This is a missing scene from the Hardcastle and McCormick pilot episode, "Rolling Thunder," written for the Rolling Thunder Challenge on the Yahoo Gulls' Way List.

The Morning After Las Vegas

By JeanneZ84

Hardcastle had been so sure the kid was going to come around that when he arrived home late that night from Las Vegas – trusting McCormick to drive himself back to California – he wasn't surprised at all to find Mark's new car parked right outside the gatehouse. The firecracker-red hotrod Barbara Johnson had given the ex-con looked strangely at home parked in the driveway at Gulls' Way.

As the judge climbed out of his truck, a big smile split his face; it was the smile of a father who was proud of his son for doing the right thing. Hardcastle continued to stand beside the pickup for a few moments, grinning, before he finally entered the main house and went straight to bed.

Morning announced itself with a whiff of the breakfast Sarah was making. The judge awoke slowly, still thinking about how much he really wanted things to work out for his new partnership with McCormick.

He was just starting to wonder when the kid was going to come over for breakfast, when the kitchen door opened and McCormick walked in, wrapped in a blue flannel robe and carrying the morning paper.

"Morning, Judge. Morning, Sarah."

Hardcastle glanced up from his cup of coffee and stared at McCormick.

"What?" Mark stopped walking and returned the look, puzzled. "Was I supposed to check in last night when I got home? 'Cause I did with Sarah, Judge. But she said you weren't back yet."

"Yeah, she told me this morning, kiddo."

Mark continued, "Well, then, was I supposed to come dressed this morning? You didn't tell me all the rules yet."

"No, it's okay," Hardcastle chuckled. "It's just that you look like you've been fighting the bad guys in your sleep."

McCormick certainly was a sight: His robe was rumpled, and his curly hair was standing up every which way.

Mark shrugged. "I guess I didn't sleep too well last night – thinking about Barbara and everything, y'know?"

"Yeah, she's a good kid," Hardcastle agreed. "So, how'd things go with Dalem?"

A trace of suspicion crossed the ex-con's face. "Judge, are you asking me if I made it to my parole appointment on time?"

"No! Of course not, McCormick. If you hadn't, I figured you wouldn't be here now." The judge set his coffee down hard for emphasis.

"Well… yeah. Guess you're right." McCormick relaxed a little, slouching into the nearest chair. "To answer your question, it went fine – just like you'd expect. And I made it on time… as usual."

While the two men were talking, Sarah began to place breakfast on the table. She went through the motions silently, as if she understood the importance of the conversation taking place.

Mark and the judge continued to talk as they ate. After they finished, Hardcastle sighed, patted his stomach contentedly and turned to McCormick. "Come on, kiddo, into the den. We gotta go over that case I told ya about before we left Vegas."

"The one with the guy in Frisco who threw his partner out a shopping mall window?"

"Yeah. We're gonna get right on it – get this guy and put him away in the house of many doors for good. Then, he can start forkin' down those lumpy mashed potatoes and hammerin' out license plates for the next 50 years."

McCormick cocked a rueful grin. "Better him than me, Judge."

Hardcastle snorted but didn't answer. Instead, he pointed Mark to a seat in the den and handed him a file to look over.

McCormick flipped the file open to find the wanted man's mug shot. "Jeez, Judge," he said, sounding slightly apprehensive, "this guy looks like a creature from some monster movie."

Hardcastle chuckled grimly. "Yeah, well, McCormick, he won't be on the streets much longer. You and me'll see to that."

Mark shoved his chair back from the Judge's desk. "I'm gonna take a shower and get dressed," he said, rising to his feet with determination. "When I come back, we can get right on this, okay?"

The judge nodded, and when he spoke, a huge grin belied the gruffness of his tone. "Hurry up then, McCormick. Lets go. Time's a'wasting!"

As the kid sauntered to the door, Hardcastle could have sworn he heard the softly muttered words, "Uh, right. Coming, Kemosabe."

The End