It was drizzling a cold rain now, turning the roads into slick trails of muddy slush. Daisy plowed through them, intent on getting to the bottom of whatever crooked scheme Boss was playing at. She skidded to a stop before she got to town and threw the Jeep into reverse.
The sign beside the road read: "Hoggville, pop. 1,729"
"I can't believe the nerve of that man! Even changing out the sign for Hazzard. Seems like that oughta be against some Federal law or something."
She threw Dixie back in gear and continued into town. This was, without a doubt the worst thing that Boss had ever done. First he'd accused her of something she hadn't done, then tried to blackmail her into signing over the farm, now he'd actually evicted them and torn up their home.
She parked in front of the Police Station, unsurprised to find it now renamed the "Hoggville Police Station". Enos had gone home already today or he'd be having a fit, she was sure. She stormed into the building and Rosco, who'd been cat-napping, startled awake and nearly fell out of his chair. Noticing Daisy, his eyes grew wide, and he stood and stepped out from behind the desk.
"Ma'am, is there...is there something I can help you with?"
She advanced on him angrily, and he skittered back from her. "Rosco, you know dang well why I'm here," she shouted. "Don't play tricks with me! Where's Uncle Jesse and the boys? I can't believe you'd put them in jail on Christmas Eve!" She stomped past him towards the stairs and the holding cells.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her back. "Hey now, I don't know what's wrong with you, lady, but I don't know you and I aint got your Uncle or any body else in jail for that matter."
She wrenched her arm out of his grip. The tears that had been threatening to come slipped down her cheeks. "Rosco, please," she cried. "this is too much... Please...just please, stop lying to me!"
The sheriff let her go. She ran down the stairs, but stopped short at the bottom. The holding cells were empty.
"I don't understand," she whispered. "I just don't understand what's going on." She raised her eyes towards Heaven. "Please, God, if this is a dream, please let me wake up."
"I've been trying to tell you, Miss Daisy. This isn't a dream."
Daisy spun around to find the boy she'd left fifteen miles back at the farm standing in the stairwell with her. She reached out and steadied herself against the wall. "Who are you?"
"I told you before, I'm your guardian angel."
"G-guardian angel?" she repeated. "I thought angels were s'posed to be all glowy and shiny, with halos and wings."
"Well, I don't have my wings, yet. I have to earn them," he explained. "I don't know about all those other things. You know, you've really been given a gift - the chance to see what everything would be like if you hadn't been here."
"But...but...there's...so much! Even the name of the town-"
"Without Bo and Luke here to ruin Boss Hogg's schemes, there was no one to keep his power in check," he told her. "He bought up the whole town...changed the name, and anyone who didn't like it was run out on a rail. It's amazing, isn't it - how a single life can touch so many others? You've been a bigger influence than you realize."
She rubbed at her eyes, but the red headed kid was still standing there in front of her. "No! This is crazy! Either I'm crazy or you're crazy..or...or everybody else is crazy! Kids don't just show up claiming to be angels, and I'm Daisy Duke, and all I do is work at the Boars' Nest! At least I did until Boss fired me."
"There is no Daisy Duke," he insisted. "Not anymore."
"Well then, who am I?"
"You're nobody." He watched her as she fumbled in the pockets of her coat and found them all empty. "You don't have a driver's license or a wallet."
"Someone robbed me-"
"No one's robbed you. You don't have any of that stuff anymore, because you don't exist."
Daisy held her right hand out in front of her.
"It's not there, either."
She looked back at him. "What?"
"Your ring. It's not there because you weren't here for Enos to give it to you."
Daisy stared at him, dumbfounded. "I never told anyone who gave me that ring. Enos is the only one who knows where it came from."
Seventeen years she had worn it, though boyfriends and lovers had come and gone. Why she'd never taken it off all these years, she couldn't say except that it reminded her of the adventures they had shared when they were kids.
"I told you. I know everything about you. Enos found the ring buried in the dirt when you were kids and he gave it to you."
She met the boy's eyes. "I don't know what to believe about what you're telling me, but there's one person who'll tell me the truth." She brushed past him and headed up the stairway.
Rosco was waiting for her, along with Doc Appleby. "There she is, Doc," Rosco said when he saw Daisy. "She must've had an awful bump on the head or got some bad moonshine or something."
Daisy gave the doctor a tight smile. "Merry Christmas, Doc. Rosco, if you won't help me, I'll go talk to Enos!"
Rosco shook his head. "Enos? You mean Enos Strate? Lord, you must've bonked your noggin. That boy ain't been right since his pa' blew hisself up."
She glared back at him. "What a horrible thing to say, Rosco. Enos does more around here in one week than you do in a year's worth of Sundays, and you still ain't got the decency to quit picking at him!"
Daisy left Hazzard Square...or rather Hoggville Square and pulled over in front of the boarding house where Enos Strate lived...or should live. He should have made it home by now if he'd come straight from the Boars' Nest, and though it was unusual for her to visit him here, she didn't know where else to go. She took a deep breath and knocked on his door.
The door opened and a middle aged woman in a pink, fluffy bathrobe peered at her. "Can I help you?" Daisy was so stunned that she forgot what she was going to say. The woman tried again. "Hello? Miss?"
"I...I'm sorry. I was looking for Enos Strate."
The woman shook her head. "There ain't no Strates, Enos or otherwise living here, honey. Sorry." She shut the door.
Slowly, Daisy walked back out of the boarding house, and sat down on the snowy step. Everything was so real, and she found it took almost as much energy and imagination to believe that it was a dream as it was to believe the crazy story about the kid being an angel and her not existing anymore. Uncle Jesse...Luke...Bo...and now Enos. But Enos was different - he had family in Hazzard, and even if he wasn't where he was supposed to be, he should be here somewhere. After all, Rosco had known his name.
The boy was sitting beside her quietly, reading a paperback copy of Huckleberry Finn, which after everything else that had happened today, Daisy didn't find particularly surprising.
"Where is he?"
The boy looked up. "Where's who?"
"Enos," she called back as she walked to Dixie, "he's got to be here somewhere."
He rushed to stuff the book in his coat pocket and ran after her. "No! No, Miss Daisy. You don't want to go looking for him."
She spun around and walked back towards him. "Yes, I do," she snapped. "Now, where is he?"
"I...I ain't supposed to tell you..."
Kid or no kid, Daisy was at the end of her rope. She grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a shake. "Listen here, you...you whatever you are! You tell me where Enos is, right this minute or I'm gonna-"
"He's at the Boars' Nest...but you ain't gonna like what you find..."
The Boars' Nest looked exactly as she'd left it earlier that day. Except it was open. She supposed maybe Boss had reopened it, but dismissed the idea. He didn't have anyone to call in, and he wouldn't lift a finger to pour his own beer, much less someone else's. She wasn't sure what she expected to find, what with the way everything else was turning out.
As she walked to the door, the boy stepped in front of her, blocking the way. "Stop for a minute," he said. "There's something you have to understand about what's happened to you."
"This may seem like a dream to you, but to everyone else here, you're the one who's out of place. Enos won't know you, and don't try to convince him that he does."
"Fine." She tried to brush past him, but for an angel he was amazingly solid.
"There's something else you need to know," he continued. "You're the only one who can see and hear me, and I can't change what's already been set in motion...nor can you."
"What do you mean?"
"That's not for me to say."
Daisy's hand was sweaty as she turned the knob and went in. It wasn't crowded, but it was still a decent draw for a holiday. Two guys sat at the bar and a few were scattered around the tables. At first glance, she didn't see Enos, but then she realized he might not be in uniform.
She looked closer at the patrons. In the corner table, halfway hidden by the end of the bar, sat a man whose posture seemed familiar though she didn't recognize the red and black checkered hunting coat he wore. His back was to her, and he didn't turn around even when she came to stand behind him.
The man turned around and looked at her, but the hazel eyes that usually shone with happiness when they met hers were blood-shot and haunted and showed no recognition for her whatsoever. His brows knitted together in confusion. "Yeah?"
"Enos...you're...you're drunk." As incomprehensible as that might be, it didn't take a genius to tell he'd had more than a few of something stiff. "I've never seen you drink."
Her words were met by a flurry of laughter from the guys sitting around them. "Lady, you must be new around here if you ain't never seen Enos drink," said one of them.
"Oh, go easy on him, " said the bartender, "if I had to go home to his wife, I'd get drunk first, too."
Enos picked up the shot glass from in front of him and chucked it at the man, missing him by a hair, but shattering a glass pitcher on the shelf behind him.
"Hey," the man shouted, "I'm putting that on your tab."
Enos got shakily to his feet. "Sorry, Jerry. I'll pay you for it next week."
Jerry waved it aside. "Aww, don't worry 'bout it. You go on home and rest up. It's Christmas Eve, you know."
Enos grimaced. "Yeah, I know." He seemed about as thrilled as a fish out of water. "Y'all have a good one."
"You, too, buddy."
Daisy watched the scene in disbelief. She'd never seen Enos lose his temper, even when they were kids. He brushed past her on his way out the door, but his foot caught on one of the bar stools and he landed face first on the floor.
"Enos!" Daisy ran over to him, crouched down and slid her arm underneath his to support him as she helped him back to his feet. Well aware that the other patrons were staring at them, she guided him as quickly as she could out the door.
As soon as it shut behind them, he dropped his arm from around her shoulders. "I'm mighty obliged to you, ma'am," he said, "but I ain't drunk. Not as much as I let 'em think, anyway." He took an uncertain, shaky step towards the parking lot.
"I think you're a little more drunk than you think you are," Daisy answered, reaching out once more to steady him, and she realized that if she let him drive off, she might never see him again. She needed to find a way to keep him here...or follow him.
He fumbled with his keys and they dropped from his hand. "Ding-dang it!" He bent down, feeling through the snow.
Daisy, being cold sober, plucked them up immediately from where they'd fallen. "Here, let me drive you home," she offered.
"Oh no, ma'am. That ain't necessary. I'll be fine."
"I insist," she said, still holding his keys. "Please, it's the least I can do...it being Christmas and all."
He looked as if he might disagree with her, but it was half-hearted. Instead he sighed. "Alright."
She looked around, but since Enos didn't have a car other than Hazzard #2, she wasn't sure what he'd driven. "Which one?"
"Huh? Oh, it's the blue pick-up."
A blue, early 70's model Ford pick-up sat in the second parking space from the door. They climbed in and Daisy turned the key in the ignition. Nothing happened.
"Sorry," he said, "it's temperamental. Pump the gas a couple times."
She pumped the gas three times and then tried again. The truck roared to life. "Alright then, just lead the way." She could feel him watching her and she glanced over and gave him a quick smile.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "Here y'are driving me home, and I don't even know your name."
His words cut her deeply, but she remembered the boy's admonition to play along. "I'm Daisy. Daisy Duke."
"Duke," he said, thoughtfully, "you ain't by chance related to any of the Dukes that use to live around here?"
"I am," she smiled, grateful that at least he knew her family. It gave her an idea. "Jesse Duke is my...was my uncle, but I haven't seen him since I was a little girl. I was passing through Georgia so I decided to drop by and surprise him, but I guess the surprise was on me." The sadness in her voice was genuine.
"I'm awful sorry for your loss, ma'am. Mr. Duke was a right fine man. He and my pa' ran 'shine together."
Mr. Duke...the words sounded strange coming from Enos. He'd always been "Uncle Jesse" to him. "Did you know Luke and Bo?"
"Luke and I were in school together before he went away," he said. "I didn't spend much time around him otherwise. Luke and I never saw eye to eye on much."
Daisy thought it an odd admission, and she wondered if the real Enos felt that way about her cousin. Growing up, Enos tended to grate on Luke's nerves, but she'd never stopped to think the friction might run in both directions.
"So...you grew up around here?" She knew good and well he did, but she wanted to keep him talking.
"Yep. Up in those hills, yonder." He gestured in front of them and up to the left where the foothills of the Blue-Ridge Mountains rose up out of the valley. "At least 'till my pa' died, and I moved to New Mexico with my ma' for a couple years."
"You didn't go-" She was about to say, 'you didn't go with her', but caught herself. In the real world, Enos had changed his mind about leaving Hazzard, and had lived with them at the farm for a year before entering the Police Academy. "You didn't stay in Hazzard?" she asked instead.
"Wasn't much to stay for, I guess. Not for me, anyway. I was never much good at school, and people tend to shy away from ridgerunner's kids." He pointed at a road up ahead. "Take a left here."
She turned off and he directed her down other roads until she had no idea where she was, even though she'd lived in Hazzard all her life. Enos had always known the backroads better than anyone, though.
"You got someplace to stay?" he asked her, worry coloring his voice.
Her heart gave an odd thump. "No, I was gonna see about some place in town."
He shook his head. "Oh no, don't do that. Your uncle ran shine with my pa', so around here that practically makes us family. We've got room, why don't you stay with us?"
The us part was not lost on her, nor was the gold ring on his left hand, but she didn't mention either. "Oh, I'd really appreciate that, but I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"It's Christmas Eve and unless you're planning on walking, you don't have a ride back to town." He was silent for a moment, and she knew him well enough to know that he was nervous. "I'd be much obliged if you would," he added, quietly, in a voice that wasn't so much shy as it was hopeful.
She stole a glance at him, but he was looking down at his fidgeting hands. "I guess you have a point," she answered. "I promise I won't be any trouble."
She thought she saw the ghost of a smile cross his face.