Author's Note: Today's "discrepancy" story deals with the sudden appearance of a clear glass award on the judge's desk, primarily featured in the episode "If You Could See What I See."
I understand that the award, and its eventual destruction, is a basic plot point. Psychic Millie warns Hardcastle against displaying his breakable award so close to the edge of his desk. Skeptical Hardcastle ignores the housekeeper's warning, and defends his placement of the award, saying that it has been "right in that spot" for the past ten years. Later in the episode, the judge is reaching for the phone and accidentally knocks over the award. It falls to the floor, shattering. It's an important step in Hardcastle's eventual belief that Millie is psychic (or something), and that she is the only key to finding a missing – and most likely seriously injured – McCormick.
Faithful viewers of Hardcastle and McCormick will know the referenced award was never seen before this episode. The creation of this award bothered me, but not as much as the location of it – right on the judge's desk, which is shown in basically any episode that has scenes in the den (probably 70 percent of all the episodes). I mean, if you are going to create an award solely for a plot point, at least put it somewhere where its non-existence is not as apparent in earlier episodes. The mantle, an end table. . . A good writer could still figure out a way for Millie to warn that it could fall, and the resulting way that Hardcastle could eventually knock it over.
But instead of doing that, I'm just going to attempt to explain the odd absence of an award that was supposed to have been on Hardcastle's desk for ten years.
Disclaimer: I do not own these beloved characters, and I am writing for fun and feedback, not for profit.
Mark McCormick stood on the front steps and nodded at the man climbing back into the brown delivery truck. The ex-con would have waved, but as he was now holding a decent-sized package, his hands were otherwise occupied. The package wasn't exactly huge, but the obvious, glaring writing and stamps on the top and sides – FRAGILE! HANDLE WITH CARE! BREAKABLE! – dictated that the support of two hands was necessary. And as the name of the recipient was one Milton C. Hardcastle, Mark was extremely careful while transporting the package into the main house.
Jostling the package as minimally as possible, McCormick opened the front doors. He let the screen door slam behind him, kicked the main door shut with his foot, and then made his way to the den. Judge Hardcastle winced at the double slams and looked up from the television with a scowl, ready to deliver a reprimand, followed by a lecture on how to properly close doors. His scowl gave way to a look of curiosity, though, as he saw what McCormick was carrying. "Why're you bringing that in here? I thought it was car parts." He clicked off the television – it looked like the Giants had taken the game from the Dodgers, anyway – and rose from his chair.
Mark was placing the package on the judge's desk. "Nope. This is for you. Something from Seattle? And apparently it's kind of delicate. Or someone sent you a bomb, and they wanted to make sure it didn't go off until you opened it."
Milt scoffed with a faint smile. "Yeah, I don't think someone would send me a bomb through UPS. Something like that would probably be delivered anonymously on the doorstep."
"Like when someone abandons a baby? You trying to tell me something here, Hardcase? Should I be watching for a bundle on the front step, maybe a grumpy little thing wrapped up in a tacky Hawaiian shirt?"
"Can it, wise guy," Milt answered, although his smile had broadened. Mark grinned back, then gestured to the package. "Well, open it. I want to see what it is."
Retrieving a pair of scissors from the drawer, Hardcastle cut slits in the tape on the box, then drew a careful slice through the top flaps. After parting the flaps and removing a good amount of protective packaging, he eventually drew out an object about the size of a large dinner plate, heavily covered in bubble wrap. Before he had even begun unwinding the bubble wrap, a look of delight had appeared on the older man's face. "It's about time! I've been waiting so long for them to fix this, I forgot all about it!" He continued to unwrap the plastic, his smile undimmed by the long process. "I already have a place to display it and everything – right here on the corner of the desk."
Once the bubble wrap had been completely removed and discarded, Hardcastle was proudly holding a clear glass award, etched with his name and the words "District Court Judge of the Year." In between the commendation and the judge's name was the image of a gavel. Milt carefully put the fragile award down on the desk, dug through the box again, and then brought out a dark wood base with the date "1975" affixed to it. Mark edged closer, looking between the award and the base. He shook his head in mock confusion. "Hate to tell you this, Judge, but I think it's still wrong. It's nineteen eighty-five."
"Hah!" Milt answered, grinning. "I originally got this in '75. No! Early '76." He could recall the award ceremony, and the vague emptiness of receiving an award and not being able to share the victory with Nancy. "I had it right here on the desk, and boy, was it slick the way the sun would hit it, and send little rainbows and prisms dancing around the room. . ." He glanced around wistfully. "But I had to send it back. That was maybe a week or two before you got here."
McCormick had bent to pick up the discarded bubble wrap, and he was now resting on the arm of the chair on the judge's left, happily popping the little plastic bubbles. "You sent it back? What, the rainbows and prisms weren't manly enough for you?"
A small frown chased away Milt's previous smile. "There was a flaw in the glass, something not real obvious at first, but over the years it kept getting bigger, kinda like a crack in a windshield. And pretty soon that was all I could see. You know what I mean?"
Mark nodded in complete agreement. He felt that way about the Coyote. If he happened to be in the perfect light, and noticed a previously unseen scratch or a poorly-patched bullet hole, the newly discovered defect would now be front and center every time he looked at his car.
"So," the judge went on, speaking louder to be heard over the 'pops' on his left, "I had to make a few phone calls to figure out who to send it back to, to get it fixed. They wanted me to wrap it up like it was made of gold or something – the thing was already damaged, I don't know what that was all about – and I had to pay an arm and a leg to send it out. Then I get a call from the place where I sent it, saying they're closing, and that they'd forwarded the award to a different company in Seattle. Then maybe eight months ago the Seattle people call me and tell me that the thing can't be salvaged, and they have to make a brand new one. . . " He shook his head in disgust. "Two years this thing has been missing. Like I said, I forgot all about it. But now it can go back in the place of honor!" Milt took the wood base and placed it on the far edge of the desk, near the phone. Then with reverence, he lowered the glass award into the slot on the base, and sighed in contentment. A period of contentment that lasted about five seconds.
"Oh, you have to be kidding me!" Milt exploded.
McCormick looked up with interest, as Hardcastle's reaction provided more entertainment than the bubble wrap. "What? What's wrong?"
The judge was waving an angry hand at the award. "Look at it! Just look at it!"
Mark rose, setting the plastic wrap aside. He came around to stand near the judge's chair, crouching a bit so he could view the award at the same height. "Another flaw? Is the gavel backwards? How could you tell?" McCormick shrugged. "Or did they spell your name wrong – " McCormick broke off with a gasp, then began to laugh. "They did! They spelled your name wrong!"
On the bottom of the award, under the picture of the gavel, the recipient's name was written as "Milton C. Harrdcastle."
Milt glared acidly at the chortling ex-con. "Don't you have someplace to be? I thought you were doing the laundry."
Mark ignored the suggestion, only laughing louder. "Harrdcastle!" he said, trilling the 'R' in an Irish brogue. Then he repeated it, only this time with a rough sea-faring accent. "Harr-dcastle. I guess they think you're a pirate, aye, matey?"
"You think this is funny, huh?" the judge said. "Well how would you feel, if it was one of your racing trophies, and they spelled your name wrong?"
McCormick's laughter was winding down, but he still had a big grin plastered on his face. "My name's not that hard to spell, Judge."
"Oh, yeah? How about Marc with a 'C'? Or MacCormack, with a couple of 'A's?"
Mark sighed, finally becoming sober. "All right. Point made. So I guess you're sending it back again, huh?"
"Yeah, guess so." Milt looked at the partially-deflated bubble wrap sitting in the seat of Mark's chair. "And I guess I'm gonna need some fresh packing material, too."
"Well, Tonto has no time to run errands. Tonto must wash Masked Man's sweat pants."
The judge looked up. "Don't cram the washer full like you did last time, or you'll spend the rest of the day cleaning up the overflow again," he reminded the younger man.
"Yeah, yeah." Mark moved away from the desk and toward the stairs to the hall. Right before he left the room, he turned back with a fresh grin. "Hey, if it takes another eight months to get that thing fixed, you'll get it back sometime in December – just in time for it to be a Christmas present."
Then the ex-con entered the hallway, again laughing.
Milt dropped the receiver back onto the phone, staring grimly at the shattered pieces of his award. One detached part of his mind registered that he should sweep it up, maybe even get the vacuum out – The way the kid runs around here without shoes, he'll end up getting glass shards embedded in his bare feet – and on the heels of that thought came the memory of McCormick's voice, echoing in his head:
"I don't know, Judge. If Millie says to move it, I'd move it."
"Move it," Hardcastle muttered to himself, barely aware that he'd spoken the words.
His next step was to locate Millie. He was pretty sure she was gone before he had even checked the spare room she'd occupied – the main house had the same empty, lost feel that he'd sensed in the gatehouse. But there was a note, along with the woman's prayer beads, left in the crystal dish on the telephone table. And the note had an address.
Move it or lose it.
There was no reason to stay. Millie wasn't coming back. Neither was McCormick, for that matter – at least, not on his own. He'd already known that with a chilling certainty the moment he'd found the still-sticky blood on the floor of Wendell Price's pool house.
He hurried out of the house and back to the pick-up, neglecting to lock the front door in his haste.
He also left the broken shards of his award lying scattered on the floor of the den.
A/N: "Bubble wrap" was created by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes. Bubble Wrap (or BubbleWrap) are trademarks owned by Sealed Air Corporation.