The Phantom of Alcatraz
By Lizabeth S. Tucker
Mark McCormick hung on tightly to the handhold on the trolley car as he leaned out the side of the moving vehicle. The sea breeze was cool and the tang of salt was in the air, becoming stronger as the cable car neared Fisherman's Wharf. His tousled curls covered by a baseball cap, McCormick glanced back at Judge Milton C. Hardcastle, grinning ear to ear. "This is great!" he shouted.
"Lunch?" Hardcastle yelled back.
McCormick nodded his head vigorously and pointed to a seafood restaurant that was on the edge of the pier. Hardcastle indicated his agreement and got to his feet, standing alongside McCormick in preparation to jumping off the trolley as it slowed.
They left the car in a running jump, slowing after getting away from the track and the middle of the street. McCormick stopped at a roadside vendor, looking through the tourist pamphlets and picking one out in particular.
"Judge? Could we go see this place?" McCormick asked, waving the book at the Judge.
Hardcastle took the brightly colored brochure and chuckled. "You want to go here? I swear, McCormick, I don't understand you. All you do is complain that I've sent you to prison unfairly, and here you want to go to Alcatraz."
"It's one of the few prisons I haven't been to." McCormick smirked.
"That's the truth, unless you were in California in '63," Hardcastle retorted.
"Hey, I would've been eight years old. Nobody puts an eight year old in a federal pen. Well, maybe you would."
"Pay for this and let's get some food. Then I'll consider taking you to the prison, and maybe leave you there if you don't straighten up."
McCormick smiled, aware that the threat was just hot air. Three years with Hardcastle had taught McCormick a lot about friendship and loyalty and love. He now knew that the gruff exterior covered up a marshmallow interior and the complaints were a counterpoint to McCormick's whining act. Tempers would sometimes flare and even separations, but they would soon begin to miss each other's company, aggravating and stimulating and, as Hardcastle would say, full of action and excitement.
"Hey!" Hardcastle snapped his fingers in front of McCormick's nose, an amused look on his face. "Are you with me?"
"Sure. Let's get some food. I think a filet and some lobster tail sounds nice, don't you?"
Hardcastle frowned. "Unless you're paying for it, we'll stick to clam chowder and the seafood platter. Understand?"
"Yes, massa." McCormick bowed repeatedly to the Judge, backing down the walkway and flashing his impish grin. "Bread and water, it is."
"I'm beginning to give up any hope of wiping that smart mouth offa you, hotshot."
"Doesn't take you long at all, does it, Judge? I mean, we've only really known each other for three years now."
"Watch it!" Hardcastle shouted, grabbing McCormick's arm as he tottered on the edge of the pier where the safety rail was broken.
McCormick looked over his shoulder at the grey murky water and whistled. "Not too safe looking down there. Who knows what I might've hit landing in it."
"Come on, let's inhale some seafood."
"All aboard for the next tour to Alcatraz." The intercom rasped over the conversation of the tourists waiting in the fast food restaurant. The people slowly made their way over to the gangplank stretching to the ferry boat and Judge Hardcastle looked around for his young friend. He spotted McCormick in the far corner, his nose buried in a book about famous escape attempts made in the federal prison's history. Shaking his head in amusement, the Judge walked to McCormick's side, standing in front of him to see how long it would take the younger man to realize he was there.
The tourists rushed aboard the ferry and still McCormick read on. Finally tired of waiting, Hardcastle put his head over the book, drawing an annoyed glare from McCormick.
"Are you ready to go, kiddo? The boat's almost full."
A sheepish smile plastered across his face, McCormick dogeared the paperback and nodded. "Sorry, I got involved."
"Well, it's better than watching you pathetically attempting to pick up girls." Hardcastle commented with a flash of his youthful grin.
"Pathetic attempts? I'll have you know that I am more than able to get any woman I want, Judge," McCormick replied, following alongside the Judge.
"Oh, yeah? Like that woman I the restaurant last night? She was very impressed by your smooth moves."
"Hey, I couldn't help it if the tablecloth got stuck on my foot. The help didn't clean up the guacamole, and I accidently stepped in it. Half-dried guacamole is sticky." He protested without affect.
"Whatever the reason, it didn't impress her when the plate of linguini fell in her lap."
"I don't think that was the problem as much as the fact that the wine fell in her purse, as well as the table crushing her expensive Parisian hat." McCormick snickered, remembering the scene in the restaurant and the uproar it had caused. Judge Hardcastle had had to lay out a lot of money before the talk of bringing the cops in was dropped and they were allowed to leave. Actually, they were forcibly ejected over Hardcastle's protests. The manager mentioned something about not being pleased with their sort of customer, that maybe they should try the local café next time, possibly even the nearest McDonald's.
Between the shouting and Hardcastle's combination laughter/anger, it had been a fun evening. McCormick could barely contain his own laughter, but the Judge's annoyance at being called names warned him to take it easy with the jokes.
They squeezed their way to the rail, hard-pressed to keep together in the crush of people on the boat. McCormick leaned over the boat and watched the water swirling around the trash floating in the bay. The New Jersey native sighed. All big cities were alike, the more people living around them, the more garbage was dumped in the water that attracted them to the area to begin with.
The boat ride was interesting and informative, as McCormick saw how the pilot had to work to keep the ferry from getting caught in the vicious undertow and being thrown against the rocks, the same rocks that had foiled so many escape attempts. Officially, there were no successful escapes from Alcatraz. Unofficially, there were rumors, compounded by a movie by Clint Eastwood, that one person had managed to get away from the Rock, as Alcatraz was called.
After docking, McCormick and Hardcastle waited until the rest of the tourists had disembarked and then strolled to where the Park Service guards, who doubled as tour guides, were splitting the large crowd into small, manageable groups.
Their guide was an older man in his sixties who had a deep tan from years of serving in the sun. He explained that the group was to stay together. Wandering off alone was forbidden.
"Altogether, I served here as guard from the age of 18 until the prison closed in 1963. Now I conduct tours of the place where our most hardened criminals served. As we move through the buildings that make up Alcatraz, I will be giving you an overlay of the history of the prison from its inception to plans for its future."
McCormick and Hardcastle followed along, Mark listening to every word the guide said. They moved closer to the lower levels of the main building, McCormick edging closer to the front of the group to hear the man better.
"Alcatraz was originally set up by the U.S. War Department as a prison for deserters and hostiles in 1868. The name came from an Indian term which mean Island of the Pelicans. By the early 1930s, the War Department didn't have a use for the prison and turned it over to the Department of Justice. The first warden was James Z. Johnston who set the tone for the prison's future. By the end of 1934, the prison housed over 250 of the most hardened criminals this country had ever seen."
Hardcastle nudged McCormick and dropped back from the group. With a frown, the ex-con stayed with him. "What is it, Judge?"
"I thought I saw something or someone I knew," Hardcastle said softly.
"Probably someone in another tour. Come on, we're falling behind, Judge. I don't want to miss this for one of your trips down memory lane," McCormick said impatiently, his eyes never leaving the tour group pulling ahead of them.
Hardcastle nodded. "Go on, I'll be right behind you."
McCormick looked at him then, his face questioning. "You sure? Was it important?"
"Nah, probably like you said, another tour group. I'm not even certain who it was. I just caught a glimpse." Hardcastle gently pushed McCormick up the hallway. "Go on, you'll miss hearing your name listed as one of the inmates." He smiled as his friend's face puckered up in a funny scrawl of wrinkles and pushed out skin.
While McCormick listened enthralled to the history of the prison, Hardcastle racked his brain trying to pinpoint who the face he spotted briefly at the bars belonged to. Despite his reassurances to the kid, he knew this face wasn't an idle tourist. It brought the vague glimpse of murder to Hardcastle's mind, and that demanded investigation.
But he knew that McCormick was enjoying himself, so he wouldn't bother him, slipping away instead until he could find the familiar face, then rejoin the group before McCormick noticed he was gone. It was probably a former inmate out on parole, or someone who resembled a murderer who had been in the Judge's court.
Hardcastle hung back until the tour group turned a corner, heading toward the main guard station. He hurried back to where he had glimpsed the familiar man, searching through the corridors for the mysterious face. He heard the sound of footsteps running away and rushed after them. He stopped at the metal stairs leading to the basement of the prison, where the solitary cells were located. There were patches of light amongst the darkened corridors to the bowels of the building, tiny bulbs that had to fight with the overwhelming gloom of Alcatraz's decaying concrete and plaster walls. There was the smell of rot in the air, a sickening odor of human waste and mold from the wet of the San Francisco Bay.
Quietly climbing down the stairs, Hardcastle listened for noise that would indicate where his quarry was hiding. There was silence wrapping around him like a cocoon of cotton, stifling and breath-robbing. The walls seemed to be pulsating. For the first time Hardcastle began to realize what it had been like for McCormick in San Quentin, more so than when the Judge had been put in the more modern jail on suspicion of murder during the Christmas holiday. The Judge wondered how the man had withstood the claustrophobia, and knew that McCormick had had no choice, especially after his escape attempt had gotten him taken from a minimum security prison to the foreboding San Quentin, home of mass murderers and violent criminals.
When Hardcastle heard about the change, it had taken almost every favor owed him to get McCormick moved to Strykersville, another minimum security holding institute. And keeping the move's origin quiet had caused the Judge to owe some favors of his own later. In all, McCormick had managed to see the best and the worst of the correctional institutions in the Los Angeles area during his time in jail.
Shaking himself back to the present, Hardcastle heard a scraping noise from behind him and half-turned, a glimpse of a ghost white face catching his eye before a blow on his skull brought darkness.
McCormick was worried. He hadn't seen Hardcastle since leaving the prison building to tour the cafeteria facilities. He had assumed that the Judge, bored by the tour, was by the ferry boat, waiting for McCormick to return, but now that he was there, the Judge wasn't.
"Excuse me," he asked his tour guide. "My friend isn't with us. Have you seen him?"
The older man's grey eyes stared at McCormick. He felt a shiver run down his spine. Guards still had that effect on him, no matter how long ago his prison stay had been. There had been certain guards who took a fiendish delight in working prisoners over. This one resembled a guard at San Quentin who lived for lights out and McCormick being at his mercy.
"Don't know about anyone wandering off. I warned you to stay with the group. This prison's dangerous, the walls are as soft as jello in spots. Are you sure your friend didn't go back to the mainland?"
"No, he wouldn't go back, not until I was back. I'm afraid he might be lost, or hurt. I need to have some of your people help me search for him. His name is Hardcastle, Judge Milton C. Hardcastle."
"Well, I suppose we can look, but you are to stay here. Describe him."
"I've gotta go, too. I'm certainly not staying here," McCormick protested.
"Now, lad, if your friend comes up on his own, what will he think if you're not here? He'll be starting another search party and the two groups would spend the rest of their life looking for each other. Let's have a description of Judge Hardcastle." A new guard came up alongside the older one, a blustery, friendly man. "And your own name, too, if you don't mind."
"I'm Mark McCormick. Hardcastle is in his mid-sixties, white hair, pretty tall, burly, blue eyes. He's wearing a pair of tan slacks and a yellow shirt. Oh, and he's wearing a Boston Celtics cap."
"Stay here. If your Judge shows up, tell that man over there and he'll radio us to call off the search." The guard pointed to the aluminum building which headquartered guards on duty. "Now, where did you last see him?"
McCormick thought for a moment, going back through the tour in his mind. "I remember seeing him in the main building. 'cause he said he saw somebody he recognized. I don't really remember seeing him after that, though he might have tagged along after that, it would have to have been at the rear of the group."
"Okay, we'll go look." When McCormick made another motion to follow after them, the guard put his hand on the ex-con's chest. "No, stay here. I mean it."
Nodding reluctantly, McCormick went and leaned against the barricade that was used to line up the tourists leaving on the ferries. Watching the men go back into the building, McCormick began to pace nervously. He just knew that something was wrong, that Hardcastle was in trouble, and it bothered him to stay out of it. He'd give the search party an hour, then he'd go in on his own, starting with where he'd last seen the Judge. McCormick stared intently at the building, his brown furrowed with worry. "Ah, Hardcastle, what's going on? Where are you?"
Hardcastle's head pounded with a chorus of rail-builders, their hammers all pounding in unison. He felt around him, his eyes still tightly shut. He was lying on some sort of cot, but where? It took a few moments for his head to clear enough to remember what had happened in the prison. Hardcastle could hear someone moving about, then a cold, damp cloth was laid on his forehead.
His eyes flickered opened. "McCormick, what the hell happened?" But it wasn't McCormick taking care of him, it was the man he'd seen earlier. And now Hardcastle knew that it wasn't his imagination.
He looked the man over. The face was a pasty white, peeling around the eyes, nose and mouth. The eyes were deep set, the cheekbones prominent as the man's skin was stretched tight over the bones on his face. The clothes, prison-issue, were the size of a tent, so Hardcastle assumed that underneath the man was skin and bones also.
"Who are you?" Hardcastle asked, sitting up and catching the cloth as it fell.
"Uh." The man grunted and mumbled, but there was no recognizable speech.
Hardcastle moved to the cell door, pushing on it. It didn't move, he was locked in. Checking the lock, Hardcastle discovered that it was electric and impervious to attempts to pick it. He held tightly onto the metal bars until a wave of dizziness passed, then walked slowly back to the bunk and lowered himself on it.
"Seems your buddy is anxious about you."
The voice startled Hardcastle. He jerked upright, hitting his head on the upper bunk. He looked up to see a guard, the same one who had led McCormick's tour group, staring through the bars at him. "Let me out."
"Sorry, no can do. You've seen our little guest here. We don't want the whole world to know as well."
"Who is he?" When the man hesitated, Hardcastle shrugged. "If you don't plan on letting me leave, it can't hurt to let me know who my cellmate is, can it?"
"No, I suppose not. Your new friend is Whitney Franklin. Ring a bell?"
Hardcastle frowned. "Yeah, bank robber and murderer. I thought he was dead. I remember hearing about him years ago. How the guards mistreated him."
"He was a cold-blooded killer. He bludgeoned a guard to death with a hammer. That guard was one of ours. Naturally there was some retaliation." The guard protested.
"Some retaliation. He was put in solitary for over seven years. Last I heard, he was dead of old age."
"No, we arranged for old Whitey to disappear from the files, but he was left here to live out his life. We sentenced him to life, and that is what he will get. At first, he was kept away from any sort of conversation, but his mind is no longer there. He can't speak, doesn't understand commands, we don't need to impose silence on him now. This prison broke him, now we take care of him. And keep his secret safe."
Hardcastle leaned forward and read the guard's name tag. "Middleton, how many know about him?"
"Five of us are left from the old days when this was an active prison."
"And when they're transferred, retired or dead?"
"Then he'll be left here to die. Maybe someday he'll be found, but I don't bet on it. He can't yell for help, can he?"
"Yeah, Middleton, but I can. What are you going to do about that? Kill me?"
"No, not yet. If we can convince your friend McCormick to just go away, then we'll do the same for you as we do for Whitney."
"And if McCormick persists in trying to find me?" Hardcastle asked.
Middleton began to walk away, flipping the light off as he got to the outer door. He called back with a laugh. "Then we take care of him. Permanently. After all, who'll miss a couple of tourists who disappear into thin air? A short search for the record and another mysterious vanishing act. Happens all over the country, Judge."
Hardcastle lay back on the bunk, his arms behind his head. He had to get out and quickly, because there was no way that McCormick would give up pushing.
"Mr. McCormick, we've searched for two hours now. Judge Hardcastle is nowhere to be found. Your best bet is to go back to the mainland. Your friend is probably waiting for you there. The last ferry will be leaving in about thirty minutes. You don't want to miss it." Lieutenant Crenna, the jovial guard who had originally organized the search, put his arm around McCormick's shoulders. "I'm sorry, son, but you can't stay here."
"I'm not leaving 'til I find Hardcastle. I want to do some searching myself, in the lower regions of the building." McCormick pulled away impatiently, pacing back and forth by the guard station. "I refuse. That's all there is to it."
"No, that isn't. If I have to remove you forcibly, I will. Look, I'll make sure the men keep looking, but you aren't allowed to stay on the island. Alcatraz is too dangerous to be wandering around in the dark."
McCormick looked at Crenna, seeing the men standing behind him and their determined faces, and nodded. "Okay, I'll leave. But I'll be back first thing in the morning. Count on it."
"That I will, lad, that I will," Crenna said, slapping McCormick on the back hard enough to propel him forward.
On the ferry boat back to the mainland, McCormick fumed. He didn't like leaving without Hardcastle, and he knew that the Judge was still on Alcatraz and in bad trouble. McCormick was going to find a way back to the island tonight, if he had to swim there.
The first step would be to find another boat whose pilot wouldn't mind breaking a few Federal laws by trespassing on Federal land. That meant someone who was sympathetic or easily bought, a navigator who knew the treacherous waters around the isolated island. McCormick leaned on the side of the boat, his eyes blindly staring at the San Francisco skyline, his mind working at a frantic pace searching for an acquaintance who might fit the bill.
Once on shore, he took a taxi back to the hotel where he and Hardcastle were staying during their visit. He had the operator of the hotel call Los Angeles for him. The phone rang and rang before there was an answer.
"Frank? Frank, it's Mark. I'm in bad trouble. Hardcase has disappeared on Alcatraz Island and I need you to help push for a thorough search. Can you do that? No matter what happens to me, no matter what you hear, you've gotta believe me, the Judge is on that island."
"Whoa, slow down, Mark. Now, slowly and carefully, tell me what's going on." Lieutenant Frank Harper of the Los Angeles Police Department calmly said, his concern obvious in his tone of voice.
McCormick took a deep breath and began again. He told the whole story from the beginning, omitting only his plans to return to the island after dark. "I know he's still there, Frank, but I don't think the guards are taking me seriously, ya know? Can't say I'm surprised, s'pose it does sound crazy. But you know Hardcase would never leave Alcatraz without me knowing. And he saw someone he knew there. I kidded him about it, but the Judge is never wrong. If he said he saw somebody, he saw somebody. Only I don't know who."
"And you think that someone might have…done something to prevent Milt from joining you?" Harper asked.
"What about the guards? They'd find him if they searched."
"Maybe. Maybe they're in on it. I don't know. Maybe he's been moved to another place. I just don't know. But Hardcastle wouldn't go without a fight and that's what scares me. He could be hurt."
"Or dead." At the sound of McCormick's protest, Harper persisted. "You have to consider all the options, all the possibilities, Mark. Look, I'll start things in motion from this end. You take it calm, you hear? I don't want to have to bail you out of jail. What are you gonna do?"
"Check out a few ideas I have, wait for daylight and go on back to the island. I'll give you a ring tomorrow, whether I find him or not."
"You do that. Hey, Mark?"
"You'll find him. Milt's a tough old bird, don't worry about him. Worry about yourself. Those guards aren't gonna be too happy with you if you start throwing accusations around. Take it nice and steady."
McCormick grinned, touched by Harper's concern. "Don't sweat it, I'm the soul of tact, you know that." Ignoring the snort on the other end of the phone, he continued. "Catch you later."
"I'll be waiting."
Hanging up the phone, McCormick had an idea on who to contact for help, the brother of an old girlfriend from before his stay in prison. If he remembered correctly, and nothing had changed in the intervening years, the brother was a part-time smuggler, part-time fisherman. That meant he should be well acquainted with the currents of the water around Alcatraz, not to mention being receptive to the idea of breaking the law. McCormick dug through the Judge's suitcase for the traveler's checks the Judge had brought along. He took a good look at the signature and began to practice signing Hardcastle's name.
"Aw, you're not gonna like this, trespassing on Federal land and forgery as well. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Hope you go for that one."
When he felt he could scribble the Judge's signature without looking obvious, McCormick took them to the main desk of the hotel, flashing the hotel key for I.D., telling the harassed desk clerk, who was trying to take care of a science fiction convention at the same time, that he had had his wallet stolen along with all his identification.
With $2,000 in cash on him and the clerk's warning of possible robbery ringing in his ears, McCormick went upstairs to make his call and get dressed in something appropriate for night maneuvers. If he did manage to convince his old girlfriend's brother to help, he would need the cash, a lot of it.
He thumbed through the San Francisco area phone book until he found three numbers which could belong to the man he wanted.
Hardcastle listened to the sound of dripping water and the snores of his unwanted roommate. There had only been one more visit by Middleton, a dinner break and the lights left on for thirty minutes. Middleton had refused to answer any questions about McCormick, merely grinning at the Judge's concern. Whitey was strangely noisy, grunting at the Judge as if carrying on a conversation. The only recognizable word was 'Sandy', a name that should have rung a bell with Hardcastle, he knew, but it escaped him at present.
Lights were off again and the food gone in a tasteless gulp. Hardcastle stared into the darkness and worried about McCormick. He had heard about the kid's previous exploits when Hardcastle had been in trouble and was afraid he would try something foolish. McCormick's best talent was getting in trouble and this time, Hardcastle wouldn't be around to save him. He was locked in this cell with a madman, unable to get out.
"But you did!" Hardcastle exclaimed. "That's how I saw you, you got out, so that means I can, too. But how?"
It would be impossible to search in the darkness for an escape and Hardcastle knew that McCormick would have been forced to leave the island on the last ferry, so there wouldn't be any trouble until morning light and the resumption of the tours.
And that should give him plenty of time to search for Whitey's escape route. Hardcastle smiled into the dark, settling back for some sleep. "Don't do anything foolish, kiddo," he murmured softly.
"Thanks, Chuck, I really appreciate this." McCormick had to shout to be heard over the engine noise and the wind.
"No problem. You're paying the freight, man. Paula said you were cool. But if you get caught on this hunk of rock, you don't know me, right?"
"You don't exist." McCormick moved closer to the wheel. "If you hear of anything happening on this island, I want you to make a call."
Chuck shook his head violently. "No way! Our agreement was to get you to Alcatraz without being seen for $1500 cash and then bye-bye. No calls, no way."
"Hey, it's to a friend of mine. You don't have to give your name, just pass along a quick message. Please, Chuck. Do it for an extra hundred?"
Chuck turned green eyes on McCormick, his Sandy hair whipping in the wind. "Maybe. What's the message?"
"I want you to tell him that you left me on the island. That's all. Look, I've written the name and number on this piece of paper." McCormick dug in his pocket, pulling two fifties out. "Here's your money. It's only to be done if you hear about any mysterious accidents involving me or Judge Milton C. Hardcastle. Understand? Only then."
"Understood. This looks like it's getting dangerous. Paula used to think you were pretty special, so I've brought you a little equalizer. It's under my jacket." Chuck shoved the paper into his shirt pocket, the money wrapped around it.
McCormick dug under the dark blue jacket and found an Uzi and some extra clips of ammo. He thanked Chuck, pocketing the weapon in his black racing jacket, the ammo in the opposite side. "You think of everything, don't you?"
"Let's just say that I've heard some rumors about that place and what goes on after dark," Chuck replied.
"Like what?" McCormick asked.
"Screams, lights in the cells, some say it's haunted."
"Haunted?" McCormick shivered. He didn't mind fighting real bad guys, but ghosts were out of his line of expertise. "God, I hope not."
Chuck's white teeth gleamed in the dark. "Hey, don't worry about it. If any place deserves a few ghosts, Alcatraz does. Lots of awful things happened there during its history."
"So I heard during the tour. But I don't like being a part of it."
Chuck sobered. "Yeah, I know. Hey, man, hope you find your friend. Take it easy climbing up the side of the cliff where I'm gonna let you off. It's wet, slippery and dangerous. But you should make it if you take your time."
"Thanks a lot."
"Get ready, we're almost there." Chuck threw McCormick a rope and a knapsack of supplies. "A few more toys for you to play with."
"Thanks. Get me as close as you can. I don't want to drown before I get on Alcatraz." McCormick moved to the side of the boat, climbing half over the side, waiting for the 28 footer to edge closer to shore. The boat tossed up and down and around, the riptide pulling the boat in five directions at once. McCormick could feel the sweat pouring off him, despite the chilly air on the Bay. This was tricky maneuvering and McCormick knew it. One wrong move and the boat would crash against the rocks, shattered to tiny splinters. There wouldn't be a trace of bodies after a few minutes in the water around Alcatraz.
"Now!" Chuck's voice shouted from the cabin as he struggled with the wheel.
McCormick flung himself over the side of the boat, hitting the water with a splash. He could feel the pull of the undertow, but he was near enough to shore to fight his way there. A wave knocked him against a rock and McCormick felt a momentary pain above his right knee. Grabbing onto the black stone, he pulled himself to the face of the cliff. Looking up, McCormick gulped. Chuck was right, it was a dangerous climb. Securing the knapsack onto his back where it wouldn't slip, zipping his pockets to seal the ammo in, and moving the Uzi to his knapsack as it was too big for his pocket, McCormick felt he was ready. He placed his feet and gingers carefully, climbing up the side of the suddenly humongous rock wall.
Near the top, McCormick got careless and slipped, his feet hanging in space, only his fingertips holding him from certain death. He flailed about helplessly, until finally, his left sneaker caught on a sliver of rock. He managed to boost himself over onto the flat ground. He lay there panting, drenched and too tired to worry about someone spotting him.
According to Chuck's fairly reliable information, there were only two guards on duty after the park closed, two near-retirees from what he could find out. "They're probably huddled in their warm shack over a space heater." He pushed himself up, checking the darkness for signs of alarm.
All he could see were wisps of fog and black shapes in the darkness. The buildings looked scary enough in the daylight, at night they were terrifying. Swallowing, McCormick ran to the cover of the building where the cells were, flattening himself against the stucco and plaster. Okay, I lost Hardcastle in here, so that's where I'm gonna find him. Safe and alive, he thought positively. I hope.
"Get ready, Judge, here I come." McCormick flitted through the patches of light, hugging the side of the building as he hurried to the entryway. Ducking inside, he waited until he could orient himself. Expecting silence, he was surprised to hear the shound of voices burbling in the distance. He pulled the Uzi from the knapsack, slapping a clip into it as silently as he could and went to where the voices were clearer.
"We can't leave him with Whitey forever. Somebody's bound to hear him yell. Kidnapping is a federal offense, Middleton, and I don't want to be serving as a prisoner in the same type of places that I've worked in."
"Franklin, my friend, we have nothing to fear. Considering Whitey's penchant for beating someone to death, we might not have to worry about Judge Hardcastle for very long." Middleton laughed evilly, joined by the man he called Franklin.
The conversation did nothing to reassure McCormick's sense of well-being. It had been hours since McCormick last saw the Judge. And now it seemed that Hardcastle might be in danger of his life. He prayed that he wasn't too late. Clutching the Uzi tightly in his hands, McCormick began to make his way to the lower reaches of the cells, sliding his feet on the metal to avoid any unnecessary noise. "Hang on, Judge, please hang on," he murmured under his breath.
"Sandy?" Whitey called in the darkness.
Hardcastle had become used to answering to this name, it seemed to calm his cellmate. "Yes?"
"Ga." Whitey clutched at Hardcastle's arm, pulling him to the cell door.
Unable to resist the iron grip, the Judge stumbled after him. Whitey touched a wire hanging from the door and it opened wide. "You made a bypass for the electrical lock, didn't you?"
Whitey nodded his head vigorously, pointing to the outside. "Ga," he repeated.
"Go? You want me to go out there? Why?" Hardcastle peered through the gloom, trying to see what lay ahead of him.
Whitey nodded again, prodding Hardcastle from the cell. "Sandy, ga."
"Okay. Are you coming?" Hardcastle asked, watching as Whitey's face paled more than he would've thought possible, the man cowering against the cell door. "It's all right. You don't have to come with me. I'll send back help." The Judge smiled at Whitey as he turned to leave.
Hearing a sound from the stairs, Hardcastle hurried to the other end of the corridor, Whitey pulling the door as if it was shut.
A man scuffled to the cell, his face hidden by the darkness of the hallway. He yanked the door open, looking in the bunks and then at Whitey who was watching closely.
The new visitor grabbed Whitey by the shoulders, shaking him. "Where's Hardcastle? Damn you, if you've hurt him…"
"McCormick!" Hardcastle called from down the hallway.
McCormick spun about, dropping his hands from the frightened prisoner. "Judge? Thank God, you're all…gaghh…" His voice coked off as Whitey grabbed him about the neck, the air stopped in a violent cutoff.
"Whitey, no! Let him go, he's a friend!" Hardcastle ran back to the cell, arriving too late to prevent Whitey from ramming McCormick against the cell wall, then banging his head on the metal bars.
"Let him go, Whitey. Now," Hardcastle ordered, appalled at the blood running down McCormick's face from the rough wall.
Whitey looked at Hardcastle, then at the limp McCormick in his arms. He dropped the body, moving to his bunk above Hardcastle's and curling up on it.
Hardcastle knelt next to McCormick's unconscious body, pulling him onto the lower bunk and loosening the younger man's clothes. He removed the knapsack, finding a flashlight and a first aid kit in the bag. He flicked the light on, checking McCormick's eyes. His face was badly scraped from contact with the wall. He didn't seem to be too badly hurt, though there were bruises starting to appear on his throat from Whitey's death grip.
McCormick's breathing was raspy, but even, reassuring Hardcastle. He soaked a cloth in the faucet next to the toilet and laid it on McCormick's forehead, dribbling some of the tepid water on his face and neck in an effort to bring him to. Walking to the cell door, the Judge closed it over until the lock clicked. He knew it would be easy enough to get it open again when McCormick was conscious again. All he could hope was that no one would come to check on him before then.
Backing up to the cot, Hardcastle stumbled on something next to the bunk. He leaned down and picked up the Uzi. He looked at it and at McCormick, surprised. "You were really expecting trouble, weren't you, kid?"
Hardcastle sat on the edge of the bunk, watching McCormick's chest rising in comforting motions.
With a hoarse groan, McCormick opened his eyes. He didn't seem to be able to see and cried out. A hand lowered on his mouth and he panicked, struggling until a light flashed in his eyes and a familiar voice ordered him to be quiet.
"J-judge?" McCormick's throat was painful and he rubbed at it.
"Welcome to the Twilight Zone, hotshot. Does anyone know you're here?" Hardcastle wet the cloth again and laid it across the man's throat.
"Thanks. Yeah, kinda. The guy who got me out here. And Frank knows you disappeared on Alcatraz." McCormick raised himself up from the bunk, staring at Hardcastle. "Are you okay? I heard that the guy you were with was a killer."
"You were worried about me, huh?"
"A little. Should've been worried about myself. Damn, he has some grip. My throat's gonna be sore for a week. At the least."
"Yeah, well, I think he thought you were after me. He didn't mean anything by it."
"No, just wanted to kill me," McCormick replied. "So, what now? We've gotta be outta here before the day crew realizes I'm breaking the party up. I figure we can slip out in the crush of tourists, make it to the mainland before they know we're gone."
Hardcastle nodded. "Might work, but as soon as we hit the mainland, we call the cops. I want to get Whitey out of here."
"Yeah, fine. As long as I don't have to bring him back to the real world." The ex-con glanced up towards the upper bunk. "He gives me the creeps."
"What time is it?"
McCormick squinted at his watch. "Almost five-thirty in the morning. Daylight'll be coming in a few minutes, but the first ferry doesn't arrive 'til after nine. Will you guys get breakfast?"
"Probably. It's a little hard to ask Whitey anything. The only thing he can say clearly is the name Sandy."
"I'm gonna have to hide someplace. Got any suggestions on how I get out of this cell?"
"No problem. Whitey here has an escape route." Hardcastle got up, demonstrating the extra wire's purpose. "I'd suggest moving now, before Middleton comes a-calling."
"Does that guy live here? I mean, he was our tour guide, right?"
"Yeah. And the man who locked me up here, as well as feeding us dinner."
"Well, he's on the island now. Guess he felt this was an emergency."
"Isn't it? I stumble on their little secret, you make a stink and threaten all sorts of dire things, this whole scheme could blow up in their faces. Isn't good for one's future health."
"I don't understand. Why are they keeping him a secret?"
"Seems the system lost Whitey Franklin. He was first put in here in 1948 for the murder of a prison guard. He had been serving 10 years for bank robbery before that."
"How old was he?"
"If I remember correctly, he was 19 years old when he was first arrested for the bank robbery. Whitey was placed in solitary confinement after being captured during an escape attempt. Other than a short bit of publicity when a committee touring the prison discovered him still in solitary in 1956, no one has kept track of poor ol' Whitey. I can recall reading that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons denied any knowledge of him or his partner from the escape, a convict by the name of Jimmy Lucas. It took me a while to remember, but Sandy was the third member of that group. Sandy Santangelo was killed, some believe by the guard who Franklin beat to death. He and Sandy were close."
"And the guards conspired to keep the fact that he was still alive a secret?"
"Yes. The things that were done to him over the years broke Whitey. If that abuse had been revealed in the sixties, it would have caused a great scandal, enough of one to topple the hierarchy of the prison. It was a bad time for any sort of scandal, what with the prison being closed down. Old habits die hard, and those guards who remained in the system couldn't afford to be put in jail, or even let go so close to their retirement."
"But they were talking about murdering you to keep this a secret." McCormick protested. "That's a little more than just old habits."
"I do have to wonder what else is behind all this," Hardcastle said softly.
Whitey jumped off his bunk, scaring McCormick who reached for the Uzi, only to find it gone from his side.
"Looking for this?" Hardcastle hefted the weapon with a jaundiced eye at McCormick. "Since when do you pack a gun, and this type of weapon in particular?"
McCormick shrugged. "Thought it might come in handy. After all, I didn't know what I was getting into here."
Whitey tugged on the Judge's arm, babbling his usual nonsense syllables.
"What is it?" Hardcastle asked the man, trying to understand the urgency in the voice. "He wants someone to follow him. Come on."
"I don't know about this," McCormick commented, getting to his feet with a determined effort and some help form the sturdy bunk.
"Yeah, lead on, boss."
McCormick following behind Hardcastle and Whitey, the Uzi back in his custody and his neck hair tingling. He really didn't like the creepy feeling he got whenever he looked at the forgotten resident of Alcatraz. Having spent time in another federal penal institution. McCormick could imagine some of the horrors the man had experienced. Something was going on in the discarded prison, but what?
McCormick found that he could walk fairly straight if he concentrated on each step, but musing over Whitey's condition caused him to collide with walls. He could feel Hardcastle's eyes on him and grinned faintly in an attempt to reassure the retired jurist.
Whitey came to the end of the hallway and stopped, pulling again on Hardcastle's arm. "Sandy, dege."
With a puzzled look, Hardcastle opened the solid wooden door that led to a guard's way station. There were dusty chairs and tables in the room, the soft wall having been dug partially out. McCormick kept watch for any unexpected and unwanted visitors, leaning against the door jamb to steady himself, while the Judge moved closer to the wall where someone had been digging.
"What is it? Rats?" McCormick called.
"No. But I think I know what the big secret is," Hardcastle replied, poking at the hole. "Come see for yourself. I don't think you'd believe me if I told you."
McCormick edged past Whitey and peered past Hardcastle's shoulder. "My God, is that what I think it is?"
Hardcastle pulled a rectangular block of metal, wrapped in clear plastic, from the hole in the wall. "A perfect plate for making fifty dollar bills."
"That doesn't explain why they're keeping him here." McCormick nodded toward the listening Whitey.
"Well, if my memory serves me right…" Hardcastle began.
"You mean you can be wrong?" McCormick jibed, his headache a little better.
The Judge continued as if nothing had interrupted. "…Whitey was arrested for bank robbery originally. He got 30 years. That's a hard sentence for such a crime, even with his previous record. He wasn't even twenty-one at the time."
"So? Maybe he had a judge like you."
Hardcastle glared at McCormick. "You never give up, do you?"
McCormick grinned cheekily. "Nope."
"It could be that he stole more than just a few dollars. Maybe he found a little bonus in the bank loot."
"A plate, hidden in the regular bags as security. Only some hotshot kid decided to heist the place," McCormick said thoughtfully.
"Exactly." Hardcastle agreed.
"But how did the plate get here?" The ex-con asked, slipping the Uzi on a nearby desk to examine the plate, awestruck by the simple beauty of the mold.
"Hard to tell. He could've smuggled it in with him for a small bribe. Maybe he had a guard as his partner. We may never know. What we can surmise is that our friend, Middleton, knows about the plate and wants it very badly."
"Enough to kill? Why didn't he…" McCormick stopped. "Whitey wouldn't tell him, if he was able to talk. Cons don't talk and they especially don't to the Man."
"Like I said, old habits die hard."
McCormick looked at Whitey, who was rocking back and forth on the heels of his prison-issue shoes, humming some spiritual tune that McCormick could remember form his childhood. "Why did he tell you? I mean, you're a judge, one of 'them'."
"He doesn't know that. He thinks I'm Sandy, his old friend."
"The one that was killed during the prison attempt?"
Hardcastle nodded. "As far as Whitey is concerned, he's turning over the responsibility to somebody he trusts."
"So what now, Kemosabe?" McCormick asked, picking the Uzi back up after handing the beautiful money mold to the Judge.
"We get out of here before they discover that we can, and that we have the plate."
"Two things, Judge. One, how come they didn't tear this place apart after it was shut down? And what about Whitey?"
"I don't know, kiddo. I suspect that there were inspectors and honest guards crawling all over this place for quite a while, checking on this prison's safety as a tourist attraction. Not to mention the fact that there were a few Indians taking residence here. Middleton probably wanted to keep things quiet for as long as possible."
"Somebody was digging around here," McCormick commented, nodding at the hole in the wall.
"I suspect some part of Whitey's tortured brain realized what was going on and he was trying to protect his loot."
McCormick shook his head, wincing at the pain the movement brought on. "It's kinda sad. All these years, wasted."
"He was a thief and a murderer, kid. I don't agree with how he was treated, but Lady Justice doesn't always keep a close eye on the men who are supposed to be upholding her."
"And Whitey? How can we help him? We can't leave him here."
"Your plan might work for us, but Whitey is a bit noticeable, don't you think?"
McCormick shrugged sheepishly. "Hey, I didn't think I'd be falling into a conspiracy."
"Mmm," Hardcastle mused, staring at the young man until McCormick began to fidget, then grinned. "I suppose you can't think of everything. We may have to leave him here and contact the cops as soon as we hit the mainland."
McCormick bit his lower lip. "Look, I've got an idea, but you're not gonna like it."
"You and Whitey go out on the boat. I keep your friends thinking that he's still here until you can get help and come back." Seeing Hardcastle about to protest, McCormick hurried to finish. "Yeah, I know how he looks, but with shades and a hat, he might be able to get by. It would be even easier if you could cop some suntan lotion and plaster it over his skin. That would hide that unnatural color."
"You'd be in big trouble, kiddo."
"Nah, not really. You have to remember, I've been in places like this. 'Sides, they don't know I'm here yet. Once you and Whitey are gone, they'll be too busy trying to get off the island to worry about more company. And," McCormick patted the Uzi in his right hand, "I can watch for trouble, help you get off the place clean."
"After the ferry takes off, I'll hide. You get to the mainland, call the cops and come get me. I'll probably be drinking a beer in the snack bar when you get back."
"They don't sell beer, McCormick," Hardcastle replied sternly.
"Bet I can find some," he retorted, his face softening at the open worry on Hardcastle's face. "Judge, we can't leave Whitey here. They'll kill him."
With a glance at the trusting Whitey, Hardcastle nodded his agreement. "I think we'd better stay in our cell until the last possible moment, in case we get a breakfast visit. You'd better find a place to hide." The three men walked back to the cell.
McCormick smiled, trying to hide his dizziness from the Judge. His headache was mostly gone, the sore throat was tolerable, but the wooziness was making it hard to concentrate. He had to stay focused until the Judge and Whitey were safely away. Then it would be a simple game of cat and mouse. Or so McCormick hoped.
Closing the cell door securely, McCormick took a long look at Judge Hardcastle. "Be careful. I'll be watching from up above."
"I'm counting on it."
McCormick clutched the Uzi tightly in his hand and hurried to the stairs leading to the roof.
McCormick shook himself awake, the sun shining in his eyes with a brightness that frightened him. "Damn. Please say I didn't sleep through it." He glanced at his watch and sighed with relief. The first ferry boat wouldn't be arriving until nine o'clock and his watch said it was 8:45. Still, it was cutting it close and McCormick was nervous about the escape attempt.
He picked the Uzi up and examined it. It was fully loaded, but not made for sharp shooting. If trouble did appear, McCormick would have to rely on noise more than accuracy. He leaned against the ledge and positioned himself so that he could see the ferry landing and where Hardcastle and the disguised Whitey Franklin would be coming out of the cell, undercover of the tourists.
The guards were milling about, setting up the metal fences that were to direct tourists to the boats and the approved areas. A small fishing boat was unloading the gift shop and snack bar employees who scattered to their jobs, the faint sound of laughter floating to where McCormick kept watch, the sun beating down on this back. If they early morning heat was any indication, the day would be a scorcher.
There was some noise from the main building, drawing McCormick's nervous attention. He leaned over the edge of the roof, praying that he wasn't spotted. Middleton stood in the doorway, barely visible. As if he could feel McCormick's eyes on him, he began to glance about him.
"Yipes." McCormick pulled back quickly. "Oh, man, I almost blew it."
Speaking out loud seemed to calm him, as if he had Hardcastle with him. The Judge should be ready to move, he could see the first ferry coming with its load of eager tourists, all anxious to see where Al Capone once stayed. He watched as the camera toting people swarmed off the boat, defying efforts to keep them in line, the children darting for the curio shop, the women trailing behind, the men snapping shots of anything that moved and some that didn't.
McCormick searched the crowd for Hardcastle, then realized that the move couldn't be made until the first group of tourists were finished with their tours. Trying to leave too early would bring were finished with attention to them and Hardcastle was no fool. But McCormick was nervous. He wanted it to be over with as soon as possible. He was still dizzy and having problems focusing on the people on the ground. Soft gentle blurs were all he could see if they were past the shadows of the main building. His throat throbbed painfully, his voice was rough, grating on his ear. He promised himself a nice long rest when this adventure was over.
"Geez, Hardcase, can't you ever stay out of trouble?" He curled his legs around, trying to make himself comfortable. It was gonna be a long wait.
Hardcastle paced the cell, his breakfast of eggs and bacon untouched. He had seen how McCormick held on to the walls when he left them, but the Judge also knew that his concern would have to wait until they were on the mainland. Hardcastle had explained to Whitey what they were planning, but only Whitey knew how much he understood. After the guard had brought their meals, Hardcastle had asked when they'd be back to pick up the dirty dishes.
"Not until we close. Wouldn't want some inquisitive kid following me down here. Might be hard to explain their disappearance," the man had replied.
So Hardcastle, as soon as Whitey had finished his food, began to get the con ready for their escape. The Judge couldn't stomach the food, even the smell made him ill. He pulled his baseball cap lower over Whitey's face. He prayed they would be able to pull it off without help from McCormick. If the ex-con did have to interfere, the guards would be looking for him. Hardcastle wasn't sure how long it would take the police of the danger on Alcatraz.
Checking his watch, the Judge knew it was time to get moving. He stashed the currency plate in his pocket and gently took Whitey by the arm, leading him from the cell. Whitey froze, trying to pull away.
"It's okay, Whitey. You trust me, don't you?"
Whitey nodded vigorously, took a deep breath and walked out of his home of so many decades. He followed Hardcastle, smiling as they neared the surface.
Hardcastle wondered what had originally drawn the man from his cell, considering how terrified Whitey was passing the cell door. Could he have heard Hardcastle's voice and mistaken him for Sandy? With Whitey's lack of comprehensible speech, he might never know for sure.
He paused at the door to the outside, steeling himself for the walk across the grounds to the dock in the next crush of visitors. They slipped amongst the excited tourists, Hardcastle resisting an urge to look up and see if he could spot McCormick. He tugged on Whitey's arm, the long-forgotten prisoner staring about him in mild shock.
The two men made their way to the waiting ferry boat, almost to the gangplank when the cry went out. Hardcastle looked back over his shoulder, seeing Middleton shouting at them and, what was worse, pulling his sidearm out of its holster.
"Run!" The shout came from above. Hardcastle heeded the warning, pushing Whitey into the boat. With luck, it would be well away before anyone realized who Middleton was after.
The sound of gunfire drew Hardcastle's attention back to the large open area. McCormick was laying fire to cover Hardcastle's escape, carefully avoiding the small clutches of tourists in fear of their lives. Hardcastle stared at the roof of the building where he could barely see a man standing in plain sight. "Sit down, you idiot!"
McCormick was firing into the air, but Middleton didn't seem to know that. He was shooting at the ex-con. Tourists scrambled, rushing for the ferry. Hardcastle pushed his way to the wheelhouse, dragging a chattering Whitey behind him. The pilot stared at the ruckus, ignoring Hardcastle until the Judge gripped his arm tightly and swung about.
"Get this thing moving. Now!" Hardcastle ordered.
"You've got it. I certainly don't wanna be killed by some psycho with a gun."
Hardcastle let that pass, steering Whitey to a nearby bench. "You have a radio on this crate?"
"Hey, she's a fine boat." The man protested, between giving orders to toss the lines off in preparation to move out into the Bay.
"Uh, over there. Oh, you wanna call the cops, huh?"
Hardcastle flipped the dial on the ship-to-shore radio to the emergency frequency. It took a few minutes, but soon Hardcastle was explaining the situation to the Coast Guard and requesting immediate assistance for McCormick. When the acknowledgement came, Hardcastle walked back to the side of the boat, now yards away from the fighting on Alcatraz. Hardcastle fumed. He wanted to return to the island, to help McCormick, but he couldn't put all these innocent people in danger.
"Hang on, kid, help's coming."
McCormick flung himself down on the hot roof. The ferry was away and Hardcastle was safe. Now came the hard part, avoiding the guards until the cops could show up. He ran for the door to the prison, crouched over like a soldier. He kicked the door open and swung to one side, waiting for gunfire. When there was none, he jumped down the top three steps, catching himself with a loud thud, McCormick stood breathing heavily. He looked around him, wondering where he could hide.
Running down the corridor, he began to smile. The movement wasn't helping his nausea, but the solution to his problem was. He headed for the room where Hardcastle had discovered the plate. He could remember spotting a small closet, just the right size for him to squeeze into and rest until Hardcastle and the cavalry came to storm the island.
He skidded to a halt outside the guard's quarters and stood listening, the sound of his panting almost drowning out the sound of gunfire and screams. McCormick prayed that no one had gotten hurt in the exchange of fire. He was certain that his bullets had fallen harmlessly out in the Bay, but he couldn't be so sure about Middleton and his men. Not to mention the other guards who wouldn't have any idea what was going on and would think there was a crazy sniper running loose.
When his ears didn't detect anybody moving to his section of the cell, McCormick darted into the room, yanking open the closet door. It was empty, smelling of dust, old age and moldiness. McCormick closed the door after him, sitting on the floor, his knees drawn up against his chest. He laid the Uzi on the floor next to his right hand, ready if he was discovered. The darkness was disconcerting, but it was still safer than playing hide and seek with Middleton and his people. He wanted to avoid having to shoot anyone. They might be innocents, not to mention the fact that McCormick simply didn't like the more violent aspects of his and Hardcastle's line of work.
He could hear the soft, muted sounds of people running about the prison, their cries barely discernable through the thick wood door. One hand gripped his knee as McCormick tried to adjust himself into a more comfortable position. He rested his chin on his knees and prepared himself to wait and hope.
Hardcastle rapped his knuckles on the Coast Guard cutter. The explanations had taken too long for his peace of mind. The ferry had been intercepted by the cutter and Hardcastle willingly taken aboard her for return to Alcatraz. Whitey was huddled in a corner, drinking coffee and staring wide-eyed at Hardcastle as he paced back and forth in front of the Captain.
The Judge suspected that he would've been put in handcuffs immediately if it hadn't been for that perfect plate. That and an urgent request from Lt. Harper in Los Angeles for any assistance that could be rendered to a certain missing Judge and his associate.
The cutter finally docked, the island too quiet. Tourists were huddled in the snack bar, guards preventing them from leaving. Hardcastle searched around anxiously for sign of McCormick. He wasn't sure if he was pleased to find none or not.
A heavyset man came hustling over to the Coast Guard boat, his face lined with worry. "How did you find out? Sergeant Middleton destroyed our radio."
"Judge Hardcastle radioed us from the ferry boat," the Coast Guard captain said. "Exactly what…?"
"So you're Judge Hardcastle? Your friend's been looking for you. He'll be pleased to see you're okay, or did you make contact with him on the mainland?"
Hardcastle shook his head. "No, McCormick came here to find me last night. Your man Middleton had me locked up with an old prisoner by the name of Whitey Franklin."
"So the rumors were true? I never could find out for sure. Where's Mr. McCormick now, or should I ask?"
"I don't know. He covered for me and Franklin with a…borrowed gun. Have your men found him yet?"
Crenna sighed. "Not as far as I know. But if Middleton is in on this, he could have found and disposed of your friend by now. I think we'd better find him and quickly. Who else is involved?"
"I don't know the names, but there are five total. Middleton did tell me that much."
"Right." The Coast Guard captain had heard enough. "Lieutenant, get your most trusted men together…"
"The younger ones who didn't serve here when she was a prison." Hardcastle said.
"Yes, and my men will help look for Middleton and McCormick. Be sure and watch yourselves. McCormick is armed and won't know whether you're friend or foe."
Hardcastle started to protest, but knew that Lieutenant Crenna had a point. He would have to find the kid first, reassure him. He watched as the two men organized their teams, directing them not to use their radios in order to keep Middleton and his people from finding out what was going down. All older guards were to be disarmed, under escort, to the main headquarters where Crenna would be waiting.
It was no midday. No one had found a sign of McCormick. They had scoured the prison from top to bottom, each building in turn, from the main prison building to the cafeteria to the various other cement and stucco structures on the island. No clue to the ex-con's whereabouts, despite the efforts of both Coast Guard and Park Service personnel.
Hardcastle paced in front of the sullen Middleton, his face stormy. "Again. Where is McCormick?"
"And I'm telling you again, I don't know. He took off, maybe he tried to swim for it," Middleton replied wearily. "I didn't touch him. I never saw him to do anything to him."
"I hate to admit it, Judge Hardcastle, but I think he's telling the truth. McCormick might have jumped for it, feeling trapped on Alcatraz. We may have to send patrol boats out to search along the tide." Crenna said.
"No! He wouldn't," Hardcastle protested. "He was reading this book about Alcatraz, ya know, and the thing that struck him the most was the fact that the tides made it impossible to swim out of here. McCormick isn't that strong a swimmer. He'd never have tried that escape. If Middleton is telling the truth, then Mark is still on this island."
"Where? We've searched every cell, every room on Alcatraz," Crenna replied sharply. "If you have an idea, then I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, I'll have to call this off."
Hardcastle didn't answer, turning on his heel and stomping out of the temporary command post where Middleton and his accomplices were being held. He wandered back into the main prison building and, without conscious thought, headed for where he had last spoken with McCormick. He stared into the cell but it didn't give him an idea on McCormick's present whereabouts. Meandering to the small guard station, Hardcastle sat on a decrepit folding chair, trying to reason it out.
His eyes fell on the small closet and he stared. "Would he?"
He walked over and flung the door open, the feeble light spilling into the room revealing a figure curled up on itself, sound asleep. "McCormick? McCormick, wake up!"
"Huh?" A yawn that came from his toes shook McCormick as he struggled to rise. "Wha' goin' on?"
"We've been looking for you all morning. Where the hell have you been?" Hardcastle yelled, his worry coming out in anger.
"Huh? I was hiding, whatcha think?" McCormick's speech was sleep slurred, but he seemed to be aware of the Judge's concern. "I'm sorry. I guess I fell asleep. I didn't know how long you'd take."
"Damn it, kid, I thought Middleton had pitched you in the Bay. Get out of there, willya?" Hardcastle jerked the younger man out by the neck of his t-shirt.
"Whoa, slow it down, willya? I hurt." McCormick whined, gingerly touching the purple fingerprints on his throat.
"You're gonna hurt more when I'm done with you. C'mon, hurry up," Hardcastle growled, stalking off without waiting to see if McCormick was following.
With a smile, the other man stumbled along in Hardcastle's wake. "You were worried 'bout me," he stated happily.
"Screw up my vacation plans. I didn't want to come to this place. No, my harebrained assistant, who's seen the inside of more prisons and jails than some of these guards, just had to tour Alcatraz," Hardcastle grumbled, loud enough that McCormick could hear him.
"Where the harebrained assistant's boss runs after a phantom and gets caught by an old guard who's cracked and out of shape," McCormick shouted after him. "Tch, tch, Hardcase, you must be losing it."
"I was knocked out."
"So was I, plenty of times in the past, too. You never let me use that as an excuse. Why should you be any different?"
They continued down the corridor, griping and bitching at each other, each one's voice getting louder as the complaints became more and more personal as the fear of the last twenty-four hours was released.
Breakfast at Gull's Way was being shared by Lieutenant Frank Harper, the table on the patio set with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and biscuits filled with gobs of butter before being baked.
"What happened to Whitey Franklin?" Harper asked as Hardcastle fixed his plate for seconds.
"He's in a halfway house, seeing some psychiatrists and therapists," Hardcastle replied as McCormick came out of the kitchen with the rest of the fresh coffee.
"Though they think he'll never be normal again, he might be able to take care of himself with time and training," McCormick added. "Boy, it's good to be home. I think I prefer taking vacations without Hardcase. He can't seem to stay out of trouble for one minute."
Harper laughed. "Funny, he usually says the same thing about you."
"Oh, no. Not this time. The Judge found him a mysterious face in the crowd and just had to find out who it was."
"And that reminds me, who got you on the island? And what happened to the $1600 that suddenly disappeared from our hotel room?" Hardcastle turned to Harper. "We get back to the room, and I find all the traveler's checks gone. When I ask him about it, he gives me four hundred dollars and a sheepish grin. No explanation besides 'rescues aren't cheap'. I want to know who dropped you off on Alcatraz and gave you an Uzi, which is illegal to own privately in this county. Who is he?"
"Who's who?" McCormick asked innocently.
"The guy who got you to the island that night?" Hardcastle growled.
Harper watched with a grin on his face. "Do you two ever stop?"
"Stop? Nah, keeps Hardcastle alert."
"McCormick, I want to know who the man was. He cost you about…no, he cost me $1600. I think I have a right to know his name."
"Sorry, Judge, don't know what you're talking about. I wasn't on any island and didn't spend any money and I certainly wouldn't have an Uzi. I'm on parole, 'member?"
Hardcastle scowled. "Are you telling me that you weren't on Alcatraz?"
"Nah, sure I was. We went on a tour and you disappeared. Boy, Judge, maybe you were hit too hard on the head." McCormick sympathized.
"You're denying that you came back that night and helped me get off the island on the ferry boat? That there was no Uzi, no midnight raid, no firefight, nothing out of the ordinary?"
"Nope, sorry. You were found by the good guys, I wasn't there. Hallucinating, Judge. Better see a shrink. Would I go stumbling around Alcatraz at night with guards looking for me, trying to kill me? No way."
"Okay, if that's true, where'd you get those bruises and scrapes?" Hardcastle asked, reaching over the table to gently touch the finger marks on McCormick's neck and the healing scratch on his forehead.
"What bruises?" McCormick replied blandly, a faint smile on his face.
"Frank, help me here." Hardcastle applied to his old friend.
Harper looked from McCormick to Hardcastle and back again. With a twinkle in his eyes, he shrugged. "What bruises?"
Hardcastle sat at the table with his mouth open while Harper and McCormick grinned boyishly at each other.
A/N: Originally printed in Investigation Files about 1986-87. Whitey is based on a real inmate of Alcatraz who was left in solitary for so long that he lost the ability to speak.