BEYOND ALL EXPECTATIONS
Disclaimer: I do not own these lovely characters, Hardcastle and McCormick, and didn't write this story for profit. The tumble-dryer has just spat out another piece of fluff.
This story is a small glimpse into the future, and links up with my previous story, It must've been a dream.
May 18, 2012
"This is the best seat in the house, eh, uncle Milt?" the eighteen-year-old boy sitting next to his favourite uncle, said.
"You bet, son," the retired jurist said, nodding his head. Being ninety-five years old had its drawbacks, but being in the courtroom is like being really alive, no matter how old you are.
Milt Hardcastle looked at the young man sitting next to him. He was the spitting image of his father, save for hazel eyes instead of steely blue ones. His mop of unruly curls was also a shade or two darker than what his father's used to be. He was tall and still very slender, but he was a very talented college basketball player, a fantastic athlete, as well as a brilliant first year law student.
In the row ahead of Milt Hardcastle and Danny McCormick sat two guys dressed in suits.
"I almost feel sorry for old Scully O'Brian. The Hammer is gonna smash him a big one," one of the men said.
"Oh, he's doomed, the old bastard! He's going to rot for so long in jail his ghost is going to become institutionalized," the other man said with a grin.
"You know what happened to the judge during the Vitchelli trial?" the man asked his friend.
"I heard he got shot at or something," replied the other man.
"Yeah, Vitchelli had smuggled a gun into the courtroom. He even bribed the cops to help him with it. It was a hell of a thing. He pulled the gun out and aimed it at that judge. You know what the old reptile did? The guy is as crazy as a runaway tank on fire. Just as Vitchelli had aimed the gun at him, he grabbed a baseball from somewhere at the bench and threw it at Vitchelli. It hit him in the head and the shot went wild."
"A baseball? Holy cow, the man is nuts. Imagine that!"
"Yup, dude, that's the twenty pound sledge-hammer! He's gonna turn ol' Scully into street pizza!" Danny said with a dimpled grin plastered onto his face.
"This is gonna be good!" Milt nodded, sitting forward, propping himself onto his cane.
"It's a pity that Mom's gonna miss this one. She'd have enjoyed it very much," Danny replied.
"Yeah. But you know how it is, she always says that a DA's gotta be where -"
-a DA's gotta be. Yeah, that's like such a pity. She wanted to see this guy's butt roasting on a spit," Danny completed his uncle's sentence.
"We're gonna have us a regular barbeque. She would see it on the six o'clock news, anyway," Milt replied, thinking of how much his niece, Warrn would have enjoyed attending the case.
The court proceedings were about to begin. Scully O'Brian, the accused, whom had allegedly bludgeoned his wife to death with a blunt object, was sitting in the hot seat. He looked like someone about to meet his worst nightmare. His murderous face was ashy gray, and he looked like he needed a drink desperately. Only an alien invasion would save him from going to jail for the rest of his life. The Hammer is going to beat him to pulp. That's poetic justice for you right there, chump, O'Brian thought to himself.
The courtroom was packed like a can of sardines; for this case had been of great public interest since the brutal murder of a woman named Annie O'Brian, who died a terribly gruesome death at the hands of her crazy, drunken husband. He had beaten her to unrecognizable mulch, and then cut her up into little pieces, hiding them inside his refrigerator. A television crew was also present in the courthouse, to cover the outcome of the trial.
"All rise for the Honorable Judge Mark J. McCormick!" The announcement rang through the courthouse.
All rose out of respect for the tall, broad-shouldered judge, as he entered the courtroom. His short, wavy gray hair was neatly combed, and his black judicial robe outlined his athletic body. His noble face was all set, his blue eyes throwing off steely sparks, always striking fear and awe into the hearts of criminals unfortunate enough to land under his gavel. McCormick – otherwise known as the Hammer - took his place in his black chair at the bench, arranging his documents neatly, as he had been doing for the past eleven years. McCormick had earned his nickname just after his first trial, for he had smashed his gavel to pieces. He was notorious for his periodic histrionic outbursts and not known to suffer any fools. Many things have changed drastically during that span of time – the crime rate was indeed on the decline. Murderers, gangsters, rapists and drug lords had all stood before the Hammer, and he smashed them - and quite a few more gavels - to smithereens, time and again. Legal technicalities for wayward crooks did not exist in his courtroom. Legal loopholes were eagerly gobbled up, like they were pizzas (the wise words of his son). His reputation for being a formidable, streetwise vigilante as a youngster - as well as an ex-con - did not help any of the bad guys, either. He was feared and hated by them, and respected at the same time. He was becoming a legend - just like another retired judge that had been the downfall of numerous criminals four decades ago. Said retired judge was sitting in the seventh row from the front, next to a good-looking kid. The boy gave the Hammer a thumbs-up, while the retired jurist next to him gave him a five-star smile. He looked ready to burst with pride.
The judge looked at his almost father, and his beautiful, gifted son sitting in the seventh row. His eyes beamed at them with deep fondness for just a few seconds, before they became as hard as polished diamonds, when they rested on the accused. O'Brian cringed inwardly under that icy, piercing gaze. If looks could kill, the Hammer's would do just that.
Four hours later, the trial was coming to an end. Judge Mark J. McCormick was about to pass judgment. The courthouse was silent, and everybody held their breaths. The victim's children and other family members were sitting tensely, with clasped hands and ashen faces, waiting for the verdict. The accused sat with slumped shoulders, like so many others before him, looking defeated. The judge arranged the papers before him into a neat pile. His whole demeanour spelled trouble, his eyes were glittering like Nordic ice.
In the seventh row, the retired jurist winked an eye at him, and the kid sitting next to the old man signalled an 'off with his head' gesture with his hand. The judge winked back at the old man and the boy with a flicker of an eyelid. He cleared his throat.
"Mr. O'Brian, after you've decided to turn your kitchen into a butchery by slaughtering you wife in cold blood; you've sealed your own fate, and ruined the lives of your children. There's something you seemed to have forgotten when you committed this act of brutality; your wife was a person, not a piece of meat! She was the mother of your children. They may be all grown up, but they will have no parents for the rest of their lives. That thought never crossed you mind before you decided to become a drunken fool, and a killer at the same time. This complete disregard of the value of a human life is exactly what nobody in this world needs. The fact of the matter is that nobody deserves to die the way your wife did, except people like you! There is absolutely no excuse for what you did, and no extenuating circumstances. I condemn this barbaric, heinous act of violence with every fibre of my being!" McCormick's imposing voice, roughened by age, rang out in the courtroom. The accused man could not look him in the eye.
"I hereby find you guilty of first degree manslaughter; and will therefore sentence you to life imprisonment, in a maximum security facility. And at the age of fifty, you will be removed from society for the rest of your life. By the time you become eligible for parole, you'll be so old and institutionalized, you'll beg us to keep you locked up. We live in a very unkind, unforgiving world, Mr. O'Brian, and it would be safer for people like you to spend their retirement in prison. It is so much more than you deserve." With these final words, McCormick banged his gavel.
The trial was over. The victim's family wept with relief, and the TV crew swarmed all over them for comments. The accused, looking as if he'd been run over by a bus, was led away by police officers.
Danny helped Milt to his feet, handing him his cane. At his age, he had a bad back, and rheumatism in his legs. Getting up from a hard bench was a bit of a bother.
"That went well," Hardcastle said, taking his cane.
"Strictly routine, this one was a breeze," Danny said with a smile.
"Still, every time I sit here watching that man send these scumbags to jail, I can't believe how lucky I am to see it. I can't describe to anyone how proud I am to have been a part of it all – from the beginning, all these years ago. It's beyond my wildest expectations, and I can't wait for the next trial," Hardcastle said with pride in his gruff voice.
"My dad rocks, he's awesome! He sure learnt from the best!" Danny replied with a wide, impish grin.
"Now you're cookin'! Let's go and wait for him outside," Hardcastle said, as Danny took his arm, leading him down the passage.
After McCormick had a quick discussion with his legal team, he went on the lookout for Hardcastle and his son. He found them in the corridor leading to the entrance of the courtroom.
"Hey-y-y," he said as he walked towards them, "sorry for keeping you guys waiting like this."
"Anything for our favourite sledge-hammer!" Danny called out as he walked towards his father. "Gimme five!" he said as he slapped Mark a high five.
"All ri-i-ight!" Mark replied with a grin on his face. Even at the age of fifty-eight, his smile never lost that boyish quality.
"You did great, kiddo," Hardcastle said as Mark approached him. McCormick gave Milt a firm hug.
"Thanks, Judge, for everything," he said, looking Milt in the eye. The pride he saw there gave him a lump in his throat. For the past eleven years Milt had been present at most his trials, and it was a gift out of this world to see how proud ol' Hardcase was of him, and to still have him around after so many years. He owed his life to this man he loved as his own father.
"You're welcome, kid," Milt said with his gruff voice.
At that moment Mark's cell phone started ringing in his pants pocket. The ridiculously funny tune from a goofy cartoon show blared from it.
"Hey, you never had that thing switched off, didya? What if someone called while you were in court?" Hardcastle mock growled, "it would've caused a scene, and you can't exactly throw yourself out of the courtroom, can ya?"
"Fffffft," Mark said, embarrassed, as he tried to fish the phone from his pocket.
"Nice ringtone, Dad! Looks like Kathleen played with it again," Danny snorted, referring to his younger sister, who was still in school.
The cell phone was one of those big Nokia thingamabobs, and it got stuck in McCormick's pants pocket.
"Arrrgh, dammit!" he growled as he struggled to pull it out. "Yello," he said into it when he finally got it out.
"Too late. Damn thing, it happens all the time," McCormick said, pulling a face. The caller had given up and ended the call just as he was about to answer it. "Why the heck I had to go and buy such an enormous brick of a phone, nobody knows!"
"Some things never change!" Milt mock growled again, shaking his head. Then he started to shake with laughter.
"Yup. Dad may be the biggest hammer in the toolbox of justice, but he's also the biggest goofball on the planet!" Danny said with that trademark impish grin spread across his face.
"Amen to that!" Milt replied with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eyes.