by: Sarah Stodola
When it got dark, and there was still no sign of Luke and Bo, Jesse got really worried. He went to the CB unit again, once more calling a message for help across the whole of the Hazzard net. Only this time, it was a real search he was calling. He got all the neighboring farmers out looking, which they did willingly, imagining one of their own children missing, and nearly all the young people in the county as well. He even woke up the whole sheriff’s department — that is, one Rosco P. Coltrane, who’d been snoozing with his feet up on his desk. Rosco grumbled and griped, but soon the patrol car was winding around the roads as well.
Jesse stood beside his pickup, staring out across the valley from Eagle Ridge. Another car pulled up behind him, and he turned to see a worried-looking young man, who wandered over to put a hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “We’ll find ’em,” he tried to reassure. “Hey, you got all Hazzard out there lookin’.”
Jesse nodded, slowly. “Yes… If they’re still alive, Cooter.”
Cooter stepped away and stared at him. “Jesse, they ain’t dead! We just gotta believe that!”
“I know.” Jesse closed his eyes. “I know.”
The teenager was still for a few moments, then slapped his friend on the back understandingly. “Hey. We’ll find ’em. Besides, they got one thing in their favor. They’re Dukes! And Dukes are just too stubborn to get hurt too bad.”
Jesse nodded again, wordlessly. Cooter shrugged and went back to his car. The engine roared into life, and he pulled away in a flurry of dust. Jesse turned and went back to his own pickup, heading down from the ridge to retrace the roads he’d already traced a hundred times.
Daisy woke with a feeling of being warm, comfortable, and content. She opened her eyes at about the same moment she realized that this was because she was between two other sleeping bodies. She blinked, confused for a moment, then her sleepy mind came alive enough to remember the breakout last night. She grinned to herself and snuggled deeper between her cousins, happy to be there.
The three of them had walked until they had almost no strength left, then had curled up together in the woods and fallen asleep almost instantly. They’d been too tired to be cold, even without a blanket, just using each other for warmth. Daisy remembered once when the same thing had happened and Jesse had woken them up late at the tri-county fair, when they’d gone to sleep in the hay wagon. He’d called them a “pile of puppies”.
One of the boys stirred, and she glanced over to see who it was. Bo’s dark blue eyes met hers, and he grinned. She grinned back. She was free! Free!
“G’morning,” he whispered.
“Hi,” she replied, just as quietly, then sat up. “I missed you.”
“Me too.” He grinned again, impishly. “That was one crazy getaway, huh?”
“Yeah!” She couldn’t hold back a quiet giggle.
“Oh, c’mon, you two. Stop tryin’ to be quiet, cause I’m already awake.” Luke turned over, blinking sleep out of his eyes. He pushed himself up on one elbow. “But it *was* funny!” His dark blue eyes sparkled.
Then he pushed himself to his feet and stretched. “We got a long way to go still. But we oughta be home before nightfall if we catch another ride.”
“Let’s just not get caught this time, huh?” Bo advised, getting up to join his cousin.
Daisy followed, pulling leaves out of her hair. “I just want to get home.”
“Right.” Luke bent over to pick up his backpack, which he’d used for a pillow. “We better get going then.”
“After breakfast,” Bo complained, snatching Luke’s backpack out of his hand.
Daisy’s eyes lit up. “You brought food?”
“Just sandwiches and stuff,” Luke admitted.
“Hey, anything’s okay with me! I didn’t get any dinner, and not a whole lot of lunch!”
“No dinner?” Bo stared at her disbelievingly. “Gosh, your aunt’s *mean*!”
“I was in trouble for calling you on the phone,” she informed him, then gratefully accepted the somewhat squashed peanut-butter-and-jelly held out to her. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, sure.” Luke pulled out a sandwich each for himself and Bo. He sat down cross-legged on the ground, followed by the other two. “Sorry they’re so flat. I forgot they were there when I slept on ’em last night.” The look he gave was so sheepish, yet amused, that Daisy burst out laughing, falling over backwards. “What?”
“You two!” she managed. “I missed you two crazy..!”
Bo put down his sandwich carefully, then leaped for her. Luke snatched hers away just in time so it didn’t end up in the dirt, as the other two cousins rolled around in the leaves, laughing and trying to tickle each other.
“Goin’ to getcha..! Wait! No..!” Bo burst out in uncontrollable giggles as Daisy, now sitting on him, dug her fingers into his sides. “Hey..! Stop..! Stop..! Luke, help!!”
“Give up?” Daisy grinned, placing her hands on her hips happily.
“Aw, yeah!” he gasped. “Get off!”
But the moment she did, he pounced, tickling her right back with a gleeful grin on his face.
“Hey, no fair!” she protested, squirming away and scrambling on hands and knees to the other side of Luke, using him as a shield.
“Hey!” he warned, holding the food up in the air. “Don’t squash these any worse than they’re already squashed!” But he was grinning, just as happy as the others, Daisy knew, that they were all together again.
Jesse woke with the dawn. He sat still on the sofa where he’d fallen asleep, thinking. Just before he’d come fully awake, he’d thought of something… What was it?
“Oh, yes,” he said to himself, getting up and moving toward the stairs. “That was it.” Bo and Luke had not been found, despite the fact that the search had lasted till almost two in the morning, but maybe he could figure out where the boys had gone by what they had taken with them.
What he found missing in their room was nothing unusual, only some clothes, and not much at that. Nothing more than what they’d take on a camping trip. But something told him to check in the closet, and when he did, he nodded, slowly. The coil of fine mountain-climbing rope was gone. The bow and arrows were missing as well. Now, why would the boys take their archery equipment on a camping trip? It would only cause trouble when they tried to climb the mountain… Climb?!
He thought of the message left on that paper, about a secret mission, and suddenly a picture flashed into his mind. The old Douglas manor.
He’d been there once. That building was four stories high, made of stone, with ledges under each row of windows, ledges just wide enough for a stubborn boy to travel along. The windowsills were wooden. Soft wood, that would hold an arrow well. Maybe even well enough for someone lightweight to hang a rope on it, and climb up…
Jesse closed his eyes, whispering a quick prayer of thanks that he’d finally figured it out. To cement his growing suspicions, he checked Daisy’s room, and found two out of her three pairs of jeans missing. Now, she’d had one on. That meant that the other had been taken. And he wasn’t sure, but he thought her drawer might be missing a shirt too.
He smiled, slowly, to himself. “The little devils!” he murmured, almost proud, though still somewhat angry at their taking off. Luke and Bo had gone to get Daisy.
But why now? She’d been gone for almost a week now, why had they only taken off yesterday? Unless they’d learned something… Like a phone call, maybe? Jesse went back downstairs, and picked up the phone.
“Trudy?” he said when the operator answered. “Yes, yes, I’m okay. Did we get any phone calls yesterday, before lunchtime, say?”
He listened for a few moments, then nodded. “Okay, thank you, Trudy. No, it’s okay that you didn’t know about the search, you don’t have a CB. No, don’t call Rosco. I know where they went, I’ll go pick them up. Right.” He smiled at her worry over his kids. “Right. Thanks. Bye.”
The moment he put down the phone, he headed out the door to his pickup, gunning the engine and pulling out of the farmyard toward the road. The kids tended to do things the simple way, most of the time. Which meant they’d probably take the most direct route to Atlanta and back. Which meant Highway 69.
Bo, Luke, and Daisy were walking down the side of the road. They’d managed to sneak a ride in another truck, but they’d been discovered, thanks to the driver’s deciding to check on his cargo of hens, and promptly tossed out with a barrage of words that Bo had never heard and wasn’t sure he wanted to again. They’d sounded mean.
Which meant that now they were on foot. At least they were in their own country. They were on the Hazzard side of Capitol City, even. But on foot, an hour’s drive took a long time. The kids were talking, taking advantage of the extra time to catch up on events, when Bo noticed the cloud of dust coming from a familiar white pickup. “Look,” he pointed.
Luke groaned, softly. “I bet we’re in trouble.”
“I didn’t want you guys to get in trouble,” Daisy told them, worriedly.
“Aw, s’okay,” Luke replied. The three stood still on the side of the road as the pickup pulled to a halt in front of them. Their uncle sat there for a moment, stony-faced, then reached over and opened the passenger side door.
Bo swallowed, hard, but climbed in, followed by Daisy, then Luke, who shut the door.
Jesse turned the truck around and headed back the way he’d come, still not saying anything. His silence was making Bo more nervous than him shouting would have. It gave him time to think about all the ways Jesse might punish them.
Finally Daisy ventured, a little nervously, “We’re sorry, Uncle Jesse, but…” She trailed off, gripping Bo’s hand. He was gripping back.
There was stony silence for a few more seconds, then slowly, Jesse smiled, just a little, and glanced over at them. The look in his eyes was almost one of admiration. “What are you doing back here?” he said simply, but there was no anger in his voice. “I thought we were rid of you.”
Daisy relaxed visibly. Smiling, she leaned over past Bo to hug her uncle. “Thanks for not being mad.”
“I was pretty mad yesterday,” he said. “Taking off like that..!” He shot the two boys a quick glare. “I was scared sick! We had search parties out all night looking for you, did you know that?”
Bo tried to shrink into his seat, risking a glance over at Luke. The older boy was staring out the windshield as if not daring to look at Jesse.
“I… I’m sorry,” Luke finally whispered. “I guess I knew we’d get in trouble, but…”
Bo looked up at his uncle, eyes wide. “Uncle Jesse, her aunt wants to adopt her! We’d never see her again, never…”
“Yeah,” Luke took it up, eyes now shifting to look at their uncle almost pleadingly. “We couldn’t let that happen… and she’s so mean to Daisy.”
“She even made her have no lunch!” Bo said angrily. “And no dinner, just cause she called us!”
“What?” Jesse turned to look at the kids briefly. “Why?”
“She didn’t want me to have anything to do with you,” Daisy whispered, looking down at the floor. “She said I couldn’t even talk to you guys, and I couldn’t stand that! I called to ask for their help.”
“So you were the one behind this?”
“Yessir,” she whispered even more quietly.
Bo didn’t want her to get in all the trouble. “But I had the idea for breaking her out.”
“And I came up with the plan for how to do it,” Luke admitted.
“So you’re all at fault here.”
“Yessir,” the three cousins said quietly, together.
The kids sat silently, nervously, while the pickup bounced its way along the dirt road, waiting for their judgment. Finally Jesse looked back at them. “I understand how you feel. And that was pretty smart, using the arrows and rope to get up the building. That is what you did, isn’t it?”
“…Yeah,” Luke admitted.
“And I privately agree with your decision,” Jesse went on. “But did you think that just because you got Daisy back in Hazzard, that her aunt wouldn’t come to get her all over again?”
Bo and Luke looked at each other. No, they hadn’t thought that far.
“She’ll come,” their uncle warned. “That’s a guarantee. Of course, there might be a chance…”
“What, Uncle Jesse?” Daisy asked. “I just want to come back to live at the farm.”
“I know, honey.” He smiled and patted her knee. The tension in the air was lifting. “The chance we might just have is that JD Hogg and me had ourselves a little conversation a few days back, and he was gonna bring in some big-city lawyer to help, and the circuit judge is in town. Now if you can only convince the judge how much you want to stay in Hazzard, and not with your aunt in Atlanta, and if we all can prove that you have a good home here, and expose your aunt’s true colors, then the judge just might let you stay here.”
“We couldn’t afford a lawyer, Uncle Jesse!” Luke exclaimed.
“I know. And if we can convince the judge ourselves, then we might not need him after all. Especially with Daisy here. She can say exactly what *she* wants.” He smiled, glancing over at them and raising his eyebrows. “You all ready for a little Duke shuck-and-jive?”
Bo grinned. “Yeah!” His answer was echoed by Luke.
Daisy frowned. “What’s shuck-and-jive mean?”
Bo thought for a second, frowning as he tried to figure out how to put it into normal words. “It’s… it’s kinda like gettin’ ourselves out of trouble by talking fast and bein’ a little bit sneaky. Kinda.”
“It means pulling some fast moves on somebody,” Luke spoke up, grinning mischievously. “Just wait. You’ll see.”
“Okay,” Daisy shrugged, then laughed a little. “You really think we have a chance of letting me stay in Hazzard, Uncle Jesse?”
“Well,” Jesse said slowly, looking at them, “it all depends, kids.”
“Sure there’s a chance,” Luke tried to lighten the mood, squeezing Daisy’s hand reassuringly and grinning. “We’re Dukes, ain’t we?”
“Yeah!” Bo half-shouted, and the pickup’s cab filled with slightly nervous, but happy, laughter.