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Brian's own ride to exile was filled with tension. Damascus could sense the pensive mood of his rider, and the large black horse walked restlessly, tossing his head, prancing, and fighting the riens. When Damascus nudged a wide flank into Rosco's horse and caused the mustang to dance away nervously, the Sheriff turned an irritated glare to Brian.

"Just how much sugar did you feed that horse?" Rosco grumbled.

"All of it," Brian sighed. "Wasn't mah idea...."

The Sheriff frowned and lasped back into silence, keeping a rigid posture and a grim expression. There had been no real conversation on the trail, and the tension was making an unpleasant task even more onerous.

Reading Rosco's mood all too well, Brian made no effort to talk his way out of anything. Yet every step the horses took away from town, was adding more weight to his heart. He couldn't get the taunting image of Chet's face out of his mind; and MaryAnne was alone with the ruslter. Alone, and in a direction probably far from his own....

Insight hit Brian so fast, he rocked back in the saddle and Damascus came to a rearing halt. Brian looked over his shoulder, looking past Rosco, squinting into the distance. Of course he could see nothing of MaryAnne...but he knew exactly where she was leading Chet.

"Git movin'," Rosco ordered.

"Sheriff...." Brian said abruptly. "MaryAnne had you take me in the exact opposite direction she was takin' Chet, in order to put the most distance between us. Which means....you're damn near 4 miles out from where she is...and she's alone with that polecat!"

Rosco's chest heaved with a sigh of admission, but his hard blue eyes didn't change. "I said, git movin'."

"Alex is double-escorted by the Strates, and he's a smart enuff drifter not to pull anythin' stupid. But Chet --"

"MOVE, BOY!" Rosco added his pearl-handled Colt .38 to the discussion. The business end of the gun waved warningly.

Brian turned back around in the saddle and faced the direction of exile once more, moving Damascus forward. But his words didn't stop. "You're worried about her too. That's why you're bein' such a rattlesnake! Dammit Sheriff.... turn around and ride to MaryAnne. Let me g'wan alone. I ain't the biggest worry on yer mind and you know it."

(Double cue to MaryAnne! You got somethin' cookin' with Chet...and I'm leaving Rosco's decision to you in this scene!)

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Rosco made no immediate decision, though his blue eyes remained hard. Brian was right, he was worried about MaryAnne. But he had a job to finish first.

"We ain't two miles out. Just shut up and ride..."


MaryAnne yanked on the tethered rope that held Red and the thoroughbred was forced to come up a little bit.

"Well, it can't be what's left of your rustling buddies. They wouldn't be stupid enough to come back to town." MaryAnne unhitched the tether rope from Red's halter and wound it up quickly, shoving it into one of her saddle bags. She then looked at Chet. "As for you bein' unarmed, I put your guns in your saddle bags. You try and duck behind me like that again, I'll shoot you myself for being a coward!"

She looked back to the distance and the riders that were coming into view. Suddenly, their pace slowed, as they became aware that ahead of them were two stationary riders. MaryAnne counted five...maybe six riders. It was hard to tell at the distance, they were clumped together pretty closely.

They continued coming at a trot, and when they were about a hundred yards away MaryAnne recognized the lead rider. At the same time, the rider recognized her. The morning sun behind MaryAnne shined off the silver barrel of the .45 as it was pulled from the lead rider's holster.

"Oh damn!" MaryAnne immediately yanked on Phoenix's reins and kicked the flanks, turning the Appaloosa around. A gunshot cracked the morning air. If MaryAnne got paid to be shot at....she was about to earn her day's salary...

(cue anyone!)

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The Duke boy wrinkled his brow at MaryAnne's harsh words, he wasn't trying to be a coward he just felt that he had been shot at enough lately. Quickly Chet dove his hand into his saddle bags and strapped his holsters on around his waist and around his shoulders. By the weight of the guns they felt like they were still fully loaded from the night before. He glanced up as he buckled on the belts, the riders were coming at them at a steady trot.

"I'm not a coward, I'm just tired of getting shot at!" Chet said to the deputy.

Chet's heart skipped a beat, it was never a good thing when a law officers facial expression changed. Just the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice as she spat out her cuss of words. He laid his reins over his horses neck an steared the horse with his knees as he took up a gun from each hip. There was no mistaking that glint of sunshine off of the lead riders gun, the bullet screamed by them both so close that Chet's ear rang after wards.

Red spun in place an turn in the direction of MaryAnne's fleaing animal, on cue his horse side stepped and broke into a canter. Chet kneed the horse and he skidded and spun in place again, he fired a few shots in reply at the lead rider.

For a split second Chet looked back at the deputies back as she rode away from him, his own horse nervously reared and tossed his head in fear. This deputies life was now his own life, if something happened to her while in his presence....more then just a couple of slicks would be knocking on his door to kill him.

Heart now racing in pure adrenline he holstered his left gun and took up his reins, he'd have to protect the deputy while she flead. Chet had never seen these men in his life, they obviously knew the deputy and seemed hell bent on getting a piece of her.

"Not if this rustler has anything to do with it..." He sneared to himself as he took careful aim at a rider beside the lead man.

Chet fired, his bullet wized through the air an suddenly impaled its target, the riders face exploding in a smear of blood and brains. Hurridly he turned his horse and spurred him hard after the deputy and her mustang.

"RIDE!!! RIDE!!! DON"T LOOK BACK!!!!" Chet shouted loudly to MaryAnne as she road ahead of him, his own horse streching his long racing legs and showing amazing speed.

(Cue Anyone. Sorry not my best work, kinda sick tonight.)

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When they all reached the pine tree, Enos turned in his saddle to Alex, "Alright Mr. Jackson. You can be on yer way. You're free to go."

He then offered his hand out to Alex in a handshake to show there was no hard feelings. Val nodded to Alex as well and offered her hand. As soon as the pleastentries were exchanged Alex was free to go. The twins stayed on their mounts at the pine as Alex was able to go about his way.

(cue Alex)

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Alex pulled Showdown to a stop and faced the pair of siblings. Both Enos and Val stretched out their right hands to him and he took them without hesitation, giving each one a firm shake. There were no hard feelings between the three of them, after all the Strates were just doing what the Deputy had asked of them. When the handshakes were over, Alex gave them both a nod.

"Thanks for the escort, you two be careful heading back to town." He glanced around the woods, his instincts still nagging at him.

With those last words spoken, Alex turned Showdown back around and flicked the reins.

"Come on Showdown, let's get out of here."

The buckskin took off in a fast gallop, looking like a yellow streak as both horse and rider headed deeper into the dense woods.

(Cue Anyone!!)

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The rider next to the lead one of the pack fell violently from his mount, but his foot caught in the stirrup. His horse kept going though, having no idea it's rider was dead.

The rest of the pack kept on after MaryAnne. Guns were all drawn and now they had two targets. The deputy and the anonymous cowboy that had just taken out one of their ranks. But their shots were useless, as the red horse was running at an incredible speed.

Depsite Chet yelling for her not to look back, MaryAnne did quickly. She saw one of the pack had fallen out of the chase. Although grateful, she was surprised Chet would try to help her. He certainly didn't owe her anything. Then she realized her death would spell his own, especially if Rosco...or worse, Brian...found out.

All in all, it was turning out to be a bad morning...


At the two mile mark, Rosco pulled the reins on his mustang and Lightening skidded to a stop. The white horse was turned around and Rosco stared back in the direction they had just rode from.

Four miles.... Dammit! He looked at Brian, his look still grim but now shadowed by a cross between apology and a plea for help. But if he was wrong, MaryAnne would have both their heads if Rosco brought Brian back into town, and Rosco knew that wasn't a risk Brian was willing to take.

But something was knawing at the Sheriff. Deep. Sure, Chet was a lying, theiving, no good scoundrel but...Rosco's discomfort seemed to go beyond the rustler. Like there was some other force out there, somewhere.

He gave Brian a nod. "See ya around..." Lightening took off back toward town.

(cue anyone!)

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A glance over his shoulder confirmed Chet's fear, the group of unwelcoming outlaws were still riding hard on there tail. It was becoming more and more obvious that no matter how fast they ran or where they might find to take some cover and fight back that these guys more then likely weren't about to back down.

Chet rode up beside MaryAnne, seeing her look over her shoulder breifly despite his warning not to. An idea suddenly struck him, he bent over an reached into his saddle bag an drew out a stick of dinimite.

"DON"T STOP NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS!!!!" Chet shouted and suddenly drew Red to an unwilling halt.

Furiously the horse tossed his head and reared, his front hooves kicking up dirt as they came back down on the ground. Chet quickly took a match from his pocket, his horse standing steady for the moment, he scratched the match across his gun and put the flame to the fuze of the explosive. In seconds sparks began to fly from the fuse as the flame crawled down it, the young Duke boy spun his horse around to face the nearing group of outlaws.

Quickly he drew back his arm and threw the stick of dinimite as hard as possibly, the lit explosive landing in the path of the riders. Chet loosened his forceful hold on Red's reins and turned the horse away from the lit candle and galloped him hard for 40 yards then stopped and turned back to face them once again.

He drew his gun an waited, as soon as the explosive took its tole he would gun down the surviving varmits. An no matter what it would take not a one would get near the deputy, Chet thought to himself watching as the riders drew closer and closer to the candle on the ground. Even if it ment his life, not one of these men would indanger the deputies life as long as oxygen still existed in the Dukes lungs.

(Cue anyone.)

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Brian watched angrily as Rosco turned the mustang back towards Hazzard. The change in the Sheriff's eyes had come too late to mean much to Brian. It was clear to that his help, and his very presence, wasn't wanted...ever again. Worse, Rosco had not trusted Brian enough to let him ride to exile on his own, even though MaryAnne's safety could be at stake.

It was more than Brian could swallow. "DAMN YOUR BADGE!!" He yelled at the Sheriff's back. Damascus, upset by the temper and volume in his rider's voice, reared up and bawled a protest of his own.

Brian regained control of the large horse, and turned him away, kicking Damascus into a gallop. Despite every instinct that was pulling at his black-clad heart, Brian forced himself to ride in the opposite direction of Hazzard. In facing the ordered exile, he was giving a last act of lawfulness...proving that he would have obeyed, whether or not Rosco had escorted him the full distance.

And so Brian left behind all that mattered to him. He filled the emptiness with thoughts of Chet Duke....and revenge. If the rustler had caused any harm to MaryAnne, it would be one more reason to give him the slowest death imaginable.

(Cue anybody!)

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A large explosion rippled through the forest, shaking the trees and causing birds to take off in flights of panic. Alex nearly got dumped from his saddle, the blast caused Showdown to stop in his tracks and the frightened horse had reared up from the noise.

"Easy Showdown, just take it easy." Alex patted his horse's neck trying to soothe the buckskin, even while his own heart pounded hard in his chest. When the horse returned to all four hooves, a shaking hand stroked over the buckskin's butter colored coat until both rider and horse were calm.

"The only thing that I know of that makes that big a noise is dynamite."

The thought of Chet Duke suddenly popped into his head and a grin came to Alex's face. Using dynamite in the middle of the woods would be just the sort of thing that horse thief would pull. After all, Chet did say he had scores to settle with both him and Brian. How else could the rascal let not only the two outlaws, but the rest of the county know where he was?

"He wants to play...we'll play."

Nudging Showdown's sides, Alex headed in the direction of the blast. He pulled his holster out of his saddlebag and strapped it around his waist. If Chet Duke was behind that blast, he would be ready for him.

(Cue Anyone!)

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The twins had stood by the pine watching Alex to see where he'd go. He was now thick in the woods and was out of plain sight but still could be heard. Suddenly a huge blast had rocked the earth. Justice and Whisper reached for the sky as the explosion from the dyniamite quaked the earth and trees.

Enos fell right off the dapple grey gledding and Val instictively gripped the bay mares reins and fought to stay on. Both horses began to squeal and rear.

"Whisper! Whoa! Whoa! Easy girl! Easy!" Val pleaded with her horse.

Enos got up and hurried over to Justice would was rearing then running around in circles and rearing back up again, "Easy boy, easy... Justice!"

Val finally getting Whisper calmed, then rode up to the distressed gledding, leaned over and graspped his reins. Whisper then came closer to her stall mate and nuzzled his neck to comfort him. Enos then approached and took hold of his horse's reins and gave him a few kind strokes and whispered to him, "Easy boy.... easy...."

After calming his horse down, he mounted the Tennesse Walker, "Thanks Val"

"You're welcome" Val smiled, "Now what Deputy Strate?"

Enos switched his gaze from his sister to the woods. Val looked to the woods when she noticed he did.

"Ding Dang! He's gone! We don't know where he went exactly." Enos cursed.

"You think he went after Chet Duke?"

"Possible, hard tellin'..."

Val looked back to Enos with a worried look. Enos looked back at her in return.

"Do you want to follow him?" Val asked.

The lawman shook his head in reply and pulled out his pocket watch from his brown tweed suit jacket, "We wait thirty minutes and see what happens."

(cue anyone)

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Chet leaned forward hugging his body close to his skitish horse as the explosion shocked the ground. With a defening squeal two of the outlaw packs horses and men fell victom to the great blast of the explosion.

The remaing riders standing battled to keep there terror stricken horses under control as they burst into fear stricken bucking sprees. Caught off gaurde by his horses sudden bucking another one of the packs riders crashed to the ground with a bone racking thud, his terrified horse shying away from him.

Taking advantage of the remaining three riders dazed moment, Chet holstered his gun and kicked his horse as hard as possible. He burst out of his hidden place, the big Thoroughbred let out at a full charge as Chet steared him the direction that the fleaing deputy had gone. Faster an faster he urged the speeding Red streak of horse flesh on, never looking back to see if the outlaw pack had regained its composure.

(Cue anyone)

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  • 2 months later...

Chet's well timed use of the dynamite had bought both him and MaryAnne crucial time. The three remaining riders, including the leader of the pack had to riegn in their horses after the mighty explosion all but shook the saddles right off the horses.

MaryAnne pulled up hard on the riegns of Phoenix bringing the horse to a stop after the explosion. She turned in the saddle and saw the chaos the three riders in the pack were dealing with. Chet was coming up fast on Red.

The leader of the pack was still in his saddle, she saw. Black Jack Dakota was his name. He had a younger brother, Domino, who'd met his end at the business end of MaryAnne's .45 six months earlier. Obviously Black Jack was looking to collect on that little debt.

Domino was the type of outlaw that was destined to meet his end from a bullet anyway. He had figured he was worth something as an outlaw because of his brother. Problem was he had no skills. He could ride a horse, but he was too slow at drawing a gun and his card playing skills were pitiful. In a word, he was stupid. And the day he drank beyond his limit at the Boars Nest Saloon and then challenged MaryAnne to a gun fight was his shining moment in stupidity.

His brother, on the other hand was no slouch. Black Jack Dakota had terrorized most of the southern territories from Georgia to East Texas. MaryAnne had no idea the day she gunned down Domino that his brother was Black Jack Dakota...or that the feared outlaw would be bringing his own posse into Hazzard to settle accounts.

MaryAnne gulped and looked at Chet, waving for him to follow her. She kicked Phoenix's flanks and took off for town. Hazzard would need all the help it could get to fight off what was left of Black Jack's posse.

(cue anyone!! WE'RE BAAAACK!!!!!!)

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Alex and Showdown were moving slow and easy through the woods, not sure of exactly who or what could jump out from behind the heavy trees or plump bushes. Senses on full alert, every noise forced the outlaw to quickly draw his gun and **** it. The forest around them didn’t offer comfort; it only seemed to grow denser and more ominous with every step, the thick branches twisted like gnarled knuckles ready to pluck some hapless rider from his steed. Swallowing hard, Alex closed his eyes a moment and took in a deep breath forcing back the adrenaline rush the latest noise had inspired.

Showdown could sense the distress of his owner and he too seemed ready to jump sky high at every shadow, he stopped on the trail and backed up a few steps, snorting as he threw his head from side to side.

“Easy Show, I think I’m wound up enough for both of us.†Alex whispered as he stroked his hand over the buckskin’s neck trying to reassure both himself and his horse.

“Just my imagination’s a little active right now. After all Brian and I have been through with Chet Duke….†He sighed shaking his head. “He owes me a piece of hot lead and from how he was talking, he’s going to make good on the delivery.â€

Still gazing around cautiously Alex nudged the horse to move, his gun tight in his hand. He tipped the brim of his hat up a little to get a better view of the trail ahead as they kept on it.

Suddenly another noise cut through the air that wasn’t just an outlaw’s heightened sense of imagination. A distant rumbling that sounded a lot like a deep booming thunder, as if the sky was about to crack open.

Alex pulled Showdown to a stop creasing his brow as he looked around, then looked straight up. He saw nothing but blue sky.

“Okay so we’re not about to get soaked…so what the hell was--?â€

The sound rang out again, this time growing closer and the ground beneath the yellow buckskin’s hooves began to vibrate, the dirt kicking up.

Alex’s eyes grew round at the realization of what that sound was. He had heard it before back in Hazzard, when a stampede of wild horses had cut through town and he stood amongst them as they galloped by. He quickly tucked his gun away.

“We best get out of sight Show, I think we’re about to have company. Either those horses are coming back for another gallop through Hazzard, or Chet Duke found some friends--â€

Getting off the trail, Alex spotted a thicket of nearby bushes, then ducked down low as he and Showdown stepped through them.

Turning his horse around, Alex parted the branches waiting for whatever or whoever it was to make an appearance.

He didn’t have to wait long, within moments an Appaloosa horse with a dark haired rider went galloping by, quickly followed by a familiar red colored horse being ridden by a dark haired man in a dark brown duster. The pair of riders were being pursued by three men on horseback, their guns drawn.

Recognizing the fleeing pair immediately, Alex closed his eyes a moment.

“Oh God…MaryAnne and Chet!" Straightening in the saddle, Alex nudged his horse's sides. "Come on Showdown! We have to catch up! MaryAnne’s good but those odds aren’t in her favor!â€

Drawing his gun again, Alex and Showdown parted the bushes as the yellow buckskin took off in a fast gallop, hoping to join the others and make the odds a little more even…

(Cue Anyone!!)

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Its was as though his own heart was going to burst out of his chest and take flight on him, Chet thought as he galloped Red up beside MaryAnne’s Appaloosa. What now? There horses would be winded soon an need water, they couldn’t expect to out run these guys... it would be difficult just to hide from them. They were gaining on them now, Chet glanced over his shoulder to see how much space there was between them an there pursuers.

As he had feared the space was dwindling to nothing, unlike MaryAnne an himself, they were pushing there horses beyond the limits. Chet glanced down at the back of Red’s head, he could feel the Thoroughbred heaving between his knees already. If a well trained runner like Red was getting near winded, then MaryAnne’s Appaloosa would be near to the same breaking point very soon.

“What now...†Chet whispered to himself releasing the pressure on his horses sides and allowing the horse to slow to a swaying tiring gallop.

Red tossed his head, his nostrils flared as he panted for breath and slowed to a quick canter. There was only one more alternative, Chet suddenly drew back on Red’s reins and brought the winded horse to a stop an turn him in the path, blocking the on coming gang from continuing there pursuit.

He drew up both guns and steadied his tired horse, just watching and waiting as the trio barreled towards him. As soon as they were just in shooting range, the Duke boy planned to bear down on them with everything he had. Although his attention seemed centered on the cut throats galloping closer the sight of a fourth rider coming up from behind caught his eye, but the rider was too far off to identify. Chet gritted his teeth, he thought he had taken out the other riders, but hell what was one more gun bearing on him.

(Cue Anyone)

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MaryAnne took a quick look back when she realized Chet wasn't riding at her left side flank. She saw the outlaw back a ways, sitting straight up in the saddle of his thoroughbred, guns in hand, ready to fend off the oncoming posse and take as many of them with him as he could.

"*%(!$!" MaryAnne pulled the reigns hard again and Phoenix screamed as she stopped and turned around. The Appaloosa was getting damn tired, MaryAnne could tell. Tired of running and probably tired of the quick stops. MaryAnne made a mental note that if they survived this to treat the horse to a good rub down and a lot of sugar and oats.

Phoenix however, knew her duty and she stopped at MaryAnne's command on the reigns. MaryAnne pulled her Winchester rifle from it's saddle holster. The three member posse was thundering closer. A fourth rider was back a distance. Chet pulled the hammers back on his guns.

MaryAnne brought the rifle to bear at the three riders with one thought in mind....

...That she and Chet quite possibly were about to fire their last shots....

(cue anyone!)

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At the sight of the two-gun cowboy and the deputy leveling a Winchester rifle, BlackJack hauled his horse around in a wide circle, changing direction. His two surviving accomplices did the same, turning tail. Running down fleeing prey was one thing; fighting a battle open-range without cover was another. The rifle's range was superior to any pistol, and its accuracy would change the odds to the defender's favor.

Timing was everything, and it was time to run and regroup. So much for the plans to take the Hazzard law unaware. BlackJack cursed between his teeth and spurred his horse to retreat. His compatriots galloped beside him, unquestioning.

Suddenly, another rider was noticed in their path. A roving saddlebum on a Buckskin horse had been coming up on their back, and with the gang's abrupt retreat, was now coming in head-on. By the expression on the drifter's face, BlackJack knew the hapless rider was seeing spades in the deck.

BlackJack flashed an oil-slicked smile and raised his pistol, leveling it just above his horse's ears. He cocked the hammer back and fired, controlling his horse by brute strength as the beast shied from the gunfire. The hat of the drifter blew clean off from the bullet, but the blonde head was unharmed. For the moment. BlackJack's pistol remained leveled and the hammer was cocked back a second time, aimed lower, taking point between the drifter's eyes. He called out a command. "TURN AROUND AND RIDE WITH US, BOY, OR YOU'LL TASTE YOUR OWN BLOOD!"

And so BlackJack made his recruitment offer to the drifter. There was only one correct answer....

(Cue Alex! )

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Alex had been coming up fast, the distance between him and the three riders shrinking rapidly with each of Showdown’s hoof beats. Though still clutching his pistol, he chose not to fire yet wanting the distance to be smaller and the targets more easily visible. But all thoughts of bringing up the rear and getting the drop on the bad guys changed when the gang suddenly turned around, heading right for him.

“Oh damn!†Alex swore as he started to tighten the reins, wanting to turn his horse around. The words had barely left his mouth when a bullet took off his hat in one clean shot; the sunlight cast down on his hair, making the color all the brighter now.

Finally pulling on Showdown’s reins, the buckskin came to a stop directly in front of the three armed men. The gun in the leader’s hand was cocked and prepared to send another shot right into Alex’s forehead. Not wanting to provoke him more, or to make his situation any worse, Alex slowly tucked his pistol away. The rather generous offer had been made to join this band of less than merry men, and the glint in the leader’s eyes spoke volumes as to what the wrong answer would get him.

Taking a fast moment, Alex looked past the men that surrounded him to see what had caused the gang to change directions. And there in the distance stood the answer, MaryAnne and Chet, both of them taking a stand armed and ready.

*So…that explains it…* Alex thought to himself before he sighed heavily and once again met the leader’s hostile gaze.

“Looks like I don’t have much of a choice. You drive a hard bargain.â€

Nudging Showdown, Alex did what had been shouted to him and turned his horse around. He cast one glance over his shoulder at MaryAnne and Chet as the gang with their newest member headed in the other direction…

(Cue Anyone!)

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Chet released a heavy sigh as the pack road away with Alex in tow, had it not been for the slicks sudden appearance, him and MaryAnne very well may bit the dust. The young rustler wrinkled his brow and spun his horse around, he would have to remember what Alex had done for him. He spurred his horse forward and rode up beside the deputy, who still stood holding her shouldered rifle at ready.

“Come on...†Chet said to her under his breath, only loud enough for her to hear.

He knew that the blond slick would have a better chance of running with the pack, then he an MaryAnne would have running from the pack. Wordlessly he grabbed hold of the Appaloosas bridled head and moved Red up into a trot, pulling the unwilling Appaloosa behind him. There horses were in desperate need of water, an a short rest from there long, exhausting run.

(Cue anyone.)

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MaryAnne slipped the Winchester back into its holster and looked back once more as Alex rode off with Black Jack and the remains of his posse. She turned back forward in the saddle as Chet took the riens of Phoenix and the two horses picked up to a trot.

She made a face that reflected her thoughts. Black Jack's timing of coming to town couldn't have been worse. She had sent three good guns off in seperate directions with the knowledge that should the three return at the same time she'd hang 'em all.

Technically, she should have been dead by now. But Chet had helped her, when he didn't have to. He could have easily rode off, saying "See ya sucker! HA HA!" and bang, there'd be one dead deputy in the road.

On the other hand, had that happened and Black Jack was unknown to be the killer, everyone would have assumed Chet did it. Obviously Chet knew this and this was why he had stayed and helped. His own hide was on the line in more ways then one.

The dynamite explosions had obviously gotten Alex's attention and he was probably no more than riding up to find out what was going on and ended up neck deep in trouble. Black Jack's offer was the kind one didn't refuse. Now Alex had to ride with them....and who knew what Black Jack would try next. He wasn't about to give up that easily.

Black Jack could be very persuasive and force Alex to do just about anything. Of course, Alex really had no allegiance to Hazzard or any reason to really want to see MaryAnne spared......did he?

MaryAnne's attention came back to the quiet of the trail and the tired horse below her. She glanced at Chet, who looked preoccupied with his own thoughts and then looked back behind her one more time. She and Chet would have to get back to town, alert everyone....and then wait.

(cue anyone!)

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The thundering hooves of Damascus pounded the dry earth, as horse and rider continued the flight from Hazzard. The distant, faded rumble of a far-off explosion abruptly rolled through the air, almost escaping Brian's notice. But long stretches of living on the lam made Brian's sense keenly aware. Even from miles away, he knew the difference in sound between dynamite, cannons, stampedes, and storms.

Against his own will, Brian gradually pulled back on the horse's reins, slowing Damascus to a walk. He turned the horse around to face Hazzard, which was now a good three miles away.

The Sheriff was no longer in sight, having disappeared behind the low, sloping hills. It was just Brian, his horse...and his conscience. Angered by the circumstances and by MaryAnne's decree, he had been ready to ride clear to hell without a backwards glance. But now, the cold grip of doubt was squeezing his soul.

Tracking Chet down was still high on his list. But making sure MaryAnne had returned safely from her mission seemed damn important just now.

"@#$%&*...." Brian cursed. To return to Hazzard was to take an awful risk. The law might reward his concern with a length of rope.

Then again, if something happened to the law, there was no quicker way to find out the truth. Maybe he could sneak in, find out what he needed to know, and get the hell out before anyone discovered him. And that would put him that much closer to tracking Chet's trail, or hooking back up with Alex.

"Ah, hell.......HYAAAAH!!" Brian gave Damascus a light kick, and the black horse leapt into a renewed gallop, ears forward and nostrils flaring. To the simple mind of the horse, heading back towards town meant one thing. *Sugar!*

(Cue anyone!)

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Time was up as far as Val was concerned. She looked to her brother who seemed to be thinking the same thing as he glanced a second time at his pocket watch.

"It's got to be over a half hour now. I mean we're giving him plenty of time." Val complained to her sib.

Enos nodded, "Yeah... it's over a half hour now. Let's git. We'll go through the woods here and toward where ever the blast was then circle back and head home? How that sound?"

Val spured the bay mare gently with a gentle squeeze and click of her tongue, "Come on!"

Whisper lifted her head from nibbling on a tuff of grass lifted her head and pointed her ears forward. The horse knew it must be time to leave. She gave a gentle sound in response. Val looked to Enos who else spurred Justice forward, "There is a clearing beyond these woods isn't there?"

"Yep, and I think that's where that blast came from."

As the pair started into the dense pines Val chuckled and looked to her brother, "You know if we were smart we'd turn back and go home. Let those two outlaws at one another."

Enos shook his head, "MaryAnne wanted me to make sure Alex didn't meet back up with Chet. That's exactly why I am doing this."

"Only after two miles out... You did that."

"That blast... it's not right Val."

"But a half hour has passed. Anything that was out there has to be gone by now."

"You don't know that"

"Argh! Enos! Did you get any brains up there while I was gone?"

"Nope." Enos answered pretty much ignoring his sister's rant. He wanted to find out what happened. If someone was in trouble it was his job and duty to help them. He just led the dapple gray through the pines and out toward the light of the open plains on the other side. It'd be soon. Until then he kept quiet allowing Val to rattle on about whatever she wanted to rattle on about. Soon the light of the open fields shined down upon them, he squinted and put his hand up to help cut the light as he looked out across the plains with his sister soon emerging from the forest and at his side.

"What do you see?" She asked coming up by him.

"Pretty much nothing except over there." He pointed to where a black plume cloud of smoke seemed to be smodlering and curling high into the sky. There wasn't any fire anymore and the area looked charred in the distance.

Val blinked. The distance from where they were standing and where the smoke was a good distance away. For Alex to make it there then be gone, his horse had to be flying, "That boy had to be bookin' if he made it out of here in a half hour."

"Yep." Enos however spotted some siloutes far out among the plains. It was two riders, quickly he spurred Justice, "Come on."

"What?! Enos!" Val now spotted the riders too, "What if they're hostiles!"

"Keep your gun close." Enos answered he didn't believe the two riders to be hostiles. They way they were moving along. No, but just in case he wanted that trick shot sister of his to be ready. The way the pair was traveling it seemed like they were more in distress than hostile, which meant he needed to help them, "I think they need help."

Val sighed as they rode toward the pair of riders.

(cue whoever)

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There was nothing more Chet could do, except see the deputy back to the safety of the town. Although tired Chet kept a watchful eye on there surroundings, an when they paused a half of mile back towards the town at a creek, he allowed his horse to draw water, but he wouldn’t pause his watchful visual over the deputy to fill his canteen. Years on the trail alone had stirred his senses and strengthened them, he’d not yet met a man or beast that could sneak up on him while he was on the trail.

After Chet’s horse had had his fill of water, he rode him up onto the creek bank an waited for the deputy, his mind made up. He’d offer to ride back to town with the deputy, then leave one his own accord an do as he had promised and never return.

“So whats the plan deputy? I’d be obliged if you let me escort you back to town...†He sighed and shook his head. “I don’t want to take a chance of those yeller coyotes circling back this way to have another try at you.â€

Chet looked down at the deputy and he horse, still standing in the creek getting water, he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell those gunslingers could want with a small town deputy like her. They were damned serious about taking her head, an what more they didn’t seem to care what stood in there way.

“What the hell do they want with you anyway? Who the hell are they?†Chet questioned, his mood as usual. Unhappy, annoyed and right down dark clouded temperament.

(Cue anyone.)

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“So whats the plan deputy? I’d be obliged if you let me escort you back to town...†He sighed and shook his head. “I don’t want to take a chance of those yeller coyotes circling back this way to have another try at you.â€

"I appreciate that, Chet. Thank you..." MaryAnne nodded to the rustler and then watched as Phoenix continued to drink from the creek water.

“What the hell do they want with you anyway? Who the hell are they?†Chet questioned, his mood as usual. Unhappy, annoyed and right down dark clouded temperament.

MaryAnne looked up at Chet and sighed. "Black Jack Dakota," she said. "About six months ago I gunned down his younger brother Domino at the Boar's Nest Saloon. The kid was a idiot, plus he was drunk and he came up the brilliant idea of drawing on me first. Seems he had a problem with a female deputy...

"Anyway, obviously Black Jack is looking to settle the score." She looked at Chet a moment. "Listen, once we get back to town, I'll understand if you want to split. You're certainly not under any obligation to help me beyond this point, although I appreciate what you've done. I ain't holding that sentence I gave y'all either. I'm declaring amnesty. Not that you'll probably wanna ever come back to Hazzard, but if you do I won't hang ya."

Movement on the trail caught MaryAnne's eye and she turned to look, seeing two riders approaching. It took a moment but as they came closer she recognized Enos and Val and breathed a little easier. She waved to them in greeting.

(cue Chet and/or Enos n' Val!)

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“Don’t sweat it Deputy...†Chet said looking back at the Deputy and listening to what she had to say about the men who had tried to take her out of the picture. He could careless that it was a female sitting on a horse with a tin star on her chest, man or women, she could part his hair as well as any man could.

“I see... he kinda forced you into killing him, some people are foolish an dumb when they been at the bottle. Others get testy and feisty, they bite off more then they can chew an get themselves killt. An you correct I have no interest in sticking around Hazzard, unless you request that I do so...â€

The faint sound of a pair of riders drawing near made Chet look up, long before they were in the range of identifying them. Not wanting to take a the chance that maybe this was a trick to get to the Deputy again, Chet trotted his horse down into the water, across it an up the other side blocking the riders an protecting MaryAnne. After a few long minutes, the riders came into better view and Chet relaxed, these people were of no threat to the Deputy.

Slowly he backed his horse away and allowed him to stand quietly and rest. Chet hooked his knew over his saddle horn and began to comfortably roll a smoke as Valerie and Enos Strate rode up to them.

(Cue Val and Enos... or anyone.)

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All riders and horses met at the edge of the creek. Brother and sister met up with the rustler and deputy. Enos nodded to MaryAnne and smiled, "Ain't it past the two mile line MaryAnne... He should be on his way now. Oh... by chance did ya see Mr. Alex Jackson fly by here? He had to been bookin' if he ain't here no more?"

Val noticed how her brother left out about the explosion and she quickly chimmed in, "Yeah, who caused that explosion we heard?"

She then glared over Chet's way but then focused her attention back to MaryAnne. Enos frowned at his sister's notions. He knew you didn't accuse until you were certain. Both twins wanted to know what went on that was edivent.

(cue whoever. Note; I have until 5/05 to post anything to this RR. After that I can post but it maybe a while before you would hear from me. So I wouldn't suggest cueing me. However if I am needed, I will give character control to MA. She's known me for years now and can handle my role in a pinch. Thanks all for understanding. See you all on a regular basis in 3 months. Val and her author)

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