The Ransom: Chapter 9

by: Kristy Duke

“Bo!” I am thrown awake by the sound of my own voice yelling out Bo’s name as the nightmare continues to relive itself within my mind, a vivid nightmare of Bo lying in a dark room slowly dying. His baby blue eyes scream silently in pain and fear as tears stain his cheeks and blood soaks through his blue coat he had been wearing. His thin chest only slightly moves up and down as he desperately fights to breathe despite the fact that death is claiming him slowly inch by inch.

Disbelief and horror streak through my numbing body as my captive’s words continue to roll rapidly in my head. Of the vivid description he gives of Bo’s death with each time he enters the old shed, describing Bo’s pain and fear, his coughing, and the blood.

“Glad you’ve awaken,” my captive brings my attention away from the wall ahead to the door that slowly squeaks shut, a broad and evil smile crosses his face as he throws a thick wooden chair in the room across from me, “perhaps you want to hear more about your cousin.”

“What if I tell you that I think you’re lying?!” I hear myself yell out at him while my thoughts fall back onto Jesse and how he’ll react when he hears about Bo, how he’ll take his death after all the many people close to him that have died.

“Oh, really?” he feigns a surprised look before shrugging at me, “Well if he’s still alive, where is he?”

I glare angrily at him for a short moment. “In the house somewhere, with the kid,” I throw back at him, continuing to hold onto a false belief. “You wouldn’t kill him and not me.”

“Well we did. As I told you earlier, we had no use for him. He’s too weak and stupid. You on the other hand,” he grins back at me as he works on adjusting the chair a foot ahead of me, looking up at me he continues, “are smart and strong. We’ve got uses for you, which is why I didn’t kill you when you climbed out of that orange car of yours.”

I spit angrily at him to once again receive a harsh backhand across my face and blood once again begins to pour from my nose and into my mouth. Spitting the blood out at him, I say, “There you go lying again. We’ve been here at least three days by now and all I’ve heard is a bunch of lies and a bunch of bravado out of you.”

He shakes his head as he walks around me while digging in his pocket. “We’ve got use for you, don’t you worry one bit. In fact,” he grunts as I feel the pressure around my arms disappear and a strong hand grabs the back of my neck as he throws the heavy chains off of me, “you may not know what our plans are for you until it’s too late. Life’s ironic, isn’t it?” He laughs for a short moment as he slowly moves me away from the pole to cause the pain to escalate within me with each movement he forces me to take. He harshly shoves me into the chair and I cry out in pain as he once again begins to wrap the thick chains around me, this time placing a fresh cotton gauze upon my gun shot before he carefully and tightly places a thick chain upon it. After a brief moment of placing the thick chain tightly against my pain-filled body, tightly around my wrists, and then around my chest and around my arms he tightly re-locks the thick lock.  “There. You comfortable, now?”

“Who said I wasn’t before,” I quickly respond as the pain seems to grow within me from being moved from being locked against the pole to the thick wooden chair.

He shrugs. “Well, if it was up to me, I would have kept you. Lucky for you, my boss is considerate,” he shrugs once more as he admires his work before stepping to the door, “my boss says to give you a seat, so, I gave you a seat.” He grins before he bends over and tightly grabs my jaw to increase the pain once more, “now, where’s your appreciation?!”

I spit directly in his face and he angrily wipes his face with his free hand while his grip tightens even more. “I’ll show you my appreciation once I find out that y’all didn’t hurt my cousin,” I boldly reply, “and since y’all are so convinced that you killed him, I guess you don’t get no appreciation!”

Letting go of my chin, he shoves my head back and my neck cracks painfully and as I glance up at him a broad smile once again is spread across his tan face. “Too bad we didn’t record his death for you,” he looks thoughtfully at me for a moment, “we could have showed you his death, show you his pain and blood. See for your own eyes how badly we tortured him to death,” he laughs, “and then after showing you, we could send it to your Uncle Jesse to watch as well. Make it public across Hazzard. You can see and hear for yourself just how painfully and slow he did die. Too bad we didn’t think of it before hand, but hey, we can still record yours when it is your time…when our uses for you run out. Then send it to Jesse. What you think he’d have to say about that?”

I glare angrily at him as the anger throbs harshly in my chest and my own breathing comes heavy and hard as a slow and hard reality hits me. Reality of the truth he is speaking. Up to now I had lived in disbelief and with hope that he was making this up to weaken me in order to do what they want me to do. Reality of a life without Bo, of a friend I had taken for granted since the day he had been dropped off at Jesse’s door step. Had taken him for granted despite the horrible disease he had been born with and had been only given six years to live before his death would grab him. Not only had he outlived his prediction and proved the doctors wrong, he had grown strong enough miraculously to be cured and set healthy. Healthy except for his weak lungs and his asthma. Now instead of dying to the heart disease his parents had given him through their bad habits, he has been tortured to death by the gang that had beaten Cooter and shot Brodie. If only I had listened to Jesse’s doubt, if I hadn’t insisted on having to do something to help out…

“Glad to see you are now facing reality, Duke,” he shakes his head as he opens the door and a hint of morning light shines in, “sooner or later our use for you will be revealed, but not until the boss is ready. Adios.” He grins one last time before he slams the door shut and I tightly close my eyes as I listen to him locking the door on the other side. Tears slowly melt down my swollen eyes to run down my cheeks, tears of pain, fear, and intense sadness.

***BO DUKE***

“Glad to see you are facing reality, Duke,” Sergio smiles boldly at Luke who is now tied tightly to a wooden chair upon the television screen that is being taped only a few feet outside the house I am now held captive at. Anger and resentment flare from Luke’s eyes, but also a look of resignation, something that I had never seen enter his eyes before. On the screen, Sergio closes the door and Luke is surrounded by thick darkness once again, his painful and hard breathing is audible from the screen.

“There, you happy?” Max turns to look at me as Randal turns the TV off and another gang member elbows me to look at Max, “We got him sitting down and more comfortable than being tied to the pole there.”

For a moment the only sound audible within the room is my breathing as my wild emotions grab a tight hold of me and as anger grabs a tight hold of me, I abruptly elbow the guy behind me in the ribs before sending a harsh and powerful punch into Max’s right cheek. The gang member behind me grunts out in pain while Max yells out before falling into the back of the couch before he pushes himself up to look angrily at me. He quickly goes to return the punch and I quickly bend down to miss it and send an elbow in his chest before Randal jumps over the couch and harshly tackles me to the ground and I yell out in pain from the harsh impact of my body and head hitting the wooden floor. I quickly begin to struggle against him as he grabs tightly onto my throat in a tight headlock as he yanks me up with a long and sharp knife pressed tightly to my neck. Max abruptly laughs despite the anger in his eyes before he punches me in the chest and the fiery pain in my chest erupts within my chest to cut off any air and I begin to gasp for pain. Their laughing and yelling becomes distant as he sends another punch into my stomach and into my nose to cause blood to roll down my nose as Sergio had done to Luke. As blackness slowly begins to grab at me from around the edges of my vision, Max grabs me away from the man behind me and he harshly throws me onto the hard floor once again before he harshly and forcefully begins to repeatedly kick me. “No, no,” I hear myself mumbling through gasping for air before I fall into a thick and evil darkness.

                        *                                  *                                  *

I slowly awaken to a harsh and intense throbbing pain that captures my entire body while breathing becomes impossible and painful. “Bo,” I hear Keith’s voice, sounding distant despite feeling his gentle hand upon my shoulder, “wake up, Bo.” He mumbles something else before going quiet while my vision goes from darkness to being blurred and a wave of nauseated dizziness quickly washes over me. “There you are,” Keith says as I finally make out him sitting next to me where I lie curled up in the middle of the closed in room, “you’ve awaken! I thought you were dead when they threw you in here.”

I stare at him for a short moment before sitting up to make the dizziness and pain to grow rapidly within me. “He thinks I’m dead,” I hear myself say as I pull myself towards the wall, “Luke, thinks I’m dead.”

“Well…you’re not,” the boy bravely responds as he joins me along the wall, “what they do to you? You look horrible.”

“I was stupid,” I quickly throw out as last night’s events run through me, of robbing a gun and weaponry store in Capital City. Fear and horror rushes through me at all the damage that we had done as we had stolen everything in sight and at the thought of all the damage that those weapons will be causing. Disbelief runs through me at the thought of robbing the bank and now a weaponry store and shame grows within me as I think of how Jesse will react and will have to say. Of all the lives that can be taken by those guns to save Luke who they’ll probably kill alongside of me when this all is done. A violent shudder runs through my body and chills quickly covers me as the pain my lungs continue to grow and I reluctantly use my emergency inhaler to cause the pain to lessen. “I attacked Max. I got mad and hit him, in return, he beat me. I got what was coming.”

“You’re bleeding,” Keith says and through the darkness I see him pointing to my windbreaker, “I felt it trying to wake you up. Feels like blood.” I eye the kid for a moment before looking back at the coat to reluctantly lift it up with my shirt to feel a thick cut running down my right side along my ribs, it is tender to the touch to declare a bruise flaring up under the thick sticky blood.

“I’ll be fine,” I grunt as I feel my lip to find more blood running down from my nose and on my fatten lip, dried blood lies under fresh blood. “Dang it,” I slowly sit up against the wall, putting my shirt and coat back down. Closing my eyes to fight off the pain, I vividly spot Luke’s bruised and swollen face, pain and resignation in his eyes while blood runs down from his own nose.

“My mom says if you put pressure against the cut or whatever is bleeding,” Keith says, sounding more like an adult than a child, “it will help lessen the bleeding until it stops. Kinda like a band-aid or something. Perhaps take -“

”Thanks, but I’ll be fine,” I slowly open my eyes to face him along with another wave of dizziness. “I just want to wake up and all this to go away.”

He nods as he leans over to give me a hug and I wince as pain races up and down my body. “Me too,” he says sitting back, “but don’t worry, dad is good at what he does. He’ll come and save us.”

I eye him skeptically as my mind goes back to all the guns, knives, bullets, and any other sort of weapons the store had on and in the shelves. “I hope so.” I finally say.

***SERGEANT FBI AGENT FRANK MILLS*** 

Exhaustion slowly builds within me as I stare blankly into my cup of dark coffee as I allow my thoughts to slowly accumulate within me while silently going through the evidence by memory. The evidence that has been collected in Hazzard and the little that we got from the Choctaw County Bank robbery yesterday morning to only send more questions through me. Sighing heavily, I slowly lean back in my chair to close my eyes as I concentrate on the questions that gnaw within me, questions that routinely gnaw within me with each case I take on. There is always something that don’t add up or fit right no matter how you look at it.

“Sergeant!” an urgent voice draws me out of my thoughts and I slowly open my eyes and sit up in my chair to find Sheriff Coltrane standing in front of the scratched wooden desk. His crystal blue eyes are streaked with fear and horror as he nervously runs his hand across his forehead as if pushing away sweat, though the building continues to hold on a chill that has seeped in from the outside. Probably due to the age of the proud court house that holds the sheriff’s station. “Sergeant,” he repeats breathlessly, “there is a man out there,” he points through the open door, “from Capital City.”

“Yeah, so?” I question as I look through the open door to find a man standing in front of Rosco’s desk with his arms folded across his chest, wearing khaki tan pants and a thick Atlanta Braves sport coat. His dark black hair is slightly streaked with gray while he looks through  thin wire glasses, all together looking to be in his mid-forties or so and looking to be of little threat. “Why he’s got you so upset, Sheriff?”

“Um, you see, he’s the owner of Capital City Weaponry and Fire Arms,” he nervously states, the fear seeming to escalate as time grows, “his name is Austin Dayler.” Rosco nervously checks on Austin before looking back at me. “He says he opened his store at eight o’clock this morning as he does every morning…all except Sundays when they are closed.” Rosco pauses once more while taking a deep breath before he takes off his hat to run his hand through his hair before placing the hat back on. “He said walked in at seven thirty, as he always does to get things ready for the day,” Rosco’s fear-filled eyes finally lands on me, “to find his shelves thrown to the floor, his cash register empty, and most of his guns and weapons stolen along with all the bullets and other accessories that he had on stock. The whole place is a mess.”

“Well,” I look questionably at him, still oblivious to why he’s so worried about it, “why is he here? Don’t Capital City have their own police to investigate the robbery?”

“Well yeah,” Rosco shrugs nervously, “but they sent him here for us to interview, they think it may have something to do with Max’s gang.”

I give him a nervous laugh. “Why’s that?” I slowly ask, “Look Sheriff, I appreciate your concern and worry about this, but Max and his gang has enough weapons of their own. They don’t need to -“

”They found this note,” Rosco sighs as he reaches into his back pocket to place a Ziplock baggie on my desk that holds a folded up piece of paper. I eye Rosco for a moment before I grab a couple of gloves out of a box and place them on my hands before opening the bag. “Austin said he found it on the counter besides the cash register.”

I nod as I carefully take out the notebook paper out to study it for a moment before opening the paper to find thick black permanent marker wrote sloppily across the full paper at an angle:

Sergeant Mills – Catch us if you can! HA HA.

-BO DUKE-

“Bo Duke,” I say aloud as I look up at Rosco, “ain’t he the one that you were defending yesterday after the bank robbery?”

“Yes sir,” he slowly nods with crestfallen eyes, “and I still believe he isn’t doing this…no matter what the letter says. They’re just a bunch of words that anyone could have wrote or perhaps made him write. No matter what, he’s not doing this…not on his own free will at least. Ask anyone around, they’ll tell you the same.”

I eye him once again to see an air of confidence about him that he had seemed to be lacking since I had arrived in answer as he stares boldly back at me. “Well, we’ll see about that,” I slowly stand up as I place the note back inside the bag, “but for now, I think we should go talk to Mr. Dayler.”

Rosco slowly nods as I quickly walk out of the small and cramped office with the local sheriff behind me and Austin slowly turns to eye me with intense green eyes. “Mr. Dayler,” I smile at him as I take out my wallet holding my badge and ID to show it to him, “Sergeant FBI Agent Frank Mills. I appreciate you coming down to Hazzard to speak with us.”

He nervously nods at me as he looks at Rosco and back at me as a hint of anger enters his intense eyes. “Didn’t seem like I have much of a choice, Sergeant,” he says, saying sergeant with a hiss, “I had over a thousand dollars in the cash register plus with all the weapons and accessories they stole.” He shakes his head angrily, “I have a lot at stake here, Sergeant! My people depend on me and now I have nothing to offer them, because everything’s gone or broken!”

“So does millions of people out there, Austin,” I calmly state, “with those weapons in the dangerous hands that had stolen them,” I shake my head as my own fear recoils within me, “who all knows what will happen and what they have in mind. These guys that has robbed you, Mr. Dayler, they’re some dangerous men who aren’t afraid to kill to get what they want.” I pause as I look him in the eye, “Your people can wait a few days for all this to subside before they get what they want from you, meanwhile everyone within these here parts of Georgia has their lives at stake here. So it is very important that you give us all that you know. I’ll be sending a couple of men up to your store to take in the damages and look for prints.”

Austin nods blankly at me. “Sorry, I just can’t believe this is happening. I mean, you see it in the movies, on TV, and on the news, but you never expect it to happen to you,” he finally says as he shakes his head in disbelief, “I will help you in anyway I can. But as I told the sheriff there, there’s not much to say other than they trashed my store, took everything in sight, and left that letter.”

***UNCLE JESSE***

A thick wave of exhaustion steadily floods through my wary body as I stare in disbelief at the counter stacked and filled with dirty dishes that screams to be cleaned. How did they ever manage to grow to be so much? How had Julianna find the time to clean the dishes, take care of the kids, and to do house hold chores? Once more, I feel a tear slip down my cheek as my thoughts fall back upon my wife and son that I had last four months ago as they had been ran off the road by a drunk driver on their way home from Noah’s doctor’s appointment. Anger once more resurfaces boldly within me towards the drunk driver that now sits behind bars on charges of vehicular manslaughter as I once again ask myself how anyone could get that drunk by three in the afternoon. Or how someone with a beautiful wife and kids lose themselves in the bottle when they should be home with the ones they love? Or how did I find the strength to carry on after witnessing my wife and three year old child being buried into the moist earth.

Abruptly a sharp cry of pain and anger shatters the peaceful and unusual silence that had began to build within the old farmhouse to bring me back to staring at the large pile of dishes. To remind me of the two reasons I had to carry on after losing Julianna and Noah. Daisy and Luke, my niece and nephew that I had taken in after their own parents had suddenly died within a few years of each other. Daisy’s parents had died in an car accident a year ago while Luke’s parents had been killed while he had been eight months old. Luke is now almost five while Daisy is three and a half years old, both seeming mature for their age.

“Uncle Jesse!” Luke’s voice full of anger as he calls for me from the front yard.

“I’m comin’,” I sigh heavily as I take a last look at the dishes before I walk a couple of steps to the front door to slowly step out onto the front yard to find Daisy lying in a mud puddle crying while Luke’s favorite car lies a few feet away smashed and broken. “Daisy,” I say urgently as I step off the steps to where she now sits herself up to look at me.

“He pushed me, Uncle Jesse!” she yells to point a mud covered finger at Luke who kneels over his toy, his deep blue eyes are watery as he fights back the tears at his broken toy.

“Lukas,” I say sternly as I pick Daisy up to soothe her and she rests her head on my shoulder, “why would you push Daisy for?”

He eyes me for a long moment while anger flashes in his eyes momentarily before he shrugs at me silently and his attention goes back to his broken toy. Looking back at me with determined eyes, he says, “Get mad at me all you want, Uncle Jesse,” anger and resentment is laced within each word the young five year old says, “but she broke my car! Look at it!”

“She is three years old, Luke,” I sigh heavily, “how can she do that to your car?”

“She took it from me. Blue Lightning was racing with Yellow Bird,” he says talking about the names he had given to his cars as he points to a few cars that he had lined up a couple of feet away. Blue Lightning being his favorite car and had been given to him for Christmas and was always close by to where ever Luke was. “Daisy took it from me when I went to go get Yellow Bird and she wouldn’t give it back to me. So I went to go get it from her and she threw it into that tree!” he points to the tree that sits near his broken car, “I got mad and pushed her. I am NOT going to apologize to her…she broke Blue Lightning!”

I look at Daisy who remains crying into my shoulder, her yellow spring dress is covered in dark brown mud from last night’s storm, her hair is matted with mud while her soft skin is just as much covered in the mud as her dress. “Daisy,” I sternly say and she slowly looks at me with sad dark eyes, “why would you take his car from him? You know those cars are his.”

“I wanted to play with him,” she says matter of factly as a car comes into view a mile or two down the road, “he wouldn’t let me, so I took it from him.”

The engine of the oncoming car shatters the peaceful spring air while the thick black tires sprays mud and dirt out of it’s way as it continues to speed towards us. “You shouldn’t have done that, Daisy. I told you when you went outside with him to give him space and not to bother him,” I sigh once again as my mind spins with what to do. If Julianna were here, she would know what to do. “Just like I told Luke to be nice to you,” I eye Luke harshly and his head drops and his attention goes to the green grass under his leather cowboy boots, “you shouldn’t have pushed her, Luke. You should have -“ I cut myself off as the dusty old car pulls quickly into the drive way to come to a halt besides my truck to send questions through me. Who could be here at two in the afternoon on a Monday? Most people are at work or busy with other things. Looking up at Luke, I say, “Pick up your cars, Luke, and take them inside. Daisy, why don’t you go in and find a new outfit. I’ll be in, in a few minutes to help you.”

Daisy sniffles as I set her down and she slowly follows Luke back up the porch and into the kitchen with his arms filled with his beloved race cars. After watching the door close behind them, I look back at the old car to find James Jenkins stepping out of it, his piercing green eyes watching Luke and Daisy disappearing into the kitchen.

“James,” I force a tired smile at him and he slowly looks at me and he nods at me as he pulls something out from his car before he steps over to me, “surprised to see you here.”

He nods. “Those kids are growing up quick. Last I saw them they seemed to be half that size,” he shakes his head, “you’re doing good with them, Jesse. You can tell by looking at them. They’re happy and healthy, well taken care of.”

“Thanks,” I slowly respond as I take James in, “but I know you didn’t come by just to tell me that. You are too busy for that.”

“Things at the orphanage do tend to get busy,” he sadly says. James is the head director at the Hazzard Orphanage, the main person I had went through to take both Luke and Daisy home legally to care for. The last time he had unexpectedly stopped by the farm was a couple of months after I had brought Daisy home to make sure all was going well and that she was settling well at her new home. “It is too bad that there isn’t more people like you out there that would be willing to take in the kids in that home. They all need a stable house with parents to take care of and love them.”

I shrug. “You grew up there, James. You seemed to turn out just fine,” I slowly point out, uneasy with the conversation, “and to top it all off, you and your staff seems to give those kids love and affection, discipline and rules. All things each child needs. Yeah, it’d be great for them to be adopted out to their own families and get the individual attention and love they deserve, but if you ask me, they got the next best thing right there with you.”

He nods as he eyes the house for a short moment and as his eyes falls back to me a hint of sadness and anger seems to be hidden within. “Thanks,” he slowly responds as he looks down at the notebook that he holds in his hands, eyeing it as if he didn’t know he had it. After a brief moment, he hesitantly opens it to take out a large newspaper article that has been cut out and he eyes the article for a moment before looking up at me. “I don’t normally get the Atlanta Gazette, I don’t have the money, but this article was on the front cover and it grabbed my attention and I immediately thought of you. So I thought I would bring the article to you since I figured you probably didn’t get the paper either due to the cost.”

I eye him momentarily as confusion and questions rapidly build within me. What would a Atlanta newspaper have to do with me? I hesitantly take the large article from him to be filled with dread and fear as a black and white photo of my youngest brother and his wife stares back at me. Jeremiah sits in a metal fold up chair next to a large hospital bed while Rosa lies in the bed with dark circles around her sunken eyes; fear and worry seems to be written across their young faces. “Th-thanks,” I stutter as I reluctantly read the title: ATLANTA COUPLE GIVE BIRTH TO TWINS TWO MONTHS PREMATURE; DRUG BABIES“No, no,” I hear myself say as I stare at the title and what it implicates as I feel myself go weak and I slowly back up to lean against my dirt covered truck before I hesitantly begin to read the long and elaborate article.

“Uncle Jesse,” Luke’s voice pulls me out from my thoughts and from the middle of the article and I slowly look up to find him standing on the porch, Daisy walking out behind him in a new dress. “Why’s he here for?”

“Lukas Keith,” I sternly say and he bows his head, “you’re not using your good manners that we have been talking about. Why don’t you come and tell Mr. Jenkins hi?”

“Yes sir,” he slowly looks up at me before they slowly climb down the stairs and they both give James a small and reluctant hug.

“You bring back my mommy?” Daisy asks looking up with questioning  eyesbiting her lower lip.

“Sorry honey,” James bends down to her level before setting her on her lap.

“That’s OK. Uncle Jesse says they went up to heaven just like Aunt Julianna and Noah did. As well as Luke’s parents,” Daisy says with confidence.

“That’s right. Once you go to heaven, you can’t come back,” James slowly responds, “which is good, what I’ve heard, heaven is a good place to be at.”

Daisy nods thoughtfully for a moment before she looks away from James to watch Luke slowly walking back up the porch to disappear back into the warm house. Sighing heavily, I slowly go back to the article to enforce an violent rave of anger to pass through me as I read about the two small babies born addicted to drugs and all the machines they are attached to. “Though both babies are in critical condition and are struggling for their tiny lives, one is a lot weaker than the other one. The baby that came out second was born with a rare type of heart disease and with undeveloped organs. The first baby holds a much higher hope of leaving the hospital while the doctors are giving the second baby little to no hope of living past the first couple of days.” The article states of the two premature drug babies, born to my brother’s wife. The wife that he ran away from Hazzard to be with, to disappear with her and their gang of friends they found in Atlanta.

“How…how could they do this?” I hear myself asking, my voice trembling with harsh emotions as I slowly finish the article before turning the article over to find that he stapled another newspaper article onto it. I slowly lift it to find a picture of the two babies as they lie in their incubators, their small and pale bodies are covered with the wires and tubes that are attached to them to keep them alive. The baby on the left lies a little bigger than the one on the right, the one on the right looking to be the weaker one that the article had mentioned. “My own brother,” I say raging with anger, “my only living brother and he goes and does this! He’s done some horrible things in his life, but this tops it!”

James nods as he sets Daisy down who stands up, looking at me questionably, while tears of anger and fear sting my eyes. Anger towards Jeremiah and Rosa for what they have done and fear for the small lives of the babies that they brought into the world addicted to drugs. “I’m sorry, Jesse,” James slowly states, “as I said, I saw his picture and that grabbed my attention and after reading it,” he sighs as his own anger comes apparent, “I knew I had to show you. Not that I wanted to, because I hate being the barer of bad news. . .but -“

”I know what you mean,” I sigh heavily as Daisy abruptly attaches herself to my pant leg and I slowly pick her up.

“What’s wrong, Uncle Jesse?” she shy asks, “Why are you mad? I…I didn’t mean to break Lukie’s car. I tol’ him I was sorry.”

I shake my head at her. “I’m not mad at you and Luke. We’ll have to worry about that later,” I pause as I look back at James, “Thank-you James, for bringing the paper article to me,” I place Daisy back down on the ground, “I have to go to Atlanta and talk to him…to Jeremiah. I can’t just stay here and act like I don’t know. I have to do something…something before he does anything more stupid!”

Once again, James nods. “I had a feelin’ you’d say that,” he slowly responds, “those babies needs someone to stick up for them. I asked Sharon,” he pauses after speaking of his wife, “to take care of things at the orphanage for me, she’s fine with that. She also has a few older kids volunteer to help out with the younger kids, so things at the orphanage are fine for a couple of days without me.” He pauses as he glances around the old farm and back at me, “In other words, Jesse, I’m free and able to watch and take care of Luke and Daisy for you if you want to go up there for a few days. Sharon says she can stop by every once in awhile to help here too if I need help…we have plenty of staff at the orphanage, especially with the volunteer help we are going to get.”

I nod appreciatively at him. “Thank-you so much, James. Are you sure you don’t mind doing this?” I slowly ask as I pick Daisy back up to give her a big hug and she reluctantly hug me back with confusion in her eyes.

“Of course not. Daisy and Luke are great kids,” he offers me a smile, “and I’d be glad to be able to watch and play with them. You just might have to write a list of what needs to be done and their schedule…if there is one.”

I nod. “Let’s go inside for a bit then,” I say as I lead our way up the porch and into the kitchen where I sit Daisy back down to grab some paper and begin to quickly write down lists of instructions that he may need to know. “Luke knows most of it, but he may try to trick you. He likes doing that to people who he knows doesn’t know what is normally done. Luke has a small cold, so I give him cough medicine at night and in the morning and another time at noon. It is in the bathroom and has instructions on the bottle,” I pause as I once again look up at the dishes and back at James, “I am sorry for the dishes and the house…I’m not as good as Julianna was at keeping up with the house and the kids. I can wash the dishes real quick before -“

”I got them, Jesse,”James says firmly, “and we’ll be fine, huh Daisy?”

“Huh?” she asks looking up at me.

“Daisy,” I bend down to her level, “I’m going to have to go out of town for a little bit on a little trip, so James here is going to watch you and Luke while I am out.”

She stares at me fearfully for a long moment before she slowly nods. “Will you come back?” she finally asks.

“Of course I’ll come back. It will only be for a couple of days,” I smile at her as Luke walks in the room, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. “What I say about that, Luke? Get a Kleenux.”

He nods slowly before he walks back into the living room and comes back with a Kleenex to wipe his nose with. “Luke,” Daisy says running over to him and he reluctantly looks at her, anger and mistrust in his eyes after the incident with his car, “Uncle Jesse is going on a little trip. James is going to play with us!”

Luke eyes me skeptically for a moment and then at James. “Where you going?” he finally asks as he walks over to me.

I force a smile at them. “I have to go give my youngest brother a visit,” I slowly respond as I give them a hug, letting go I say, “I’ll be back in a couple of days. When I get back, I want to hear that you’ve been good for James.”

They both nod before giving me a last hug. Standing up, I say, “Thank-you James.”

“We’ll be fine, Jesse. Take the time you need, we’ll be here when you get back,” James slowly nods at me and I nod back at him before waving at Daisy and Luke while stepping out of the farm house and into the spring afternoon. Climbing into my truck, violent anger once again rushes through me as my mind is laced tightly around the article that is now folded into the chest pocket of my overalls. Anger and hatred as I never felt before towards my brother and his wife for their evil ways and for what they have now created for two small innocent babies. 

*                                  *                                  * 

Thick anger and resentment once again flairs lively within me as I stare numbly through the small loft window that over look the roof of the old farm house. My mind lost in the past of when I had learned about the premature births of my two nephews, of the truth I had hidden from Bo for so many years. Yet he had said he had already known when I went to tell him the truth after Kristy and Garrett had first came to Hazzard. How and when? Bo always opened up and talked to me when something was bothering him and yet he never once mentioned that he knew I had lied about his parents, never said he was upset. Or showed that he was bothered or upset by it. With his emotional disorder, his emotions are often times easy to read even if he attempts to hide the fact that he is troubled by something or upset. How could he hide something as big and emotional as this? How could I miss it?

Sighing heavily, I attempt to fight back my own emotions as I glance down at the old and crumpled article that I had stored within a folder that lies filled with information on the kids and their past. Legal papers declaring me a fit protector of all three of them, graduation certificates, newspaper articles about their parents’ deaths, a few report cards. A folder that I cleverly hidden behind a lose board in the floor of the loft. Perhaps Bo had found the folder, he often ran and hid in the loft when he was troubled by something or when he wanted to be alone. I sigh heavily as I quickly dismiss that idea because it had been in the same position as I had left it a few years ago when I had placed Bo’s graduation certificate within it, the same papers remaining on top on each side of the folder.  If Bo had found the article in the folder, he would be too upset to care what paper was on top and where exactly the folder had been placed.

As the silent winter afternoon is interrupted by the soft purr of an engine, my thoughts are torn from the old painful memory of Bo’s birth, to find a dark and new modeled car pulling into the drive way to slowly come to a park next to Daisy’s jeep. Questions of who is here and why once again floods through me as I nervously place the article back into the left sleeve of the old folder and place it back under the board. Watching two men in dark suits step out of the car, I stiffly stand up to slowly walk to the ladder that leads back to the ground of the old barn. Taking a deep breath, I slowly and reluctantly begin to step down the ladder, down the ladder that I haven’t climbed up or down in a long time.

After a short moment, I quietly approach them as they slowly climb the two steps onto the porch while they seem to be taking in everything around them. “May I help you?” I ask them from behind just before they go to knock on the screen door. They slowly turn around to instill fear and queasiness within me at the sight of the two agents that had been standing next to Rosco when I had went in to report the boys’ disappearance.

“Jesse Duke,” the dark blond haired agent forces a smile as they both dig into their coats and place out their ID wallets with their badge. Sergeant FBI Agent Frank Mills and FBI Agent Treyton Mueller. “We need to talk to you. Is there somewhere inside that we can talk?”

I eye them both skeptically as they glare at me, suspicion deeply planted in their eyes to declare that this isn’t a friendly visit. After a moment, I boldly budge in between them to step into the kitchen and they quickly grab the door before it closes behind me. Stepping into the open area of the kitchen, I say a silent prayer for Bo and Luke, to be able to see them alive and well once more. Not to go to their funerals as I had so many other of my relatives. Sighing heavily, I turn back around to face them as they stop at the end of the table, their eyes scanning the kitchen grudgingly. “Sergeant, Agent,” I finally say, eyeing them both as I say their titles, “I am hoping beyond hope that you are here with some sort of good news about my boys, but by the look of things, you don’t seem to be here for that. How may I help you?”

Mills shakes his head before his cold eyes lands hardly on me while they allow thick and eery silence to build within the room and I silently wonder if this is how they interrogate people. Intimidating them with their presence and silence. “Not any news that you are hoping to hear, Mr. Duke,” Mills finally says as he places his gloved hand back into his coat to take out a plastic sandwich bag with a folded paper within it, “I need you to look at something for us.” He pauses as he digs into the bag to pull out the paper. “You see, last night, Mr. Duke, Capital City Weaponry and Fire Arms store was robbed completely clean of their weapons, bullets, accessories, and their cash register was empty. Besides the cash register, the owner found this paper on the counter.” He pauses again as he unfolds it, “I need you to look at it and tell me if you recognize the hand writing.” He looks at the paper for a moment before holding it out to me, “You can touch it, we already dusted it for prints to only find the prints of the owner on it. Another dead end.”

I nod warily at him before I reluctantly take it from him to be struck by fear as I read the short note that is wrote at an angle thickly in black permanent marker. Fear and horror spreads through me at the sight of Bo’s name scribbled under the messy hand writing as I clearly recognize the handwriting to be Bo’s. “Do you recognize it, sir?” the other agent softly asks as I stare at it in silence, “The handwriting?”

I slowly look up from the short note to look up at the two agents, wishing to lie to them in order to honor my nephew’s name, though know better than to try to lie and deceive them. “Yeah,” I slowly respond, my heart thumping heavily and painfully within me, “it’s Bo’s handwriting.”

“You sure?” Mills asks, glaring at me with liquid green eyes.

“I’m sure,” I say as footsteps come from behind and I glance back to find Daisy standing in the doorway, staring at the agents before she steps behind me to read the note over my shoulder. “We always gave him a hard time about his sloppy handwriting.” I slowly finish as I hand it over to them, anxious to get it out of my hand.

“Thank-you Mr. Duke,” Mills answers gruffly as he re-folds the paper to place it back into the bag.

“It is his hand writing, Sergeant,” I boldly reply, “but he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do what all you are accusing him of doing. That’s not Bo.”

Once again, I receive a hard look from the Sergeant who steps intimidatingly towards me. “I understand how you feel, Mr. Duke. People often go through denial when their sons or daughters or family member happens to be our suspect or apart of a gang that we are investigating,” he shrugs un-caringly, “I guess it is only human nature to want to believe in the best of the ones we love and not the worse in them.”

“I’m not in denial, Sergeant,” I hiss angrily, “Bo’s my nephew…I knew him since he was a day old! He never did something like this and neither would he start now!”

He shrugs at me. “The evidence proves otherwise, Mr. Duke. As they often say, there is a first for everything. Perhaps his brother convinced him to join his gang,” he shrugs, “it could go either way. Anyway you look at it, it looks like he’s as much a part of the gang as ol’ Max himself is. Heck, at the bank robbery, it was Bo giving out the orders…must mean Max trusts him pretty dang good to leave him in charge!”

Anger once again rushes through as my temper tempts me to send a harsh punch into the agent to display my anger towards him, instead I take a deep breath and take a step back. “He didn’t do this, Sergeant. That’s all there is to it. Bo doesn’t even know Garrett, never met him,” I throw back at him though it is clear he isn’t listening to me, “All that there is, is a piece of paper with his handwriting on it…they could have forced him to write it…they could have forced him to do all that you are accusing him of doing!”

“That’s a lot of if’s, Mr. Duke,” Mills shakes his head at me as he glances at his partner, “what you think Trey?”

“I think Bo’s a part of that gang and when we catch him, Mr. Duke,” his silent partner slowly states, anger and hatred spread across his face, “I am going to make sure he pays dearly and painfully for being a part of a the gang that stole my son away from me! That hurt my son to get to me! He’s going to pay, Mr. Duke. I’m sorry your boy went astray on you, but the facts prove themself.”

I quickly step towards them only for Daisy to hold me back while they both eye me daringly before stepping back out of the farm and climb the stairs down to their car. “He didn’t do this,” I slowly hear myself say as my legs grow weak underneath me, “they both wouldn’t do this.”

“We know that Jesse. They don’t,” Daisy slowly says to me, “but attacking them agents won’t do us any good and it won’t do the boys any good for you to be in jail on assault.”

I eye my niece for a long moment before letting the air I had been holding out and glance over her shoulder to watch the two agents driving out of the drive way. “You’re right,” I sigh as I slowly sit down in one of the wooden chairs that had been slid away from the table. Glancing around the table, I slowly realize that I’m sitting in the chair that Bo usually sits at the dinner table to reinforce the deep sadness that melts within me. “My boys,” I slowly look up at Daisy as the tears I had been hold escapes down my cheeks, “they wouldn’t do this…Bo wouldn’t do this.” My mind draws more vivid images of their funerals, of a life without them, or watching them being locked behind bars at the state pen. “I can’t lose them, Daisy. I can’t.”

She quietly nods as a couple of tears streak down her own cheeks as she takes a couple of steps to me to give me a comforting hug from behind. “Neither can I,” she finally replies as she stands back up to restlessly walk to the kitchen sink to stare out through the closed window. After a brief moment, she slowly wipes at her cheeks before taking a step back and says, “Look Uncle Jesse, we’re sitting here as if we already lost the boys. Truth is, we haven’t. We haven’t lost them until they say we lost them, until they give us some sort of proof that they,” she sighs heavily to cut herself off at the dreaded thought, “that they died. So far all they’ve got is a few witness and a letter indicating Bo as a part of the gang, which if it is him, that means he’s alive. Perhaps being forced into doing something he normally wouldn’t, but he’s alive.” She pauses as she forces a smile at me as she approaches me, “In other words, Jesse, we can’t give up on them…we’ve got to have faith.”

I slowly nod as a flare of hope is dimly lit within me from hearing the truth of what she had just said. “Yeah, perhaps -“ I slowly start to say to be interrupted by the loud piercing ring of the telephone in the other room.

“You stay put, I’ll get it,” Daisy smiles at me as she turns and leaves the room to answer the old phone upon the third loud ring. I listen to her answering the phone in the other room as exhaustion thickly consumes me while the anger that had resided through from the agents’ visit, subsides into fear of the uncertain future.

After a few silent minutes, Daisy slowly walks into the kitchen with her head held high and a look of relief covering her face as she bites her lower lip. “Who was that?” I finally ask her as she comes to a halt at the sink once more, this time facing me.

“That was Dr. Sanchez from Tri-County Hospital,” she says and a smile slowly breaks out across her face, “to report that Cooter has just woke up from his coma.”

I eye her with disbelief and excitement at the thought of Cooter awaking from the deep coma he had been beaten into only to be reminded of what Luke had said the doctor had told him, that if he awakens, it doesn’t mean he’ll be OK. “How is he?” I reluctantly ask.

“He said he couldn’t say much over the phone,” she pauses as she takes a seat across the table from me, “but said he is in much better shape than what he thought he would be if he were to wake up.”

“That’s the best news that I’ve heard in a long time,” a small smile creeps across my face despite the situation that we are now trapped within with the boys missing and the FBI accusing Bo as being apart of their gang. “I say we go give Cooter a visit, shall we?”

Daisy smiles as she grabs her handbag off of the counter and takes out her key ring of keys. “I’m driving,” she smiles as we momentarily lose ourselves within the excitement of Cooter waking up.

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