["...Yes, sir, I'm Enos Strate."]
Time stood still, stretched taut in the silence between the hunter and the hunted; an understanding passing between them in unspoken acknowledgement. The older man's eyes were a story of deep, bone wrenching fatigue, and Enos was reminded of Butch Harris who had been Sheriff of Hazzard when he was a boy, and the kindness he had shown his family. His heart twinged in nostalgia for those years now lost to time.
"You're a hard man to track down, Mr. Strate," said Wilburn, "We'd probably still be sitting around scratching our heads if it wasn't for that phone call you made this morning." He shook his head and studied his long elusive fugitive. "You had to know we'd find you."
"I reckoned you would," Enos replied, "But some things are more important." His eyes shifted to the closed doors of the emergency room, then back to Wilburn. "If you'd let me know when Daisy gets outta surgery, I'd be much obliged to know if she's alright." In an action achingly familiar to him, he held out his hands, and waited to be handcuffed, but neither Agent Wilburn nor the other men made a move to do so.
"Well, I gotta tell you, finding you two sure is a relief. I'm way too old to go chasing people." Wilburn looked down at Enos's hands, still outstretched. "I don't think cuffs are necessary right now. The nurses have enough to gossip about, I reckon. I do need you to come with us, but we'll stick around until Miss Duke's out of surgery."
Enos nodded, steeped in confusion. This wasn't how he'd pictured being captured. Truth be told, his imagination had been a mite more loud and bloody. Still, as he followed Agent Wilburn down the long hall leading into the main hospital , he knew every step was leading him further away from life and freedom, further from Daisy; tapping nails into his coffin as their footsteps echoed off the polished tiles. He felt like a boy again, following his mother down a long hallway paved by regrets that he could not fathom.
After several turns down hallways marked only by arrows and signs pointing to labs and medical units, they stopped at a door marked "Conference". Agent Wilburn held it open as Enos and the two other agents stepped through. Inside was an oval table with padded chairs and, in one corner, a television with VCR. The screen was on, but whatever had been playing was paused. Lines of snow and jagged color eclipsed an undecipherable picture.
"Have a seat, Mr. Strate." Wilburn gestured to the chairs opposite the television. "Before we continue, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions."
As he sat down flanked by the other agents, Enos shuffled though memories of his time on the run; of all the adventures and new friends met, across the length and breadth of America. He wondered how much blame he could deflect from Daisy. He was more than ready to accept the book they would throw at him; all he could hope for was to run a little interference for Daisy along the way.
Agent Wilburn took the seat across from him, folded his hands, and leaned forward. "I'll just cut to the chase, Enos, I think we'll both agree that the physical evidence the State brought against you in your trial was pretty damning."
Caught off guard by the subject, Enos could only nod.
"Hell, juries have been convicting scores of hardened criminals on less than a fraction of what you've got against you. Why, it would have been nigh impossible to pull off a not-guilty verdict."
"Sir?" Enos asked, unable to see where this fit into the 'capturing an escaped convict' speech. His eyes searched those across from him - one former law officer to another until, in an astounding moment of clarity, he understood. At least he hoped he did.
"You don't think I did it," breathed Enos.
A corner of the man's mouth turned up briefly. "I'm not your jury, son. How about, though, you tell me your story one more time. From the beginning."
It was the same story Enos had told to anyone who would listen., and it was the truth, bedamned the evidence. He left out nothing, even explaining why he'd forged the letter and why he'd bartered with Darcy instead of arresting him. The real reasons. Had he hated Darcy? He supposed he had, although he'd never given the man much thought. But, when the chance came to make him leave Hazzard, he'd jumped at it. He could stomach Daisy being with another man, but not that one. His honesty and openness surprised even him. For so long, he'd refused to acknowledge his own stake in the matter. Now, it felt freeing to speak of it, and what would it hurt? He was going back to prison, anyway.
"But I never killed him," he said, when it was finished. "I never laid a hand on him, I swear."
"I know you didn't, Enos," said Wilburn, "Fortunately, I don't have to take your word for it." He motioned to the agent on Enos' right and the man got up and walked around to the television. "I've got something you need to see."
He nodded to the agent who pushed a button on the VCR. The static cleared and Enos saw that it was a news report. The station's call letters of "KTVN - Reno" were superimposed over a shot of a suburban neighborhood. Enos' stomach did a flip as he recalled an address scrawled on a peice of paper.
The image disappeared, replaced by one of a news desk with two men, the camera panning in on the right one as he began to speak.
In a surprising twist to a story that we aired last year, it would appear there is more than meets the eye in the murder case of Darcy Kincaid, a resident of Hazzard County, Georgia, whose supposed murder at the hands of mild-mannered Sheriffs Deputy, Benjamin Strate, stunned the nation with its brutality, and later frightened citizens when Strate escaped police custody at his sentencing hearing this past March. KTVN has now confirmed that earlier today, Reno police in accordance with the FBI, received a tip regarding a worker at The Nile Nightclub. The following video was taken outside the home on 1792 Haddock Drive.
The station switched once again to show the front of a derelict white house, now with police escorting a woman from the door and down the sidewalk to a waiting squad car.
"The occupant of the house, registered to a Nancy Belagio, was taken into custody, along with a man whose identity police have not released..."
Whatever else the reporter might have said was lost to Enos as the camera focused on a man he'd gone to Hell as punishment for killing.