Krista "Crazy C" Esparza and Jackie Clouse
The lowering clouds were thick and heavy, covering the sky over Hazzard like a dirty blanket. Bo watched them with an aching heart as he stood in the middle of the Sacred Heart Memorial Cemetery, a bunch of tulips in his right hand. The flowers were freshly cut, and gave off a pleasant fragrance that seemed out of place in the midst of the crushing grief that seemed to surround him . . . that had been a part him for the last six months, since Jesse had died.
He knelt down and placed the flowers on the grave, noticing with a kind of macabre irony that his uncles tombstone was the exact same shade as the sky. A drop of rain fell, then another, darkening the granite to a dull slate color. Bo straightened, and like the rain, his tears fell on Jesses stone, one after another.
When is it going to stop, Uncle Jesse? He asked softly, his voice roughened by the tears.
Everyone keeps telling me that the pains going to stop and Ill remember the good times, but all I keep feeling is the pain. He hung his head and swiped at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt.
And Luke says I cant keep coming here because all Im doing is making it harder on myself. He laughed softly, bitterly.
I dont see how I can do that though . . . leave you up here all alone, with no one to come up and say hey once in awhile.
The rain began to fall harder, and Bo shook large drops of water from his thick blond hair.
Guess Id better go. Luke will have supper waitin on me, and hell never believe I was gone this long just putting gas in The General. He put a gentle hand on the stone and tried to smile.
I miss you, Uncle Jesse. You have no idea how much I miss you. He turned and headed down the gently sloping hill that led to the main gates of the cemetery, his mood as gray as the weather.
I reckon no one will ever know.
Bo had been right about Luke keeping dinner warm for him, although hed been extremely grumpy about Bos lateness. He stacked up the dishes next to the sink, and scowled at Bo as he sat at the dining room table finishing up his meal.
You said youd be back by six.
Traffic. Bo replied around a mouthful of potato, and Luke rolled his eyes.
Oh sure. The bottleneck up around them cow paths are murder this time of day. He replied, knowing full well where Bo had been. He decided to let it go for the moment, and filled the sink with soapy water.
And dont expect me to do these dishes, either.
Ill do them. Bo answered with a touch of irritation, then grinned as he cleaned his plate.
Maybe I better tell Donna about what its like to live with you before she decides to up and marry you.
Oh, she knows me. Luke said with a sly grin and a raised eyebrow, and Bo groaned.
Please, I just ate.
Yeah, well maybe your stomach wouldnt be griping if youd been home to eat it when it was warm.
Yeah, yeah. Bo grumbled as Luke left the room.
Bo went to the sink and looked at the pile of dishes with reluctance. Then he turned on the small radio that sat on the countertop nearby and tuned in a top forty country station. Soon he was elbow deep in suds, and singing along with Garth Brooks about how he was much too young to feel this damn old.
Luke came back into the kitchen, his jacket in his hands. He shrugged it on and adjusted the collar as he watched his cousin wash the dishes. Be sure you get them clean Bo, nothing worse then dried on food.
"Except maybe cold food?" Bo asked teasingly, and ducked an empty beer can as it sailed past his head and landed with a soapy plop in the dishwater. He chuckled and fished it out. "Where you headed, cousin?"
Luke grinned widely, a wicked gleam flashing in his cool blue eyes. "The Boars Nest, meeting Donna there for some jukin."
"Uh huh. Just watch where you do your jukin, don't get arrested or anything." He smiled, then sobered. The apartment always seemed bigger and deadly quiet when he was in it alone. Not that he would ever tell Luke that. Luke thought he was okay, and that was the way Bo wanted it. So he forced another smile. "Have fun, then."
Luke reached out and patted his cousin on the back, it was on the tip of his tongue to tell Bo he knew that he had gone to the cemetery but he decided not to. His younger cousin had been hit the hardest by Jesse's passing and giving him a bad time wouldnt be the best way to handle it. "Yeah, I'll try and keep it legal, why dont you go do something? It seems to me you are in this apartment way too much sometimes."
Garth Brooks gave way to George Strait in the silence that followed, and Bo sighed. My life is like a country song, He thought, and turned back to the sink before Luke could see his face. "Yeah . . . maybe I'll go out somewhere a little later," He lied, trying to keep his voice light. "Maybe I'll see a movie, or something."
"All right then, see you later Bo." Luke gave his cousin a wink as he touched the back pocket of his jeans, checking to make sure his wallet was there. He took the keys to the General Lee off of the hook near the back door of the kitchen and left.
Bo turned up the radio a little and added some more plates to the soapy water. He sang along with song after song, even the ones he didn't like. He thought of how Luke had headed off to the Boar's Nest, and how he himself hadn't set foot in the place since Jesse had died. It seemed like the whole town was haunted by his uncle's presence, except of course for this new apartment complex, which Jesse hadn't lived long enough to see the completion of. "No wonder I spend so much time here." Bo said to himself, and a part of him deep inside resented Luke for being able to go to a place their uncle had loved so much.
A young woman with short straight blond hair, a pink tank top and blue jeans was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. She smiled and played nervously with her hands.
Bo nearly cried out at the voice speaking behind him, and he whirled around with wild eyes. His elbow hit the radio and sent it spinning sideways and he reached out to steady it. The girl blinked, and he took a deep breath to calm himself. She looked familiar, and he recalled now that he'd seen her in the apartment lobby from time to time, getting her mail. "Uh . . . hey. I mean, hi."
The young woman covered her mouth with her hand, trying to cover up the slight snicker that had slipped out. "I'm sorry to startle you, I knocked but I guess you didnt hear me." She took a step towards him and stuck out her hand. "I'm Michelle Greenwood, I live two doors down from you."
Bo took her hand in his, then flinched when it squelched wetly. He pulled it back and wiped it on his jeans, giving an internal groan. Way to go, Casanova. He thought angrily, and offered his hand again. "Bo Duke."
Michelle smiled as she gave her hand a quick wipe on her jeans and shook his once again. "Yeah I know I think I might have seen you in passing or downstairs." She cleared her throat and looked around the tiny kitchen. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Yeah, it's a real party in here." He replied, then shook his head when the words came out harsher than he'd expected. "I mean . . .no, I'm just cleaning up a little. Is there something I can do for you?"
"Actually I was hoping to borrow a light bulb, the last of mine burnt out and my car isn't exactly running right. I haven't had a chance to see what is wrong with it."
"Your car?" Bo asked, interested. She nodded, and he tipped his head to one side. "Well, I'm a pretty good mechanic, maybe I can take a look at it. I tell you what, I can change that bulb for you too, if you want."
Michelle gave her neighbor a slight nod of her head. "That would be really neighborly Bo." She put her hands behind her back and cleared her throat. She kept looking down at the sandals on her feet and rubbing the toe of them over the white kitchen tile.
"Is your car down in the lot?" Bo asked as he went to the pantry and dug out a light bulb. He grabbed his jacket and tucked the bulb in the front pocket.
"Yeah, it's the white Monte Carlo SS that's parked in slot 4C." Michelle looked over at the sink and saw he was almost done with the dishes. "You know I think that's really nice of you do to the dishes."
Bo laughed out loud, then looked surprised at his outburst. Michelle smiled politely, and he shrugged. "It's not what you think. I live here with my cousin."
"The dark haired guy that looks like he can bench press me, right?"
"Yeah. That's Luke. We opened a garage over in Hazzard Square a few months ago, rebuilding race cars, mostly. We took over Cooters place, seeings how hes so busy being Commissioner and all." He told her, and then found himself admiring the color of her hair. It was blonde, but not that fake blond that most girls wore nowadays. It was a dark blonde, like the color of fresh honey. She was looking back at him, and Bo realized he was staring. He blinked, and gave her a quick smile. "So! What's first, the bulb or the car?"
Michelle could feel the way his dark blue eyes gazed at her, she cleared her throat and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. She had noticed when she had first moved to the apartment building how handsome Bo Duke was. She just hadn't talked to him until now. "The light bulb, the car can wait."
"Okay then." He nodded, and followed her out of the apartment. She led them into hers two doors down, and pointed to the empty socket in the hall over their heads. "See? It's that one." Bo took the bulb from out of his pocket and glanced around. "Got a stepladder or something?"
"Uhh...there's one in the living room closet. I'll get it." Michelle opened the door to her apartment and went inside. She came back out with a small metal step ladder and opened it up. "Here you go." She stood back and watched as her tall, lanky neighbor climbed up on it. "This wouldn't be a problem if I wasnt so short."
"You don't look so short to me." Bo pointed out as he screwed the bulb in. He replaced the glass cover and nodded down at her. "Okay, give it a try."
Michelle opened her apartment door and stuck her hand just inside it, she flipped a switch and the overhead light came on. Great! Thank you so much, you have no idea how hard it is to try and get in this place without that light working.
"It's no trouble." Bo replied as he hopped down off the stool. "I'll take a look at your car in the morning on account of I don't have a portable light at the apartment." His eyes roved around the room, then he cocked his head as he spied some kind of framed document. He smiled and gestured to it. "That some kind of award or something?"
The young woman smiled proudly. "That's my commendation from the ATF for a bust I made last year."
Bo's heart seemed to drop like a yo-yo, then snapped back up as if on an invisible string. His stomach did a lazy barrel roll, and he smiled a smile that felt huge and false. "ATF? Really?"
Michelle nodded. "Yeah ATF, I've been with the agency for two years." She reached into her back pocket and flipped open a black wallet, the shine on her gold badge was bright as she flashed it. "See?"
"Yeah . . ." Bo drawled as the glare from the badge briefly illuminated his face. He shifted his weight and forced himself to speak. "That's . . . great! Well! I gotta get back to my place, but I'm glad I could help you out. Night!" Bo shook her hand before she could protest, and was out the door like a shot.
Michelle watched as her neighbor made a hasty exit. "Bye-" The door to his apartment slammed before she could finish her sentence.
The next morning, Michelle was surprised and pleased when Bo knocked on her door with his toolbox in hand, apparently ready to fix her car. He apologized for the previous night's hasty exit, and the two went down to the parking lot together. Michelle sat in a lawn chair and read a Tony Hillerman paperback while Bo tinkered with the engine on her Monte Carlo. He came up for air forty minutes later and announced that she needed a new alternator. "That's why she keeps stalling on you." Bo explained as he pointed out the part that now lay next to the car. "Uh . . . if you like, I can run over to the garage and grab you a new one. We got extra."
Michelle, who was wearing blue jeans shorts and a light pink tank top, closed her book. "Sure, that would save me some money." She smiled at her neighbor. "Of course this means I have to do something nice for you, maybe you'll let me fix you some lunch later."
Bo grinned. "That'd be great. I can do dishes just fine, but I'm not real good at putting food on them. My sister says I could burn water."
The young woman grinned as she crossed her legs. "Well, I cook pretty well, I've just never had anyone to do it for. How do you feel about fried chicken?"
Bo smiled a little. "Ever met a Georgia boy who didn't like his fried chicken?" He glanced towards the General, then back to Michelle. "Maybe you'd like to ride over with me to the garage. You could meet my cousin."
Michelle looked at the General Lee, a large grin blooming on her lips. "Really? You'd take me for a ride?"
Bo looked puzzled. "Sure, why not?" They walked over to the car together and Bo showed her how the doors were welded shut. "You have to get in-" He stopped in mid sentence as Michelle hopped up and swung her legs in, neat as you please. She settled into the passenger seat and smiled up at him, and he shrugged. "Right. Like that." He rounded the car and hopped into the driver's seat, keying the ignition as he reached for his seatbelt with the other hand.
"This is a really great car, '69 Charger with a 440 engine, right?" Michelle put her seatbelt on and looked around at the tan interior. "I've seen this car in the parking lot lots of times but I wasn't sure who owned it."
"Well, I actually only own half. Luke owns the other half. He's got another car though, and mostly lets me drive the General now. He says it's too impractical to drive to town everyday." Bo ran his hand lightly over the dashboard. "Yeah, this old boy and me go back a long ways." He turned onto the road that would take them into the center of town, and noticed that Michelle was wearing some kind of perfume. It was light and flowery, and it was then that he realized he hadn't had a girl in his car in weeks, maybe even months.
Michelle was loving every minute, the General was just as she imagined it would be. The roar of the powerful engine only made her grin. "Wow Bo this is great. I dont suppose you would consider letting me drive it some time."
The thought of an ATF agent driving The General made Bo smile, and he shrugged a little. "Maybe . . . after you two get to know each other a little better." He teased, and then they were driving through the business area of Hazzard. He turned into the parking lot in front of a large white building that had two large bay doors that were both open. The sign above those doors read Dukes Custom Racing. Parts-Motors-Rebuilds. There was a large area out in back where dozens of wrecked racers sat, waiting to be rebuilt or pillaged for parts. A few young men were hanging around out front, and Bo grinned when he saw his sister's car in the lot next to Luke's. "Hey, my sister is here!" He got out of The General and went around to help Michelle, as getting out was trickier than climbing in.
"Guess that takes a little practice." Michelle smiled as Bo helped her out, then he groaned inwardly as he saw his sister Min emerge from one of the bay doors, smiling like she was about to read a book that she'd been waiting to get her hands on.
"Hey!" Min ran over to her brother and hugged him. "Long time no see Big Brother-o-mine." She kissed his cheek and gave him a wink. "It's good to see you out in the daylight." She turned to the young woman and stuck out her hand. "Hi, Min Duke."
"Michelle Greenwood. Nice you meet you." She turned to Bo and smiled. "Your brother has been nice enough to fix my car for me."
Bo nodded a little. "I came over for an alternator. Luke inside?"
Min had her hands on her hips, her fingers slipping into the back pockets of her jean shorts. "Yeah he's here, just got back from Atlanta. You know Luke, always has business to do."
"Right. Okay then, I'll be back in a second with that part, okay?" He asked Michelle, who nodded. Bo gave his sister a be-nice warning glare and ran inside, leaving the women alone. Michelle looked up at the sign over the bay doors and laughed a little. "I can't think of a better place for a racing shop than this close to Atlanta. They must do a good business."
Min nodded. "They do pretty good but it could be better, that's why my cousin is always going away on business. He said he wants their shop to live up to its potential."
"Does Luke do mechanics too, or is he on the business end of it?" Michelle asked in a polite tone, wondering if Bo was the talent behind the scenes. He had certainly known what was wrong with her car and what needed to be done in order to fix it.
"Bo is mostly the one that fixes and rebuilds. Luke is gone so much that it works out better that way." Min grinned and leaned in close to the young woman. "And besides, Bo has the better mechanic talent, but don't tell my cousin that."
Michelle laughed and shook her head. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me." She was about to ask something else when she saw Bo come out of the garage with a small square box in his hand. "Looks like he has what I need!" Min's eyes widened slightly at her comment, then saw the part her brother was carrying and put a hand to her mouth. Color bloomed in Michelles cheeks. "The part, I mean."
Min started laughing, she wanted to say that she thought that her brother just might have what the young woman needed and vice versa. "Yeah, he's got the part you need all right."
Michelle didn't miss Min's tone, but somehow it was all right. She found herself laughing right along with the other woman, and realized that she liked Bo's sister immensely. There was nothing mean or catty about her, she had the same honest, amusing personality as Bo. She crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her head to one side. "Maybe he does." She replied, and the two of them began laughing all over again. Bo looked puzzled as he came up to them and handed Michelle the box. "What's so funny?"
Min looked at her brother seriously, her laughter faded like smoke in the wind. "Oh we were just discussing your parts Big Brother." She turned her head towards Michelle and gave her a wink.
Bo's dark blue eyes went round. "My what?" He asked, incredulous, then saw the look in Min's eyes. He sighed and resisted the urge to boot her in the fanny. "Real mature, Min." He said, and turned to Michelle. "Luke's real busy with customers, but he says he'll meet you at the apartments real soon. Ready to go?"
Min crossed her arms over her chest. "You arent even going to say bye to me?" She pouted and looked down at the ground.
"I don't know, if I let you speak you might embarrass me again." Bo said in reproachful tone, then ruffled her hair. "See you later, Sis."
Min sighed as she fixed her slightly mussed hair. "Thanks a lot Corn Head. Just go before I kick your lanky behind all over the garage."
"You're the one who asked for the farewell." Bo teased as he slid into The General. Michelle waved at Min as he started up the engine. "Nice to meet you, Min!"
"Bye Michelle!" Min waved at the young woman as the General Lee backed out of the parking lot and drove away.
"She's nice." Michelle laughed as they got back onto the highway, and Bo rolled his eyes. "She can be, when she's not being obnoxious. Wait a few months, you'll see." He said, not even realizing that he'd given Michelle a clue that he was thinking about her in future terms. She smiled to herself and sat back in her seat as they headed back to the apartment complex.
Weeks went by. Bo got Michelle's car running, and she in turn made good on her promise of lunch. They began to see each other, casually at first, then Bo asked her out formally to a movie and dinner. They found that they made a good match, and after a month, were seeing each other exclusively. One spring night found them up on the bluff in The General, where Michelle was concerned about Bo's mood. He'd been quiet and contemplative all evening, and now she turned to look at him in the fading twilight.
"Okay Bo, what is wrong? You have been quiet and moody lately and I want to know why."
Bo stared out the windshield at the rising moon and felt the words on the tip of his tongue. I don't think I can see you anymore. A simple enough phrase, but they had been out for nearly two hours and he hadn't been able to tell her. He didn't even want to tell her that . . . but of course he had to. She would never understand. He glanced at her, and shook his head. "I'm sorry. It's nothing, really, sometimes I just get like this."
Michelle didnt buy that, not for one minute. She slid over to him and picked up his hand, she tugged at his wrist until he turned to face her. She put her arms around his neck. "It's not nothing, I can see it in your eyes. Please, tell me. She begged softly, and pressed his lips to his gently.
He smiled a little but turned his head, putting his hands on her shoulders. "Michelle, listen . . . I really like being with you, and we have fun together. When I think about my future, I see you in it, but . . . well, before I get that far there's some things I really need to think over. Can you accept that, for now?"
The young woman kissed Bo again, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. "I can accept that on one condition."
"There can't be any conditions. Just please, say you trust me."
Michelle moved her hands from around Bo's neck into his blond hair, she stroked it gently. "I do trust you Bo, and you should now that."
Bo nodded a little, feeling like the worst kind of coward. Oh, he could try and explain, try and tell her about Jesse's pain, the medications, the bills. Try to explain why. Sadly, he lacked both the courage and the strength to live that old horror over again, so he sighed and started up The General's engine. "Do you mind if I take you home, Michelle? I'm not feeling too good."
Michelle slid back over to the passenger side. The truth was she didnt want to go home already but at the same time she knew that Bo had something on his mind that for now she couldnt be a part of. "Okay, if you want to take me home that's fine."
He could tell it wasn't fine, but was glad she didn't argue or pout. He drove down the bluff in silence and headed back for Hazzard Heights, The General's high beams cutting through the darkness. He dropped her off ten minutes later with a good-night kiss and another apology, which she accepted with a nod. Bo watched her go inside, then he put the tranny into reverse and backed out again. Moments later he was heading down Route two, out of town, to where no one would ever expect to find him.
God, it looks haunted.
Those were Bo Duke's first thoughts as he pulled into the complete darkness of his Uncle Jesse's front yard, the headlights splashing across the porch. No one lived here anymore, and the family had decided soon after Jesse's death not to rent it out. So the house sat silently in the dark, as if it too were grieving for its owner. Bo slipped out of The General and walked across the lawn to the old barn, which had once been home to chickens and geese and Maudine the mule. All the animals were gone too, either dead or sold off months ago. The property still belonged to the family though, and no one else ever came here. Daisy had left for California with Enos soon after Jesse's funeral, and Luke was too busy running their business to worry much about the old place. They had left it to Bo to look in on it once a month or so . . . which suited the youngest member of the Duke family just fine. In fact, it was perfect.
He tugged on the sliding barn door and it rattled open easily. He'd been oiling the runners to make sure they didn't make a lot of noise. Of course there was no one out here to hear it, but he couldn't be too careful. He took a deep breath, and turned on the overhead light.
It sat in the middle of the deserted barn, its jet black paint job brooding in the dim light. It had a high-stepping 440 engine but only when you needed it. Otherwise she was whisper quiet, unassuming . . . and had more hiding places than a boy's clubhouse. She was a runner, and her false trunk had enough room for over fifty jugs of moonshine. Behind the car sat a still which was not in use at the moment, but only because Bo had just finished running off a batch, and was ready for his next run.
How could I have explained this to her? Bo asked himself softly as he went over to where better than fifty jugs of shine were boxed and ready to be loaded. He ran his finger along the side of his runner and shook his head. No. Michelle was an ATF agent first and his girlfriend second. Explanation or not, she would have little choice but to arrest him.
Despite his uncles pact with the government and his own promises, Bo had begun to make and run moonshine a month after Jesses death. His uncles cancer had been a slow and ugly thing that had eaten up the familys finances as well as Jesses health. Doctor visits, medications and several rounds of chemotherapy quickly added up to thousands of dollars in debt. Medicare had paid for some things, of course, and the people in town had given the family some donations, but after all was said and done, the cancer cost Jesse his life . . . and the treatment to try and save him came to just under twenty-six thousand dollars.
Bo had been frightened by the amount. He and Luke had their business, and Daisy had just opened a dress shop out in Los Angeles. Not wanting to see his family drown in debt, Bo had gone to some of his uncles old contacts and had quietly made several deals. With no one living at the farm anymore it was easy, and the question of where the money was coming from was even easier, thanks to Daisys move to California. Bo had written her a letter saying that he and Luke were making good money and would be able to cover Jesses debt. She had offered to help of course, but Bo had pointed out that it was the way of things that the men in the family settled matters of money. Shed backed down in the end, and Bo felt like the worst kind of ghoul, taking advantage of her grief. After that, it was easy for him to write a letter and sign Daisys name, saying that her dress shop had taken off and that she was handling Jesses bills.
Luke, busy with the new business, never really bothered to pick up the phone and speak with her since it had been money from his and Bos business that had paid for the funeral. Never really knowing how huge the debt was, Luke simply assumed she was tying up some small loose financial ends and that would be the last of this horrible business.
As for Min, she argued with her brother about the debt being the responsibility of the men in the family and that Jesse had been her uncle too, if not for a shorter time. She had a stubborn nature, and in the end Bo had had little choice but to take her aside and tell her to butt out unless she wanted a large family quarrel on her hands, and who needed that after all the grief they'd been through? Min had finally agreed, and Bo had made sure to tell her not to mention it to Daisy either, because he knew they spoke often.
In the meantime, Bo quietly intercepted all of the bills and paperwork and had made a deal with Jesses debtors. He brewed shine, made runs, and all of the money from those runs went to monthly payments which would go on until the debt was paid. Things had been this way for nearly seven months, and Bo figured that two more runs would be enough to pay things off. It hurt him to lie to his family and to Michelle, but Bo knew he would rather die than to see his familys good name die an ugly death, like his Uncle Jesse had.
"Just one or two more runs." Bo sighed as he started to load the boxes into the runner's false trunk. "After that, it'll all be over."
ATF Agent Paul Brody was in his early forties, heavy, and wore a world-weary expression that told everyone he'd seen it all. He'd been an agent for nearly twenty-five years now, although a gunshot wound to his upper thigh seven years ago had put him behind a desk permanently. Now he was head of the ATF office in Sweetwater with five agents under his supervision. This fine morning found him sitting behind his desk with a hot cup of coffee and a newspaper, contemplating a plate of bear claws that his secretary had left sitting near the coffee machine. He was just getting out of his chair when Michelle Greenwood poked her head through his half open office door.
Morning. Her boss looked up from his newspaper. He smiled and waved his hand at her, giving her permission to come in.
The young woman had come to work that morning dressed in a short black skirt and a white top. Her black heels clacked against the tile floor as she walked into her Supervisor's office. Any idea whats going on down in the holding area?
Brody sat back down and folded up his paper, using it as a coaster for his coffee cup. The cup was oversized and was emblazoned with the proclamation: World's Greatest Dad. "Petersen brought in a runner early this morning. They got him down there for a search, and I reckon the boy's not too crazy about it. He's been making quite a racket."
Michelle folded her arms across her chest and scowled. She despised her fellow agent Harry Peterson, in her opinion he was the wrong sort of man to carry a badge. "Oh great. What did he do, stumble over the runner while he was on a donut run?"
Brody grinned and sipped his coffee. "Can't really say. All I know is that Petersen caught him up on a mountain road about six this morning with a trunk load of high quality shine."
Uh huh, he probably got lucky, you and I both know Peterson has no real skill when it comes to law enforcement.
"Be that as it may, they got enough evidence to put this kid away for a long time." Brody shook his head. "Wait till you see this catch, Greenwood. Doesn't even look like he's old enough to shave. They'll be bringing him back for interrogation in a few minutes."
Michelle shook her head. "Oh joy, can hardly wait to see him strut in here like he is King of the Mountain."
Brody finished up his coffee. "Attitude check, Greenwood. Petersen might be lazy at times, but he's tougher than old leather and has ten years of experience on you." The big man heaved himself up out of his swivel chair and headed for the door that led out to the main offices. As he and Michelle entered the room, the door that led to the hall banged open. Harry Petersen stood there in his uniform and a ridiculous brown Stetson, his bulk filling the doorway. He snorted like a mad bull and hooked his thumbs into his belt, which was topped off with a huge silver buckle shaped like the state of Georgia.
"Jesus Christ, Brody, look at this piece of work!" He barked, and dragged his prisoner in behind him. The boy's head was down, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. Petersen shoved him roughly into a nearby chair. "Little punk won't admit to shit, even though I caught him with the goods!"
The prisoner Petersen was mishandling lifted his head and shook his blond hair out of his face. Michelle recognized who it was and the young woman's face blanched as her jaw hit the ground. It was her neighbor and boyfriend, Bo Duke. She also noticed he had a black eye.
"And just what happened to him you tub of lard? And dont give me that old song and dance about him conveniently falling out of your car!"
Petersen grinned a little. "Okay, so maybe he fell getting into my car."
Michelle walked over to the rather large man and raised her knee. She brought her high heel down on top of his foot. "Oops, look like your foot accidentally slammed against my heel!" She turned and looked at her boss. "And I suppose you are going to let him get away with this?"
Brody ran a hand through his thinning brown hair. "Youre a good agent, Greenwood, but your attitude stinks. Petersen here caught the kid with over fifty jugs of shine! Do the crime, do the time. That's our motto."
Michelle crossed her arms over her chest, knew that her boss is right. She sighed and looked at the prisoner. "Can I see him alone for a second?"
Petersen snorted in an expression of amusement and rocked back on his heels. "Last time I checked, Greenwood, you didn't have anything to do with this bust. Now butt out. Besides, this kid knows exactly what kind of hard evidence I got on him." Petersen leaned over and tipped Bo's head back with one thick finger. "Don't you, boy?"
Michelle suddenly grinned and raised her hand. "Umm excuse me but where did you bust him Petersen?"
"Not that it's any of your business, missy, but I got him on that breakneck curve coming down Razorback mountain near the county line."
The young woman's face bloomed into a rather smug expression, she lifted her head proudly. "I say that makes it my business Petersen." She sat down on the grey metal table next to Bo's chair and crossed her legs. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
The big man rolled his eyes. "Girl, the fact that Hazzard is your jurisdiction doesn't have squat to do with the fact that I was the one who caught him with the goods. Any good agent would have done the same thing." His eyes turned up to the ceiling and he tipped his head to one side. "Besides . . . it's not like you was there to do the arresting. Maybe if you hadn't had to take the time to curl your hair and do your nails, you could've been there to make the arrest."
"Oh, Christ." Brody groaned when he saw Greenwood's eyes blaze with anger, and he quietly slipped back into his office.
Michelle got down from the table, she took one step closer to the rather rotund man. "Oh is that so? Well fine, go ahead and take him but if you do I swear I will tell every newspaper in this area all about your brutality."
"You can't prove shit." Petersen laughed, and the laugh turned into a wheeze. "You're just pissed off because I made the arrest and you missed out on making the six o' clock news."
Michelle was scowling as she gently touched Bo's face, she was looking down at it. "Let's see, he has a black eye and a few small marks on his cheeks." She walked around the chair and looked down at his cuffed hands. She touched his wrists. "And his wrists are scrapped, raw and bleeding. Obviously he was struck while in cuffs, which as we all know is a big no no. The ATF frowns on that sort of thing and will most certainly take away your badge Petersen." She went back and stood before him. "I can prove brutality, and when I do your fat too many donut eating ass will be canned." She smiled sweetly at him. "And that will be a very good day for me when they do."
Petersen's rheumy brown eyes looked her up and down. "And it'll be a good day for me when the ATF quits hiring women and they can go back in the kitchen or the whorehouse where they belong." His lips turned up slightly at the corners. "Whichever the case may be."
The blond woman only narrowed her eyes at him and made a tisking sound as she shook her head. "Poor Plump Petersen, still stuck in the Dark Ages." She patted his face gently. "Dont worry Darling, one day you will evolve." She leaned back against the table and crossed her arms over her chest. "Why don't you go get yourself a bear claw and let me speak to my prisoner?"
Petersen growled as he headed for the door. Before leaving, he turned back to her. "This isn't over, Greenwood. I'll take this all the way to the Atlanta office if I have to, and I'll be sure to tell them about how you assaulted me. So get ready." He left the room and slammed the door so hard that the wooden blinds crashed against the glass.
The echo of the slamming door faded, and a long silence followed in its wake. Michelle stood in front of Bo, waiting for him to speak, or at least to raise his head. He sat still, like a bruised statue, and finally Michelle reached out and cupped his chin. He jerked away, and she frowned.
"Bo, please. Don't do that, I'm here to help you and I need you to tell me what happened so I can." She reached out and gently touched his chin again and lifted it. "Please?"
"I know my rights. I don't have to tell anyone anything."
Michelle sighed, she nodded her head slightly. "As my prisoner, no you don't." She stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. "But as my boyfriend dont you think you owe me an explanation? Even a small one?"
"Not without a lawyer present." Bo replied stiffly, and glanced out the window. He could see his runner imprisoned on a tow truck across the street. It's the end of everything, he thought randomly, and his cuffed hands clenched into fists. He had to turn Michelle away, for both his good and for hers. He looked up, his dark blue eyes intense. "You don't know me. You never did."
Michelle shook her head slowly. "I can't do that Bo, I just can't walk away and pretend you mean nothing to me."
"What are you going to do then?" Bo asked in a hollow voice, not looking at her. "Wait for me? Spend every Sunday up at Atlanta Correctional, watching me grow older, knowing I won't see daylight until I'm fifty?"
"Bo that's not true, you won't go away until your fifty if you tell me what happened. I'll do whatever I can to help you but you have to be honest with me." She put both hands on his face. "Please, let me help you."
Bo laughed, but it was a tired, bewildered sound. "If I tell you what happened, I will go to jail. You're ATF, and from what you said, I'm your prisoner."
"Not anymore." Brody interrupted as he came out of his office and motioned Michelle to him. "Greenwood. I need to see you. Now."
Michelle closed hers eyes briefly and swallowed hard. "He went to the Commissioner, didnt he?"
Brody led Michelle into his office and closed the door partway. "Damn right he did, and with a good case too. He made the bust in your territory, but you were off duty, so technically that area was free space at the time. He also claims that you assaulted him when he first brought the prisoner in here. Didn't it occur to you as you were grinding your high heel into his foot that it might come back to bite you in the ass?"
Michelle nodded her head and raised an eyebrow. "Well in that case I would like Petersen brought up on sexual harassment charges. As my supervisor I am making my statement to you first before I go to the Commissioner." Her face was deadly serious, as she glared at Brody.
Brody rolled his eyes and glanced at the top drawer of his desk, hoping the bottle of Maalox he kept there was at least half full. He'd need it before this morning was over. "So you both have a case. Great, fine. Tie it up for so long that everyone forgets what the case is really about." He griped, and handed Michelle a manila folder. "This is your new assignment. I'm putting you on the Taylor job. I want you to assist Agent Donner in gathering evidence and putting together a court case."
Michelle snatched the folder from his hands. "I'm sorry Paul but if he's going to get stupid with me I can get stupid with him right back!"
"I think everyone's getting a little stupid today." Brody replied, and glanced out at the kid Petersen had brought in. He hadn't moved a muscle. "You're off that runner job, Greenwood, and I don't want to hear anymore about it. It's Petersen's problem now, and if I hear that you're causing him any trouble, I'll have you down in the mailroom licking stamps! Is that clear, Agent?"
Michelle's jaw clenched as she reluctantly nodded. She turned and started to leave his office. Before she got the door she turned and faced him once again. "But do me a favor Paul?"
"What's that, Greenwood?" Brody replied, not looking up as he opened the top drawer of his desk.
"If you don't want anymore trouble between us, you keep that fat tub of lard out of my hair and off my back." She glanced at Bo and sighed. "And make sure that doesn't beat that prisoner anymore or I will see the Commissioner about his repeated abuse to prisoners." Her eyes turned to look at her Supervisor. "I got a whole desk full of Polaroids to back me up."
Brody nodded and dismissed her with a wave of his hand. After she left, he sat down heavily and unscrewed the cap from his bottle of Maalox. "Goddamned kindergarten cops." He muttered, and took a long swig of the antacid.
Luke hung up the phone with a hand that felt as if it had been shot full of Novocain and stared out the window that faced the street where his business stood. Min was out there, laughing with the group of men that often came over just to see what Bo and Luke had up on the lifts. He stood up, and envisioned how she would react if he walked up to her and said, "Min, Bo has been arrested for running moonshine." He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. He knew he had to tell her, and he also knew that no matter how he told her, she wasn't going to take it well. He braced himself for a Miranda Duke-style tantrum, and walked outside to where she stood.
Min heard the sound of her cousin's boots on the cement as he walked out the door. She turned around and faced him. As soon as her eyes met his face and saw the look on it, something inside her went off. She felt her stomach start to complain. She put her hand to it and swallowed hard. "You have bad news, don't you?"
Luke made a small sound that was somewhere between a cough and a groan. "Yeah, bad news. That's putting it mildly."
Min gave her cousin a sidelong glance. "What did Bo do?"
Luke shrugged several times before he spoke, as if he didn't believe the words he was about to say. "According to the officer I spoke with, he was caught running moonshine up on Razorback Mountain this morning."
Both of Min's dark eyebrows went up. She shook her head as though she hadn't heard her cousin right. She looked into Luke's cool blue eyes and saw the truth reflecting in them. She sighed and closed her eyes briefly. "Oh God."
Luke nodded and looked out towards the hills where his cousin had allegedly been caught. "It has to be a frame up or something, Min. Bo isn't running shine, you and would've known! I mean . . . something like that is hard to keep a secret."
Min wiped her hand across her eyes. The first thing that came into her mind was how hard their Uncle's death had been on Bo. "I don't know Luke, you and I both know Bo hasn't been the same since Jesse died. Maybe we didn't see it because we didn't want to."
"No." Luke stated flatly, the word full of conviction. "Not Bo, and not without me knowing about it."
"Come on Cousin, you are gone a lot on business and dont you even stand there and tell me Im wrong. You are away from home more often than not. Bo has spent a lot of time alone and you know that."
"That doesn't have anything to do with it! He wouldn't have done this without coming to me . . . I don't think he did it all! How come you already think he's guilty without even having talked to him?"
Min covered her face with her hands. "I'm not saying he's guilty Luke..." She uncovered her face and sighed. "I'm just saying they might not be wrong. And there is only one way to find out. Let's go down there and get the story straight from the horse's mouth."
"You mean let's go down there and see what kind of trumped-up charges they have on my cousin!" Luke closed the bay doors of the garage and put a CLOSED sign on the office door. "Come on, before something accidentally happens to him over there. From what Uncle Jesse told me, lots of 'accidents' used to happen to runners that were in ATF custody."
Min touched her back pocket to make sure her wallet was there. She felt the lump of it against her fingers. "All right, let's take Darlin'." She took the keys out and handed them to her cousin.
Paul Brody gritted his teeth and heard his pulse with every dull thud of his head as it ached ferociously without letup. He looked up into the blazing blue eyes of the tall, brawny man that stood in front of his desk and wished wildly for this day to end. He pictured himself home in his easy chair, his feet up, the TV tuned to ESPN. However, the man in his office didn't care about ESPN, the weather, or his headache. This was apparent, because he kept shouting. Now, as Brody opened his desk drawer to search for an aspirin, the big man shouted again. "I don't want to hear any crap about department policy! I know my rights and I know my cousin's rights! Now where is he?"
Brody chugged the aspirin dry and grimaced at the taste as well as the volume of the man's voice. "I told you, the agent who arrested your cousin will be up in a moment to speak with you. Please Mr. Duke, calm down."
Min was just as angry as her cousin. Her pretty face was scowling deeply. She was standing in front of Brody's desk and she leaned over it and looked at him. "We'll be calm when we see my brother and not a moment before that!" She looked the man behind the desk over carefully. "Answer me one question Mr. Brody."
"Agent Petersen will answer your questions, Ms. Duke." Brody replied tiredly, his chair squeaking loudly as he leaned his bulk back into it.
Min turned and glanced at her cousin. "You're right Luke, a lot of strange things happen in ATF offices."
The outer door to the office slammed open, and Luke turned to see a tall yet overweight agent step into the room. He wondered briefly how the man managed to fit into his cruiser, then bit down on the giggles that threatened to bubble up out of him. Then the big man's eyes swept them with an arrogant and slightly disgusted expression, and Luke's anger returned. He all but charged the agent. "Hey! Are you Agent Petersen?"
"Yeah I'm Petersen." His annoyed expression didn't change as he scanned Luke over. "What do you want? I'm a very busy man."
"We'd like to see our cousin! Bo Duke? You brought him in this morning on some trumped-up moonshine charge?" Luke questioned with an edge to his voice.
Petersen's expression changed from annoyed to amused. His fat round face grew even wider as he smiled. "Oh so you must be the kin of that scared whelp I got over in the Courthouse. It ain't no trumped up charge. I got him holding the bag."
"The Dukes don't run shine anymore. Our uncle made a pact with the U.S. government." Luke replied.
Min was listening to all this, a scowl on her face. "My cousin is right Mr. Petersen. We don't run shine anymore."
The ATF agent took his Stetson off of his head and ran his hand down his face. He was tired of arguing about this. He felt his temper slip through his fingers. "Look, I don't give a cat's butt about what pact you made with the US Gov't. That boy got caught with 50 jugs of shine in a fake panel in his trunk. He's going down, I'm going to see to it he gets 2 years for breaking his probation."
Min gasped aloud, and Luke's fingers curled into fists. "I want to see the proof. Hear me? Not your word, not your version of what happened. I want to see the car, and I want to see the shine." He said in deceptively soft tone that belied his barely controlled fury.
Petersen narrowed his eyes. "You want to see it? Fine, let's go see it! Maybe if you see the proof for yourself you'll believe your innocent little angel cousin has a tarnished halo!" He got the keys to the impound yard out of his pants pocket. He turned back and looked at Min and Luke. "Well? Let's go! Come on!"
The two young people followed Agent Petersen down to the impound lot where he took them over to a pitch-black Chrysler that was still up on a towing chain. Luke swallowed hard, he knew a runner when he saw one. Petersen yelled at the tow man to bring the car down, and opened the trunk. The jugs of shine were still there. The agent grinned and gestured to the evidence like a game show host showing the grand prize.
"Is this proof enough for the two of you?" Petersen patted on the side of the runner. His head was held high, and his nose was so high in the air that the two cousins wondered if a bird might mistake it for a nest and try to land on it.
The glass jugs were shining in the sun and their glare made Min turn her head away from them. She shook her head slowly and wiped her hand across her eyes. She had been hoping and praying that all of this was some dreadful mistake. Obviously it was no mistake and the reality that it wasn't was sitting right in front of her, gleaming in the sun. "Oh God Luke."
Luke glared at her in defiance and anger as he grabbed one of the jugs and popped the cork stopper off of it. He tipped it back, sipped . . . and all of his anger left him. His eyes widened and he set the jug down gingerly. The shine was smoother than velvet, and only two people on the planet knew how to brew it this way. One of those people was himself, and the other was Bo. Their Uncle Jesse had taught them both the whiskey craft when they were very young. He stared at the ground, and Petersen grinned.
"Believe me now Boy? Your cousin is guilty as hell. I hope you two can afford a good lawyer. He's going to need one."
Luke had run out of words. The whiskey was undeniably Duke whiskey. Even if the runner wasn't Bo's, the shine was. He looked up at Min, his expression stricken.
Min too was pained by all this. She reached down and took her cousin's hand. "Don't worry Luke, we'll go talk to the Public Defender. Maybe he can help us get Bo out of this." She looked at the ATF agent, her jaw clenching. "Can we see my brother or not?"
"Courthouse is over yonder." Petersen pointed at the brown building across the street, then headed for the back door of the ATF offices again. He vanished into the stairwell without a word, and Luke shook his head helplessly. "Min, that's Jesse's recipe. Bo and I are the only ones left who know it, what are we going to do?"
"All we can do is go talk to Bo and find out the whole story. Then we'll go try the PD and see what kind of trouble he's really in." The two cousins started across the busy street pausing momentarily to let a car go by. "What I dont understand Luke is why. Why is Bo running shine?"
"I honestly don't know." Luke shrugged, then turned to her. "Why didn't you? I mean, don't your powers tell you things about people?"
Min shook her head. "Luke my powers aren't automatic. I have to turn them on in order to get a feel for things and people. If I don't have a reason to do that I am just as clueless as you."
"Great." Luke mumbled as they reached the courthouse. Min gazed up at the building, her expression hard and flinty. "Come on Luke, let's go get some answers."
Bo stared out the kitchen window of his uncle's farmhouse, his gaze locked on the barn some twenty yards away. The sliding door was open, but sealed off with police tape. The ATF boys had come that morning and taken everything . . . the still, empty jugs, copper tubing, other stuff. Luke and Min had posted bail for him a few hours ago and now they circled him like hungry coyotes as he sat at the kitchen table and pondered his uncertain future. Luke had been yelling for the better part of an hour, and now it looked like he was gearing up for another round.
The dark haired man stopped his circling and ran his fingers through his hair. Bo simply sat there, his eyes peering outside. He hardly acknowledged his cousins words. This only frustrated Luke more, and he quickly walked around the table and stood beside Bo. He wrapped his hands around Bos shirt and hauled him out of the chair.
Do you have any idea what could happen to you? The two cousins were nose to nose. Jesses probably spinning his grave!
Bo's dark blue eyes sparked and he slapped Luke's hands away from his shirtfront. "Let go of me!" He smoothed the wrinkled fabric with a swipe of his hand and glared at Luke. "You don't know half as much as you think you do, cousin! Besides, what would you know about Jesse's grave? You haven't been up to the cemetery since the funeral!"
Luke was taken aback by his cousin's sudden display of temper. He was glaring at him as he wiped his hand across his mouth. "And just how do you know that Bo?" His blue eyes were deadly serious but there was a slight tinge of pain behind them. "I dont know half as much? Well neither do you! Do you think you're the only one that lost Jesse?"
"I'm the only one who seems to remember him!" Bo sat back down in the chair and rubbed his face with both hands. "It doesn't matter, anyway." He said, his voice muffled by the palms of his hands. "I got caught, and I'm going to do some time."
Min had finally heard enough and she stepped in between her brother and her cousin. "All right, let's just settle down for a minute now." She patted Luke on the back. Her cousin had crossed his arms over his chest, his hand covering his mouth. Bo sat back down, she put her other hand on his left shoulder and squeezed it. "You both are just angry and upset. Jesse's death has been a bad time for all of us." Min stood behind her brother, she now had both hands on his shoulders. "Bo, we need you to tell us why you have been doing this." She spoke to him a calm gentle voice.
Bo gave a brief, explosive laugh that contained not one ounce of humor. "Oh sure! It's just that simple, Min!" Bo looked over at the barn again and shook his head. "It doesn't matter why I did it. It matters that I got caught doing it." He got up out of his chair. "I know that y'all think I'm a fool, and maybe I am. But the fact is, I did it for Uncle Jesse and that's all I can tell you."
Min turned her brother around. "That's not good enough Bo. You wouldn't be doing this without a damn good reason. We all know Jesse didn't cotton to shine running no matter the circumstances." She backed off a step when she saw the flash of fear in his dark blue eyes. "Now you stand there and tell us the reason." She swallowed hard. "Or I'll find out on my own."
"Uncle Jesse always said that the only thing we Dukes had left was family, Min. You say he would never have gone back on his word to the government about running shine, and you're probably right." Bo's face was set and determined as he spoke. "But I never made no promise. It was Uncle Jesse's promise, and that's why I was doing what I did." Tears came to his eyes. "The cancer took everything away from him, Min . . . but one thing I couldn't let it take was his good name."
Luke creased his brow at his cousin's words. "His good name?" He put his hands on his hips and glanced at Min. Her expression gave no answers. "What do you mean by that Bo? What you just said tells us nothing."
Bo felt his neck and face heat up with a guilty blush. "If I tell you, your fist is going to meet my chin before the last word even gets out of my mouth."
Luke's face became passive. "Cousin, if it hasn't already, chances are it's not going to happen now. Go ahead and tell us."
Bo hung his head, suddenly feeling like the fool his Uncle Jesse had often accused him of being. "I . . . I was running shine to pay off Uncle Jesse's chemotherapy and medication bills. I hid them from you, Min and Daisy, and I lied to you all." He gestured helplessly. "I'm sorry-" Speaking became too much of an effort then, so Bo traded words for action. He turned and slammed out the front door and then took off running across the lawn.
Min took two running steps before Luke caught her by the elbow. He shook his head sadly, suddenly looking older than his years. "Let him go, Min. He's not going very far." Luke looked beyond the barn to the rise just past it, the rise they used to call Lookout Hill. It rose steeply and ended at the iron fence at the back of the Hilltop Cemetery. He Bo and Daisy used to dare each other to climb up there and touch the fence, then they would roll down the grassy slope like the silly kids they were. God, how long ago was that? Ten years ago? Fifteen? Luke sighed and put his arm around Min's shoulders. "Come on. Let's go."
The two cousins were standing at the fence of the Hilltop Cemetery looking at the rows of stone that stretched out before them. Min sighed as she put her hands on the top of it and started climbing over it. She easily made it over and turned back, expecting Luke to follow. To her surprise, he wasn't climbing. "Arent you coming?"
Luke gave her a strangely vulnerable look and shrugged a little. "Bo was telling the truth. I haven't been here since the funeral. You go on ahead, I'll be there in a few minutes. Besides, he always gets mad at me when I can tell he's been crying."
Min nodded as she started walking among the small stones. Jesse's grave was in the newer section, his stone was the last one on the third row. She stumbled a little as her loafer caught a gopher hole. She managed to catch herself before she fell, but her ankle got a little twisted in the process. Stupid gopher hole... She reached down and rubbed her ankle a little as she made it to the third row. She saw her brother's white t-shirt, and the sight of him quickly made her forget all about her ankle.
Bo was kneeling in front of her Uncle's grave. He was leaning forward, his forehead touching the top of the stone. His arms were around it, giving it a partial hug. She could hear him sobbing and the sound of her brother's despair squeezed her heart. "Bo..." She felt a big lump form in her throat as she went to him. She touched her hands to his back and rubbed it gently.
Bo looked up at her, his face stained with tears and his eyes like that of a frightened child. He sat back on the ground and drew his knees up, rocking back and forth. "Uncle Jesse was right!" He gulped. "I'm a damned fool!"
Min shook her head slowly as she wiped his face gently. "No Baby... you aren't a fool." She knelt down in front of him and touched his knees. "You were just trying to spare us all of us." She reached out and smoothed his blond hair back away from his face. "Werent you?"
"I thought I was." Bo sniffed, and wiped his eyes with his shirtsleeve. "But when I got here and looked at Uncle Jesse's stone I realized that all I'd been doing is lying and sneaking around. You and Luke ought to let them send me up the river."
"No, we're not going to let them crucify you because you were running shine to pay off Jesse's medical bills." She looked over her shoulder and saw Luke standing back a ways. He was within ear shot of everything. "Are we Luke?"
"No, of course not." Luke replied, and walked over to them. He glanced at his uncle's gravestone, then looked away hurriedly. "Course, I ought to tan your hide for lying to us. What about Daisy? Did you lie to her, too?" Luke asked, and Bo nodded miserably. "I made you both think that the other was taking care of everything. It was easy, what with Daisy being so far away."
"Bo . . " Luke sighed, looking angry, but then the hangdog expression on his cousin's face made him think twice about scolding him. "Never mind. What we need to do now is figure out how we're going to keep you out of jail."
Min nodded her head. "Well I think the first thing we have to do is talk to the Public Defender."
Bo looked up at them anxiously. "Maybe I could just run away. Go and stay with Daisy for awhile. I doubt they'd bother to chase me all the way to California."
Luke chuckled. "Forget it, cousin. Once Daisy finds out what you've done, you'd probably prefer prison over what she'd do to you."
Min couldnt help but smile at her cousin's statement. He was right, Daisy would tear her brother limb from limb if she had known that he had lied to her and had started running shine again. "You arent going to run Bo. That would only make things worse for you."
Bo sighed and stood up, brushing dirt and leaves from his jeans. "I don't think things can get much worse than this, Min." He took a deep breath and looked at them both. "At least I hope they can't."
Luke put an arm around Bo's shoulders. "I hope you're right, Bo. Come on, we've got some calls to make."
Bo watched Luke pace the kitchen in their apartment with the phone in his hand. He was clutching the receiver so tightly that his knuckles were white. They had come back here a little over an hour ago, because the phone at their uncle's farm had been turned off. Min sat at the kitchen table as well, her eyes worried as she listened to Luke's agitated tone.
"Five years? Are you sure?" A pause, then Luke scowled. "Well if that's the best you can do, maybe we'd better hire our own lawyer." Another pause, then Luke sighed. "All right. Call us back when you hear. Okay. Thanks." Luke turned and slammed the receiver back into its cradle. "Damn it!"
Min jumped at the loud clanging sound. "I take it that the Public Defender wasn't very helpful?"
"About as helpful as a screen door in a submarine!" Luke growled, and Bo smiled a little. Their uncle used to use that expression about broken machinery as well as the public officials in Hazzard.
"What did he say?" He asked Luke, who sighed and sat down at the table. "He said that the best deal we're going to get is five years maximum, two years minimum."
Min leaned against the table, her hands covering her eyes. "Oh God. And that's if Bo agrees to plead guilty right?"
"Right." Luke replied softly, and looked over at Bo. Suddenly his blue eyes flashed with frustration. "Didn't you even think about the fact that you were on probation?"
Bo flinched back, then frowned. "So I'm an idiot! Maybe I can have that printed on the back of my prison uniform so everyone will know!"
Min uncovered her eyes and put her arms out. "All right, that's enough. Bickering amongst ourselves isn't going to solve anything." She looked at her brother. "Well then I guess the only thing to do is take our chances with the court. Don't plead guilty Bo."
"But Min, what about all the evidence the ATF has?" Bo asked, thinking about how they had towed away his runner and the jugs of shine.
"We have no other choice Bo. If you plead guilty they'll take what they have against you and that's it. If you don't you'll get your chance to tell your side of the story."
"But . . . " Bo's sense of morality fought with his sense of self-preservation, and he sighed. "How can I deny what happened, Min? I can't lie under oath and say I wasn't running, 'cos I was!"
Min shook her head. "No Bo, that's not what you'll be doing. You'll only be asking them to show their proof to the judge and the jury. They're going to paint this image of you being a greedy guy that did the running for the money and that's all. Then you'll go up there, put your hand on the Bible and tell the truth. You did what you did for the sake of bills and our family name."
"Do you think that will excuse what I did?" Bo asked, and Luke put a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll tell you one thing, cousin . . . when you told us, what you did made perfect sense to me. To Min too, probably."
Min reached across the table and touched her brother's hand. "You had no choice Bo. None of us has the kind of money that was needed to settle Jesse's medical bills. The bank would probably have taken the farm away if you hadnt made those runs. Am I right?"
Bo nodded a little, then looked up at Luke. "When's the hearing?"
Luke sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "9 am tomorrow morning at the Courthouse. The Public Defender said the trail will probably start within a few days."
The day of the trial was unusually hot for April. People sat in the courtroom under the lazily spinning ceiling fans as they listened to the prosecution give the evidence against Bo. They presented the runner, the shine and the still as evidence, and listened to Agent Petersen's testimony as well. Bo sat at the defendant's table, looking pale and drawn. Luke and Min sat with him looking just as gloomy. As the prosecution finished up, Bo leaned over and whispered to Min. "That's it . . . I'm dead."
Min swallowed hard as she put her hand on her brother's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "It's not over yet Bo; no one's heard what you have to say."
"Have you been listening to this guy? If I were on that jury I'd send me up the river!"
"Yes I heard him, but I also know that you didnt do it for the money or the thrill. That's what the prosecution has made everyone on the jury think. You're going to go up there and set them straight."
"He also made very sure to remind them all that I was already on probation. I'm not sure if anything I say will make them believe me." Bo sighed, and pulled at the collar of his new white shirt. It was stiff and itchy.
Min lightly slapped his hand. "Stop that, leave the shirt alone." She sighed as she wiped her hand down her face. "That may be true but everyone in this town knew and loved Jesse as much as we did. Remember what he always said, tell the truth and you'll be believed." She gave his shoulder another squeeze. "You didnt do anything wrong Bo."
"Tell the jury that." Bo mumbled crossly, and then the short, stocky little man who was the prosecutor was saying 'the prosecution rests.' The judge, a huge, broad shouldered man with iron-gray hair who looked like would be more at home on a football field than behind the bench, nodded. "Defense, call your next witness."
"I call Bo Duke to the stand." Marc Saunders, the young defense attorney, shuffled some papers as Bo made his way to the stand. Saunders smiled and turned partially to the jury
Marc rose from his chair slowly, feeling the dozen eyes of the jury watching him as he walked around the table and stood in front of it. He adjusted his medium grey suit and cleared his throat. He was a tall, a little over 6 feet with a thin build. He had thinning brown hair and round glasses. He saw his client sitting in the chair beside the judge.
"Bo, I want you to look at all of these people in this jury box.
Bo turned his head and looked at the twelve people staring at him. They were people brought from Atlanta, people he didn't know and who didn't know him.
Saunders cleared his throat as he folded his hands in front of him. "I want you in your own words, to tell these 12 people exactly why you were running shine."
"My own words?" Bo asked, and Saunders nodded. Bo glanced at his kin, who also nodded encouragingly. "Uh . . . well, okay." He forced his hands to fold in front of him on the stand and cleared his throat. "My Uncle Jesse raised me and my two cousins from the time when we was babies. I never knew any other father than him. Then, last year, he got cancer. His treatments were real expensive, and Medicaid didn't cover everything. So . . . after he died and the bills came to over twenty-six thousand dollars, I . . . well, I didn't know what else to do. We would've lost our land, which I couldn't bear to have happen after losing Uncle Jesse." Bo swallowed hard and blinked back tears. "Running shine was the only way to pay off the medical bills."
Saunders nodded his head as he folded his arms over his chest. "I see... and not one penny of that money was for you or your family was it?" He looked over every face of the jury. "You used it to pay off those huge medical bills, correct?"
Bo nodded a little. "That's right. Luke and me, uh . . . that's my cousin, we had just started up a business in town with a little money we'd saved. We would've lost that too, and my other cousin Daisy, she's in California, she has a small dress shop as well. We . . . we had too much to lose. So I made a deal with the hospitals and medical companies. I promised I'd give them so much a month until the debt was paid."
Marc nodded as he started walking around in the area in front of his table and the jury box. "Why didnt you simply use the money from your businesses?"
Bo hung his head, ashamed to admit it in front of the people who sat in the benches behind the counselors' desks, people who knew the Dukes were honest to a fault. His neighbors and friends. "Because . . . because my cousins and sister didn't even know what I was doing. I lied to them all. Luke thought Daisy was paying the bills, Daisy thought Luke was."
Marc walked up to the witness box and stood beside it so the jury could still see the young man clearly. "Bo, why did you do that? Why did you keep all of that from your family?" He spoke in a gentle voice as he put his hand on his client's shoulder.
Bo's throat ached so badly with tears it felt like he had swallowed a fence post. "They . . . they'd just been through so much! I couldn't stand there and watch while their businesses went down the tubes!"
Saunders squeezed his client's shoulder. "The death of your Uncle has been very hard for you hasnt it Bo?" He glanced at the jury briefly. "You made a mistake, but you only did it for the sake of your family, didnt you?"
"He was so sick . . . " Bo said in a tiny, tear clogged voice, and the kindly face of his uncle flashed in his mind. "I could t-talk all day and not make you understand how sick. I knew I was on probation, but . . . " Bo wiped his eyes and shook his head. "The cancer robbed my uncle Jesse of the only thing he ever owned outright- his dignity. I figured risking my freedom for the sake of his land was more than worth it. After all . . . " Bo looked out at the faces of his family and friends. "He risked his life for all of us, for me, Luke, Daisy and Min more than once." Bo took a deep, shaky breath. "He always said that we Dukes didn't have much when it came to worldly goods, but the one thing we did have was family." Fresh tears came to Bo's eyes and spilled down his cheeks. "Uncle Jesse was my family."
Min and Luke both looked at each other and held hands, the tears were running down their faces, but they both smiled and gave him a nod.
Marc nodded his head. "I understand Bo, death is never an easy thing to face but you still have you cousins and your sister."
Bo smiled at them through his tears. "I know. They're my family too."
"Yes they are." Saunders turned and looked at the judge, who nodded at Bo.
"You may step down, Mr. Duke."
As Bo left the stand and went back to the table, he saw the prosecutor smiling confidently. He sighed and sat down next to Min. "Look at him, Min. He knows I didn't convince anyone that I didn't do it for my own gain!"
Before Min could reply, Saunders addressed the court. "Your honor, if it would please the court, I have several other witnesses to testify on Mr. Duke's behalf."
The courtroom was suddenly abuzz with harsh, whispered chatter and all heads turned as the double doors leading to the hallway opened. Michelle Greenwood stepped inside wearing a conservative business suit and leading a long line of nurses, doctors and men in gray suits. Saunders gave her a quick thumbs-up and turned back to the judge. "Your honor, if I may?"
The judge made a musing face. "The floor is yours, Mr. Saunders."
Over the next hour, the jury as well as everyone else in the courtroom heard from a long line of people from the medical profession. Jesse's doctor, home-care nurses and people from Tri-County Medical Center all testified and vouched for Bo's character. Four separate collection agents as well as the Duke's insurance claims adjuster testified that Bo Duke had indeed paid what he had promised and had receipts to prove it. The amounts, when compared with the money made from the shine runs, balanced out to nearly the penny. By the time Saunders was done, most of the people in the jury box were either smiling or weeping. Judge Beacon called a recess, and the jury went into seclusion to make their decision.
The Dukes stepped outside to get some much needed air, and as Bo walked out of the building, he saw Michelle standing alone with Marc Saunders. The two were laughing and smiling, and Bo sighed.
"Looks like I lost something there." He said to Min.
Min shook her head. "No Big Brother, if you had lost her she wouldnt have done what she did." She gave him a gentle nudge with her elbow. "Why don't you go talk to her?"
"I wouldn't know what to say, and I wouldn't blame her if she told me to get lost. After all, that's what I did to her."
"Well you won't know until you try." She stood beside him and nudged him with her shoulder. "Go on now, start with hi and work your way from there."
Bo watched Michelle smiling and laughing, and knew there were no words in the world that would have sounded right were he to walk up to her. He turned and walked back into the courthouse a split second before Michelle tried to catch his eye. She watched him vanish into the building and sighed unhappily before a small group of Bo's friends converged on her and started asking questions. She answered them the best she could, but found her eyes consistently wandering back to the open courthouse doors. She waited, but Bo didn't return.
The Dukes loitered in the courthouse lobby drinking soft drinks out of the machine in the corner when the bailiff opened the courtroom doors and told them to please go in and take their seats. Bo's stomach churned miserably at the words, and Luke took his arm.
"It's all right, cousin. We're behind you no matter what."
"If this goes bad, y'all will be about a hundred miles behind me . . . when I go to Atlanta Correctional." Bo replied glumly as they went inside and sat down.
Min was just as scared as her brother was. She took his shoulder and squeezed it, feeling him slightly tremble. "It's going to be okay Bo." She said the words to not only give her brother comfort, but for herself as well. She turned and looked at Luke beside her. "Right?"
"Course." Luke smiled, but there was fear behind the bravado.
"All rise." The bailiff called, "This court is once again in session. The Honorable Richard R. Beacon presiding."
Min nodded, Luke's confidence comforted her until she felt him take her other hand and squeeze it. She closed her eyes as she stood up, praying it really would be okay.
"Be seated." The judge said mildly, and turned to the jury. "Have the people reached a verdict?"
The jury foreman was a thin gray haired man with a moustache who reminded Bo quite a bit of Vincent Price. He stood. "Yes we have, your Honor." He handed the paper to the bailiff, who handed it to Judge Beacon. The judge cleared his throat. "The jury finds the defendant, Beauregard J. Duke, as follows. On the charge of manufacturing illegal whiskey- guilty."
Bo made a strangled sound in his throat, and Min gasped. The judge continued.
"On the charge of illegally transporting said whiskey . . . guilty."
Luke groaned and squeezed Min's hand.
"Finally . . . " Judge Beacon adjusted his glasses. "On the charge of selling said whiskey for personal profit . . . not guilty."
The jury foreman nodded and sat down as the judge shuffled some papers. Finally, he looked up. "Beauregard Duke, please rise."
Bo stood on legs that felt as weak as a newborn colt's. He stood, trembling, awaiting his fate with the kind of dignity that his Uncle Jesse would have been proud of.
"Mr. Duke, before I pass sentence on you, just let me say that I admire and am impressed by the loyalty and love that you have shown to your family here today. I sincerely hope the ties that obviously bind your family together stays strong."
"Thank you, your honor." Bo whispered.
"Beauregard Duke, I hereby sentence you to five years in the Atlanta Correctional Facility." Judge Beacon intoned, and the room exploded into gasps and outraged cries.
"Order! I will have order in this court!" The judge shouted, banging his gavel. When it quieted again, the judge looked back at Bo. "I am reducing that sentence to six months, suspended. I also sentence you to four years probation and no leniency on your next arrest. If what you have said here today is true, I do not expect to see you here again. You are also fined five hundred dollars and will serve eight months of community service. That is all, this court is adjourned." Judge Beacon banged his gavel.
Bo whooped and turned to hug his cousin and sister who returned the embrace with such enthusiasm that Bo felt his ribs creak. He pulled away and saw Min's eyes full of tears. He smiled at her. "Disappointed?" He teased.
Min laughed as she wiped her face. "Of course I am! I was going to move in with Luke and become his new partner! I even bought some coveralls!"
Luke burst into laughter as he clapped Bo on the back. "And lose half my business to all the women who come in just to have Bo check their oil? Thanks but no thanks, Min." He shook his head. "Let's get out of here."
Min stood in between her cousin and brother as they left the courtroom. They walked towards the steps and both Min and Luke stopped when they saw Michelle. "We'll be waiting in The General Cousin." Luke gave Bo a wink as he and Min walked down the front steps.
Bo stood watching Michelle as people streamed by him on their way out of the Courthouse. She was standing alone, staring out at the street. He was struck suddenly by her small size, looking almost like a child playing dress-up compared to the big husky locals that stampeded past her on their way to The Hazzard Cafe for coffee and pie. He sighed and approached her, knowing he at least owed her some thanks. She turned as he stepped up to her, her eyes searching his face.
"Hi." Bo said quietly.
Michelle sighed out of relief when she saw Bo, a smile coming to her lips. She had wanted to talk to him earlier but didnt get her chance. Now that it was over, there he was. She could see the hesitation in his face. "Hi."
Bo suddenly couldn't get enough of the sight of her. His palms tingled, and he found himself very much wanting to kiss her. His eyes continued to search her face. "Why did you do it?" He asked suddenly, the words stumbling over one another before he was even aware that he'd spoken.
Michelle started to open her mouth but she couldnt think of anything to say. There was only one thing that came to her mind to do. She reached out and grabbed Bo by the shirt, pulling her to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his.
Bo's eyes widened, then he slipped his arms around Michelle's waist and returned the kiss. When he finally and regretfully pulled away, she was smiling up at him. "I reckon that's my answer?"
"That's right it is. I helped Marc gather up the witness, unofficially of course." She put her hands on his face. "I had to help you Bo, I couldnt just walk away."
"And I'm sorry I did." Bo sighed, and touched her hair. "Can we start over? No more secrets, I promise."
Michelle smiled as she glided her hands down his face. "Of course we can." She leaned forward, giving his lips another kiss.
"Come on, we'll give you a ride home." Bo smiled as he took her hand and they headed down the court steps. Bo helped Michelle into the General, then leaned down to talk to Min and Luke. "Hey y'all, do you mind if we stop off at the farm on the way?"
Luke was behind the wheel of the General, he slid over as Min climbed into the backseat with Michelle. "Sure Cousin, we can stop there, what for?"
Bo shrugged, a devilish smile on his face. "Why to whip up another batch, of course! I've got to pay that five hundred dollar fine somehow!"
"You- another batch? I'll give you another batch! Get in here!" Luke dragged Bo into the General headfirst as Michelle and Min whooped laughter from the backseat. As the orange stock car pulled away from the curb and headed down the road, Bo was sure that somewhere, his Uncle Jesse was laughing too.