in her Firebird and let out a tired sigh. She had told Rosco that she when she finished cataloging the evidence that she might go up to the hospital to see Bill. But there was really no reason for her to go now, she knew he was okay.
Besides, she thought, he should be resting and all. Been through enough today and for the past several days. I really don’t need to be goin’ up there…
MaryAnne turned the key and Maverick rumbled to life. She drove out of town…
…and headed to Tri-County Hospital.
**** **** ****
At the hospital, MaryAnne got Bill’s room number from the receptionist and took the elevator up to the third floor. As she walked down the hall toward Bill’s room, she asked herself at least twice, what am I doing here?
MaryAnne slowed when she reached the door way to room 312. She peered in. The curtain between the two beds was drawn and the first bed was empty. She hesitated going in.
“You lookin’ for Mr. Maxwell, sugar?” a nurse asked.
MaryAnne flinched and spun to face the nurse. “Oh, ah, hi. Yeah.”
“He’s right in there, second bed.”
MaryAnne smiled sheepishly. “Thanks.”
The nurse smiled and walked away. MaryAnne sighed and stepped into the room. Her boots clicked softly on the bare linoleum and when she got closer and cleared the curtain, she could see Bill lying there.
She paused at the curtain. His eyes were closed. He looked comfortable and relaxed. Yeah, he’s snoozin’. I won’t bug ‘em… She started to turn around to leave.
Startled, MaryAnne turned back around to him. “Hi,” she said. “Um, you’ve had a hell of a day, if you’re tired I’ll go…”
“Nah. Pull up a chair.” He smiled, genuinely glad to see her. “I’d like the company.”
MaryAnne stepped toward the chair in the corner and brought it closer to the bed. She sat down and looked at him. She couldn’t help but smile. “Well you’re lookin’ much better than you did earlier this afternoon.”
“Deputy, I’d be looking a lot worse if you hadn’t helped get me out of there,” he said. “I owe you.”
“I said I wasn’t gonna leave ya there.”
Bill met her gaze and held it for a moment. “I know you did.”
MaryAnne broke the gaze awkwardly. “Um, Commander Mayson’ll be here tomorrow morning,” she said. “He’s bringing some Feds with him to escort the hit guys back to Atlanta.
“Good,” Bill said. “Now he can rub it back in the face of the press after that Pulitzer Prize winning piece they wrote this morning.”
“Atlanta paper have some commentary on something?”
“Oh yeah. We made a mistake. An honest mistake but they put the ol’ magnifying glass to it and made it a big deal.”
MaryAnne nodded. “Yeah, Mayson’s had to deal with that for a while now, it’s something ya gotta get used to. Probably don’t have quite the media scrutiny in LA.”
Bill recalled the front page of the Los Angeles Times and his sending the Mayor of Los Angeles into a swimming pool. “Oh, I don’t know about that…”
MaryAnne smiled. “Well, Mayson did say he was planning a press conference tomorrow afternoon. Now I understand why he seemed to be looking forward to it.”
“If the doc lets me out of here early enough, hopefully I can be there so I can see him bask in the moment of well-deserved glory for the bureau.”
“I heard you tried to leave earlier today.”
“Yeah, well, I’d like to leave now if I could but the old country doctor won’t let me and besides that I don’t have any clothes.” Bill thought of something. “Would you be willing to do me a favor?”
“Since they shredded my pants and I’d rather not get cited for indecent exposure when I walk out of here I have a change of clothes at my room at the hotel. I’m sure that badge of yours can unlock the door?”
MaryAnne chuckled and nodded. “Sure.”
“Good. Thanks.” He smiled. “You deserve some of that glory too, you know.”
MaryAnne shook her head. “Naw, let Mayson have it. And you, you’re the one that got shot to hell here…” She gestured to him and then noticed something. “Is that a bandage on your arm?”
Bill looked at his arm, exposed by the short sleeve of the johnnie and nodded. “Yeah. The hit guys nicked me a couple of times in Atlanta.” He held up his still bandaged hand too.
“Sheesh, Bill,” MaryAnne said. “You don’t need that much lead in your diet. Trust me, I know.”
Bill raised an eyebrow. “You do?”
MaryAnne hesitated. She wasn’t one to talk about her battle scars. “Yeah. I’ve…been where you are now.”
Bill studied her. “Don’t tell me it gets that rough at the Boar’s Nest?”
MaryAnne didn’t answer right away. One such wound was earned at that very place but there was too complicated a story behind it. “Well, no,” she said with a chuckle to hide her discomfort. “Not normally.”
This dame’s got war stories… On some level, Bill began to understand her half and half career. Whatever had happened to her as a law officer had pushed her too far once. It bothered him though that a woman with a light breezy smile and easy going charm could be haunted by her own war stories.
“I’ve gotten a few scrapes,” she said, when the silence had hung for too long. “Nicks, as you put it. I don’t recommend it for anybody.”
“I don’t either,” Bill said. “But if it’s important enough and you’re willing to take a little gas for it there’s nothing to be ashamed of.” He waited for her to look up at him again. “I’d like to hear your war stories someday, Deputy…”
She dropped her gaze. “Maybe someday.”
“I’ll tell you some of mine too, if you can stand to listen to an old geezer prattle on about blood, guts and glory.”
MaryAnne chuckled softly and looked up at him again. Honestly, she could’ve listened to him for hours. She nodded. “Sure.”
“Then it’s a date.”
MaryAnne blinked. Date?! “Excuse me?”
“A date. You know, lunch. Or something. Nothin’ fancy. Burgers and fries at the Varsity or something…” I’m going out on a limb here, sweetheart, don’t shut me down now.
MaryAnne could feel herself blushing and knew Bill could see her blushing and she wanted nothing more than to hide. But there was no place to go. She was stuck to the chair and caught by his knowing gaze. Go on, say yes. You know you want to! “Um, ah, well… lunch? Uh…sure. Yeah. The Varsity huh? Man, I haven’t been there for a few years…”
Bill grinned wide. “Yeah, the place insane but they got great food.”
“Yeah, they do…” MaryAnne met his gaze for a moment and then chuckled.
He grinned still. “C’mon, kid, we both know what’s going on here. War stories or not I want to know you a little better.”
MaryAnne nodded. “Yeah. Same goes for me.” Motion at the doorway prompted MaryAnne to look as a nurse came into the room, pushing a cart. The young woman stood at the end of Bill’s bed and smiled. “Good evening,” she said to Bill and MaryAnne. “Mr. Maxwell, how’re you feeling?”
“I’m fine, honey. I’m ready to get out of here.”
“So I’ve heard. Unfortunately, I can’t let you leave yet. But I can at least offer you some supper?”
“Not a bad deal,” MaryAnne said.
“It won’t be a burger or hot dog from the Varsity,” Bill said.
“Well, no…” MaryAnne chuckled.
“No, it won’t be,” the nurse said, “but I’ll do the best I can. Before that though we’re going to change the dressings on your arm and hand. How’s the leg feeling?”
“A little sore, but tolerable.”
“Would you like anything for pain?”
Bill shook his head. “Nah. It’s awright.”
“Okay.” The nurse turned to the cart to get latex gloves and fresh dressings.
MaryAnne stood up. “Well, um, I should get going, get some supper myself and get out of this uniform.”
Bill would have liked for her to stay a little longer but he nodded. “Okay, Deputy…”
MaryAnne moved the chair back to the corner. She turned back to Bill one more time.
“Thanks for the visit,” he said.
MaryAnne smiled. “Sure. I’ll be in in the morning with some clothes for ya.”
He nodded. “Thanks. Goodnight.”
MaryAnne smiled. “Goodnight.” She turned and walked to the door, finding a little more spring in her step.
**** **** ****
The next morning, after MaryAnne retrieved some clothes for Bill from his hotel room, Commander Mayson arrived in Hazzard with a contingent of Feds to escort Piper and his men back to Atlanta. When news of the successful capture of the men had reached the bureau the day before, morale went up about ten points. Even better, Piper and his crew had all been caught alive. Justice for the death of the two federal agents would not be denied.
After the men had been escorted out of the booking room, Commander Mayson turned to Rosco who was standing with MaryAnne and Enos. “Once again, Sheriff, I find myself expressing my sincere appreciation to you and your county for your help on this one, though I realize MaryAnne and Enos were targets too.”
“Well, yer welcome, Mayson,” Rosco said. “But I gotta ask ya a favor.”
“Do you think you could try a little bit harder to keep the riff raff outta my county? This keeps up you’ll have to open a branch office up here.”
Mayson smiled. “Don’t think I haven’t thought of it.”
Considering how it had all started, it ended much better than Mayson could have hoped. Still, he would’ve preferred Maxwell not taken any more bullets for it but Bill didn’t seem to care about that when the Commander and agents Kelley and Daugherty visited him at the hospital before going back to Atlanta.
MaryAnne drove the three agents, and Bill’s clothes, to Tri-County later that morning. She presented the bag to Bill but then hung back within the room, letting the Feds talk shop. She grinned listening to Maxwell as he talked scenarios and garbanzos. He certainly had a unique way of speaking.
She liked the sound of his voice and as she watched him converse with the three Feds looking very vibrant, alive and handsome she couldn’t help but feel good by the sight. She was going to hate to see him leave. There’s still lunch…whatever that’s supposed to be. It was no guarantee though. Atlanta was two hours away. Briefly, MaryAnne wondered if once he was back in Atlanta, her feelings would fade. Maybe she would never see him again after this.
Mayson, Kelley and Daugherty were looking at her and MaryAnne realized Bill was talking about being pulled from the collapsed barn. She smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I uh…wasn’t gonna leave him there,” she said. The Feds chuckled. MaryAnne could feel Bill’s eyes on her as she was looking at the other three agents. When she finally looked his way, he smiled at her. She smiled, still sheepish, and averted her gaze.
A few minutes later, Doc Appleby came into the room, true to his word about allowing Bill to leave the hospital. He shooed everyone out of the room first, to do his discharge procedure and check Bill’s leg wound and all his wounds one last time. The Fed was healing fine.
After Doc Appleby left, Bill emerged from his hospital room dressed in the black pants and black shirt MaryAnne had grabbed from the hotel. Under one arm was a crutch and in his opposite hand he carried a plastic bag with his shoulder holster and what was left of his other clothes.
“Okay, I’m ready to get out of here,” he said. “Who’s driving?”
MaryAnne chuckled. “I am,” she said. “Good thing I brought y’all in my patrol car. I’d never fit everybody in Maverick…” The four Federal agents and MaryAnne headed down the hall to the elevators.
“You feel up to heading back to Atlanta, Bill?” Mayson asked.
“Yes sir, I do,” Bill said, as he limped along with the group. “I hear you’re doing a press conference this afternoon.”
“I am. You wanna be there?”
“I want to see you throw it right back in the face of the media with the successful capture of these hit guys and quite possibly the most solid lead we’ve got to who was behind the attempted hit in Chattanooga against the governors. They’ll forget all about the fiasco at the zoo.”
“Yeah, they will, only because then they’ll be focused on wanting to know who was behind the Chattanooga job. When it comes to the Atlanta media, Bill, I simply move from one frying pan to the next.”
“You get a few moments of glory between frying pans don’t you?”
“Well, sir, that’s what you’re going to get this afternoon.”
“Yeah. Short and fleeting…” Mayson grinned, “but I’ll take it.”
Mayson chuckled along with Kelley and Daugherty, who knew all too well the difficult relationship their boss had with the Atlanta news media. The group reached the elevator door and Mayson punched the button for the first floor and then looked at MaryAnne. “If you and Rosco don’t mind holding the vehicles in impound for a few days, I’ll make the arrangements to have them picked up.”
MaryAnne nodded. “No problem.” The elevator bell dinged and the doors clattered open. The group stepped inside.
“We’re still going to see the Hit Car destroyed, right?” Bill asked.
“Oh yeah,” Mayson said. “Even if we have to dismantle that damn thing ourselves in the parking lot behind the Federal building, we’ll do it.”
“You know what you oughta do,” MaryAnne said as the doors started to close, “is just push that thing right off Kissing Cliff...”