by: BlackJack Murphy
I stalked slowly through the brush towards Carson, carefully watching around me for those crazy hicks with the dynamite. I knew Carson had caught the fat man and the sheriff and I wanted to be there to help exact revenge. I grinned, seeing the sheriff in the distance, Carson’s gun pointed squarely at his head, his fat friend kneeling with him. Hogg would be next, after he’d outlived his usefulness.
I jumped as a single shot shattered the silence and echoed off the surrounding hills. The sheriff’s body jerked. I heard a slight whimper escape his lips and then he went limp. Hogg eased him gently to the ground.
Rosco looked up at me, his face pale. “I’m sorry Rosco, I’m so sorry…” I apologized.
I looked over at Carson. He was holding his arm and grimacing in pain, the shaft of an arrow planted firmly into it.
The barrel of a shotgun and two sets of bows appeared at the edge of the clearing. Jesse shouted a command as he and the boys emerged from the bushes into the clearing. “Drop the gun, Carson.” Jesse raised the shotgun and aimed to make his point clear.
Carson obeyed. I was saved, but I felt no joy at the prospect. It seemed the Cavalry had come a second too late. I glanced back down at Rosco. His eyes were glassy, his expression confused, and his breathing labored.
Almost before Carson’s gun could hit the ground, Bo and Luke were rushing over to us.
“Oh, God… “ Luke whispered as he knelt down to Rosco. The two cousins glanced at each other, concern and dread showing on their faces.
“Luke?” Bo called to his older cousin, asking for some sort of reassurance that this wasn’t what it looked like, that it wasn’t happening. Luke shook his head in disbelief as he sat staring at the sheriff. “I think we’re too late.”
Rosco glanced between Luke and I. His face dimmed and began to mirror our own grim expressions. The confusion seemed to clear and he began to speak weakly. “Boss?”
“Shhh… Rosco,.it’s ok,” I said, my heart sinking into the pit of my stomach.
“Boss? Listen… promise me somethin’.”
“Anything, Rosco,” I agreed.
“Take care of Flash n’ Lulu n’ Mama for me,” he rasped.
“I will,” I promised, tears starting to stream down my face.
Rosco turned to the two Duke cousins. “Bo? Luke?” he wheezed.
“Yeah?” Luke answered.
“I guess… I guess you won’t have to worry ‘bout me givin’ ya no speedin’ tickets anymore. I’m… I’m sorry… for all the grief I caused ya over the years.”
“And we’re sorry for all the grief we caused you all these years,” Bo responded, placing a hand on the fallen sheriff’s shoulder.
Jesse knelt beside me after tying up Carson and putting him in Rosco’s patrol car.
I turned to my old friend and rival. “Jesse? Is there anything we can do for him?” I pleaded.
“I can’t stand to see him sufferin’ like this.”
A sense of calm fell across Rosco. He began reaching weakly towards the horizon. “Boss… Boss, I see a bright light… a beautiful bright light.”
The boys and I stiffened at Rosco’s revelation. “Oh Lord, this is it…” I sobbed.
I watched intently as Jesse pressed a well worn hand to Rosco’s throat and checked for a pulse. He glanced in the direction of Rosco’s gaze and then turned back to continue checking Rosco. “Rosco, it’s the sunset through the trees. It’s pretty, but it ain’t takin’ ya to the pearly gates.”
Rosco’s expression turned to dread. “Jit Jit! You mean…” he pointed downwards and his gaze followed.
As Jesse cracked a smile, I exclaimed in relief, “They don’t want ya in hell, either! Rosco, you ninny! Yer alive!”
“I am?” he asked. He felt the back of his head and neck and didn’t find a wound. “Khee! I guess I am. Then how come y’all thought I was dyin’?” He sat up, lookin’ around the circle of faces surrounding him.
“Cause you were actin’ like you were dyin’! Bah, nevermind! Get up off the ground, ya dang fool!” I bellowed, offering him a hand.
The Dukes laughed in sincere relief as they stood up and dusted the dirt from their jeans and wiped their eyes. “I guess we DID get here in time… JUST in time,” Luke stated.
“I don’t ever wanna have that close a call again,” I declared.
“Got that right,” Bo agreed.
I grasped Boss’ hand and pulled myself up. I laughed in sheer relief. The looks in the eyes of those around me when I was laying numbed on the cold hard ground had me convinced the end was near. But thanks to the Dukes’ well-timed arrow, I was still here.
I suddenly realized that, although we had Carson in custody, Rob was still on the loose. I bent down and picked up the gun he had dropped, scanning the area for any sign of the thug.
Luke realized who I was looking for and alerted the others. “The other one’s still out there. We should split up and look for him.”
Jesse went back the way he and the boys had come, Luke and Bo went off to the left. I looked at Boss and he stared back at me. “I guess we go that way,” I responded, pointing off to the right.
“I guess so,” Boss said, standing still and staring in the direction I was pointing.
“Yeah. Um… so, I’ll be right behind ya, Boss,” I said as I prodded him forward.
Boss promptly scooted around me and pushed me forward gently. “You’re the sheriff. You should go first.”
“Nuh, uh. Age before beauty,” I countered.
“Rosco, do you like your job?” Boss questioned.
“Uh…” I immediately caught the threat in Boss’ statement. “Guess I’m older’n I look, huh?” I whimpered as I cautiously started forward towards the grove of trees to our right.
“I… I guess we should split up to cover more ground,” I suggested.
“Yeah,” Boss replied hesitantly. “I guess so.”
After a few more moments of awkward silence, I turned away from him and headed towards the thick brush.
I gripped my pistol tightly, my arm taut at my side. My steps were measured and nearly noiseless as I searched the shadows for any sign of movement. I could see Boss to my left, crouching against a tree like a lost boy scout, peeking from behind it cautiously every few moments.
There was no sign of the boys or Jesse. The woods were huge. There was no tellin’ where Rob could’ve gone. I scanned the ground for signs, a footprint maybe. All I saw was damp leaves.
I continued deeper into the woods, arm slightly outstretched, finger resting near the trigger of my gun. A movement to my left startled me and I whirled and aimed. Nothing. I crouched. My eyes darted back and forth, searching furiously. I wrestled with the notion of investigating the site of the movement, but sheer fear held me in place.
Whatever it was, it was between me and Boss now. If it was Rob, he had to have seen me, but I couldn’t be sure. I decided to back off and come around from the other side, hoping to get another glimpse.
I had sincerely thought the Sheriff was dead. If Carson hadn’t been so damn dramatic he’d have finished the job before being taken out by the two country boys and their damn arrows! Now, the Sheriff stood like a statue not twenty yards from me and I thought for a moment he’d seen me. I stood rigid behind the tree, hugging my rifle close, listening for the disturbance of earth to announce his footsteps inbetween the pounding in my head from the conk I took, care of the sheriff. Goddamn hicks, for such an idiot he’s got nine lives.
I had a clear shot to take the sheriff down right at that moment and I wanted to just because I felt he deserved it. But the woods were crawling with his cohorts. I was bound to meet up with one in any attempt to get out. I needed a lever. Some insurance. A get out of jail free card…
The sheriff started moving, his head turned away from my direction at that moment. I moved around the tree, keeping it beween him and myself as he moved. I glanced back to where I’d last seen the fat man and saw nothing. There didn’t seem to be another soul in the immediate vicinity.
With careful steps, I walked out from behind the tree and creeped up behind the sheriff. With my right hand outstretched, I grabbed him around the head, muzzling him and poked the rifle into his back.
“Make a sound, and it’ll be the last thing you’ll ever say….”
I stood perfectly still, the only thing moving was my heart crashing against my ribs. Considerin’ the day I’d been havin’ and my age…I shoulda been goin’ into cardiac arrest by now.
The rifle point was poking me hard in the back but I didn’t make a sound. Rob told me to drop my gun and I did so. He kept his hand over my mouth and delivered his ultimatum.
“You’re gonna get me out these woods,” he said. “And then I’m gonna take you somewhere and finish you off…”
I shook my head slightly and he jammed the rifle point harder. I closed my eyes to the pain, whimpering slightly. He chuckled.
“Yeah…I thought you’d like that idea. Start walking, to your patrol car. If anybody sees us and tries anything I’ll shoot you down and they’ll be able to watch in living color.”
I grunted a reply and started moving. Rob kept the rifle in my back and my mouth covered. I walked slowly, looking around for Boss or the Dukes. There was nobody to be seen.
We came out of the woods and back to the clearing. My patrol car was at least a hundred yards away. It was gonna be a long walk….
I silently cursed the sight I saw. Rosco being marched off by Rob. Both were looking around for the rest of us, I’m sure Rob especially wanted us to see this sight. He was using Rosco as a shield, a last ditch effort to try to escape. Once false move from any of us and he’d take Rosco down.
I had no way to tell the Dukes anything. I didn’t even know where they were or if they were seeing the same thing I was. Dang! DANG! DANG!! This wasn’t how it was supposed to end!
I moved from one tree to another, keeping my eye on them as they stepped into the clearing. They were heading for Rosco’s patrol car. There had to be a way to stop them, without getting Rosco killed of course. It couldn’t be allowed to end this way, not after all me and Rosco had been through…
I was suddenly at a loss for ideas. Or there were no more ideas to be had. I sighed and looked towards the sky. “Sir,” I whispered, “can you help me?”