Disclaimer: These are not my characters and I make no profit from them.
Many thanks to Owl for the beta and very helpful comments and to Jaz for catching a major oops.
Author's note: This is a missing scene from the first season's episode entitled "Scared Stiff" written by Tom Blomquist. Hardcastle and McCormick take a group of troubled teens into Clarkville State Prison as part of a program to scare them into straightening out their lives. A riot erupts while they are inside and they are captured by some disgruntled residents. The convicts, led by a man named Paul Connors, plan to use their hostages as bargaining chips in an effort to get the authorities to investigate prison corruption. This story picks up just after they are captured and are being herded down the hallways, deeper and deeper into the center of the chaos.
The red-haired teen had fallen behind the group, slowly running his hand along the cinder block wall and breathing heavily, like he had just run a marathon. The rest of his group was up ahead, being roughly escorted by the convicts who now had weapons trained on the small cluster of outsiders. He briefly thought about the consequences of falling behind, but logical thought had been replaced with raw panic as the reality of his situation sank in. All hell was breaking loose around him and he was helpless to do anything about it. 'This is it,' he thought to himself. 'I'm going to die here, alone.'
Mark McCormick was in the center of the group of delinquent teens whose 'educational' field trip had taken a radically different course. 'If this doesn't scare them spitless, I don't know what will,' he thought to himself, his head on a swivel making sure they all stayed together. It was then that he noticed Tyrone way off in the back of the pack, leaning heavily against the wall and gasping for breath.
"Damn" he whispered, pushing his way past the other boys and making his way back to the ailing teen.
All the classic signs were there; the trembling, profuse sweating, dilated pupils, even the inability to call for help. Mark had seen it before. He had watched helplessly as his cell mate Teddy Hollins succumbed to the emotional strain of a full-blown anxiety attack during his first week in prison. Teddy had mistakenly sat at the 'wrong' table in the dining hall and was thrown to the floor by a guy twice his size. But Teddy, being Teddy, tried to reason with the guy instead of just getting out of his way. The ape threatened to kill him in his sleep that very night, and no matter how hard Mark had tried, he couldn't convince his new roomy that he was safe in his cell while he slept. Consequently, Teddy stayed up all night long, convinced that if he fell asleep, he'd wake up dead in the morning. The next day, Mark awoke to find Teddy curled up in the corner of their cell, shaking like a leaf and unresponsive. When the guards finally came, they found Mark sitting on the floor holding Teddy like a small child, rocking back and forth.
Mark shook away that memory as he reached Tyrone, grabbing him by the shoulders as the teen's body slowly slid down the wall that had been supporting him.
"Hey, buddy. I need you to hang on. C'mon now. We have to keep up with the group." The kid didn't respond, but wrapped his arms around himself, sinking farther down to the ground. Mark followed him down, glancing back down the hallway knowing he had only a few moments to get this kid going before someone noticed they were missing.
"Tyrone, look at me!" he pleaded, but the young man was in a stupor, focused on a spot far away from where he was currently parked. Mark shook him hard, which seemed to snap him out of the daze he was in, long enough for their eyes to meet.
The ex-con locked onto the frightened kid's gaze and spoke calmly, but firmly. "Tyrone, you can do this. The secret is to show no fear. I'll be honest with you, I'm scared too, but if we show it, then they win. And we can't let them win. I've been here before and I know how to play their game. But you have to play your part." He thought for a second, glancing back at the others, the distance between him and the rest of the group growing bigger and bigger by the second.
"Here." Mark loosed his grip on Tyrone's shoulders and reached into his own shirt, pulling a chain from around his neck. Tyrone squinted hard, focusing on the small silver medallion.
"Saint Jude, Patron Saint of lost causes. Oh, great," he whined, the panic in his voice making him sound ten years younger. Mark ignored the comment and put the medal over Tyrone's head, situating it on his chest.
"This got me through a long time in this hell hole. It'll get you out safe, too. When we get out of here I want it back, got it?" Tyrone held onto the medal and nodded his answer. Just then one of the convicts came running back towards them. Seeing him out of the corner of his eye, Mark pulled Tyrone up by his shirt collar.
"Stay close to me. I'll keep you safe. C'mon," McCormick beckoned as he helped him get to his feet. Tyrone did as he was told, his hand never letting go of the small silver charm.
By the time the inmate reached them, Tyrone was up and following the ex-con as he made his way towards the rest of the group. The angry man grabbed Mark and threw him against the wall, pushing Tyrone to the side. Tyrone stood helplessly by as the man threatened his friend with his fist.
"Are you the keeper of this pansy?" he asked Mark, gesturing towards Tyrone and waving his bloody knuckles in his face.
Mark spoke quietly, yet confidently. "Listen, the kid fell. I was just dragging his sorry butt back to the group. You're wasting time, here. We gotta get going."
Gunfire rang out up ahead, momentarily diverting the growling man's attention up the hallway. The con shook his head and smiled. "Saved you this time, snitch. Can't guarantee anything the next time we meet up. C'mon." He lowered his fist and grabbed the two visitors by the arm, dragging them to where the group was waiting, just outside cell block A.
Paul Connors, the leader of the rebellion, was fooling with the door locks, finally getting them to open up to the catwalk leading past the inmates' cells. Hardcastle looked on, glancing back worriedly as McCormick approached with Tyrone in tow. He caught Mark's eye, visually relieved to see his friend alive and in one piece. Mark frowned and shook his head, not needing to explain.
Connors finally managed to open the door and the small group filed in. As Mark went through the door, he looked down at his wide-eyed shadow. Tyrone was holding it together, but looked terrified and ready to bolt. "Remember what I said, if you show fear, they'll have won," he whispered.
Tyrone took a deep breath and nodded, squeezing St. Jude a little tighter.
When they all were finally on the A block tier, the boys held their breath and watched as the judge calmly approached Connors.
"Connors, listen. Let the kids and McCormick go. He's an ex-con. You're not gonna get a lot of sympathy holding kids hostage." His steely gaze pinned Connors to the wall, hoping the man in charge of this fiasco would understand the wisdom behind his words.
Connors thought about that for a moment. Looking around him, common sense came to the fore. He nodded his head reluctantly in agreement. "Okay, get these kids outta here."
Tyrone was looking at Mark, trying to process what was just said when he was suddenly pushed back and towards the door. He looked back over his shoulder but was lost in a sea of bodies, all moving in the same direction. Before he knew it, he was out the door and being herded towards the exit to the prison.
An hour later:
"I'll wait," Mark said angrily to the warden and the head of the SWAT team as they met outside the prison gates. He had presented the convict's list of demands but had been met with nothing but a hand in his face and a promise that nothing would be done until the hostages were released.
Mark walked away from the stubborn lieutenant, shaking his head in frustration. He stopped in front of the gate, threading his fingers through the chain link, his thoughts being drawn back to the situation on the other side. Fear rose up inside him as he thought of the judge, alone in there with no back up. 'If the lieutenant doesn't get in touch with the Governor…' He shuddered, thinking about what might happen.
Shaking himself free from the negative thoughts, he suddenly remembered the kids he and the judge brought with them this morning. He turned his attention to the place where he had parked the bus. There in the doorway and sprawled on the ground around the large vehicle were Hardcastle's boys. McCormick made his way over to them, counting heads to be sure everyone was safe and accounted for. As he approached the bus, one of the boys noticed him and jumped to his feet.
"Aw, man, can we go home now? I never wanna see this place again." The other boys got up and gathered around, asking questions and all talking at once. Mark held his hands up in an effort to squelch the crowd. "Settle down! Are you all okay? Nobody got hurt?"
A mumble ran through the small crowd, everyone adding their answer to the chorus of voices.
"Where's Hardcastle?" Rico asked, an uncharacteristic look of worry on his face. Mark looked back at the prison, biting his lip and wondering just how much to tell them.
"He's still inside. They won't let him go until the governor meets their demands. They let me out to bring those demands to the authorities. But I have to get back there, so I just wanted to make sure you all had a ride home." He looked around, taking in the faces in front of him and noticing for the first time that Tyrone was not among them.
"Hey—Where's Tyrone?" he asked, craning his neck to see around the side of the bus.
"He's inside. I think he's sick," someone answered sarcastically. A few others chuckled under their breath. Mark sent them a nasty glare as he made his way to the bus. Climbing in, he noticed the emergency door wide open and a red headed figure slouched in the opening, sitting on the floor.
"Hey, Tyrone," Mark ventured, walking between the seats and crouching down next to the troubled teen. "You okay?" he asked gently, understanding all too well the emotions that must be coursing through the kid just about now.
"Yeah, I'm good," he replied, never taking his eyes off a spot on the hillside in front of him. Mark sat down next to him and hung his legs out the back door. "You sure?" he prodded, hoping he might talk about what happened today.
Tyrone slowly undid the borrowed pendant, looking at it one last time. "Go ahead. Say it. I'm a real loser, falling apart back there." He ran his thumb over St. Jude then handed the charm back to its owner. "I hope you and the judge are happy. Your little field trip worked. I'll do whatever I have to do to stay outta that place. I never want to go back there." He shook his head emphatically, wrapping his arms around himself in an effort to keep from shaking. Mark replaced the medal around his own neck and looked away, absently picking at a stone stuck in the rubber flooring of the bus.
After a long minute he took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. "Sometimes knowing the consequences of making wrong choices will help you make the right ones. That's all Hardcastle was trying to do. It's not exactly the best motivation, but it'll save your butt until you wise up enough to understand that there are consequences, and they can be pretty bad. Believe me, I know." He liberated the pebble and rolled it around between two fingers.
Tyrone looked over at the man next to him and chuckled. "Looks like you've got a pretty good gig going now. You live in a big house, drive that cool set of wheels and chauffeur that judge around all day. Things worked out pretty well for you." He smiled ruefully and looked away, shaking his head ever so slightly.
Mark threw the stone out onto the hillside and nailed Tyrone with a cold stare. "I'll tell you something, Tyrone. I'm only here now because someone saw that there was something in me worth saving. I'd never admit it to the judge, but I screwed up and I paid for what I did, in aces. Prison is punishment, pure and simple. And when I came out, I swore never to go back in. But it only took me six months to screw up my life again." He pulled up a leg and rested his elbow on his knee. "The truth is, some of us need other people to help us along. I know that now. I wish I had known it then."
They sat in companionable silence for a long minute, each lost in their own thoughts. The ex-con ventured a glance at Tyrone, fully expecting the kid to go off on a tangent about being preached to, but instead he sat quietly, contemplating something far off in the distance. Tyrone broke the silence with three words, heartfelt and whispered.
"It's so hard."
Mark nodded slowly, freeing another trapped pebble from the confines of the rubber flooring. He looked over at Tyrone with compassion and understanding. Tyrone chanced a look back at him, accepting the sincerity of his unspoken support.
"You don't have to do it alone. The judge can help. He won't get you outta trouble, but he can help keep you from getting into it in the first place. Sometimes just knowing someone's in your court…"
"Will keep ya outta his court?" Tyrone finished, smiling to himself.
Mark gave him a playful shove. "Oh, that was bad," he said, hoisting himself out the back door and onto the ground. Reaching into his wallet, he took out a business card and handed it to the kid. "This is Hardcastle's home number. Use it, Tyrone. He really can help."
Tyrone accepted the card, turning it over and noticing a number on the back. "What's this?" he asked, looking down at the ex-con. Mark looked up at him and smiled.
"That's my number. I don't have the contacts the judge has, but I know the view from where you're sitting and I'll help if I can. The judge and I kinda work as a team, sometimes from two different angles." He looked back at the prison, the smile turning into a concerned frown. "Don't try to figure it out. It's confusing," he said quietly, his thoughts being drawn back to the man being held inside.
Tyrone followed his gaze and sighed. "Hey—Good luck. I hope you get him out."
Mark nodded and threw the pebble he had been holding into the hillside. "Yeah, me too. That man has helped me stay on this side of that gate for almost a year. I couldn't have done it without his help. I know that for a fact." Looking back up at the kid, Mark extended his hand. "Take care, Tyrone. Hopefully, we'll see you on the court next week, like usual."
Tyrone shook his hand and nodded. "Now yer cookin'," he mimicked, in his best Hardcastle-ease. Mark chuckled as he made his way back to the warden and his men, hoping against hope that he and the judge would, indeed, be able to meet them all on the basketball court once again.