This story begins in 1987, which is 2 years after Season 7 of the series ends (and long before the 1st Reunion movie...just pretend that never happens, although there will be some canon from it).
Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time...
"I met a thief along the road,
his face he did not show.
He stole a priceless gift from me,
but what, I do not know."
Beneath a sky of deep and azure blue, the autumn winds swept down over northern Georgia from the Appalachian foothills. They shook the leaves of the oaks and ash, which had just begun their metamorphosis from green to brown, stopping momentarily at brighter shades in between.
The weekend of October 23rd brought a wealth of visitors to the town of Hazzard by way of the annual Hazzard County Fair. Families from neighboring counties too small to host a fair of their own bustled into their vans and station wagons and parked in cornfields, eager to spend their money and eat fried foods.
Daisy surveyed the crowd milling about about the square as she pulled Dixie over to the curb.
"Uncle Jesse, are you sure you don't want me to stay with you?" she asked. "I'm just going to Capital City for some groceries, and I can put that off until the boys get here."
"No baby," he said, patting her shoulder. "You go on. I'll be just fine here by myself." He picked up the heavy stock pot from where it rested on the floor between his feet, and an aroma of spice and gamey meat came with it. "I'm gonna take this chili to the judging tent, and then head over to the craft barn. I've been mighty excited to see what the kids from the orphanage have come up with this year."
"Oh, me too, Uncle Jesse! It was so nice of Doc Appelby to buy all those art supplies for them." Those kids had a way of worming themselves into Daisy's heart; after all, she and the boys might have ended up there if Uncle Jesse hadn't taken them in. "Alright then, if you're sure you'll be okay."
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he assured her. "You go on. You ain't been over to Capital City since last Christmas, and they've put a fresh coat of paint on the main street buildings. Looks real nice."
"Okay, I'll check it out." She watched him manuver himself out of the Jeep, wincing when he faltered and adjusted his grip on the door frame. Once safely out, he turned back to take the pot.
He smiled as she waved and drove away, turning her attention back to the road with a troubled sigh. When she had enrolled at the University of Georgia the previous fall, she'd been naive enough to think that everything at home would stay the same; that she would come back and slip into her place, like a missing puzzle piece.
Time, however, had a way of getting past her while she was down in Athens. There always seemed to be a test to study for, or another project to finish, or a friend who needed a tutor. The weeks had turned to months without her coming home to visit.
The changes in Uncle Jesse concerned her, even though the boys brushed them off. Last week, he'd fallen climbing up the steps to the porch (just tripped on a pine cone, he'd assured her) and banged his knee. Doc Appleby had checked him over, and cleared him of anything worse than a bruise and damaged pride, but to Daisy, who hadn't seen him since the summer, he seemed noticeably slower.
She was on Sand Creek Road, cutting south towards Highway 20 when she spied the white fender of Cletus' patrol car poking out from behind a stand of scrub brush. She pulled over and got out, closing the door softly. It had been a long time since she'd seen anyone in Hazzard but her family, and scaring Cletus was one of Hazzard's favorite pastimes. True to form, his head was lolling on the frame of the open window. He snored loudly.
She leaned down next to his ear. "Cletus!"
"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" His head smacked up against the top of the door, knocking his hat askew to cover his eyes. By the time he'd righted it, she had flattened herself against the rear door, out of his line of sight. He looked out the window across from the car and up towards the road. "What in the world?!" he whispered to himself. "I gotta stop eating them pickled turnips Lulu gave me."
"Cletus," laughed Daisy, walking back to his window, "you wouldn't know if I was speeding or not, sleeping out here like that."
"Daisy!" He pulled the latch on the door and climbed out, adjusting the belt under his generous belly. "You caught me," he confessed, with a happy blush. "I was napping. So you're back in Hazzard for the fair, huh? When didja get in?"
"Yesterday. I'm sorry, Cletus. I just had to scare you once for old time's sake."
"Oh shucks, Daisy," he said, shyly, looking down, "you can sneak up on me anytime you like!"
She shook her head. Poor Cletus. Although he'd forgiven her for tricking him into thinking that she was in love with him years ago, she suspected he thought she was just playing hard to get. Better to let him think it, though. It didn't cause any trouble, and it usually meant he was too flustered to remember Rosco had standing orders to arrest any and all Dukes without cause at all times.
"Oh Cletus," she simpered, "you're so sweet." She thought about giving him a kiss on the cheek but decided against it.
"Aww...," he brushed away her praise. "So, how's school going? I heard you were at the top of your class! At least that's how your Uncle Jesse tells it."
Now it was her turn to be embarrassed. She had done well, but she felt uncomfortable spreading it around. It was already the first thing people asked about. "I didn't do too bad," she admitted. "I can't believe I'm a sophomore already!"
Cletus' radio crackled to life. "Cletus? Cletus, come back."
"I'd better get that, or Rosco'll think I was sleepin' again." he told Daisy, but made no move towards it, continuing to smile snappily at her.
"It was great to see you, sugar," she said, stepping forward and giving him a quick hug. He smelled of breath mints and sweat.
"Cletus, you'd better not be sleeping again, you numbskull, or I'm gonna make you official judge of the rattlesnake chili cook off this year!"
Cletus' smile faded, and he paled noticeably. "I'd better get that."
"Bye, Cletus. Tell Lulu I said 'hi'."
"I will, Daisy!" He waved as she turned to leave. "See you later!"
Capital City was not so much changed that she wouldn't recognize it, but she had to admit anything was an improvement. The city was three times larger than Hazzard, located at the southwestern corner of Drexel County, and had suffered from corrupt mayors for decades; long enough to drain the treasury dry and drive all the good jobs away. The post office, courthouse, and library each sported a fresh coat of white paint, though the roof of the post office sagged at both corners.
Like a clown's frown, she thought, then rolled her eyes at herself. "You have been studying way too hard, Daisy Duke."
Studying wasn't her problem, though, it was her solution. It kept her from thinking of things she didn't want to think about, and she knew it. Damn the torpedoes, mister, full speed ahead! It was when she had nothing to do that her mind began creeping back to the past. She swiped at a drop of Uncle Jesse's rattlesnake chili where it had dripped onto the passenger's seat.
Speaking of past snakes, she wondered where her ex-husband had slithered off to these days. Her stupidity still amazed her even two years later, and she vowed again, as she had vowed to herself a hundred times since he'd run off, that she would never, ever, let herself be suckered into falling in love again.
Last summer, sitting alone on what should have been the evening of their first anniversary, she realized that something had to change. She was thirty-two years old, too old to go waiting on her prince charming to come and sweep her off her feet, and if she stayed in Hazzard, pouring beer at the Boar's Nest, she was going to turn into a bitter, old woman some day. Better to be an old woman with a college degree and a career.
Bo, Luke, and Uncle Jesse had been all smiles and encouragement when she brought up the idea of going to college, and she suspected they knew as well as she did that she needed to get out of Hazzard. After a rough couple of months, they had even learned to keep house - at least better than while she'd been a deputy.
Thinking of Hazzard deputies brought him to mind, and she instantly scrubbed out that line of thinking. She'd cry, and that wasn't on her agenda for today. There were better things to do than get caught up in self pity. After all, she had tried to apologize, and it wasn't her fault that he wouldn't return her calls or that all her letters came back stamped 'UNDELIVERABLE'.
Two hours later, her grocery shopping was finished and she headed back down Highway 20. She had just crossed the county line when the call of 'Lost Sheep to Shepherd' came over the CB.
She picked it up. "Lost Sheep, this is Bo Peep. Uncle Jesse's over at the fair. Is there something I can help you fellas with?"
"Uh, well... I reckon you can, Daisy," Bo said, with some hesitation. "Meet us at the Old Mill down Eagle Bluff Road in ten minutes."
"I'll be there with bells on," she said, grateful for a distraction. Maybe Rosco had thought up some scheme against them for old times sake. Since Boss Hogg had passed away, the county's funds had gone up and corruption had gone down, but the sheriff still made up phony, trumped up charges against Bo and Luke on occasion. Mostly when there was nothing else to do.
The General Lee was already parked outside the mill by the time she arrived and, to her dismay, Hazzard #1 sat beside it. She grinned, thinking that something interesting must be going on for Rosco to be on their side today.
The rotten, wooden slat door hung off one hinge, and it squealed and scraped the dirt as she pulled it open. Inside, Bo, Luke, and Rosco were hunkered over a folding map of Hazzard County which lay stretched across a crate. She slipped in between Rosco and Bo.
"Hey fellas, what's going on?"
Luke looked up at her and shook his head. "It seems some of Boss's old friends came by and robbed the Boar's Nest."
"Ouuu geet!" exclaimed Rosco, the fringe of his gaudy epaulets bouncing as he shook his fist. "When I get my hands on those dirty crooks, I'm gonna cuff 'em and stuff 'em!"
"Thing is," said Bo, "Rosco changed the combination since Boss used it, so they cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered a tow truck crane in and took the whole dang safe instead!"
Daisy didn't quite see how that was possible, but you never could be too sure in Hazzard.
"They haven't left the county, yet," said Luke, "so there's still time. Arthur Sills saw their truck while he was junk hunting earlier. He says they're holed up at the old Dickerson place north of Partridge Farm." He stabbed his finger at a dark, grease spot on the map. "I figure if we all show up at the same time, it'll be easy to flush them out. Maybe they'll give up without a fight."
Partridge Farm was northeast of the Duke Farm, almost to Hollister, in an area Daisy wasn't very familiar with. "That's way up there, Luke," she said. "I sure hope you fellas know where you're going, 'cause I sure don't!"
Luke glanced over at her and nodded. "If we get split up, you follow Rosco. We'll meet again back at the Boar's Nest if we don't catch them."
"Sounds good, Luke."
He folded the map and put it in his pocket as they left the mill; Bo and Luke in the lead, followed by Daisy and then Rosco bringing up the rear. The dust flew back from the tires of the General Lee, spraying grit in Daisy's mouth, and she dropped back far enough to keep it out of her eyes.
As they passed the turn off to Partridge Farm, a blue sedan cut across their path, barely missing the General, and sped off down Ridgerunner Road to their left.
"That's one of 'em!" shouted Rosco over the radio. "I seen him playing lookout at the Boar's Nest!"
"Daisy, you and Rosco follow that sedan," said Luke. "Me and Bo'll keep going to the Dickerson Place."
"I read you loud and clear, Luke."
"That's a 10-4," said Rosco.
Daisy cut the wheel, sending Dixie's rear tires sliding around in a hail of gravel until she faced Ridgerunner Road, then took off with Rosco following close behind her. From her rear view mirror, she noticed him weaving crazily from one side of her to the other and wondered what on God's green earth he was doing.
"Daisy, wouldja get outta the way?" he spat over the radio. "I'm the superior officer here, and I'm gonna take the lead!"
She picked up the receiver. "No way, Rosco! I don't want a mouthful of dust. Don't worry, I'll let you 'cuff and stuff' them when I catch them."
Catching them would be easy, but she worried that stopping them might be nigh impossible. A steep ridge bordered the road to her right and a cavernous ravine fell off to her left. She wouldn't be able to get beside their car, and she didn't want to bump them and cause either of them to lose control. Ridgerunner Road had claimed the lives of scores of bootleggers and drunken teenagers, and once you flipped your car over the side, you could pretty well start trying on robes and halos.
The billowing dust blinded her as she closed in on the sedan, and there was a hairy moment when the Jeep fishtailed and the tires slipped on loose gravel at the edge of the road. The steering wheel shuddered in her hands before the wheels caught traction again, and she glanced to her left at the steep drop off. At last, the dirt road turned into blacktop, and she breathed a sigh of relief as the dust cleared and Dixie's tires grabbed the pavement.
Ahead, the ravine grew shallow and the afternoon sunlight flickered like a million candles off the surface of Crockett's Pond.
She heard Rosco shout a warning over the CB at the same time she saw the man in the back seat swing a gun out the driver's side window and fire.
Glass chips grazed her cheek and she squeezed her eyes shut as two white circles appeared in the passenger's side window. She slammed on the brakes, praying Rosco wouldn't rear end her, and the sound of the third shot was lost in the chaos as her left front tire exploded.
The steering wheel jerked violently out of her hands as the left side of the front axle smashed into the road, and then came a sickening feel of weightlessness as the CJ-7 flipped.
Time moved in slow motion around her, held aloft upside down as the ground became her sky. Long enough for her to whisper a prayer for her family and wonder how they would find Enos to tell him she was-