Epilogue

Mark leaned back in his chair, relaxing and soaking up the sun. He heard the car engine and followed the sound's progress up the driveway. Just as it arrived at the fountain the engine was shut off. A few seconds later, he heard the slamming of three car doors. Mark kept his eyes closed, listening to the sounds of people moving across the lawn to the pool. It took a little longer than he would've thought, but he still didn't look.

"Kinda trusting, aren't you, Mark?" Collins commented drily.

"We've got all the bad guys, everyone has either confessed or made a deal or both. And you've determined that it's safe enough to bring Hardcastle here." Mark opened his eyes at last, an irresistibly devastating grin spreading across his face. "Welcome home, Judge."

Hardcastle's body stiffened in shock. "You knew? How? Frank, you told him?"

Throwing up his hands, Frank denied all knowledge. "Not me. I only found out myself two hours ago. You've been with me the whole time. How could I tell him without you knowing?"

"Somebody had to have told you, McCormick. Who?"

Mark took in the Judge's walking cast and the cane and rose fluidly from the chair. "Sit down before you fall down. You two, too." He giggled at the sound of the two words.

Hardcastle dropped awkwardly onto the seat. "You didn't answer the question."

"Actually, Bill told me."

"I did not!" Collins protested.

Hardcastle frowned at the use of first names, wondering when the two men had gotten so friendly.

Mark's grin seemed permanently attached to his face. "Not in so many words, no. But when you kept dragging your heels whenever I mentioned needing the release of the Judge's body as well as getting a death certificate to his lawyers, I smelled a rat."

"Think you're pretty smart, don't you?" Hardcastle growled.

"Yep," Mark replied smugly.

Grumbling a bit more while Frank and Bill watched, Hardcastle finally mumbled, "You did good, McCormick."

Mark's blue eyes softened as he gazed at his friend. "Thanks, Judge." He cleared his throat. "So who's gonna call the Aunts and Sarah and tell them that this was all a lie? It ain't gonna be me. I've already done my bit."

Hardcastle and Harper both froze in a stunned tableau. Mark smiled at Bill Collins and leaned back once again, his eyes closing.

March 2008

Aired episode "There Goes the Neighborhood".

Aired episode "The Homecoming".