Friendship Day on the Estate of Gulls' Way

This was for The Friendship Day challenge. Here is how Milt and Mark celebrated.

Friendship Day on the Estate of Gulls' Way

By JeanneZ84

Mark McCormick awoke very early on that special day in August. He truly wanted it to be a good day – for himself, but especially for his friend, Judge Milton C. Hardcastle. After all, itwasFriendship Day, and who better to spend it with than your best friend?

Mark got out of bed, pulled on his clothes and headed toward the main house to get Hardcastle to play a little basketball. As he passed through the gatehouse doorway, he smiled to himself at the thought of how he'd first come to Gulls' Way. He'd arrived in the middle of the night with the same crazy judge who'd put him behind bars for two long years.

Mark shook his head, thinking about how far they'd come since then. He couldn't be any happier now being friends with this man. The relationship they'd built had come to mean a great deal to him, and he didn't know what he would do without it.

"Hey, Hardcase! Where are ya?" he called as he entered the main house.

"I'm in here." Hardcastle turned to look when the younger man came into the kitchen. He noticed Mark wore a smile that brightened his whole face. "You're up early for a change, Kiddo. I thought I'd have to come and haul you outta bed like always."

Mark gave a cocky grin. "Well, sorry I disappointed you, Judge. But I was hoping you'd wanna play some B-ball before breakfast."

"Yeah, sure. Why not? Just sit down here and let me finish my coffee, okay?"

"Uh, huh. I'll even have a cup with you."

x x x x

After drinking their coffee, the pair headed outside to play some "guerrilla" basketball. They shot and scuffled until Sarah called them for breakfast. In the kitchen, they found that she had made French toast with bacon and link sausages. Of course, there was the usual coffee and orange juice, as well. No one made breakfast quite like Sarah did!

As he finished his meal, Mark told the judge he was going to the gatehouse to shower. Afterward, he would tackle the list of chores Hardcastle had given him the night before. "I'll get to them as soon as I'm done," he promised. He also made a mental note to himself that they would all be done by the evening… because right now he had to run an errand to pick up a special gift for someone.

Mark headed back to the main house after his shower and joined the judge in the den. "Hey, Hardcase!"

"Yeah, McCormick?"

"Uh, well, I just wanted to let you know I'm gonna head into town right now. I thought I'd go and pick up some popcorn in case there's a John Wayne movie on tonight. We're all out." He shrugged sheepishly. "When I get back, I'll finish the chores."

"Fine," the Judge returned. "Fine. You go and do that."

"See ya." Mark turned and headed out of the door.

As soon as his friend had gone, Hardcastle picked up the phone and dialed a number he'd looked up weeks before.

"Good morning. Engraving Tree. Sally speaking. May I help you?" A woman's voice came over the line.

"Mornin'" the judge replied. "How long you open 'til today?" He needed to pick up something he'd left to be engraved several days earlier.

"Until five o'clock, sir."

"Thank you!" Hardcastle was smiling as he put the receiver back on the cradle.

x x x x

Mark's first stop was Harborside Grocery. He figured it couldn't hurt to pick up some goodies just like he'd told the judge he was going to. But, more importantly, he needed to buy ingredients. He planned on making a nice meal for the occasion – something even ol' Hardcase would like.

Mark also had another idea. After leaving the store, he was going to stop by and see Frank Harper. He'd ask Frank to call the judge and convince him to come downtown because there was a case needing some work. Of course, Hardcastle would want to get involved….

Mark walked into Frank's office and began telling him what he wanted him to do. He grinned when the lieutenant questioned him about his motives. But Mark didn't reveal his reasons. After a little persuasion, Frank finally called Hardcastle while Mark listened in. As Frank hung up the phone, he grinned at Mark and said, "Okay, I did what you wanted. Now, get out of here, so I can do my job."

Mark smiled in reply. "Thanks, Frank." Then, he left to finish running his errands for the evening's celebration.

Mark was very excited about the whole idea of celebrating Friendship Day with the judge. He hurried through all his stops, jumped back into his car and headed for home.

x x x x

At the same time, Hardcastle was making his way downtown to Frank's office. As he opened the door and started inside, the lieutenant looked up at him. "What took you so long, Milt?"

"I had to pick somethin' up at the store that I forgot to get earlier." Hardcastle sighed. "Okay, so what's all this hoo-hah about a case?"

Thinking quickly, Frank started to make up a case he wanted to go over with the judge. Hardcastle seemed to be getting suspicious after a while, and the lieutenant squirmed a little under his friend's stare.

"Okay, okay. Hold it," the judge said gruffly, putting a hand up to stop Frank from going any further. "What's really going on here? And I wanna know right now!"

Frank talked a little more about the case he had invented. Finally, it seemed, he convinced Hardcastle to believe him.

x x x x

Back at Gulls' Way, Mark was cooking a very nice meal for himself and his best friend. He was glad he had gotten all of his chores completed and could now concentrate on surprising the judge. He carefully wrapped up the gift he had bought and put it on the kitchen table where Hardcastle would see it as soon as he walked in.

Mark had just finished setting the table when he heard the front door open and the judge yell, "McCormick? Where are you? I saw your car outside."

"I see you finally got home," Mark called back. "I'm in the kitchen."

Hardcastle headed toward the kitchen, but as soon as he reached the doorway, he stopped dead in his tracks. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. The table was set, and there was a brightly wrapped present on the table. "What is all this, McCormick?"

Mark turned toward the judge and said, "Well, uh, this is a celebration."

Hardcastle looked puzzled. "What are we celebrating, Kiddo?" He glanced at the gift Mark had left on the table in plain view.

Mark said simply, "Happy Friendship Day, Judge."

Hardcastle put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a small, wrapped package and handed it to Mark. "Well, Happy Friendship Day to you, too, McCormick."

The judge insisted that Mark open his present first, and the young man was surprised to see that Hardcastle had gotten him a solid brass picture frame with engraved script along the bottom. "Best Friends Forever," he read aloud. Inside the frame was a picture of the two men standing side by side.

"T-thanks, Judge." Mark had a huge smile on his face.

Hardcastle nodded and smiled back. Then, he opened his present. He was totally speechless when he saw what Mark had bought for him. It was a brass friendship loving cup that read, "To My #1 Best Friend! Love, Mark." The judge remained silent for another second or two; then he glanced up and said, "Thanks. This means a lot to me… and I don't have to tell ya that you mean a lot to me, too."

"Yeah, I know." Mark looked down and shuffled his feet.

The room was silent for a moment. Then, Mark suddenly said, "Hey, let's eat!"

The two friends sat down at the table, and Mark showed the judge everything he had made: spaghetti and meatballs with homemade sauce, rolls and a tossed salad and McCormick bought every kind of salad dressing imaginable. For dessert, he had baked brownies from scratch, but he wasn't going to let the judge see them. They had turned out flatter than a pancake because he had forgotten an ingredient. Mark wanted the night to be special, and the brownies didn't look special at all.

"Come on, McCormick. Let me see what you got there." Hardcastle was trying to peer over Mark's shoulder at the pan the younger man was hiding behind his back.

"No way, Judge. These didn't turn out so well. I want today to be perfect, and they are far from it."

After dinner, Hardcastle snuck back into the kitchen and found the brownies. He ate a few and loved them. Later, he told Mark what he had done.

The younger man smiled broadly. "Well, okay. I just wish you hadn't done that. I didn't intend to spoil this day of all days."

Hardcastle shook his head. "Listen, you didn't spoil anything. Everything was great – great food, great gift but, most of all, great company. That's why I'm spending the best part of Friendship Day with my best friend." He looked Mark straight in the eyes.

"Well, yeah, y'know I feel the same way about you." Mark stared at the floor for a long moment. Then, he added, "Oh, by the way, I did get the other goodies I told you about, and I saw that "True Grit" and "The Searchers" are on tonight if you're interested…."

The judge nodded. "'Course I am!"

Staring at his friend, Mark finally decided to let Hardcastle in on something. "Uh… thanks for going downtown to follow up on Frank's call about that case. I, uhm, I asked him to talk you into it, so I could have the time to get all this ready and make this a special day for you, Judge." He shrugged innocently. "So, I really appreciate you letting yourself get talked into some mixed-up, made-up case."

Hardcastle looked at his friend in shock and bellowed, "You did what, McCormick?"

"Yeah, well, I really wanted to plan all this, and I didn't know what else to do." Mark shrugged again. "So I went to Frank."

Hardcastle shook his head ruefully. "I told Frank something wasn't right and that he wasn't giving me the whole truth. Now, I know why."

"I'm sorry about that," Mark apologized. "I just didn't know what else to do."

The judge looked at Mark and said gruffly, "McCormick, did I say you shouldn't have done it?"

"No. No, you didn't. But I figure you probably aren't too thrilled with me right now… so I'm sorry."

"Well, ya figured wrong, as usual," Hardcastle harrumphed. "In fact, you couldn't be more wrong. It means a lot to me that you went to all this trouble. I'm not mad at all."

"I appreciate you being so understanding about it." Mark paused to look at his watch. "Hey, Judge, the movies'll be on soon!"

"Yeah? Come on, then; let's go make the popcorn."

A short while later, the pair sat comfortably in the den, staring at the TV. As the closing credits of "True Grit" scrolled down the screen, Hardcastle looked over at Mark, who just happened glance up at him at the same time. "Happy Friendship Day, Kiddo," the judge said quietly.

Mark smiled happily. "Happy Friendship Day to you, too, Hardcase."

Turning back toward the television, the friends watched as the next movie began. They both thought back to the very beginning of their friendship, how far it had come, and how amazing it was that it had happened at all. It was one of their very best evenings ever.

The End