A Million Dollar Smile
Mark McCormick headed over to Gull's Way on a very pleasant June morning. As he got out of his CTS V, he glanced at his watch and he said to himself, "Okay, I bet I know just where you are right now, Judge, after all these years."
Mark closed his car door and headed over to the patio where he saw Hardcastle at the small glass-topped table, reading the morning paper and drinking his morning coffee.
He stood there for a minute or so thinking even after all these years the old donkey was still doing some of the same routine he always had since they teamed up with their crazy partnership so many years ago.
Mark walked a bit closer and finally said "Mornin', Judge. I'm starved this morning."
The judge looked up in surprise from behind his paper and replied, "McCormick, you're always hungry."
"Well, Judge, I'm a growing boy and I have lots of work I've been doing lately and I haven't had much time to eat."
Nothing else was said for a brief time until Mark started tapping his fingers on the patio table.
The judge put down the paper he was hiding behind and said in a gruff tone that Mark knew so well, "McCormick, stop tapping your fingers. You're making me lose my mind."
"I thought you already did that years ago from eating all those peanuts.
Ha! Ha!" "Very funny McCormick."
Hardcastle grabbed part of the paper he had already read and handed it to McCormick and said, "McCormick, take this part of the paper so you have something to do with your fingers other then tapping them on the patio table."
Mark put the paper down and got up from the table and poured himself some coffee and fixed a plate of food for himself and sat back down and since Hardcastle's food was already in front of him, they ate their breakfast.
"So, where you been keeping yourself lately? Haven't seen you much at all in the past two weeks."
"Well, I've been in court. I have so much going on in my life and lots of cases - I barely have time to breath much less socialize. I am happy to say things have slowed down now. I'll be over here more often to bug the hell out of you like I used to. I bet you sure miss that," Mark said with a grin on his face.
The judge rolled his eyes and said,"McCormick, how about watching a double feature of John Wayne? We haven't done that together in a while."
"Yeah, sounds like a 's on the schedule tonight?"
"Well, let's go in the den and look it up."
As they both walked in the den, McCormick was carrying part of the news paper that Hardcastle had handed him earlier. He sat in his favorite chair and Hardcastle sat behind his desk as always.
Mark sat in the chair thinking how wonderful and famiilar it all seemed and that this was where he felt the most comfortable when he was in this house.
Hardcastle found the TV listing and said, "Hey kiddo, I found two movies on later this afternoon but none on tonight."
Mark froze for a second then came back to reality. He hadn't heard the judge call him 'kiddo' in the last month. Mark finally found his voice and said, "Oh, what are they?"
Milt put the listing down and said, "Well, it's True Grit and The Searchers."
"Sounds great, Judge. Just like the good old days, huh?" he said with a wide smile.
The judge looked at him and smiled in return.
They decided to head back outside to the patio with their cups of coffee that they had just poured for themselves. Then for the next hour or so, they sat and talked about some of the things going on in the world around them.
Milt suddenly looked down at his watch."What time is it on your watch? This damned watch stopped on me again."
"It's about eleven ?"
"Why, you ask, McCormick? I'll tell ya why. I wanna go in and watch the mid-morning news."
"Fine, anything you say judge. You're the boss after all." Mark turned in the judge's direction with a grin.
"Just get in there will ya! I don't wanna miss the news."
They got settled in there and Milt grabbed the remote and sat behind his desk in his favorite chair then turned on the TV and put the news channel on.
The news finally came on moments later. McCormick sat in his favorite chair and took a sip of his coffee.
They had heard about a little girl nearly being abducted in downtown L.A. and about a shoot-out in some warehouses. Then after that the newscaster said that after the break, they would have a very special anniversary of a very special event last year to talk about.
As they went to the break, the judge turned the volume down just a bit.
"You know, this world's gone just every bit as crazy now then it was before. Every night I turn on the evening news and all I see are know what it's all related to, don't ya, McCormick?"
"Yeah, I do. It's drugs; everywhere you go, there they are."
"Yes, of course it is, and a lot of greed, too, I might add."
They were still talking when the news came back on. Mark saw what was on the screen. "Hey, Judge, it's back on turn the volume back up."
Milt grabbed the remote and turned it back newscaster was talking about the anniversary of a very special event that took place a year ago on June 26th of 2008.
Mark listened intently for the next five minutes or so as they talked about The Star For Brian Keith on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame that took place last year, and that the first anniversary of that exciting and very well-deserved day was coming up soon. After that they were just getting ready to watch the weather when suddenly the cable went out.
Hardcastle said, "Dammit, that cable is no damn good!" as he slammed his hand down on his desk.
Suddenly Mark said," I have an idea. Let's go to Burger Man and have a nice lunch like we used to."
"Yeah, okay, McCormick. Let's go."
The judge got up from his favorite chair behind his desk and slowly headed in the direction of the door to go outside to get in McCormick's CTS V. Mark just stood there and watched how he was getting around and began realizing that now more then ever the judge needed him around, maybe even back at Gull's way.
They went to Burger Man and ordered their usual double bacon cheeseburgers and fries and milkshakes. Mark suddenly had a thought and he was just about to share it with the judge.
Milt suddenly looked at Mark and said,"McCormick, do you have something on your mind?"
"Well, Judge, I was just thinking. How about I stay for a night or two over at the gatehouse. It'll be just like old times almost except I'm not doing all the chores like before."
"Well, you know you can stay anytime. It's your home too."
A few minutes later, McCormick started thinking again about what he had heard on the mid-morning news. It made him want to share a few movies with Judge Hardcastle of a actor he liked to watch, and reminded him how happy he was just to know that the man finally got the star he so very much deserved.
"Why don't we go to the store after lunch and get something we will need for the next few days? I'll pay."
"McCormick, you don't have to pay, for crying out loud."
"Judge, I want to contribute to the groceries; it's the least I can do. Look at all you've done for me. It's time I chipped in my share."
Hardcastle said nothing just nodded his head in agreement.
After they finished their lunch at Burger Man, they headed to the grocery store. They got a whole lot of food, enough to last them a week.
When they got back in the car, Mark said " I need to just run over to the video store across the street. Okay? It'll only take me a few minutes."
"Yeah, go ahead I'll wait here for ya."
"Thanks." Mark got out of his car and headed for the video store. He knew exactly what he wanted to get if the movies were available.
Mark came back out ten minutes later and he was carrying a medium-sized bag in his arms. As he got back in the car, he turned to Hardcastle and said, "Are you all set?"
"Yeah, of course I am, McCormick. Do you think I've been sitting here for ten minutes for the hell of it?"
"Well, relax, willya. I should've remembered how cranky you get when it's past your nap time."
Hardcastle looked at him with a very serious look but decided to say nothing.
They headed back to Gull's Way. When they arrived, they both got out and headed for the main house.
As Hardcastle got settled at his desk in the den Mark said "I'm gonna go and head back over to my place and grab some clothes to stay here a few days. I'll be back before you know it." Then with Hardcastle's nod, Mark turned and headed out the door.
Milt heard a car pull up an hour later and he looked out the window to watch the kid go straight to the gatehouse with his suitcase in hand and a bag under his arm. He began to re-live old times with the kid in his mind. He finally turned from the window and didn't see Mark decide to turn around with his suitcase and head back to the main house.
He finally heard the main house front door slam.
"Hey, McCormick! Haven't you learned not to slam that door?" he yelled.
As Mark walked in to the den he said, "Sorry, Judge, just a habit."
Mark was going to sit in his favorite chair but he changed his mind. Instead he just stood there and said, "I think I'm gonna put on some chicken and potatoes and maybe some nice mixed vegetables for dinner tonight. Does that sound okay with you?"
"Yeah, okay. Anything you want."
Mark set the dining room table and got all the food ready and on the table. Mark thought that they'd eat a little earlier then usual that night.
A few hours later, about five o'clock, they were at the table eating. After dinner, they headed back in the den with their coffee.
"Judge, I rented a few movies to watch with you tonight since the cable is out."
"I don't wanna watch people making love, McCormick."
"They aren't those kinds of movies. I really do think you'll like these."
"We'll try them but if they're anything like I said you're gonna be sorry."
McCormick rolled his eyes and said,"When have I ever made you watch movies like that?" He added under his breath, "Come to think of It when have I ever made you do anything you didn't want to do?"
"What was that, McCormick?"
"Nothing, just thinking out loud."
A bit later McCormick made buttered popcorn and brought it in the den.
"Okay, McCormick, what're these movies we're watching?"
"Well, I thought I'd share a few movies of my favorite actor with you."
"Well, who might that be?"
Mark glanced over and smiled and said, "The actor is Brian Keith. I also decided on these three movies because I thought you might be interested in this kind of movie. Are you up for it?"
Milt looked at him and said, "Sure, why not."
"Okay, great, Judge. I'll just put the first one in and see if you like it or not. It's called The Rare Breed.James Stewart is also in it, along with Maureen O'Hara. Then we have Nevada Smith and then I think you'll love the last one, Judge. It's a surprise though."
"McCormick, you know I don't like surprises."
"You will love this, one trust me."
Milt turned to sneak a glance at him and quickly turned away.
They began watching the first movie which was ninety-seven minutes long and after it was over Mark asked Hardcastle how he liked it.
"Well, I'll tell ya interest in movies sure has changed since you lived here, or maybe you just hid it from me."
"Well, does that mean that you liked it or you didn't?"
"Yeah, I liked it. Let's try the next one."
McCormick grinned and said, "Coming right up." Mark was so pleased he was actually able to find a movie actor and his movies the judge would also like.
For a bit over two hours they watched Brian Keith, Steve McQueen, and Karl Malden in Nevada Smith, and it seemed to McCormick that Hardcastle was enjoying it.
After both those movies they decided to take a break and get up and stretch and get more popcorn and something to drink.
"You know, it really means a lot to me that you like these movies as well as I do."
"Well, I can sure tell ya those first two are probably ought to do this more often."
McCormick smiled and said, "We sure will, Judge."
They finally sat back down in the den.
"This next movie we have I was only able to find on VHS. Hope the VCR is working okay."
"Yeah, it is, or should be it's not used much."
"Perfect. Here's your surprise. Brian Keith in this remake."
It started and the judge sat there looking at it and thinking there was something about it that sure seemed familiar to all of the sudden, the title popped up - The Alamo Thirteen Days To Glory. Hardcastle turned to Mark and McCormick had a huge smile that lit up his whole face and he said "Surprise, Judge!"
"Are you trying to tell me something here, McCormick? Is this a remake of the Alamo with John Wayne?"
"Yeah, Judge, it is. I hope you enjoy the remake, too."
A few minutes into the movie when Mark saw Brian Keith he pointed to the screen and he said,"Hey, Judge, look. If you put on a cowboy hat you and Brian Keith could be twins."
"That's a real nice thought, McCormick," Hardcastle said with a smile.
Halfway through this last movie they stopped it for an intermission.
The judge walked in the kitchen with McCormick and said, " The remake of that movie is just great. Hey, I'm hungry; how about some ham sandwiches, okay?"
"Sure, Judge, coming right up. Why don't you go back in the den? I'll be in with the stuff."
The judge headed back in and sat down in his chair behind his desk.
As soon as McCormick came in and laid things on the desk for the judge to eat, Milt just looked up at him and stared at him for a minute or so without Mark realizing they continued to watch the movie.
Milt looked over at Mark every so often. He could tell something was on the kid's mind,but he went right on leaving it alone for the present. He intended on getting to the bottom of it directly after the movie.
Halfway into the last part of the movie, Mark said, "You know, it felt so good to hear them talking on the news today about Brian Keith. I was just so glad to hear that Brian Keith finally got the recognition he deserved so very much last year. I sure wish Brian Keith could've been there for it. It's such an honor. I wish I would've been there, too."
They went on with watching the movie in silence.
After the movies were over Mark said,"Well, I'm going over to the gatehouse for bed, unless you'd rather I slept here in one of the guest bedrooms."
Even at age ninety-two years old, even though he might get around slower then he used to, retired Judge Milton C. Hardcase Hardcastle was still as sharp as ever. He still knew just like always when Mark McCormick had things on his mind and needed to get them out in the open.
"Hold on, McCormick. After we talk you can sleep anywhere you want."
Milt began to rise from his chair and Mark turned and said, "Is there a problem, Judge?"
"Kiddo, I know something's on your mind, eating at you. Let's hear it."
Milt directed him back to a seat and Mark sat back down knowing it'd be a lost cause to argue.
Milt pulled up a chair and sat as well, ready to listen to his best friend say what was on his mind. He turned to look at Mark."Okay, what's on your mind and don't tell me nothing because I know it's something."
Mark half-rolled his eyes and he moved around a bit in his chair, then finally said, "I was just thinking about the star that Brian Keith got and about the event last year that took place. Brian Keith was such a terrific actor in all his movies and TV shows. I just wish that he'd been there, ya know, with his family enjoying it. I wish he was still there yet for his family. I also wish I could've been there too. All his fans and family and friends sure did a wonderful thing making this all happen for him. Judge, what I'm trying to say plain and simple is that I wish he was still living It was such a hard time for me when I heard he died."
"Yeah, I know when someone you like or care about dies it's sad. You do have lots of memories of him, though. I mean from watching him and all his movies and TV shows. You can always watch them with me, kiddo. Okay?"
"Yeah, that sounds great."
"Hey, let's get to bed now. It's getting late, and you just sleep over here in the main house tonight."
"Thanks." They both headed to bed and tried to get some good rest.
Milt was planning on surprising Mark with something the next morning. The judge realized he really needed to take Mark a place he believed Mark really needed to go. He finally fell asleep making these plans in his head.
At breakfast the next morning, they talked for a while about the new cases that were going to be coming up (but not all the facts of the cases, of course, just a general discussion of them).
It got quiet for a few minutes after that and the judge sat looking at his friend. Then all of the sudden Milt cleared his throat and said, "How do you feel about a ninety-two year old man driving your car? Do you trust me, sport?"
"Yeah, of course I do." Mark said, "Let me go up stairs and get dressed and I'll bring my keys when I come back down."
When Mark finally came back downstairs, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his keys and handed them to the judge, saying,"Where we going, Judge?"
Milt quietly grabbed his camera without Mark seeing and looked at Mark with a small smile on his face and said, "Let's go, McCormick. You'll find out when we get there."
They got in Mark's car with the judge in the driver's seat. As they were driving Mark said "I wanna thank you, Judge, for watching those Brian Keith movies with me last night."
"Well, they were very good movies and anyhow you always watch John Wayne with me."
Nearly an hour later, when Milt parked the car in a garage on a side street On Orange Drive, Mark said, "Where are we, Judge?"
They both got out of the car and the judge said, "Never mind, just follow me." Then Hardcastle led McCormick over and down Hollywood Boulevard to Brian's star.
They both walked until Hardcastle spotted the place he was looking for. He finally stopped abruptly and turned to Mark with a grin a mile wide, "Here we are, kiddo."
"Hardcase, where are we? I'm not in the mood for games."
"McCormick, come a little closer and you'll see."
Mark looked in the direction the judge was pointing and Mark smiled a very wide smile that definitely lit his entire face up and Milt grinned almost as widely..
Milt was very glad he decided to take the kid to see Brian Keith's star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Milt was so happy seeing Mark so happy.
He had Mark get down on one knee by Brian Keith's star and he took a few pictures. Then Mark stood up smiling and Milt took a few more pictures while Mark stood by the star for Brian Keith.
Then minutes later they were on the road again back to Gull's Way.
After they got back to the estate, Milt handed Mark back his keys. Mark put them back in his pocket and then they each got a cup of coffee and sat and talked in the den
"Thanks so much for taking me to see Brian Keith's star. I can't tell you how much that means to me."
"It's okay," Hardcastle said with a smile.
"You know Judge, I always tried to imagine what kind of guy Brian Keith was and I truly believe he was a very kind person. I watched him on Family Affair also and I always saw him smile. One of my last girlfriends, Marie Zimmer, and I watched a movie with Brian Keith in it once, and she said Brian Keith had A million dollar smile and she loved his acting."
"Yeah, well, he was a very good actor."
Mark continued talking to the judge throughout the day about Brian Keith and the other movies and TV shows he was going to share with the judge.
They sat and relaxed all afternoon enjoying one another's company.