Frank followed his team back to the station to help expedite the lab in any way that he could. Father Atia accompanied Hardcastle and McCormick back to the estate. No warrant was issued for Mark’s arrest yet—but he was ordered to stay at the estate.
Once settled in the den with freshly brewed coffee, the judge addressed a question to McCormick that had been bothering him. “You never told us what you were doing out around Bakersfield.” It wasn’t a question, simply a statement. The implication was that it was to be answered. Immediately.
“Oh, well, that I do remember. I went to see your dad, Father.”
“What?” It was a unison response from both the priest and the judge.
But Mark would not be intimidated. “Don’t give me any grief, you were the ones working on a case without me, and lying about it. I had had enough and wanted some answers. You guys weren’t giving me any. I figured for you to be working with the judge, you must have spoken to your father first. Turns out I was right.” Mark nodded smugly to the two men.
The judge was perturbed. “Then why the hell did you just sit there and let Father Atia tell you the whole damn story?”
“Watch it, Judge, there’s a priest in the room.”
Hardcastle was not amused. And maybe he deserved an answer.
But before he could answer, Father Atia spoke up, “As I told you last week, Judge, I only gave my father hypotheticals.”
Frustrated, Mark looked between both of his friends, “I wanted to make sure there were no more secrets, Judge.” Mark gave him an extended, meaningful look. “Ever.”
“Message received, McCormick. Never. I promise. I want you to believe that, kid.”
“Good, ‘cause I’m too tired to argue any more. I’m going to lie down; let me know as soon as you hear from Frank, okay?”
The judge shot a concerned look at his young friend, “You feeling okay?”
“Yeah, fine, really. I’m just tired. But, I’m trusting you to wake me up as soon as Frank calls.”
The judge went to the front closet and pulled out the spare blanket and pillow. Tossing them at Mark, he replied gruffly, “Yeah, as soon as he calls.”
The ringing phone broke the nervous silence in the den three hours later.
Hardcastle picked it up and spoke quietly in deference to his sleeping friend, “Yeah, Hardcastle.”
He listened intently to the voice on the other end. All that could be heard was Hardcastle’s whispered, “Damn bastard.”
By this time Mark was wiping the sleep from his eyes as he sat up on the couch. He mouthed the question who? to Father Atia sitting across the room.
Father Atia shrugged and was about to take a guess when Hardcastle answered the question for both of them, “What’s the next step, Frank. Is he in custody yet?”
After a brief silence, he continued, “Well, let me know when you have him. We can come on down tomorrow and make formal statements.”
One more response from Frank, and Hardcastle wound down the conversations, “Yeah, I’ll tell the kid. Frank, thanks for sticking with us on this. It means a lot.”
With that, he hung up the phone and turned to see Mark sitting on the couch. “You feelin’ okay, kid?”
“Yeah, Judge, just fine. Tell me the end of the story.” He paused, and looked between the judge and Father Atia. “It is the end, right?”
“Yeah, we think so. You better sit back down, kid, you’re not gonna like this.”
Mark sighed loudly, “I hate to tell you this, Hardcase, but I haven’t liked this for over a week now…”
The judge motioned with his hand for the kid to sit down, as he sat on the corner of his desk. All he needed to say was one name. “Quinlan.”
Total disbelief was written on McCormick’s face. For the first time in nearly four years he was speechless. When he finally was able to speak, it was barely a whisper, “Quinlan?”
“Yeah, kid, it seems he got enough people riled up about you. We have to remember that he now lives with a lot of people we also sent to Quentin. And, it wasn’t only you who was on his ‘hit’ list.”
“You too??” Mark was obviously concerned.
“Nah, not me.” The judge paused for effect, “Teddy.”
Mark shot off the sofa and headed for the phone, “Oh, God, I gotta call Teddy and make sure he’s okay.”
The judge was able to intercept Mark on the way to the phone. “Teddy’s fine. Frank sent a car over to keep an eye on him until everybody is in custody.”
“So, it's over?”
“It’s over, kid.”
Mark looked over to his other friend. He had nearly forgotten the sacrifice he made on his behalf. He found himself struggling for his next words, “Father…”
The young priest met his eyes and took the words from him, “Mark, it’s over. I’m just thankful that you, the judge are all right.”
“But Father, you sacrificed your career for me. Your life.”
“Mark, it isn’t that dramatic, I promise you. I will be talking with my superiors. What is meant to happen will happen. There is no scenario in which my silence would have been a real possibility for me. I will be fine.”
Their eyes met, and Mark simply nodded.
“Well, it's been a long night for all of us. I’ll call you in a few days. Get some rest, okay?”
The judge walked the priest to the door. “Father, thanks just don’t seem enough. I owe you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Ever.”
Father Atia clasped the judge’s extended hand in both of his, “You are welcome, judge, and as I told Mark, there was really no choice to be made. No matter what the consequences. I’ll be in touch, though. Just take care of Mark and make sure he is okay.”
“I’ve been doin’ that for the past four years…no reason to stop now.”
And with that, the priest left.