Title: The Exam
Author: Joni Fowler
E-Mail: The characters do not belong to me etc. This is a work of fan fiction for enjoyment only.
Ratings and Warnings: T

Author's Notes:Forgive me - I know NOTHING about the Bar Exam (though I have had several Criminal Justice classes including Criminal Law) so if I'm not correct in my assumptions forgive me. Thanks to Judy Darnell and her story Tequila Sunrise that I use as a reference. And also, Cheri for doing a great job catching all my errors!

Please review – this is my first long H & McC Fan fiction.

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Mark McCormick stood up from the table, picked up his test booklet, answer sheet and pencils. Quietly he slid in his chair and headed to the front of the large room to turn in his test sheet. Once outside, there were several others standing around discussing the test. Mark stopped to join in for a moment. He was older than those talking so he stood back, mostly listening.

One girl asked another, "What was the answer to number twenty four?"

Mark knew the question and knew how he'd answered it. He had answered with "B" and was certain of his answer. He started to tell his answer.

Before he could, someone else said that was easy it was "D" None of the above because the question read "..."

Now Mark was doubting his answer. He'd go to the Coyote and look it up. He started walking toward the red sports car. Once in the car, he saw his answer was right, if he read the question right, but according to the others it seemed he may have skimmed the question and not read it totally. "Shit! Oh, well, too late now." he said starting the car and backing carefully out of the crowded parking lot.

Once on the road toward home, Mark decided he needed to just relax. He'd done nothing but study and cram for this test since graduation last May right up until 5 minutes before the test was passed out. It was a nice August day that was unusually not too hot or humid so instead of heading directly home, Mark found himself heading up the Coast. He wasn't going anywhere in particular, he just needed to drive. He always did his best thinking while driving. Driving also calmed and relaxed him. He hadn't realized he'd gone as far as he had until he saw the sign, "POINT MUGU BEACH". He had not only passed the estate, but had driven a good twenty miles out of his way.

Mark pulled the Coyote off the road at one of the parking areas deciding to take a walk down the beach. For a summer day, this section of beach was fairly empty. He walked a pretty good distance, then sat down to look at the ocean. He began to think how in such a relatively short span of time he had went from stealing cars, to repossessing them, to test driving and racing them. Then, when things had started looking up and he began to make some money racing, he'd trusted his girlfriend and put his new Porsche in her name to save money on the insurance. Then after a heated argument, he had taken his car and left only to later be arrested for stealing his car.

That was 1981 and that was Melinda Marshall. No amount of explaining or showing receipts could convince either Melinda to drop the charges, or that crazy Judge that the car he 'stole' was his. 'The law was the law and the car was in her name!' How many times during the next two years in San Quentin had he heard that Judge say that?

"At least a 100 times every night?" He wondered out loud.

After making parole, Mark teamed back up with 'Flip' Johnson, who he had driven for before going to prison. Flip had designed a new race car with Mark in mind. The car hadn't been quite ready for testing, so Mark was doing some practice laps in some other cars when he found out Flip had been killed in an accident.

"Accident, hell!" Mark said out loud throwing a rock into the incoming waves.

Flip's daughter, Barbara, was convinced that her father had been killed because of the car. It didn't take much to convince Mark and he felt he owed it to Flip and Barbara to help her anyway he could, right up until she asked him to steal the car back from the person she felt was responsible for her father's death.

After thinking it over, Mark couldn't bear for the man to get rich off the car while Barbara had lost her father and he'd lost his friend. He had always been good at what he did, and cars were what he did, so, dressed in all black, Mark went after the car. Everything was going as planned right up until that alarm went off and he was followed by the police cruiser! The police cruiser wrecked, and Mark went back to check on the police officer. He got his 'thanks' first thing the next morning when the same officer and a detective showed up on his doorstep.

Mark laid back in the sand, remembering the feeling of his heart going to his shoes and his stomach doing flip flops at the sound of the officers voice saying, "Mark McCormick?" he knew he was in trouble.

After that, it sure didn't take long to hear the steel barred door slam shut behind him. Then, how much 'luck' had it taken to get the same judge who had sent him to prison?

After a long evening of being stubborn, he and the judge had reached an 'agreement'. The judge would help him get Martin Cody for the killing of Flip Johnson, then Mark would help him catch the two hundred cases that had walked out of his courtroom on technicalities.

Mark laughed to himself. Something strange happened after that. At first, it seemed they had barely been able to stay in the same room with each other. Surprisingly enough, they had actually learned to work and play together. So well, even, that they had become friends.

"Now, here I am. I own the Coyote, that I stole for Barbara Johnson; I live in the gate house, not the gardener's trailer; Judge Hardcastle, Hardcase, is not my parole officer, my employer, or my friend. He's family. I have not just taken a few college classes which Hardcastle ended up paying for, but graduated top of my class and after studying all summer I have just taken the Bar Exam to be a lawyer! Now, that in itself had taken a lot of favors and a lot of hard work to get my past record tied up neat. Now, the rest of my life choices ride on that test I just took.

Well, for better or worse, it's over! I gave it my best shot - did my very best. What worries me is that it seemed so easy. Usually when a test 'seems' easy I have really messed up."

Mark sighed. He sat up realizing it was getting late. He stood up dusted off the sand and headed home.

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In the den, retired Judge Milton C. Hardcastle paced. He stared out the window, then he paced some more. He felt as nervous as the first time he'd let McCormick out of his sight all those years ago when he wondered if the ex-con would return. He knew that today was the start or the finish of something very important to the young man he'd once sentenced to prison. With this one test, he'd either embark on a new life as an attorney or he'd possibly give up everything and revert back to his old ways.

Hardcastle tried to force the latter out of his thinking. McCormick was smart. He'd worked hard. Harder than Hardcastle himself remembered working in law school. He knew McCormick felt he had to not only succeed but to do better than the others because so much was riding on this. So many people had told him he was an ex-con and was wasting his time 'trying' to be a lawyer. McCormick had something to prove! He had to prove he was no longer a car thief, a con, or an ex-con but was a rehabilitated member of society who had a lot to offer. He wanted to be able to give someone (even if it was only one person) a chance like Hardcastle had given him. A chance to change his life for the better.

The phone rang, sending Hardcastle steadily toward the ceiling when he jumped at the noise that interrupted the silence of the house. "Hardcastle." he barked.

"Hello to you too, Milt," said Frank Harper.

"Sorry, Frank. It's just that McCormick's not home yet," Hardcastle fussed.

"Milt, it's only 5 pm. And, no, I'm not putting out an APB on him," Frank said with a hint of humor.

"I don't recall asking you," said Hardcastle gruffly. He hadn't had the time to ask.

"So I take it you don't know how the test went?" asked Frank.

Hardcastle replied, "No, I don't. I'd like to do something special tonight...like cook steaks on the grill or take him out for a good dinner, but he's not here. And you know McCormick. If he is worried he did badly, he's liable to come home in a 'funk' and I'd make things worse..."

"Milt. Just play it by ear. Wait until he gets home then decide," Frank suggested.

Hardcastle growled, "I have been playing it by ear ALL day! I have been waiting until he gets home but he's not here yet! You don't think he thinks he did badly and is out in one of his hangouts getting pickled do you?"

Frank tried to calm his worried friend. "Now, Milt. You know Mark. He hardly ever drinks more than a beer, and that's usually at home. The last time you had me looking for him when you two had a fight, my guys found him paying his tab, telling the bartender he'd be after the Coyote in the morning and calling a cab. I think the cab beat my call to tell you he was on his way home."

Hardcastle sighed. "I know you're right, but he should have been done with the test by noon and that's if he took all the time allowed."

"He's fine, Milt. I'll call you in a bit to see if he's home yet," Frank said.

"Okay," Hardcastle hung up the phone. A few minutes later, he heard the familiar sound of the Coyote coming up the drive way so, he hurried to his chair, picked up a file, and acted like he was deep in thought.

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After leaving the beach, McCormick had driven home, but had stopped at a liquor store on his way. He wasn't one to drink, but felt like a drink tonight. He had purchased a bottle of the same Tequila that he and Hardcastle had used to 'warm up' several months ago during a terrible storm. He had been soaked through and was chilled to the bone. The next morning he knew the meaning of the term Tequila Sunrise, though it was more like noon. That's the kind of rest Mark needed tonight. Just to be numb and quit thinking for just a few hours.

He turned down the drive way of 'his home', Hardcastle's Gull's Way that had indeed became home in these past years.

Leaving the Tequila in the Coyote, Mark made his way up to the main house. He opened the door and called, "Honey, I'm home."

"And it's about time!" growled Hardcastle.

Mark smiled to himself. Once he'd been upset by the gruffness of comment. Now, he knew it was Hardcase's way of showing he cared.

Seeing the file in the Judge's hand, Mark said, "Yeah, well, I decided to take a drive and unwind. I ended up about twenty miles up the Coast at the beach, and since I was there I took a walk."

"Where did you walk? Jersey?" said Hardcastle.

"How did you guess?" McCormick asked sarcastically.

Hardcastle tried, but couldn't contain himself any longer, "How did it go?"

Placing his hands on his knees, Mark let go a deep sigh, "I'm scared. It seemed easy. Too damned easy! I'm pretty sure I didn't read one question right and missed at least one."

Trying to re-assure him, Hardcastle said, "No one is perfect. You are allowed to miss one!"

Giving him a disgusted look, Mark replied, "I know that! I'm only concerned with the others I missed. See, call it superstitious if you want, but usually if I think I did well on a test I've really messed it up and it seemed easy!"

Hardcastle shook his head. "Let me get this straight. After years of law school, months of preparation, and years of my coaching, you are worried because it was easy?"

Giving his most serious look, Mark replied, "Yes!"

"You are worrying way too much. What would you like to do tonight? Go out for a good meal or grill out?" Hardcastle asked. "I'll buy or I'll cook steaks De'Hardcastle. I know you have just about became a hermit, so I wasn't sure if you'd like to get out or just relax here."

Mark saw how hard the ol' donkey was trying to convince him he did Okay, so for him he'd go along.

"If it's all the same to you, how about us staying here? Grilling out steaks is good, and I have a bottle of that third rate Tequila you tried to warm me up with that last bad storm."

Hardcastle eyed McCormick.

"Juuudddgggeeeee! For crying out loud. You know I don't drink. I don't 'need' to drink, but tonight I feel like, ... well, ... not feeling. It's over. Win, lose, or draw, it's over! It will be weeks before I know if I was right or they were right about me wasting my time. Tonight, just for a few short hours, I want a 'vacation' from studying, caring, and worrying.

The best case is in a few short weeks I'll be too busy trying to get a job with a law firm to get plastered. Worst case - I'll be too busy trying to find other legal employment and be too broke to get plastered. So I figured either way tonight was a damn good night to give you my keys," He pulled out the familiar set of keys to his beloved Coyote and handed them to the judge.

"And stop worrying for just a little while. Now, I'll get the Tequila, you get the steaks and I'll start the grill out by the pool?"

Hardcastle let himself smile the smile he'd been containing since Mark pulled in. "Now, you're cookin', kid!"