- Prologue -
"I'm running out of patience, my friend. I'm not going to wait much longer."
"I feel sorry for you, 'cause I ain't gonna give you what you want."
"Don't be too sure. You see, I know who you are, Mr. Duke…Oh, please. Don't look so surprised. You hardly bothered to hide your name. It's child's play to do a bit of checking these days."
"…Okay, so you know my name. What do I care?"
"The real question is: How much do you care?"
"You get a real kick outta playin' these little games, don't you?"
"This is no game, Mr. Duke. I know who you are, which means I know who your family is…Ah, you're beginning to understand, aren't you?"
"You can threaten me all you want, Clayton, but you leave him out of it!"
"Getting angry isn't going to help you. Or him."
"I'm telling you: leave him alone! He's got nothing to do with this."
"He does now, thanks to you. How much do you care about him?"
"Clayton, I'm warning you—"
"You're in no position to give warnings! You've got two days to think about it. Or rather, your family has two days for you to think about it. I'm being more than generous if you remember what you owe me. Consider your options carefully. It would be a shame for you to have to bear the burden of guilt for his demise."
"Don't be so melodramatic. It makes me sick."
- Chapter One -
"Running Down the General"
Bo took a deep breath and decided that sunrise on an April morning was probably the best time to be alive. The tractor rumbled pleasantly along the wide field as it pulled the plow, churning up the dark soil and filling the air with a cool, wet smell. Cool tendrils of fog curled around him and left droplets suspended in his hair as the slow breeze blew past him. He had been in the field since sunup, when the red-orange beams of sunlight slanted through the mist and glittered on the dew as the tangerine-colored sun hovered over the distant hills. The sun was round and yellow now, lifting higher into the sky as it melted away the last of the fog.
Bo spun the wheel at the end of the row, bringing the tractor in a tight turn as he started back the way he had come, carving a new path through the open field. The old machine creaked in protest at the sharp turn, but he expertly compensated for the strain and kept chugging along without pause.
When he saw a familiar figure standing at the edge of the field, he grinned and started moving a little faster. Jesse Duke waited patiently for his nephew to reach the end of the row. Bo waved as he approached and stomped on the clutch, bringing the tractor to a lurching halt.
"Howdy, Uncle Jesse! What can I do for ya?"
Jesse put his hands on his hips in a mixture of amusement and exasperation. "For starters, you can remember what you're drivin'!" he scolded. "That ain't the General Lee. That's a tractor, and it's a mite too old to be tearin' around the field in. Slow, Bo. Slow." He shook his head. "Lord have mercy, but neither you nor Luke can ever remember that." Bo grinned sheepishly—although Jesse thought his nephew looked a bit too pleased to learn that he had been inadvertently hot-rodding the plodding old piece of machinery.
"I'm almost done," Bo said, indicating the acreage behind him with a wave of his arm. "I did the back forty first thing this mornin' and now I've got just over half this field left."
Jesse nodded. "Good. I need you to run into town for me when you get the chance. I promised Cooter I'd pay him what we owe him for gas by the end of the week, and we're runnin' low on a few supplies. Daisy an' me are fixin' the windows on the house and I asked Luke to patch the barn roof and change the oil in the cars today. If the General needs it, he can do it when you get back."
"Sure thing, Uncle Jesse. Won't be more than an hour or so before I'm done."
"Remember, take it easy with that tractor," Jesse reminded him one more time. "He's an old man and he don't move so fast. Be nice to him."
Bo chuckled. "Yes, sir!" Then he tipped his head and smirked playfully. "I don't know what all this talk about bein' slow and old is all about, though. You're still a pretty fast mover, ain't ya?" He laughed and ducked the dirt clod that Jesse lobbed at him, started up the tractor again, and headed back down the row. He remembered his uncle's instructions and kept the tractor chugging along at a reasonable pace. An hour and a half later, he was pulling the tractor into its spot in the barn. He hopped down and headed for the house, slapping the dust from his jeans.
"Wipe your feet!" Daisy called from the other room as she heard the kitchen door slam.
"How'd you know it was me?" Bo asked, dragging his topsoil-covered work boots across the doormat.
Daisy poked her head through the doorway. "I didn't have to. Had to be you or Luke, and no matter which one of you it is, you boys always are trackin' in something. I just finished sweepin' in here." She pointed to the refrigerator. "I knew you'd be hungry when you came in so I made you a sandwich. There's one for Luke in there, too, so don't take both of 'em."
"You ain't just a pretty face; you're a mind-reader!" Bo grinned, retrieving his plate from the fridge. "I'm starvin'. Ain't no way I can wait 'til I get back from town to eat."
"Hey, Uncle Jesse wanted me to give this to you. Said you were supposed to pick this stuff up while you're in town. There's money there for Cooter, too." Daisy handed him a short list of items and an envelope. Then she paused and looked him up and down, raising her eyebrow. "You're gonna change before you leave, aren't you?"
Bo looked down at his faded red t-shirt and ripped blue jeans, both of which were covered in a fine layer of dust. He shrugged and stuffed a huge bite into his mouth. "Nope." Daisy rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. She stepped out of the kitchen again and Bo heard her cross the living room to pull out the storm windows that had been in place all winter. He finished eating quickly and called up Cooter on the CB to let him know he'd be on his way.
Luke was perched on top of the barn, hammering some new shingles into place. Bo hollered up to him and waved before he slid into the General Lee and drove off.
He had gotten about five miles from home when he noticed a dark gray sedan on the road behind him. He mildly wondered where it had come from since he hadn't seen where it turned onto the road, but he didn't recognize the car and he wasn't all that curious.
But then the car began pulling closer and closer behind him. He frowned, glancing down at the speedometer. "I ain't exactly pokin' along, friend," he said conversationally. Then he smirked as an idea came to him. "But go on and pass if you want to. That way, Rosco'll pick you up instead of doggin' on me." He slowed down a bit to let the other driver by, but had to step on the gas seconds later to keep the gray car from plowing into him from behind.
"Geez, what kind of a nutcase are you anyhow?" he grumbled, darting a frustrated glance behind him. The black tinted windows of the car behind him were like a blank face, concealing anyone who might be inside. Bo decided he had had enough of this little game. He settled back in his seat and picked up speed, guiding his car easily over the familiar roads.
He had expected the gray car to fall behind, but the growing roar of the engine behind him told him that it wasn't going to happen. He made an abrupt decision and took a hard right turn at the rapidly approaching intersection. It wouldn't take him into town, but it would get him out of the way of the other car.
There was a squeal of tires as the other driver picked up speed and swerved around the corner after him. The other car barreled past him, so close that the General nearly slid off the road. Bo leaned hard into the turn to keep his car from going into the ditch.
"All right, that's it!" he snapped. "You wanna try and catch me? Go right ahead!" The General took off down the road, leaving the gray car behind as it recovered from the sharp turn. A billowing cloud of dust floated behind the bright orange car, obscuring the road behind. It was with astonishment that Bo saw the dark shadow behind him as the pursuing car pulled into view.
The car was riding hard on his tail. Bo was surprised that such a clunky-looking sedan could keep up—and if he weren't starting to get royally pissed off, he'd be impressed. Then the gray car lurched forward and banged into the back of the General, jostling him in his seat.
"Hey, what's the big idea?" he burst out angrily. His hands clutched the wheel in a white-knuckled grip as he tried to maintain control of the skidding car. Again the sedan bumped into him, nearly sending him spinning into the brush by the side of the road. "Doggonnit, if they scratch up the paint—"
"Come on, General," he said through gritted teeth. "Let's see if he can keep up goin' cross-country." He spun the wheel to the right and the car flew off the narrow dirt road and bounced across an open field. The wind whipped through his hair as it rushed through the open windows. The gray car didn't hesitate to follow, and even though Bo gained ground through the element of surprise, the gap between the two cars was quickly closed again as the sedan caught up.
"He's good," Bo muttered. "More'n that, he really wants me bad." He was mad, but now he was starting to get nervous. He risked letting go of the wheel with one hand to grab the CB.
"This is Bo Duke callin' the Hazzard Net—"
The CB mike clattered to the floor as the pursuing car surged forward and smashed into the back of the General. Bo was forced to latch both hands onto the wheel as he came dangerously close to losing control. He pulled a hard turn to the left, tires churning up chunks of sod as the General pivoted and took off. The V8 engine roared as Bo pressed the gas pedal against the floor. He risked a quick glance back. The sedan was still hanging on, but was lagging a little behind. A tight grin crossed Bo's face as he faced forward again. He knew every inch of back country in Hazzard County, and he knew exactly what lay just a quarter mile ahead.
"Whattaya say we see if that car can fly?" he asked the General. He stared straight ahead as his car raced along, keeping his eye out for the ravine he knew was coming. He braced himself and took a deep breath as the bright orange car shot up an incline. Suddenly the ground disappeared and he felt the familiar adrenaline rush as he flew over the ravine in a graceful arc. The sturdy stock car landed with a powerful jolt, kicking up gravel as the spinning tires hit the dirt. Bo hardly had time to get the car under control before the gray sedan, whose driver had not balked at the jump, caught up with him and slammed into the General's tail even harder than before.
Bo barely managed to hang on to the wheel. Heart pounding, he wrenched his car around in a nearly out-of-control skid. Then his breath caught in his throat as a second car appeared out of nowhere, bearing down on him fast from the left. He jerked the wheel to the right, but it was too much for the car to handle. He hadn't recovered the General from the erratic path from the jump, and he was going too fast to handle the sudden change in direction.
The car spun in a wild circle, throwing Bo hard against the door. He managed to hold onto the wheel, but it didn't do any good. Three seconds later, the General stopped as it slammed up against a maple tree.