Missing scene from "You Don't Hear the One That Gets You".

It's Almost Midnight and I'm Not Famous Yet

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

(Originally published in You and the Zine You Rode In On, 1985)

SCENE ONE - THE BEGINNING:

"Yeah, hello?" Mark held the phone in his sweaty hands, grimacing at Hardcastle's questioning face. He broke out in a grin when he realized who was on the phone. "Tommy, is that you? I haven't seen you since we raced in the Firecracker 250 down south. How are you, man?"

"Doing pretty good, only I wondered if you still have your license? I could use your help with a few experiments that I'm trying out on the Trans Am."

"What kind of help? How did you find me, anyway?" Mark perched on the edge of the desk, waving Hardcastle away.

"It took awhile, Skid. I can't believe your address. That's a pretty weird place to live. Aren't all those places expensive? You're not in the 'business' again, are you?"

"Nah, Tommy, I'm sorta still on parole and I have to live with this judge and it's a long story, but I do have my license and I'd love to drive for you. Where and when?"

"The where is Arizona and the when is only three days from now for the qualifying event. I know it's short notice, but I sorta busted my leg and I can't drive myself. How about it?"

Mark laughed, his blue eyes sparkling. "Yeah, it'll be fun."

"If you do this, Mark, you can keep the prize money."

"Oh, yeah? How much are we talking about?"

"First place is twenty grand."

"But what about your expenses?"

"Like I said, I'm trying some fine adjustments to the engine and a new series of parts, so you'd be doing me a big favor. Plus I don't have the travel expenses since this track is just thirty miles away."

"That's nice of you, Tommy. Okay, give me the directions to your place and I'll take off tonight."

Mark scribbled the travel instructions on a piece of paper and hung up. He saw the judge looking at him and grinned. "I have a ride, Judge. Just a one-shot deal, but I get to keep all the prize money I can get. Wanna come?"

Hardcastle nodded. "I have to keep you out of trouble."

SCENE TWO - AFTER THE SHOOTING:

"McCormick?" Hardcastle looked at the younger man's slack face and felt a tremor of fear. The kid had said he was only hit in the shoulder, but what if he was wrong? The judge leaned over McCormick's body and checked the wound. It was bleeding pretty badly and Mark's face was pasty. The slight touch of Hardcastle's hand on the shoulder caused a twitch of pain and the judge realized that Mark needed to see a doctor right away. But how? He couldn't carry McCormick, and the wounded man, even if he was conscious, couldn't walk back to town.

The judge looked at the stuck truck that their assailants had left behind. Maybe he could push it up and out of there. But somebody would have to be behind the wheel to brake the truck if it started to fall forward. Hardcastle knelt down next to McCormick and slightly shook him.

"Uhh?" Mark's eyes opened, blankly staring at the judge.

"Hey, kiddo, you with me?"

The eyes slowly focused, Mark nodding. "Yeah, they gone?"

"Took off in the Coyote. I have to get you to a doctor and I need your help. Think you can stay conscious for a few minutes?"

Mark sat up, wincing in pain. "Sure, what do you want me to do?"

"Well, we need that truck. You can't hoof it back to town in your condition. I'm going to push the truck and I need you to sit behind the wheel to brake it when it starts sliding forward again." Hardcastle assisted Mark to his feet, the ex-con weaving against the judge.

"'S dangerous. What if I pass out again while the truck gets loose?"

"That's why you'll have to make an effort to stay with me for a little while. Think you can handle it?"

Mark nodded, leaning on the judge's shoulder as they walked to the truck. Boosting Mark into the driver's side was difficult and the judge had to wait while Mark gripped the steering wheel tightly, his teeth clenched, fighting to stay alert. Finally, he nodded to the judge. "Okay, I'm ready. Let's do it."

Hardcastle went to the front of the truck and watched as Mark, using his left hand, reached over and shifted the truck into neutral. The judge leaned his hands against the bumper and dug his feet into the dirt.

"Take the brakes off slowly, kid." The judge pushed up and back on the truck. He had to stop a few times, both to rest and to let Mark have a few moments of concentrated effort to remain conscious. McCormick's face was becoming paler and beads of sweat were breaking out on his upper lip and forehead.

"One more try, McCormick, just once more." Hardcastle put his back into the pushing and felt the truck begin to lip backwards. "Put it into reverse and slowly give it some gas."

The truck resisted at first, but finally it pulled out of the crevice where it had been trapped. It reversed into a tree, the shock of the hit causing the horn to being blaring again. Hardcastle ran to the cab and found Mark slumped over the steering wheel. The judge pulled McCormick back, his face hardening at the sight of the bright red stain on Mark's right shoulder.

"Okay, Mark, let's get you some help." The judge took a handkerchief from his pocket and wadded it into a make-shift bandage. The gym suit top that McCormick was wearing was tight enough to keep the cloth in place. Hardcastle carefully pulled the wounded man to the passenger side and walked back around to the driver's side, starting for the nearest town and hoping there was a doctor or clinic.

Mark was restless, moaning whenever the old truck hit a bump in the road. The judge drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other touching McCormick, reassuring him. Due to the amount of time it took to get the truck loose, and the distance from the nearest town, it was almost dawn when Hardcastle saw a sign for a doctor's office. He went to the door of the office, but the doctor wasn't in. Hardcastle memorized the phone number listed for emergencies, then looked around the small town for a hotel.

Up the street from the doctor's office was a small boarding house with a light on in the front window. Keeping his fingers crossed, the judge went to the front of the house and knocked. A young woman dressed in an apron came to the door.

"I'm sorry, we're not open, sir." She kept the door closed a mixture of suspicion and friendliness in her face.

"I need a room. My friend and I were robbed and he was shot. I also need to use your phone to call the doctor. Unless there's a hospital nearby?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Come in. No, the nearest hospital is over 100 miles away. You get your friend inside and I'll call the doctor." The woman opened the door and left it to go to her switchboard, wiping her flour-covered hands on her apron.

Hardcastle had to carry Mark, one arm around McCormick's waist and the other under the wounded man's shoulders. Mark was almost dead weight, but he did attempt to walk, his efforts hindering more than helping. The woman led the way to a room, bringing towels and a pan of water.

"I called Doc Pritchard, he's on the way." She looked at Mark's shoulder. "Looks worse than it probably is." She tried to reassure Hardcastle, who was fussing over Mark, who had once again regained consciousness.

"Thank you for your help. My name's Hardcastle, Milt Hardcastle. This is Mark McCormick."

"Glad to meet you, although not under these circumstances. I'm Jenilee Twostar. I think I'll wait for the doctor downstairs and let him know where you are."

She left the room, Hardcastle barely noticing as he tried to get Mark's jacket and gym top off. Mark cried out as the material, stuck to the dried blood, pulled free.

"Sorry, kid."

"'S okay, Judge. No worse than pulling a band-aid off." Mark's teeth were clenched again, pain etched on his face as he tried to act normally for Hardcastle.

Jenilee returned in five minutes with the doctor and a bundle of clothes. "I thought you might like to change into clean clothes. You're about the same size as my brother, so I brought you a few things he left here on his last visit." She laid down a t-shirt and some other shirts, as well as a jean vest and jacket.

"Thanks," Hardcastle said.

The judge hovered about while the doctor completed his examination. Mark smiled faintly at him, keeping his eyes off the flowing wound. When the doctor had finished placing the bandage on Mark's shoulder, the judge questioned him.

"Well, how bad is it?"

"It went all the way through. The movement made it bleed abnormally, but he should be okay with rest. When you get back home, see your own doctor." Dr. Pritchard helped Mark into a clean t-shirt and began to roll it down over his bandage. "You've lost a lot of blood…"

SCENE THREE - GOING HOME:

The long drive back to Los Angeles was done in silence, Mark staring out the Coyote's passenger window and gripping his shoulder occasionally. As the sun rose higher, the temperature in the sports car made Hardcastle uncomfortable and he maneuvered his sleeves up his arms.

"Want to take your jacket off, kid? I can pull over here and help you."

Mark shook his head and leaned against the far door, never taking his eyes off the horizon. He sat on the passenger side in his jacket and rested his head on the rear of the seat, his face expressionless.

By the time Hardcastle reached Tucson, McCormick was asleep, a fine sheen of sweat on his face. The judge was concerned, not only with McCormick's physical well-being, but with his mental state. The theft of the prize money had been devastating to the racer, but he could still hold out hope for its recovery. When the thieves' car, along with most of the loot, had burned, his hopes were dashed. Mark was further down than Hardcastle had ever seen him before, and that worried the judge. He could only hope that it was a side effect of the shoulder wound.

Mark slept the remainder of the drive to California, waking only when the Coyote entered the estate's driveway. He looked around with bleary eyes. Wordlessly, McCormick left the car and headed for the Gatehouse.

"Where are you going?" Hardcastle asked.

Mark stopped, glancing back at the judge. "I'm going to take a shower and sack out, okay?"

"I'm calling the doctor to see if he'll come out here and look at that wound."

"I'm fine, Judge. Like the guy said back in Arizona, a little rest and I'm back to normal."

"McCormick…" Hardcastle said warningly.

"Hardcastle…" Mark replied.

"Do what you want, but I'm still calling the doctor," Hardcastle stated. "You threw the prescription away and you need something for the infection, even if you're too stubborn to take pain pills."

"Okay, if it'll get me into the Gatehouse, fine. Call your quacks and make an appointment." Mark disappeared into the building, his shoulders slumped in weariness.

Hardcastle didn't mention that the doctor was also an old family friend who would be willing to make that rarity of rarities, the house call. By the time the doctor arrived, Hardcastle knew that Mark would be in his loft bed, drowsing off.

The doctor was about Hardcastle's age, perhaps a little older, and had been one of Nancy's admirers and the judge's main rival for her affections. He had turned from potential lover to close personal friend who had delivered the couple's only son and had helped strengthen Hardcastle during his wife's long illness and subsequent death.

"Hi, Frank, thanks for coming over on such short notice." Hardcastle led the doctor to the Gatehouse, knocking on the patio door, then walked into the darkened room.

"Milt, don't you think you should see if this McCormick wants me here? He might want some privacy."

"It's my place and I'll go where I want, when I want to. Besides, he usually locks the door when he doesn't want unexpected visitors. Hardcastle flipped the light switch, the sudden glare not even waking the sleeping McCormick.

"Bring him down here and I'll check the wound," the doctor directed, laying his bag on the coffee table.

Hardcastle went up to the bed and stood looking at McCormick's sleeping face. There were lines around his eyes and mouth that the judge didn't remember seeing on the trip to Arizona. He leaned over and gently pulled the quilt from Mark's shoulders and cursed. The bandage was soaked in blood. "Now I know why you wouldn't take that jacket off," he said quietly.

He gently shook the other shoulder. "McCormick, wake up. The doctor's here."

Mark opened his eyes and glared at the judge. "You brought him here? I said to make an appointment, not get him out here."

"Get up and let him fix you up," Hardcastle ordered gruffly. "Why didn't you tell me you were bleeding again?"

Mark smiled wryly. "Because you'd yell and make a fuss, that's why. Okay, I'm coming."

The exam didn't take long, the doctor merely changing the bandage and writing out a prescription. "From what Milt told me, you threw away the 'script that the Arizona doctor gave you, so I'm giving this one to the judge to have filled." The doctor removed the thermometer from Mark's mouth and checked it.

"Well, will I live?" Mark asked.

"Probably. You're running a little fever, but nothing that isn't normal considering your body's having to fight any latent infection that might be in the wound. Now, I'm writing a 'script for infection and pain. I can't force you to take the pain pills, but I suggest that you do take the antibiotics. I don't think you stand much chance of a bad infection, but we doctors believe in better safe than sorry. Understand?"

"Yeah, I understand." Mark was helped into a shirt by Hardcastle, gasping a bit as he had to reach for the sleeve. "Any nerve damage? I shift with this arm."

"Nope, it appears the bullet glanced off a bone and miraculously missed any nerves or major blood vessels. Lucky your assailant wasn't using a shotgun, or that arm would've been history. It wouldn't have been bleeding so much if you would've taken the original doctor's advice and rested, instead of doing a Milton C. Hardcastle imitation and chasing the bad guys. Now that they're all caught, I think you should take a small vacation and recover, if that's agreeable with you and Milt here."

Hardcastle started to protest, but hesitated when McCormick burst out laughing.

"Got me, didn't you, doc? Okay, a little R & R might be in order here," McCormick replied, turning to the judge and sheepishly continuing, "I guess I've been a drag, huh?"

"One word for it. Look, kid, I know you're disappointed that the money burned up, but you have to remember that you won that race and you caught the creeps that stole it."

"I didn't do anything except find my car. The state cops put everything together and they found Billy and his dipsy wife."

"But we found Arvin Lee's body and the police car and put the facts into the state cop's hands, right?"

"Uh huh, I guess so."

"They might not have thought to look for Billy and the money for days. You thought of going down that small road to catch the crooks, after Billy made sure that it wasn't covered. You did pretty good, kiddo, all the way. I'm proud of you."

Mark's smile widened. "Thanks, Judge. And thanks for sticking with me."

"That's what friends are for, remember?" Hardcastle repeated Mark's earlier statement.

"Well, if you two have made nice-nice, I'll head back to my golf game. Give me a call, Milt, if that shoulder starts giving him too much trouble. And, Mark, make an appointment with my office for two weeks from now so I can check that, sooner if you have any trouble." The doctor packed his bag and left the two men alone in the Gatehouse.

The End