Blood is Thicker…

By: TNRiverRat

Disclaimer: I don’t own any part of DOH and no intentional infringement on anyone else’s fanfiction was done.

Mid-November, The Duke Farm, Hazzard County, Georgia:

Jesse Duke had always thought of himself as a patient man.
He had weathered more storms than he cared to count and had always prided himself on being able to keep his cool. However the picture he presented as he slammed his closet door shut and muttered under his breath as he shoved clothes into his suitcase was anything but that of a patient man! He finished his packing and strode through the unnatural pre-dawn quiet of old farmhouse; usually by now the whole house was up and getting ready for chores. Now it was just unbearably still and quiet. The old man took his worn watch from the front pocket of his overalls and once again checked the time.

He stopped at the closed door of his niece’s room and called, “Daisy…you ‘bout ready? Enos will be here any minute and I want us to be out on the porch waitin’ for him.”

“I’ll be ready in a few minutes, Uncle Jesse.”

“Good. I don’t wanna waste any time in gettin’ on the road,” he groused.
He knew he shouldn’t snap at Daisy…but his patience had been worn mighty thin lately. Those boys of his seemed hell bent on being the death of him! He itched to warm the seats of their britches with a hickory switch until they couldn’t sit for a week! He also had a monumental scolding planned for his nephews and intended to give it to them as soon as he could.

What did they mean…scaring the life out of him like this?

Yes, he was more upset than he had ever been…but this time it was from fear rather than anger or disappointment. Jesse was afraid that his boys had finally gotten into something that he couldn’t bail them out of. He shrugged into his coat and opened the front door, listening to the loud squeak of the hinges. He remembered Luke and Bo both promising to oil those hinges a hundred times but never getting around to it. His brow furrowed with worry once again at the thought of his boys. He just wanted Bo and Luke home safe…he would worry about the danged hinges later.

As he sat on the porch swing, waiting for his the deputy to arrive, his mind swam with worry. The past was a familiar refuge and more and more often, it seemed Jesse longed for the familiar. The old farmer briefly retreated to the calm security of his memories when his boys were still small and looked to him to keep them safe. They were grown now and he had learned all too well that he couldn’t keep all the monsters and bullies away. He smiled sadly as he thought of his boys and just how much they meant to him. His boys…no matter how old they were they would always be his little boys…

Flashback:

Bo and Luke Duke were the best of friends, first cousins and closer than most brothers. They were the exact opposite of each other in temperament, behavior and coloring but they balanced each other perfectly…almost like they were two halves of a whole. One of their teachers…a nice enough gal for one of those hippie types from California… commented to Jesse more than once at parent/teacher conferences that the boys seemed to be the “very embodiment of Yin and Yang ”…what ever that meant.
It sounded foreign, but the farmer assumed that it just meant something about how close Bo and Luke were and didn’t take any offence to the woman’s weird talk.
His boys had always seemed to have a close bond with each other and even with him, ever since they first met. Neither young man could remember that first meeting, but Jesse remembered it like it was just yesterday instead of over twenty years ago…

Jesse, as the eldest of his family, had inherited the Duke family ancestral home; so whenever there was a big gathering, he and his wife, Martha, always hosted it at the family farm. The big yard had seen the weddings of three of his sisters and the receptions after his and his six brothers’ weddings. The wakes of his grandparents, parents and baby sister had all been held in the living room of the farmhouse as had the christenings of all the Duke children since his own birth. In the spring of 1960, the Duke farm once again played host to a christening…this time a double one. Raymond “Coy” Duke was six months old before his father Raymond, Sr. received a long enough leave to journey from the Texas Air Force base where he was stationed to the family farm. Little Beauregard James Duke, (or Bo as he was called) the son of Jesse’s youngest brother, James, had surprised everyone by arriving seven weeks early and had spent the first two weeks of his life in an Atlanta hospital. Since Bo had been released from the hospital the week before Coy’s family was coming home, the parents decided to have the boys christened together and have a huge welcoming party for the two newest Dukes. Jesse was thrilled to see all of his siblings and their children. He and his wife had never been blessed with a family of their own so they simply doted on their many nieces and nephews. Jesse was close to all his siblings but he was extremely close to three of his brothers in particular. The four of them were the only ones who had remained in Hazzard and worked together to continue the family’s generations old moonshine business. Jesse, Lawrence, Thomas and James were always “carrying on like hoodlums” and “as thick as thieves” (according to their busy-body sister, Lavinia).

Lawrence and his five year old son, Lukas Keeton Duke, were the first to arrive for the shin-dig. Lawrence’s wife, Roberta, had stayed home because she still couldn’t bear to be around babies right now (it had only been a year since they lost their newborn son, Jud, in a hospital fire and she was still taking it very hard). Luke fidgeted anxiously and got a light swat on the behind for acting like he had a “bee in his britches”…but his father and uncle knew he was just excited and couldn’t wait for his cousins Jeb and Vance to arrive! The boys didn’t get to see each other often but made up for it when they did by playing like there was no tomorrow! Several cars soon pulled into the driveway and the Duke family get-together commenced.

Luke, Jeb and Vance were soon off and running across the yard and through the barn with Uncle Thomas’ little 3 year old tomboy, Daisy, trying her best to keep up with the boys and yelling at them when they didn’t let her play! The women and the older girls of the family were all “oohing and ahhing” over the babies while the men sat out on the porch smoking and catching up on old times while waiting for the preacher to get there for the christening. Soon the official festivities were over, the preacher had been sent on his way and the large family settled in for an evening of food, music, moonshine and fun. All of the Dukes either sang or played instruments and pretty soon an impromptu band had formed itself under the large oak tree in the front yard. The children danced and sang and just generally made nuisances of themselves like all kids do. Serious minded little Luke, however, was busy trying to figure out how his Uncle James played the guitar instead of joining Vance and Jeb in tormenting their girl cousins with frogs and lizards. He was receiving his first guitar lesson when he was called over to the porch by his Aunt Martha.
Aunt Martha was sitting on the swing with Aunt Miranda and Aunt Sara Jane was sitting in a rocker nearby.
“Luke, honey, come here and meet your new cousins.”
Luke was kind of hesitant. He had not really been around any small babies since his brother, Jud, had been born…and, well, he died…
“It’s ok. Coy won’t bite. Well, maybe he won’t! Just don’t let him get your finger in his mouth…he’s teething and wants to chew on everything” said Aunt Sara Jane, laughingly, struggling to hold onto the squirming, chubby baby in her arms. Luke laughed as his cousin Coy gurgled and tried to throw his bottle. The baby’s blond hair stuck out all over his head and he looked funny with his big blue eyes, one toothed smile and wet, slobbery chin!

“Come over here Luke,” Aunt Martha scooted over on the swing to make room between herself and Aunt Miranda and the boy sat down. “Coy’s a bit too rambunctious for you to hold but maybe you can hold Bo if you promise to be careful.”
Luke nodded and peered at the blanket wrapped bundle in his Aunt Miranda’s arms. The baby was so little! He looked like one of cousin Daisy’s dolls. Bo was asleep but stirred as soon as he was placed in Luke’s arms. Luke was afraid he might drop him, but he knew his aunts were keeping careful watch. The small baby and the older boy locked eyes. Bo seemed mesmerized with Luke’s face. Luke smiled, awed at the tiny person he held. He had wanted a little brother to play with real bad and he had been so excited when Jud had been born, but after his death…Luke had been so sad. He had resigned himself to playing with the kids from school and little Daisy; but maybe…just maybe since they lived close to each other…and their daddies worked together… Bo could be like a little brother to him! That would be great! Luke compared his brief glimpses of his little brother with the baby he held in his arms. Jud had had been a big baby with no hair and his eyes had been closed every time Luke had seen him. Bo had fine, white-blond curls and deep dark blue eyes in contrast to the dark haired boy with the piercing light blue eyes that held him. Luke absently began to hum “Rock a bye Baby” as he examined the tiny baby’s hands and feet. He grinned widely and laughed when Bo wiggled in his arms and tightly grasped his finger.
“OK, hon. Let’s get him back to his mama so you can go play.” Aunt Martha gently took Bo from Luke’s arms, but Bo did not like this at all! The tiny baby let out the loudest cry any of them had heard from him since he had been born. Even his mother couldn’t seem to console him. James heard Bo crying and went to see what the fuss was about. Soon the porch was filled with Dukes of all ages trying to console the distraught infant. Jesse watched as his small nephew was passed from hand to hand with no improvement in his temper. The tiny bundle was red faced and hiccupping in his misery. Jesse also noticed that Luke seemed upset that Bo was crying so hard and that Bo only seemed to calm down when he was nearest Luke. The eldest Duke reached for the frustrated baby and sat down in an empty rocker. He bounced the squalling infant in his arms and called for Luke. Jesse pulled Luke into his lap, positioned Bo in the little boy’s arms and began to rock as he held the two boys tightly. Luke smiled and began to hum to Bo. The baby instantly quieted. The sounds of the creaking rocker, Luke’s humming and Bo’s soft hiccups were all that could be heard as the Duke family watched the tender sight before them. Ready for a nap and frustrated that she wasn’t getting any attention, little Daisy soon began whining…wanting to be rocked, too. Martha scooped the little girl up, sat down in another rocker next to her husband and began soothing the tired little girl. Before long, two adorable little boys and one sweet little girl were sleeping soundly in the safety of their uncle and aunt’s arms. A few hours later, the party began winding down and the family dispersed. The day had been perfect…absolutely perfect!

Jesse had no way to know that this perfect day would be the last time all the Dukes would be together…alive that is. Not long after the christening, his brothers Lawrence and James and their wives had been killed in a car accident in Chickasaw County. Lawrence and Roberta had encouraged the new parents to go to dinner and a movie with them. James was very comfortable behind the wheel and was driving a bit faster than he should have. An overeager young revenue agent recognized the speeding car and had thought the infamous Dukes were on a ‘shine run and were trying to escape. Shots were fired, a tire was blown and the Dukes’ car careened out of control into the path of an oncoming 18-wheeler. Suddenly Jesse had lost two brothers but had gained two sons. He and Martha had been named Luke and Bo’s guardians. Jesse barely had time to grieve what with dealing with a very distraught five year old and a frail newborn. Uncle and Aunt quickly became synonymous with “mama and daddy” to the two boys. Luke adapted surprisingly well, due to his already close relationship to Jesse and Martha and little Bo honestly couldn’t remember life before the farm. Jesse had often thought it was sad that Luke barely remembered Lawrence and Bo never really knew James at all before death changed all their lives; but he could already see pieces of his brothers’ personalities living on in their sons. Three years went by before tragedy again struck the Duke family. In late October, Thomas’ wife, Jenny, had suddenly died in her sleep from a brain aneurism. Two days after the funeral, the heartbroken man, still mourning his brothers and now his wife, dropped six year old Daisy off at Jesse and Martha’s house to play with the boys and went for a walk in the woods; telling Martha he would be back after he sorted things out. Later that evening, Jesse went out to search for Thomas and found him deep in the woods behind the old farmhouse: dead from a self-inflicted gun shot. Once again, Jesse’s loss of a brother was tempered by the addition of a child to his family. Thomas’ will had named Jesse and Martha to be Daisy’s guardians as well.

The formerly childless couple now had the weighty job of providing a loving home and family for three orphaned children. Jesse and his wife went at this task as they would any other…one day at a time; praying that God helped them do the right things and that their instincts weren’t too bad! Love and discipline were both given freely and the kids thrived. The children soon became the life-force of the old farm and Jesse often wondered how he and Martha had ever lived without their kids. Luke, Daisy and Bo were theirs…maybe not through blood or formal adoption…but in their hearts. The remaining Dukes of Hazzard County, Georgia were a family in the strongest sense of the word. Brought together through tragedy and bound together with love, respect and loyalty. Jesse had been there for his kids when they lost everything they had ever known…and they were there for him when he nearly lost his whole world. This hardest blow of all came to Jesse the spring of Luke’s first year of high school when his beloved Martha, after years of suffering silently, succumbed to the cancer that ravaged her body. His kids had kept him sane and the fact that he had them to raise helped him through his loss.
After all the years that had passed, Jesse still missed his wife terribly. He missed all his family that had gone on; but he knew he had to be strong for his kids. Luke, Daisy and Bo had always depended on him to keep them protected and to be their anchoring rock in the storms of life.

Back to the present:

Jesse’s thoughts swam through his memories and reluctantly came back to the present. The events of the last few days seemed to have changed the Duke patriarch. He could hardly call himself an anchor for anyone right now. He wasn’t as strong, physically or emotionally, as he once was. He was scared and hurting and didn’t care who knew. He had always felt that losing Martha was the hardest thing he would ever go through in his life. Now, however, he faced something much worse…something he honestly didn’t know how to comprehend or handle…
The Duke patriarch had been so lost in his thoughts that hadn’t noticed the sunrise or that Daisy had joined him on the porch until she gently shook his shoulder.
“Enos is here, Uncle Jesse,” she said as she pulled her long dark hair out from under her coat as she settled it over her shoulders.
Jesse looked up to see the family friend, Deputy Enos Strait, driving through the early morning fog toward the house.
When the car stopped, he and his niece stepped off the porch, stowed their bags in the trunk and quickly got into the back of the Hazzard County patrol car.

Settling in for the long trip ahead, the old man suddenly felt every year of his age. The holidays were quickly approaching, but he barely registered what day it was. Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away, but to Jesse and his niece, it was just another day that Bo and Luke were missing. There would be no Thanksgiving or Christmas at the farm unless the family was together. Jesse realized that it had been nearly a month since his world had begun to collapse. It was when his boys had simply disappeared into thin air…and from a hospital of all places! After three weeks of frantic searching by friends, family and police, the trail of the two young Dukes had gone cold and no leads had been found. Two days ago, however, national news reports had announced that dock workers in Memphis had found two John Does, who matched Bo and Luke’s descriptions. The young men had been found in a shipping container unloaded from a river barge in route from New Orleans. The two men were barely alive when found and suffering from an unknown illness that left doctors baffled and offering little hope. The reports were asking for help in identifying the young men so their families could be notified of their condition. Cooter Davenport and Enos Strait, after hearing the first reports, immediately started burning up the phone lines to newspapers, tv stations, police stations and hospitals in Memphis trying to find out more about the John Does and their exact location. The citizens of Hazzard, even the Hoggs and Coltranes, had rallied around the family from the start of their nightmare and soon preparations had been made for Jesse and Daisy to go see if these men were truly Bo and Luke.

As he and Daisy sat in the back of Enos Strait’s patrol car, speeding toward Memphis, Tennessee with lights flashing to signal their haste, Jesse Duke found himself facing the horrible thought that he may soon be planning funerals for his boys. He swallowed over the tight lump in his throat and glanced over at his niece; lost in her thoughts and worry for her cousins and he knew for him as well. Jesse prayed to God that his boys made it…because if not, he was certain Daisy would be burying him right along with them.

The last time Jesse remembered seeing both his nephews hale and healthy had been right after breakfast one morning…just about a month ago…

Duke Farm, late October:

The crisp autumn air was just perfect for working outside and the old farm always had something that could be done. The weather might be perfect for working, but Jesse Duke’s two nephews also thought it would be perfect for a race through the back roads with their friends or for flirting with the girls in town. Jesse used his years of experience with the boys and put them to work, shortly after morning chores, patching the barn roof. This way he would get the roof fixed and his two nephews would still have enough daylight left to run wild and sow their oats.

The sound of syncopated hammers rang out across the farm as the young men worked. Each man took a side of the roof and the job progressed quickly. The old barn had really took a beating during the last big wind storm and several pieces of the rusty tin sheeting needed patching or replacing. Over the hammering, Luke Duke could be heard whistling a Willie Nelson tune “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time” while he worked. Normally, Bo Duke also whistled, sang or chattered away to pass the time during chores but today he was quieter than normal…he just didn’t feel good but hadn’t let on to his family…they would just fuss over him like they always did. That was one of the bad things about being the baby of the family…everybody tried to take care of you and wouldn’t let you grow up. But it wasn’t all that bad…at least he knew his family just fussed over him because they loved him. The young blonde hammered away on the old barn and grinned as he heard Luke’s whistling interrupted by a muffled curse.

“…must have hit his thumb again,” Bo chuckled to himself.

“Quit laughing, Bo…I know you are,” Luke warned from his side of the roof.

“Am not,” he lied in reply. “Sounds like you need to pay more attention to what you’re doing.”

The friendly bickering went on for a little while longer until once again the ring of hammers was all that could be heard.

Bo gritted his teeth as a sharp pain in his lower abdomen caused him to pause in his hammering. He tried to shake off the nausea that suddenly hit him and was mildly successful…at least he didn’t lose his breakfast. He wiped away the cool sweat that had popped out on his brow. He tried to think about what he had eaten in the last day or so that could be causing his discomfort and could come up with nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe it was a bug or something. Just his luck…he would get sick the weekend he had finally managed to get a date with Becky Mae Thompson.
After embarrassing himself to death in front of Becky Mae and her mama a few years ago by showing up in the Thompson’s yard buck naked…Luke had been there, too…looking for clothes after the General had been stolen while they had taken a dip in Hazzard Pond, he thought he would never be able to convince Becky (or more importantly, Becky’s parents) that he wasn’t some weirdo pervert!
Bo shrugged…maybe he would get better before their date. His stomach had started hurting the night before and had steadily gotten worse since breakfast; settling low in the right side of his abdomen. The pain wasn’t going away but it had subsided to a tolerable level and he once again began hammering down the loose tin that covered the barn’s roof.

Luke was on the other side of the roof dealing with trying to patch a hole nearly the size of a No.2 washtub and knew nothing of his cousin’s stomach trouble. He had started whistling again and absently reached behind himself for a new sheet of metal to cover the hole; frowning when he didn’t find one. He sighed as he realized he had used all the scrap pieces he had brought up the old rickety ladder with him. Not wanting to climb down and back up to the roof, Luke hollered to his cousin on the other side to see if he had any other patching pieces.
“Hey Bo! Got any more tin on your side?”
No answer…just hammering.
Luke climbed further up the roof so he could see over the ridge to the other side. He heard Bo stop hammering and yelled again as he continued climbing.
“Bo! Bo…get the cotton outta yer ears and listen to me! Have you got…?” He went silent as he neared the top of the roof and heard his cousin making odd noises.
Luke looked over the ridge just in time to see Bo drop his hammer and clutch his middle; doubling over and crying out loudly with pain.
“BO!” Luke screamed as he helplessly watched what followed.
Bo, consumed with pain, lost his footing on the metal roof. Unable to catch himself, he rolled down the remainder of the slope and over the edge; falling twenty feet to the hard ground below.

Luke scrambled down his side of the roof and down the old ladder, screaming his cousin’s name and calling for his uncle.

Jesse was cleaning out the hen house, listening absently to the typical noise coming from his nephews as they worked. He had come to enjoy the constant noise and chatter that followed his kids. Ever since they had come to live at the farm, complete silence had been rare and often signaled bad things. Jesse’s ears perked up like any father’s would when the noise abruptly ended and then his heart almost stopped at what he heard next. Luke’s panicked scream and then the sickening thud that followed spurred Jesse into motion. He moved as fast as his old bones would let him; racing around the corner of the hen house just in time to see Luke kneel down next to his immobile cousin. Jesse reached his boys seconds later and immediately began to check Bo for injuries. He knew Luke would be doing the same thing but he just had to check for himself. Bo was unconscious and lying on his right side. Running his hands over Bo’s face and neck, Jesse could tell the boy’s skin was cold and clammy and his pulse was racing. Jesse could tell by the obvious deformity that Bo’s right arm was broken and the he had a large gash on his forehead that gushed blood at an alarming rate. Luke saw his uncle’s questioning look and told him what he had witnessed. Afraid to move Bo due the unknown source of his initial pain and such a fall, Jesse reluctantly chose to call an ambulance rather than allowing Luke to rush Bo to the hospital. Luke raced into the house to call the ambulance and to alert Daisy, who had gone into work the early shift at the Boar’s Nest, of Bo’s predicament.

Daisy Duke raced over the country roads as she headed home to her family. Her nervousness grew as she was passed by a speeding ambulance headed toward the Duke farm. Daisy pulled into the yard just minutes after the ambulance. She followed the paramedics to the barn lot where Bo lay. Daisy gasped in shock as she saw her baby cousin’s pale skin, the splinted arm and the amount of blood that had been shed and still seeped from under the towel Jesse held tightly to his head. She immediately went to Luke, who grasped her in a crushing hug…neither one knowing who was comforting who at the moment. Luke once again described what he had observed for the paramedics who began assessing Bo in great haste. The junior paramedic, a skinny red haired young man about Daisy’s age, started an IV and placed oxygen over the young blonde’s face as the lead paramedic, an older heavy-set man with sandy hair, began examining Bo’s injuries…both men praising the Duke’s first aid measures. After checking Bo’s vital signs, the younger paramedic frowned and alerted his superior to his findings. The older man quickly put his stethoscope’s ear pieces in and immediately began listening to Bo’s chest and abdomen. After listening for a few seconds, he quickly placed the instrument around his neck and began gently probing Bo’s abdomen. The sandy haired man looked at his partner knowingly and the two men quickly began getting Bo prepared for transport.
Luke noticed the looks and the quickened pace with which the paramedics worked and it made him nervous.

The Duke family watched in silence as Bo was gently, but quickly, strapped to a spine board and placed on a gurney. If possible, the pale young man looked worse by the minute.
“We’re heading to the hospital if you want to follow,” the younger paramedic said to the Dukes as he tightened the last strap across Bo’s legs.

As he and his partner raised the stretcher and headed toward the ambulance without another word, Luke let go of Daisy and began to follow them. He didn’t like this at all! They were too quiet and moving too fast…Bo must really be in trouble!

“Is he gonna be ok? What’s wrong with him? What are you not tellin’ us?” Luke demanded as he none too gently grabbed the younger paramedics arm. Jesse shook his head at his nephew and placed a restraining hand on Luke’s shoulder.

The red-haired man, not at all offended, simply shook off Luke’s grasp and continued pushing the stretcher, talking into his hand-held radio to the hospital dispatcher as he walked.

Luke threw his hands into the air, fumed under his breath and then ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

“Damn it! What’s going on? Tell us something…please?” Luke begged, his voice breaking from fear.
Daisy and Jesse joined Luke behind the ambulance and eagerly looked to the technicians for answers.

The lead paramedic paused from opening the ambulance doors and noted the family’s concern. He cursed his own lack of sensitivity, but they didn’t have time for this! He and his partner loaded the injured man into the back of the ambulance and he climbed up to sit next to the patient while the younger paramedic ran to the front to drive.

As the engine roared to life, the elder technician took pity on the boy’s cousins and uncle.
“Look, ya’ll…I’m sorry, but we don’t really have time to discuss everything right now. We’re afraid he has some internal injuries and is bleeding into his abdomen. He’s going into shock and is probably gonna need surgery. We need to get him to Tri-County Emergency as soon as we can. I’m sorry…we’ve got to go now.”

The doors slammed and the ambulance’s back wheels sprayed dust and gravel over the barn yard as it began to speed toward the small hospital in Capitol City.

Tri County Hospital

Two hours later, the three Dukes were sitting in the small waiting room of Tri-County General Hospital’s emergency department. They were still waiting for information about Bo. All they knew is that he had been rushed into surgery shortly after arriving in the ER. Luke and Daisy had been taking turns pacing across the floor while Jesse busied himself filling out admission forms. Their silent worrying was interrupted when a very harried looking nurse dressed in green scrubs burst through the double doors of the ER; calling for the Duke family. Jesse and his kids stood and were ushered to a corner of the room where they could speak privately. The middle aged woman took a deep breath after they all sat down and began to speak.

“I’m so sorry to meet you like this…my name is Gwen Rivers. I’m a surgical nurse and Dr. Stevens asked me to come update you all on Bo’s condition. As you probably already guessed, the fall broke his right arm and caused a mild concussion. It also seems Bo was suffering from a pretty advanced case of appendicitis before he took his header off that roof.”
Jesse, Daisy and Luke all looked at each other.
“We didn’t know anything was wrong with him,” Daisy said, “…he acted fine this morning.”
“That’s not unusual. Sometimes the symptoms show up very quickly or are so mild at first that no one knows what’s going on till it’s too late. Unfortunately for Bo, it seems his appendix was inflamed to the bursting point before his fall. We don’t know whether it actually burst before or after he hit the ground. The impact did, however, rupture the large artery in his abdomen; causing massive hemorrhaging. Dr. Stevens still has him in surgery. They are trying to clean the infected material from the abdominal cavity and stop the blood loss. The bleeding has been slowed, but not completely stopped. Bo is in very serious condition right now. He’s still in desperate need of transfusion and is already showing signs of peritoneal infection from the appendix. We’ve run into another problem because Bo has such a rare blood type. We’re already using the small supply of O negative we had on hand and have made calls to other hospitals and the local blood bank…but it will take a while for it to get here and we honestly don’t know if he can…”

“Excuse me, Ms. Rivers,” Luke held up his hand to interrupt and turned to give a look to his uncle.
Without another word needing to be said, the old man knew what his nephew was going to say. Jesse nodded and Luke and spoke up, “Ma’am, me and Bo have the same blood type.” The nurse looked at him skeptically. The dark haired young man hurriedly explained, “We really do. We found out one time when we were in an accident and the doctors thought they had mixed up our records. Would it help if I donated blood for him?”
The nurse looked surprised. Only 7% of the population had O- blood and here was a donor right in front of her! The nurse smiled a little. “Yes. Yes, it would. It’ll buy Bo a little time until our supply is restocked. Dr. Stevens will be out to talk to ya’ll when the surgery is finished.” She touched Luke on his arm and nodded toward the emergency room. “Come with me and we’ll find someone to draw your blood.”
Luke had already started rolling up his sleeves as he followed the nurse into the recesses of the ER. He turned and gave his family a nod and wink. Daisy and her uncle smiled and nodded back. It was their way of saying “I love you, see you soon”, when they just didn’t seem to be able to find the actual words.

That was so typical of Luke…doing all that was within his power to see that his baby cousin survived…never once thinking that his own life could be in danger.

But in this case, who would? Donating blood wasn’t exactly dangerous…but when the Duke boys are involved, nothing is normal.

Jesse’s eyes followed his nephew’s retreating form…never realizing that it might be the last time he saw either of his boys alive.

Meanwhile, in the OR:

“Doctor! BP is 88/40 and falling.”
“Give standard dose epi IV, STAT and get the crash cart over here now!”
“He’s flat-lining.”
“Come on kid…don’t leave us now.”
“Paddles ready.”
“Full charge…Clear!”
“Damn it! Let’s do it again.”
“Charging…Clear!”
“Do we have a rhythm?”
“Yes, Doctor. It’s pretty weak, but he has a steady sinus rhythm now and his BP is rising.”
“Good. Let’s get him stabilized and up to ICU.”

Luke followed Nurse Rivers through the winding halls of the small hospital to the blood bank. Trying to break the heavy silence, Luke said with a nervous laugh, “This place is like a rat maze…I hope someone shows me how to get outta here. They might think I belong in here and try to take something I need!” The older woman looked up at him and laughed, “Don’t worry, hon …you’ve still got your regular clothes on and we can’t see your butt…we know you don’t belong here! As good looking as you are, the single nurses won’t let you wander around on your own too much!” The nurse led a slightly blushing Luke through a set of double doors and quickly introduced him to a very surly looking lab technician. “Luke, this is Harvey Kelter, he’s new to Tri-County, but he’s a grade-A phlebotomist and has been doing this for a long time. Harvey, Luke is donating a pint of O neg for his cousin, who is in OR #2 right now. This unit needs to be typed, crossed and prepped for immediate use and then sent to recovery…STAT.” She patted Luke on the arm and smiled. She acted as if she were going to speak but was distracted by the buzzing sound of her pager. Gwen looked at the device and rushed to the nearest phone. She returned to Luke, who already had a tourniquet around his arm and was frowning at Harvey as the technician poked at his arm; searching for a good vein. She took a deep breath and excused herself, “Luke, I’m not going to be able to stay with you…I’m afraid Bo has taken a slight turn for the worse and I’m needed in the OR.” She could see Luke’s jaw tighten and saw the young man’s concern for his cousin. The nurse put her hand on his shoulder and looked into his intense gaze. “Honey, I promise you…we will do all that we can to save him. Right now you are doing the most important thing that can be done to help Bo…so just stay calm, send up some prayers and give him some good blood. OK?” Luke swallowed hard and nodded. His eyes followed the hastily retreating back of Nurse Rivers as she rushed to the OR where his cousin…no, his brother…might be dying. His thoughts were so focused on Bo that he didn’t even notice when Harvey stuck him with the needle…and certainly didn’t notice the slight smile and calculating look on the technician’s face.

Harvey just couldn’t believe his luck! Dr. Wendelson would be very pleased… and he would be very pleased with his finder’s fee! He had scoffed at the idea of finding anyone with O negative blood in this jerkwater part of Georgia and had basically written off the man’s offer. From what that nurse just said, it sounded like he not only had one O negative donor waiting to go to ICU, but a perfectly healthy one, too! After assuring that Luke was fine and was quietly allowing his blood to drain into the collection bag, Harvey had called the number Dr. Wendelson had given him. He had no idea what the doctor did and why he wanted to know when someone with O negative blood came into the hospital. All Harvey knew was the man had helped him get this job and he was looking for phlebotomists needing extra cash…and after his ex-wife had taken him to the cleaners and forced him into having to work two jobs in this God-forsaken part of the world to pay child support…that’s all he cared about. The doctor had been thrilled and was on his way with the money. Harvey was thrilled too…he would get paid for finding both guys and have the cash in hand today! The phlebotomy tech finished drawing the pint of blood from the man and drew a little extra to show to his client as proof. Too bad he couldn’t get a sample from the guy in surgery, but he would have his medical chart as proof. Now all he had to do was keep this Duke kid occupied and out of sight and hope that his cousin stayed alive long enough for him to get his money!

Outpatient Lab Waiting Room, two hours later:

Luke looked around the small room where the lab tech had told him to wait nearly an hour ago. Harvey…boy, what a ball of sunshine that guy was…had told him that he needed to wait here in case the doctor needed more blood or something. Luke thought they could only take a pint at a time…but if Bo needed it then he’d gladly give more.
He flipped through an old hunting magazine and absently picked at the band-aid on his left arm while he waited. Luke jumped in surprise when the door suddenly banged open. The tiny room filled with men in white lab coats who instantly converged on him. He didn’t even have time to react before he was roughly grabbed and a needle was shoved into his neck. A strange warmth flooded his body and all coherent thought became impossible. Luke vaguely felt himself being picked up before darkness claimed him.

OR Recovery Suite:

Bo’s condition had stabilized enough for him to leave the OR suite and go to recovery.
Carrie McMay, RN was looking over the patient charts and getting room assignments ready for her charges. She looked at the blond haired young man who lay in the bed before her. He looked like he had been put through the wringer! She flipped through the chart and spoke aloud to the nurses coming on for the next shift.
“Let’s see. Bo Duke, age 23, post-op for Doctor Stevens: ruptured appendix, abdominal aortic hemorrhage, broken right humerus, mild concussion. It seems the poor fellow had an appendicitis attack and fell off the roof he was working on. He was coded once in OR, but has stabilized enough for transfer. Ok, he’s going to ICU, bed 4. He has been upgraded to critical condition. He has had 7 units of blood already, his vitals aren’t that great, he needs to be transfused again and he’s being treated for peritonitis. I’ll call ahead to give report and tell them he’s on his way up. ICU’s gonna love us for giving them a new patient right at shift change!”

While Carrie called in the patient report to the ICU nurse, who was indeed frustrated at this turn of events, she joked with her colleague and paid no heed to the two men fussing around in the curtained off area where Bo Duke lay. The coming and going of the shift change gave perfect cover for what the men had in mind. Posing as patient transport personnel, the men had no difficulty getting to Bo and the hospital even provided the portable oxygen tank and IV paraphernalia needed to move the seriously ill young man. Bo Duke was spirited out of the recovery area, down the halls and out to a waiting ambulance, where within his deeply sedated cousin, Luke, lay. Unknown to anyone, including their “finder”, the two young men were quickly taken from the hospital and transported toward a laboratory facility located across the Alabama state line. The speeding ambulance pulled out of the parking lot with little notice.

Employee parking lot, Tri-County General:

Paying no heed to the noise of the ambulance, Harvey Kelter sat in his truck, counting his “blood money” as the man who had paid him jokingly called it. Dr. Wendelson’s men had paid him good. All he had to do was tell them where the guys were and he got $500 for each! Wonder what that crazy doctor wanted with those guys? Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t his problem. He had done his job and got his pay. It wasn’t like he had sent those guys to their execution or something. Right? Little pangs of guilt started to prick at what was left of his conscience. If he had only known how close to the truth he was…

In a small section of a seemingly abandoned warehouse in Alabama:

Dr. Wendelson, as he was known now, smiled in delight as he hung up the phone. His last two subjects were on their way. He still marveled at how easily he had been able to procure his test subjects. Small town people were so trusting and so easily manipulated, especially when they were greedy like that lab tech! He looked across his research facility and sneered at the crudeness of the equipment and accommodations he was reduced to using. When he had worked at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta he had been using cutting edge facilities and equipment. He rolled his eyes as his gaze fell on his mediocre lab assistants. When he had been Dr. Thaddeus Milton, MD, PhD he had his pick of brilliant assistants and worked with some of the finest minds in the world. Now he paid an exorbitant rental fee for a glorified warehouse, used whatever equipment he could buy second-hand or steal and worked with a group of lab “rats” who could barely tell the difference between a test tube and a shot glass! His brilliant career as a geneticist and microbiologist had been side-tracked by the prudish, moralistic beurocracy of the Federal Government! It seemed they had a problem with his methods and went into hysterics when it was discovered that he used college student volunteers and indigent patients from the nearby hospitals as “guinea pigs for his mutant viruses”. What difference did it make? The patients were dirt poor and already sick and the college students were willing to do anything for a buck! Besides, in the grand scheme of things, his test subjects had not died in vain. They had contributed greatly to his research and to science. He wasn’t just mutating viruses at his former colleagues had said, he was testing the limits of creation itself. He was creating new, superior life forms! His viruses would be unstoppable…by any method other than the ones he would create, of course. He would be a god: the power to create and then destroy that creation…held in his hand! His discovery would have unlocked the mysteries of the killer diseases that plagued society since the dawn of time! World leaders would have bowed to him; the pantheon of science would have accepted him as one of the greatest men in history. But no-o-o, that would have been too simple! He had been humiliated! Publicly fired and stripped of his licenses to teach and to practice medicine; he then faked his own death in order to dodge criminal charges. His meager savings had been depleted through the elaborate methods he had gone through to change his appearance and start his new life. Without the luxury of federal funding and lobbyists supporting his cause, he had been forced to beg for funding in order to continue the research that now dominated his life. His disgrace had cost him his reputation, his home, his wealthy fiancé (well actually, he didn’t really miss her all that much…she demanded too much of his time) and some had said even his sanity, but he had not lost his research! No…that was his ace in the hole, so to speak. His research may have led to his downfall but it would soon bring him back to his former glory and beyond. Thaddeus Milton “died” a tragic death…blown to bits in a horrible explosion that supposedly destroyed all his work…disgraced and accused of barbaric crimes against humanity but Dr. Terrance Wendelson would be known world wide for his contributions to science!
So what if the funding for his research was donated from less than desirable sources in exchange for a few genetic weapons? It would be a small price for society to pay in order to reap the benefit of his genius.
The doctor paused in his mental rambling and gazed at his reflection in the mirror. He gave himself a smug smile…he was not unattractive. His tall athletic build and artificially darkened hair suited his new face. He would look good in his future television appearances. The wild, almost crazed, look in his eyes his only flaw; however, it completely escaped his notice. He turned and walked purposefully through his lab…his “kingdom”…and began to prepare the batch of serum he planned to use on the incoming subjects. The lab personnel nervously avoided him…they knew all too well not to bother the doctor when he was acting this way. The last employee that did ended up as one of his “test subjects”!

Present day,
Regional Medical Center “The Med”, Memphis, TN:

After ten hours of driving, Enos Strait guided his car through the busy streets of Memphis. This was not the bumbling, naive deputy that everyone in Hazzard knew. This was the determined professional that dwelt deep within the young man. He missed his friends and his heart broke every time he noticed the pained look in Daisy’s eyes or the lost expression that had taken permanent residence on Jesse’s face. Whoever was responsible for nearly destroying one of the finest family’s in Georgia would have to answer to him! He had taken it as his personal responsibility to protect his friends from any further heartache and to seek out the guilty party. He had assumed the role of investigator and protector and surprisingly, neither Jesse nor Daisy had questioned him. Even Rosco Coltrane had finally acknowledged that Enos was a capable officer of the law and had turned the entire investigation over to him! With only a little difficulty, he located the imposing hospital, just minutes from the Mississippi River and the dock where the “John Does” had been found. He easily found the visitor parking garage and soon he and the Dukes were entering the hospital and facing a very busy receptionist. After a brief explanation and the checking of ID’s and Enos’ credentials, the group from Hazzard was quickly ushered to an elevator and told to get off on the third floor and ask for Dr. Janet Kennedy. Enos guided the Dukes into the elevator and pressed the button for the fourth floor. The elevator stopped and they exited into the hallways of the Critical Care Unit of the Infectious Disease Ward. Enos shared a worried glance with Jesse and grasped Daisy’s hand to comfort both her and himself. Sooner than they had expected, the three were sitting in a small conference room waiting for Dr. Kennedy to join them….waiting to find out if their search was over.

The door opened and a petite, slightly plump woman with short red-hair entered. Jesse and Enos stood as she entered and the woman’s serious expression was broken by an easy smile.
“Deputy Strait, Mr. Duke, Miss Duke, I’m Dr. Janet Kennedy, head of the Infectious Disease Department and currently in charge of caring for our “John Does” who arrived a few days ago,” she said as she shook hands with everyone and settled into a chair. After everyone had taken a chair, the doctor spread out the documents she held and selected a file folder and held it out to the deputy.
“This is the information that we received from the officers who were at the scene after the young men were found. A detailed report is at the Metro Memphis Police Station. I’m afraid they just released basic, identifying information to us.” Dr. Kennedy paused as Enos quickly scanned the documents and a photo. She noticed the officer’s saddened eyes that he tried to hide behind his serious expression as he read further into the report.
Turning to the bearded man and the pale-faced young woman, she asked: “Mr. Duke, do you or your niece have any photos of Bo and Luke to help us make a positive identification?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jesse dug his wallet out of his pocket and pulled out a slightly worn, but fairly recent picture of the boys that had been made after a race. He handed the photo to the doctor with slightly trembling hands.
The doctor studied the photo and compared it to her last images of her patients. The young men looked very different, but it was them! She was sure of it…but a positive ID would need to be made.
“Why couldn’t they just check their finger prints? That would have been the simplest thing…wouldn’t it?” Daisy asked in confusion.
Enos swallowed hard and looked up from the file he was reading. “They probably don’t have any finger prints to check, Daisy. It says here that when they were found, the two men had what appeared to be fresh acid burns to the palms and fingers of both hands and the soles and toes of both feet. It was done to keep them from being identified. Looks like they had it pretty rough. According to this, most of their hair had been cut off and they looked as if they had been nearly starved.” He had spoken quietly, but the effect on Jesse and Daisy was the same as if he had screamed at them.
“What? What’s happened to my boys? What kind of monster would do this to them? Those boys didn’t…” Jesse was getting angrier by the second.
“Now wait a minute, Uncle Jesse, before you get too riled up…” Enos said, “we still need to find out if these men are really Bo and Luke.” He looked questioningly at the doctor.
She stood and cleared her throat. “Well, I will say this photo has me pretty convinced of their identity, but we still need positive identification.” as she spoke, she ushered the group into the recesses of the critical care unit and toward a glass enclosed room containing two beds. The room was darkened but the forms of two men hooked up to multiple pieces of medical equipment could be seen lying in the beds. A sign, lettered in red, hung on the door. It read “Full Isolation Precautions to be Enforced at All Times. Only Authorized Personnel Allowed Entry.” Daisy gasped when she saw the sign. She turned wide eyes to the doctor, “What’s wrong with them? Is it catching?”
“Right now, we don’t exactly know what is causing their symptoms. That’s why we have enforced the isolation precautions…in case it is contagious. We do know that whatever it is, they both are suffering with it…just in varying degrees. The dark-haired man is in guarded condition and suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. The other one, however, seems to be having the worst time.”

“Well he would now, wouldn’t he?” Jesse said, his voice gruff with emotion, as he stepped up to the glass and peered in at the rooms occupants. He could barely discern the features through the dim light, but he could see short tufts of blond hair on the tall, painfully thin, young man nearest the window. A cast was clearly noticeable on the man’s right arm. It was his baby. He knew it…and next to Bo, his eldest lay, also very thin and with unfamiliarly short hair. His boys had been found! Jesse’s heart clenched as he took in their condition. Both young men had gauze wrappings visible on their hands. A respirator and other forms of life support were connected to Bo; the hissing and beeping could be heard through the glass. Luke was thin and pale but he seemed to only be hooked to IV’s and oxygen tubing.
He placed his hand on the glass and kept his pain-filled eyes glued to the bodies in the beds as he softly told the doctor the events leading to this day.
“The one closest to the window is Bo and that one over there,” he said pointing to the other young man in the room “that’s Luke. Bo would be having the worst time because he wasn’t doing none too good before all this happened. They took him right after he got out of the operating room! He had just barely survived surgery and they took him before he could be taken to the ICU! You see, he’d been working on the barn roof with his cousin when his appendix started acting up. I guess he got to hurtin’ so bad…he fell off the roof. The nurses said his appendix had burst and the fall caused some hemorrhaging.” He roughly wiped his face and pointed to the blonde. “Broke his arm, too. They really weren’t sure whether Bo was gonna make it or not. Poor Luke over there was just trying to help his cousin. He was donating blood for him…and then he was snatched up too. Right out of the blood bank. At least that’s the last place he was seen…” Jesse couldn’t speak any more. His voice choked with emotion.
Daisy put her arm around her uncle and pulled her gaze away from the men in the room. She turned to the doctor. The young woman’s eyes were bright from unshed tears and from anger. She continued where her uncle had left off.
“So there we were. Worried to death…waiting to hear if Bo was gonna be OK and waiting for Luke to come back. You can imagine our surprise when this really confused looking doctor came to tell us they had lost Bo. I nearly fainted! We thought he meant that Bo had died…not that they had actually lost him! Then, not ten minutes later, a lady from the blood bank comes looking for Luke…saying that they never got the blood he was supposed to donate and couldn’t find him anywhere! We were so mad…so confused…so scared. Poor Uncle Jesse’s been worrying himself sick! They’ve been missing for nearly a month now. How could a person just go missing from a hospital? Especially someone real sick…like Bo? I just can’t understand! They were taken from a hospital and now…thank God they’ve been found…but now they have some weird sickness that could… I just…” Daisy couldn’t go on anymore. She burst into grateful but frustrated tears.
Enos put his arm around the emotional young woman, allowing her a few minutes to compose herself. As Jesse and Daisy glued themselves to the window, he could already tell that they had made up their minds that Bo and Luke had been found. Enos was pretty sure too, but he wanted the ID to be official, especially since he intended to push criminal charges on the kidnappers. He asked the doctor if Jesse and Daisy would be allowed to go into the room in order to clearly see and ID the young men. Dr. Kennedy assured them that appropriate safety measures would be taken and that one at a time, they would be allowed to enter.

The next morning,
a renovated medical staffing office in Kenner, Louisiana; just outside New Orleans:

Terry Wendelson was livid! The past few days had been horrific. He had returned from a terrible meeting in Mexico with his investors only to find that his lab had been virtually deserted and his test subjects had gone missing! MISSING! Naturally, the few employees that were left seemed to know nothing about what had happened, but he would deal with them later. He had scoured every major Southern newspaper he could get his hands on trying to find some mention of someone finding the young men…either dead or alive. Angrily, he pushed the Louisiana and Mississippi newspapers off his desk. He glanced at a headline on the front page of a Memphis, Tennessee paper, The Commercial Appeal: ‘Seriously Ill “John Does” Identified’. The photo showed a candid shot of a white-haired old man, a pretty young woman and a young man in a police uniform smiling and wiping tears as they exited a hospital. The article stated that two unidentified and seriously ill men (his test subjects) who had been found at a dock in Memphis, had now been positively identified as 23 year old Bo Duke and 28 year old Luke Duke, cousins that had been reported missing from Hazzard, Georgia nearly one month ago! They were “…currently in isolation at the Regional Medical Center where family and friends now kept vigil while physicians worked to determine the cause of their mystery illness.” Terry cringed when he read that advisors from the CDC in Atlanta had been called in and Memphis authorities, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, were already collaborating with Hazzard officials and the Georgia State Police in launching a full kidnapping investigation! He was stunned. His subjects were not only alive but they had been identified and traced back to Georgia! He thought he had taken adequate measures to prevent easy identification…but he had also never planned on them getting out of his sight before he had finished with them either! He had to get the Duke cousins (or as he referred to them, “O negative test subjects A and B”) back before those Tennessee hicks meddled with their condition and damaged the final results beyond repair. (Of all the times for someone in his employ to have an attack of conscience! He would find out who had smuggled the two young men out of the lab…they couldn’t have done it on their own, they were too sick…and he would deal with them! What were they thinking? The young men could have died before they were found…did they think they were better off dead than with him? Probably, but it was not for anyone else to decide.) Those young men and the virus that coursed through their bodies…incubating and feeding on their blood…belonged to him and he would get them back! Why was everyone suddenly getting all moral and goody-goody on him? That was the biggest thing that bugged him about working with small town Southerners! They might be gullible but they tended to be plagued by their consciences way too much. He had long since destroyed what morality he had ever possessed. The laws of science were the only laws he acknowledged any more…and even those boundaries were often pushed.

Unbeknownst to Terry, it seemed Duke Luck followed Bo and Luke even when they weren’t aware of it and now he was a victim! He continued his angered pacing, stopping every so often to throw something. Terry was once again wallowing in self pity and giving free reign to his persecution complex. Nothing had been right since he had forced from Atlanta! His investors…those insufferable foreign maniacs…had been pressuring him for months to complete the blood type experiments. Every time he started on a new type they went through the same discussions. (They would never understand. It had been a very time consuming and very expensive endeavor to create a hybrid virus that changed symptoms depending on the victims blood type…making it virtually impossible to identify or treat. It could also be determined whether the virus stayed confined to its host, went into remission, relapsed or whether it became violently contagious…just by the administration of certain proteins at key times. Whoever controlled his little creation had the power of a god…that is if everything went according to plan and it was allowed to come to fruition. His financiers were pleased with the concept and already had plans to include it in various military or para-military missions…making him a very wealthy man; if they didn’t kill him in a fit of temper first!) He explained, over and over again, to the idiots that you just didn’t find appropriate subjects on the street and this last blood type, O negative, wasn’t exactly common. His last explanation had been met with a string of Eastern European and Arabic curses and he had been left with a split lip and a multitude of threats. Now, just when he thought everything was going his way, disaster hits! Terry had originally called his newest test subjects his “lucky charms”, thinking that his luck at having two O negative young men dropped into his lap would transfer over to the rest of his endeavors. But now, everything seemed to been going against him and he found himself wondering what type of lives his subjects had led to bring him such misfortune! Thank the stars that he had bought a medical staffing franchise to use for cover or else he would’ve been out on the street…literally. The lab site and his living headquarters had been moved to this humid, mosquito infested part of the country because some imbecle tattled after being questioned heavily after the young men were found to be missing. Apparently it caused quite a stir when the one young man never arrived in ICU and his cousin never made it out of the lab waiting room! Terry laughed at his own brilliance for concocting such an escape but then quickly sobered. Ever since the two Dukes had been in his possession, all hell had broken loose! The new lab had nearly been raided for completely unrelated reasons. The staffing agency cover was constantly at risk of being blown. Constant threats from legal or civil agencies kept him moving and nervous…not to mention all the drama with his financiers! He constantly dealt with idiotic employees and his test subjects had nearly been killed during the last move due to incompetence! (That would have been devastating! Especially this close to the end of the project and especially if A had been lost! His prized incubator, Subject A, had the most perfect blood and became an easy host for the virus; allowing it to quickly adapt and grow stronger. In just a few days, the virus had mutated to its final form and was becoming more than Terry had ever imagined. A’s blood seemed to completely nourish the virus while giving the host just enough to hang on…exactly what the crazed researcher dreamed of in a test subject! The problem was that the boy had been near death when found and the lab techs constantly had to make sure that he didn’t die from his earlier problems or that they didn’t kill him before Terry was ready. Subject A, like all previous subjects, would be sacrificed for dissection and further benefit to science but only after the virus had run full course. The other young man, however, his “bonus” subject as it were, was entirely too strong for his own good. Subject B had resisted the virus longer than any other and kept trying to wake from the drug induced coma. The young man was either being overdosed with sedative and having to be revived or becoming combative when not given enough! He didn’t really know what he was going to do with B, but once infected, the young man could never be free.)
His brilliant plans…his brilliant research…all were in jeopardy of being destroyed. The virus was nearly mature and it at its strongest point yet. As long as it hadn’t been tampered with too much, he might still be able to harvest enough of the youngest test subject’s blood to finish the research and bring B back to the lab for further study.

A proper dissection of A would now be out of the question, but…maybe he would at least be able to complete an abbreviated post-mortem exam. The stronger, healthier subject would be perfect to keep as a host until a synthetic incubation medium could be devised, and then he would be allowed to expire and serve as the O negative dissection.

Knowing that he would have trouble controlling B if the young man regained full consciousness, Terry slipped a small pistol out of his desk and into a weathered, black medical bag. He went about the room and grabbed various hypodermic needles, drugs, vials and scalpels; shoving them into the bag alongside the gun. He was nervous and angry. He couldn’t believe he was actually going to retrieve his samples in an environment outside the controlled confines of his lab! The purity of the samples would be compromised…but, it couldn’t be helped. Normally he would never have dirtied his hands this way but his investors were adamant that they needed some results ASAP and he couldn’t risk losing any of his hard work to the clumsy hands of his employees! He hoped what little bit of luck he had held out. Damn it! Why did those Memphis doctors call in the CDC? The whole thing was unraveling under his nose. It just wouldn’t do for any of his old colleagues from the CDC to find comparisons between the young men’s illness and the work of the late Thaddeus Milton. No, he couldn’t leave anything to chance. Now that the CDC and multiple state law enforcement officials were involved, he had to be very careful and leave no loose ends. Terry grabbed his jacket and strode out of the office with the medical bag and a road atlas in his hands. He would go to Memphis and handle this part of the project himself.

Back in Memphis:

Enos waved good bye to the Dukes as he backed out into the busy morning traffic of Memphis. Now that Bo and Luke had been found, his real work began. He had stayed an extra day to see Jesse and Daisy settled into a small hospitality house provided by the hospital and local churches for the out of town family members of critically ill patients. It was cozy and a few miles from the bustle of the hospital. Enos had felt bad about leaving them in Memphis without a vehicle, but the hospital provided a shuttle service and he really had to get back to Hazzard to start processing the new information on the case. Jesse had eased his worries by telling him to find the “sorry so and so’s who had taken his boys and show them a little country justice”. Daisy had hugged and kissed him, begging him to be careful and telling him that she had faith that he would solve the case. Enos still had big grin on his face as he turned into the parking garage of The Med. He wanted to tell the hospital staff to keep him informed on any new details, but he also just wanted to see his friends again. The way things had been going, he didn’t really know if the Duke family would ever make it back to Hazzard the same.

The tall, very polite deputy had become a favorite of several of the nurses and if she was truly honest, of Dr. Kennedy’s as well. She and the morning shift nurses said their good byes and provided the young man with more than enough food to get him back to Georgia. After watching Enos blush a very bright shade of red from all the attention and stammer his thanks, the doctor assured him that she and her staff would take good care of not only Bo and Luke, but their cousin and uncle as well. Enos smiled and waved to the nurses as they dispersed. He entered the isolation area and quickly donned the protective garb that would allow him to go into the room to see his friends. He felt weird wearing the hooded gown over his clothes and covers over his shoes. The mask and the gloves, however, were the worst. The mask felt claustrophobic and the gloves kept him from actually feeling Bo or Luke when he touched them. It almost felt like touching a mannequin…or a corpse. Enos shuddered at the morbid thought and entered the hospital room. He jumped when the door closed and air hissed around it. He kept forgetting that the room was pressure controlled to keep germs from crossing from one room to the other! The deputy slowly crossed the open floor and stood between the two beds. He gazed at his friends that he had known since childhood; his mind flooding with memories. He was a few months younger than Luke and had grown up playing with both the Duke boys. He laughed softly as a random image of helping Luke and Cooter teach an eleven year old Bo how to drive came into his mind!
“Now I should be takin’ lessons from you, buddy,” he mumbled slightly as he looked at his younger friend.

The deputy tried to be silent, but he choked out a sob as realized how close he had come to losing two of his best friends. He went to Bo’s bedside; the young man was barely recognizable. The short hair and darker beard seemed to make the thinness of his face more noticeable…besides the fact that part of his face was obscured by a large breathing tube. Despite all odds, Bo was hanging on! He guessed that Duke stubbornness was kickin’ in. Enos spoke a few words to his friend and then gently touched one of Bo’s bandaged hands; saying a quick prayer for his recovery. Sniffing back tears, he crossed over to Luke’s bedside. Luke was still unconscious but had really started looking better in the last day or so. The short, dark curls reminded Enos of Luke’s post-Marine days and didn’t really seem as foreign as Bo’s cropped look but the dark beard stubble was so out of place on the normally clean-shaven man. His complexion was not as pale and he had been taken off supplemental oxygen. Enos pulled a chair over to sit beside Luke. He wanted to explain why he was leaving…even though he knew that neither Luke nor Bo probably knew he was there to begin with…
Luke was lying motionless, just as he had been every time Enos had seen him over the past couple of days. Settling in to talk to his unresponsive friend, Enos just began his normal, rambling way of speaking. He was looking at his shoes…at the wall…anywhere except at Bo or Luke. He was afraid he would start crying and not say what he had planned to say.

“Luke…I’m real sorry that you and Bo got into this mess. We’ve really missed ya. Hazzard’s just not the same without you fellas. Daisy and Jesse are real glad to find ya. Poor old Uncle Jesse’s just not been himself lately and Daisy…well, I’ve been real concerned about her. You see…she’s been worrying about you and Bo and about Uncle Jesse, too, and then trying to work at the Boar’s Nest. Mr. Hogg told her she could take off if she needed to, but I guess she still wanted things to be a little bit normal. Me and Cooter have been keeping up with things on the farm so you don’t have to worry about that. Cooter and L.B and B.B are taking care of things while Jesse and Daisy are up here with ya’ll…and your cousin Jeb said he’d come help out, too. The whole town’s been worried, Luke. Sherriff Rosco has been looking for every lead and he’s turned the whole investigation over to me! Can ya believe it? Guess he thinks that little spell in California did me some good.” Enos gave his typical laugh and wiped away a few tears that had escaped despite all his best efforts. He cleared his throat and continued his one-sided conversation. “I’ve been talking with the TBI and the Georgia State Police and we’re gonna pin kidnapping charges on the mangy dogs who did this to ya’ll! I promise ya, Luke…they ain’t gonna get away with it. We’ll find ‘em and throw the book at ‘em. You’ve got my word on it, buddy.” Enos absently patted his friend’s bandaged hand and stared at the floor as his emotions tried to get the best of him.

“Thanks, Enos, …your word’s good as gold,” a very weak, raspy voice replied.
The deputy jumped in shock and fell to the floor as his chair turned over.
“Possum on a gumbush! Luke! Are ya really awake or am I just hearin’ things?” Enos’ words tumbled over each other as he righted his chair and focused on the face of his friend.
Luke slowly opened his eyes and immediately shut them as even the dim lighting hurt his eyes. He groaned and slowly tried to move his arms and legs…just to see if everything worked. He had been coming in and out of consciousness for the last few hours but was just now alert enough to let someone know. From the scents and sounds, he figured he was in a hospital…but where?…and why? He couldn’t remember what had happened to cause him to feel like this. He felt like his head and mouth were full of cotton. His chest hurt and he felt like he was getting over a really, really bad case of the flu. He barely opened his eyes and tried to focus them on the blurry figure in front of him. The figure in front of him almost looked like a space man or something; but he knew that had to be Enos Strait under the surgical mask and that other stuff…he’d know that voice anywhere. “Yeah…I think I’m awake. Enos? What the hell happened? Ohhh,” he groaned again as he tried to move. “What’s wrong with me? I feel like I got run over by a truck.” Luke’s voice was painfully hoarse and his muscles were extremely sore and weak from lack of use. When his eyes finally focused and he was clearly able to see Enos garbed in the isolation suit, he gave the deputy a very confused look.

“Luke! Man…it’s so good to see ya awake!” Enos gave a joyful laugh, gently shook his friend’s hand over the gauze and in his excitement, leaned over to give him a quick, awkward hug. “Guess I look a little funny, huh?” Luke tried to smile and nodded as he tried to take in his surroundings. Enos scratched as his head through the protective covering. “Well, uh, I don’t really know where to start. It’s real strange…I can tell ya that. First of all…you’re in Memphis, but this sure ain’t Graceland!” Enos smiled at Luke’s shocked expression. He braced himself to tell his friend what he already knew; knowing it would only get worse. “We don’t really know how or why or who done it, but you and Bo were kidnapped from Tri-County the day Bo fell off the roof. You two were missing for about a month and now both of you’ve got some kind of weird virus or something. Somehow you two ended up on a barge that left New Orleans and ya’ll were found when it docked here in Memphis. As soon as they found you, they brought you here. They call this place “The Med”. Luke…I swear this hospital’s bigger than four Tri-County General’s put together! Your doctor, Dr. Kennedy…she’s awful nice…and some big-wig doctors she called in from the CDC in Atlanta…well, they think ya’ll were being experimented on or something. They don’t really know what it is so that’s why any body coming in the room has to wear this get-up. Uncle Jesse and Daisy are here, too. They’re restin’ right now. It’s been pretty rough on them. I brought them up here as soon as we got word that there were two unidentified fellas fittin’ ya’ll’s descriptions here in Memphis. We’ve been here a couple of days but I need to be headin’ back to work on the investigation. I was just coming by to tell you that and then you woke up!” Enos grinned widely behind his mask as he finished the abbreviated version of the last month’s events.

Luke’s already wide eyes got even wider and his skin paled. Enos’ smile slipped. He watched as his friend swallowed hard and tried to take in the information. “…Memphis!? …a month? …experiments!? …what kind of damned experiments?!?” The young man tried to reach for Enos’ arm and only then noticed the bandages on his hands. He gave the deputy another puzzled look. He tried to grasp what all could have and did happen to him. He had been taken away from his family, lost a month of his life and who knows what had been done to him! Luke’s muddied thoughts were suddenly assaulted with his last clear memories: his cousin crying out in pain and then falling… Bo’s pale and bleeding body being placed in the back of an ambulance… Jesse’s and Daisy’s worried faces… waiting at the hospital…Bo’s surgery… the complications… donating blood for his cousin. “Oh my God…Bo! Enos…where’s Bo? Is he OK?” Luke asked his concern doubling as he thought of his cousin.

Enos’ tried to answer but his voice choked up. He closed his eyes and gestured, moving to the side so Luke could see the bed across the room. Luke turned his head and saw a tall figure lying in the bed. Tubes of all sorts were going into and out of the man’s body. He noticed for the first time the whooshing and beeping of life-support machinery. The raggedly shorn blond curls…the broken arm…
His breath caught in his chest as he realized he was looking at his baby cousin! “What’s…? Bo…?” Luke felt a restraining hand on his arm. He hadn’t even realized that he had tried to get up.
Enos grabbed hold of Luke, trying to keep the weakened young man from falling off the bed as he unconsciously tried to get to Bo.
“Luke, now calm down. You’re gonna hurt yourself, buddy. You see…well, uh…Bo…well, he’s in a pretty bad way. You know he wasn’t doing too well after that appendicitis and surgery…?”
Luke nodded, unable to tear his eyes from his cousin.
“Well, he’s still having some trouble from all that I guess and this virus the two of ya have just ain’t helpin’ matters any. He’s on full life support and the doctor’s just don’t know if he’ll make it.” Enos’ voice was nearly a whisper as he finished. He turned tear filled eyes to his friend, “I’m sorry Luke. We tried to find ya’ll sooner…we really did…and help got to ya as soon as you were found. We’re gonna get who did this! I promise. This is a real good hospital and the doctors are doing all they can…,” the deputy stammered and rambled; trying to give Luke some explanation…some bit of comfort.

Luke nodded. He tightly grasped the hand his friend offered, ignoring the pain that seared his own hand, and bit his lip as his eyes filled with tears. He tried to stifle a ragged sob. “Who on earth would want to do something like this to us?” Luke’s face twisted in grief and rage. “Enos, if Bo…I swear…if he dies…” Luke broke down in heart-rending sobs. His weakened condition and the intensity of the news left him unable to hide his feelings as he normally did. Enos tried his best to calm his friend but was unsuccessful. Luke’s chest heaved as he began to hyperventilate due to his distress…something Enos hadn’t seen the young man do since Martha Duke had died.

A loud ringing sound was the first alert the nursing staff had to Luke’s awakening. The sound, caused by Luke’s vital sign monitors, quickly brought two nurses and Dr. Kennedy to the windows of the Isolation room. Enos, afraid to leave Luke’s side to go to the intercom located on the other side of the room, related the events of the last few minutes to the medical staff by shouting over the noise of the monitor and Luke’s loud breathing. Realizing that Luke was just hyperventilating, the doctor instructed Enos to stay calm and told him to grab one of the plastic bags used to store unused oxygen tubing and located near Luke’s bed, and try to get him to breathe into it while she donned her own isolation suit before entering the room. By the time the doctor had donned her protective garb and entered the room, Luke had calmed enough that his vital signs were returning to normal; silencing the alarms.

“Mr. Duke, it’s good to see you awake. I’m Dr. Janet Kennedy and my staff and I have been taking care of you and your cousin since your arrival. If you don’t mind, I need to give you a quick exam. Deputy, you can stay if you’d like and if it’s ok with Mr. Duke.”
Luke nodded and asked his friend to stay. Enos sidled over to Bo’s side of the room while the doctor did her work.
“Well, Mr. Duke…”
“Please, doctor…call me Luke. Mr. Duke is my uncle. Besides…you and the nurses have probably seen me naked so there’s no need to be all formal…even if you do get all dressed up to see me.” Although his speech was a little slower than normal and his voice weak, Luke’s trademark charm was coming through. He favored her with a soft smile and a slight twinkle in his eye; trying his best to disguise his fear with humor.

“OK, Luke.” She laughed and helped adjust the pillows so her patient was more comfortable. “Amazingly, other than some slight respiratory difficulty and a few weeks worth of lost memory…you seem to be doing fine. The burns on your hands and feet are healing nicely but will probably cause you some pain for a while. I’m afraid we will still need to keep you isolated, though. Until we find out exactly what we’re dealing with, we won’t know if your illness has run its course or is just in remission. If you’d like, we can move you to a room of your own…”

“No! Please don’t. I’d like to stay with Bo…that is if it won’t bother ya’ll too much. We’ve shared a room together since we were kids and Bo really hates hospitals. He’d be scared to death if he woke up in here by himself. Just send me in a few books or magazines and a radio and I’ll be fine.”

Enos…seeing the doctor’s skeptical look…came up to her side and decided to see if he could help Luke’s argument.
“Doctor, ma’am…if they have to both be quarantined…I think it would be better all the way around for both of them to be together. I seriously doubt he’d stay in another room if he really wanted to be with Bo. Believe me…it’s kinda hard to keep Luke penned up somewhere if he really don’t wanna be there! I mean…not that he’d cause you any trouble or nothing…” Enos stammered after he realized his comment might be misconstrued.

Luke gave him a funny look but ended up smiling at the deputy’s comments; knowing that his friend was referring to many a good natured prank or jail-break he and his cousin had pulled.

Dr. Kennedy smiled. She had already deduced from the boys’ uncle, cousin and friend that her patients were extremely close and protective of each other…more like brothers than cousins.
“Well, for now I don’t see any reason why you can’t stay with Bo. I assume Deputy Strait has already told you about Bo’s condition…”

“Yes ma’am. Don’t underestimate him. He’s a fighter and stubborn as a mule. He’ll make it through…” Luke whispered.

“Seems to me like I remember your Uncle Jesse saying the exact same thing about you, too,” Dr. Kennedy said with a wide smile.

Luke laughed softly and let out a huge yawn before he could cover his mouth.

“Well, Luke, it looks to me like you need a little more rest. How about Deputy Strait and I leave so you can catch a nap and so I can call your family to give them a little good news?”

Luke gave them a crooked smile and nodded his reply. He really was exhausted.

“See ya later, buddy-ro. I’d better be heading toward Hazzard if I’m gonna work on catching the low-down snakes that grabbed ya’ll.” Enos went to Luke’s bedside and the two friends exchanged a quick hug. Luke admonished Enos to be careful and to leave a little fun for him and Bo.

“Sure thing, Luke. You just get well and tell ol’ Bo to quit playin’ possum so ya’ll can get on back home.”

Enos stopped by Bo’s bed to say a few words, laid a gentle hand on the blonde’s head, and then turned to exit the room with the doctor. After shedding the isolation suit and washing up, Dr. Kennedy hurriedly dictated the changes in Luke’s condition and ordered a myriad of lab tests for the young man. She was on the phone as she looked up to see the deputy waving to her as he got on the elevator. The doctor smiled…she would miss the young cop and his easy Southern ways (she tried not to get emotionally attached to patients or their friends and families…but she had to admit she was failing miserably when it came to the Dukes and their deputy friend…Hazzard must be a special place to be populated with people like them). She finished her call to the lab and dialed the number for the Hospitality House where Jesse and Daisy Duke were quartered. She looked forward to giving the beleaguered family a little bit of good news. Now if only they could keep Luke from relapsing and Bo from getting any worse…

Two weeks later,
The Med, Memphis, TN:

“Thank ya kindly, Walter. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” Jesse Duke thanked the shuttle driver, slammed the van door and quickly strode into the large hospital. He had let Daisy sleep in this morning and decided to come for early visiting hours alone. As he passed nurses, security guards and other visitors, he tipped his hat or spoke to those he had become acquainted with during the Duke family’s stay in Memphis.

In the last several days, he had become very familiar with the twisting hallways and elevator mazes that led to various areas of the hospital. He hated that his boys were in this place, but at least they were here…not still missing or dead! They had been found and were alive. A very precious Thanksgiving had been shared in the hospital. With Luke finally able to eat solid food, the nurses arranged for Daisy and Jesse to share the holiday meal with him…separated by the glass wall of the isolation room, of course. Poor Bo, even though he had improved some, was still being fed intravenously due to his breathing tube still being in place…but he was at least able to be included via lop-sided conversations and hand gestures. The hospital version of turkey and dressing wasn’t all that grand, but the way Luke tucked into it and the smiles that were shared by everyone…you would have thought it was a well aged batch of Jesse’s crawdad bisque! The old man had spent the day alternately smiling or wiping away grateful tears! His niece had been the same way and so had a few of the hospital staff. They were a little the worse for wear…but they were a family again and some very thankful prayers were sent up that day.

Luke had been getting progressively stronger since his awakening. A lingering cough and his too-thin frame were the only obvious remnants of his mystery illness. He was now able to move about freely and often helped take care of Bo. Bo’s mind seemed as alert as ever but his body wasn’t so good. He couldn’t breathe on his own and fought a daily battle with the respirator that he both desperately needed and despised. After it had been determined that Bo would continue needing the breathing tube for awhile, Jesse and Bo had reluctantly agreed for the doctor to place the tube in the young man’s airway via a hole in his throat. Bo could now communicate better by facial expression and by mouthing words but his rich voice and distinctive laugh had been replaced with a very faint, raspy whisper. He was able to eat certain foods but others made him violently ill so he had to stick to bland food. He could move his limbs without problem, but he was entirely too weak to support himself. Just the act of changing positions left him exhausted. It hurt the family to see the robust, ball of energy that had always been Bo Duke reduced to this weak shell of his former self. However, Bo seemed to just be happy to still be with them; never complaining and giving them all his high-beam smile.

A smiling Jesse Duke soon arrived on the floor that had become his boy’s second home. He quickly signed the visitors log and exchanged pleasantries with one of the nurses as she opened the door to the small room where he would don the now familiar “space suit”, as Luke called it.
Fully covered and washed up, Jesse entered the room; listening carefully for the accompanying hiss of the air lock. He knew the room was supposed to keep whatever the boys had from getting out into the hospital, but he was glad that the pressurized room also kept other bugs away from his boys. In their weakened state, even a common cold could cause a lot of damage! Since his thoughts had been on his boys, Jesse hadn’t really looked into the room before he entered. He was surprised to see someone in the room, standing over Bo with a syringe, taking blood from his arm.

“Hey Uncle Jesse,” Luke called out from one of the bedside chairs. The elder Duke wasn’t surprised to see Luke out of bed. He knew the young man got tired of sitting in bed and often sat near his cousin so they could communicate easier. Jesse noticed that Luke sported a fresh band aid on his arm just like the one the lab tech was putting on Bo. He gave the stranger a long, scowling look; taking in every detail of the man’s appearance. If this fella had any sense he would mind his p’s and q’s! The man had a hospital lab uniform on under the isolation suit, but Jesse still didn’t trust strangers near his young’uns. The man finished up quickly and nodded as he exited the room. Jesse just didn’t like that fella. His eyes looked too shifty. Turning his gaze from the door, he set his now smiling eyes on his nephew.

“Hey, yourself, son. They runnin’ more tests on ya or something?” He nodded his head toward the rapidly retreating lab tech.

“Yessir, I reckon so…seems like that’s all that fella does is take blood from us or give us some kind of breathing tests. He don’t talk much…guess he ain’t the friendly sort. Bo thinks he’s a vampire or something…calls him ‘Dracula’.” Luke reached out and poked his cousin in the leg; a pleased smile crossing his face when Bo responded to the teasing by trying to smack him with his casted arm.

Jesse noticed that his boys were once again clean-shaven. Luke had been meaning to shave himself and Bo, too, for awhile and must have talked someone into giving him a razor. He was glad to see them without the unfamiliar facial hair. They didn’t need to start looking like him yet.

“Where’d ya get that?” Jesse pointed to the guitar that lay across Luke’s lap.

“One of the night shift nurses, Kathy, brought it. Me and Bo were talking about stuff and she heard me telling Bo about his daddy being the one who taught me my first chords. She said her ex-boyfriend had left his guitar at her house and she wondered if I’d play her a song…” Luke shrugged and gave his uncle a smug grin. “So I played her a few. Couldn’t play much because my fingers are still too sore…but at least I can do a little now.” He said, rubbing his reddened, but healing, fingertips.

The family had yet to really discuss the nature of the boys’ injuries so Luke didn’t feel awkward when his uncle didn’t comment with anything more than a nod. They just weren’t quite ready to go there yet…at least not until Bo was completely out of the woods. Besides…none of them really knew what had happened during their missing weeks.

Jesse glanced at Bo who was trying to rub the spot on his arm where the blood was drawn, but wasn’t able to due to the awkwardness of his position and his cast. He walked over to his youngest and rubbed the spot for him. Bo smiled and weakly gestured to Luke; rolling his eyes, comically, as he did and mouthing the word “flirt”.

Jesse laughed. Even clouded by sickness and surrounded by dark circles, Bo’s eyes were so expressive that he could easily get his thoughts across without words. “Bo says you were flirtin’ something awful with that little nurse.”

“Well, he was, too…battin’ those eyelashes and smilin’. He was always wanting his pillow fluffed, too.” Luke mumbled as he twisted one of the tuning pegs.

Jesse watched Bo grin again and laughed heartily. “Well, that figures, but whoever was flirtin’ with who, just remember to take care of that guitar. It’s not yours and it’ll need to be given back when we leave.”

The old man settled into the other chair in the room; watching as Luke helped Bo prop up against some pillows so he could easily see them and feel included in the conversations. Once the pillows had been placed, Bo sank back into them heavily and closed his eyes. Jesse could easily see the muscles in the boy’s arms and legs trembling from the brief exertion. He inwardly winced as he saw how frail his youngest nephew had become; the boy was simply wasting away. More than once he had likened his boys’ appearances to concentration camp survivors….the emaciated bodies, pale skin and raggedly shorn hair. Even their faded striped pajamas that Daisy had brought from home…just in case they had really been found…lent to the impression by hanging loosely around the young men’s shoulders. He hoped he had a chance to get justice from the monsters that had done this to them. Clearing his throat and trying to get his mind focused on something else, he decided to distract himself with the day’s conversation.

“Luke, I thought you taught yourself to play with that mail-order course you got when you were twelve and then after you learned a bit you taught Bo.”

“Well, yeah…mostly; but Uncle James taught me the first few chords. That’s really the biggest thing that sticks out in my memory about him…that, and the fact that he looked just like Bo does now.”

“That’s the truth! Bo’s an exact carbon copy of James…no doubt about it…and you’re just about the spittin’ image of Lawrence…but I will say you’ve got your ma’s dark, curly hair. My Martha always thought she had the prettiest hair!” A soft smile crossed the old man’s face at the thought of his wife. “Yep, you boys pretty much look like yer dads, but Daisy…now that young’un’s a different story. She don’t favor her ma or pa either a bit! If I didn’t know better and believed in such stuff; I’d think she was my great-aunt Dixie reincarnated! ” Jesse started reminiscing; knowing the boys always enjoyed hearing any small detail about their parents and hoping to at least get their minds out of the hospital and back in Hazzard for a little while.

A storage area in the hospital’s basement:

Terry quickly pulled his latest samples out of the pocket of the “borrowed” lab coat. He laughed at how easily he had been able to infiltrate the hospital and gain access to his subjects. In his disguise he was easily able to take samples and administer amino acids and enzymes through the veins and respiratory systems of the young men. His virus was fully mature and in just a few days this chapter in his research would be over! Terry could hardly contain his excitement as he prepared the microscope slides so he could examine the blood samples.
He placed the sample from the older man, B, under the lens of the microscope he had swiped from a lab upstairs. After adjusting the focus and light several times, Terry frowned and made another slide from the same sample. There was no change. He grabbed the sample from subject A and also made two slides. Terry examined both and quickly compared them to the samples from B.
No…it couldn’t possibly be true…
Surprisingly, even though this was his strongest virus yet, the subjects were actually starting to fight the invading organism. They were both building immunity…even the weaker one! It wasn’t anything the doctor’s had been doing…they were as clueless as ever as to how to treat the young men. Their own bodies…the very blood that had been incubating the virus so well…had started creating antibodies. Their immune systems were simply starting to ignore the foreign organisms and were adapting to the virus’ presence. Terry began to panic. He would have to act quickly or his hosts’ bodies would start destroying the virus before he could finish the harvest. The time frame would need to be drastically shortened. So much had to be done in just a few hours…he just hoped he would be able to actually get it done! He would have to arrange for collection, transport and processing of the samples before they became useless. He quickly estimated that he would have the rest of today and tomorrow and then he had to be back in Louisiana to start the real work before he became another nameless body floating in Lake Ponchetrain. Terry began sweating as he realized he might not be able to bring his great plan to fruition! Damn it! He had to…he just had to produce a viable product. Failure wasn’t a luxury he could afford now. He would just have to scrap all his original plans…all his final analysis. The cold reality of dealing with mercenaries was hitting him hard. These people did not care about knowledge or the greater scientific good. They had paid an exorbitant amount of money for a viral weapon and they were demanding that it be produced…now! He had till sundown tomorrow to get enough blood to produce the amount of toxin his financiers demanded or he would end up just as dead as the two young men upstairs would soon be.

Hazzard (same day)

Back in Hazzard County, Deputy Enos Strait was hard at work trying to connect the dots in the Duke Kidnapping Case. A few days earlier, Enos had called the sheriff to tell him when he would be coming home and told him he wanted to wait about divulging any information until he got home. The sheriff sputtered and mumbled something about insubordination but advised him to get on back home quickly and in one piece. Apparently the sheriff…or most likely, Maybelle, the telephone operator…had told a few people when he should be arriving home. The minute his patrol car entered the square, a huge crowd of people began to converge from the homes and businesses in town. Before he could even get out of his car, he had been swarmed with questions from locals and even a few reporters that had managed to actually find their way to the small community. The deputy wore his trademark grin as he happily informed them all that Bo and Luke had been found and were alive. Hazzard Square erupted in cheers. Cooter Davenport had been standing right next to him, anxiously awaiting any news of his friends…making Enos feel a little guilty for not having told them sooner. Upon hearing the good report, the mechanic nearly crushed the deputy in a bear hug and let loose with a rebel yell loud enough for the Dukes to have heard in Memphis! Enos knew his ears would be ringing for a month! The sheriff was smiling widely and he even thought he might have seen a happy reaction from Mr. Hogg! Enos was once again assured that he had made the right decision in coming back to Hazzard! California had been nice…but whole counties just didn’t rejoice in the street when two missing locals were found!

The deputy had been submersed in the case since his return. He had been busy taking and returning phone calls and analyzing every lead that Cooter, Cletus or Rosco had managed to dig up. Some of the clues had been pretty lame (like Tommy Johnson’s idea that Bo and Luke had been tagged by aliens and then “beamed out of the hospital” before the doctors could find the alien hardware) or down-right strange (such as Widow Cleary’s theory that the boys had been “done in” over a long standing feud with some of Jesse’s former business rivals…the “real” reason that Jesse quit runnin’ shine; she never had believed that cock and bull story about a deal with revenuers…and that the “new Bo and Luke” are just imposters bent on ruining the whole Duke clan. The batty old woman had said the same thing when Coy and Vance had stayed a spell in Hazzard.) but he wasn’t dismissing anything at this point.

The stuff that the locals had dug up wasn’t much weirder than the ideas the professionals had come up with! Right now he was having trouble finding a connection between the local boys and the crazy-sounding stuff he had started receiving from the TBI’s Memphis office, the CDC, the State Police…and even the CIA! Apparently, the doctors that had been called in from the CDC were commenting how the virus that Bo and Luke had looked awfully familiar to some work that a former CDC crackpot had been working on before his death…some sort of super-virus that could be programmed to react differently for different situations or different people. The doctor had even been rumored to have been involved with some foreign nut-job terrorists! The TBI alert had told Enos to contact Dr. Darnell Williams…a special investigator who studied biological weapons and worked with state and federal agencies from time to time…to see if he had anything to offer. Enos…immediately fearing he had gotten in over his head…called Dr. Williams and briefly explained why he was requesting the doctor’s help. Confusing the young deputy even more, Dr. Williams hurriedly asked directions to Hazzard and stated he would see him in a few hours; giving no further explanation. Who the heck was this Thaddeus Milton that the report spoke of? More importantly, what had he been doing and how in the world did the Duke boys get mixed up in it?

Enos was completely lost. For the last hour he had been trying to read a report that had come over the wire from the state police concerning their part in the investigation of the late Dr. Milton. The report was filled with so much science stuff it read like a college textbook. Poor Enos had thought himself lucky to get through Ms. Pritchard’s Biology class when he attended Hazzard High! He struggled through information about gene splicing, blood typing and other terms he had no clue what meant. This Milton guy was apparently some sort of genius…an anti-social maniac, but a genius. Milton had an idea that he could create a virus that could be programmed…like a machine! The virus’ symptoms, duration and contagion factor would depend on the victims own blood types and could be controlled by administering certain chemicals to the victims via food, water or even air! The differing symptoms would make diagnosis nearly impossible. Whoever controlled the virus could bring businesses, towns, states, even countries to their knees because no one would know how to treat the virus and if demands were not met, a seemingly mild sickness in one or two people could transform into a virulent plague after just one sip of chemically altered water or one breath of contaminated air! The small-town deputy paled as he continued reading. Milton was trying to create a dooms-day virus…and had actually gone beyond the ‘idea’ stage. Broke college students and the indigent or homeless patients at the local hospitals were suspected of being Milton’s “volunteer” test subjects in exchange for a few dollars prior to being infected with the prototype virus. What was left of the poor folks could barely be identified. Their frail bodies had been almost completely drained of blood, the livers and hearts were missing and the corpses had been methodically dissected as if for autopsy. The bodies had simply been placed in plastic garbage bags and discarded in varying locations as if they were just trash.

Enos gave an involuntary shiver at the thought. The deputy took a sip of a now warm soda and promptly choked as he read the rest of the report.
All the victims had been male, in their 20’s or 30’s and had been discovered in pairs. Each pair of young men had been of the same blood type, had shaven heads and any fingerprints or identifying marks had been burned off with acid!
Just like Bo and Luke…

The deputy’s mind swam at the information he had just read. He coughed up the mis-swallowed soda and stared at the sheets of paper in front of him, lost in thought. A tap on his shoulder startled Enos and he turned around quickly to find himself face to face with a very thin, meticulously neat, black man dressed in an expensive grey suit, who looked to be in his mid-fifties. The man stepped back, adjusted his glasses and stuck out his hand.

“I’m Dr. Darnell Williams,” he said in an unaccented rumbling voice that seemed out of place with his thin frame. “I assume you’re Deputy Strait.”

Enos could only shake the man’s hand and nod as he tried to get his heart rate under control.

“I do apologize for scaring you. I took the liberty of reading over your shoulder for a bit and I see you have been sent a little background info on Thaddeus Milton.”

“Yessir. I tried my best to understand it, but it got a little complicated with all the technical stuff. Am I understanding this right…did this guy really try to make some sort of monster virus and use people to test it on? You’ve got to admit…it sounds a little like some of the comic books I re…I mean…that I used to read. Did you have a good trip from Atlanta, sir?” He said trying to hide his embarrassment.

Dr. Williams smiled and motioned Enos toward a couple of the booking room chairs.
“Yes I did…traffic was actually cooperating for once. Let’s sit down while I fill you in on Dr. Milton and his work. Is there anyone else helping with your investigation,” the doctor asked. Dr. Williams began pulling documents and photos out of the briefcase he had placed on his lap.

“Well…sir, Sheriff Coltrane sorta turned the investigation over to me. You see, I used to be on the Los Angeles police force for awhile and he thought I might be better suited for handling something of this nature. Sheriff Rosco and our other deputy, Cletus Hogg, haven’t really had much experience with things like this. Come to think of it…I don’t imagine anyone really has. They have offered to be of any help they can, though. Oh, I forgot about Cooter…he’s our town mechanic…he offered to help us, too, and if you’ll wait just a minute I’ll run over to the garage and get ‘em so they can hear all this.”

“Deputy Strait…”

“Sir, you can just call me Enos.”

“OK, Enos…I’m sure this Cooter fellow is a good friend and fine mechanic, but I don’t really see how he would…”

“Now wait a minute, Dr. Williams, Cooter Davenport and the Duke Family have helped this police force more times than I can count. In fact they’ve had a hand in helping with most of the arrests we’ve made. Cooter’s one of the people I’d want to have my back if I was goin’ up against some crazy fella’s like this. I know for a fact that the Duke family feels the same way too. Cooter’s pretty sharp and has instincts as good as any investigator I worked with in L.A. He’s great behind the wheel and good to have around if there’s gonna be a fight. Doctor…us country folk can do things just as well as you big city people do! Just ‘cause he doesn’t have a badge or a fancy degree…” Enos nearly yelled. He was still upset over what he had read in the report and the thought that his friend was being insulted and was being uncharacteristically short with the doctor.

Dr. Williams realized he had put his foot in his mouth and tried to calm the young officer.
“Deputy…Enos…please sit down. I didn’t mean to insult you or your friend. Bring in whomever you like and I’ll work with you. I’ll have to admit that I’m just not accustomed to handling an investigation of this magnitude with just a handful of people.” The doctor’s brow furrowed with worry as he went back to shuffling through his briefcase.

“I’m sorry Dr. Williams…I guess I’m just on edge. It was bad enough reading about those poor fella’s in that report…but…Bo and Luke are my friends. I don’t…I just…, ” Enos shook his head in contemplation. He raised his head to look up at the older man and found the doctor looking at him over his glasses.
“You think it’s this Milton fella don’t you?”

Dr. Williams nodded.

“You mean somebody tryin’ to copycat Milton, don’t ya?”

The doctor slowly shook his head “no”; his eyes never leaving the deputy’s.

“But ain’t he supposed to be dead?” Enos’ voice hitched a little as he realized this case was getting more twisted by the minute.

The doctor leaned forward and gave the deputy a long, hard look. The young man might be a bit naive and rough around the edges, but the doctor could see that Enos had the mettle to see this investigation through and he trusted the man’s instincts about his friends and fellow officers. Williams decided he would take any help he could get to bring down Milton…even if it was only three small town country cops, a mechanic and whoever else they could drag in!
“Well, son…I think you need to call in your reinforcements because we have a great deal of work to do and a very limited amount of time to do it in. If I know Tad Milton as well as I think I do…he’s out there somewhere and as work obsessed as ever. If he’s alive enough to work and if my research is correct…your friends in Memphis may not last the next 24 hours.”

Later that afternoon in Hazzard:

Things were moving at a whirlwind pace. Darnell Williams waited until the sheriff; his deputies and the town mechanic had arrived and then began to describe an investigation that sounded like something from a movie. Terrorism, counter-terrorism, genetic engineering, mad scientists…the whole nine yards. Darnell knew Dr. Milton’s work inside and out. He ought to, he had helped him discover the gene that could mutate Ebola and had inadvertently started the whole mess! The doctor explained his connections to the rogue scientist and how he had tried to keep Milton from proceeding with his plans but was unsuccessful. He had led the internal investigation at the CDC and had ultimately exposed the unethical work and caused Milton’s disgrace. He thought it was over when the lab explosion had happened…but after hearing about the two John Does that were found in Memphis, he knew Milton was still out there somewhere.

It had to be Tad because he was just too damn arrogant to allow anyone else to dabble in his work …and frankly, no one other than Milton or himself would even understand it. He further explained that he felt the Dukes had been taken simply because they both had the misfortune of having the same blood typed and being in the same place at the same time. Shell shocked from the unbelievable information, the local law enforcement had a quick collaboration and decided that it would be best for Enos to continue with the investigation, leaving Rosco and Cletus free to handle the minor dealings of Hazzard County and Boss Hogg. Cooter was officially deputized and both he and Enos decided to err toward Dr. Williams’ judgment on how to handle Milton. After a few quick phone calls, Enos Strait, Cooter Davenport and Dr. Williams soon found themselves seated in a small plane provided by the Georgia State Police. They were headed toward Memphis to try to save the Dukes before it was too late.

The same time, same day: The Med, Memphis, TN:

Luke Duke sat on his cousin’s bed, trying to will himself well. He felt like he was coming down with a cold and was praying that he wasn’t relapsing. Luke noticed that Bo didn’t look so hot either. He and his cousin had not been feeling too good since shortly after the last visit from “Count Dracula”. The weird, quiet man had already been in twice more since Jesse’s early visit and Luke had joked that he was gonna drain them dry if he kept on. “Dracula” just looked at him strangely and didn’t even crack a smile. Luke barely kept himself from laughing as Bo silently cursed and made faces at the man behind his back. Poor Bo! He hated needles anyway and he sure hated that guy and swore that he was taking more blood than was normal. The young man’s arm that was free of the cast was black and blue from needle sticks. Bo didn’t trust the man and truthfully…neither did he. Luke had already decided to ask Dr. Kennedy about all the new tests and if they could slow down on the blood letting.

He and Bo were in the middle of the tenth consecutive card game they had played since Daisy and Jesse had left after their lunch-time visit. They had both lost track of who was winning and were just going through the motions. He knew Bo was getting tired and neither of them was really into the game. They just wanted something to do. Bo kept looking toward the door. Luke cocked his head to the side when Bo’s sad eyes came back to his. The blonde mouthed the words “I miss them.” Luke nodded and knew he was referring to Jesse and Daisy. The forced separation and now isolation was hard on the close knit family. He missed them too, even though he knew they would be back in a couple of hours. The chatter of Daisy’s bright voice and his Uncle’s laugh seemed to fill the small room when they were present and without them it was just too quiet in here. He and Bo kept up as much conversation as they could, being as Bo still couldn’t talk…but they were so close that they didn’t really need to talk to communicate any way. A look, a facial expression or a shrug could say volumes for them. Luke briefly allowed himself to think of a future in which he never heard his cousin’s raucous laughter or his rich voice belting out an impromptu tune while he drove or worked. If it was the last thing he ever did, he would make whoever had done this to them pay dearly for what had been done to his family. Luke quickly became lost in his thoughts and jumped in surprise when a handful of playing cards were thrown at him.

“Wha..?”

Luke looked up to see Bo giving him a very frustrated look and gesturing with his hands.
“Oh. Sorry. I guess I kinda zoned out and didn’t know you were trying to tell me something.”

Bo shook his head and waved his hand as if to say “It’s OK.” He looked at Luke with unusually serious eyes. He pointed to his throat and mouthed. “what if…”.

Luke wasn’t a bit surprised to know that Bo had been thinking the same thing he had been.

“Don’t worry, Bo. You’ll be talkin’ again and fine in no time.”

Bo mouthed: “What if I don’t? What if I don’t get better?”

“Don’t say that! Don’t even think that! You’ve got to get better. Even if you never talk again you’re still Bo. You’re still my best friend and I refuse to hear you talk like that. So hush before I smack ya.”

Bo gave a soundless laugh. “I didn’t say anything.” He mouthed, emphasizing the word “say”.

“You know what I mean,” Luke said in an exasperated voice. “See, you’re the only person I know who can be smart-mouthed without saying a word.”

Bo gave an impish grin but quickly became serious again. He grabbed his cousin’s arm and looked him in the eyes. He could feel that Luke was still very thin and had not gained any of the lost weight back. He could see the sickness still lurking behind Luke’s pale eyes and it terrified him. Luke was so strong, how could he have gotten so sick? Luke never got sick. Bo was already weakening just from the mild exertion. He was so tired and hurt very badly. No one had really told him, but he knew that he was very ill…more so than Luke…and wasn’t improving much. He just wanted to go home. If he was going to die from this, he wanted to die in Hazzard.

Luke could see the pain and exhaustion in his cousin’s eyes. Things he had been refusing to see until now. He grabbed his cousin’s hand and squeezed tightly.
“Bo…please fight it. Please. I know you’re tired and I know you feel terrible but please don’t give up. If you give up…I’ll give up. I need you, cousin.”

Bo nodded and squeezed Luke’s hand in return.

Luke could see the fear in his younger cousin’s eyes.
“Ya scared?”
Bo nodded.
“Me too. More scared than I’ve ever been in my life.”
Bo looked at him questioningly. Luke chuckled.

“Yes, Bo. I get scared, too. It’s just…usually if something happens to us it makes sense.
The things that happened in the war, wrecks, accidents at the farm, some bad guy trying to keep us out of his business, your appendicitis…there’s usually some logical reason. This just doesn’t make sense! None of it…some nutcase doctor grabbing us at random and playing mad-scientist…people havin’ to wear space suits to get near us…livin’ in this damn fish-bowl lookin’ room…” he punctuated his remark by throwing a pillow at one of the glass walls surrounding them. “Do they even have a clue about what’s wrong with us? Why won’t they tell us something?” Luke was starting to get agitated and began pacing the small room.

“Look at us, Bo. We’re not supposed to be here.” He held out one of his acid-burned hands. “Whoever had us kidnapped never intended on us leaving alive and sure didn’t want anyone to have an easy time identifying our bodies. I doubt that whoever went to all this trouble is gonna want us around to mess up their plans. Somebody’s liable to try to finish the job…if this damned what-ever-it-is we’ve got doesn’t eat us from the inside out first.”

Bo nodded his agreement, angry tears welling up in his eyes.

“You were thinking the same thing, huh? Is that what’s scaring you?”
Again Bo nodded and then punched the mattress with his good hand.
“Don’t get riled up, Bo. Enos promised me he would get to the bottom of this.”
Bo leveled a serious look at his cousin and then rolled his eyes.
“Don’t give me that look. I know…I know, but Enos learned a lot in L.A. and he’s got the Georgia State Police, the TBI and the CDC…and God knows who else… helping him. Surely they can find out something.”
Bo nodded and shrugged. He then shook his head and ran his finger across his neck in a slicing motion.
“Bo…think positive. Enos is gonna do his best to catch this dude and we’ve got to do our best to stay alive and help him. We’ve gotta fight this.”
Bo nodded and closed his eyes as tiredness began to claim him.
Luke sat back down on his cousin’s bed and began to pick up the forgotten playing cards.
After a few minutes of silence, he looked up and saw that Bo had fallen asleep; tear tracks on his face.

Luke got up from the bed and arranged the blankets over its occupant.
“We’ll make it through this somehow, buddy, and we will get home. I promise you.” He whispered before turning off the light and climbing into his own bed for a quick nap before dinner. As he drifted toward sleep, Luke fervently prayed that he hadn’t just told his cousin the biggest lie of his life.

Memphis, three hours later:

Bo awoke with a start. Over the now familiar hissing of his ventilator, he could hear a strange, rattling sound coming from somewhere in the room. Forgetting that he couldn’t talk, he tried to call out to Luke but stopped abruptly as he saw someone in the room. It was that creepy lab guy again and he was doing something to his cousin. The rattling sound he heard was coming from several small vials in the basket he carried. Bo got a strange feeling…normally the lab people just used the stuff in the room; they didn’t bring things in from outside. That guy was gonna get in trouble…he wasn’t even wearing the ‘space suit’ he was supposed to wear in their room; just gloves and a mask.

Bo raised himself up on his casted arm; desperately trying to see what the man was doing. He gasped when he caught sight of Luke. His cousin must have been unconscious…at least he hoped he was just unconscious; he was so pale and still. A large needle attached to IV tubing protruded from his arm and the “Vampire” was filling vials and small blood collection bags as quickly as he could with Luke’s blood!
He knew that creep was up to no good! Bo was scared he was gonna kill Luke. He quietly tried to reach the call button for the nurse but he couldn’t find it. In his frantic search he hit the bedrail with his cast.

The lab guy heard the noise and turned to glare at Bo.
“Well, Mr. A is awake. I had hoped to get this done without your knowing, but its of no matter. You might as well watch. Don’t worry; I won’t take enough to kill him. Not yet, anyway. If I were you, I’d keep quiet…oh, yeah, that’s all you can do isn’t it? Just sit tight. I’ll deal with you later.” The man said; his eyes twinkling evilly over his face mask.

Bo was so angry he wanted to kill the man! He looked around and noticed that he and Luke were no longer in their room! He and Luke, their hospital beds, IV’s, his ventilator and all were in an otherwise empty room. The walls were grey cinderblock with no windows and industrial fluorescent lights and exposed pipes were visible overhead. ‘What the hell…? Where are we now…some kind of basement?’

Bo felt icy with fear. This was the guy! “Dracula”…the creepy lab guy…was the nut that had kidnapped them in the first place! He had found them and was gonna do who-knows-what to them! Bo swallowed over a huge lump in his throat. He looked over at the pale face and closed eyes of his cousin. They were going to die.

Dr. Janet Kennedy was livid! She had gone to make rounds on her patients and found that two of them had gone missing. The Dukes, no less…missing from an isolation chamber! She turned on the nurses, who had supposedly been on duty, and let loose with a verbal scathing that would have made her Irish grandfather blush. Poor Jesse and Daisy Duke had arrived, like clockwork, for their early evening visit and were witness to the spectacle! After dropping the bombshell on the family as gently as she could, she immediately notified hospital security and called in the local TBI officers that were working with the Georgia authorities. Soon the Infectious Disease ward was swarming with uniformed and plain clothed law enforcement officials and hospital authorities.

“You don’t understand,” Dr. Kennedy explained yet again. She had been dragged into the hospital administrator’s office to cool off after she cursed the chief of staff when she told her she was over-reacting. “This is a whole hell of a lot bigger than a missing person case. These young men have already been kidnapped and abused prior to this. That’s the whole reason for them being here! Their family entrusted us to keep this from happening again and we let them down. What happened to the extra security measures I asked for? How did they get off this ward without arousing suspicion is what I want to know! Bo Duke is on a ventilator for Christ’s sake! Their beds…the IV pumps…everything is gone! The room had been wiped clean of any trace of them or the kidnappers. This had to involve more than one person to move them and clean that room.”
The doctor slammed her hand down on the administrator’s desk.
“Mr. McDaniel, apparently your hospital has been infiltrated by outside forces and I and the authorities will want to know if it happened with or without your knowledge. Besides this being a public relations disaster and a probable lawsuit, this could have catastrophic results for everyone.”

At the mention of the word lawsuit, the balding, businessman…who had wonderful business skills but no medical knowledge at all… began to look green. Janet felt her stomach churn with disgust…the little worm would start showing emotion if he thought he was getting sued…forget the fact that two men and possibly the entire south-eastern US could be in danger!

“We have to find these young men and it has to be quick. Their lives are definitely in danger and who knows how many others could be. Are you forgetting what floor they were taken from? They were in total isolation with an unknown infectious organism and from this afternoon’s last lab work, it’s changing. We may have a much bigger problem on our hands than a kidnapping.”

As she turned to leave the paneled office, she looked once again at the rapidly paling man. She gave a grim smile as she noticed the reality of the situation sink in for the administrator and couldn’t help giving him one more zinger: “By the way, Mr. McDaniel, I hope you’ve prepared a good explanation for Jesse Duke and the press as to how you allowed his seriously ill nephews to be kidnapped right from under your nose.”

She left the man coughing into his coffee and went in search of the remaining members of the Duke family.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Memphis:

Enos, Cooter and Dr. Williams could barely remain seated as the small plane touched down at Memphis International Airport. Williams had received a call from the CDC while enroute that had disturbed them greatly. Dr. Williams was troubled to find out that he had been right in his assumption that Milton was back to his old tricks. Bo and Luke Duke were missing again.

Enos had been in the cabin while Williams was on the phone. He was thankful that Cooter had chosen that moment to go to the bathroom to wash up and change into the clean clothes he had grabbed before their hurried departure from Hazzard. Enos would have had trouble by himself from keeping his friend from bursting into the cockpit to make the pilot go faster! As it was, the deputy and the doctor both had quite a time calming the distraught mechanic when they informed him of the new twist in the case and his friends’ new jeopardy.

The three exited the plane as soon as they were able and literally ran to a waiting car. A serious looking young officer by the name of Joey Carter with a crew cut and wearing dark sunglasses and a navy blue jacket with the letters TBI emblazoned across the back in yellow waved to them from across the tarmac. The men were soon racing across town with full sirens and lights to speed them through rush hour traffic; the officer updating them on the situation so far.

Cooter Davenport, who had been in a daze for the last few hours from information overload and his first plane trip, was beginning to see red. This was too weird to be believed! Who the hell did this Milton fella think he was? What gave him the right to think he could play with people’s lives like this?
He leaned forward in his seat and tapped the TBI officer on the shoulder. “Joey, can I ask you a favor?”

“What would that be, Mr. Davenport?” the young officer replied, very formally.

“Well, two favors now. First, don’t ever call me Mr. Davenport again. I’m just plain ol’ Cooter who works on cars for a livin’…I ain’t no Congressman or nothing like that. The real favor I want from ya is simple. When we catch that crazy son of a biscuit-eater…let me and Enos have a few minutes alone with him. We’ve got a few lessons we want him to learn about messin’ with Hazzard folk.”

The officer smiled slightly and looked over the rims of his sunglasses, catching the mechanics eye through the rear view mirror and gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“Well, Cooter…I think that will be up to my superiors, but I’ll see what I can do.” The young officer’s formal tone of voice and accent seemed to dissolve into an easy Tennessee twang.

Cooter met the officer’s look and nodded in return. He turned to Enos and gave him a slight grin. That’s one good thing about country boys…no matter where you found them and no matter what they did for a living, they’re always willing to help each other out.

Back at the hospital:

Jesse Duke sat in silence as his niece raged at the hospital administrators and the police officers who went in and out of the office where they had sat for the past half hour. He knew he should be the one demanding to know what was happening, but he just couldn’t. From the moment he had seen the look of shock and apology on Dr. Kennedy’s face, he had been numb. He seemed to be paralyzed by grief. He barely registered what the doctor had told him: once again, his boys were gone…taken from them without a trace, so it seemed. If they didn’t find them soon, they would be gone for good and the life that he had come to know and love would be over. He continued to sit and stare at nothing; ignoring the questions, the empty statements of apology and the offers of coffee from the strangers who hovered in the room and just outside the door.

While Jesse’s grief and worry immobilized him, Daisy’s seemed to give her strength. She paced the room like a caged tigress, pouncing on any poor soul who dared poke their head into the room without news about her cousins. She was determined that who ever had done this would pay…oh would they ever pay! She heard the door open and swung her head around to see who was entering. Her eyes had barely registered their identity when she yelled, “Enos! Cooter! Thank God you’re here.” The young woman sprinted across the floor and threw herself into the arms of her friends.

Enos Strait knew he would never forget the sight that met him as he entered Dr. Kennedy’s office: his sweet Daisy with her eyes flashing with pain and fury, tears streaking her pretty face and poor Jesse…just sitting there, lifeless. He had to forcibly stamp down the urge to kill Milton for what he had done to this family! One look at Cooter let him know his friend felt the same way. After a brief hug for Daisy, Enos and Cooter quietly went over to Jesse to see if they could get any response from him. Cooter, tears in his own eyes, was finally able to get the old man to realize they were there and that they were going to help search for the boys.

Jesse placed his hands on each of the young men’s shoulders and looked into their eyes for a long while before he spoke. “Enos…Cooter…You boys are like family to us, you know that don’t you?”
They nodded.
“Family has always been the most important thing to us Dukes. We never had much and never could count on anything else and now our family is in trouble. This monster…I’m not even gonna dignify him by calling him a man…has my boys and he’s gonna kill ‘em if he gets the chance. You two have to help these people get them back and bring the one responsible to justice! I’m countin’ on you…as family…to get my boys back alive. Do what ever you’ve got to do but don’t get yourselves killed…do you hear me? I don’t want to lose anybody else because of this bastard. Daisy,” he turned to his niece, “honey, I know you want to help…but please, please stay here with me where you’ll be safe. I can’t lose you, too, baby girl…” Jesse stopped speaking and wiped his eyes. He was too choked up to continue.

Daisy’s heart was breaking at the sight of her uncle in so much pain. She wanted to rush out and drag the man responsible for all this back and stomp him to death with her high heels but she quelled her rage momentarily and simply nodded in response to her uncle’s plea. He didn’t need to be worried about her…not when he was so distraught over the boys. She needed to be beside him, to strengthen him as much as she could. Daisy bit her lip and wrapped her arms around her uncle; silently praying that their family would survive intact.

Cooter and Enos looked on, uneasily, as Daisy tried her best to soothe her uncle. At Daisy’s touch, Jesse had lost what little composure he had been holding on too. He grabbed his niece in a crushing hug and gave in to heart-wrenching sobs he had been staving off for the last month or so. The two men had never seen Jesse Duke shed as much as a single tear and to see the strong Duke Patriarch like this was almost too much to bear.

Both men were wiping tears away when the poignant scene was interrupted by a knock on the door. Soon the Hazzard folk were joined by Dr. Williams, Dr. Kennedy, the director of the hospital’s engineering services, the patient transport coordinator, the director of laboratory services and a handful of state and local police officers.
Darnell Williams had taken control of the investigation within moments of his arrival. He had pulled every string he could think of to get the authority from the CDC and the CIA to lead the hunt for Milton and thankfully he was receiving no flak from the Tennessee or Georgia officials. He had thought the doctor in charge of the unit was going to be a bit testy but after assuring her that he honestly had her patients’ and their family’s best interests in mind, he was sure Dr. Kennedy would be an asset to the investigation.

“Alright, now that we sort of know who we all are, let’s get down to brass tacks. Thaddeus Milton is a genius and he’s a sociopath who’s done a pretty good job of getting around law enforcement up till now…but he is only human; and from my experience, humans are fallible. He’s going to mess up and we will be there to get him when he does. For those of you who don’t already know, we believe the kidnapper to be one Dr. Thaddeus Milton.”

Williams passed around photos of Milton as he had looked when working at the CDC.

“Of course these photos aren’t relevant now, as we’re pretty sure he has altered his appearance to go along with his new life. A few years ago, I had the dubious pleasure of working with Milton as a fellow researcher with the Center for Disease Control, or CDC as we will refer to it. We were working on a gene splicing experiment in which we were hoping to genetically alter viruses such as Ebola, AIDS, HANTA, etc. I, for one, was hoping to lead the way in eradicating these diseases; Milton, however, had different ideas. He wanted to play God. He wanted to have the power to control nations with his own creations: mutated super-viruses that were able to be controlled at his discretion. Unknowingly, I helped him toward his insane goal by providing him with my research about alterations I had been able to produce in the Ebola virus. The Ebola virus affects the blood and Milton had been hoping to base his creations on a blood-based organism. He began working on a theory based on symptom variation based on blood type. Milton secretly began acquiring questionable lab assistants and performed illegal tests on college students and the indigent patients of the teaching hospitals, homeless people…anyone relatively drug free and desperate for the few dollars he threw their way before he killed them. He infected them with his super-bugs, studied the resulting symptoms and then dissected the poor souls as if they were frogs in a high-school biology lab!”

Dr. Williams didn’t realize he had been pacing as he talked. He removed his glasses to wipe his face and calm his nerves before he continued. He paused to study his rapt audience.
“I’m sorry; I get a little worked up every time I think of what he’s done. To make a long story short, I suspected what he was doing and turned him in to the CDC officials and the lobbyists who helped supply our funding. A big stink ensued, formal complaints were lodged and Tad Milton lost his high budget funding and was stripped of his medical license and his job. Criminal charges were also being pursued but hard evidence was lacking as he had taken measures to conceal his involvement and the test subjects’ identities. The day before he was to be arrested, Tad supposedly was killed in a terrible explosion that destroyed his lab at the CDC and all his ‘evil’ research. The case was closed as far as everyone was concerned. I didn’t believe for one minute, though, that someone as obsessed and power-mad as Milton would come to such a quiet end. I had brought the “faked death” theory to some of my superiors. Needless to say I nearly lost my job for refusing to let it end. So…I have been doing research with the CIA on germ warfare and the like. Surprise, surprise when I began hearing rumors of missing people and dissected remains with similar blood types and demographics and acid burned hands showing up around the rural South; I knew Milton was back to his old tricks. I had been researching every John Doe case I heard of and was just about to request the case files on Bo and Luke when Deputy Strait’s call this morning presented the case to me on a silver platter. Milton messed up big time…somehow, these young men were taken away from him and made it here. They’ve been identified and there are samples of the virus being analyzed as we speak. From what I have been able to piece together, some “nut case” from New Orleans is being leaned on pretty heavy by a former Soviet intelligence officer/turned bio-terrorist named Fyodor Stanislov and a few of his Afghani associates about a serious delay in the new “weapon” he had already paid for. If Milton is running with heavy-weights like Stanislov, which I’m sure are the only people who would fund his work, he’s living on borrowed time. Stanislov wants a working bio-weapon and Milton needs something to show him…quick. He hasn’t got much time to finish what he’s started so he’s going to get sloppy. Milton has them now…but, really, people…how far could he get? Bo and Luke are still alive, at least for the next few hours, because he has to alter, incubate and harvest the last phase of his virus from living hosts. They are no good to him right now if they’re dead. He needs the life-support equipment and the lab supplies that only a hospital or high-tech research lab can provide. What better place for him to be than right here in Memphis? He’s got this state of the art trauma center, the University of Tennessee Medical School research facilities and four other hospitals within a few blocks of each other! He’s here…hiding in plain sight.”

“Dr. Williams, do you have any idea what type of person we should be looking for: height, build…anything?” Cooter asked.

“Tad’s 5’10” and used to be about 190. He didn’t really have any distinguishing features that couldn’t be altered. However, his eyes…notice in the pictures that they are very deep-set. He had a very direct way of looking at someone that was unnerving…just strange. He’s probably been in and out of the unit, possibly posing as a member of the staff or something so he could get a feel for the layout and keep an eye on his pet project. More likely than not, the Duke family or Dr. Kennedy have seen him.”

Jesse immediately felt a jolt of recognition as he looked at the photo Daisy held before them. “That’s him!” he said softly.

“What was that, Uncle Jesse?”

“That’s him! I saw him in here this mornin’ when I first came to see the boys. That’s ‘Dracula’.” Jesse said as he poked the photo viciously with his finger.

“What?” Daisy and Cooter chorused.

“Oh, that’s just what the boys called him ‘cause they said he was gonna ‘suck all the blood out of them’. They said he had been in and out every few hours for the past couple of days. He was always comin’ in to draw blood for all the new tests that were being done. Bo didn’t care too much for the fella…said he was strange.” Jesse said.

“What new tests? I haven’t ordered any new tests this week and we have two lab techs designated for this area and they are both female. Besides, I have only ordered for their blood to be tested once per day! This man has been tampering with my patients’ right under my nose? No wonder they are anemic and their lab results are off kilter!” The doctor fumed, outraged that her patients had been in jeopardy while under her care.

“OK, folks…let’s get moving. Deputy Strait and I will lead the search as part of team one. Team one will search this premises. Team two and team three will begin searching the UT Med Center and the Pediatric hospital. These are the most obvious facilities and have the best in-house labs. If no luck on the first search, we will spread out to the Veterans hospital and Methodist Medical Center and the labs that service them.” Dr. Williams packed up his papers and picked up the walkie-talkie he had just been handed. Enos began picking the other members of his team: Officer Carter, Cooter and two members of the Memphis Metro Police Department.

The groups assembled and prepared to disperse, but were soon stopped by Jesse Duke’s forceful voice. The old man removed his faded red cap. He thanked the assembled teams and asked them to be careful. Soon everyone in the room stood with hats removed and heads bowed as the Duke patriarch asked the Good Lord’s blessings on their mission. After the prayer ended, Cooter smiled and clapped Enos on the shoulder: “Let’s roll, Buddy-ro! With a send off like that…we can’t help but do good.”

Luke slowly struggled to open his eyes. He felt like he’d been asleep for years. His body felt heavy and his mouth and throat were painfully dry. He felt feverish and it seemed like he was having more difficulty breathing as well.
‘Dang it! I must be getting sick again.’
He opened his eyes and immediately shut them against the bright glare of a fluorescent light. He waited for his eyes to adjust and looked around.

“Where the heck…? Bo?”

He looked to the side were he was relieved to see his cousin, still hooked to all his machinery, and seemingly asleep. Luke struggled to sit up and was surprised to find that he couldn’t! He looked down to find that he was tied to the bed with hospital-type restraints. He tugged at them as hard as he could, but his strength had left him. He collapsed back onto the mattress, his chest heaving and head spinning from the exertion.

“Bo? Wake up, dang it. Bo?” Luke yelled as loudly as he could at his cousin but received no response.

On closer inspection, he could see that Bo was similarly restrained and even paler than he had been before. Even with the respirator, Bo’s skin held a faint grayish-bluish tinge around his lips. Luke felt a tremor of fear run through him, greater than anything he had ever felt before.

Luke’s normal stoicism was gone. He was sick and scared and at the moment completely powerless…frighteningly reminiscent of how he had felt as a POW in that foreign hell-hole all those years ago. Feelings and memories that he had fought to suppress were coming to the surface to mingle with his current fears. He gave another brief struggle before his resolve melted and he finally gave in to his fear and the unreasonable sense of guilt he felt rising up within. He barely noticed when a high, keening wail forced itself from his throat. His breath began to hitch and soon wracking sobs followed.

“I’m sorry cousin…he’s got us and…I couldn’t do anything to stop him. I’m so sorry, Bo. Please forgive me and don’t leave me…don’t leave me here alone…” Luke stared at his cousin, tears falling freely down his face.

He had never felt this helpless. He raised his eyes toward the tiled ceiling.

“God…please…don’t let us die here. Please…if it’s my time…let me at least see my family one more time. Spare Bo if you can…he’s too young…but if he has to go, please let us at least get to see Uncle Jesse and Daisy one more time…to tell them not to worry. Please, Dear God…don’t let us die! I don’t want to die…” Luke begged, screamed and sobbed his desperate prayer. He kept talking. In his desperation, he felt like it was the key to staying alive. He gave encouragement to his unconscious cousin, he apologized to his uncle for worrying him, he cursed the madman who held them captive, he screamed for anyone who could hear him and he prayed until his voice became so hoarse it was barely a whisper.

While Team 2 and Team 3 began to leave the hospital to search the other locations, Enos Strait started to make plans for his own team. He had gone on high alert and was drawing on all his training from both the Georgia police academy and the Los Angeles special investigations unit as he began to methodically bark out orders to his team members. He and Dr. Williams would begin their search with the second floor and work down to the basement. Officer Carter and Cooter would search floors three, four and five while the two Memphis cops continued with the sixth and seventh floors. The small groups then began sorting through the blue print layouts of the hospital that had been provided by the hospital maintenance supervisor and were soon on their separate ways. Enos advised everyone to keep contact with the walkie-talkies and wished them luck as he loaded his side-arm to its capacity. Cooter Davenport shook his head in amazement. He could barely believe that this confident, steely-eyed cop with his pistol drawn and at the ready was the same, lovable, humble Enos with the goofy laugh and crazy expressions that he pulled out of Hazzard Pond on a regular basis! He was sure, now that he was seeing what his friend could do, that the dim-witted, meek persona was now more show than reality.

The men searched every visible nook and cranny of the sprawling hospital. As each minute ticked by without a trace of the Dukes, Dr. Williams and Enos became more nervous. Time was running out and Enos did not want the job of telling Daisy and Jesse that he hadn’t found them in time. The walkie talkie’s crackled to life as one of the Memphis cops came on the line: “This is Thompson. We’ve just finished sweeping the seventh floor and we’re gonna go out to the roof just for good measure. Graves thinks he’s hearing somethin’ and he wants to check it out.”

“Roger that. Let us know if you find anything.” Officer Carter replied.

A few minutes passed and the officer came back on the line. “Thompson again. We think we’ve found something. The noise Graves was hearin’ on the seventh floor is coming through real clear from one of the ventilation pipes up here on the roof. We can’t tell for sure…but it sounds like somebody talkin’ and yellin’ but the voice seems to come and go and we can’t really understand it.”

Cooter’s blood ran cold as he heard the transmission from Carter’s radio. He grabbed the device. “Enos…that’s them…I’d bet my life that it’s Luke.”

Enos looked at Dr. Williams and nodded. He grabbed his walkie-talkie from his side. “OK guys, lets see where that pipe goes. Who ever it is doin’ that hollerin’ sounds like they may need help. Where ‘bouts is that pipe, Thompson?”

Thompson relayed the vicinity of the pipe and each group gravitated toward the west end of the building. Enos and Williams had just entered the basement, Cooter and Carter were on the third floor and Thompson and Graves were headed back to the sixth floor. The men searched every possible air-vent that led to the main ductwork that led to the roof. It was quickly decided that they all needed to go the basement because that was most likely the place where the voice originated. They all agreed and soon the entire team was assembled near the maintenance supervisor’s office. Part of the basement held the pharmacy, the maintenance department, the central laboratory analysis area and the patient transport department.

“Well, now we know how he was probably able to move them through the hospital.” Dr. Williams said as he noticed portable ventilation machines, wheelchairs, and gurneys with transport restraints in the hallway of the transport department.

Officer Carter pushed ahead to enter the offices. “You guys go on ahead…I’ll stay here and find if anything strange has been going on. Someone probably needs to hit the lab area to find out if they have any ‘new’ techs.”

“Good idea. I’ll be there if the rest of you need me.” Dr. Williams said as he turned to go down the corridor that led to the large laboratory.

“Well…I guess that leaves us to check out the rest of the place. Come on ya’ll…Bo and Luke are waitin’ on us.” Enos said as he led the way down the meandering labyrinth of hallways.

“Sure hope somebody’s droppin’ some bread crumbs… ‘cause I don’t know if I could find my way back. Enos…you know where you’re goin’?” Cooter asked nervously…he had never liked close spaces or being underground and this basement was kinda bothering him.

Enos chuckled, knowing his friend was just hiding his nervousness with humor, “Nope…guess if we get lost, they’ll just have to bring Flash in to find us.”

The men continued on in silence through the basement maze.

From the moment he noticed the first sign, Enos was being drawn toward an area in the back of the basement that seemed to be under construction. Plastic was draped over the walls and a couple of bare 2×4 framed walls blocked the view. Signs warning of danger were scattered around the entire corridor.

“Hey, ya’ll…look at that.” He said pointing with his walkie talkie. “The maintenance guys didn’t say anything about any construction goin’ on in the basement…just the first floor.” He grinned, “Looks to me like someone just might be tryin’ to hide somethin’ down here. Let’s check it out. Cooter…stay behind us.” He pinned his protesting friend with a glare. “I mean it, now! You’re the only one without a gun, so let us go in first.”

The men carefully approached the construction area. They noted the very shoddy construction and the glaring lack of tools, sawdust or other signs of ongoing construction.

Cooter whispered, “This dude sure don’t seem to know what he’s doing. I thought he was some kind of genius.”

“He’s either not used to doin’ his own dirty work or he thinks every body else is too stupid to know the difference.” Enos whispered back.

After making their way to the back of the hallway, they found their way blocked by a hastily constructed wall and many sheets of heavy plastic. Three men worked to move the obstruction while one kept watch. After a few minutes, the wall lay in shambles and a heavy fire-proof door stood before them. As suspected, the door was locked. Enos pressed his ear to the door. He thought he could hear a faint, hoarse voice from within. He furiously began to push and kick at the door. “Ya’ll help me. There’s somebody in there. Hey…hold on. We’re coming to get ya.”

Thompson, who was a member of the Memphis bomb squad, smiled and told everyone to step back. “I thought we might just need something like this.” He said as he removed a device from his belt and placed it on the lock mechanism. He then flipped a remote switch and a small explosive device detonated; destroying the lock and causing the door to swing open easily.

Enos swallowed hard and looked at Cooter. The two friends shared a look, both anxious to find what was in the room and at the same time fearful of what they would find.

Enos cocked his pistol and carefully eased his way into the room. He quickly scanned the small space and shouted “All clear!” He was silent as he slowly realized what the room contained; then he nearly screamed “It’s them! Cooter…it’s them!”

Enos uncocked and holstered his fire-arm and rushed to the gurneys that lay at one end of the room. All his police bravado left him as he simply became a man who was absolutely scared to death about the well being of his friends. Cooter immediately followed, similarly affected. The other two men scrambled around trying to find evidence.

“Bo…Luke… We’re gonna get ya out of here…just hang on.” Cooter said, breathlessly, as he struggled to free Luke’s hands. He tried to get Luke to respond to him, but his friend was burning with fever and just kept mumbling, hoarsely. The mechanic looked over to where Enos was similarly talking to Bo, who was giving no response. He caught a glimpse of Bo’s pale face and was scared to death the young man was dead. He choked back a sob as he thought of how close he was to losing two of his best friends. ‘That Milton bastard just better hope he’s never found…’

The next few hours went by in a blur. Carter, Williams and the other two teams were alerted to the fact that Bo and Luke had been found and emergency personnel, dressed in isolation gear, soon swarmed the basement of the hospital. The Duke boys had been rushed back to their isolation chamber on the Infectious Disease Ward and Dr. Kennedy immediately began assessing their condition. Enos, Cooter and the two policemen that had accompanied them into the room where the Dukes were found had all been told that they would have to be admitted and observed under quarantine procedures until it could be determined if they had been infected with the virus. Effectively, their part in the investigation had come to a halt, but that was alright…the Dukes had been found and Dr. Williams had gotten on Milton’s trail like a bloodhound and wasn’t letting up!

The pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall from mid-air and fit together by themselves. Darnell couldn’t believe their good fortune. It was almost as if the Red Sea was parting for them and Milton waited on the other side! A man fitting Jesse’s limited description had been seen around the hospital off and on for the past week. There had also been fifteen new employees added to the hospital staff from a large staffing company that was commonly used by many Southern hospitals. He was updating Deputy Strait by phone while he leafed through a stack of documents. He almost didn’t hear the deputy’s comments because he had fixated on a similarity between the hospital’s employee logs and the staffing service’s list.

“Hot damn!” he said excitedly as he read further.

The staffing company had several offices, but a relatively new office in Kenner, Louisiana had recently staffed not only The Med, but also Tri-County General and other suspected facilities. The office was opened six months ago and managed by a Dr. Terry Wendelson, a Louisiana new-comer with a non-descript past.

“Oh, sorry Enos…I just think I’ve found Tad’s new name. There’s a Doctor Terry Wendelson who’s running a medical staffing office based in Louisiana. Guess where he’s sent people? You’ve got it! He’s put people here in Memphis and he’s had one at your local hospital in Georgia, too. Seems like he’s got someone placed in nearly every hospital in the Southeast! He’s putting his people where he wants them and then he gets them to help him,” Darnell Williams said as he saw that the three people placed by the Kenner, La office had been put in transport, the general lab and on the floor where the Dukes had been. He quickly began writing down names and phone numbers of all the employees placed by the Kenner office. Wendelson was Milton…he was sure of it…and now one of the people on this list could be the key to proving it!

Janet Kennedy’s stomach was in knots. She had never been so personally involved in a case as she had the Dukes’. They had become her friends…she couldn’t let them down. She knew she would never forget how Jesse Duke had looked at her with such trust and had once again placed his nephews in her hands…confident that she could bring them back from the brink of death. Janet’s analytical brain told her that Bo and Luke had very slim chances of survival…Bo especially; but her heart kept telling her that they would pull through. Against her better judgment…she was determined to follow her heart and heed Jesse’s advice that his boys would beat the odds. Upon her first assessment of them in the basement cell, she had immediately determined that both young men were severely in need of transfusion and that the virus had become active again. She alerted the hospital’s blood bank and those of the surrounding hospitals and soon several pints of O- blood were being prepared for use.

Now their isolation chamber resembled an intensive care unit as both Bo and Luke were on various monitors, oxygen and cooling blankets for their high fevers. Lighted displays and beeping machinery filled the room giving the protectively garbed staff even more of a feeling of being in a science fiction movie of the week about a virus from outer space.

Janet shook her head as she tore her eyes away from the glassed-in room and concentrated once again on the drug protocol that she and Dr. Williams had prescribed for the Dukes. Dr. Williams had shared his research with her and she was beginning the first rounds of testing for an experimental treatment…a combination of chemotherapy and strong anti-virals that could either cure the Dukes or speed their deaths.

She rubbed her temples as she felt a tension headache brewing and glanced beyond the nurses’ station to two chairs that had been pulled up to one of the glass walls of Bo and Luke’s room. Jesse and Daisy Duke had been occupying those chairs ever since the boys had been brought back to their room; afraid that if they took their eyes off them that they would vanish again. Daisy kept a quiet vigil as tears softly rolled down her cheeks. Jesse Duke, she noticed, sat with his cap in his hands and his eyes closed as he softly prayed. Janet once again let her heart lead her as she too asked a quick prayer for the success of their treatment. It seemed all that any of them could do at the moment was pray…regardless of all the fancy equipment, the knowledge and the miracle drugs, the fate of Bo and Luke Duke lay entirely in God’s hands.

While the rest of his team was quarantined, Dr. Williams and TBI officer Carter got to work contacting the hospital employees that had been placed by Wendelson’s staffing agency. It didn’t take long for the evidence they needed to fall into place. A very fearful and apologetic young nurse that had recently been placed on the infectious disease ward began telling Officer Carter every thing she could as soon as he walked up to her in the nurses’ lounge.

Katy Price was a poor girl from the bayous of Louisiana who had struggled to pay her way through nursing school but just couldn’t seem to find the dream job she had been hoping for. Terry Wendelson had approached her at the nursing home where she had been working and had offered her the opportunity to have a ‘real’ nursing job at one of the finest hospitals along the Mississippi! With the money she could make in Memphis, she could pay back her loans and help take care of her family. She jumped at the chance and loved her new job and newly adopted city. When he had approached her about letting him sneak in to get a few blood samples for his work she hesitated but when he threatened to revoke her staffing contract she caved and allowed him access to the Dukes. She had thought he was only doing research…he had told her that he had heard of the Dukes through the news media and he wanted to study them to see if he could help cure them. She never dreamed he was the one who had kidnapped them in the first place and had now tried to kill them! The poor girl was nearly hysterical by the time she had given her statement. The patient transport tech also came forward quickly, also describing a similar situation and threat of dismissal. Dr. Williams, from descriptions given by fellow lab staff, had already determined that Milton/Wendelson himself was posing as the newly hired lab tech. Only one person was left to talk to and that was Harvey Kelter…the phlebotomist at Tri-County where this whole mess started. Williams was trying to get through to Capital City, Georgia when a commotion a few doors down caught his attention.

Enos and Cooter had been trying to occupy themselves by playing gin rummy with a deck of cards one of the nurses had brought them. Both men were scared that they may have the virus that was ravaging their friends, but neither wanted the other one to know. During the middle of a hand, Cooter threw his cards down and began to pace the small room in frustration.
“Dang it, Enos! This sittin’ around is drivin’ me nuts. I want to get hold of that fella and beat him till he won’t be able to hurt any body else. Why can’t they just give a shot or somethin’ and let us on out of here.”
Enos quietly picked up the cards as he watched his friend pace. He took a deep breath and sighed with slight irritation.
“Cooter…settle down. I ain’t too happy about being in here either but if there’s a chance that we did catch what Bo and Luke have then that means we could give it to somebody else. And don’t you think if they had a shot for this they would’ve given it to us already? Just quit workin’ your self up about it. Williams and Carter won’t give up on this. They’ll get him.” Enos said; his voice a bit tense as his own frustrations struggled to surface.”

“Sorry. I…I guess I’m just…” Cooter stopped his pacing and looked at Enos. He was worried about Bo and Luke and he knew his friend was too but they hadn’t said a word about what they had seen when they had found them a few hours ago. “What if they don’t make it?” he asked softly. “What if that freak ends up killin’ them and what if we’ve got it too? They don’t even know what this is!” Cooter was quickly working himself into a rage as he talked.

“Stop doin’ this, Cooter. Bo and Luke are gonna make it. Dr. Kennedy’s doin’ all she can and now she’s got the stuff Doc Williams was workin’ on. Besides…that virus may not even be contagious; after all we didn’t find any of those protective suits down there and if it was real contagious he would’ve wanted to protect himself. We’re all gonna be fine and we’ll all be back home before ya know it.” Enos said as he walked over to the large window where Cooter had come to rest after his tirade. He was more worried and more angry than he had ever been in his life. He had promised his friends that he would bring their tormentor to justice and what had he done…he had endangered another friend and had made himself a possible victim as well. He shared Cooter’s desire to physically bring the mad doctor Milton to his end but couldn’t do too much about it while quarantined. His big case would have to be cracked by someone else.

The small town cop was mentally beating himself up when he heard loud voices and crashing equipment in the hallway just outside the door.

“Security! We need Security, STAT! Where the hell are they?”

“Get out of here! Get away from my boys, you devil!” A loud thud reverberated through the hallway.

“Uncle Jesse! Don’t you hurt him! Somebody help! It’s him! He’s gettin’ away!”

Enos and Cooter both recognized the panicked voices of Jesse and Daisy.
“Quarantine or no quarantine…I’m goin’ out there!” Enos yelled as he burst out of the room.
“Right behind ya, buddy.” Cooter called as he followed.

Enos quickly surveyed the scene. He saw Daisy helping her uncle up off the floor. Several nurses seemed to be hovered around Dr. Kennedy, who sported a heavily bleeding gash on her forehead and the security officers stationed in the hallway seemed to be in an almost drugged state. Cooter had immediately headed to the elevators and Enos started to run to Daisy when Cooter yelled, “Enos…he’s headed for the stairs!”

Enos saw a man dressed in lab scrubs sprint by and duck into the stairwell. He gathered his strength and followed…recklessly heading after the suspect with no weapon and no clue as to how the other man was armed.

Dr. Williams and Officer Carter ran out of Dr. Kennedy’s office and were immediately met by a breathless Cooter Davenport.

“What’s going on?” Carter asked as he readied his sidearm.

“That friend of yours decided to come back around,” Cooter said as he looked at Williams.

“He’s completely lost it…he has no concept of reality anymore. That’s the only explanation for his behavior.” Williams said as he shook his head.

“Where is he now?” said Carter as his trained eyes checked the surrounding hallway.

“Enos took off after him in the stairwell. He didn’t even have his gun and these guys ain’t much help so I was hopin’ to find you.” Cooter said, gesturing to the obviously impaired guards. “Let’s get after ‘em and help Enos bring this guy down.”

Carter nodded as he made his way to the stairwell. He paused beside two of the mumbling, groggy security officers and grabbed their guns. He passed them to Cooter and Dr. Williams.
“You two know how to use these?”

Both men nodded.

“Just be careful with them. Maybe we won’t need them, but I don’t like the idea of going into something unprepared. Let’s move.”

As the three men stepped carefully into the stairwell, they could hear Daisy and Jesse telling them to be careful. Cooter looked to his friends and nodded before following the TBI officer through the door.

Enos had been chasing the man up the stair case when suddenly; the wild-eyed doctor stopped and held out a vial of something.

“Don’t get any closer! This is enough of my virus to infect the entire state! Just let me go on about my business and I won’t drop it. You know, this close to the air ducts, it’ll send this toxin through the entire hospital in just a few minutes and everyone exposed to this concentrated of a dose will die within hours.”

“If that’s true, then you’ll die too, Dr. Wendelson. Or is it Dr. Milton?” Enos said as he carefully watched the nervous man.

The doctor looked a bit surprised and then he laughed. “Well I wonder who I have to thank for figuring it out? Probably Darnell Williams…he always was the ‘Dudley Do-Rite’ type. I know I would die, but I don’t have anything to lose. After all Thadeus Milton is already dead and Terry Wendelson is going to be killed anyway if I don’t get out of here with that serum! You see…my financial backers are getting a bit testy and if I don’t give them what they want then they are going to take it out of my hide.”

“But if you let them have that stuff…they’ll just use it to kill a bunch of innocent people.”

“I don’t give a damn what they do with it. Politics are not my concern. I am doing this for the science.” Milton yelled as his shaking hand held tightly to the vial.

“Bull,” Enos said through clenched teeth. “You’re doing it for the glory you think you’re gonna get for makin’ some kind of super virus.”

“I did this for the good of the world, damn it! If I can do this…just think of the things that can be done to help mankind! I’m a scientist!” the man said as his grip tightened on the vial he held and the black bag he carried. He looked around wildly as if searching for a way out.

Enos just stared at the man. ‘He’s gone looney.’ “Look…I don’t care what you call yourself…you’re a murderer, Dr. Milton. That’s all you’re gonna be seen as in a court of law. All your fancy schoolin’ and the good that you could have done has been wasted. You’re just a no account criminal who kidnapped innocent people and experimented on them like they was a bunch of rats! And then you killed them and butchered them up! You nearly killed two of my best friends and for what? What good can come to the world from that stuff you’re holdin’?”

Enos tried to curb his temper. He didn’t want to push the man over the edge but he couldn’t help getting his two cents in while he could. He could hear the other’s making their way toward them and he gave an inward sigh of relief. Just then, the cop noticed a pained, sorrowful look cross the doctor’s face. They locked eyes and Enos could see a faint glimmer of remorse. Maybe…just maybe he could talk this guy down. Enos slowly approached the man with his hands out in a non-threatening gesture.

“Doctor…I’m not gonna hurt you and I’m not gonna let any of the other officers hurt you. Let’s stay calm. I’m sure we can keep those fella’s from gettin’ to you if you just cooperate with us a little bit. Just hand me the vial and your bag. Doctor…please. I know that you don’t want to hurt anyone else. Please.” Enos asked as he prayed the crazed man would listen to him.

Enos barely had time to register what happened next as a black leather doctor’s bag came hurtling through the air at his face. He caught the bag by instinct and fell backwards down the stairs; curling into a ball, to protect the bag’s contents, and rolling down to the landing below him. As he shook off the pain from the fall, he looked up to see the scientist open the vial.

“NO!” Enos cried.

“It’s over. I’ve failed so miserably that there’s no way out. Give that bag to the CDC and tell them to destroy the contents. I’m sorry for hurting your friends, officer. Now I won’t be hurting anyone else.” Milton said as he carefully removed the top of the vial and quickly swallowed its contents before recapping the glass container and pocketing it. He then simply sat down on the landing as if waiting for something to happen.

Carter, Williams and Cooter witnessed Enos’ fall and the doctor’s actions. They rushed to the fallen officer. Officer Carter, seeing that Enos was ok, went to apprehend Milton. Cooter helped his friend stand after they had determined that he would just be black and blue for a few days.

Dr. Williams took possession of the bag and walked over to his former colleague. “Well, Tad, looks like you did it.” He said as he knelt next to the scientist who was already showing signs of toxicity.

“Darnell…I knew you had to be around here somewhere.” Milton said with a faint smile. “Yeah…I did it. It’s just like I said it would be…but you were right. I had no business messing with nature. Take care of that…will you.” He said as he pointed to the bag. Milton’s body was reacting to the massive dose of the virus. He was having trouble breathing and shook with chills and he knew he would be dead before long.

Williams had already ascertained that Milton was dying so he waved Carter away. There was no need to have an armed guard over Tad now. He helped Milton to lie down and grabbed his former friend’s hand.
“I will, Tad. Don’t worry…” Darnell struggled to find some words of comfort for the dying man. ‘But how do you comfort an insane, homicidal geneticist?’ He cleared his throat and simply told him the truth. “Tad…you know I didn’t always see eye to eye with you and you’ve done some terrible things…but I have to say, you were a brilliant scientist.”

At those words, Milton gave another faint smile. His eyes rolled back and his body began to jerk. He was having a violent seizure. Williams tried to help but within a couple of minutes, Milton was dead. The massive dose of toxin had killed him in less than 10 minutes.

Enos’ mind reeled as he watched Dr. Williams close Milton’s eyes.

“Possum on a gumbush…he killed himself. Cooter, he actually killed himself.” He said in a soft, dazed voice.

Cooter helped Enos hobble up the stairs to the landing where Williams and Carter stood next to the body of the crazed doctor.

“I never meant for him to do this. I just wanted to try to talk him into surrendering.” Enos whispered in a ragged voice.

“Enos…buddy…it ain’t your fault. You can’t help it if he just wasn’t right in the head.” Cooter said.
“That’s true, Deputy Strait. Tad wasn’t living in reality. You are in no way responsible for his actions. We were all witness…you got through to him enough that he just killed himself. He could just as easily have smashed that vial and took us all down with him.” Dr. Williams replied.

“You did a good job, Strait. Now let’s get the coroner up here. What do you propose we do with that?” Carter asked as he pointed to the bag in Williams’ hands.

“Yeah…what do we do with it? I guess the best way to dispose of it without any risk of contamination is to irradiate it and then dispose of it as radioactive waste. That’s the only way I know of to kill the virus completely. Of course I will have to wait until the investigation is closed.”

“Well, let’s get our work here done and write up the reports. Not much else to do now that he’s dead.” Carter said as he clicked his walkie-talkie and barked out instructions to his waiting officers.

“What about us? Do you think we’re contagious or anything?” Cooter asked. It had really spooked him, seeing how quickly Dr. Milton had died after ingesting the toxin.

“No, the only one’s who could be contagious would be Bo and Luke. Their blood…that is. That serum was concentrated from the viral particles in their blood and since you didn’t come in contact with any of their blood, you should be ok. The reason Tad died so quickly was that his body simply couldn’t handle the dosage.”

Enos, Cooter and Dr. Williams made their way out of the stairwell. As they reentered the floor where the Dukes were still under quarantine, Enos paused as he caught glimpse of the glass walled isolation room.

“Are they gonna make it, Dr. Williams?”

The man seemed to age a few years right in front of their eyes. He pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. “I honestly can’t say. The protocol Dr. Kennedy has started should destroy the virus…but as to whether they will be able to handle it on top of all they’ve already been through…” he took a deep breath.
“I just don’t know. It’s up to them…and if you believe in God…Him too.”

“Well, we do, Sir. And we believe in Bo and Luke. They’re gonna fight this and if at all possible…they’ll make it. Come on buddy…let’s get that doctor friend of yours to check you out.” Cooter said with conviction and just a hint of emotion as he led Enos toward the nurses’ station.

As they emerged around the corner, Daisy was the first to see them.
“Enos! Cooter! Thank goodness! I’ve been so worried!” She flung herself at her friends and the two men barely had time to prepare for the bone crushing hugs she gave them.
“Enos…sugar…what’s wrong? You’re hurt!” she said as she noticed him guarding his ribs and the bruising that was starting to show on his face.

“Aw, Daisy…I’ll be fine. Just fell down the stairs.”

“Well, lets get you checked out. You could’ve broken a rib or something.” Dr. Kennedy said as she surveyed her new friend’s injuries and the way he held his ribs.

“Just a minute, Janet…if you don’t care.”
Before he was to be led away to an examining room, he had to find Jesse.

“Daisy…where’s Uncle Jesse?”

“He’s over here.” Daisy led Enos and Cooter to an empty room across from the isolation room. “They use this room as a chapel sometimes. He’s been in there since he saw ya’ll take off after that guy. You gonna tell us what happened?”

Enos nodded and the three friends made there way into the quiet room. The street lights outside the window illuminated the small room. Jesse Duke sat in the dim light with his head bowed and a worn-looking Bible in his lap. His faded red cap lay on the floor.

Daisy went over to her uncle and gently tapped his shoulder. Jesse looked up and stood as he saw Enos and Cooter. He quickly made his way to the young men and engulfed them in a hug.
“You boys alright?”

“Yessir.” They both chorused.

He pulled back to get a good look at them. He noticed the bruises on Enos and the haunted look in both men’s eyes.

“We got him, Uncle Jesse…he ain’t gonna hurt anyone any more.” Enos said simply. Cooter nodded in affirmation.

Jesse smiled. “I knew you would son. What’s the matter?”

“It…it just didn’t happen like I thought it would. He was gonna send that virus through the duct-work and infect the hospital…maybe the whole city…if I didn’t let him go. There for a minute I thought I had failed…that everyone I cared about and a whole bunch of other people were gonna die. Right then I wanted nothing more than to shoot that fella between the eyes; but I couldn’t even do that ‘cause I didn’t have my gun. I tried to talk him down and I thought for a minute that it had worked. Then he went and…
Dang it…he killed himself…with his own virus. He swallowed a whole vial of it. We watched him die right there on the floor and it happened so quick we couldn’t do anything about it. I didn’t want him to die, Uncle Jesse. I just wanted him to pay for what he’d done.” Enos said with a halting voice.

“I know you didn’t, son. You’re a brave man, Enos, and a good police officer. You went after him with no concern for yourself and you must have done something right because you protected Cooter and Dr. Williams and all the rest of us from getting sick.”

“But why should it bother me so bad. He was crazy and he tried to kill my friends…”

“Enos…calm down, boy. It bothers you because you’ve got a good heart. You’re a good man and you don’t want to see any life end senselessly…even someone like him. Don’t ever lose that, son. It’s what makes you special.”

“I just want us all to get on back to Hazzard. After all this mess, dealing with Boss and Rosco will be like a vacation.” The tired policeman gave a short laugh and grinned widely.

Everyone laughed after seeing a glimpse of the deputy they were used to. They knew they would never again see Enos as just another of Hazzard’s “dipstick deputies”, but it would be good to get back to life as they were accustomed to it.

“We do too, sugar. Let’s just hope the boys cooperate with all those new treatments. Now let’s go get you seen about before a certain red-headed doctor comes to scalp me for takin’ you away from her.” Daisy said with a wink as she led Enos back toward the exam rooms.

“Aw now, Daisy…me and Janet are just friends. You know I couldn’t have eyes for any one but you.” The deputy blushed slightly as he slipped his arm around his long-time sweetheart in the guise of letting her help him.

Cooter and Jesse noticed this and also the small smile Daisy gave him in return.

“Oh, Enos…just hush now and let’s get you taken care of.” She said as she hugged him tightly and rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek.

Enos grinned and looked at the clock on the wall. He was shocked to see that it was nearly midnight. “Whew, I tell ya… this has been some kind of day…I haven’t been up this late since the last time Mr. Hogg had me pull guard duty over at his house when that escaped convict was rumored to be in town…” The two snuggled close as they slowly made their way down the hall. Daisy could be heard giggling at whatever the deputy was telling her.

Cooter grinned widely, “Well, shoot fire and save box-matches! Will wonders never cease? Uncle Jesse, that ol’ boy might bear watchin’ when we get back home.”

Jesse laughed as he pushed past the mechanic, settling his cap back over his white hair. “He just might at that, Cooter. By the way…I ain’t yer “Uncle” Jesse.”

Cooter laughed in response. “Yessir, Uncle…I mean Mr. Jesse. Let’s go find somewhere to sit for awhile…I’m tuckered out. I ain’t used to all this runnin’ around unless I’ve got 4 wheels under me.”

The two shared a look and then Jesse slapped Cooter’s shoulder; both enjoying the familiar banter. Things were starting to get back to normal between the Hazzard folk…now if Bo and Luke would just start picking up their end.

Hazzard, Two days before Christmas:

The ringing of the phone in the old garage could barely be heard over the revving engine of the patrol car.

“Cooter…your phone’s ringin’.” Cletus Hogg hollered over the engine’s noise and around the mouthful of sandwich he was eating. He and Enos had brought their cars in for a tune up before the holiday and they had decided to bring their lunch with them.

Cooter pulled himself away from the car and ran to the phone.

“Hazzard Garage…Cooter speakin’. Daisy-girl…it sure is good to hear from you. How are you and Uncle Jesse? Well that’s good. How are those hairy-legged cousins of yours doin’? You don’t say…well that’s a blessin’. Oh…ok. Yeah…I’ll be sure to tell him. Alright…ya’ll go have a good visit and thanks for callin’. Love ya’ll, too. Hey…Merry Christmas! Bye now.” Cooter hung up the phone and grinned when he saw Enos blushing behind the magazine he was looking at.

“Hey, Enos…Daisy said to be sure and tell you Hi and that she hopes you have a Merry Christmas.” Cooter said as he batted his eyelashes at Enos.

Everyone knew that the relationship between the waitress and the cop had become a little bit more than friendly since their time in Memphis.

“Oh…that was sure nice of her.” The deputy managed to say through his wide grin…he would be sure to try to get some time to call her later. He cleared his throat, “Did she say how Bo and Luke were doin’?”

“Yeah…that’s what she called for…they’re already better than they were before that nut kidnapped them the second time. Bo’s even breathin’ without that machine now and is startin’ to talk a little since that hole in his throat was stitched up. Both of them are buildin’ strength and holdin’ their own right now. She and Jesse were getting’ ready to visit with them for a little bit. Now they don’t have to wear all that get up when they go in now…just masks. She said that they’re even hopin’ to be home a little after New Years.”

“That’s great.” Enos said.

“Yeah” echoed Cletus.
“Things just haven’t been right around here with them gone,” Cletus said.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Enos agreed.

“Maybe things will get back to normal around here before too much longer. Now which one of ya’ll is gonna invite me for Christmas dinner?” Cooter asked as he once again turned his attention to the engine in front of him.

Memphis, TN December 26th

After a joyful, if unusual, Christmas, the Duke family was becoming anxious to get back to Hazzard and their normal lives.

Jesse was visiting the boys, who were now in a regular room, while Daisy had been sent on an errand while they conducted “man business” as Luke called it.

“Just do it Uncle Jesse…just shave it all off.” Luke said as he sat in front of his uncle with his jaw set. He gritted his teeth as he heard the buzzing of the electric clippers.

“Luke…you sure about this?” Jesse asked; giving his nephew a chance to change his mind.

“Yeah…it’s fallin’ out anyway. This way it won’t make much difference. Do it.”

“All right. Here goes.” Jesse guided the clippers through Luke’s dark curls. He looked over to Bo who was looking on in apprehension…watching his cousin’s dark locks fall to the floor…as he waited his turn with the clippers.

The boys’ hair had just started to grow back nicely after Milton’s horrible shearing job and now it was starting to come out in uneven clumps due to the massive doses of medication that the boys were taking and would continue to take for the next few weeks. Bo and Luke had decided to have their head’s shaved and go bald all at once…together.

When Jesse had finished with Luke, Bo swallowed hard and wheeled himself over to his uncle and the shears. Bo was doing much better, but he was still too weak to stand or walk by himself for any length of time and used a wheelchair for when he wanted to get around faster that his own legs or a walker could take him. After Bo had his turn, Jesse cleaned up after the barbering job and couldn’t help the tears that sprang to his eyes as he got his first look at the boys’ new look. His handsome boys looked like skeletons…the virus had taken a great toll on them and he often wondered if they would ever be the same again. He watched as the cousins looked at each other with thoughtful eyes…fearing that one or both would become upset.

Luke reached out to Bo in a long familiar way as if to ruffle the younger boy’s hair but hesitated only a minute before rubbing his cousin’s bald head and grinning widely.

Bo started to laugh, hoarsely, and soon had his older cousin pulled down and was rubbing his head in a similar fashion.

The two young men were soon howling with laughter and teasing each other about which one had the best looking head! Jesse found himself once again fighting tears…but this time they were tears of joy. He hadn’t heard his nephews laugh like this in months…well since before this nightmare began. Bo was talking and laughing…straining his weakened voice and not caring one bit…and Luke was finally losing some of the haunted look that had been with him since their last ordeal. Soon all three of the Duke men were hugging and laughing…glad that their family was once again whole and healing.

Jesse’s smile faltered a little as he saw a wicked little gleam in first Bo’s then Luke’s eyes. “Now boys…what are you two up to?”

Daisy had not wanted to watch as her uncle shaved Bo and Luke’s heads so she had gone to wash some laundry while they played barber…playfully rolling her eyes as Luke told her they were “gonna do some man business”. She returned to the room a couple of hours later to find her cousins and her uncle wearing matching blue Memphis State University Tigers caps, that had been given to them by the hospital staff, and funny grins. She had prepared herself for the sight of first Luke and then Bo removing their caps and showing off their shorn heads…but when her uncle removed his and he also was bald…she couldn’t help but sputter in shock!

“What…Uncle Jesse….what? Why?” She tried to remain serious but Bo had started to giggle and Luke was rubbing Jesse’s bald head and Jesse himself was laughing so hard that he nearly fell out of his chair…well the poor girl couldn’t help but collapse in laughter.

She sobered enough to say, “This is all well and good but I sure hope you don’t expect me to do this, too.” They all began howling with laughter again as Luke pulled a fourth cap from behind his back and tossed it at Daisy. Soon the family was laughing and talking as if nothing had ever happened and they were back home in the kitchen of the old farmhouse.

Passing hospital staff would smile at the sounds of merriment coming from the room…glad to know that the family was returning to normal.

New Year’s Day, Hazzard County

The Boar’s Nest was very quite compared to the rowdiness of the night before. There were very few patrons in the bar as it was barely noon and most of the town was either working or sleeping off the hangovers from the night before. Enos and Cletus sat at the bar eating their lunch and Gary the bartender was busy sweeping up confetti from the New Year’s Eve celebration.

Boss Hogg swore that his revenue from the bar was barely keeping the place open since Daisy Duke hadn’t been there to draw customers. More than once since the Duke boys disappearance and Daisy’s leave of absence the county commissioner had been over heard saying how things just weren’t right in Hazzard without those “Dangblasted Dukes”!

Cletus, Enos, Cooter and his cousins, and some of the other locals were keeping the Duke farm up and running and all had at one time or another seen Rosco and Boss drive by the farm… “Just to check on things”; when in reality they suspected the men just wanted to catch a glimpse of the much missed General Lee.

“Hey, ya’ll…I just heard from Uncle Jesse.” Cooter Davenport yelled as he burst through the doors of the Boar’s Nest.

“Oh, did you now? Well what did the old goat have to say?” Boss Hogg growled around the cigar in his mouth as he emerged from his office, followed closely by Rosco and Lulu. Everyone knew he didn’t want to let on, but he was just as concerned about the Dukes as everyone else.

“Bo and Luke are comin’ home! They’re getting discharged sometime today and Jesse said as soon as somebody can come get ‘em they’ll be on their way home!” The mechanic said excitedly. The small barroom erupted in yee-haws and happy chatter.

Enos jumped to his feet and hurried to stand in front of the sheriff. “Sheriff…sir…Could I…” the deputy stammered.

Rosco looked at Boss and the two shared a brief look and a nod. Rosco Coltrane pulled himself up to his full height and stared at his deputy. “Enos, quit yer yammerin’ and get your posterior out to your car and get it headed toward Memphis.” He said with a gruff expression that quickly melted into a genuinely happy smile.

Enos grinned and shook Rosco’s hand vigorously. “Thank you, Sheriff! I’m gone.”

Cooter had to jump out of the way as the deputy barreled through the door. “Hey, Enos…wait up buddyro and I’ll follow ya”.

After a brief stop in town to change clothes and gas-up, Enos and Cooter were headed to Memphis, TN…Enos in his patrol car and Cooter in one of his many loaner sedans. They had decided that it would be a bit crowded for the four Dukes to be crammed into one car and that it would be easier if two vehicles were used. Cooter also suspected that Enos would want to drive with Daisy and he would most likely be chauffeuring all three of the male Dukes home!

Later that night, they arrived for one last time in the parking lot of the Regional Medical Center. The deputy and the mechanic made their way to Bo and Luke’s room and were surprised to find the floor suspiciously quiet. As they neared the Duke’s room…loud laughter and many voices could be heard coming from behind the door. Cooter and Enos opened the door to find themselves in the midst of a party!

“Hey ya’ll…New Year’s Eve was last night…I know we’re in a different time zone and all…but it shouldn’t be that much difference!” the mechanic said as he made his way through the room.

People were everywhere! Jesse sat in one of the chairs and Daisy nearly leapt over someone sitting on the floor as she made her way to Enos. Cooter laughed as he watched the deputy turn three shades of red as Daisy enveloped him in a hug and kiss…which the young cop quickly returned as he got over his shyness! Cooter made his way over to where Bo sat on his bed with a pretty black-haired nurses-aide on his lap. He shook his head as he looked across the room to find Luke snuggled up with an equally pretty blonde lab-technician.

”Hey Cooter…Enos…join the party!” Luke said as he tossed a canned soda across the room.

Cooter deftly caught the drink and grinned wickedly as he shook it up and popped the top…spraying the sticky soda all over the room. Everyone shrieked and laughed as the hospital room soon resembled an all-out Hazzard hoe-down!

After an hour or so, the party died down as it was soon time for the hospital staff to return to their duties. They had grown close to the Duke family in the weeks that they had been there and all the excitement they had caused. The staff, after hearing that the Dukes were going home had decided to have a little “going home party” for some of their favorite patients. All their regular nurses and lab-techs had made an appearance. Dr. Kennedy had even made an appearance and didn’t quite know how to handle the flirtatious mechanic that she had barely gotten to know the last time he had visited! She blushed when she accepted his offer to dance to a song on the radio. Her pager went off and she became very flustered as she remembered where she was. She regretfully left the happy crowd and then admonished them all to keep the noise level down as she left to complete her rounds on the other side of the unit.

The Hazzard crew was so eager to head home that they didn’t even want to spend another night in Memphis! Enos, Cooter, Daisy and Jesse alternately drove through the night in order to get home as soon as possible.

Cooter and Jesse talked most of the night, neither sleeping much as they both were just excited to be headed back to Georgia. Cooter told Jesse of how they had kept the animals fed and the chores done around the farm. The old man grew misty-eyed at times as he realized how many friends his family had and what they had done for them. Bo and Luke tried to stay awake in the back seat as they tried to join in the conversations, endure a little good-natured ribbing about their new hair-styles (Cooter knew better than to say anything to Jesse about his buzz-cut) and simultaneously keep their eyes on the Hazzard County patrol car in front of them that contained their cousin, Daisy, and her apparent new boyfriend…Enos! Several hours passed while the sleepy group headed toward home.

“Hey…Cooter…,” Bo yawned, sleepily, as he tried to talk.

“What?” Cooter said as he noticed they were nearly to Chattanooga…it wouldn’t be too much longer till they reached Georgia.

“Tennessee’s an awful long state…ain’t it?”

“Yeah it is.”

“Hey, Cooter…”

Jesse and Luke both grinned as they tried to doze off to sleep. This was a ritual Bo usually used on them when he was fighting sleep.

“What is it, Bo?”

“I wanta do something nice for Enos…and you, too…and that Doctor Whatshisname. Ya’ll really saved our butts…” Bo’s voice trailed off as he once again yawned.

“Aww, Bo…that’s what friends are for…ya’ll have been there for us and we were just returning the favor. Now go to sleep…we’ll be home before ya know it.” The mechanic struggled to keep from choking up as he replied to his sleepy young friend.

“You’re not a friend, Cooter…you’re family. I love ya, buddy, and I just wanna say thanks…and I’m sure Luke would say the same.” He yawned again. “And as soon as Daisy let’s Enos have a chance to breathe…I’m gonna tell him the same.” Bo caught his friends, damp-eyed gaze in the rear view mirror and smiled. He then gave another jaw-cracking yawn before he finally surrendered to sleep.

Luke, simply too tired to speak or open his eyes, nodded sleepily in agreement.
Cooter swallowed hard over the lump in his throat; he didn’t know what to say.

Jesse also heard his nephew’s sleepy ramblings and whole-heartedly agreed with all of Bo’s statements. Too bad they had never found out who had gotten the boys away from Milton and onto that Louisiana barge… Jesse wanted to thank them, too, but he seemed to feel like they would never know. He chalked it up to the Good Lord watching over them and maybe their guardian angels working overtime. He once again thanked his Maker for keeping his boys safe. Now Enos, Cooter and Dr. Williams…those were fellas he could thank in person. Jesse liked Bo’s idea…he would just see what he could do about making something happen…

As dawn was breaking over the horizon, the tired group made their way into Hazzard County. Cooter and Enos bypassed the town and drove straight to the Duke farm. In the patrol car ahead of him, Cooter could see that Daisy was almost jumping up and down in the seat in her excitement at being so close to home. The mechanic grinned and decided to wake up his companions. He looked over to where the eldest Duke was leaned against the window, snoring regularly and gently shook Jesse’s shoulder
“Uncle Jesse…we’re almost to the farm. We’re back in Hazzard.”

The older man mumbled something and then, realizing what Cooter had said, sat up and pushed his cap off his face.
“Did you say we was home?”

“Yessir. We’re just turnin’ on Mill Road now.”

“Praise be to Glory! I was worried for a while there that we’d all never make it back.”
Jesse turned around in the seat and gently tried to rouse Bo and Luke.

“Boys…boys wake up now. You’re home.”

Luke’s eyes sprang open first and to Jesse’s surprise, Bo’s quickly followed.
The two young men straightened their now ever-present ball caps over the newly sprouting fuzz that covered their heads and eagerly looked out the car windows. They were unusually silent as they seemed to devour the sights that spread out before them.

“I didn’t realize how bad I missed home till now.” Bo whispered as a few tears slowly tracked down his face. He placed a hand on the window as if it would bring him closer to home.

“I know what you mean. I was afraid we’d never get home at all.” Luke said in a whisper, tears in his eyes as well. It was as if they thought they were in a dream and loud voices would wake them.

“It’s real, boys…you’re home. And you two better not even think about gettin’ out of my sight again…” Jesse said in a gruff voice as he tried to hide the tears in his own eyes.

The subdued mood in the car soon erupted into good natured arguing and laughter as they pulled into the drive of the old, weathered farm house. They laughed again as they saw that Enos was already swinging Daisy around in a hug as the two made their way to the porch.

Bo and Luke exited the car slowly, both young men commenting how the last time they had stood in this yard the leaves had been changing colors and now a fine layer of snow and ice covered the ground.

Luke shuddered when his last memory of the farm came to mind…Bo’s unconscious and bloody body being loaded into am ambulance.

As if knowing what his cousin was thinking, Bo’s gaze hovered on the barn roof and the hard ground of the barn lot.

The boys shook themselves from their reverie and grinned widely as each of them bent and tried to scoop up enough of the dry, powdery snow at their feet to throw at each other. Jesse laughed as he slowly made his way to the porch as he watched his three kids, the deputy and the town mechanic playing in the snow like children. He smiled in his beard and silently gave up a prayer of thanks that his family was once again whole and back in Hazzard where they belonged.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as the residents of Hazzard and even some from neighboring counties found out that the Dukes had come home. Celebrations were held in the boys’ honor and also a special party instigated by the Duke family in honor of the men who had come to their rescue. Enos even received a special commendation from the Georgia State Police for his exemplary service during the investigation. The deputy and the mechanic were overwhelmed at all the attention. Dr. Williams, who had been in Hazzard for the last few days updating Doc Petticord on the special care Bo and Luke might need due to their compromised health, was enjoying Hazzard hospitality so much he was about ready to relocate permanently!

Just being back home…and back in the General Lee…seemed to have miraculous effects on the Duke boys’ health. Both boys seemed to have gained some weight and their hair seemed to be growing like they had washed it in fertilizer! Although the ordeal they had been through could still be seen in their features and especially in the haunted looks they both wore from time to time, the closeness of their friends and family worked wonders to make them whole again.

The time away from home had changed all those involved.
Although a little more careful now, Bo and Luke both eventually regained their health and were soon back to their rowdy selves…much to Rosco Coltrane’s and Boss Hogg’s dismay; even though both the Dukes and the law had to admit they had missed each other. Other than Bo’s surgery scar, an arm that ached when it rained and a few lingering problems from his asthma, Luke’s occasional bouts of paranoia and a few nightmares and their bi-monthly trips to Atlanta to visit Dr. Williams, the boys seemed to have no permanent disabilities from their torment.

Daisy went back to the Boar’s Nest…much to Boss Hogg’s and the regular customer’s delight; even though she did break a few hearts when she let it be known she wasn’t single anymore.

Cooter resumed his duties as the town mechanic and hoped to never have to be a deputy again.

Jesse eased back into his usual role and eventually lost the pained look in his eyes that he got from time to time when he thought of how easily their lives could have changed for the worse.

Enos…well, Enos didn’t come back from Memphis quite the same, either. Although the deputy still acted naïve and as goofy as ever…both he and his closest friends knew that he was capable of great things…and when it came to Daisy he sure wasn’t shy anymore! Why the formerly shy, young deputy was often seen at the Boar’s Nest on his nights off and had even gotten in the middle of a brawl that had been started when some rough-neck dared to make a grab at his sweet Daisy!

The family didn’t talk much about the lost weeks when they were going through hell on earth. They had all made a silent vow to simply treasure every day they had together as if it could be the last.

Their blood had been the factor that had nearly gotten them killed, but Bo, Luke and the rest of the Dukes knew that their blood was the tie that made them strong…made them a family. And nothing on earth would ever be strong enough to tear that apart!

THE END

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