Title: Merry Christmas ya'll!

Disclaimer: K, everybody knows I do not own the Dukes or the Hardcastle and McCormick charaters

Summary: A surprise Christmas gathering of old friends . A Hardcastle and McCormick /Dukes of Hazzard cross over. The time frame is while both shows were still on. McCrmick's still on Parole and the Duke boys are still on Probation.

Genres: Drama, Romance

Rating: T

Reason: Adult situations (Drinking, kissing, mild launguage.)

A/N: Being the Christmas season I thought this would be a fun look at a couple of shows, which is the way I intend it to be.

I have to 'bend' just a bit of actual history of one if not both shows in order to have a reason to get together on the same side of the country. If you are a true history buff of the shows like I am, I don't intend to offend anyone by this. Just set back with an open mind for this short story then we can all go back to the shows original back grounds. The main thing I'm changing is that Mark McCormick and Judge Milton Hardcastle had met before Mark ended up in his court for stealing the Coyote.

00000

Hardcastle was getting ready to call the airport for flight arrangements when he saw McCormick come into the study, looking at him with those puppy dog eyes. Hardcastle sighed, he knew the kid wanted something, "What is it McCormick?"

Trying to look innocent and failing miserably, McCormick began the practiced speech, "Judge, you know I've always hated flying."

"Well, this was as much your idea to go away for a quiet Christmas as it was mine." Hardcastle stated.

"Yeah, it was, but I was thinking, I'd really like to drive instead of fly." Mark had said the last part of this statement in almost a whisper.

"Come on McCormick, the Coyote is great but for that kind of a trip. We're talking over two thousand miles one way. I'd be lucky to walk when I got there and I intend to go do some fishing." Hardcastle argued, "Besides just how do you propose to get the luggage there?"

"I thought you could take it on the plane with you." McCormick said.

Hardcastle glared, "You can't just drive across the country alone. Remember you are still on Parole."

"I know that Judge, see I called to ask Frank about keeping a look out around here while we are gone. But, Frank wasn't home yet,"

Hardcastle just waited for the punch line in McCormick's rambling.

"See, it is the season of helping people and all right?

Hardcastle growled, "So what does this have to do with not flying, McCormick?"

"You see, Franks niece, Debbie ..."

Hardcastle corrected, "Detective Harper."

"Yeah, Detective Debbie Harper," McCormick raised his eyebrows at correcting the Judge, "Was hoping to go to Atlanta during the holidays to see some of her old friends, but you know the kind of money cops make." McCormick was trying not to push Hardcastle's buttons but it just came so natural to him. "So, I figured we could leave a couple days early and I'll be there waiting for you at the airport."

"Let me get this straight, she is willing to ride across the country with you instead of flying herself?" Hardcastle asked.

"Yeah, like I said she can't afford it. But, with what you were going to spend on a ticket and what she does have put up we should have it covered." Mark tried to sound convincing, but it came out as more of a beg.

"McCormick, just level with me. Why is it so important for you to drive instead of fly." Hardcastle asked.

McCormick looked down at his feet a full minute before looking the Judge in the eyes, "I've got friends back there, too. We used to race. I'd give anything to pull the Coyote up beside what ever they are driving right now." Mark looked off in memory, "The last time I saw them, I had this old Camero which was usually about five different colors. It took working on it six days a week to be able to race it on Saturdays."

Hardcastle looked at the kid, he could see how much this meant to him. They had worked well together for over a year now. McCormick had not only gained his trust in most situations, but had also backed him up on several occasions without even being asked to. Could he give this to him; yet, could he turn him down? "Can't you just take a picture with you?"

McCormick looked down, defeated, shook his head and walked off.

Hardcastle heard the front door shut very quietly a few seconds later. He reached for the phone. "Frank Harper, please." He said to the voice that answered. "Frank, it's Milt."

00000

After several phone calls, and much red tape the Judge sighed, loudly. It had taken almost as much to arrange this as it had to get the kid put into his custody to begin with. He went to the safe and took out an envelope, opened it, took out the extra credit card that he'd never canceled after Nancy died. He dug through his desk and found a small box, placed the card inside with some cash below it, and then managed to locate the Christmas paper McCormick had used the other night.

00000

McCormick had went out and stood looking at the Coyote for along while. 'Take a picture with you.' The Judge's words echoed in his mind. "Yeah, like standing behind those cardboard pictures with the face cut out to make you look like you were someone else. No, thanks!" He walked off to the gate house in a huff. "I've been Tonto for well over a year and he still treats me like I have to be watched twenty four – seven!"

00000

Hardcastle walked down to the gate house, opened the door unannounced, "Hey, McCormick, you hungry? I ordered pizza."

"Nah, that's alright Judge." McCormick looked up just long enough to see the Judge attempt to hide something. Now he was interested, "What are you trying, badly, to hide?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. I was just going to let you open your Christmas present over the pizza. With us being gone and all I thought it would be to hard to take with us."

Mark sighed, "Judge that package you got there doesn't look like it'd would take up much room on the plane. You know I have the window seat." He decided to call it now since it was obvious he'd not be taking the Coyote.

"Okay, you can have the window seat both ways. Now, just come on up and lets eat. As for the package," Hardcastle said as they walked to the house, "Haven't you heard that big things come in small packages."

Hardcastle mentioned as they reached the house, "I called the airport and got things all arranged."

McCormick let out an almost inaudible, "Okay."

They sat down to eat and the Judge pushed the small package across the table to McCormick. He knew the kid was brooding about not being able to take the Coyote. "Here, open this, I know it's not much, but ..., well just open it."

McCormick took a large bite of pizza as he reached with his other hand for the package. He took another bite before opening the present. "You sure you want me to open this now?" He asked shaking the package.

"Yeap, I'm sure." Hardcastle replied.

Mark always wanted to make opening a present last. He shook it again, turned it over several times examining it, then when he couldn't stand the excitement anymore, he used both hands, and ripped the paper eagerly. He paused just a second before opening the box. When he did open it, he saw inside a credit card with a still undetermined amount of cash under it. He looked up confused, "Ah, Judge, ah, thanks but what's ...?"

Hardcastle said, quietly, "You really shouldn't carry too much cash when you travel. Put the gas and oil on the card so you don't have to carry too much cash."

Still confused, Mark questioned, "Huh?"

"I'm flying out on Friday, so if you are leaving Wednesday,you've got a lot of work to do tomorrow." Hardcastle said still avoiding the fact he was giving in.

McCormick looked like he'd seen the real Santa Claus, as his eyes lite up, "Really? You sure you're okay with this?"

Hardcastle grumbled as he took a bite of pizza, "Just remember that doesn't cover speeding tickets or bail and Debbie had better not have to ask for any professional favors either."

00000

Tuesday evening, a familiar gray sedan pulled through the gate at Milton Hardcastle's.

Frank almost lost it when he saw McCormick bouncing toward the car.

"Evening Frank. Debbie, let me get your bags." McCormick said beaming. He walked to the trunk as Frank opened it, "What do you need for tonight and the trip? Like I told you the Coyote doesn't hold much in the way of luggage. I'll put the rest in the truck in the garage so the judge won't have to load and unload after we're gone."

Debbie had met Mark about three months ago and seen him a couple of times on scenes with her dad and the judge, but she hadn't ever seen him like this. She reached for a small duffel bag, "This is all I need. The other bag can go in the truck. I told you I travel light."

Mark smiled, "Yeah, you did. But, I've have threw my back out for a couple of girls who said the same thing." He teased.

"Well, I might want to warn you. It's one bag but it's heavy!" she laughed.

00000

After the bags were put in the truck and in the room upstairs where Debbie would be staying the night so she and McCormick could leave early in the morning, the four sat down to a dinner of pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy,steamed veggies, and roll.

Debbie finished he plate and looked at the judge, "That was great, Judge. You have a great cook."

McCormick said as he mopped up his gravy with a roll, "Thanks."

Debbie looked at the group in surprise, "No way. I thought you helped the judge on his cases."

"I do." Mark replied with a smile as he cleared the table.

00000

After coffee, Frank said, "Well, I'll keep a close watch on the place for you Milt, remember to set the alarms. McCormick, you had better take good care of my niece, she's the only daughter I have. And, you, keep him out of trouble!" He added to his niece.

He was rewarded by a course from the three of them saying, "I will."

Mark continued, "Hold up, Frank, I'll walk you out. I'm going to turn in. We'll both be awake when the judge starts shooting baskets. I'd like to be on the road by, say, seven?"

Debbie replied, "Not a problem. I can be ready to go in fifteen minutes.

"Great. Night Judge." Mark followed Frank out to his car.

Frank warned, "Don't make me have to come rescue you two."

"I sure hope not. I just plan to cruise all the way." Mark replied.

Frank raised his eyebrows, "You cruise faster than most people drive when they are in a hurry."

"I promise to be good." Mark waved, as he headed toward the gate house.

00000

Once in the gate house he checked his luggage that he'd put by the door. He was sure he had everything he wanted to take packed. Pictures and clippings from his California racing days, clothes, etc... He walked upstairs, took a look at the small bag he had packed for himself. As he turned down the bed he spotted the black bag that had been stored under the bed untouched except for rare occasions since he'd lived here. He debated the need for the bag, finally settling on the old boys scout motto of 'being prepared'. He wasn't at all sure how Debbie would feel about such tools of his former trade accompanying them but he did know how both the judge and Frank would feel. He sighed as he sat the bag on the chair at the small desk. He opened it and looked at the various items in the bag that all clearly screamed 'intent'. He re-thought the idea. Here he was trying to show the judge how much he could be trusted yet he was even considering taking the bag. He made his final decision in the matter as he reached into the bag on the front left hand side of the bag and pulled out a small black case. Opening it to insure that all his lock picking tools were there, he turned to his packed bag, placed them in a pocket of a pair of folded jeans deep in the bottom of the bag, closed both bags and tossed his bag of goodies back under the bed. He was only taking the lock picks as a security blanket. Mark turned off the light and got in bed. He knew he wouldn't fall asleep right away, it was still early, but he wanted to rest and relax before he started the long drive in the morning.

00000

All too soon he heard the basket ball hitting the backboard outside. Thinking he'd dozed off and that this was Hardcastle's nightly baskets he pulled the covers up and turned over only to see light coming through he window. He blinked and stretched a couple of times before heading to the shower.

Freshly showered, Mark grabbed his bag and jacket, then headed toward the house for coffee. He had passed on the combat basket ball both last night and this morning. McCormick stopped at the Coyote and placed the jacket and small bag in the little bit of room behind the seat. He wasn't disappointed to find Debbie and the judge eating toast and drinking juice and coffee. "Good morning Judge, Debbie." Mark almost sang. As he poured the last cup of coffee out of the pot, rinsed it and refilled the pot. After starting a new pot of coffee he began a search of the bottom cabinet for a thermos.

Debbie rolled her eyes and the judge, "Milt, don't tell me he's one of those guys who sets a course and doesn't stop except for gas."

Hardcastle nodded, "Afraid so. Remember, you are the one who wanted to travel with him."

"I'm not that bad, Judge. Don't scare her off." McCormick protested.

In less than an hour, after McCormick had heard all the judge's, dos and don'ts and be carefuls, at least fifteen times they were at last in the Coyote.

"Remember, I'll be in Atlanta noon Saturday. Call me or Frank if you have any trouble and ..."

"And be careful." McCormick smiled. "I will, Judge. Don't worry and I'll be in Atlanta at noon Saturday. Judge, thanks again for this."

McCormick statement said more than the words he had uttered.

Hardcastle watched as the Coyote disappeared down the drive, "Merry Christmas, kid. I'm counting on you."

00000

It was 9 pm Thursday night when an unusual car pulled up outside a brightly light road house not to far outside Atlanta, GA. Mark McCormick sat still for a minute taking in the view as he heard the music from within. About twenty cars and pickup trucks filled the parking lot. There was a wrecker there, a jeep, an old white pick up, a white Cadillac convertible, and an orange Dodge. He shook his head, only here would someone paint a car orange. Mark stretched before climbing out his window. For December it was warm here, he thought as he made his way to the front door. He stopped behind the orange Dodge for a closer look. It was a 1969 Dodge Charger and it had the racing number '01' on the side of the doors. He knew even here it was too late in the season to still be racing, but the car was tagged to be ran on the road. Then, Mark saw the top of the car. It had a Confederate Flag covering the entire top of the car with the name of General Lee panted over both doors. It had been a long time since he had been in this part of the country but only a few people he knew of had the nerve to drive a car like this and drive it on the road.

Mark entered the dimly lite bar. He walked in and just watched the crowd for several moments. The place hadn't changed in the years that he had been gone, except for the Christmas decorations hanging everywhere. Mark spotted the old friends he was looking for at a back table. At the bar, he ordered three beers from the bar tender wearing a Santa's cap, and made his way through the crowd. He stepped between the cousins chairs, set the beers on the table and said, "Merry Christmas!"

The older, dark haired cousin was the first to recognize him, "Mark McCormick! What are you doing here? It's been too long." Luke said barely taking a breath.

Bo smiled, "Mark, here pull up a chair. It's sure good to see you."

Mark told the line just like he'd rehearsed. It was enough for an opening, as he sat down. "I just got tired of the fast pace and decided to come out here for the holidays. Just get away awhile and come see some friends. Say are you fellows still doing any racing?"

Luke smiled, "Every chance we get. On and off road."

Mark took a sip of beer and asked, "Say, tell me, you wouldn't be driving a certain orange 1969 Dodge Charger would you?"

Luke replied, "That would be the General Lee, remind me to introduce ya to the old boy!"

Mark smiled, he had missed this, "It would be a pleasure." He said, without saying a word about the Coyote parked out front.

00000

Mark sat and listened to the music and the banner of small talk from the cousins as he took in the sights. The old place hadn't changed much though it had probably been remodeled several times since he left which had only been from necessity and probably most had been from fights that involved at least one of these cousins. Mark had had no trouble at all coming across country, and had called Hardcastle without being asked at every gas stop on the way. He had also called to tell him he was dropping off Debbie and heading for Hazzard. He figured with the time difference he still had several hours to call him from the hotel. He reminded himself that Hardcastle hadn't required such updates but it was something he had felt the need to do. As Mark began to relax, he realized that this was the most freedom he'd had since he had been being sentenced in Hardcastle's court for stealing his Porsche. He still was having a hard time believing that Hardcase had really let him do this. He still had a day and a half with no supervision; no guards, no parole officer, no Hardcase, at least until noon Saturday. Freedom. It was great! Then he realized, it was also just a little scary.

Bo broke his concentration, "Another?"

Mark saw Bo standing and looking at his near empty mug, "Ah, yeah. Thanks. Sorry guys, I must be tired from the drive."

"So, the last time we saw you you were heading to Florida. We got the post card shortly after you left, then a card and clipping from California when you got a ride on the circuit out there. Then, it was a couple years before the Christmas card last Christmas. Tell me, what's been going on? I bet you've hit the big time by now?" Luke asked eagerly.

Mark smiled a little weakly for someone who'd made it big and said, "Wait until Bo gets back. I think I can only tell this once."

Luke looked confused, "Okay, sure."

Bo returned shortly with a round of beers, "Ok, what did I miss?"

Mark replied, "Nothing, I waited until you got back." he finished his first beer and began, "Luke, Bo, it's a long story. I made it to Florida and hung out at a few tracks, did some pit crew work, some test driving. Nothing real steady, so I took a job," he sighed, knowing the opinion of the occupation in question, "repossessing cars. Now, I know what your gonna say..."

Luke interrupted, "Hey, we got stuck once trying to repossess a hot Rolls. We know how it can be."

McCormick knew there was a reason he'd liked these guys and had tried to keep in touch. "Thanks. Anyway, that didn't go really well, but I was able to meet some contacts at the tracks. Met this one guy who really gave me a chance and then gave me the opportunity to go to California with him. So I went. When I got to California, I met up with Filp Johnson and together we were taking the dirt circuit by storm. I was doing good. I'd made some money," he nudged Bo, "met this fine girl who I moved in with. I had it all and the money was good. So, I went out and bought a brand new Porsche, just off the lot. She was so sweet, only had eight miles on it when I test drove it."

Bo's mouth was watering as he listened to Mark's tale.

Luke was interested but was listening for the rest of the story.

Mark continued, "The payment wasn't bad and I had it all figured out; right up until I went to put insurance on it. Let me tell you, my driving record isn't the cleanest thing and being a young single male, well, the cost of full coverage was mind boggling. The only choice I could see to save some money was to put the car in my girlfriends name. Just being a female and her driving record knocked the cost down by half." Mark took a long drink of beer. "Things were good between us, so I went for it. I put the title and insurance in her name. Things were great for about six months. I made every payment on time or early, sometimes a couple payments at a time if I'd won big. ... Then, we got into it one night and I left with some guys from the track. I showed up the next day picked up my car and the next thing I knew I was being pulled over for stealing her car."

Bo said, "But, you were paying for it."

Mark nodded, 'yes'.

Luke added, "But, it was still in her name. You had receipts right?"

Mark replied, "Yes, I was paying for it, and yes, I had receipts. So, I go to court ready to prove it was my car. Luke, you'll never believe who the judge was!"

Luke replied, "How should I know? I've never been to California."

Mark replied, "You know this judge. Remember, when we were all up at the lake racing? By the time the State Police got there everyone was drinking and you and I admitted to racing to keep half the county out of jail or their parents from killing them?"

Luke nodded, "Yeah, everyone was under age too, except for you, me and Cooter."

Mark continued, "So you remember the judge?"

Luke thought for a minute then replied, "Yeah, a friend of Jesse's. Traveled through Hazzard, Chickasaw and Placid counties as needed for awhile. Those were the longest days of my life." Luke said as he remembered the tough judge that had put him and Mark in jail for racing. It had been the first time after they turned eighteen that they had been in trouble. Luke recalled it had also been the first time Jesse couldn't get him out of trouble.

"Well, at the time I would have agreed with you," Mark stated, "but, after going in front of him for Grand Theft Auto..."

Bo still was having a hard time with the information provided, "It was your car. You paid for it. Don't tell me he didn't see it that way."

This was still a bit of a sore spot for McCormick, as he replied, "He didn't see it that way. He sent me up for two years. I spent most of the next two years in San Quentin before I was paroled a little over a year ago.

Luke was pretty sharp and asked, "So you are on parole in California? How are you here?"

Mark took another drink of his beer and replied, "Yes, an that may be an even longer story. I met back up with Flip Johnson who had a new car he needed tested, he wanted me to drive it, but he was killed. His partner tried to take the car's design and all the profits. I sort of helped his daughter get the car back. I was seen in the process and ended up back in court. Three guesses who the judge was two days before he retired."

Luke replied, "Mark even we don't have that bad of luck to have the same judge three times in two states."

"Well, Luke, I did." Mark replied.

Bo asked, "Is there a Hazzard County out there too?"

Mark laughed, "I don't think so, Bo, but sometimes I wondered."

Luke asked, "So then what? Being on parole, I'd say you were in trouble."

"Yeah, I was in way deep, but Hardcastle made me an offer I couldn't refuse; help him indefinitely, and we'd go after Flip's killer first or go back to prison." Mark explained.

Luke said, "Well, I take it that you agreed to help?"

"I didn't have much choice; we did get Flip's killer and his daughter got the car back. And, I'll be picking up Hardcastle at noon on Saturday in Atlanta. He wants to do some fishing with your Uncle Jesse while we're here."

Luke asked, "So?"

Mark shrugged, "So, this is the first time in three years that I haven't had somebody breathing down my neck. Now, I'm not looking to mess anything up but that gives us a day and a half to let off some steam."

Mark caught the look Bo gave Luke before Luke began to speak.

"Well, we both know what you mean about not messing anything up. It seems we've had our own problems since you left," Luke paused, "We're on probation for running moonshine."

Mark's eyes went up with questions.

Luke replied, "Like yours, its a long story. How about staying at the farm tonight and we can get into it later. As for now, we're wasting that day and a half of yours."

00000

The evening proceeded with the guys drinking and swapping lies until last call. Daisy made her way over with three more beers, "Fellas, I'll trade you. I'll buy this round if you give me your keys and I'll throw in a ride home."

Luke and Mark being the older and more since able both agreed. Mark reached for his keys while Luke held out his hand for Bo to turn over the General's keys.

Bo being the youngest still protested, "Luke I'm fine. I don't want to leave the General here."

"I'd rather leave him here than to wind up in jail and then trying to explain to Jesse why we didn't." Luke said.

Bo saw Luke and Daisy holding their hands out for the keys.

Mark added, "Bo, come on I'm leaving mine here and I'm sure you'd like one more beer for the road."

Even Bo couldn't argue with logic like that and turned over the keys to Daisy.

00000

Once at the Duke farm Luke told Daisy, "I think we'll head out to the barn for the night so we won't keep you and Uncle Jesse up."

Daisy replied, "Okay, Luke. I'll tell Uncle Jesse where you all are in the morning."

Mark had almost forgot, "Daisy, can I use the phone before you turn in. I'd really like to let my friend know I made it here safe. I'll use my calling card."

"Why sure, Sugar. Come on with me." she smiled.

00000

It was almost eleven o'clock when the phone rang. Hardcastle had been getting a lot of calls at strange hours the past few days. He answered it on the second ring, "Hardcastle."

"Hey, I just wanted to let you know I'm here. I'm even saving money. I'm not at the hotel, I'm staying with my friends the Dukes. I'll see ya Saturday at noon in Atlanta."

Hardcastle noted the bit of southern accent and what he swore was a slight slur. "McCormick are you drunk?"

Mark wasn't what he'd consider drunk so he replied, "No, must just be tired from the drive."

Hardcastle reminded, "Now I was a judge there after Nancy died, I know that county is strange. Stay out of trouble until I get there, huh?"

"Not a problem. See ya Saturday." McCormick said.

There is was again, that 'ya' not you. Hardcastle shook his head, "Yeah, see you Saturday kid. Get some rest."

Mark replied, "You got it. Night." Then hung up the phone. "Thanks Daisy."

00000

In the barn, Luke had already pulled out sleeping bags and was digging in a far corner like he was looking for something when Mark returned.

Bo was attempting to arrange the barn for added comfort by moving hay bales around to block the chill of the night and to put the sleeping bags on for some cushion.

Mark asked, "Okay, what can I do to help out?"

Both cousins replied, "We've got it."

Luke returned a few minutes later with a mason jar full of clear liquid as Bo and Mark were getting comfortable.

Mark asked, "Luke is that what I think it is?"

"Sure is. A jar of Jesse's finest." Luke replied.

"Guys, I've already drank more since being here than I have at one time in years." Mark explained.

"Well, I'm not forcing ya." Luke added.

McCormick remembered the sweet taste of Jesse's moonshine from his last visit and though he wasn't a drinker he wasn't going to past on this special occasion, "No, you're not, but you sure know how to tempt a fella."

As Luke poured the second round, Mark asked, "Okay, so I told you what's been going on with me these last few years. It's your turn."

Luke picked up the conversation, "As you know when you left we were running shine pretty regular, well, one night we had out ran Sheriff Coltrane and crossed the county line only to be met by Sheriff Big Ed Little. So we turned tale and headed back toward Hazzard figuring Rosco to be home in bed by then. We were wrong. He was lucky." Luke said simply, then added, "Jesse agreed not to make any more shine if we were given probation instead of prison."

Mark raised his glass of shine, "I think I'll call him the next time I get into trouble."

00000

Friday morning dawned in Hazzard to find three slow moving guys coming out of the Duke barn and heading for the coffee pot.

Jesse turned to see the three enter the kitchen. "Well, Mark it's good to see you again. How's the racing circuit?"

McCormick shook Jesse's hand firmly and said, "It's good to see you again, too, Jesse. As for the racing circuit, well, I hit a little snag. As a matter of fact, that snag will be flying tomorrow and told me to tell you to get out your fishing pole." Mark saw the unasked question on Jesse's face and continued, "Judge Milton C. Hardcastle."

Jesse said with a smile, "Milt? Well, where did you two run into each other again?"

"Unfortunately, it was in his court room again." Mark said. "I was there for taking my car from my girlfriends house. The only problem was I had put it in her name to get the insurance cheaper. When we split up, I took the car, she called it in stolen and it was in her name."

"Well, I'm sure that Milt got it all straighten out." Jesse said as he poured a cup of coffee.

Mark sipped his own coffee and replied, "Yeah, he set me real straight on how that, legally it was her car, so he sent me to prison for two years."

Jesse said, "That just doesn't seem right."

Mark replied, "I've been trying to tell him that very thing for about over a year now."

Luke set his coffee cup down and said, "Well, Bo, we'd better get at it before breakfast."

Bo sighed, "Yeah, I guess we had better."

"Guys, I'll be glad to help earn my keep but I'm probably better at cleaning the pool than milking a cow." McCormick stated.

Luke and Mark had gotten to know each other pretty well the last time Mark had been through Hazzard County. It was amazing how well ya got to know a guy you shared a cell with even though it had only been a few days. So, Luke wasn't bashful at taking Mark's offer of the help, "I'm sure ya had to learn how to clean the pool once. Come one I'm sure we can find something for ya to do."

Even though Mark wasn't a country boy, he did help Bo and Luke do their morning chores before they headed for a shower and then to one of Jesse Duke's fine breakfasts.

As Daisy cleared the table, she said, "Uncle Jesse I've got to go to the store in a bit, so if it's alright I'll run the boys to town to get their cars."

"That'll be just fine. I'm going to be making sure that my fishing pole is in order. I'll give you a list of things I need for supper tomorrow night." Jesse then added, "Mark you and Milt will come for supper? And, you're both welcome to stay here with us while you're in."

Mark replied, "Thank you Jesse, but I think the Judge was planning on staying at the hotel. I just came out last night to get caught up on the news with the guys. We wouldn't want to interfere with your Christmas."

Jesse insisted, "Interfere my foot. Christmas is a time for friends and family. The more we have here the better. It's likely half the County will be here at one time or another Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Now, boys don't forget you have to get the wagon ready for the Christmas carols on Christmas Eve."

"We'll do that this afternoon." Luke replied, "Daisy after we bring the General back here can you give me and Bo a ride out to Mr. Smith's to pick up the horses? You can drop us off and we'll ride them back here."

Daisy agreed, "That'll be good I can drop you off on my way to work later. Let's get you to town to get the cars?"

00000

It had been dark last night and Bo and Luke had drank quiet a bit so they didn't notice the red sports car parked at the other end of the Boar's Nest lot.

Pulling into the Boar's Nest they saw a small crowd was around a red car.

Mark tried to hide his grin.

Bo let out a loud whistle, "I wonder who'd be driving a thing like that."

Luke replied, "I don't have a clue." But, he really thought he might, as he looked at Mark.

"Yeah, I bet that thing will sure run." Mark added.

Daisy asked, "What kind of car is that anyway?"

The four got out of the jeep and headed toward the crowd. Mark walked around the car acting as if it was the first time he'd seen it too.

Luke was the one to put it together when he saw the California tags, "So, Mark how fast does she run?"

"I'd say it'll run pretty fast." Mark heard that Luke thought he had it figured out but, he wasn't ready to let the cat out of the bag just yet.

"Come off it. Who else would be running California plates in Hazzard?" Luke questioned.

Mark smiled, "So, ya, got me on that one." then, he asked, "Say is the track at the fair grounds still open if there's nothing going on out there?"

Catching Mark's thought Luke said, "Yeeahh, it is."

Bo's reply was heard by the entire group, "Yeehaww!"

Mark's reply was, "I'll follow ya'll out to the track. Once we get out there the loser buys tonight."

Luke said as he climbed through the General's passenger window, "You're on see ya there!"

Daisy yelled over the General's engine, "Hey, fellas, wait until I get there and I'll start you."

Bo replied as he pulled out, "You got it!"

00000

The trip to the fairgrounds had been a speedy one though they had managed to keep from attracting the attention of Rosco or Enos.

Mark had forgotten how little it took to be a big deal in a small town. As he and the boys were waiting on Daisy, they saw car after car pulling into the fairgrounds to watch the unofficial race.

Luke said with a smile, "While we're waiting, you could at least let me look under that hood. You know me and Bo have kind of a reputation and the General Lee doesn't take kindly to loosing."

Mark replied as he went to the back of the car and opened the engine compartment, "Neither does the Coyote."

Luke let out a whistle of his own. "That's an engine."

"This car was a prototype of Flip Johnson's design. After his death, it was never put into production." Mark explained as he looked at the number of people gathering for their little race.

Daisy pulled in and said, "Okay, fellas let me know when you're ready. If Boss Hogg knew about this, he'd be out here collecting admission."

Once inside the General Lee Luke looked at Bo. "You know it's gonna be mighty embarrassing if he wins."

Bo said, "The General can hold his own with this Richard Petty racin' engine in him."

"I don't know Bo, that's quite an engine." Luke stated.

Bo patted the dashboard, "Have a little faith in the General, Luke."

"Oh, I have plenty of faith in the General." Luke replied as Bo lined up with the Coyote. They were going for five laps around the track.

Mark had raced on this track when he was here and knew it. He knew he had the lighter vehicle and though the General Lee's engine was a racing engine he felt that he had the advantage.

Daisy dropped the starting handkerchief and both cars pulled off the line together.

McCormick pulled to a slight lead going into the first turn, the lighter smaller car handled the turns better than the much larger Dodge Charger. He did have to admit that Bo was holding his own as they came down the back straight stretch. McCormick was pretty sure he could run away with this little race but he knew the boys would live way to hard should he beat them. He also knew they'd know if he didn't give it all he had. On the third lap they had changed places a couple of times. Mark picked up the hand held walkie talkie CB and said, "Say, fellas let's make the last lap interesting. Let's take it overland."

Luke and Bo smiled at each other. They had never been beaten in a over land race. Luke replied, "You go it! Follow us."

Bo came by the Coyote and headed out the track gate.

McCormick had also ran overland here so he wasn't totally unfamiliar with the lay of the land, but let Bo lead out.

Bo smiled as he entered the section of "S" curves ahead of the Coyote. The road was far to narrow for Mark to be able to pass the General Lee.

When the road opened up Bo cut cross country through the open field. It had been a mistake.

Mark took the chance to come around the General, looking up to see coming straight at them was a Hazzard County patrol car. Mark said, "Oh, Shit!" as he let off the gas just a bit from reaction only.

Luke had also spotted Rosco, "Bo come along side of Mark." and into the CB said, "One three." He hoped mark remembered this from his last visit. "One, ... two, ... Threee!"

Both cars widen the space between them and let Rosco to his surprise go through them. He soon turned and was now behind them which is what Luke wanted.

"I know how that fancy car runs, but how does it fly?" Luke asked into the CB.

Bo smiled and headed towards the river and the bridge that was out.

Mark saw Bo change direction and followed, "He's not too bad."

A split second later, McCormick saw the General Lee leave the ground and go airborne. He could see the distance and felt confident the Coyote had jumped further. He picked up speed and joined the General Lee on the other side of the river.

Rosco's patrol car just didn't have the power of the other two cars and landed nose first into the river bank. He climbed out shaking his fist.

Bo took off down river to the next bridge, they crossed back over the river. Mark was running beside him as they crossed the field.

Luke stated, "You need to be in front of him in the curves."

"I know." Bo replied, as he geared the General Lee into passing gear taking a slight lead over the Coyote. Bo knew he needed to gain as much a lead as he could in the narrow "S" curves to be able to hold off the Coyote until they reached the finish line of the track which he did to beat the Coyote by a nose.

The three were all satisfied with their cars as the shook hands at the track.

Mark asked, "What about the Sheriff?"

"Oh, his fine. He'll be upset awhile but he'll get over it." Luke said. "We'll call Cooter to go fish him out."

"So, he won't be waiting on us at the farm?" Mark asked.

Bo replied, "Nah, if he'd do that every time he wrecks we'd never get anything done. So how about that beer?"

Mark replied, "You're on. By the way we don't have to mention this little race to Hardcase. Okay? Or he might deliver us to your Sheriff personally."

00000

After the victory beer and getting the horses to Jesse's. All of the guys started getting the wagon ready for the hay ride for Christmas Eve which was tomorrow night. They continued to swap lies and tall tales of races ran, whether won or lost as they gave the old wagon a fresh coat of Christmas colors. While the paint was drying, they gathered the hay that they would load into it the next day. Then, polished up a several kerosene lanterns and set of old bells had been used for this purpose since they were little. They had also cut fresh pine to decorate the wagon with.

Finally, they had done as much as they could to the wagon and headed back to the Boar's Nest for an evening of dancing and a few beers.

0000

Christmas Eve morning found the Dukes with the chores done. Jesse and the others were working on last minute baking and preparations for the big day while McCormick headed to the airport in Atlanta in Jesse Duke's pickup in order to have room for the luggage. As he drove to the airport, he was looking forward to seeing Hardcastle. As strange as it may seem, he had truly missed him, yet, had enjoyed the freedom that he hadn't felt in over three years. He was proud the judge had trusted him and even prouder that he had managed to drive across country and spend a few days without supervision and not get into trouble. Mark wasn't sure that he could put into words what this chance had meant to him. Nor, could he voice the feeling inside him, that he had indeed managed to do as the judge expected him to do without incident. A short eighteen months ago he would not have cared one way or the other if the judge approved or disapproved of his actions, but he found that it now mattered.