[personal profile] psifi872
Luke Duke climbed out of the General Lee, his usually merry, blue eyes flashing with anger. Sure, the dirty, gray Ford behind him and Bo had only lightly tapped the General's back bumper. The owner's face, though, was flushed red with anger and that was unfair, since the accident was his fault. It amazed and angered Luke how often other people hit the General Lee. How hard was it to notice a bright orange car with a one on its side and a flag on top?

Getting a good look at the Ford's driver, Luke made an effort to control his temper. The stranger was an older man, with sagging skin and a sallow complexion. His unkempt hair was a solid, iron gray and, though handsome, deep lines gave his face a haggard look. He was fairly tall, with a build that suggested the stranger had once been hard and strong. Now, he sagged and slouched. His brown eyes were sharp, but watery. The stranger was wearing a pair of ragged jeans and a loose, flannel shirt. The only thing on him that was new or well-kept were the running shoes on his feet. He glared at Luke, stopping less than a foot away from him.

"Would it've hurt you to move forward a bit? Your car's bumper is right on the white line!" the stranger complained.

"Mister, the General is within the lines of the parking space," Luke tried to reason.

"Even if it weren't, that's no reason for you to bump into us. You blind?" Bo asked defensively.

"I can see fine and I've got a good eye for faces," the stranger declared.

"So do we, mister. We don't want trouble, but we believe in standing up for ourselves, too," Luke warned.

The stranger stepped forward and placed a rough hand on Luke's chest, letting it rest there a moment, before giving a surprisingly powerful shove. Luke was about to step forward, when Rosco appeared next to him. Luke started to try and explain, but Rosco caught him off guard by grabbing the stranger and shoving him fast and hard to the ground.

"Don't you ever lay hands on that boy, again," Rosco practically snarled, his eyes shining with fury. "You don't touch him...or anyone else in this town. You hear me?"

Bo and Luke exchanged shocked glances, but the man on the ground just gave a rusty chuckle.

"Why, Sheriff Coltrane. It's good to see you again. Still keeping law and order, despite the nasty rumors going around?"

"That's right," Rosco said coldly. "I don't know why you came back to Hazzard, other than maybe pure arrogance. I'm warning you, though. If one person, just one, goes missing, I'll come after you. You've heard I'm crooked? That might be so. Might be I won't bother to arrest you."

"Rosco!" Bo protested, looking around to see if anyone had heard the sheriff's veiled threat.

"Calm down now, Rosco," Luke urged. "We were just in a little fender-bender is all."

Rosco grimaced, not answering them directly.

"Get out of here. You get out and remember what I said."

The stranger stood up and walked over to the door of his car. He stopped there and gave both Luke and Rosco a lingering look. Rosco's hand went to the gun at his hip and the stranger sneered. Luke studied him, as he climbed into his car and drove off. Rosco stayed still, watching the road for a long minute after the man was out of sight. Luke slowly reached out and placed a hand on Rosco's arm.

"Rosco?" Luke asked carefully.

"What was that about?" Bo demanded.

The Dukes' voices pulled Rosco out of his thoughts. He studied the Duke boys for a moment, then shook his head. The fire went out of his posture, leaving Rosco looking weary.

"Go home," he ordered grimly. "You boys get back to your farm. Tell your Uncle Jesse that Marvin Heath is back in Hazzard."

"Why? Who is he?" Luke asked.

"Yeah, we've got errands to run, Rosco," Bo told him, annoyed.

"Did you hear me?" Rosco said sharply. "That stuff'll wait. Now you do what I told you and get yourselves home! And Luke?"

"Yeah?"

"You keep an eye out for that fella and keep away from him. I mean it now. You watch your back!"

"All right, Rosco. I'll be careful," Luke soothed, not wanting to antagonize him and wondering where the corrupt sheriff's sudden protective streak was coming from.

Rosco just gave a tight nod, before turning on his heel and heading back into the county courthouse. Luke watched him, feeling a bit funny about the whole encounter. Rosco was pretty gruff and he could be a bit short in his speech, but he was almost never violent. Rosco demanding Heath keep his hands off Luke filled him with an odd warmth. He felt a firm tap on his shoulder and gave Bo a rueful grin and shrug.

"C'mon. Let's do what he said," Luke ordered.

"Yeah, I guess we should. I wonder who that old man is that he got Rosco so riled up."

"Must be a criminal or something. Rosco's usually careful to come across real nice to out of town folks."

"He sure ain't happy, that's for sure," Bo agreed, climbing into the General and starting the engine.

"Yeah. I'm kinda curious about what Uncle Jesse will have to say about it."

Uncle Jesse wasn't any happier than Rosco. The boys had seen their uncle upset and angry, but they'd rarely seen him afraid.

Jesse sat at the kitchen table with the boys, his eyes wide and his skin a shade paler than usual. Luke frowned, starting to really worry. Jesse took a deep breath.

"Now, you're sure you heard Rosco right? He said Marvin Heath?"

"Yes, sir, Uncle Jesse," Bo confirmed. "Well, who is he?"

"He's a murderer," Jesse told them, not seeing any way to lessen the shock, so just telling the truth in plain and simple language. "He's what the movies and tv call a serial killer. Heath killed five people right here in Hazzard."

"A serial killer?" Luke repeated in shock. "In Hazzard?"

"Hazzard's full of people, just like any other place," Jesse said, kind, but firm. "Most is good, but there are a few bad apples lurking around. Heath was one of them."

"I never heard anything about this," Luke protested.

"Well, you was only a little, bitty thing, when it happened. Bo and Daisy weren't even born yet and Rosco was still a deputy."

"Good Lord."

"That's helpful, Bo," Luke scolded. "I take it Heath's been in jail, since then?"

"Yeah, he ended up in jail. My question is what is he doin' out of jail?"

"Sure wasn't Rosco's doin'," Bo said. "I still can't believe he threatened to kill the guy."

"I can't blame him. Just can't. Shooting people down is wrong, but what Heath did to those people...well. They never should have let him back out. No, I can't blame Rosco for not wanting to give Heath a second chance at Hazzard."

"What do you want me to do, Uncle Jesse?" Luke asked respectfully.

"Do? Nothing. You just go on living your life. You can't let the likes of Marvin Heath stop ya from doing that. Y'hear?"

"Yes, sir."

"That don't mean ignore the situation. Heath's plenty tricky. Keep your bow and arrows close by, but not where anyone else can get to them. Now. You boys got some weeding to do in the garden. I'm going to complete those errands I sent you on and have a word or two with Rosco."

"Yes, sir," the boys said, getting up and heading off to do their chores.

Jesse headed into town, picking up his supplies, as swiftly as he could. Once he was finished, he headed for the jail, finding Rosco in his office. Rosco looked up, when Jesse entered, his expression grave.

"Jesse. I see the boys delivered my message," he said.

"Rosco. How the blazes did that...person get out of jail?!" Jesse demanded.

"Don't be blaming me! I'm not the one that goes around releasing people that..." Rosco began sharply, then cut himself off abruptly, sighing. "What do you want me to say? A psychiatrist declared him cured and a judge gave him parole. It's an offense against all law, reason, and sanity and there ain't a damn thing I can do about it."

"There's gotta be something," Jesse urged.

"You know there ain't," Rosco said bitterly. "I gotta treat him just like any other citizen."

"We gotta at least warn folks!" Jesse demanded.

"It'll have to be done by word of mouth," Rosco instructed. "If I spread warnings in an official capacity, that would be considered harassment."

"Word of mouth it is, then," Jesse said, gravely.

"Start with a phone call," Rosco advised, with grim humor. "Ain't nobody for spreading a rumor like Mabel."

Mabel was the Hazzard telephone dispatcher, Boss Hogg's pretty cousin, and the biggest busybody in all of Hazzard county.

"I'll do that," Jesse agreed, backing up to leave.

"Jesse. Keep an eye out for Luke, okay? I'm pretty sure Heath's after him."

"Of course," Jesse assured him, a bit surprised at Rosco openly expressing concern.

As Jesse left, Boss Hogg came in, fuming a bit.

"Rosco! Why are you here, instead of out arresting Luke Duke!" Boss demanded. "There's a man, Martin something, who says he was in a fender bender with the Dukes this morning. He says Luke hit him and you were there! Now, I don't care how busy you are. You get out to the Duke farm and arrest those Dukes."

To Boss' surprise, Rosco flushed red with anger and remained seated at his desk.

"Marvin. The man's name is Marvin Heath," Rosco corrected.

"Fine! I don't care about his name, Rosco. The only name I'm interested in is Duke and seeing them behind bars!"

"No. The man lied. Luke never laid a hand on him and I ain't gonna say otherwise."

Now, folks, it's the rarest of days, when Rosco says no to Boss, especially for a Duke! Ole Rosco has been presented with a face from his past and he might just be remembering the cop he used to be.

Boss gaped at him, turning red with outrage. He shoved a fat finger in Rosco's direction.

"You WILL or..."

"Or nothing!" Rosco snapped, coming to his feet. "I ain't even gonna look like I'm helping or agreeing with that jackass. Now, I do a lot of rotten things for you, Boss, partly because I gotta and partly because this county owes me. I do have my limits though. I took this job to protect my home and don't you ever forget that."

Boss looked at Rosco in pure astonishment, before giving a slow nod of his head. Boss knew exactly how far and how hard Rosco could be pushed and he had, somehow, hit that limit. Truthfully, Boss knew he needed Rosco far more than Rosco needed him. He was grateful Rosco didn't seem to realize that.

"All right, Rosco. Would you mind explaining to me, though, how arresting Luke for fighting endangers our beloved Hazzard?" Boss asked soothingly.

"Don't you know who Marvin Heath is? I know you were gone at the time, but you ought've heard stories about him!"

"Well. The name is a bit familiar now you mention it, but I don't recall any specifics."

"Heath is the serial killer that operated in Hazzard some twenty-odd years ago," Rosco explained.

Boss' eyes went even wider and he gulped, nodding.

"Yeah. Yeah, I heard all about that from Lulu. He killed...how many?"

"Five. Five people dead," Rosco said angrily.

Boss reached out and patted Rosco's arm soothingly.

"All right. Never mind. Of course, we ain't gonna help no killer. Why'd he try to finger Luke Duke?"

"I ain't sure. He touched Luke on the chest this morning and gave him a shove. He tended to be touchy-feely with people, before...it was his way of claiming them, like."

Boss gaped in horror. He always claimed to have no love for the Dukes, but that wasn't exactly the case. Jesse was a dear friend of his. It'd break old Jesse's heart, if anything happened to those boys. Prison was one thing. Death was another. Boss would never let real harm come to them, even if his greed and meanness wouldn't let him stop harassing the Duke boys.

"You think he plans on murdering Luke Duke?" Boss asked, wanting to be sure.

"I think. I can't prove anything and the judge that released him has a lot of influence. I don't dare do anything without proper cause."

"We gotta do things legal and proper?" Boss asked, as if he'd been asked to scrub a dirty toilet with a toothbrush.

Rosco nodded.

"I'm afraid so."

"Hmph. Poor Luke," Boss quipped.

"He ain't dead yet and he ain't gonna be!" Rosco snapped.

Boss sighed. There was just no controlling Rosco in this mood and no chance of getting any important work, the money-making kind, done.

"Rosco. Why don't you go have yourself some lunch and down a beer or two. Settle your nerves."

Rosco reluctantly agreed. He hated it, but there was nothing he could do now, except wait. He prayed hard that he wasn't waiting for a death.

He waited a long two weeks and, as usual, his peace was shattered by a Duke. Luke came into his office, holding a set of hunting traps. Rosco frowned at them and at Luke.

"What're you bringing those in here for?" Rosco asked sternly.

"Evidence," Luke told him. "Someone is poaching on Duke property and the darn polecats ain't even setting their traps right! Bo and I were mending some fences and this one almost got me! Some idiot set it right up against the fence. Only reason it missed me is because I dropped a screwdriver on it, instead of stepping on it."

Rosco glared hard at him.

"What were you doing mending fences out in the woods?" he demanded. "I told you to be careful!"

"I wasn't in the woods," Luke said defensively. "The house was still in sight! Anyways, I gotta get work done, Heath or no Heath."

Rosco stormed to his feet and grabbed an evidence bag that was lying around. Luke shook his head, annoyed by Rosco's temper. He wondered how the sheriff would react, if he knew about Luke's fishing trip with Tod Sutton. They'd spent an entire afternoon in the woods, just them and a creek full of fish.

"Put those in there!" Rosco ordered gruffly. Once Luke had obeyed, Rosco sat back down and shook his head. "Did it occur to you these weren't left by no poacher, but by Heath?"

Luke grimaced. It hadn't.

"You might've mentioned he did stuff like that, before," Luke complained.

"He ain't that predictable," Rosco explained solemnly. "He harassed his victims and left 'em nasty little presents, before kidnapping them. He tailored them to the victim though. That's why I said to watch your back."

"Will there be any prints on those traps?" Luke asked, without much hope.

"Not unless it really is poachers, which I doubt. Anyone from Hazzard would know to set a trap away from buildings. Luke. I ain't saying you gotta let Heath run your life, but you do gotta be a lot more careful."

"All right," Luke agreed, nodding. "I'll do better."

"I certainly..." Rosco began, before he was interrupted by the phone on his desk ringing. "Oo. Just a minute."

Rosco picked up the phone, stating his name brusquely. Whoever was calling evidently wasn't giving Rosco good news. He frowned more and more heavily, his thick eyebrows pulled down over the top of his nose. Luke allowed himself a moment of levity, admitting to himself that Rosco looked kinda cute that way. Rosco made noises of agreement, then hung up the phone.

"Marvin Heath was spotted in Chickasaw county two weeks ago. Now, a teenage boy, Sammy Ray, has gone missing. His parents say he was ordinary and happy."

"You think it was Heath?"

"Someone left a dead puppy on the boy's bike two days ago. He's known to be fond of dogs."

"Well, let's do something about it! Surely there's search parties out looking for him."

"He ain't lost in the woods, Luke. He could be anywhere. Sure, people are looking, but we can't just do a general sweep. We'd never get a warrant for that, especially since we can't actually prove that Heath has him. We gotta wait and find evidence."

"Wait," Luke scoffed, frustrated.

"It's the hardest part of police work," Rosco agreed.

"So what now?"

"Nothing now," Rosco said firmly. "I'm gonna send the traps to a forensics lab. You're gonna go home and be careful!"

"But, Rosco..." Luke started to protest.

"I'll have your uncle Jesse tan your butt, if you don't listen to me!" Rosco threatened, severely. "And don't let me catch you running around without Bo to watch your back anytime soon neither!"

Luke blinked, holding his hands up in surrender. It'd been nearly a decade, since Rosco had used Uncle Jesse as a threat. He almost smiled, appreciating the concern. Luke pushed the spreading warmth in his chest and stomach away regretfully. No matter how many times Rosco and the Dukes formed a truce, it never lasted.

"All right. I won't," Luke promised. "I guess I'll catch ya later."

"Hmph. Bye," Rosco agreed.

Luke drove home, then joined Bo in the garden. He grabbed a hoe and began weeding.

"Rosco gonna do anything to help?"

"He's sending the traps for finger-printing. He doesn't think it was poachers."

"Heath?" Bo guessed, alarmed.

"Yeah. Worse, Sammy Ray, a boy from Chickasaw, is missing."

"Damn."

"Yeah. He wants me to be careful. I'm not to go anywhere without you and certainly not to do anything to help Sammy!" Luke said angrily.

"You got something in mind to help him?" Bo asked, hopefully.

Luke took another swipe with the hoe and shook his head.

"No. I don't. I have no idea where he might be or what to do about Heath."

"Do ya think this Heath guy is really after you?" Bo asked, not wanting to admit how afraid that idea made him.

"It's beginning to look that way," Luke admitted.

"We don't know Heath took Sammy?"

"No, just that's he's missing."

Three days later they received proof that someone, Heath or otherwise, had taken Sammy and was interested in Luke Duke. Bo came into the kitchen, with the day's newspaper clutched in his hand. Luke couldn't recall ever seeing his cousin so pale.

"Bo? What's the matter?"

"I think you better read today's paper, Luke. I bet ole Rosco's hitting the ceiling about now."

Luke took the paper and read the front page. A typed letter had been blown up to cover almost the entire front section. Only a couple of inches at the bottom was left for commentary by the reporter.


Dear Neighbors,

I'm sure by now you all know of the sad disappearance of Sammy Ray Jones of Chickasaw County. Let me set your minds at rest. I have been keeping the fine boy company and will return him to you soon. You will find him somewhat more subdued than before, thanks to the special edifying he has been given.

There are a few others I wouldn't mind spending time with. There are some citizens in the area with interesting reputations--such as Luke Duke and the once honorable, yet still incumbent, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. Oh, I mustn't forget my old friend Rosco. He thinks he knows who I am, but can he be trusted? His wits seem to be rather dull. Such a shame.

If you're good, I'll give you more clues to who and where I am later.

Yours truly,

Guess



Luke set the paper down and ran one hand over his face.

"Shi-oot."

"I heard that," Uncle Jesse's gruff voice echoed from the hall. "Is there a reason you're pollutin' my table with that kinda talk?"

"He said he'd be found. You think there's any chance he's alive?" Bo asked hurriedly, waiting for Uncle Jesse to get into the room.

"No. I wish I did, but I think subdued is his way of sayin' dead," Luke said softly, then gave a small, apologetic smile as Uncle Jesse came up next to him. "Sorry, Jesse. We just got some bad news in the paper."

Jesse read the letter and gave a tired sigh.

"Well. We'll just keep hopin' and prayin' for that young man. We'll eat and you boys can do your chores. When you're done, you head into town and talk to Rosco."

"He'll just tell me to keep careful and watch my back," Luke said dryly.

"That may be, but you need to at least talk to him," Jesse ordered. "This might change things a bit."

"What do you need us working on today, Uncle Jesse?" Bo asked.

Jesse hesitated. Originally, he'd planned on sending Bo out hunting, while Luke fixed the tractor. Now, Jesse didn't want Luke by himself.

"Well, there's weeding to be done in the garden and the tractor needs fixed. You two can work on those. Together, you hear me?"

"Yes, sir," Luke said, suppressing a sigh.

He reminded himself that none of this was Jesse's or Rosco's fault. They were just trying to protect and help him. It wasn't easy though. Luke hated all this caution and inactivity. He wanted to relax and have fun, without scaring anyone! A heavy, comforting hand landed on the back of his neck.

"This too shall pass, Luke," Jesse reminded him kindly.

Luke smiled up at his uncle, nodding.

"I know it will, Uncle Jesse."

The boys obeyed orders, first eating, then doing their work. Afterwards, they got into the General. Bo took the scenic route, whooping and hollering. After a few minutes of that, Luke began to relax, easing into the familiar routine of a drive with his cousin. Even better, a few minutes later a siren started up. Looking back, Luke saw Rosco's patrol car and grinned.

"Time for us to give Rosco some more practice, Bo," Luke said with relish.

"All righty, cuz, hang on to your liver!" Bo instructed gleefully.

Bo picked up speed, zooming around the curved dirt road. He saw Rosco's car in the distance, tenaciously keeping up with them. Bo dodged back and forth, making sharp turns and sometimes abandoning the road all together. Amazingly, Rosco not only kept up, but due to some lucky curves, managed to close the distance a bit. Bo laughed.

"Y'know, we gotta give ole Rosco credit. He never does quit and he does learn. He does it slowly, but he does it!" Bo said.

"Yeah," Luke agreed. "Slow up a bit at the next curve. We'll let him catch us up near the bridge."

"Let him catch us?!" Bo asked with surprised indignation. "What in tarnation are we gonna let him do a thing like that for?"

"We need to talk to him, remember?"

"Can't we do that in town, where he's less likely to give us a ticket?"

"When or where has Rosco ever hesitated to give us a ticket?" Luke asked dryly. "I'd rather talk to him here, where he'll be less riled."

"Oh, all right," Bo conceded sulkily, pulling over just before they got to the bridge.

Once Bo parked, Luke climbed out of the General Lee and stood leaning against her trunk, waiting for Rosco to catch up. Rosco pulled his patrol car to one side and climbed out. He approached Luke, frowning suspiciously.

"Ain't like you to stop. What's going on?" Rosco asked.

"We wanted to talk to you. Have you read the morning paper, yet?"

Rosco nodded, grimacing.

"Yeah. The papers all received that letter about six o'clock last night. It's worse than that though. They found poor Sammy Ray's body. He's been dead almost a day now. He dumped that poor child right outside the public library. He went there a lot on Sunday afternoons."

"Is there any good news?," Bo complained, grimly.

"Well, good is relative. I can tell you the feds are on the case, since the death involved kidnapping."

"You and I were both mentioned in that letter."

Rosco stared at Luke for a moment, his mouth tight, then nodded.

"Yeah, we were. I know you want something to do, Luke, but there just isn't anything. Not to mention you're a civilian."

"Maybe we can get Heath to confess..."

"Or maybe you'll just end up dead!" Rosco snapped. "This ain't some greedy idiot coming from outside. He knows Hazzard and by now he knows about you Dukes and how you do things. That's the problem with monsters like Heath. They're smart!"

"So we just wait for the next victim and hope that gets us some evidence?" Luke asked bitterly.

"We hope he slips up sooner, rather than later," Rosco agreed. "We'll go over his past habits and his new ones and see if we can't figure something out. There might be evidence from the boy's autopsy, too."

"No one else is missing?" Luke asked.

"No. Right now everyone is accounted for, that we know of," Rosco said, shrugging. "Look. I know it don't seem like it, but we got this. All that can be done is being done."

"Fine. We'll just go quietly back to the farm and wait for either Heath to be caught or him to come after me," Luke said with dry sarcasm.

"Yeah and watch your back while doing it," Rosco agreed sharply. "OH! I almost forgot. Here."

Rosco reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out some papers, handing them to Luke.

"What's this?" Luke asked, puzzled, taking them.

"Permission from both Boss Hogg and the feds allowing you the carrying and use of firearms, until the killer is captured. It gives it to both of ya. Now you can carry around Jesse's shotgun, too."

Now you know things are bad when Boss steps in to protect the Dukes.

"All right, Rosco. We're on our way home."

Luke climbed behind the wheel of the General, resigning himself to another week of boredom. Guilt flooded him, as he realized he was hoping Heath got caught, not so there wouldn't be any more deaths, but so he'd have more freedom in his life and movements.

"Is there a reason you're following so many orders from Rosco?" Bo asked, the question somewhere between worried and annoyed.

"He's making sense for once."

"The hell he is," Bo scoffed. "You might as well be in prison, yourself. All this laying low...it ain't natural. You're usually willing to take risks for what's right. There's plenty of odd jobs we could be doing for folks around town."

"I'm willing to risk myself, not others. Heath is a killer. If I go around to other people's homes and all, how do I know he won't hurt them to get to me? How do I know I won't be introducing him to a potential victim?"

Bo stared hard at him, trying to think of an argument. He couldn't. Finally, he gave a defeated nod.

"Yeah, okay, you're right."

"Like Jesse said, Bo. This'll pass. He'll get caught or die or something."

Even that much grim optimism faded two days later. Luke stood in the kitchen, helping get breakfast together, when he heard a shout of outrage outside. Running to the yard, he found Bo standing in front of the General Lee.

Their beloved General was dripping with blood.

Luke almost choked on the scent of blood rotting all over the General. Someone must have dumped buckets of the stuff on top, because almost every inch was covered in the red gore. The flag on top was almost invisible beneath streaks of the blood. Some had even gotten in the windows and dripped onto the upholstery. Disgust was quickly replaced by a cold, simmering rage. Luke stormed back into the house.

"Luke?" Jesse asked, worried.

"He dumped blood all over the General. I gotta get Rosco out here."

"Blood? Real blood?" Daisy asked, horrified.

"Yeah. Stinks to high heaven," Bo told her as Luke dialed Rosco's number.

"Rosco? This is Luke Duke. ... Heath's been here. He dumped a load of blood all over the General Lee. ... Yes, blood. ... Of course, I'm sure! I can smell the dang stuff. I need you guys to collect your evidence as quick as possible so I can get him clean!"

Luke hung up with a frustrated sigh.

"Well? He coming out here?" Jesse asked.

"Yeah, he's gonna get some people together. Said it might be as much as an hour though. We're to stay away from the General until they can get here."

"An hour?!" Bo said in outrage. "Where's these people coming from? The moon?"

"Now, Bo," Jesse chided gently. "If it's gonna take him an hour, then it is. That gives us time to get breakfast eaten and for our tempers to cool. Now bow your heads for grace."

It only took Rosco half an hour to contact the right people and get everyone out to the Duke farm. Luke watched them pull in, standing out on the porch. To his surprise, a middle-aged man in a three-piece suit got out of the passenger's side of Rosco's patrol car. Rosco and the gentleman walked up to Luke, while everyone else got to work on the General Lee.

"Good morning, Luke," Rosco greeted gravely.

"Good morning. Who's your friend?"

"This is Special Agent Jerry Landon," Rosco introduced. "Agent Landon, this is Luke Duke."

Landon shook Luke's hand.

"It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm sorry about the circumstances."

"Nice to meet you too. Welcome to Hazzard. You think you'll find anything here to pin on Heath?"

"There's a good chance we'll find some evidence," Landon assured him. "Heath always was clever, but he's older and prison isn't known for sharpening a person's wits. We just have to hope he makes some mistakes sooner or later. If it's him."

"You think it might not be?"

"No, not really. Another serial killer starting up, even a copy cat, just as Heath gets back to town? It's possible and we have to keep our minds open, but it's unlikely. It's really just a matter of finding evidence to nail him with."

"Look, I'm gonna be straight with you here. I ain't used to sitting back and letting other people solve my problems. Now, I've tried to cooperate with Rosco here, so far. He can also tell you that Bo and I don't take kindly to people messing with the General."

"Um. Yes, Sheriff Coltrane did mention something about that," Landon admitted, a bit bemused. "Your car seems to be a bit of a local celebrity."

Luke nodded proudly.

"He's practically a family member. I don't intend to let that kind of disrespect pass."

"Mr. Duke..."

"Luke. If anyone is Mr. Duke, it's Uncle Jesse."

"Of course. Luke, I understand that you're angry and frustrated..."

"I sat by, when Sammy Ray went missing. Now, he's dead. I don't think I can sit by anymore."

"I know it's hard. But the best thing you can do to help is to stay out of the way and let us do our jobs."

Luke made a scoffing noise, shaking his head angrily. Landon sighed. He looked over at Rosco, who just shook his head. Rosco knew the Duke boys wouldn't remain quiet much longer. Attacking the General had been a mistake on Heath's part.

"We'll try to keep you informed, but, if you harass Heath, you could either end up dead or endanger our case against him. I know you don't want that."

"No. I don't," Luke agreed. "I also don't want him thinking he can just trespass or get away with murder."

Luke strode away from the porch and hopped into Daisy's jeep. Landon called after him, but was ignored.

"Sheriff Coltrane, where is he going?"

"I imagine he's gone to have words with Heath. Look, stay here and supervise. I'll go after the boy."

"You think you can talk sense into him?"

"When roosters grow teeth!" Rosco said wearily. "No, but I might be able to minimize the damage and make sure he don't go missing."

Rosco hurried to his patrol car, taking off as fast as he could. He managed to get Luke in his sights and kept up, running his siren. He didn't think the boy would pull over, but it didn't hurt to try. Luke seemed to be ignoring him, taking a direct path into Hazzard.

"Luke," Rosco called over the cb. "I know you got your ears on. Pull over! Where do you even think you're going?"

"I ain't been ignoring Heath completely these past weeks. Cooter and some others have been keeping an eye on him for me. He always has breakfast at the Hazzard Inn about this time."

"Oooh, those friends of yours are a menace! You think Heath is just gonna roll over and give up, if you beat on him or something?"

"That'd be nice, but I ain't counting on it. Nah. It can't hurt to have him know I ain't impressed or scared, though. I ain't either! I'm just really ticked off!"

"I know you are, Luke. I am too. This ain't gonna help though! You heard what Landon said."

"Yeah, I heard. I ain't impressed with that either."

"You always you gotta be so stubborn!" Rosco fumed, then hit his brakes, as they pulled into the parking lot of the Hazzard Inn.

Ignoring Rosco, Luke hurried into the Inn. Heath was standing in line, waiting to be seated. He looked up, seeing Luke coming at him. A tiny smirk appeared on his thin lips, before quickly fading. He gave a rough gasp of angry surprise, when Luke grabbed him and hauled him outside. Heath was a bit offended that no one took much notice and certainly no one came to his aid. Luke and Heath brushed right past Rosco, who had just made it to the door.

"My, you are a forceful, young fella!" Heath laughed breathlessly, the sound ending in a wince when Luke shoved him strongly against the outside wall. "You seem kinda riled."

"Kinda. Some lowlife murdered an innocent boy, then vandalized the General Lee. It might interest you to know that the General is practically a member of the Duke family."

"I've heard. It seems a bit unnatural to me, but I try not to judge."

Luke drew his fist back, but Rosco caught his wrist.

"Luke! A dozen or more people saw you drag Heath out of there. You hit him first and it's assault. You'll be violating your probation."

Heath laughed.

"Don't worry, Sheriff. I won't press charges. I'm glad this town still has some vigor! I was afraid everyone had become weak and used up."

Rosco just stared disdainfully at him, not bothering to answer.

"Believe it or not, boy, the sheriff here was once strong, capable, and full of principles. Or something. Now though...well, I hardly need tell you what he is."

"He ain't a killer," Luke said flatly, not appreciating hearing someone like this criticize Rosco, no matter how flawed the sheriff was.

"Noooo. He prefers to bleed them out metaphorical like."

"I don't want to talk about Rosco. Not with the likes of you," Luke insisted.

"No, you want to talk about your car and that poor, dead boy."

"I'm warning you..." Luke started, his hands tightening on Heath's shirt.

"Oh, don't be boring, boy! You ain't gonna do nothing here, in broad daylight."

Luke pushed Heath away with a final shove. He pointed at him sternly.

"I'm gonna stop you," Luke promised.

"The only thing you've stopped so far is my breakfast and that's temporary. You better run along and do as the sheriff tells you. Though, given what I've heard, you don't have much cause to trust him."

"I got cause enough. I know Rosco," Luke said dismissively.

"Do you? You don't know him as well as I do. I promise you that, boy."

Luke turned to Rosco, whose cheeks had turned bright red. Despite Heath's boast, Luke did know Rosco very well. He'd seen him in almost every mood possible. The sheriff was giving Heath one of his best, official glares, but Luke thought Rosco looked embarrassed and upset as well. Luke wondered why. Being accused of corruption never embarrassed Rosco. Sometimes it angered him, but never embarrassed. Rosco turned to Luke, his mouth tightening.

"You done?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm done," Luke agreed, heading towards the jeep.

Rosco gave Heath one more long, disgusted look, then went over and got into his patrol car. Luke obeyed the speed limit, during the drive back. He glanced back occasionally to look at Rosco, following in his patrol car. He felt a twinge of guilt. Luke had put Rosco in the distasteful position of defending Heath. The whole encounter had been disturbing.

Landon was waiting impatiently, when Luke and Rosco pulled up to the farmhouse. He glared at Luke.

"Did you accomplish anything?" Landon asked sarcastically.

"Well. I got to know my enemy a bit better," Luke said with a hard smile.

"Oh, good grief," Rosco muttered, shaking his head.

"You'll have your car back soon," Landon said angrily. "I'm warning you, Luke Duke. If you interfere in my investigation, there will be consequences."

"Great. You can join the list of people who wanna put me in jail," Luke said with mock cheer, heading into the house.

Boss was always at the top of that list and having a serial killer in town hadn't changed that. He insisted Rosco continue running speed traps, as well. A few days later, Luke let Rosco catch him on the edge of town, so he could ask about the investigation into Heath.

"C'mon, Rosco, you gotta be making some progress!" Luke complained in response to Rosco's lack of news.

"Progress doesn't seem to be our good sheriff's strong suit these days!" Heath said, approaching their vehicles from a shop. "Why, look how long it's taken him to get you into jail!"

"Well, I got bigger fish to fry these days, don't I?" Rosco asked sharply.

"Sure, but you can still enjoy some smaller fish in the meantime."

"What's that got to do with you?" Luke asked.

"I saw you fishing with Tod Sutton and doing a bit of necking too. Tell me, Rosco, is that sorta behavior still illegal?"

Rosco made a harsh sound of frustration.

"I don't care, Marvin. I think two things about Luke kissing fellas. One, I won't have to keep explaining to irate daddies why shotgun weddings ain't legal. Two, what do you really expect? He's already been with about every eligible woman or girl in the county!"

Heath gave a cruel laugh.

"Go on writing parking tickets, Rosco."

Luke watched him go, his cheeks red with embarrassment and indignation.

"Name one!" he demanded of Rosco, as soon as Heath was out of sight.

Rosco didn't pretend to misunderstand. He grinned, shaking his head.

"Mary June Wilson, Emmaline Jackson, and Sherry Lawson," Rosco told him.

"Oh c'mon!" Luke protested. "Only one of them is even a mom!"

"Yeah, Mary Jane had a cyst, Emmaline was just late and panicked, and Sherry had the good sense to claim Billy Lawson as her kid's daddy," Rosco agreed. "Nevertheless, all three of their fathers planned on having words with you."

"Great, thanks," Luke told him dryly.

"Uh huh. If you're done sulking about your love life, you might notice Heath admitted to following and watching you."

"Yeah, I noticed, Rosco. I've been as careful as I can be, since he bloodied the General."

"Right. Which is why I just caught you speeding, in the General. Alone."

Luke grimaced, giving an impatient shrug.

"I was on a direct road to Hazzard. Heath's no match for the General, when he's moving! I was going to shops, where there would be plenty of other people."

"Boy, you wouldn't know careful, if it bit you," Rosco scolded.

Luke reached out and tugged his speeding ticket out of Rosco's hand.

"Then it's a good thing I can take care of myself," he said stubbornly, climbing into the General Lee, then peeling away towards town.

Rosco watched him go, his gut burning with a familiar blend of worry and anger. He wished Luke would listen. Rosco had thought once that he'd accidentally helped kill the Duke boys. How much worse would it be to see Luke deliberately murdered? Getting into his own car, he headed for the county courthouse to talk to Landon.

The next morning Landon showed up at the Duke farm. Luke answered the door and gave the federal agent a brittle smile.

"Agent Landon. What can I do for you?"

"Sheriff Coltrane told me you had another encounter with Heath yesterday and that he's obviously been stalking you for some time. I'm sorry. I have a warrant to take you into protective custody."

"Protective custody?" Luke laughed angrily. "You gotta be kidding!"

"I'm afraid not. You'll be taken to a safe house, where we can guard you. You see, Luke, it isn't just your reckless behavior. No one else has gone missing. You're obviously his next target."

"I-I don't need this!" Luke insisted. "You can ask Rosco how easy it is to keep us Dukes in custody, Agent Landon."

"He's told me. You two seem to have a weirdly antagonistic sort of friendship going. Which is exactly why you're going to stay in custody."

"Excuse me?" Luke asked, worried at the possible double meanings in Landon's comment.

"I said you're Heath's next target. He has another one picked out though. Sheriff Coltrane. As it happens, I can make sure the sheriff ends up as your guard. That keeps both you and him safe."

Luke glared for a moment, then gave Landon a stiff nod.

"Let me pack a bag. It won't take me long."

"I appreciate your cooperation," Landon said, surprisingly sincere.

"This ain't cooperation, Landon," Luke corrected sharply. "This is me doing what's right. That isn't always going to be what you want."

"I understand. Believe me, Sheriff Coltrane has had quite a lot to say about you. Most of it would have been complimentary, if he hadn't sounded so irritated."

Luke gave a rough laugh.

"You best come in and wait. I'll have to explain all this to Uncle Jesse."

Uncle Jesse hit the roof.

"YOU WANNA TAKE MY NEPHEW AND HIDE HIM AWAY? DUKES DON'T RUN!"

"I'm not running, Uncle Jesse," Luke protested, coming out of his bedroom with a large duffle bag. "I'm doing what's right, just like you taught me. Tell me something I can do to stop Heath and I'll stay."

Jesse shook his head, pulling Luke into a tight hug.

"I wish I did. All right. You do what you gotta."

"Y'all take care, until I can get back."

"We will, cousin. You do the same. You're gonna be stuck somewhere with Rosco and he ain't your biggest fan," Bo said dryly.

"He likes me better than Heath does. I'll take it," Luke joked back.

"I'm sure Sheriff Coltrane will do everything necessary to keep Luke safe," Landon said, a bit offended on Rosco's behalf.

"Oh, sugar, we don't mean nothing," Daisy assured him. "We just can't help teasing Rosco some."

"I see," Landon said dismissively. "Are you ready, Luke?"

"Yeah. Let's go."

Luke wasn't too surprised to find the safe house was well within the Hazzard county limits. A lot of the county was wooded areas and creeks, filled with rundown shacks, abandoned mines, and empty farmhouses. They pulled up in front of a farmhouse. It was a two story building, with a roof that was divided into sloping triangles. The second story windows were small triangles set close to the roof. The downstairs windows were sparse and shuttered, though the shutters were open. There was a large, covered porch with old, rickety chairs.

Rosco came out onto the porch, waving in greeting. He was dressed in civilian clothes...blue jeans and a green plaid shirt. His sheriff's badge was attached to one of his belt loops and his gun belt rode on his hips. Luke climbed out of Landon's car and walked towards Rosco.

"Hey, Rosco. Where's your car?" Luke asked, wondering if Landon had driven Rosco here too. He didn't much like the idea of being out here without a way of escaping.

"My personal car is parked around the side," Rosco assured him. "Come on in and get settled."

"Sure thing," Luke agreed, giving an internal sigh.

Rosco led Luke inside and guided him to the stairs. He pointed out the door that was set into the back of them.

"That door leads down into the basement. The washer and dryer are down there. It's a tiny space, but there are windows. Fortunately, there ain't really anything for an intruder to hide behind. Just be cautious, when you go down there."

After sharing that warning, Rosco led Luke up the steps. A small hallway led the length of the upstairs. There were three doors along the wall to the right. The nearest one was open, revealing a fairly modern bathroom. Two doors were set into the wall on the left, both firmly shut. Rosco opened the second door and waved Luke in.

The bedroom was a bit bigger than the one he shared with Bo. A large bed sat with it's headboard against the back wall and Luke threw his duffle bag onto it. The wall with the window was occupied by not only a dresser and mirror, but an old writing desk and cushioned chair. Paper and pencils were ready for use. A door was set into the wall separating his bedroom from the one next to it. Rosco nodded at it.

"That needs to remain open most of the time. Shut it when you're changing clothes, if you gotta, but otherwise keep it open. If Heath gets in, I don't want him blocking it or to waste time opening it."

"Come on, Rosco," Luke said, a bit annoyed by how dramatic this all seemed. "How likely is it he'll even find us?"

"More than you think. He's from Hazzard, Luke. He grew up in these woods. Heath spent a lot of time alone and he used to guide hunters for extra money. He's sneaky and he's smart."

"All right," Luke conceded. "Anything else?"

"Stay inside during the day. You can go out a bit at night. You got a hat?"

"No," Luke said with a chuckle. "I didn't bring a hat."

"I'll get you one. Wear it all the time, when you do go out. You'll always have someone close by."

"Sounds fun," Luke said with mock cheerfulness.

"This is for your protection, Luke," Rosco reminded him sternly.

"Yeah, Rosco, I get that," Luke snapped. "Much as I appreciate you wanting to keep me alive, I don't like being cooped up here, while Heath runs loose."

"Well, as soon as you come up with a better plan, you be sure to let us know," Rosco said angrily. "Come on. I'll show you around downstairs."

Luke followed along, fuming silently. There were only two areas downstairs. On the left was an open kitchen with an attached dining area, separated by a wall that came to about Luke's waist. At the back was a small half bathroom, with a toilet and a sink. The entire right side of the downstairs was a large living room. A television sat in one corner, surrounded by a couch and a couple of chairs. A table and chairs sat behind that, with a small radio sitting on top.

"Make yourself at home," Rosco told him gruffly, sitting at the table and pulling a deck of cards from his pocket. "There's plenty of food in the fridge, if you get hungry."

"Thanks," Luke said wearily, sitting down in one of the chairs. He noticed the day's newspaper sitting on an end table and picked it up.

Luke spent the next hour reading the paper, the room almost entirely silent, except for the sound of Rosco shuffling and dealing himself cards. Luke got up and walked around the room, rubbing his hands across his jeans.

"You antsy all ready? Just try to relax. Think of it as a vacation," Rosco suggested.

"I spend my vacations racing and fishing," Luke pointed out, expecting Rosco to make impatient noises.

Luke was surprised, when instead Rosco looked at him almost kindly.

"I know it ain't easy. You just gotta find ways to distract yourself."

"Reading and watching television is gonna get old fast," Luke predicted.

"If you plan on reading, I hope you brought your own book. Old Man Sanders wasn't much of a reader, though I think there's a Bible around here somewhere."

"I brought two, but I'm already half way through one."

"Better pace yourself then. We can't be constantly going to town. We're gonna try to keep supply runs down to once every other week."

"Every other week?" Luke protested. "You make it sound like we'll be here months!"

"I don't know how long we'll be here, Luke, but yeah it could take that."

Luke looked idly at his watch and was surprised to see it was already past twelve-thirty.

"I'm gonna make some lunch. You want a grilled cheese?" he asked.

Rosco looked a bit surprised, but nodded.

"Sure, sounds fine."

He watched Luke trudge off to the kitchen and wondered if the boy would have enough appetite to eat what he cooked. Rosco felt a twinge of pity for Luke. The boy was used to wandering all over Hazzard, enjoying the freedom of country life and dirt roads. He knew being cooped up was going to be hard on Luke and cursed Heath for disrupting their lives. He prayed this ended quickly.

A short time later, Rosco went into the kitchen to get himself some tea. He found Luke standing near the sink, the open window letting in a soft breeze. Luke had finished frying up some bacon for their sandwiches, but had removed the pan from the burner. The rest of the sandwich makings were on a plate next to the stove.

Luke wasn't cooking. He was feeding a small piece of bacon to a tiny, gray-striped kitten with large, blue eyes. The kitten licked at the grease on the tips of Luke's fingers, making the boy chuckle. He carefully rubbed the top of the kitten's head and the kitten, in turn, gave a strong purr that Rosco could hear across the room.

Rosco watched in surprise. Sure the Duke boys made a habit of being polite and helpful to their neighbors. Jesse had seen to that, protecting the standing of the Dukes in the community. Rosco had never thought the boys particularly affectionate in nature, though, especially to animals. They were farm boys, after all, and farm animals were either there to work or be eaten! Luke, however, was grinning softly, as he stroked the tiny ball of fluff on the counter.

Luke finally looked up from the kitten, when he heard Rosco opening the refrigerator door. He gave a guilty start, realizing he'd almost forgotten about the sandwiches.

"Um. The sandwiches'll be done soon," he promised sheepishly.

Rosco chuckled, putting the jug of tea back, then joined Luke at the sink.

"Why don't I give you a hand?" Rosco asked.

Carefully balancing his glass, Rosco scooped the kitten up, holding it against his chest. The kitten gave a shaky meow, as he was moved. Once he was snug against Rosco's chest, he began kneading the sheriff's arm and purring loudly. Rosco noticed that Luke seemed a bit disappointed at losing his new friend. Luke pulled his eyes from the kitten and gave Rosco a rueful smile.

"Thanks, I guess," he said dryly, moving the skillet back to the burner. "Gimme about ten minutes and the food'll be done. Good thing I made plenty of bacon."

"How much did you give this little fella?" Rosco asked.

"Two slices," Luke admitted sheepishly. "I'd try to ignore him and he kept pawing at me."

"Yeah, and, now that you've fed him, you better start thinking of a name for him. He ain't likely to go far."

Ignoring the boy's aggravated moan, Rosco went back to the living room, setting his tea down. He turned to a country music station on the radio, then sat back, slowly stroking the kitten. Luke came out shortly, balancing two plates and his own glass of tea. He looked at Rosco with the kitten and frowned in confusion.

"Rosco? Where's Flash?" Luke asked.

"I had to leave her home with mama. She'd be too much of a giveaway, if or when Heath comes nosing around," Rosco explained.

"Right," Luke sighed. He set the plates down and sat across from Rosco, reaching over to stroke the kitten.

"You think of a name for him?" Rosco said, almost teasing.

"Henry," Luke said decisively.

"Henry? For a kitten?" Rosco asked puzzled.

"Yeah. After Henry Fonda," Luke explained.

"Oh. I getcha," Rosco replied. "I've always been partial to Jimmy Stewart."

"Hey, I'm a big fan of Jimmy Stewart," Luke assured him. "I just thought Henry fit the little guy."

"I suppose so," Rosco conceded, setting Henry gently on the table.

Luke watched in amusement as Rosco tried to play a game and eat his sandwiches. Henry didn't help matters. He pawed cards out of Rosco's hand and climbed the man trying to take bites of his lunch. Luke couldn't help laughing, when the kitten managed to drag a piece of bacon out of one of the sandwiches and into Rosco's lap. He was surprised at how patient Rosco was. He didn't fuss or scold, just set the kitten back on the table and broke the bacon into small, mouth-size pieces.

Luke finished his sandwiches and pulled the kitten over, earning a rare look of gratitude from Rosco. Luke hadn't thought Rosco was capable of that expression, not towards a Duke, at least. In turn, he gave Rosco a warm smile, before turning his attention to Henry. While Rosco ate and played cards, Luke went back and forth between gently batting the kitten around in play and stroking him. The kitten ate up both, purring as loudly as a buzzsaw.

Rosco found the whole thing almost intolerably cute. The last thing he wanted was to think Luke Duke was cute or anything other than an arrogant scofflaw. Rosco ruthlessly squashed any feelings of warmth towards the boy, forcing himself to focus on his card game. He wasn't used to thinking well of any Duke and he wasn't about to let himself get used to it.

Luke wasn't used to thinking well of Rosco, either. Sometimes he liked the older man, but he never really thought well of him. After all, he was a lawman and a dishonest one at that. Neither was something Luke took lightly. He sometimes clean forgot that Rosco had been an honest lawman for over twenty years. Sometimes Luke remembered though and forgave Rosco his faults.

Living with Rosco was easier than Luke had thought it would be. The sheriff didn't treat Luke like a wanted criminal. Instead Rosco was considerate and unobtrusive. Luke's only real complaint was that the older man was a bit of a slob, in ways Uncle Jesse would never have tolerated. Luke sighed at the sight of the kitchen table.

The entire surface of the table was occupied with mess. The different sections of yesterday's newspaper were spread across the surface, with Henry dozing in the middle. Rosco's hat sat on one corner. Luke cleared Henry and the newspaper away, finding something else hidden underneath. In front of the chair Rosco had used the previous night, were a few pieces of notebook paper. The pages were folded up, but Luke could just make out Rosco's handwriting on the inside.

Uncle Jesse had taught Luke very good manners, including respecting other people's privacy. Luke still only hesitated a few seconds, though, before picking up and reading the pages. You never knew what Rosco or Boss might be up to! The letter read:

Dear Auntie Emma,

Hello from Rosco! How are you and Uncle Wilbur doing, darling? I hope he's feeling better, after having flu. Mama and me are both doing really good. Mama won a sewing contest at the spring fair. She got first place for sewing a really pretty blanket with purple butterflies in needlework. I finally managed to get a raise out of Boss. I'm sending you a hundred and fifteen dollars with this letter.

Please don't fuss about it. I promise I'm saving money aside for the future, just like you said I should. I just know doctors are expensive and you could use a little extra with Uncle Henry having missed work. You don't need worry about me. Now that I got a raise and don't have any car payment, I'm getting by just fine.


Luke found himself wincing at that glib reassurance, not really believing it himself. He wondered if Rosco's aunt would be fooled. Sighing he kept reading:

I got a new deputy recently. Boss hired his cousin Cletus to replace Enos. Did I tell you Enos got a job in Los Angeles? I hope he's happy there. He's a good man and a good lawman, too. Cletus is really green, but he'll do okay. He tries real hard at least. Of course, I can't be friendly with him, since I'm his boss. I think he thinks I don't like him, but he'll learn. I gotta be his boss, not his friend, if I'm to be any use to him.

I guess you remember me saying similar things, when Enos got hired.

That's about all the new stuff going on. Other than that, things are the same as always. I'm still chasing the Duke boys around, trying to keep them out of trouble. Boss, of course, doesn't help none with that. We gotta couple of big races coming up. I wish Uncle Wilbur could come down for some of them. I know he'd appreciate some of the good drivers we have down here. It's just a shame the tv stations don't think we're worth recording.

I heard there's a home movie maker, really portable, on the market. It's new though and really expensive. Sooner or later, though, people might be able to record stuff themselves...like an easier way to make home movies. I'd like to be able to do that. It'd be fun and I'm sure there'd be someway to make it useful to police work.

Well, I've rattled at you long enough. Mama and Lulu both send their love. We'll see you as soon as we can!

Love, Rosco


Luke wondered where Rosco found the money to help his relatives. As corrupt as Rosco was, Luke knew he barely made a living, because of Boss Hogg. Luke frowned. He had to give Rosco credit for trying though. All the Dukes knew that Rosco wasn't as bad as he tried to be, corrupt or not. Luke folded the letter, feeling a twinge of guilt at having invaded the man's privacy, and cleared the table.

The good thing about housework was it gave Luke something to do and there always seemed to be more of it. Luke made a quick, blueberry coffeecake and shoved it in the oven. Once breakfast was started, he went upstairs to gather up his dirty clothes. Looking through the adjoining doorway, he noticed Rosco had a small pile of dirty clothes next to his bed. Shrugging, Luke gathered the clothes up and added them to his own, taking them down to the laundry room.

Luke came back up and found Rosco at the bottom of the stairs.

"I had some clothes on my floor. Did you take them?" Rosco asked.

"Yeah, I'm doing laundry and had room for a bit more. Hope you don't mind," Luke said, trying to not sound defensive.

"Oh, uh, no. Thank you," Rosco said bluntly. "You need to see this."

Luke reluctantly took the newspaper Rosco held out to him. Another letter from Heath covered the front page. Luke felt an acid coldness in the pit of his stomach, as he began reading.

Dear Neighbors,

I seem to have put a scare into local law enforcement! My. Sheriff Rosco Coltrane seems to have just disappeared...along with Luke Duke. Those two have a reputation for being at odds, but perhaps they found some common ground...or other PLAY area. I would have expected either one to stay and fight. Tell me, Hazzard, how much confidence do you have in your sheriff, hmmmmm? You keep electing him, for some reason.

Traditionally, the police are supposed to HUNT me, while I do my work. However, I've already played that game. So, now we begin a different one. Instead of being hunted, I will do the hunting. If I win, I claim my next victims and others will follow. If the law wins, I will be stopped and Rosco and Luke will be safe...to continue their own SILLY game of cat and mouse. Of course, the FBI and maybe some deputies are welcome to hunt me at the same time. You much have more nerve than good OLD Rosco.

Sincerely,

Find Out


"Great. At least he seems determined to find us, rather than taking other victims."

"Maybe. Landon and I agree that we need to be prepared for others to go missing."

"Yeah," Luke agreed, grimly, handing the paper back to Rosco.

"I'm done, if you wanna keep reading," Rosco offered, kindly.

"Thanks, but I'm good," Luke said, shaking his head. "Breakfast'll be ready soon. I put your hat on the back of the door."

"Oh. Sorry about that," Rosco said, ducking his head a bit in embarrassment.

Luke couldn't help smiling at the older man.

"It's all right. Excuse me," he said, going to tidy up the living room.

Rosco stared down at the paper in his hand, shaking his head. He supposed keeping busy was better for Luke than brooding. This morning's letter worried Rosco. He'd known Heath would try to find them, but the idea of being hunted was still chilling. He sneered down at the taunts Heath had written aimed at him. Did he expect Rosco to go rushing to town to defend his reputation? Rosco was well aware he didn't really have one worth keeping.

Still, he didn't need a reputation to keep Luke safe and, for now, that was all he wanted. Heath would see that Rosco hadn't lost his skills as a policeman. Unfortunately, there were some things skill and even experience couldn't prepare someone for. Rosco certainly wasn't prepared for the level of noise that came from Luke's room that night.

Rosco had pulled on his pajama pants and was reaching for his night shirt, when Luke gave a startled cry. Henry began meowing frantically and a scuttling sound filled the air. Rosco heard Luke moving rapidly around in his room, then a heavy thump against the floor. Grabbing his revolver, Rosco burst through the open door connecting their room and stopped in astonishment.

Luke wasn't being attacked, as Rosco had feared. In fact, Luke was laughing breathlessly and Rosco couldn't blame him. Henry was chasing and being chased by a couple of fat squirrels! The animals tore across the bed and landed on the dresser. Henry tried to climb up the dresser only to fall backwards into a heap. Luke stood up, grimacing in pain and rubbing at his kneecap. Rosco made sure he was okay, before storming over and throwing the window back open.

"Alllll right, you fuzzy animals! You get out of here!" Rosco ordered sharply. "How's the boy supposed to get any sleep with all this fuss and racket?!"

Together, Luke and Rosco managed to herd the squirrels back out the window. Luke shut the window tight with a relieved laugh. Rosco wanted to laugh too, but forced himself to be stern.

"Now, that there is why you gotta sleep with the window closed," he scolded. "You never know what or WHO an open window will let in."

"I was only leaving it open, so's some fresh air could come in, while I was changing my clothes," Luke said, somewhere between soothing and defensive. "I wasn't gonna sleep with it that way. Thanks for helping."

"Well of course I helped," Rosco said shortly. "It sounded like an invasion in here! I'm supposed to protect you, you know."

"I know," Luke assured him, unable to help grinning, even if it did make Rosco glower some.

"You just...get some sleep," Rosco ordered grumpily.

"Good night, Rosco," Luke answered warmly.

"Um, yeah. Good night," Rosco agreed awkwardly, before disappearing back into his own room.

Luke waited until Rosco was gone, before sitting on the edge of his bed and laughing. He blushed a bit. He'd rarely seen Rosco out of his police uniform and never, that he could recall, without at least a t-shirt! One thing was sure, he wasn't gonna forget the sight of Rosco, half-naked and brandishing a revolver, any time soon! The image was funny, but also kinda cute. Luke hadn't known the man had such a lush covering of body hair. The body itself was better than Luke had expected, too. Sure, there was a bit of middle-age pudge, but Rosco's arms were well-muscled and he'd looked solid and strong, standing in the doorway between their rooms. Heck, even the pudge was cute, making the lawman look rather cuddly.

Luke gave himself a metaphorical slap in the face. The last thing he needed was to develop a crush on Rosco, of all people! The man was law and, as Bo had teased Luke about, not a big fan of anyone named Duke. Shaking his head, Luke laid down, reminding himself how temporary his whole situation was...including any peace between him and Rosco.

Despite his self-admonitions, Luke found it hard to keep distance between himself and Rosco, while they were sharing the same house. He kept finding sides to the man that he hadn't suspected were there. He hadn't expected to come downstairs and find Rosco at the table in the living room surrounded by books and papers.

"What in the world is all this?" Luke asked incredulously.

"I'm studying!" Rosco told him irritably. "What does it look like?"

"Well, that's what it looks like, sure enough, but, last I checked, you graduated from school a long time ago!"

"Oh will you quit trying to be so smart?" Rosco huffed. "If you must know, I'm taking some correspondence courses offered by the university in Atlanta. I do that ever so often. You can scoff, but I like learning new things and improving my skills."

"Whoa, Rosco, all right!" Luke said, holding up his hands in surrender. "I didn't mean nothing, honest."

Rosco gave a dismissive snort. Curious, Luke sat down and picked up one of the papers laying on the table at Rosco's elbow. Luke pointedly ignored Rosco's glare and read a bit, discovering a lesson on how to improve dog training skills.

"'In training your dog, it is essential they completely master each skill, including using it in conjunction with ones previously learned, before introducing any new tasks or procedures. All new skills should build upon and enhance previously learned performances.' Why didn't they just say ya gotta get the dog walking, before you make it run?"

"Because I am paying them one hundred and fifty dollars and that requires some smart-sounding talk! They gotta give me something for all that money. Don't you know anything about academics?" Rosco scolded.

"Apparently not," Luke told him, putting the paper back. "This is your idea of fun?"

"No. This is my idea of learning. This is my idea of fun," Rosco retorted, handing Luke a large sketchbook.

Luke thumbed through the book. It was artwork of some kind, done in pencils, some colored. Not all of the art was pictures. Some of it consisted of lines and circles shaded to look like spheres. Some of the drawings were heavily shaded silhouettes of plants and animals. Luke was no art expert, but he could tell that, while the drawings weren't professional by any means, they also weren't half bad. He looked up at Rosco in amazement.

"Rosco, did you make these?"

"Well, of course, I did!" Rosco said gruffly. "I ain't gonna pay money for a course, then have someone else do my homework."

"Boss would."

"No, Boss wouldn't. He's got more sense than that and, anyways, I ain't Boss!" Rosco argued, grabbing back his sketchbook.

Luke started to do some teasing, but changed his mind. The last thing Luke wanted was to discourage the man from his learning. Matter of fact, Luke felt kinda proud of Rosco. He wasn't very bright, maybe, but at least he was trying to be better. That was more than a lot of folks could claim. Luke smiled, shrugging.

"Thank goodness," Luke said. "Seriously, though, those are pretty good."

Rosco looked up from his studying long enough to give Luke a suspicious glare, before making a harsh scoffing noise. Rosco went back to taking notes from his course material, trying to ignore Luke.

"Come on, now, I mean it," Luke protested. "I didn't know you liked to draw."

"There's more about me that you don't know, than there is that you do know," Rosco claimed sternly, making Luke wince.

"I hope that ain't true," Luke said. "That'd just be sad, given how long I've known ya."

"Well, it is true," Rosco said gruffly, but then his tone became friendlier. "I didn't know I liked drawing, until I started this course. I just thought it'd be something new to try. It's nice to have some schooling that lets me get out of doors."

"Yeah," Luke said, chuckling. "Being cooped up was always the worst part. What other sorts of courses have you taken?"

"Oh, I try to do a variety of stuff, though I like stuff that might help me with my work," Rosco admitted. "I've taken photography, interrogation, even some on working with electricity and machinery. There's lots of interesting stuff out there."

Luke mentally scolded himself. Apparently there was a lot more to Rosco than he'd thought. He'd never given the sheriff any credit for curiosity. Luke had thought the closest Rosco got to curiosity was a certain nosiness and even that was work related. Luke flipped through some more of Rosco's papers and books, curious himself.

"Wouldn't this work better if you had Flash with you?" Luke asked.

"No. This is to teach me to train. Doing the actual training ain't part of the assignments. Luke, not to be mean, by I only got a couple more weeks to get this done. Would you mind letting me get on with it? I still got a ways to go."

"Sorry," Luke said sheepishly, standing up and moving into the sitting area of the living room.

"Thank you," Rosco murmured, his attention already back on his studying.

Luke watched him from the couch, smiling, for a bit. Luke then grabbed one of his books off the coffee table, thumbing through it idly. His thoughts were on his current housemate. Luke considered that Rosco might have a point. Maybe Luke didn't know the sheriff quite as well as he had thought. Away from Boss, Rosco had been surprisingly pleasant company. Luke had expected him to be hostile and aloof, but Rosco had been almost friendly. With a wry smile, Luke wondered if Rosco's opinion of him had improved any.

Certainly, Rosco didn't seem to mind doing small kindnesses for Luke. He had made conscious efforts to be tidier, once he noticed Luke tended to pick up after him, when he wasn't. He let Luke pretty much control the television set, not raising objections to anything Luke might want to watch. Luke was amazed at Rosco's patience, when he sat through the cheesy science fiction marathon Luke watched one evening. The marathon lasted until dawn the next day and Luke stayed awake for most of it. He fell asleep on the couch around one.

Around two, Luke sensed something and groggily came partly awake. He forced his eyes half open to blurrily see Rosco standing over him, a blanket in his hands. Luke didn't move, still mostly asleep, as Rosco draped the blanket over him, tucking it in around Luke's shoulders. Luke murmured a sleepy thank you, distantly concerned about embarrassing the other man. Rosco just stared down at him with a kind smile.

"Go on back to sleep, Luke," Rosco whispered softly. "It's so late it's early."

Luke barely managed a nod, already drifting swiftly back into peaceful slumber. He felt a twinge of guilt the next morning, when he woke. Rosco was slumped down in the recliner, still wearing the same clothes from the day before, including his gun belt. The older man seemed to be comfortably asleep, but Luke figured sitting in a chair all night couldn't be real good for him. Luke got to his feet and stretched the kinks out of his own muscles. Sleeping on the couch had taken a tiny toll on his own, youthful back.

The least Luke could do was return Rosco's favor. He picked up the blanket. Smiling down at the sleeping sheriff, Luke draped the blanket over his shoulders, then dragged the end down towards his legs. Rosco gave a muffled snore and Luke bit his lip to keep from chuckling. Luke decided sleepy and content was a good look on Rosco.

Rosco woke to the warmth of the blanket and gave a sigh. Keeping close company with Luke was proving harder than Rosco had hoped. In most of their encounters, Luke was brash, even arrogant, making fun of the law generally and Rosco in particular. He was stubborn and uncooperative. Rosco had managed to convince himself the boy was just a smug brat. He had to think that way. Thinking badly of Bo and Luke was the only way he could stomach some of the things Boss made him do. It did wonders for keeping admiration at bay. Living with Luke was making that sort of thinking almost impossible.

Having his views of the Duke boys challenged made Rosco grumpy. He was silent and peevish for a couple of days, trying to make excuses to dismiss all the evidence of Luke's good nature. He wasn't having any luck. He was almost relieved, when Luke acted up, going outside in daylight without a hat. Well, Rosco would have been, if he hadn't been so angry and worried.

"Luke!" he called to the boy, motioning him towards the house.

Luke turned to Rosco and gave a tired sigh. Slowly, he trudged back to the house. Luke's reluctant manner just fueled Rosco's ire. He waited for Luke to be well inside, before firmly shutting the door.

"What in blazes were you doing out there?" Rosco demanded angrily.

"Breathing!" Luke snapped back, though not without feeling a twinge of guilt. "I can't stand being cooped up like this. It ain't fair! Heath's hurting people and I'm being held prisoner, because of it."

"Don't be a jackass. You got more brains than that!" Rosco chided. "We've gone to all this trouble to protect you and you go and expose yourself like that! If you want some air, open a window!"

"Trouble," Luke scoffed. "Y'know, if Sammy Ray wasn't dead, I'd think this was some scheme cooked up by you and Boss to get me out of the way!"

"Get you...Luke Duke, that ain't called for!"

"Heck it ain't! I haven't done anything wrong, but you've got what you've always wanted...me locked away. This must be a dream come true for you. You can keep me boxed up and not have to provide evidence or nothing."

Rosco felt a burning hurt made worse by knowing Luke had a point. Rosco shoved the hurt away and focused on his anger and indignation.

"Well maybe I wouldn't keep trying to lock you away, if you had any respect for the law! You just go around causing trouble all the time!"

"Rosco, most of the time, us Dukes've got more respect for the real law than you do! What you mean is you think we don't respect you."

"Wrong!" Rosco crowed angrily. "I know you don't respect me. Oh you act all chummy, when it suits you. You think I don't know what you say about me? Or do you think I'm just too dumb to get the punchlines to your little jokes?"

Luke almost flinched, but strangled the impulse. He glared instead, his fists knotting.

"Well, maybe we'd show you some respect, if you weren't crooked as a dog's hind leg! How'm I supposed to respect someone who's always trying to frame me for stuff I ain't done?"

"That's real funny, Luke," Rosco told him bitterly. "See, I was an honest cop for most of your life. You didn't show much respect, when I was chasing you for running shine."

"It was the family business!" Luke protested. "It had nothing to do with not respecting you!"

"Oh tiddly-tuddly! You just tore around, running shine and patting yourself on the back for being clever at evading the law. Then after I lost my pension, you got probation and decided you had just enough respect for the law to despise what I do just to survive."

"I got no problem with you surviving, just..."

"Just nothing!" Rosco snapped. "You didn't respect me then, because I was honest and you don't respect me now because I'm crooked. Tell me, Luke, what's your next excuse gonna be?"

Luke fell silent, running a hand over his face. It amazed him how Rosco had everything twisted up. He'd never realized just how badly Rosco misunderstood them.

"All right. Fine. You got a right to survive and it was wrong of the town to vote down your pension. Why blame me?" Luke asked a bit plaintively. "We Dukes have helped you any time you needed it. We even helped you get re-elected!"

"That had nothing to do with me."

Luke stared at him, stunned by Rosco's dismissive retort.

"What? What do you mean it had nothing to do with you?!"

"You didn't do any of that out of any caring or respect for me," Rosco insisted.

"Why do you think we did it then?" Luke asked with bewildered anger.

"Near as I can tell? Cold-blooded altruism. You do it because you're Dukes and that's how you see yourselves...helpful and good neighbors. You'd do the same for anyone, whether you liked them or hated them. You do it because it fits your ideas of right and wrong. Well maybe it is right, but it don't have anything to do with me."

Luke felt an oppressive wave of sorrow flood him, keeping him from talking. Rosco was partly right. The Dukes would do what was right, regardless of how they felt about a person. Enemy or not, though, Rosco was someone they cared about. Luke had realized, living here in close company with the man, that he liked Rosco and enjoyed his company. Luke stared into Rosco's eyes and shook his head.

"I'm sorry you believe that," Luke told him regretfully.

Rosco watched Luke walk away and head into the kitchen. He felt bad for some of the things he'd said. Those things had always seemed true to him, though! Sure, he considered the Dukes his friends, as well as his enemies. He'd watched those boys grow up, after all. He'd just never considered that they would like or care about him. Few people had any patience with him and they were the Dukes! Now, Rosco was starting not to know what, if anything, that actually meant. Rosco's thoughts were interrupted by a harsh cry of pain from the kitchen.

"Luke!" Rosco cried out in alarm, drawing his gun and rushing into the kitchen.

Rosco found Luke standing by the refrigerator with the freezer door wide open. The kitchen faucet was busted and spewing water everywhere. Luke pulled out a bag of frozen chicken livers and placed it on his arm.

"Be careful," Luke warned, gritting his teeth in pain. "That water's scalding hot!"

"Shoot," Rosco declared wearily. "I'll be right back. I'm gonna turn the water off and get the first aid kit. Just sit down and wait."

"Okay," Luke agreed, subdued.

Rosco went off and performed his tasks. He brought the first aid kit back and was a bit surprised to find Luke actually sitting at the table. Luke held out his hand for the first aid kit.

"You don't have to. I can get it," Luke offered, figuring Rosco would prefer to be away from him at the moment.

Rosco, however, shook his head firmly.

"You just sit tight. You burned your right arm and it'll get done better, if you let me help. I do know what I'm doing," Rosco told him dryly, making Luke wince a bit.

"Yeah, okay," Luke agreed a bit hastily, not wanting to irritate Rosco further.

Rosco pulled out medicines and bandages. He slowly and carefully worked on bandaging the widespread burn on Luke's arm. Luke watched, trying to keep quiet, but not entirely able to suppress small sounds of pain. Rosco looked up at each one in sympathetic concern. Luke had to give Rosco due credit. His touch was firm, but also gentle, trying hard not to hurt Luke. Despite the pain of the burn, Luke found Rosco's touch and care almost soothing. Finishing, Rosco packed the first aid kit away.

"How does that feel?" Rosco asked.

"Fine. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Never mind doing the dishes. Just rest that arm. I'll clean up and fix supper in a little bit."

"Yes, sir," Luke agreed, then added. "Rosco? I didn't mean any disrespect going outside. I know you got good reasons and all. I just got stir crazy."

Rosco sighed, nodding.

"I'm feeling that too, Luke. It just ain't worth the risk. The sun'll be down soon, then we'll both spend some time outdoors."

Luke could only agree, to Rosco's relief. Now that the fireworks were over, he felt tense and embarrassed. Unfortunately, Luke seemed to feel the same. They spent the next couple of days walking on eggshells around each other and avoiding any reference to their fight. Luke wished things would relax again. If anything the fight had made him even more curious about Rosco.

Fortunately, Luke had plenty of opportunity to interact with Rosco. The older man never seemed to tire of playing card games. Luke was sure Rosco knew every version of solitaire in existence. Luke didn't have to wait long to find Rosco at the table, a deck of cards in his hands. Smiling, Luke sat down in the chair opposite of Rosco. He pointed at the cards.

"Why don't we play a game?" Luke asked, grinning, when Rosco shrugged.

"Rummy or cribbage?" Rosco asked.

"Rummy," Luke chose, watching Rosco begin to shuffle, his long, strong fingers manipulating the deck with ease. Artist's hands, Luke recalled fingers like that being called.

"Quit staring at my hands," Rosco instructed. "I ain't gonna cheat."

"Didn't think you were," Luke assured him, then hesitated. He stared at Rosco a long moment, then asked, "Why did you become a lawman?"

Rosco gave him a suspicious look.

"How do you mean?"

"What gave you the idea? How old were you?" Luke clarified.

"Oh uh. I guess I settled on it when I was seventeen, right before my senior year in high school. I knew I wasn't going to college. My grades weren't good enough, even if we'd had the money."

"It just seemed your best option?" Luke asked puzzled.

"Now I didn't say that!" Rosco scolded. "I'd considered it on and off, growing up. It was something I could do to help folks. I wasn't going to college, but I was always fairly strong and active. I thought about the army, but I didn't really want to leave Hazzard."

"You didn't want to leave your mama on her own?"

"Partly," Rosco said, finishing dealing the cards and beginning to arrange his hand, before continuing in a flat tone. "I loved my home. I wanted to be useful to it."

Luke spent a few moments arranging his own hand before softly asking in a pensive tone, "Do you regret it?"

Rosco looked up in bewilderment, almost shocked by the question. Finally he laughed.

"Aw, heck, no, Luke! You gotta even ask? I love my job! Anyways, what else was I gonna do? Hire out as a sharecropper? Be a store clerk?"

"How about a dog trainer?" Luke asked, thinking it was a reasonable alternative, but it earned him a rather dry look from Rosco.

"Luke, you might've noticed that I ain't actually very good at dog training. Dog spoiling is more up my alley. You want someone to love on puppies and spoil them rotten, then I'm your man."

"Well, sure, but it'd be different, if it was your way of earning a living," Luke reasoned.

"I doubt it," Rosco admitted honestly. "I was surprised, when you and Bo came back from NASCAR. You really content to work that farm for peanuts all your life?"

Luke considered the question and was surprised by the answer he arrived at.

"You know, I really am? I've worked for the army and NASCAR. There's nothing out there I want. The things that matter to me are all here. Anything I want or need to do, I can do right here at home, while tending the farm."

"You don't have to leave Hazzard to have a little ambition."

"I have ambition! I told Amy Creevy I wanted to build the car that wins the Charlotte 500. I reckon that's still so. I like building fast cars and I can always sell them after."

"You were a dang fool for letting that one get away."

"She was something," Luke admitted. "It wouldn't have worked. She could never be happy being tied to Hazzard. I need someone who likes small and quiet."

"When is Hazzard ever quiet?"

"Not often enough, I admit. We do have our good days, though, even weeks."

Rosco chuckled. Normally he found Luke's wit irritating, but he had to admit the boy could be funny at times. It was easier to see that, when the boy's smart remarks were aimed somewhere else. Rosco was surprised when his laugh drew a look of surprised pleasure from Luke.

That's pretty cozy for those two. Not bad for a bonding moment. Nothing bonds two good old boys like them better, though, than sharing a bottle or two of something smooth. It so happens, Luke found a couple of bottles of shine, during his cleaning efforts.

Luke brought two bottles up from the cellar and placed them on the kitchen table. The setting sun shone through the window giving the bottles a pink hue. Luke chuckled at the sight.

"What's funny?" Rosco asked, coming into the kitchen for more tea and stopping short at the sight of the shine jugs. "Where in tarnation did you get those?"

"I found them in the cellar, behind one of the cabinets."

"Huh. I always was told Old Man Sanders didn't truck with shine."

"Maybe it was brought by someone else who hid out here."

"Well if that's so why didn't they drink it?" Rosco asked skeptically.

"Dunno. Maybe they meant to come back for it."

"Well they ain't getting it now," Rosco said firmly.

"Nope. They ain't," Luke agreed with a mischievous grin. "Go get the cards."

Luke went to the cabinet and brought back to the table a couple of tumblers and some shot glasses. Rosco didn't move to get the cards, just stood there, watching Luke and frowning.

"Luke. What exactly have you got in mind?"

"We're going to play some cards and drink some shine. Since neither of us got much money to lose on cards, we're going to bet shots instead."

"We really shouldn't," Rosco said, worriedly.

"We really should," Luke contradicted cheerfully. "We've been cooped up here for weeks with no sign of Heath. We deserve a night off from strict diligence. Don't worry."

"Luke, it's my job to worry. How else am I gonna keep you safe?"

"Well, you'll have an eye on me the entire time, won't you? You get things locked up as tight as can be and I'll make up a bunch of sandwiches and snacks. At least we won't be doing this on empty stomachs."

Rosco considered arguing more, but heck. The boy had a point. The odds of Heath showing up, as soon as they decided to drink, were pretty slim, no matter what the tv said. A night of drinking and cards sounded pretty fine. Weirdly, part of the fineness was knowing he'd be doing his drinking with Luke. Rosco figured he should be ashamed of that, but he simply wasn't, so he didn't dwell on it.

Rosco did go to some lengths to make sure he and Luke wouldn't be caught unawares. Honestly, though, the house was about as secure as it could be made, after years of paranoid cops and informants living there and working on it. He got things in order shortly, then returned to the kitchen with two decks of playing cards and the radio.

Luke had just finishing placing some finger foods on the table as Rosco returned. There were two or three dips, some raw vegetables, and some chips. Luke had also made them each a couple of sandwiches, thick with meat and cheese. Wisely, the boy had also set out a jug of iced tea and some glasses. Rosco still had a few reservations, but he set the cards down and took a seat. Grinning, Luke poured them both tall glasses of tea and filled their tumblers with shine.

"You wanna deal first?" Luke asked generously.

"Sure," Rosco said, with more ease than he felt. "What game?"

"Well, do we wanna start hard, while we're somewhat sober, then do the easier games? Or start easy and work up to the hard stuff?"

Rosco shifted a bit uneasily. Luke was all smiles and Rosco had a sneaky feeling there was some sort innuendo in those questions. He just shrugged though and pretended there wasn't.

"We can start off with the more difficult games. Gin rummy?"

"Sounds good to me," Luke agreed, taking a healthy gulp of his shine. Rosco dealt the cards then took a careful sip of his own shine. He had to admit it was good stuff. Luke grinned at him, picking up his cards. Rosco wondered what part of this the boy found so pleasing, then dismissed the thought. Luke again found himself watching Rosco's hands, feeling warm and cozy.

"You're staring at my hands again," Rosco pointed out.

"Artist's hands," Luke commented vaguely, voicing the thought this time.

"What are you talking about?" Rosco asked.

"Hands with long fingers and all. They're called artist's hands."

"Well I'm no artist," Rosco told him.

"You draw," Luke reminded him.

"Will you hush and take a card?" Rosco ordered.

"Yep," Luke agreed soothingly, taking another swallow of shine, before drawing a card.

He looked at it in distaste and immediately threw it on the discard pile.

"Threes not to your liking?" Rosco asked amused.

"Not so much," Luke said glibly. "How about you?"

"Nah," Rosco said, drawing from the stockpile.

Luke chuckled, leaning forward a bit in his chair.

"I wonder who made the shine," Luke mused. "It's good stuff."

"Well you got about a third of Hazzard to guess from."

"Aw, c'mon," Luke coaxed, discarding. "More than a third make the good stuff, even with Uncle Jesse out of the picture."

"They ain't gotta try so hard anymore," Rosco pointed out, shrugging and tossing back a bit more from his own glass.

Luke couldn't help grinning. The alcohol sent a flush across Rosco's skin and his eyes were becoming brighter. He watched Rosco's throat work, as the man chased the shine with some healthy swallows of tea. He watched Rosco move his cards around, placing his drawn card into the middle of his hand, then pulling out one from the sides. He remembered the feel of those fingers on his arm, gently spreading salve on damaged skin. Luke scolded himself to take it easy or he might spill how cute Rosco was, before the older man was drunk enough to forget. Inwardly, Luke kicked himself. Okay, Rosco was kinda cute, but there was no reason to blab it to the man. Ever!

"Your turn, Luke," Rosco said.

Rosco watched as Luke pulled himself out of his thoughts and reached for another card. The evening was beginning to look like a mistake for whole new reasons. He was sure Luke didn't mean anything by it, but Rosco could feel the boy's gaze on him for long moments at a time. Worse, he was beginning to do some looking of his own. Luke was a dang handsome young man. Of course, he had the accompanying arrogance that came with good looks, so Rosco had always managed to ignore the fact before, except as another point against him. Now though, he was noticing, with more appreciation.

"How did you manage to catch Heath the first time?" Luke asked.

"With good police work," Rosco said, almost grateful for the antagonistic phrasing of Luke's question. "Are you irritating on purpose or do you just not know any better?"

"A bit of both," Luke admitted. "I wasn't digging at you. I just wondered how he got caught!"

"Let me explain something to you. I ain't as dumb as you think. I can work stuff out just fine in my own way. You and Boss are good at twisty, lightening fast thinking, but that ain't the only kinda smarts out there."

"What's your kind then?" Luke asked, pushing away guilt.

"Methodical. I take stuff apart in my head and put it back together. That may seem slow and dull to you, but it's a thorough way of thinking. I only stumble when I try doing your flashy style."

"And it ain't in Boss's interests to let you do much thinking," Luke concluded, kicking himself again.

"He is a mite impatient," Rosco agreed, shrugging fatalistically. "People generally seem to have more respect for your type of thinking."

Luke flinched a bit, wishing he hadn't asked. Wrestling with his growing attraction was easier than this! He watched Rosco take another gulp of shine. The cop threw out his discard, a useless queen. Luke smiled ruefully. Rosco's card playing matched his description of his thinking. He took time on his turns, but he won as much as he lost.

"Thinking issues aside, I do want to know more about Heath and his first time in Hazzard. What gave him away to you?"

Rosco shifted, looking uncomfortable.

"He said the wrong thing to someone and we ended up with a lead on him. You said you wanted us to take a night off. Does discussing Heath really help?" Rosco complained.

"No," Luke admitted, sighing. "Fine. You pick a topic then."

"I think we should just play cards and drink," Rosco argued, turning the radio on.

"Fair enough," Luke agreed, feeling somewhat wistful.

Luke drank down some shine, as Conway Twitty sang about the man in the moon not knowing about love. Luke sympathized. He was pretty sure he didn't know anything about that either. He just knew that talking and playing cards with Rosco was filling him with a warmth and looseness that put the shine to shame. So, he obeyed the older man, focusing on his cards, the food, and the drink. When they talked, it was of unimportant things, like the music and things that were happening, or that were supposed to happen soon, in Hazzard.

Rosco was relieved, when the cards in his hand began swimming. The longer he and Luke talked, even just about Hazzard, and played, the warmer Rosco felt towards him. Rosco hoped it was just the alcohol that made Luke's jokes and wit seem funny and charming. He definitely shouldn't be thinking about Luke's blue eyes and full lips. No, sir. Those sorta thoughts would get him in trouble.

"Luke. You need to go to bed," Rosco told his companion.

"I what?!" Luke asked, stunned and mortified at being sent to bed like a child.

"You need to go to sleep! I can't go to bed, until you do. Frankly, I'm close to seeing double," Rosco admitted, giggling. "And I think I discarded my four, instead of my two."

Luke grabbed Rosco's wrist, pulling his arm down and looking at his cards.

"You've been hording my two!" Luke exclaimed indignantly.

Rosco gave him a look of mock sympathy.

"Aw now. Did you want this?" Rosco asked, dropping his other cards and waving the two of diamonds.

"Yes!" Luke agreed, grabbing the card and tossing away one of his others to complete a run. "There. Now I'll go to bed."

Rosco just laughed, rubbing at his eyes, until he heard Luke stumble. He pitched forward, almost crashing into the table. Rosco grabbed onto the boy's arms, helping to steady him. Luke shivered, feeling Rosco's hands burning through his shirt. He grinned.

"Maybe we should go up together. Wouldn't want either of us ending up on the floor."

Rosco considered that. It made a certain amount of sense. He'd dump Luke in bed first.

"Okay," Rosco agreed, standing up.

Luke wrapped an arm around Rosco's waist as he stood to keep them both from swaying. He was surprised, but pleased, when Rosco didn't protest, but put a steadying arm of his own around Luke. Together, they made their way slowly out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Both men focused on their steps, trying to ignore the heat created by their bodies and the fact they were practically in each other's arms.

Rosco steered them to Luke's bedroom, stopping beside the bed. He removed his arm, letting Luke topple onto the mattress. Blearily, Luke kicked off his shoes and socks. Rosco looked at the distance from Luke's bed to his own room and groaned. Grinning wickedly, Luke reached out and tugged Rosco down onto the bed. The sheriff squawked.

"What're you doin'?" he protested.

"You ain't gonna make it that far on your own," Luke reasoned, struggling to get the words out, while wrestling with his own shirt. "You may as well just get comfortable and lie down here."

"You're joking," Rosco accused, paling a bit.

"I ain't!" Luke protested. "Why not? Ain't it safer? You wanna try and rush in here while this loaded?"

Rosco shook his head and took off his gun belt, hanging it from one of the bed posts, then pulled off his top shirt. He wasn't sure he would survive this much temptation, but Luke was right. He wasn't going to make it to his own bed anyways. Rosco stripped to his t-shirt and boxers, watching in mortified arousal, as Luke did the same. He didn't dare look to see what condition Luke was in.

Luke scooted over, then grabbed Rosco's hand and pulled him closer. Rosco moaned a bit, wrestling his own body until his head was on a pillow and his feet facing the end of the bed. He turned towards Luke, who shifted close, leaving Rosco almost trembling.

"How drunk are you?" Luke asked, grinning.

"Too drunk for anything you might try to get up to," Rosco told him firmly, ignoring the ache in his groin.

Luke's grin turned innocent.

"I ain't planning anything."

"That might be half the problem," Rosco admitted.

He was just drunk and uninhibited enough to cup Luke's cheek and press their mouths together. Luke moaned and moved up tight against him. Rosco placed his tongue against Luke's mouth, a fearful elation flooding him, when those full lips opened easily to him. Rosco dipped his tongue inside, exploring carefully. Luke slid his tongue over Rosco's in a delicious caress. Rosco sucked on Luke's tongue and felt strong fingers stroke through his hair.

Rosco groaned, pulling away and staggering to his feet. Luke groaned in protest.

"Where are you going?" he asked plaintively.

"To bed. I shouldn't have done that," Rosco said with a sigh.

"Don't go," Luke coaxed. "We'll just sleep. I promise. It's still safer, if you stay here."

"Is it?" Rosco asked, sharply, but he climbed back into the bed.

Luke ignored Rosco's tone, tugging the older man back into place on the bed and curling around him.

"Luke..." Rosco growled in warning.

"Just sleeping," Luke assured him, resting his cheek on Rosco's shoulder.

Rosco lay there stiffly, for a few moments, then gave a soft sigh, pressing his own cheek against Luke's soft, dark hair. He let himself relax, listening to Luke's even breathing, as he settled into sleep. Rosco's own sleep claimed him quickly, as the alcohol took its toll.

Rosco woke the next morning with Luke still wrapped tightly around him, though he was beginning to blink himself awake. Luke looked up at Rosco and gave a sleepy smile, running a hand over Rosco's shoulder.

"Good morning."

"Good morning," Rosco answered hesitantly, then blushed slightly. "Um. Luke, I'm sorry I..."

"I'm not," Luke interrupted, touching Rosco's cheek and pulling him closer.

Rosco didn't resist, leaning down to kiss Luke, since he was willing. Luke gave a sigh of pleasure, pressing close again. Rosco ran his fingers gently through Luke's hair, savoring the taste of his kiss. Luke ran his hands from Rosco's shoulders and down to his waist, pulling at the hem of his t-shirt. Rosco obligingly removed it, then removed Luke's as well. Luke ran his hand appreciatively over the soft hair covering Rosco's torso.

"Luke," Rosco said hungrily, gently pressing him back onto the bed. "Let me."

"Yeah," Luke agreed eagerly, pulling his new lover into another long kiss.

Pulling away reluctantly, Rosco eased Luke's boxer shorts off, the movement a caress and a tease. He tossed the boxers down on the floor and stood, pulling off his own clothing. Luke shivered, watching. He leaned up on one elbow, eagerly studying Rosco's naked form. Rosco crawled back onto the bed and slowly kissed his way up Luke's body, starting just below his knees. Luke laid back down, closing his eyes and moaning, as Rosco's tongue danced and played intimately over his skin. Rosco spent a few moments licking and nibbling at Luke's nipples.

"Rosco!" Luke panted heavily.

Smiling, Rosco gave Luke a brief kiss, before sitting up and rummaging in the bed stand. As he'd hoped, he found some lotion there. Rosco coated his fingers heavily and began carefully prepping Luke, stretching him thoroughly. Luke moaned with pleasure, urging Rosco on. Rosco savored the sounds, as he searched for Luke's prostate. He grinned when Luke bucked forcefully onto Rosco's fingers, with a cry.

"Ah. Rosco, now. Please!"

Rosco obeyed, smoothing the last of the lotion on his own flesh. With a few, slow, careful strokes Rosco entered Luke. Luke made a sound of relief. He caressed Rosco's back and tugged at his hair, so he could nip and lick at Rosco's neck. Rosco groaned, thoroughly enjoying the sensations the younger man provoked in him. Luke gasped and panted as Rosco's thrusts pushed pleasure through his body. Luke finished with a long moan, pulling Rosco over the brink.

Sated, Rosco rolled onto his side, tucking Luke close to him and kissing him deeply. Luke ran his fingers through the hair on Rosco's torso, exploring his chest and pinching at his nipples. Rosco gave a shaky moan. Luke stopped and wrapped his arms around Rosco, resting against him. Rosco yawned, blushing a bit in embarrassment. Luke grinned, the yawn catching.

"Good thing we don't have to be no where," Rosco murmured, nuzzling at Luke's throat.

"Yeah. Might as well nap and sober up a bit more," Luke agreed, placing his head back on Rosco's shoulder.

Rosco kissed Luke's cheek, as the boy dozed off. He couldn't sleep himself. He was in trouble and he knew it. Rosco could no longer lie to himself. Luke was a good man, someone who didn't deserve to be harassed...to be used as a scapegoat in Boss's schemes. Rosco couldn't pretend anymore that he wasn't bothered by the injustice of it. He couldn't pretend that Luke brought it on himself with his attitude. Rosco gave a shaky sigh, forcing himself to stop dancing around the real issue and face the truth. He loved Luke. He'd loved him for some time and just blinded himself to it.

Forget Heath. What was he going to do about Boss Hogg?

Well, Rosco considered. Boss might be the bigger problem, but Heath was the more immediate one. Terrible and difficult as Heath might be, Rosco knew what to do about him. Rosco hugged Luke, cuddling him gently. Sooner or later, Heath would mess up. Rosco just had to keep Luke safe until then. He would deal with Boss Hogg afterwards. With a satisfied sigh, Rosco let himself drift off to sleep.

When he woke up again, Luke was already out of bed. Rosco gave a sigh, already missing the boy's warmth. He frowned, realizing he had no idea how much or how little last night had meant to Luke. Swallowing, Rosco prayed the sex hadn't been the result of youthful vigor, combined with alcohol. Sitting up, he noticed a chair next to the hall-side door, with fresh clothes and a towel for Rosco. Smelling coffee, he turned to the nightstand and saw a steaming mug waiting for him. A silly, but endearing, smile lit Rosco's face, as he picked up the coffee.

Once he had showered and dressed, Rosco went downstairs, finding Luke in the kitchen, cooking breakfast. Luke turned and smiled warmly. Luke felt an intense thrill at seeing Rosco in the clothes Luke had set out for him. Rosco looked good in his uniform and Luke would never try to turn him from being a lawman. Still. Rosco looked dang fine in civilian clothes.

Rosco blushed a bit under his stare and Luke didn't miss the slight unease in the older man's eyes. His smile softening, Luke walked over to Rosco and pulled him into a deep kiss. He felt, more than saw, Rosco start smiling too, as he returned Luke's kiss. Rosco gave a contented sigh, running the fingers of one hand through Luke's hair. Luke pulled away with a grin, knowing, if he didn't, that their breakfast would be well and truly burned.

"Good morning. Ready for some breakfast?" Luke asked, a new tenderness in his tone.

"Sure am. It smells real good," Rosco agreed with a trace of reluctance. He made himself let go, so Luke could get back to cooking.

It made him feel better that Luke looked a bit disappointed at being released. His smile became a bit rueful, as he turned back to the stove. Rosco distracted himself by setting the table, pouring himself and Luke tall glasses of orange juice. Soon enough Luke brought over a substantial breakfast of fried eggs, sausage, pancakes, and sliced tomatoes. Rosco grinned and got out a jar of maple syrup for the pancakes.

The window shattered, spraying Rosco with glass. Luke dived for the floor, glad to see Rosco following suit. Luke got to his knees, preparing to do some careful looking around. A shadow in the doorway stopped him cold.

"My, my," Heath drawled. "That looks like a fine breakfast you prepared, boy."

"Thanks," Luke said flatly. "I'm afraid I only made enough for two."

"Oh, I think it can be stretched to three. You made enough to satisfy Rosco," Heath argued, waving the shotgun in his hand menacingly. "Get up."

Luke glared at Heath's casual insult, but obeyed, keeping his hands visible. Rosco did the same, flushed with shame.

"Oh, don't look so woebegone," Heath advised, setting a duffle bag on the table. "It's not your fault I found ya. I had a long conversation with Landon. Be proud of me, Rosco! I didn't kill him. His death held no savor for me. I'm saving my appetite for the boy."

"Marvin..." Rosco began, swallowing heavily.

"No, no. We're not ready to talk yet. Sit down and make yourselves comfortable!" Heath demanded, bringing the shotgun up, ready to shoot. "Sit down and give me your cuffs, Rosco."

Reluctantly, Rosco and Luke obeyed. Rosco handed over his cuffs, which Heath used to secure Luke to his chair, threading the cuffs around the chairs back railing. Luke winced, the position stretching his arms a bit past the point of comfort. Heath then tied Rosco's hands behind his chair with a small length of strong rope.

"What's there to talk about?" Luke demanded angrily, once Heath was settled in a chair of his own. "You're gonna do your best to kill us, in any case."

"Are you expecting a rescue, boy? I didn't leave Landon in that good a shape!" Heath laughed. "I am going to kill you...in my own good time."

"You'll get caught again. You were given a second chance and you went right back to killing," Rosco scolded.

"Well, of course, I did. Heck, I killed four in prison, but never got caught for it. Stupid guards."

"We don't need to hear this," Rosco said, his eyes darting briefly to Luke at the mention of prison.

"You wish you could have him, don't you?" Heath said, smirking. "Imagine that...Rosco Coltrane desiring a criminal."

"I'm not a criminal," Luke said, calmly. "And he's already had me."

Luke expected Rosco's blush and vowed to make it up to him later. Heath's rage surprised him. The old killer flushed red and the lines of his face hardened. Heath got up from his chair, looming threateningly over Luke. For a moment, Luke knew Heath was going to skip straight to Luke's death. Instead, Heath shook his head.

"You're missing the point. Before I left Hazzard..."

"Before you were sent up for murder," Luke corrected, blandly.

"Don't interrupt me," Heath said sharply. "You don't want me mad, little boy."

"He ain't little," Rosco said, trying to keep his voice smooth, but he was blushing brightly.

Luke winked at Rosco, earning himself a hard backhand from Heath. Luke stared up at him, more confused than hurt, especially when Rosco flinched in shame.

"Are you paying attention now?" Heath asked sharply.

"You got my attention," Luke admitted, licking his split lip.

"Good boy," Heath praised, patting his cheek. "You see, I have a point to make to Rosco. When I was arrested, as you prefer, Rosco would never have dated someone who broke the law. He was so righteous back then...self-righteous, even. He held law and order in such high esteem."

"That's a good quality in a lawman," Luke reasoned.

"Hardly," Heath sneered. "Naivety and blind goodness are foolish. It's sheer ignorance of human nature. I think our sheriff has learned some hard lessons in that area, don't you?"

"I ain't apologizing to the likes of you!" Rosco said harshly, his heavy eyebrows pulled low over his eyes.

"I don't want no apology!" Heath scoffed.

"What do you want?" Luke asked, impatiently. "Is baiting Rosco your way of torturing us?"

Heath blinked, then gave a slow, sly grin.

"Well, I'll be fiddled. Rosco, you've been keeping secrets. I figured you'd have let that cat out of the bag, by now," Heath gloated. "What do I want? I want Rosco to kill you."

Luke stared at Heath, bewildered and shocked.

"What makes you think he would ever do that?" Luke asked.

"I'd like to know that myself," Rosco agreed.

"It's been a dream of mine for a very long time," Heath said. "See, before I got caught, Rosco was my lover."

Rosco flinched, his head hanging in shame, before he lifted his eyes to Luke.

"I didn't know. I should've, but I didn't."

"Of course, you didn't," Luke said soothingly. "Is that what you meant? Heath let something slip to you?"

Rosco nodded, but Heath laughed, scoffing.

"I didn't let anything slip. I thought he'd listen to me and join me. We were in love!"

"I never loved any killer."

"You messed up and he caught you," Luke said, proudly.

"Ah, but that was then and this is now," Heath said smugly.

"I might take a bit of money unfairly, but I still ain't no killer. I wouldn't hurt anyone, much less Luke."

Heath moved behind Rosco, bending to whisper in his ear.

"You've had a taste of corruption. You just have to let go a bit more. I forgive you for having others. You want the boy? You can have him. I don't want him myself, but that's all right. You can use him and then we'll kill him. Together."

"I don't kill," Rosco whispered.

"Don't you?" Heath asked. "What happens to the people Hogg evicts and forecloses on? Some of them surely go from bad to worse. You kill bloodlessly, Rosco. Let me show you how satisfying blood can be."

Rosco gaped at Heath in horror.

"That ain't true."

"Ain't it? Do you keep track of what happens to those people?"

"The Dukes do," Luke interrupted. "You're from Hazzard. You should know we take care of our own. Rosco certainly knows it."

"Oh, yes, the small town, where everyone knows everyone else's business," Heath said with contempt.

"Why did you even come back to Hazzard?" Rosco asked sharply.

"I came back for you!" Heath snapped back. "You've abandoned your lofty post of justice and morality. We can be together now."

Rosco shook his head.

"It ain't like that. Sure, I'm angry and mostly I reckon Hazzard owes me a debt. I don't wish no harm on anyone, though. I'm not like you. I never was and never will be."

"Well, we're going to find out," Marvin promised him. "One way or another, you're gonna help me with Luke."

Rosco shook his head, vehemently.

"I won't! Marvin. I--I love him."

"That's just more reason for me to kill him. I don't like having a rival."

"We're not rivals. He doesn't want you," Luke said shortly, losing patience.

Rosco flinched.

"Luke. You're in a situation, where being smart could literally get you killed."

"He plans on doing that anyway," Luke protested.

Heath walked over to the kitchen table and drew a skinning knife from his duffle bag. Luke watched him approach, sickened by the lustful gleam in Heath's eye. Heath licked his lower lip, as he pressed the knife against Luke's chest. In a short, strong move, Heath made a shallow cut through Luke's shirt and the upper layers of his skin, watching avidly as the blood oozed out. Luke gritted his teeth, refusing to cry out in pain.

"NO!" Rosco shouted, angry and terrified for Luke. "Marvin, don't!"

Heath responded by grabbing Luke's shirt and cutting away the buttons, exposing Luke's chest. He made another shallow cut down the young man's sternum. Luke couldn't help wincing, hissing just a bit. Smiling, Heath leaned down and licked away some of the blood. Luke moaned in disgust.

"I can see why he wants you," Heath said, hungrily, rubbing the first cut with tender pride.

"This isn't impressing me!" Rosco said scathingly.

Smirking, Heath pinched one of the cuts, covering his fingers with blood. He walked over to Rosco and smeared the blood across the sheriff's mouth, making him cough and sputter. Heath grabbed a handful of Rosco's hair and shoved the knife to his throat.

"Lick your lips," Heath ordered, softly, pressing just enough to lightly nick Rosco's skin.

Rosco obeyed, groaning in distaste. Heath shook his head in fond contempt, stroking Rosco's hair.

"A cop with no killer instinct. You really did choose the wrong profession. Is your boy as pure and innocent as he seems?"

"Nope," Luke denied, coldly. "If I can, I'm gonna kill you."

Heath laughed, continuing to pet Rosco, who shuddered in disgust.

"To protect others from me?"

"Maybe a little," Luke said, simply. "Mostly, for hurting Rosco."

"Yes, good!" Heath said, happily, turning to face Luke. "A blood game, with Rosco as the prize!"

Luke's gorge rose at the thought, but he forced himself to nod.

"If you want a real game, you'll have to untie me."

"Why should I?" Heath asked, dryly. "Right now, I have all of the advantages."

"It's not exactly a game, if you win, before it even starts. Come on. Make it interesting."

Heath considered, then nodded.

"You give your word as a Duke, that you won't attack, while I'm releasing you. You want a weapon, you got to get to it. Agreed?"

"You got my word," Luke promised, grimly.

Rosco flinched, twisting his wrists inside the rope binding him. Grinning, Heath stepped forward and released Luke. Luke stood slowly, as Heath backed away.

"Come get me, boy," Heath taunted.

Luke looked around the kitchen. In order to get to the knife drawer, he would have to turn his back on Heath. That would get him dead. The bag on the table seemed to be his better bet. He'd still have to deal with Heath, but at least it would be head on. Heath gave a snide chuckle.

"Take your time, Luke. You don't have long left."

"You hush that talk!" Rosco snapped, making Heath laugh.

Luke didn't bother commenting. He picked up his chair and swung it at Heath in a wide arc. Heath dodged underneath Luke's swing, coming around to his side, keeping himself between Luke and Rosco. He used his knife to make a small nick in Luke's arm, just enough to sting badly. Luke dropped the chair and swung swiftly around, landing a hard punch to the side of Heath's face.

Rosco felt a burst of pride for Luke, that blossomed into triumph. The sheriff freed one hand from Heath's rope and jumped to his feet. Rosco took the rope in both hands and flung it over Heath's head, pulling it tight. Heath raised the knife to slash at Rosco, but Luke moved quickly. He grabbed Heath's knife arm, twisting the wrist, until the knife dropped. Heath continued to struggle, so Luke gave a hard punch to his gut. Stepping back, Luke looked at Rosco's face, seeing it twisted into a mask of pain and anger. He was glad to see Heath taking in painful breaths.

"Get the cuffs on him, Luke," Rosco instructed.

Luke obeyed, dragging Heath's arms to one side, while behind him, so Rosco could keep his grip on Heath's throat. Once the cuffs were in place, Rosco threw Heath to the floor, away from the table. Heath lay on the floor, laughing.

"See? Wanting to kill is easy, darlin'."

Luke barely resisted the urge to fall on the old man and beat him bloody. Rosco's hand on Luke's arm helped.

"I didn't want to kill you, just to protect Luke," Rosco said calmly. "I love him, like I loved you, before I found out what you are."

"So, he's just criminal enough to interest you, while being honest enough to soothe what's left of your conscience?"

"You see it however you want," Rosco said dismissively, striding over to the phone and calling Cletus.

Luke stood watch over Heath, until Cletus and the other officers arrived. They got Heath under arrest and took him away to the Hazzard jail. Luke's cuts were superficial, so he avoided having to see a doctor. He sat next to Rosco on the porch of the house, as Cletus drove off with Heath.

"No one ever realized you had dated Heath?" Luke asked, surprised at the idea of Rosco managing to keep such juicy news secret.

Rosco shrugged, uncomfortably.

"When Heath was convicted...it never came out at his trial. And after, all talk stopped. People wanted to forget. No one ever mentioned it and they kept electing me. I don't know. Part of me wonders, though, if that wasn't part of what turned them against me."

"Rosco," Luke scolded gently. "If they had turned against you, why would they keep electing you?"

"If they didn't, why did they take my pension?" Rosco retorted.

Luke slipped an arm around Rosco's waist, placing a soft kiss on his jaw.

"People are more foolish than malicious. I think most of them just couldn't see you retiring, so figured the money could be spent elsewhere."

"That's ridiculous!" Rosco protested. "Is that why you voted against me?"

Luke shook his head, tightening his arm in a hug.

"I voted for you to keep your pension. Seemed like the right thing to do. I can't see you retiring, though. You've been sheriff for most my life. The idea of you walking away from it is just...weird."

"Well, I ain't getting any younger," Rosco said dryly, placing an arm around Luke's shoulders.

"Maybe," Luke chuckled. "I always figured you'd live to be old as Methuselah."

"What makes you think that?" Rosco asked, confused.

"Simple. You know dang well, if you die, they'll take your badge away and you ain't about to let that happen."

"Luke!" Rosco said, laughing, sputtering as he tried to find a comeback.

"Hey, Rosco?" Luke interrupted, grinning.

Rosco turned to face him and Luke tugged him into a kiss. Rosco pulled away with a sigh of reluctance.

"Luke...how are we gonna do this? Even if the town accepts it, we still gotta worry about Boss and your family."

"My family knows I like guys. They'll support us. I think the town will, too, if we can get Boss on board."

"How do we do that?"

"I was hoping you'd know. I've never tried to appease him before, really."

"Let's just keep it secret, for a couple of weeks. That'll give us time to think of something."

"All right," Luke agreed, knowing their relationship could potentially destroy other areas of Rosco's life.

"Thank you," Rosco said, a bit relieved.

"I love you," Luke said, with plain honesty.

Keeping a new love secret is exciting, but difficult. Like all new lovers, Rosco and Luke couldn't resist kissing and touching. They were well aware of the looks they got, when they found excuses to hide around corners and in shadows. Fortunately, they found a few places, where they could be completely alone, like the Duke's barn...and Rosco's office.

Luke was glad Rosco's office at the courthouse had a sturdy lock on it. He settled onto Rosco's lap, pulling the sheriff into a deep, illicit kiss. Rosco responded eagerly. They'd barely seen each other the day before. He was looking forward to a solid hour alone with Luke. Unfortunately, Rosco wasn't used to locking his door during the day, yet. The door swung open, startling the lovers and freezing them in place.

"What do you two think you're doing?" Boss demanded, scandalized, from the doorway. "Rosco! Get away from that criminal!"

Rosco glanced from Luke to Boss and back, his eyes wide and worried. Luke gave his lover a comforting squeeze, before standing up and approaching Boss Hogg.

"Boss. You need to calm down," Luke said evenly.

"I don't need to do nothing, Duke boy!" Boss snapped, angrily, waving his cigar in Luke's face. "That's my sheriff and brother-in-law and, if he knows what's good for him..."

"He knows that better than you do," Luke interrupted, impatient. "You don't control his personal life."

"Oh, don't I?" Boss asked, scoffing. "Well, I say..."

"I don't care what you say," Luke told him. "I care about Rosco. I love him and I'm tired of watching him writhe on your hook!"

Rosco watched, nervously, shifting a bit with indecision. Part of him was worried and thought he should interfere and defend Boss. On the other hand, no one had ever stood up for Rosco like this before and he was grateful for it. It didn't seem right to interrupt. Also, it was funny watching Boss' face turn colors!

"He ain't on no hook!" Boss said, indignant and mocking. "He ain't got much sense, but he's got enough to do what he's told!"

Shame and anger flooded Luke's gut with fire. A month ago, he'd have mocked Rosco for being Boss' bird dog. Now, he just felt protective.

"Don't insult him to me, Boss," Luke ordered quietly. "I ain't gonna listen to you trash talk him. You do and you're risking a black eye or two."

Boss stared hard, shocked at Luke's anger. He edged back a bit.

"Rosco, he's threatening me! Do something!" Boss said, unable to keep fear out of his voice.

"I can't hardly fight my lover, Boss. That wouldn't be right."

"Wouldn't be right?!" Boss protested.

"Boss," Luke interrupted, impatiently. "You just be civil and we won't have a problem."

"Wellll. Here's a switch," Boss drawled, holding his hands up in mock surrender. "I suppose your family's got no issue with you dating the local law?"

"They're okay, so long as I don't try and coax him into a uniform."

"I'll wear a uniform for you, Rosco," Luke offered, teasing, then winked. "Only in private, though."

Rosco blushed, giving a helpless laugh, that sounded embarrassingly like a giggle. Boss rolled his eyes, considering just leaving.

"Rosco, I ain't gonna say anything more," Boss said sternly. "You just better make sure this...fling don't interfere with your work!"

"This ain't a fling and it won't," Rosco retorted, then added coolly, "so long as that work don't involve conning people and trying to put the Dukes in jail."

"You're going honest again?" Boss cried in dismay. "Rosco, you do that and I'll fire you AND divorce your fat sister!"

"Really?" Luke asked, unimpressed. "Well, I guess me and Rosco better go and let her know to start packing."

Rosco and Boss both turned stunned gazes on him.

"Well, if you're gonna do that, I'd rather have it broke to her gently," Luke reasoned. "It'll be hard enough on her, without you telling her in a dudgeon."

Boss turned on Rosco, who just frowned, keeping quiet. He figured Luke was up to something and the boy really was clever. Maybe he thought Boss wouldn't do it? Rosco had his own doubts about that, but he'd never wanted to risk hurting Lulu. He knew Boss really would fire him. He'd done it before. Of course, that one time, Boss had been hurt, thinking Rosco had betrayed him. Then again, there was the robot sheriff incident...

"Of course, she may turn the tables and divorce you, when she learns how you're treating Rosco," Luke added, fighting not to smile.

"Now, wait just a second!" Boss cried, realizing the Duke boy was perfectly capable of doing what he threatened. "Let's not be hasty."

"Nah, I wouldn't want to do that," Luke agreed. "I figure even an honest sheriff has to be better than the clowns you hired, whenever Rosco has gone out of town. Right?"

"Yeah, yeah," Boss agreed, hastily. "They were horrible. Rosco's the best sheriff around. Y-you know I wouldn't do him no harm."

"I hope not," Luke said coldly. "You have fired him before. I can't imagine Lulu was very happy about that."

Boss shuddered dramatically.

"She wasn't," he admitted. "All right, all right! I won't do none of that, but he won't be getting any cuts of my money, either!"

Rosco grimaced, but nodded. He'd expected that. After all, if he wasn't doing Boss' work, then he couldn't take Boss' money. Had it ever been worth it? Even with the illegal cuts, he barely made ends meet.

"You just let me and Rosco worry about that," Luke told Boss.

"You do that," Boss agreed, walking away.

As soon as Boss cleared the doorway, Luke shut the door and locked it. He turned back to Rosco, who smiled sheepishly.

"I'm sorry, Luke. I should've remembered to lock the door."

Luke shrugged, with a grin.

"It's okay. We had to have that talk sooner or later," Luke said, perching on Rosco's desk, in front of him.

"Yeah, just...please, don't hit Boss," Rosco pleaded. "I know he riles ya, but he could throw you in jail for that and I'd have to do it."

"I won't," Luke promised, reluctantly, then gave a wicked grin. "Though, that could be a lot of fun, too."

Rosco blinked a bit, then his jaw dropped.

"Lukas K. Duke, we ain't having sex in my jails!"

"Why not?" Luke asked, chuckling.

"Well, we'd get caught for one," Rosco said shortly. "And them bunks are dang uncomfortable."

"Yeah, but it'd be a good time for me to try on that uniform for you," Luke coaxed.

"I think you're getting our roles mixed up," Rosco said, dryly, pulling Luke back onto his lap and squeezing his ass. "You're the naughty one."

"Uh huh," Luke agreed, waggling his eyebrows, while grabbing Rosco's tie and pulling him into a kiss.

Rosco moaned as the taste of Luke's mouth poured over his lips and onto his tongue. Money be damned. He was an honest cop again and had a lapful of his favorite Duke. He'd never been happier.

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