by: BlackJack Murphy
When I woke, I was in a different room, in different clothes. Must be one of the boys’ pajamas. My arm was nicely bandaged and thankfully still a little numb. The soft, warm sheets and pillows were welcome. I felt like melting into them and sleeping for a week. But I knew I couldn’t.
I forced myself to sit up. I sat there, dazed, for a few minutes. I looked towards the window. Still dark outside. I pulled the covers away and swung my legs over the side of the bed. The hardwood floor was cold against my bare feet. A shiver ran through me. I was weak, but determined. I stood and wobbily made my way towards the door. I leaned against the door jamb for a moment to steady myself.
A figure on the couch in the next room stirred. “Rosco? What are you doing out of bed?”
“How long have I been out?” I asked.
“A few hours,” Jesse replied as he hurried towards me. “We gotta get you back in bed. You’ve lost a lot of blood. You need your rest.”
I fended off his attempts to herd me back to bed. “Look, Jesse.” I stared defiantly at the Duke patriarch. “ I may be hurt, but I’m STILL the sheriff and I’ve got a job to do. Now, you can help me do it or I’ll do it alone, but don’t you get in my way.”
The older man shrank back at my words. “Rosco, you know we’ll help you. And I certainly won’t stand in your way if you want to leave. But I don’t see how you can do anything at the moment. It’s the middle of the night. You don’t even know where they’ve taken J.D.”
“I have an idea where they went.” I took a deep breath, feeling a bit woozy. I lowered my voice. “Jesse, I’ve told you all several times tonight. They’re going to kill him. They nearly succeeded in killing me.” My thoughts and words became disjointed, emotion threatening to overtake me. “Do you not understand? Or do you not care? We have to do something.” I paused, frustration and hopelessness warring deep within. “Jesse,” I continued, choosing my words deliberately, “Boss is a good friend, sometimes my ONLY friend.” I wiped my eyes on my sleeve. “He saved my life earlier tonight. If he hadn’t…If he hadn’t wrestled with that man holding the shotgun…” I closed my eyes to the realization. “Jesse, I wouldn’t be standin’ here.” And as if right on cue, my legs failed me, giving into the wooziness I had fought off earlier.
Jesse grabbed the elbow of my good arm and put an arm around my waist, supporting me. “Rosco,” he said sternly, “you know we care. And it’s because we care that we’re not gunna go rushing into this. We want to make sure you’re alright first.” He paused, “And we want to make sure we have a plan to help J.D. before we go gallopin’ off like the Hazzard Cavalry.” He settled me back onto the bed. “You may be sheriff, but for the time bein’ I’m stronger than you,” he pointed at me to emphasize his words, “so you’re gunna do as I say and get some rest. We’ll come up with a plan tomorrow morning… when you’re stronger.”
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I decided I was too exhausted to fight with the man anymore tonight, so I laid back in the pillows and sighed in resignation. “Ok, Jesse. I just hope Boss will be ok til we can get to him.”
I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard in my life, that Rosco escaped further harm, that he got to someone who could help, that we all got out of this mess alive. Somehow, I just felt that might be too much to ask. So I concentrated my thoughts and prayers on Rosco.
After Rosco had taken off, Carson, I, and the rest of Carson’s entourage walked the several miles back to their hideout. By the time we got there, I was ready to collapse.
They tied me up in the same room they had kept me in before, but this time Carson put the driver on guard duty outside my door. I could hear Carson raging in the other room. He cursed loudly at Rob who tried ineffectively to blame the escape on the sheriff’s cunning and their associate’s bad aim.
When Carson was done verbally abusing Rob, he detailed the necessary changes to their plan in slow and simple terms to make sure all was understood. He also made clear the full implications of any failure on Rob’s part. Rob and Tompkins, the driver, were to find the sheriff at any cost. They were told to shoot on sight. Failure to do so would result in forfeiture of their cut of the ransom money, among other things.
By the end of their conversation I had broken out in a cold sweat and my heart was pounding in my chest. I’ve been lucky before, damn lucky. I always managed to wiggle my way out of things, sometimes by myself, sometimes with some help. But, I couldn’t see any way out of this. I’d pulled my last scam. I’d done my last deal. My only consolation was that I had helped Rosco escape. That he managed to stay out of Carson’s reach until Carson was caught was something I could only pray that I lived to see. If he didn’t, I was sure I didn’t want to be around to see it.
I thought about Lulu. She must be worried sick about me, not to mention her brother. We’d been missing for at least two days. Dear Lord, I hoped someone was looking out for her, comforting her. She’d always been an emotional woman. One of us missing would be enough to send her into fits. I can’t imagine what she’d be going through with both of us missing. As much as her emotional outbursts occasionally annoyed me, I would have given anything to be right smack dab in the middle of one right now. I love her, I truly do. I guess I never told her that as much as I should have. And now that it was too late, I wished I’d told her more.
They’d be calling her tomorrow morning to discuss the ransom. I knew that’d set her off into fresh tears. I hoped that maybe the Dukes would be there with her. Otherwise the message would never get through. There’s no talking to Lulu when she’s upset.
And if Rosco had gotten to the Dukes, he could lead them to the hideout. Even if he hadn’t, though I prayed he had, if the Dukes were made aware of the ransom plans they could tail Carson and possibly find me. The Dukes were resourceful and as badly as we’ve treated them over the years, they always came to our rescue. I could never figure why, but now I didn’t question it. I only hoped they could pull off one more miracle for mine and Rosco’s sake.
My mind and body numbed from the horrible events of the past few hours, I fell into a fitful sleep.
I awoke to the sun shining on my face through the window. The wonderful smell of bacon frying wafted into the room. I breathed deeply and allowed myself a few more minutes of luxury in the comfort of the goose down pillows and flannel sheets. When I finally decided to get out of bed, I did so slowly and carefully. Whatever painkillers Jesse had given me had worn off and I’d have given anything for some more at the moment. I picked up the robe someone had left hanging over the chair near the bed. I delicately pulled one side over my injured arm then put my other arm through and adjusted the shoulders with a quick shrug. I then secured the robe closed as best I could, stuck my feet into the slippers they’d provided and made my way to the kitchen.
“Hey, Rosco! How ya feelin’ this mornin’?” Bo asked enthusiastically.
All I could manage was a distressed grunt in response to Bo’s nauseating cheerfulness. “Jesse, you got anything for this pain? It’s killin’ me,” I pleaded.
“Sure thing, Rosco. Just sit yourself down there and start on that wonderful breakfast Daisy’s cooked up for ya. I’ll fix ya some coffee with a little special ingredient,” he said with a wink.
I sat down next to Daisy and picked up the fork next to my plate. I took a few bites and then washed it down with some milk. It tasted good, but even though my stomach was empty I didn’t have much appetite. I picked at the egg and pancakes without eating much of it. I was too preoccupied thinking about Boss.
Daisy placed her hand on my arm. “Rosco, don’t worry. We’ll find Boss. He’ll be fine.”
I turned to look at her. “I hope you’re right, Daisy. But… I can’t help, but think it might be too late already.”
“It’s not too late, Rosco,” Luke interrupted. “They had a reason for kidnappin’ Boss. You mentioned something about a ransom. They’re not going to kill him until they have no use for him anymore. And that means not until they get their money.” Luke paused. I could see the wheels starting to spin in his head. “They’re going to contact Lulu about an exchange. We’d better get over there before they do and make sure we know their plans. Then we can form a plan of action ourselves.”
“Well then, let’s get going!” Bo exclaimed as he nearly leaped out of his chair and headed towards the door.
“Meet us there!” Luke called out as he raced after his cousin to the General Lee.
“You can ride with me in Dixie,” Daisy offered as she glanced over at me.
“And I’ll follow along in the pickup,” Jesse replied.
Jesse helped me out to the yard and up into the jeep as Daisy ran around to the driver’s seat.
After enduring the bumpy, dusty ride to town, I was glad the comforts of my sister’s home were in sight. The caravan slid to a squealing stop at the curb and the boys slid out the General and rushed to the jeep to help me out.
As my feet hit the ground, I glanced up to see Lulu pull back the drapes and peer through the window at the commotion we were making outside.
Almost as quickly as she disappeared from the window, she reappeared behind the opening door and she came rushing out to greet me.
“Rosco!” she cried as she came thundering down the walkway. “Where have you been?” she wailed through threatening tears. “My baby brother…”
I winced as she opened her arms wide and threatened to squeeze whatever life I had left out of me.
Luckily, Daisy intercepted her and shielded my wounded arm. “Careful, Lulu. He’s been hurt.”
That revelation only set off another round of wails and tears.
But through the tears she managed to fire off a barrage of questions. “Rosco, what happened?! Where have you been? You’ve been missing for so long. What did they do to you? Where’s J.D.?”
This time Luke rescued me. He ushered her back inside to the couch as he promised her we’d answer all of her questions if she’d just calm down and give us a chance.
Bo, Daisy, and Jesse shared an amused glance as we started up the walk behind them.
When we entered the living room, Lulu had already gone through five or six tissues as Luke calmly explained the situation to her.
I sat down in the easy chair near her with an audible groan. She glanced at me and put a worried hand on my arm. She patted it briefly then turned her attention back to Luke.
“So, I’m guessing that they know we’ve got Rosco and they’ll want him to make the drop. Then they’ll probably be waiting to pick the money AND him up.”
“And we already know what they want to do with me,” I reminded.
Lulu started wailing and shoved her face into another tissue. “We can’t just give him to those guys, Luke!” Bo exclaimed.
“I don’t see how we have much choice,” Luke answered. “They’ve got Boss. They’ll use him as leverage. As much as I hate to do it, it’s gotta be Rosco. But rest assured, we’ll be right behind you every step of the way,” he said with a smile in my direction.
Just as the full consequences of the plan started to sink in, the phone rang. Everyone must’ve jumped a good three feet out of their skin.
Luke scrambled to pick up the receiver. “Hello?”
From the conversation that ensued, it was obvious that Carson was not a happy camper. Luke took notes, probably directions, and absent-mindedly nodded. Midway through the conversation, Luke looked over at me. “Rosco? He wants to talk to you.”
As I took the phone from Luke, he sneaked over to an extension and carefully picked it up. “Hello?” I said weakly.
I was right, Carson WAS mad. I held the phone slightly away from my ear as he let loose with a tirade that would make a sailor blush. When he was done, he voiced a threat that sent a shiver down my spine. And I knew he meant it. I slowly put the phone back on the hook.
A half dozen stares wordlessly asked the question that was on everybody’s mind.
“He wants me to bring the money… alone.”
Daisy protested, “But Rosco, that’s suicide! They almost killed you once. You’re not seriously going to give them a second chance, are you?”
“I don’t see how I have much choice, Daisy. He said any hint of another person with me and he’d cut his losses and run. “
“You mean, he’d kill Boss,” Luke replied.
“Exactly. And me too if he gets the chance.”
“He WILL if you go alone, Rosco. He’s not the type to leave witnesses,” Luke countered.
I sighed heavily at the hopelessness of the situation. “Luke, I’ve gotta get in close if there’s any chance of getting’ Boss back alive. Now, I ain’t plannin’ on goin’ unarmed. I figure they won’t discover that til I’m close enough to do some damage. There’s nothin’ I’d like more than y’all to come with me, but… I just can’t risk it.”
With that, I picked up the piece of paper with directions and headed out the front door, a storm of loud protest following me.
“He’s finally gone off the deep end,” I could hear Luke mutter through the cloud of voices.
Luke ran up behind me and grabbed my shoulder, turning me to face him. He pleaded with me in a last ditch effort. “Rosco, please. Let us help. Boss is… well… we just don’t want to see him get hurt. You either.”
I stared at the deep concern in his eyes. After a few moments, I responded. “I’m leaving for the drop off point at 3 p.m. If you follow me, I know nothing about it.” Then I turned and walked towards home.