Between the Scenes… "McCormick's Bar and Grill"

Lip Service

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

(Originally published in Back to Back Supplement #1)

"How long have you been sitting there?" Judge Milton C. Hardcastle hit the lightswitch, flooding the den with a blinding glare and revealing Mark McCormick sitting on the floor, his back against the desk.

"Not too long. I didn't know it was so dark. What time is it?" McCormick asked, shielding his eyes.

"After nine. Something wrong?"

"Nah, just lost track of time." The ex-con leaned his head back, looking up at Hardcastle. "Did you want something?"

"No. I didn't think you had mentioned going out, so I was a bit surprised when you didn't show up for dinner." Hardcastle pulled a chair up near McCormick and settled down into it. "Something's bothering you. Tell me."

"I guess it's Sonny, as usual."

"What about him?" Sonny Daye was a touchy subject where McCormick was concerned and Hardcastle knew enough to tread carefully. He still hadn't come to grips with his father's need to be free, without ties on his life. Sonny had deserted McCormick's mother on the day of the boy's fifth birthday, and hadn't been seen again till he was tracked down by McCormick on his thirtieth birthday. That had been a moment of confusion for both Hardcastle and McCormick, and had almost signaled the younger man's death when hoods had grabbed him to force Sonny to steal some incriminating tapes from the cops. Hardcastle had managed to preserve some of the kid's ideas of his father till they had returned from Atlantic City, until a night of drunken soul-bearing spilled the beans.

Thinking back on that night filled with storms, no electricity, and plenty of tequila, Hardcastle realized that McCormick hadn't been surprised when he found out that his father was ready to leave him in the hoods' hands, and certain death, rather than take a chance on going back to jail. Sonny Daye had rarely been mentioned after that, until a little more than a week ago, when the nightclub singer had shown up in the Gatehouse with a deed for his son. A deed to a bar that had seen better days, and was the private cemetery for the mob's most successful hitman.

"Nothing," McCormick said, sighing.

"Stop that! I hate it when you clam up on me like that. Don't shut me out, kid."

McCormick smiled. "Sorry. Force of habit."

"So, what is it this time about your dad?" The usual twinge of jealousy hit Hardcastle despite the fact that he knew McCormick would never share the same closeness with Sonny as he did with the Judge. Yes, blood ties were strong and Sonny would always have that, while he and his reluctant Tonto survived with friendship, trust and respect, begun with a threat of jail and the murder of McCormick's closest friend.

"Why? What made him come out here, and give me the bar? It's like he was trying to buy me."

"He meant well, kid."

"Yeah, sure. He always 'means well', but I wind up shafted every time."

"Sonny doesn't know how to handle a son. Particularly one who's full grown and independent as hell. Give him a chance, at least he's trying." Hardcastle leaned forward, trying to see McCormick's shadowed face. "He didn't ask for you to show up in his life, McCormick, bu he's doing the best he can in a difficult situation."

"Maybe I was wrong, looking for him. All I really wanted to know was why he deserted me and my mom. I still don't know why."

"Did you ask him?"

McCormick shook his head, replying with a catch in his voice, "No. I guess…I'm afraid of what he might say."

Hardcastle though about that, and realized what was at the root of this soul-searching. "You think it was your fault, don't you?"

McCormick's eyes darted to Hardcastle's face, dark with uncertainty. "I was…a handful. It might've been too much."

"You were five years old, kid. All five-year-olds are rambunctious. If you were the reason, he wouldn't have waited five years; believe me, surviving the first three years is the roughest." The usual response was absent, and he looked at McCormick intently. "You have a bad habit of thinking you're always at fault, don't you? Son, people have lots of reasons for leaving others; sometimes, it has nothing to do with family or friends – it just happens. Not even you can be that faulty."

"Thanks; was that an upside-down insult? Do you think Sonny will be back again?"

"Probably. He wants to see you; I think he honestly likes you, but doesn't know how to get past your disapproval, and resentment. Give him a chance."

"A chance to hurt me again? I've been giving him chances since he left; …even after I found him, I gave him two more chances. How many is he supposed to get?"

"As many as it takes."

"I don't know… I think I'll stick with you. At least I know what I'm getting into." With a wry grin, McCormick got up and walked by Hardcastle's chair, trailing his hand on the back of the chair. "But I still wish my dad had been…" His voice trailed away as he headed for the kitchen, but Hardcastle caught the words, "…someone like you."

I do this for fun, not profit, so don't sue me! All characters, cars, estates, and semi-criminal activities are owned by Stephen Cannell Productions, ABC-TV or a combination thereof.