A/N: This was originally chapter 16 of "The Story of Us", but it begins a new part in Enos' life so I decided to transfer it into a sequel that I could finish at a later date. This chapter can be read as a stand alone, without having read TSOU. (The reviews for this chapter have been transferred to this story).
NOTE: Please note the date, this is set 7 years before the series begins, back when Enos had just graduated from the Police Academy and before J.D. Hogg ran the county and before Rosco was sheriff.
Hymn for Yesterday
Birds twittered, fluttering about in the bright sunlight of the chilly March morning. A warm breeze blew from the field across the road, swaying the limbs with their newly formed buds in its ebb and flow. The day was alive with life, welcoming the coming of spring after the long, harsh winter of 1971.
Yet, with life came a death that bore into the hearts of even the toughest Hazzard County had to offer. A slip of fate – tragic and senseless, the fact of which made the consequences only harder to accept.
Her eyes sought his where he stood, caught them, and held them a moment before he looked away, back to the bier and its oak coffin and the green, plastic carpet concealing a shallow, dark shaft in the New Friendship Cemetery. He was dressed in the uniform of Hazzard's finest, and she recalled how full her heart had been the first time she had seen him wearing it, and of the proud gleam in his eyes as Sheriff Harris had sworn him in as a deputy.
Had she thought it was a game? Playing police officer - as she, Luke, and himself had done so many times growing up. Revenuers and moonshiners...
If she'd ever held such an illusion, it had come shattering down two days ago in a rain of a thousand tiny shards – burying themselves deep into her heart, and she doubted if she would ever be able to dig them out completely.
It should have been him.
A tightness began in her chest at the thought, but she'd promised herself she wouldn't cry again. It was wrong, she felt, to weep over what had not happened instead of what had.
It had been a typical Friday evening, with the boot-leggers gearing up for their runs...in fast cars, loaded with high-proof whiskey. The CB on the kitchen counter had been tuned to Channel 9 that day, Uncle Jesse wanting to get a feel for where the Sheriff had stationed his deputies before his run up to Johnson City - a game of cat and mouse that the Dukes had played for so long it hardly bore thinking about.
She had listened absently as she'd made dinner, but mostly it had been chatter, procedural codes for this and that, locations of the three patrol cars; Rosco, in Hazzard #2, Travis in Hazzard #3, and Enos in Hazzard #4. Travis Ecklund was in his second year with the Sheriff's Department, hailing from Acworth, Georgia, a small town just north of Atlanta. His father was a railroad man which, though more legal than a ridgerunner, was just about as poor. He and Enos had become fast friends.
The sun was dipping low on the horizon, bathing the quiet farmyard in warm tones of gold and orange, when Rosco had put out a call for someone to chase down a '66 Comet speeding west on Ridge Road, himself already busy with another traffic stop.
"10-4, Hazzard 2," came Enos' reply, "ETA five minutes."
There was a few seconds of static and then, "Enos, I'm right here on Ridge and Possum Lick, I'll get him."
"10-4, Hazzard 3. Don't let him out-fox ya', Travis."
"I was born behind a wheel, Strate," Travis had laughed. "See ya' at the station."
"10-4, Ecklund. Hazzard 4 out."
Twelve minutes later, Enos came over the radio once more, worry evident in his voice. "Hazzard 3, please copy."
"Hazzard 3, Travis, I just heard a mighty big explosion from over your way. You alright, buddy?"
"Hazzard 2, 10-25 Hazzard 3?"
"I ain't heard from him, either, Enos."
"I'm right here at Ridge so I'll check on him. Maybe his radio ain't working again."
"10-4 Enos, Rosco out."
They said you could see the flames ten miles away as darkness fell - burning like the gates of Hell up on that ridge. A rock slide had stopped the Comet dead in its tracks, just around a blind corner with Hazzard #3 tight on its tail. There were no skid marks. Travis had never seen it coming.
Her eyes drank Enos in as though he were a mirage that might fade away into nothing. If he'd taken the call, he would be the one in that coffin, and...and....
She lowered her head to conceal the tears rolling down her cheeks, falling like drops of rain on the memorial card in her hands..
Enos glanced back up as she looked down, across the quiet stretch of earth between them. Her shoulders hitched slightly, betraying her sorrow. He watched her – loving her more than the sun, moon, and stars above, and his throat tightened as he thought of where she should be - a bittersweet memory, sleeping still and silent beneath the trees whose only season was a season of death.
The day after he had returned to Hazzard for the last time, the front page story in the Tri-County Times had stopped him cold. It had taken his breath away and damn near made him grab her and shake her until she repeated the promise she'd made to him the night she'd come home wasted.
No one in his life had ever been given a second chance, but the Good Lord had brought her back to the farm, safe and sound.
He'd gotten up and gone over to where she was cooking, passing the paper to her without a word. Slowly, the color drained from her cheeks, and she'd reached out, grasping his shoulder to steady herself before stumbling past him and out the kitchen door.
The dead, he'd supposed, affected everyone differently – and discovering you should by all rights be numbered among them was a painful blessing under the best of circumstances. His own tears that fell later, in the quiet of his room, were those of thanksgiving mingled with guilt. She'd come back to the farm that night instead of staying at that party, while 28 drunken teenagers burned to death in a shack on the banks of Moccasin Creek. A hard lesson, learned by chance.
The blaze had spread like wildfire the paper said, fueled by high-proof moonshine. There had been no survivors.