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After Cooter Davenport explained the details of what he knew about the happenings in Hazzard of late, silence reigned for a few moments. Bo glanced at Luke briefly, but the dark-haired Duke was gazing sightlessly at a pair of long tongs laid across the blacksmith's bench. Finally he pressed his lips together tightly and lifted one fist, seeming to ponder slamming it down before instead gently thumping the side of his clenched hand against wood.

"Dang it," he muttered quietly, finally looking up. Light blue eyes skated across Bo's darker ones before fastening on those of Cooter, who was watching with an expression somewhere between sympathy, wryness, and expectancy. Luke shook his head and repeated his comment, "Dang it all. Not only Chet back in town, but true outlaws as well."

"Enough to make you think about for once turnin' your back on the mess," Bo muttered a continuation of sorts. Luke looked at him a bit reproachfully.

"Bo, tell me honestly... can we really do that? I mean, Chet, goin' off his own way like he did, may not be our responsibility, but weren't we raised to stand up in the midst of trouble? Didn't Uncle Jesse always say it was our place to stand up for what's good 'n right? Besides, it sounds like Rosco could use a couple good men at his back. I don't like the sound of how he went ridin' off after MaryAnne alone, even if she is his kin."

The blond man sighed deeply, a bit as though he were being put out of his way - which he was seeing as the day had been begun with thoughts of a fishing expedition - and gazed up from under his brows for a couple seconds before finally sighing a bit again, and nodding. "Alright, alright... So what do we do, head out after 'im?"

Luke gave his cousin a slightly longsuffering look, then nodded slightly to himself and started for the door. "Sittin' still won't get nobody nowhere, so's ridin' out's the best plan I can think of to start right now. With outlaws we don't know, a couple we recognize, and Rosco out there by his lonesome... on top of that explosion... I don't like it one bit."

Bo followed on his heels, and Cooter went after them as far as the doorway. "Hey!" he called out, and the Dukes both turned. The blacksmith smiled a humorless, almost dangerous smile and lifted the large hammer in his hand. With the black soot touched here and there on his face, he almost looked like a harbinger of Hell's fires. "You come ridin' back fast if you find trouble, ya hear? I'll round up a few men I know and be ready. Those outlaws'll learn soon enough Hazzard folk don't appreciate their kinda business!"

Luke and Bo looked at one another, and quirked smiles of part amusement, part appreciation of their friend's serious statements, then nodded. "You do that," Bo called back, then jogged a couple steps to catch up with his cousin as the pair headed to untie their mounts.

Raider tossed his head a bit in protest as his dozing was rather rudely interrupted by having his reins slung over his neck and the weight of his rider swung up onto his back. The gray gelding laid his ears back but obeyed the nudge of Luke's heel into his ribs to turn from the water trough. He flattened his ears closer to his skull though as his rider's surprised shout accompanied a hard reining-back. Luke turned to look at Bo, who was half-mounted, and pointed to the black-clad man riding a big black horse at a hard gallop out of town. The blond's eyes widened, and he swore softly.

"That's that Brian fella!"

Luke's voice was steely. "Yeah, and he's in a big hurry to get out of the town he ain't supposed to be in to start with. I think we need to find out what he's up to, eh?"

"You got that right!" With Bo's tug on the reins, Traveler spun about on gathered haunches to spring into a Quarter Horse gallop down the road out of town, and Raider leapt into action after him, following the dust cloud left on the way out of Hazzard Square.

(cue anyone)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The sound of hoofbeats stirred Brian from his remorse. He placed the low-brimmed hat back upon his head, and pulled the reins to spin Damascus around to face the oncoming riders.

The riders were coming on fast. Too fast to be friendly, Brian figured. With a casual, automatic reflex, his hand flashed down to furl back the side of his long coat. He drew his gun from the holster with a quick, smooth motion. The weapon was spun in hand, causing a brief flare of sunlight to glance off of the barrel.

(cue Lukas!)

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Bo’s shout was unnecessary. Luke had also seen the flash of sunlight on metal... but worse than that, he’d seen the mounded forms beyond the black-clad outlaw’s stance. His mind whirled - first came the thought that Brian Coltrane must have shot somebody, then on its heels the realization that there hadn’t been any gunshots ahead so these bodies must have already been there. With that thought came a curiosity who they’d been, and a tightening in his gut of dread as his mind brought up several unwelcome possibilities.

The train of thoughts only took a couple moments to come to completion, then the cousins were spurring their mounts in diverging directions behind a stand of trees. Raider broke into the open first, Luke’s Colt pistol drawn but laid against his thigh, not up in threat - yet. Dukes were no killers, usually, but he’d sooner shoot than see himself or Bo dead, if it came to it. “Coltrane!†he shouted as he reined his gray gelding around a low but dense copse of bushes. It was partly a warning, partly an announcement of identity, partly... he wasn’t quite sure. Brian hadn’t actually ever shot him or Bo before, but he’d certainly threatened once or twice, and there was always a first time to set a precedent... It wasn’t like the Dukes and this particular Coltrane were exactly friends.

(Cue Brian)

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There was scant comfort in recognizing the riders to be Dukes. The last thing Brian wanted, was a run-in with any of Chet's relatives, no matter how near or distant. Another point of contention was that Bo and Luke tended to be sticklers for justice, so long as it was levied upon anyone but themselves.

"GIT!" Brian barked in answer, firing off two fast shots high over Luke's head. Seconds later, a small tree branch cracked and fell, crunching down to fall irritatingly close to one Duke and his horse.

(cue Lukas!)

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Traveler squealed, the whites of his eyes showing as he half-reared, shying away from the falling branch. Luke, who had ducked out of instinct, spun Raider around in a quick three-sixty, eyes glancing over the Quarter and his blond rider, who had managed to hang on and now was circling the now-jumpy chestnut around in a small circle, then coming back to rest on Brian as he faced the black-clad outlaw again at a stop. Raider pranced nervously underneath him with head drawn well up, wired to run after the sharp sound had whistled over his head.

Bo came up beside the older Duke as he and Brian stared dangerously at one another, and muttered something quick and sharp under his breath that Luke didn’t quite catch. Then his voice raised. “You no-good...! Shootin’ first and makin’ threats! Seems to me like you should be a little more thankful we ain’t shot at you yet!†Traveler stepped slightly forward with his rider’s vehemence, and Luke reached his left hand to grab hard onto Bo’s sleeve, urging him back with a tug.

“Whoa, cousin! Good way to get yourself killed!†he scolded the blond’s impetuous nature with an edge of nervous adrenaline in his own tone, then light blue eyes focused back at the black-clad Coltrane. “You got somethin’ to say for yourself, sneakin’ around like you were? And what about them?†He sketched a slight gesture with the end of his gun toward the shapes beyond, trying not to let his stomach quiver at the sight of the vultures giving the intruding humans an evil eye.

(Cue Brian!)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Brian's eyes followed Luke's gesture. The subtle accusation wasn't missed. "Them?" Brian drawled back. "You mean those bodies under the buzzards? Well, you can thank Chet for that scene. I got heah too late to do anythin'...."

A nerve twitched in Brian's face. "...but you can be damn sure, I'll settle up accounts with Chet directly. Unless you two feel like pickin' up the tab."

With the threat and challenge issued, Brian waited for either of the Dukes to so much as twitch. His gun was ready. His kin, he thought to be dead. His own fate, therefore, was of no concern. He silently goaded the Dukes to draw, his dark eyes holding a brittle, iced-over gaze.

(Cue Lukas )

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Luke's eyes narrowed slightly at the threat in Brian's voice. However, the man did have a point. The Dukes had been close enough behind the lone Coltrane to have heard gunshots had they been fired, nevermind that scavengers wouldn't have found such fresh kills yet. The oldest Duke had seen more than enough dead men as a Rebel militiaman during the war to not be able to identify relatively when a death had occured... although it was not a knowledge he was that proud of. Still, the dust and vulture coated mounds behind Brian’s stiff posture and raised gun had been there too long. He glanced to Bo, and shook his head slightly. The blond glared, but his fist clenched against his knee, aborting a move toward his pistol. Luke turned his attention fully back to Brian, blue eyes icy in their own intensity and matching dark ones without giving ground. Raider tossed his mane and side-stepped, picking up on his rider's tension.

"I figure you didn't kill 'em. You didn't have time. But I bet you know who all might have. I don't believe in gunnin' down men without facts or proof, so I ain't drawin' at any one man yet, even the kid, black sheep as he might be. And you might also just know who these two were... and where your cousins might be."

"A matter we've been a little concerned about, while you've been gallivantin' here 'n there," Bo put in with no small amount of acidity in his tone. Luke flicked his gaze to his cousin briefly with a slight nod, then back to the man on the large and angry-looking black horse.

"So..." His hand shifted just slightly, the barrel of his Colt sliding against his pant leg without coming up - but he knew his own reflexes and speed. Already having aimed, Brian might pull his trigger first... but it would be the black-clad outlaw’s last act. "We’re here. We have each other at something of a stalemate. Talk."

(Cue Brian or anyone!)

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Brian talked, and he answered with choice words. "@#$%&*," he spat. "Gallavatin'! You call bein' exiled at gunpoint, and forbidden to return to yer own home upon pain of death, gallavantin'?!" You pair of wagon-hitch mules got some nerve! Ah rode back after hearin' a blast that shook the hills....and found....this."

Gesturing to the bodies with his gun, Brian turned his horse towards the grim sight. "Now, I had figured Chet might pull a stunt when MaryAnne was leadin' 'em out. I'd told Rosco as much....but he wouldn't ride back to help her until he had taken me outta town. And now...for all ah know, the Hazzard County law, or what's left of it, is right there." Brian's voice tightened. "And then you two thistle-farmers ride up and get on mah nerves."

Nudging Damascas towards the dirt-and-buzzard covered bodies, Brian turned his back solidly on the Dukes, insulting them with the implied invitation to shoot him in the back. He knew they weren't likely do it; but at the moment he didn't care one way or the other.

He halted Damascus when the horse refused to go closer to the screeching buzzards and ripe stench of death. Brian returned his gun to the holster and dismounted. The buzzards cawed in protest but grudgingly hobbled off at his slow, purposeful approach.

Steeling himself against the sight of the bloated, bird-pecked bodies, and holding his breath against the putrid scent, Brian hooked the toe of his boot beneath the shoulder of one dead body and rolled it over. The vacant, sightless face stared up blankly to the sun, teeth set in a grimace.

It wasn't anyone Brian recognized. He'd been so worried for his cousins, he'd been convinced of the outcome before knowing the complete truth. Hurriedly, he went to the second body and kicked it over. Another unknown face stared back, the final shock of death frozen on the unwashed features.

Relieved, but puzzled, Brian backed away from the dead wranglers. His cousins fates were unknown, but the worst had not happened...yet.

(Cue Lukas or anyone )

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Luke and Bo looked at one another as the black-clad Coltrane dismounted and flipped over the bodies. The smell was enough to make Luke want to gag, but he steeled his stomach... he’d known worse. Holstering his own gun, he nudged Raider close behind and to the side of Damascus to dismount, Bo behind him, and the cousins wandered up to stand at Brian’s shoulder. Luke shook his head slightly. “You know ’em?â€

Bo was still thinking over Brian’s outburst, though, and now he suddenly spoke up, looking at Luke, and across him to Brian. “You thought this was MaryAnne and Rosco?â€

(Cue Brian)

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"Nevah saw these two before," Brian answered. "But yeah....I'd thought the worst when I saw two people face-down in the dirt. Didn't get any closer to 'em until ya'll showed up and kinda forced the issue."

Knowing how close he'd come into trading lead with the Dukes over dead strangers, Brian cleared his throat and headed for his horse. "Reckon I'd best continue mah search. And since y'all know I had nothin' to do with this mess, I'd be obliged if you shut yer yap concernin' mah whereabouts. 'Cause on the odd chance MaryAnne and Rosco are awright, the minute I confirm that, I'll halfta hightail it outta heah."

Pausing at the stirrup, Brian looked back at the Dukes. "If they ain't awright....Chet's gonna have an expensive tab to pay. Either way this goes, ain't no witnesses invited."

(Cue Lukas, you dang, meddlesome Duke.....or whoever!)

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“Not invited, huh?†Luke looked at Bo, an eyebrow arched. “Tell me, cousin, when was the last time we needed an invitation to go anywhere..?â€

“Hmm,†Bo played along, scratching a mop of blond hair thoughtfully as he wandered back to Traveler, checking his girth briefly. “Can’t rightly seem to remember, Lukas...â€

Luke smiled at his cousin, then glanced back to Brian more seriously, standing beside the great black horse with one hand on his hip. “Well, seems to me we’re kinda on a little lawmen-seeking expedition ourselves. What with that gang out there, seems like Rosco might need himself another couple hands... or guns.â€

“Specially seein’ as yours seem to be on the run from the very same Sheriff,†Bo taunted lightly, mounting up. Luke flicked him an amused but cautioning glance, reaching for the reins of his own dappled gray.

(Cue Brian, you confounding Coltrane... or anyone, lol)

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With a smouldering look at the insolent Dukes, Brian mounted his horse and heaved a resigned sigh. They're would be no getting rid of Bo or Luke, short of shooting them. Tempting as that was, there was also the fact of two dead wranglers who had been bushwhacked by unknown assailants. It might not hurt, then, to have company along. Though he didn't have to like it.

"Bein' seen with y'all is gonna damage mah reputation to no end," Brian grumbled. He waited as the Dukes mounted their own horses, then nudged Damascus into motion. "But ah'll endure yer self-righteous and altogether smug presence, so long as you fill me in on the news from town. This gang you mentioned....are you talkin' about Chet's old friends, or some other stray dogs?"

(cue anyone!)

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  • 1 month later...

(This is a joint post betwen Val and MaryAnne)

Whether they were Chet's friends or stray dogs, they would need to be rounded up. Soon.

The Hazzard law already knew who the enemy was, based on MaryAnne's information. The wild card's of the deal, however, were Alex who had been forced into Black Jack's employment and Brian....as MaryAnne wondered if he had kept going away from town or maybe snuck his way back to see if she was all right.

Why would he do that? a part of her argued. You sent him off and told him if he came back you'd hang 'em.

If all three of 'em came back at the same time I'd hang 'em! Sheesh...don't you listen?

The internal aruging continued as the group of riders arrived in town and MaryAnne could only settle for wondering where he was. She sighed heavily and pushed the thought aside. The town of Hazzard had a bigger problem to deal with at hand.

Rosco led everyone to the hitch that was infront of the Sheriff's office and dismounted. "We gotta let everyone know what's going on," he said. "I think it would be best to get as many folks out of town as possible."

MaryAnne nodded. "Agreed." She then dismounted and turned to Val and Enos.

"So do you want me to look for recuritment then Sheriff?" Enos questioned looking to Rosco and MaryAnne for their take on the idea.

Rosco nodded. "Yeah, we're gonna need a posse." He looked at MaryAnne. "How many were there in Black Jack's group, not counting Alex?"

MaryAnne paused to think. "Six? Seven? I'm not completely sure, I wasn't exactly taking a head count as I was trying to outride them."

"We'll assume ten."

Valerie looked to Enos, as he was mentally counting on his fingers how many guns he knew off hand that he could round up. Val then spoke up, "You're going to need at least ten then to counter. It'd even be safe to get twice the amount you're expecting Blackjack would have."

"Hazzard ain't that big Val and we really don't have that many able bodied men that can shoot that well." Enos chided back to his sister.

"Who said anything about 'men'? We have four here right now... You get the Dukes you have three. That's seven. Cooter makes eight... You only need two more from there. We should be able to get plently." Val sugguested.

Enos frowned slightly not liking the idea of Daisy or his sister in a possible fire fight but it looked like he had little choice, "Maybe we can round up some more folks at the Saloon."

"Actually, you got five here," MaryAnne chuckled and pointed to Chet who had been standing back from the group. "I also have the feelin' that Min can handle a gun if she needs to and then there's Chance as well." MaryAnne looked at Enos. "I know you don't care for the women folks having to get involved but you gotta admit, some of the best shots in Hazzard come from the ladies. Khee!"

Enos frowned then glanced to Rosco for support in his arguement but then thought better of it because it was a futile battle. Val just grinned back with folded arms, "Come on dear brother... We have a posse to round up."

"Alright, Val and me will go to the Saloon and russle up some guns. I'll find whoever can handle one." With that the male deputy looked to his female counter part with a genuine concern but hopeful glance, "Don't worry MaryAnne... We won't let ya down."

MaryAnne smiled at the deputy. "I know y'all won't." If there was one thing about the town of Hazzard, it was the way it's citizen's binded together in a crisis.

"Is there any central local that you want everyone to meet back at?" Valerie asked as MaryAnne and Rosco the pair of Strate's headed to their horses to leave on their assigned task.

MaryAnne glanced at Rosco. "While they're rustling up the posse, I'll spread the word around town for folks to clear out. You might as well set up a command post here." She gestured with her thumb to the Sheriff's Office.

Rosco nodded. "Good idea." He paused a moment. "Like Enos said....we won't let you down, sweetheart..."

MaryAnne bit her lip. "I know...."

Rosco patted her on the shoulder before turning to go into the Sheriff's office and the Strate twins left for the Saloon.

(cue Val or Alex)

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  • 3 weeks later...

(note this is a joint post between Min, Doc, and me... enjoy and let's get this wagon train a movin'!!!)

Enos looked to the west and seen the sun creeping toward the west. He knew that twilight was only about two hours away. If anything was going to happen tonight it'd take place after night fall. As he approached the Saloon with his sister riding by his side he pointed this fact out to her as she dismounted,

"Val, we only have about two hours to raise about a posses of ten to twelve."

She nodded and watched him dismount before they both walked inside.

"Then we best get a move on then..." The well dressed lady pushed open the swinging doors ahead of her brother to enter the pallor.

Min had watched Brian leave, and although he had promised to return to once again see her on a more professional capacity, she couldn’t help but sigh.

“I hope he’s okay.†She said over her shoulder to her partner, then turned around to face her fully.

“I know he’s anxious about finding his cousin, but that Chet Duke is dangerous. I hate to think of MaryAnne out there on her own with him.â€

She walked back behind the bar, though she usually stuck to less toxic drinks like champagne, she got a shot glass and helped herself to the house whiskey. After pouring the shot glass full, Min picked it up and downed it in one gulp. Though the liquor burned her throat as she swallowed it down, she only showed the tiniest of winces, then turned to see the stunned face of her partner.

Chance couldn't help but wince, the stuff Min had thrown back was close to gaslight kerosene. Plus drinking like that wouldn't be the best way to pass the hours, esp. if trouble was brewing. Both of them had to be alert and aware. So the blonde gambler made a suggestion.

"How about a game of card while we wait, Min? To gambling, no counting...just something to do while we wait?"

“I’m not so sure my mind is up for poker Chance.†The worry clear on Min’s face, she poured herself another drink and began to raise it to her lips. She caught the worried gaze of her long time friend and quickly lowered it back to the bar.

“You’re right…drinking this rot gut won’t help anything.†Pushing the drink to one side, Min came out from behind the bar and joined her friend at the nearest wooden table.

“So, is this for fun or for money?â€

Chance attempted a small tease, trying to lighten the mood.

"Is there a difference?" Her own deck has been abused and missing several cards now, Chance found another from a nearby cabinet and cut in. Even with her wounded hand, the movements of her hands were quick and efficient.

“Of course, if this is for fun we won’t need money.†Min got herself comfortable on the stiff back wooden chair and reached into the top of her dress and pulled out a few dollars.

She watched as Chance shuffled and gazed out over the top of the swinging doors. For now things had grown quiet with Brian’s departure, but deep down she knew they might not stay that way. Min turned back and watched as Chance dealt the first hand, then picked up her cards and looked at them.

Fortunately, cards with two agile players made the time hours quickly and Chance tried to keep up a light conversation to distract her. Min wasn't only her business partner, but also her friend. And when Chance wasn't counting cards, the odds equaled out between the two women. A few hours had passed before Chance got the feeling someone had entered the saloon behind her.

Valerie glanced across the bar room to find the two women she met in here before idly playing cards. They both looked like capable women but whether they could be trusted was another issue. She glanced over her shoulder to Enos and nodded to the table whispering,

"What do you think?"

Enos frowned slightly but remembered the lady gambler's skill with her whip,

"It's worth a shot..."

Not liking Enos's choice of words at the moment but wondering how to approach the pair, "You want to do the recruiting or I?"

"You… You're more persuasive and the gambler over there gives me the willies…"

Enos answered in a hushed reply.

Val chuckled then put a friendly smile on her face and approached the table,

"Um… excuse me ladies but the Sheriff is calling for all able bodied marksmen to form a posse. I was wondering if you both can shoot and would be interested?"

Min set her cards face down and looked at the pair of Strates. The siblings were trying not to look worried, but the concern etched into their features was impossible to ignore.

“Val …Enos…what’s going on?†She asked as she met each pair of light eyes.

Chance kept quiet, although she shared Min's concern, but the fact that she was looking at the woman she so recently picked jewelry off of made her a little nervous, although she was careful not to show it. Thank god for a good poker face.

"Sorry, to worry ya Min." Enos answered removing his boulder hat and stepping forward toward the table, "But MaryAnne and Chet were chased down by some rubes. Chet distracted'em by throwing a stick of dynamite at'em so they ran off. We met up with MaryAnne, Chet and the Sheriff after escortin' Mr. Jackson out of town."

“Rubes?†Min got up from her chair. “What rubes?†Her gaze then bounced between both Strate siblings.

“And they were after MaryAnne and Chet?â€

Chance gave those rubes about ten seconds to live after Brian caught up with them.

"I'll help any way I can."

Enos swallowed a little startled by Min's reaction.

"Y-yes'em... Once the dynamite cleared they ran off supposedly. MaryAnne said it was some fella by the name of Black Jack Dakota. We all came back into town after they took off. Sheriff and MaryAnne think those rubes will be back again to get revenge on MaryAnne."

“For his brother, Domino.†Min touched her hand to her mouth briefly; she had been working in the Boars Nest the day Domino had been shot. A hint of fear crossed Min’s face and she shook her head slowly.

“Black Jack will burn this town to the ground to get even.â€

"Sounds like this Black Jack like a tough character..." Chance pushed her chair back, stood and adjusted her leather hat.

"But he hasn't met this bunch of Hazzard females yet."

Valerie shared Min's worry but then glanced to Chance. The confidence which the gambler radiated was rather reassuring. A smile tugged at Val's lips and she asked the gambler," So I take it we can count on your gun for the posse?"

"Gun and whip."

"I've had the pleasure..." Min turned and walked away from the table, she crossed her arms over her chest and rubbed her upper arms. She got a sudden chill at the idea of Black Jack returning, a cold shudder that ran straight through to her bones.

She heard the exchange between Val and Chance and nodded.

“You've got me too, but I'd like to go upstairs for a moment then we'll go with you to the Sheriffs."

The twins exchanged looks and Val couldn't help but smile to her brother,

"See we got seven already... We'll have twelve by nightfall maybe more..."

Enos just nodded then watched Min go up the steps, "Yep... that's not what worries me tho'..."

"Relax... Black Jack ain't going to take us layin' down. We'll be ready for'em." Val answered then glanced to the gambler.

Chance nodded, smiling grimly. "More than ready. We'll show them that these country cats have claws."

Up in her room, Min went over to her bed and leaned over it. She ran her hands along the mattress and pulled a long rifle out from beneath it and another holster made of tan leather. Raising one long leg on the edge of the wooden bed frame, she pulled up her tan skirt and pulled a small pistol from her garter belt, checked to see it was loaded and returned it to its hiding place. Min then lowered her leg and wrapped the holster with two guns around her waist and checked those for bullets as well.

Finally she picked up the long rifle and held it firmly. Her hands trembled slightly but she closed her eyes a moment trying to stay calm. The last time she had met up with Black Jack had been frightening and the idea he was coming to town downright terrified her.

Trying to keep her mind off of that, she checked to make sure the rifle had bullets, opened her nightstand and took a box of cartridges from it, then went downstairs to join the others. If Black Jack and his friends were heading to Hazzard, they were in for a fight…

Chance was left with the lady. She had her rifle and one other gun ready, plus her whip. Hopefully she wouldn't need to get close enough to any member of the gang to use it. But to protect her friends and her life, she would use it. Although being alone with one her pickpocketing victims made her distinctly uncomfortable, hopefully the other woman wouldn't connect her to the stolen earrings.

The door at the top of the stairs opened and Min came out, her rifle slung over her shoulder.

The holster she wore creaked as she headed down the steps; she tried to put on a brave face though her stomach felt knotted. She joined the Strates and Chance, then gave them a nod.

“Well I guess I’m ready.â€

Enos glanced at the women who seemed rather confident about the raid that was going to go down. However like Min, he too held fears of his own. He knew the gambler was probably confident from probable years of practice at this sort of mischief. As he glanced at his sister, he knew she was capable of making clean and accurate marks but it was out hunting or for entertaining a crowd. He knew she wasn't use to firefights, like he had seen as a deputy. For him, even those circumstances were hard for him to stomach sometimes.

The group gathered in the pallor then headed outside. They were running low on time and he wanted to be certain they were all ready.

(Cue Black Jack, or anyone!!)

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  • 4 weeks later...

( Note: In MaryAnne's absence, I've decided to keep this one rolling. Until she returns, I'll be covering her character, as well as Rosco, and Blackjack. Which gives me a lot to deal with. I'd have somebody else cover my own character, but that'd be confusing as hell, and then I'd probably fight with myself. )

Back at the campsite of the out-of-town outlaws, BlackJack held a private conference with the trusted members of his killer gang. Alex was made to wait by himself a short distance away, having been plunked down by the campfire. The gun in BlackJack's hand ensured that the blonde drifter wouldn't make a break for it...if he was smart.

After a pointed look at Alex, BlackJack returned his attention to his own men. "Here's the plan. Goldilocks over there will drive the covered wagon into town. Our horses will be tethered to the back of it. We'll leave the saddles and tack off of the horses, so's not to make 'em look suspicous. Anybody watching in town will figure the horses are being brought in for sale. "

The killer band nodded, and BlackJack smiled through yellowed teeth. "We'll have this fool drive the wagon right up to the jailhouse. Just when it gets there, we'll jump out from the back of that wagon, and get on our horses fast, and get some distance from it."

The gang blinked at this. One of them, a long-faced outlaw with a crooked nose, spoke up. "Whut about that Deputy you wanted to kill? Whut about that-there Sheriff ? How we gonna kill 'em when we're runnin' off?"

BlackJack grinned evilly. "That blonde fella yonder is gonna do the killin' for us, seein' as how we'll have that wagon loaded with enough gunpowder and dynamite to blow up half the town. We light a long fuse, we jump...KERBLAM! Little pieces of law come sprinkling down from the sky."

"Ooooooooooo." Impressed, the rest of the gang nodded.

BlackJack looked smug. "That's not the best part. Once the law is nothing more than a crater in the ground, we'll be able to clean that town out like pirates. Won't be anything to stop us, boys."

The long-faced outlaw spoke up again, excitement in his rough voice. "We get to rape the women and shoot the dogs and kill all the menfolk and burn the town?"

BlackJack nodded. "Just get it in the right order this time."

"I will, BlackJack! Sorry about that time in Kansas City, I was drunk-"

"Don't remind me." Cutting off the discussion with a wave of the gun, BlackJack turned back towards the campfire, walking towards Alex. The gang fanned out to sit down near the unwilling accomplice. All of them wore devilish expressions, and they chuckled to themselves as they passed a whiskey bottle around.

BlackJack handed the bottle to Alex. "Have a snort and relax, Goldilocks. All you need to do is drive the wagon tonight. "

(Cue Alex!)

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Alex sighed as he stared down into the flickering flames of the campfire. Two of BlackJack’s men had escorted him to it and sat him down onto a fallen log. Narrowing his eyes, he started to open his mouth when the flash of BlackJack’s pistol made him close it again. Not needing to be reminded of BlackJack’s deadly accuracy with the gun, the outlaw simply gazed at the blond man, his cold stare spoke loud and clear as to what would happen if he got it in his head to try and escape.

Turning to look over his shoulder, Alex watched as the outlaw and his gang huddled together to talk about the night’s upcoming events. Though too far to hear the words, the feeling of dread flared in the pit of his stomach. BlackJack had said that all he had to do was drive the wagon into town and his brief tenure as part of BlackJack’s gang would be over. And that was the part that worried the blond man the most.

Drive a wagon and then ride off? Right… there’s no way it can be that simple…

Facing forward once again, Alex touched his shirt and dug out the tobacco pouch he had tucked there. He began to make a cigarette, thinking to himself as he did so. He knew that outlaws like BlackJack still drew breath for one of two reasons…luck or brains. Though it seemed as if this particular outlaw had both on his side and this combination made BlackJack doubly dangerous.

Shaking his head, Alex lit his cigarette and threw the wooden match into the fire.

“Great…A smart outlaw…†He whispered to himself as he exhaled the smoke.

And smart outlaws stay alive by not leaving witnesses alive...after all, dead men tell no tales…

The thought caused Alex’s stomach to flare up even more; he felt it tighten and straightened up rubbing it through his shirt. Someone had to stop BlackJack and his gang before—

The sudden return of the gang and BlackJack stopped Alex’s thoughts cold. He watched as the three men sat around him, their grins made a cold finger run up the blond man’s spine. They seemed way to happy and confident as they all took turns guzzling whiskey. Turning to met BlackJack’s gaze, the outlaw too bore a canary eating grin and Alex half expected him to have a feather caught in the corner of his mouth. He had been offered the bottle and threw his smoke in the fire as he took it from BlackJack’s hand.

“Relax…sure… I can do that--†Alex replied with a hint of sarcasm as he had a swig from the bottle. The liquor burned his throat and his closed his eyes a moment as he drew in a breath and passed the bottle back to the leader.

“And just when am I going to be driving this wagon into Hazzard?â€

(Cue BlackJack!)

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"Tonight." Blackjack's yellow teeth were bared in a canine grin. "You're just gonna bring in that wagon like you was Wells Fargo. Me n' the boys will be ridin' in the back of it. Oh, and in case you was to take a mind about tryin' anything clever....I'll have a gun pointed at the back of your head the whole way."

( Cue Alex )

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Alex tried not to show any emotion, but his dark eyes narrowed a bit at the grin BlackJack bore on his face. The promise of a gun barrel at the back of his head made his jaw clench, but he held his tongue not wanting to provoke the outlaw.

"And I'll be wearing a disguise, right?" Alex started to say more but then clamped his mouth shut. He knew that MaryAnne had already warned him, Chet and Brian what would happen if they showed their faces in town but he kept the consequences of going back to Hazzard to himself, he simply waited for BlackJack to answer the question.

(Cue BlackJack!!)

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  • 3 months later...

"Oh, you'll have a disguise," BlackJack snickered. "We got some clothes from a dead homesteader that outta fit you just fine. Just never mind the bullet holes in the back of the shirt. Ain't nobody gonna see 'em anyhow."

This remark amused the gang, and with loud guffaws, a heap of clothing was tossed in Alex's direction. A simple outfit of theadbare denim jeans, suspenders, and a faded flannel shirt, were all that remained of a luckless pioneer who had crossed BlackJack's path.

The town of Hazzard, and it's Sheriff's department, seemed just as doomed.

(Cue anybody! Wow, it's been awhile, but let's stir this back up....)

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The young black haired Duke boy watched as the Sheriff, MaryAnne and everyone else thinned out to gather a posse. Chet was left sitting on his horse in the street as they all headed in different directions. It had been a long week already and the silence that slowly surrounded him couldn’t be more welcoming at that moment.

“Looks like we best go freshin’ up ol’ buddy. Were defiantly going to need all the strength we got for some more gun play.â€

The tall Thoroughbred gelding bobbed his head and nickered in response to his masters statement. Tired and literally aching from head to toe Chet and his Red horse made there way down the main street towards the livery stable. There Chet dismounted and helped himself to the barn, taking his horse in and making him comfortable since there was no care taker around at the hour.

After a good rub down with a burlap sack and as much oats and hay as the horse could eat rambled on out to a large trough behind the livery stable. He removed his hat and splashed some of the cold water onto his face. The chilly water had never felt so refreshing to the young rustler.

Chet thunked his hat down on his head and made his way back to the boardwalk leaving his horse in under the safe roof of the livery for now. He walked down the board walk a ways and paused to lean against the railing and build a smoke as the ladies and Enos were leaving the Saloon.

“Looks like we’ve added a couple more pretty faces to the posse. Welcome aboard ladies.†Chet called out to the group that had just exited the saloon as he took a content drag on his cigarette the end glowing red in the night.

(Cue anyone! Wahoo! )

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MaryAnne, meanwhile was heading back to the Sheriff's office after requesting some help from Boss and Lulu to get the towns folk to round up and head out to safety. Boss offered his spread of land a couple of miles outside of town as temporary camp and he and Lulu were soon spreading the word for women and children to gather up a few belongings, some rations and blankets for the night should they be needed and hitch up wagons to take them out of town.

By the time MaryAnne was stepping up on the boardwalk infront of the Sheriff's office, a wagon train was forming and Boss's voice could be heard as he called out instructions. Horses neighed and reins rattled as hitches pulled taught and the animals an wagons were soon moving like a slow freight out of town.

MaryAnne met up with the newly gathered posse as they paused by the hitching post infront of the Sheriff's office. "Well, I got Boss and Lulu taking everyone out of town to Boss's spread for safety. Some of the menfolk are going with the wagon train, some are staying here in town to join up with the posse." She paused, looking at the members of the posse that stood before her, the Strate twins, Min, Chance and Chet. She grinned. "Ya know, we got some many aces in the hand, Black Jack would do well to just fold before the first deal. Khee!" She paused. "Ya know, come to think of it tho' we could use a couple of more aces.....anybody seen Bo and Luke Duke?"

(cue anybody! Khee!)

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  • 5 weeks later...

(cowritten with LostSheep3)

Half a day's semi-hurried ride from where they'd finally come upon and teamed up with Brian Coltrane, and a long silence after a short talk about the known positions of outlaws and lawmen later, Bo and Luke Duke were at that present time probably nearer than the deputy realized. Just over a rise outside of town, able to look down toward the street leading into the heart of Hazzard, the cousins were standing in front of their horses, Bo close to Luke's shoulder as the elder Duke checked out the situation they'd be riding into with a spyglass he'd picked up off a Confederate colonel a few months back. Brian Coltrane was still on his horse a short distance away, allowing his stallion to graze while he kept a wary eye on his unlikely, temporary allies.

"I see townsfolk... a few people at the saloon... no sign of the outlaws though," Luke finally grunted as he lowered the glass and handed it to his cousin's hand, turning to squint against the afternoon sun back at Brian. "What'd y'all think?"

Taking the spyglass from Luke, Bo raised it to gaze down into the town, noting the forming of the wagon train. He gave a satisfied nod, commenting, "At least they're gettin' the women and children out before those snakes show up."

Luke gave his cousin a wry smile. "Most the women at any rate. You know there's a few who won't leave no matter what."

Be returned the sideways glance with a nearly matching expression and a small shrug. "Least they can take care of themselves." The blond slid the spyglass shut. "Looks peaceful enough for now... let's go find out where they need us." He sent a glance back over his shoulder at Brian. "Though I ain't too sure about Mr Coltrane here ridin' in without any warnin', if he was told to get out of town and stay that way."

Luke turned, taking the glass from his cousin's hand and moving back to tuck the instrument carefully into one of his own saddlebags. "Y'might have a point there." He gave the black-clad outlaw a contemplative glance-over, then turned his attention back to the town visible beyond.

Bo picked up his reins, preparing to head down the hill. "Ya ready, cousin? Time ain't on our side right now."

"Hurryin' into trouble ain't either." Luke pulled up a stirrup to tighten Raider's girth, then gathered his own reins to swing lightly aboard, settling into the saddle and looking at their heretofore silent companion. "Guess it's your own choice as to where to go from here, Brian. We're gonna go help your cousins. Want us to warn 'em you might be comin', or take yer chances?"

(cue Brian... finally, I know)

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  • 2 months later...

(wow, it's been a few months, eh? )

Luke's question was met with a hard sigh from the black-clad Coltrane. Brian sat slouched in the saddle and gave the dusty town of Hazzard a baleful stare.

"Ah'd like to go back and help them," he drawled. "But ah've been banished. Exiled. Eee-vacuated. I was told not to return upon pain of lynchin', and that sorta statement leaves an impression on a man."

Damascus chewed grass while his rider bemoaned his fate. Sensing the mercurial mood of his rider, the big horse swished his tail high to whap Brian in the back. Brian ignored it and made further complaint.

"You Dukes g'wan back to town and do the hero thang. I'll just wander this godforsaken prairie until I'm bit by a rattlesnake or bushwacked by other outlaws or taken down by some tin-star lawman lookin' for target practice. "

Having worked himself into a grand self-pity, Brian prepared to leave, and pulled up the reins. Damascus was forced to lift his head from the ground. The large horse snorted in protest and once again whapped his long tail against his rider.

Brian gave Hazzard a last look. He thought of the dance hall girl and the gambling woman and all that he had to give up. He also considered the danger the town was facing. The danger his kin would be facing...

He cleared his throat and spoke gruffly to the Dukes. "Well, git goin'."

(cue the Dukes, or anybody!)

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The answer to Alex’s question came with BlackJack’s words and a pile of clothes that were unceremoniously thrown at him. The jeans and shirt landed over his face and he reached up and jerked them down from his head, mussing his blond hair.

He gazed down at the worn out clothing and raised them up, noting the bullet holes and bloodstains on the back of the shirt.

“Nice disguise, I’ll look like a walking…â€

The word corpse froze on Alex’s lips. His gaze locked on BlackJack and his pack of men; the last thing he needed or wanted to do was say that particular word and quickly swallowed it back down.

“I mean, the clothes will fit just fine.†He looked around wanting to change someplace private, but the sudden narrowing of the outlaw leader’s eyes dictated that modesty could easy add another hole or two to the back of that already decimated shirt.

“I don’t feel like being a show for you and your boys so I’ll just go over here to change.†He watched as BlackJack’s hand tightened around the gun he still held and Alex raised his chin, his own expression growing serious.

“You can’t kill me; you need me to pull off this grand revenge of yours. So what’s it going to be? A little privacy to change or are you just going to shoot me now and everything goes up in smoke?†Though he knew he probably was signing his own death warrant, Alex continued.

“You’ve come this far haven’t you BlackJack? So I know you’ve got more going for you then a fast pistol.â€

Alex waited for BlackJack to either speak or just open fire. When neither came he gathered up the clothes and began to make his way to a small group of bushes and trees a short distance from the campfire. Walking slowly Alex’s heart raced in his chest, he swallowed hard and his breathing sped up with each crunch of his boots on the forest floor. Though the place Alex wanted to change was well in sight of both BlackJack and his men, his questioning of the leader could easily get him killed and his now offered back not only made an easy target but an enticing one as well.

He could feel BlackJack’s stare burning into the back of his head with every step he took.

Alex knew that at any moment BlackJack could give him a very loud, very deadly objection…

(Cue BlackJack or anyone! )

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  • 1 month later...

Blackjack listened to the jabbering of the cornsilk-haired drifter without changing expression. The blonde loner knew he had a temporary job with this gang, that much was obvious. The thought amused Blackjack. He liked his victims to work up a good fear before he fed them a bullet.

He was going enjoy working up a good fear into the Hazzard County law, too. Right before he put a smoking hole through the center of their silver badges.

And it was time to get the show on the road. "Shut up, get dressed, and get in the wagon," he answered Alex.

Behind him, Blackjack heard his men arranging the dynamite cases in the wagon. The outlaw horses, one by one, were tethered to the back of it. It would be a simple thing for Blackjack and his men to hide within the covered wagon, and then bail out to their horses once the main fuse was lit.

The babbling blonde drifter would drive the explosive cargo right up to the front door of the Sheriff's office, none the wiser. By the time he realized that the gang was scattering to safety, it would be too late. Picking off the law, if any of them survived - and cleaning out the town - would be child's play.

Blackjack was growing impatient to see his plan come to life. "Hurry up!" he barked.

(Cue anybody!)

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