Part Three – Chapter Eight (90):
Hazzard, Georgia – April 19, 1998
Daisy and Turk stood beside his rental car, a little too close for Luke's comfort. Watching them from Emily's second-floor bedroom window, he said, "Those two look thicker 'n thieves."
"Told you something was brewing there," Sophie said, while she reluctantly folded Emily's pajamas into her aqua unicorn backpack.
The image of Daisy flying off to L.A. at the drop of a hat to explore her relationship with Enos hit him like a foul ball. Enos Strate and Turk Adams were both cops, through and through. Luke already had a bone to pick with one of them. The other had earned his resentment via guilt by association.
"That's not funny."
"I wasn't trying to be funny." She flipped up her brows with a stare that signaled he had better take her seriously. The debate over whether or not she and the kids should be packed off to Sarah Jane's house with Rosco had not gone her way...so far.
When Turk's car was beyond the fenceline, and Daisy headed into the house, Luke had started toward the landing when Sophie stopped him.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"To get Bo and Annie out of Caleb's room so he can pack."
"Oh no, you don't, Luke Duke. You stay right here 'til they're finished talking this out. Rosco can wait."
"The sheriff doesn't have to wait for us. We're not going."
Luke and Sophie had been so intent on each other, neither noticed Caleb standing at the threshold. Luke spun around and knelt in front of the boy.
"Your Mom and I think it would be best if she takes you and your sister away from the farm, just 'til we can sort some things out."
"Em's scared. She doesn't want to leave."
Emily appeared beside him, a sweater tightly clutched in her left hand, her right holding Caleb's arm in a death grip. Luke's heart dropped into his stomach when he saw the pitiful look on Emily's face.
"You make us leave, she's just gonna' be more scared," Caleb declared in as grown-up a voice as he could manage.
How many times at nearly the same age had Luke begged to be allowed to go on shine runs with Uncle Jessie?
Luke looked to Sophie for support but found none. "Caleb, it's hard to explain. If anything hap–"
"I'm nine, Luke, not stupid. I know what's going on. A Duke's in trouble and Dukes stick together. Isn't that what you're always saying? If you make us leave, does that mean we're not Dukes?"
The storms had passed, and none were expected over the next week. Daylight was waning into the sunset—light passing through the bay window spread into the room with a tangerine glow. It was warm and comforting–and all too calm.
No one was surprised when Luke announced that his wife and kids would be staying at the farm. Least of all, Bo, who'd sided with Sophie in the first place about sticking together. Luke took that with a grain of salt, thinking Bo was most likely trying to make points with Annie because she'd decided where she wanted to dig her foxhole.
Although discouraged, Rosco accepted the news without protest. His disappointment stemmed from a desire to reinforce Sarah Jane's notion he had a responsible side by taking the kids under his wing. Ironic that she, Daisy Duke, and his sister Lulu, were the only people in Hazzard who thought he had one. In truth, he'd become, much to his own surprise, attached the little rug rats now residing at the Duke farm, especially the boy.
When Caleb skipped school one day a couple of months back, Rosco had found him at the old cotton mill checking out the spinning and weaving equipment left behind when the place closed. Boy was a natural-born tinkerer if ever he saw one. They'd both spent the rest of the school day playing hookey.
"You should stay for supper, Rosco," Daisy said, lavishing him with attention as she had done for the last few months.
Luke and Bo both still scratched their heads at Team Daisy-and-Rosco. It was a bumfuzzling glitch in the matrix that was Hazzard.
"Thanks, Daisy, but I think I need to take a raincheck on that. I got a call from the State Police while ya'll were upstairs," he said to Bo and Luke, in no particular order. "They're settin' up roadblocks at all the major roads into Hazzard County."
"What about the backroads? There's twenty at least and more than that of old ridge runner roads," Bo said, leaning on the back of Annie's chair.
"We got that covered. Take care of you and yours. I'll take care of the rest of the county. Now, I gotta go."
Daisy took his arm and said, "I'll walk you out."
When they reached Rosco's patrol car, she asked, "I need to let Uncle Frank and Aunt Judy know they'll likely have company tonight. And, I thought since you don't have to take the kids to Sarah Jane's, it might be better comin' from you."
"I'll take care of it. Not sure how I'm gonna' explain it or how much I should tell 'em, though."
Daisy had to admit she'd faced the same dilemma.
He opened the door, then turned back to her, "You be careful, Daisy girl, you hear? If anything ever happened to you on my watch, Enos...well, the dipstick'd never speak to me again." He stared at his boots. "…an' I wouldn't be any too happy about it neither. B'sides, sounds like he has enough crap on his cracker."
"I know, Rosco, I'll be careful," she said and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Atlanta, Georgia – April 19,1998
Aaron handled the questions thrown at him by Special Agent Johnson as well as a nineteen-year-old could, or should be expected to. He'd been raised by cops. Navigating challenging situations and being acutely aware of the dangers of the job was ingrained. It was only when Enos walked into the security office at Hartsfield- Jackson ahead of Kate and FBI Agent Stewart that his composure faltered.
"Dad–" Aaron spurted out as he practically hurled himself into Enos's arms.
Enos drew him into a tight hug and waived Kate and Turk off when they saw him wince. Turk hadn't provided Aaron with any details of the operation in Turkey, so he wasn't aware of the bandaged, relatively fresh wound on Enos's left bicep.
Stewart and Johnson gave them as much time as feasible, then reminded Turk of the need to get back to the business at hand, i.e. getting Kate Broussard proper medical attention then to a safe house and locating Joseph Lance and Inez De Pina.
After releasing Aaron to Enos and Turk, as representatives of Interpol and the Los Angeles Police Department, respectively, Kate was escorted to Grady Memorial Hospital by Tim Stewart. Kate was hesitant to leave the safety of Enos's protection until he assured her he and Agent Stewart had worked together before when he was a sheriff's deputy, and Stewart was with the GBI. To Enos, it seemed less like twelve years and more like an eternity ago.
Enos and Aaron wanted to stay in Atlanta, so they could be close to the investigation. Turk had to convince him that wasn't the best idea by laying out the facts they had learned from the LAPD investigation in L.A.
"Mallory lobbied for his unit to be point on the investigation, with Thompson as lead detective," Turk said. "Major Crimes had no alternative but to stand down since Lance is one of their own. I wouldn't be surprised if they're all under intense scrutiny at the moment."
"You mentioned on the phone there might be some new developments," Enos said, looking through the case file of what was known so far.
"Maybe, when they've finished going through Lance's apartment and his car. Found it a few hours ago."
"Says here Lazzaro keeps a plane at an airport in Las Vegas."
"Which is no longer there. LVPD is trying to get some information out of the hangar crew, but so far, they haven't given up anything to confirm Lance or Inez were on the plane when it took off. But here's something interesting. Under a bunch of shell corporations, Lazzaro also owns a hangar at Partridge Field at the Finchburg City Airport and several in other states: Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma."
Enos mapped the states in his head, beginning at L.A. – to Las Vegas – to New Mexico – to Oklahoma.
"He's headed for Atlanta alright, but what connection does he have to Niki Lazzaro?"
"Well, that's the million-dollar question. And Thompson found the answer when he got a warrant for Lance's safety deposit box…which contained, among other informative items we can talk about later, Lance's birth certificate."
After Turk had given him a rundown of the picture Thompson had puzzled together, Enos was ready to go home to Hazzard. When they reached the Hazzard County line and passed through the State Police checkpoint, Aaron pulled a letter from his coat pocket and handed it to Enos.
"Mom wrote me this letter three days ago…to prepare me…"
Enos was hesitant to take it at first, but Aaron's expression convinced him he should. The letter wasn't a long one, and Enos was a little overwhelmed by what she had written. It began with, 'This is not going to be easy to hear…'
It went on to give an account of what Aaron's father had done and the evidence she had on Lazzaro that would be in the hands of the FBI 'by the time you read this…'
It ended with, '…you have your Uncle E to rely on. He is a good man who loves you. And I know you love him. Return the necklace to E and tell him he is the second-best thing that ever happened in my life.'
Aaron turned the envelope from which he had pulled the letter upside down over his palm. Out of it fell a gold chain with a Star of David pendant. Enos had given it to her to commemorate Aaron's Bar Mitzvah when he was thirteen.
Hazzard, Georgia – April 20, 1998
Long before sunrise, an umbrella of stars dotted the sky, and the only sound in the hills of North Georgia was the constant pulsating drone of insects. Crickets played the same nocturnal symphony in South Korea. Although it might require a bank loan to pay for the international charges, Enos was counting the minutes until he could call Soonie again for the third time since his plane landed in Atlanta.
Behind him, Judy Strate stood looking through the mesh of the screen door with a steaming mug in her hand, debating whether or not she should disturb the balance between her nephew and the night.
Enos's aunt was a tall thin, soft-spoken woman with only slightly graying hair. She looked younger than her sixty-nine years but not because she tried. Judith Huckabee came from people who lived simply, read the Good Book, had straight-laced upbringings, and repudiated the imbibing of alcohol in all its forms and manifestations. Marrying into a moonshiner family fifty years ago had ostracized her from her own kin but never from her roots. Because he loved her to distraction, Frank gave up the shine business when they got married. She persevered within the Strate family and its penchant for running stills, as well as from the law. She and Frank had not been blessed with children of their own. When Frank's brother Otis died, they suddenly found themselves the guardians of his teenage son.
The screen door creaked a little when she pushed it open, and the smell of fresh coffee slid with the night breeze in his direction. He moved the phone to his left side. Judy sat beside him on the top step in the dim light emanating from the small table lamp in the window.
Handing him the mug, she said, "I reckon you still like it with plenty of cream and sugar?"
"Yes, Ma'am," he said and took the coffee. "Lots of things've changed in my life in the last year, but that's not one of 'em."
"Some changes appear to go deeper'n others."
"I still have my Georgia twang."
"People in Korea might think that, but you and that boy both sound like California."
He had to admit that it was probably true for the people who lived in Hazzard who likely got their view of Californians from television and movie stereotypes, the same as how people in California got theirs about the South. Hollywood rarely portrayed the truth.
"Thank you for lettin' us stay here. Aaron needs to be somewhere people can't get to him."
That lieutenant friend of Enos's had warned them that news reporters might try to get access to Aaron. Judy felt in her bones there must be a deeper, more ominous reason to get Aaron out of Atlanta, but she decided not to explore it. 'Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit,'she thought.
"This is your home, Nephew. We're the ones should be thankin' you."
"My name might be on the deed, Aunt Judy, but this is your home. Yours and Uncle Frank's. Mine is seven thousand miles away with my family." If Enos could wish himself anywhere right now, it would be back in the small house with the funny looking roof in Goyang-si.
"It's a right nice family you have."
He smiled for the first time since his arrival while he drew the finger with Soonie's ring into his left palm and surrounded it with his right as if embracing her.
"I know you and me haddin' always seen eye to eye on some things," she said, regretfully, "maybe lots of things, but me and your Uncle Frank, we've always been proud of you."
"That…means a lot." He'd said it with sincerity but was most grateful his aunt and uncle had not asked a lot of questions.
Before pouring the coffee, Judy had checked on the boy her nephew brought with him. Aaron had fallen asleep at last. From what she and Frank had gleaned of the situation, it was not likely to be a restful slumber.
"The boy, Aaron. You been close for a long time?"
"Since he was eleven."
"Close to his mama, too, looks like."
"Yes, Ma'am. We've been through a lot together."
"And she's in bad trouble?"
All he could do was nod his head.
"Awful lot for a boy his age to be tryin' to handle, but I reckon you know a bit about that."
Enos nodded again, then looked at his watch. Two in the morning in Hazzard County. Five in the afternoon in the ROK. Soonie would be back from her twenty-two-week checkup, and Mizz Baek would have Gem fed.
"Man needs some privacy, Judy. Best let him be for a while." It was Frank at the screen door.
A few miles from the Strate farm, Daisy lay awake at 4:00 am listening to the same musical recitation of insects. Sliding from under the covers, so as not to awaken Annie sleeping next to her, she tiptoed downstairs. Emily had slept with Sophie. Luke and Bo had taken the twin beds in Caleb's room downstairs. They'd retrieved the rollaway bed from the attic for Caleb because he insisted he was old enough to help protect the family – and Luke was too overwhelmed by it to refuse.
Turk had been sitting vigil in rotation between the front and back porch throughout the night. The sight of him sitting there with his shoulder holster and Baretta under his leather jacket brought home to the Duke household how serious the situation was.
Knowing better than to sneak up on a cop like Jay, or Enos for that matter, Daisy turned on the light over the kitchen sink and made soft, non-threatening noises while she got the coffee pot ready.
When she came up behind him on the porch, he said, "Morning, Daisy. Did you get any sleep?"
"Some. How'd you know it was me?"
"Really? I heard your footsteps on the stairs and smelled your perfume as soon as you came down. I like the other one better. The one that smells like…what's that blueie-purplie spikey flower?"
"Hyacinth?" It was the only perfume she could remember wearing around Jay.
"Yeah, that smells good. The one you're wearing now reminds me of soap."
"That's cause it is soap, idiot." She chucked one of the swing's throw pillows at his head.
He feigned a duck and said, "That coffee for me?"
"It was, but I'm not so sure now."
He gave her the toothy grin he reserved for people he liked, and she handed him the cup. "One sugar, no cream."
"You know it," he said, taking a swig. "Can't drink that 'little bit of coffee in my cream' swill Enos drinks."
Before they could take the morning tete a tete any further into flirting territory, the fax machine modem signaled a transmission coming in. Disabling the phone tap on the landline had done two things: alleviated some of the stress on the Duke household, and allowed Turk to have a direct line to Thompson in Los Angeles.
A/N: 'Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.' – Ecclesiastes 7:8