by: Sarah Stodola
When Jesse Duke came home for lunch, he was surprised not to hear the boys. He checked the barn and called up into their treehouse, but received no answer.
He pushed down the rising feeling of worry. If one of the boys had gotten hurt, the other would have gone for help, and Jesse would have heard something about it, thanks to all the open CB channels in Hazzard County. If anyone wanted to have a private conversation, they had to switch to certain, mostly secret, channels. Which would not have been what the boys would have used to call for help.
So, no one was hurt. But where were they? *Maybe they went down to the creek.* Heartened by this idea, Jesse went into the house and looked around for a note. He nodded when he saw the slip of paper on the counter, and fetched the supplies for sandwiches, putting them on the table, without bothering to read it. Yes, surely that was where they had gone. They’d be home for lunch. He knew his boys. They wouldn’t miss a meal if the world was going to end in two hours.
But when noon came and gone, and there was no sign of Luke and Bo, he was starting to get worried again. Maybe they hadn’t gone fishing. Maybe they’d gone over to someone’s house. Jesse let another twenty minutes go past, then rose and walked over to the counter.
When he read what was penciled on that sheet of notebook paper, he leaned back heavily against the counter, bracing himself with his free hand. He squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself not to panic. He knew they hadn’t run away. But, what “secret mission” could the two be on?
He shivered, reaching for the telephone, then changed his mind and went for the CB set instead, keying into the public channel. “Breaker, breaker,” he called, “Jesse Duke here. Anybody listenin’?”
“I gotcha,” the voice of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane came to his ears. “What now, Jesse Duke?”
“Right here,” came a more friendly voice, that of Thaddeus Mennen from down the road.
“What’s up?” another voice answered, followed by similar responses from what felt like half the population of Hazzard County.
“Luke and Bo are missing, I don’t know where they are. They left a note about some sort of secret mission. Anybody seen ’em, in town or anyplace?”
One by one, the negatives came in. Jesse forced himself to breathe deeply, not to get any more worried than he already was.
“Okay. Could everybody keep their eyes open? It’s probably nothing, but with Bo and Luke, nothing can turn into a big something mighty fast.”
“Read you there, Jesse,” came the reply of a teenage voice, a young friend of the family named Cooter Davenport. “I’m on the road right now, I’ll keep my eyes peeled.”
“Same here,” Neil Adams reassured him. “I know what you feel like; my boys get into trouble too.”
“Sounds like a reg’lar search party!” Rosco sang gleefully into his mike. “I’m gone! Hee hee!”
When he finally hung up the CB, Jesse leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. “Protect them, Lord,” was all he could say. He stood a chance of losing Daisy, forever, he couldn’t bear to think of losing one or both of the boys too.
“Huh?” She turned from staring out the window to see the maid peeking in the door, smiling. “Oh. Hi.”
“Hello.” The maid slipped in, smiling a little. “I know your aunt said no lunch for you, but I couldn’t bear to see a little girl go hungry.” She held up a small plate with a sandwich on it. It smelled like grilled cheese, and Daisy’s eyes widened a little. She looked up at the lady.
“I don’t want to get you in trouble…”
“Oh, nevermind. No trouble at all. Just don’t tell your aunt.” The young lady smiled.
Daisy smiled back, moving away from the window. “Thanks.”
The maid set the plate down on the school desk, wiping her hands on her apron. “I know it’s not fancy food like your aunt gets, but…”
“S’okay!” Daisy broke in, somewhat excitedly. “I love grilled cheese! I had it at the farm all the time!”
The maid smiled gently down at her. “You really loved it there, didn’t you?”
“Yes. Very much.” She sighed and came over, her stomach growling. “I wanted to stay there.”
“I hope you get the chance… I think it matters more that a child be happy than whether or not they have a whole lot of money. Gosh, my family didn’t, and there were ten of us!”
Daisy’s eyes got huge. “Ten kids! You’re kidding!”
“No!” The lady laughed quietly. “We never had much money, but we were happy.”
“That’s kind of how it is at the farm,” the girl admitted. “But we always had a whole lot of fun! The boys and I have a treehouse, and they had a No Girls Allowed’ club in the barn, but now I’m in it anyway.” She grinned a little. “I’m the only girl allowed, and only because I’m Luke and Bo’s cousin and it’s our barn, or so Luke says.” She leaned closer a little, as though divulging a secret. “But he and Bo wanted me in the club, even if I am a girl, because they say I can swim and climb just as good as they do. And that’s true,” she said proudly.
The maid laughed softly. “You are quite the tomboy down there, aren’t you?”
“Sure am.” Daisy sat in the chair and crossed her arms. She would have crossed her legs too, if she hadn’t been wearing a dress. Aunt Roseanne had taken away her jeans.
“And proud of it.” The maid shook her head a little, smiling, then turned to leave. “I have to get back to work before the missus notices I’m gone. I hope you get back to your farm.” She waved slightly and went out the door.
Daisy grinned and reached forward for the sandwich hungrily, feeling really cheerful for the first time since leaving Hazzard. If Bo’s plan, whatever it was, worked, she would be going home. Very soon.
It was after dark by the time Luke and Bo managed to find the manor that Daisy’s aunt lived in. They’d had some trouble, what with getting caught halfway down the road and having to find another ride, and then trying to find their way out of Atlanta proper to the Douglas manor. They’d managed to get lost several times on the way, too, even with the map book.
But they were there now. Bo went up to the gate and whistled, low, in admiration. “We’ll never get in there,” he whispered. “Look at the guards!” Just as he said that, one of the men guarding the gate strolled by, and Luke yanked his younger cousin down into a bush. Both boys held their breaths until he’d passed.
Bo turned to his cousin, eyes questioning. “How do we get in?”
Luke put a finger to his mouth, signaling to be quiet, then rose from his crouch and ran as silently as he could along the wall, away from the gate. When he stopped, Bo ran into him. “Careful!” he complained in a whisper.
“Sorry. How’re we gonna get in there?”
Luke looked up, gauging the height of the stone wall. Then he pointed. “Up ‘n’ over. C’mon, stand on my shoulders and see if you can jump to the top.”
“‘Kay.” The smaller boy dropped the bow he was carrying and clambered up, somewhat ungracefully, making Luke wince a couple of times. He slowly straightened, until he was standing, and balanced for a couple of seconds.
“Ow! C’mon, hurry up! You’re gettin’ heavy!”
Then Bo’s weight lifted away, and Luke looked up just in time to see him turn around and glance back down. “Hey, Luke, it’s really wide!” Then he scowled. “But, how’re you gonna get up?”
“You’re gonna have to help me.” Luke tossed up the bow and his backpack. “Here, put these up there.”
“Okay. Now what?”
He thought for a moment. “There’s a rope in my pack. Get it out and tie it to somethin’.”
Bo looked around him. “I don’t see… oh, okay. Here’s a little metal thing stickin’ up.” He worked for a few seconds, then the rest of the rope coil fell, hitting Luke on the head.
He grimaced, but gripped the rope. “Tied tight?”
“Yeah, tight as I can.”
Luke jumped, then wrapped his legs around the rope and climbed right up, a trick he’d learned a long time ago for getting into the hayloft before Jesse had bought a new ladder. When he reached the top, he reached up with one hand and Bo grabbed it, helping him the rest of the way. “Okay,” he whispered after getting his breath back, “now we go down.” He untied the granny knot that the other boy had made out of the rope from around a short piece of metal bar set in the top of the wall, then, gripping the rope, jumped down inside the wall. He landed lightly and turned to look back up. “Come on, Bo.”
Bo looked a bit nervous, but he tossed down Luke’s backpack and bow, then jumped, landing beside his cousin. He pointed to the big manor house across the lawn. “We gotta get over there. Daisy’s on the third floor, and over near the pool.”
Luke squinted through the darkness. “I see the water. That means she’s gotta be up there somewhere.” He pointed to a row of windows along one side of the house.
“Right.” Bo sounded nervous. Luke looked down at him.
“I just don’t wanna get caught.”
“If we’re quiet, we won’t.” Luke started to run across the green, from bush to bush, and Bo followed closely. Finally they stood underneath the row of windows, looking up.
“Okay,” Luke said slowly, “here we go.” He slid out of his backpack, and exchanged it with Bo for the bow and arrows. He tugged at the bowstring, testing it, and looked up again. “Wish me luck.”
“Yeah,” Bo said fervently. “Be careful!”
Luke stepped back a little ways, several good paces from the side of the mansion, and pulled an arrow out of the quiver, tying one end of the rope to it, up near the tip. Fitting it to the string, he sighted, squinting in the darkness, and with a breathed prayer let fly.
The sharp twang of the bowstring was followed by a quick zip as the slender projectile flew through the air, then a quiet, but solid, thunk as the arrow lodged itself in a wooden windowsill. Luke tugged hard on the rope to make sure it was secure, then walked back up to the side of the house and handed his cousin the bow, reclaiming his backpack and tightening it around his shoulders. “Be careful,” Bo repeated as he dug his feet into the side of the building, then started up.
It was a slow climb, and not a particularly easy one either, but Luke finally made it up and over the stone ledge on the third story. He crouched on the ledge panting for several seconds, then looked back down. And wished he hadn’t. Swallowing hard, he forced his eyes to follow the path the ledge made outside the row of windows.
“Okay,” he told himself quietly. “You’ve come this far. No going back now.” Then he carefully stood and starting making his way along the ledge toward the only two lighted windows.
Daisy was sprawled out on the floor glancing through a not particularly interesting book when she heard the soft tap. She glanced up, her eyes flying to the window, and jumped to her feet, running to open the glass. She fought the window for a second, then it slid up, and her cousin Luke scrambled in.
“Luke!” The moment he was up, she threw her arms around him. “How’d you get up here?!”
He hugged her back briefly, then pulled his backpack off, zipping it open. “The same way we’re gettin’ out. Here.” He handed her a pair of jeans and a warm shirt. “Get out of that thing,” he pointed to her dress, “and we’ll go. Hurry!”
Nodding, Daisy ran to the bathroom with the armful, and hurriedly changed. She stood in front of the mirror and grinned at her reflection, feeling more like herself than she had in a while. Leaving the dress on the floor, she ran back out into the main area. Luke was glancing around, looking distinctly uncomfortable in the pink surroundings. “I know,” she told him. “I don’t like it either.”
His dark blue eyes met hers, and he smiled a little. “That looks much better.”
“I know.” Daisy glanced out the window while she pulled on the white jogging sneakers she’d been allowed for exercising. She leaped to her feet the moment she’d finished tying the laces. “How are we going to get out by the window?”
She frowned, then her eyes widened, and she swallowed. “*That* ledge? You gotta be kidding.”
“You do want out.”
“Of course.” She stalked to the window as Luke slipped out.
“Just don’t look down,” her cousin told her as she followed him, “and you’ll be fine.” Daisy decided to obey the advice. She didn’t really want to know how far down three stories was.
The two children made their way along the stone ledge carefully and slowly. Just as she was about to ask how they were going to get down, Luke crouched down and took firm hold of a rope attached to an arrow, imbedded deeply in one of the windowsills. “Whoa,” she whispered. “Down *that*?”
“Yep.” He let go with his feet, swinging in midair until he braced his feet against the side of the building. “Kinda like mountain climbing. Come on.”
She bit her lip, not at all sure she wanted to try this, but she gripped the rope, and squeezing her eyes shut, swung out and down until her own feet met the stone wall.
Down they went, slowly, hand-over-hand. She didn’t know how long it took, but it seemed forever until Luke whispered, “Okay, you can jump down now.” She shifted her gaze down to see the lawn only three feet below her, and jumped, her landing not totally graceful.
“Daisy!” a happy voice came, and Bo helped her up, then hugged her hard. He pulled back and she could see his happy grin. “You’re out!”
“We ain’t home free yet,” Luke reminded the other two. “Come on, we still gotta get back over that wall.”
The run across the green was uneventful, as was their climb up a tree and over the stone wall to the outside, to freedom. Once they stood on the other side, the three took off running, straight away from the wall, staying well away from the gate where any guards might see them.
Daisy and the boys came to the road, and ran a ways down it before stopping to catch their breaths. Then they stood in the center of the road, laughing, hugging, and generally celebrating.
“Thanks, you guys,” Daisy told them, eyes shining. “Really.”
“Aw, of course. You’re fam’ly,” Luke defended, sounding a bit embarrassed at having to admit he liked his little cousin.
Bo just slung a happy arm over her shoulders. “Jailbreak!” he laughed. “Wait’ll your aunt comes in tomorrow mornin’ to yell at you for somethin’!”
All three kids had to laugh at that, then Luke took the lead, starting down the road. “Come on. We ain’t free yet. We’ve got to get away from the city before then.”
Three young Dukes ran down the road. They left only an arrow with a rope tied to it, dangling down the side of the manor, as any indication that they’d even been there.