Rain. How perfectly ironic.
Edgeworth snapped his umbrella shut, shaking water from the folds as he entered the dank apartment building. Cold, gray eyes travelled around the room, his brain already formulating theories and notes about a case he wasn't even sure he was going to take.
Tenants get their mail here, right in front of the lobby door. It wouldn't be difficult to observe them from the streets, and if a habit was formed, that would give the killer a reliable window of opportunity. He turned to left, his gaze darting from crack to hole to mismatched paint and back again. Money is almost definitely not a motive. I can't imagine anyone who lives in these conditions having something worth stealing.
"Hey! Don't touch anything until Prosecutor Edgeworth gets here, pal!"
Edgeworth inclined his head towards the stairs, annoyance curling his lips into a frown, and he started the short trip to the second floor. Hmm. If the killer was looking for a victim of opportunity, they would have chosen someone downstairs. It's unlikely every tenant on the ground level was gone at the time of the murder, so they must have been after a specific target.
Floorboards creaked as he walked, the wooden panels hidden somewhere beneath a layer of carpeting that was repulsive both aesthetically and bacterially. Money was definitely not a motive.
He stopped when he got to the top of the flight, taking a moment to stare down the hall before actually stepping into the corridor. Gumshoe said it was the second door on the right. It looks like the victim had a lot of neighbors… someone had to have heard something, especially at two in the morning. There's no construction or heavy traffic to mask the sound of a gunshot.
It was cold with very few sources of light, he noted as he entered the apartment, and the general state of the dwelling was cluttered. Each footstep summoned a small puff of dust from the space around his shoes, and his scowl returned in full, eyes drifting around in search of any other clues the rather useless police department might have overlooked.
"Hey, Prosecutor Edgeworth, you're here!"
Edgeworth forced himself to acknowledge the familiar presence in the hall, fingers rising to rub the equally familiar sensation of a migraine forming behind his left temple. "Yes, of course. Tell me, Detective, did you or your men look for a distinct set of footprints in the dust, or did you trample all over the crime scene without paying attention to the tracks left behind?"
Edgeworth sighed. "Never mind. Where is the body?"
"Well, sir…" Gumshoe rubbed the back of his neck, looking sheepish in that 'kicked puppy' sort of way that always accompanied a devastating blunder. "To be honest, I don't know if you needed to come out for this one. We've got it pretty much nailed. Our suspect is already down at the precinct, and most of the evidence is on its way to your office now."
Edgeworth arched a brow, not even trying to keep the irritation from his face. "You didn't think to call and tell me this before I drove all the way out here in a miserable rainstorm?"
Gumshoe kept rubbing his neck, laughing nervously and looking at anything but Edgeworth's eyes. "I, uh, I didn't want you to talk and drive in the rain, you know…" He jumped then, a big grin parting his lips as he apparently remembered a redeeming feature to the situation. "This case is a lot less depressing then your usual cases, though!"
If there was ever a moment in time when Edgeworth had considered the man in front of him to be a relatively respectable human being, he recanted the thought immediately.
"It's a self-defense case. So, you know, there's not really a bad guy in this case. Or, I mean, there is. He's just, y'know, dead." Gumshoe laughed again, broad shoulders bouncing as he amused himself with his own little joke.
"Detective, murder never bears good fruit." Edgeworth tapped his upper arm with his index finger, lecturing in a low, almost deadly tone of voice. "You would do well to remember that, especially given the fact that you're a detective. It is your job to catch the criminals—not civilians. The fact that someone had to use self-defense is proof the department isn't doing its job."
Wincing, the detective flinched backwards and returned to rubbing his neck. "Oh, right, sir. Sorry, sir. I didn't think of it that way, sir."
Edgeworth struggled not to roll his eyes. "Clearly," he drawled. "Detective, simply answer me this: Is there anything I need to do right here, right now?"
"I didn't let the boys move anything in the bedroom. You can take a look—I figure it might be a bit better than pictures."
Finally, a shred of intelligence is shown. Outwardly, a simple nod was all he offered, pushing past the detective, down the short hall, and into the master bedroom.
It looked like a classic murder scene inside. Jewelry scattered across the carpet, a small bookshelf toppled over, and a full-length mirror lying shattered on the floor; signs of a struggle, it would seem. Red splatters on the bedspread, the body of the husband sitting at the foot of the bed hunched over and somewhat stiff.
It looked like a classic murder scene, but it wasn't.
This is wrong. Edgeworth crouched down and took a glove from the inside of his coat, slipping it onto his hand and picking up the necklace closest to him. Cheap. He stood up and followed the angle of impact with his eyes, eventually winding up at the top of a dresser. They're poor. It makes sense that she didn't have a jewelry box of any sort, but…
Frowning, Edgeworth made a sweeping motion with his arm, trying to imagine fighting with someone while doing so. He turned around and did it backwards, pursing his lips. I suppose it's possible. She grabbed the dresser for support while backing up and dragged the jewelry over the edge.
Approaching the mirror on the floor, Edgeworth fingered the mangled corner and looked at the sticker towards the bottom. Wal-Mart. Cheap again, as I suspected. He turned around to look at the bookshelf, scowling at the entire display for several seconds before abandoning it in favor of examining the body.
I'm no medical examiner, but I would say a single bullet wound to the chest was the cause of death. It probably didn't take long to die, if it took any time at all. He leaned forward slightly and sniffed. I'll be interested to find out exactly how drunk he was. Standing back up, he looked down and made a few notes—clothing, hands, bloodstains—and then looked to the doorway. He was shot here. But it was self-defense. Wouldn't this be a bit backwards?
Turning his attention back to the toppled bookshelf, he tried to view it from a defense attorney's point of view. Perhaps, he thought, and his inner monologue sounded an awful lot like Phoenix Wright. Perhaps the husband was in enraged in his stupor and overturned the bookshelf. That might have made her feel threatened. Then, a more cynical, familiar, Edgeworth-sounding voice replied, Or it's an inexperienced attempt at fabricating signs of a struggle.
He would have to wait to hear the testimony in court. It wasn't as if the scenario was impossible, and he had seen cases with anti-stereotypical positions and methods before, but the scene as a whole was leaving an odd feeling in his gut. Depending on what the defendant claimed happened, they might reveal an unusual truth, or they might trip over their own lies for lack of criminal knowledge.
"Gumshoe." Edgeworth stepped away from the corpse and peeled his glove off, dropping it into the detective's hand. "Did Wright take the case?"
Taking the trash much too enthusiastically, Gumshoe shook his head. "Nope. He said he was sick."
That's wrong, too. As incredibly irritating as it was for the prosecutor, his childhood friend would fight for anybody's innocence, rain or shine, rich or poor, health or literal deathbed. I'll give him a call.
"I take it the trial is tomorrow?"
Gumshoe gave a single nod.
"Well, have you talked to any of the neighbors? Did any of them hear or see anything tonight?" It was difficult, after all, for a prosecutor to prosecute without at least one witness. Not that he couldn't do it—because he most certainly could—but he wasn't exactly hoping for such a situation to occur.
"Nobody was home tonight, so we got nothing out of the neighbors."
"Nobody? There was not a single person in the entire apartment complex who heard or saw anything?" Edgeworth frowned, disliking the situation a little more with every second that passed, but he eventually offered a reluctant nod. "I see."
"Yeah, I thought it was weird, too. But the kid saw everything, so I think we're alright for witnesses."
There was a beat of silence, Edgeworth's brain taking that instant to jump the gap Gumshoe had left in his details.
"There was a child in the house?" Edgeworth rubbed at his head more aggressively, trying not to raise his voice. "He saw everything, and you waited until now to tell me?"
"Well… uh… it didn't come up, I guess?"
Heaven help me. Edgeworth once again pushed past his incredibly unhelpful partner and looked in the neighboring room. Yes, that would definitely be the bedroom of a child. But it was empty, so Edgeworth kept walking, moving through the living room and into the dining room and kitchenette area.
"C-Can I see Daddy now?"
That was the first thing Edgeworth clearly heard the boy say, and it brought entirely too many unwanted memories to the front of his mind.
"I w-wanna see my daddy… please, let me go, I wanna go to Daddy…"
"I know, sweetheart, but you can't right now."
Edgeworth cleared his throat to get the officer's attention and, once she looked up at him, gestured to the boy on her lap. "I need to speak with him about what he saw tonight."
The woman tensed, arms tightening slightly in a protective embrace. "He's barely managing to stay out of shock. He doesn't need to be questioned right now."
Edgeworth arched a brow and crossed his arms over his chest, his expression clearly showing his displeasure. "The Initial Trial System ensures a three-day trial that starts the day after the crime is committed. Furthermore, the longer I wait, the less reliable my only witness' testimony is going to be. I need to get his statement before he begins to forget the details, so I apologize, but I do not have the time or inclination to wait."
She opened her mouth to object, but Gumshoe's booming voice cut her off.
"Hey, pal, Prosecutor Edgeworth needs evidence so he can… uh, be Prosecutor Edgeworth. If he doesn't have a testimony, he can't prosecute, and then he would just be plain old Edgeworth."
That is so far from correct I don't even know where to begin. Still, it was effective enough, and with a begrudging glare, the woman turned her attention to the weeping boy on her lap and tried to soothe him.
"Arthur, this man is going to ask you some questions about what happened tonight. We really need you to try and answer them. Do you think you can give it a shot?"
Rubbing his eyes and sniffing, the blonde gave a timid nod and a mumbled, "Mhm."
Edgeworth gave a slight nod in her direction, understanding her perspective but unable to summon enough sympathy to risk losing evidence, and then he knelt in front of the chair and held out his hand. "Hello. My name is Miles Edgeworth. Arthur, was it?"
The boy took the hand and gave it a week shake, one arm still traveling back and forth across his eyes and nose. "Arthur Coleman, fourth grade, 522 Del Monte Street. My daddy's cell phone number is (714) 547-3339."
Edgeworth pursed his lips slightly and nodded his approval of the information, taking a few mental notes on the compulsive answer and its format. "Thank you. That's very helpful, Arthur. Now—"
"You're welcome," the boy sniffed.
Edgeworth wet his lip and nodded again, this time slower, slightly peeved by the interruption. "Right... Can you tell me what happened here tonight?"
"Um…" Arthur sniffed and dragged his hands over his face again, a few more sobs shaking his shoulders before he managed some words. "Um, Daddy came home acting funny, and… and Mom told him not to do that anymore, so… so she…" He blinked rapidly, fresh tears welling up in his glassy blue eyes and pouring down over his cheeks. "She said t-to hide under the bed, and… and she told him to leave, or she would call the 9-1-1 people… and then it got really loud and… noisy and… and then there was a big b-bang-g, and everything got r-really q-quiet-t and…"
Edgeworth knew as soon as the boy began to stutter through entire words that he had gotten all he could, and his theory was confirmed the moment Arthur burst into tears. He stood up and gave the child some space, leaving him to the attentive officer and turning back to look at his barely redeemable partner.
"Did you get all of that?"
Gumshoe nodded, entirely too proud of the meager accomplishment, and handed over a notepad. "Here you go, sir!"
Edgeworth took the booklet in hand and skimmed the contents. The punctuation and spelling were atrocious, but Gumshoe had taken notes about the body language and emotional reactions, which the prosecutor knew would be helpful.
"Perfect." Mostly. "I suppose we'll have to wait and see how the defense pleads tomorrow before we can do much more in the realm of investigation." Sighing, the prestigious prosecutor tucked the notes into his jacket and returned his arms to their usual place upon his chest. "How I loathe the first day of a trial."
Gumshoe laughed, a bit nervously but a bit pleased, too. "I know you do, sir, but the paperwork and the forensic testing takes time."
"I know that," Edgeworth snapped. "It's simply inconvenient for me. Besides, I was mostly talking about not knowing what case I need to argue for or against until I'm there." Not that he expected Gumshoe to understand, but some things deserved and explanation regardless of the audience and its intelligence—or lack thereof.
"Well, I don't see much more I can do here, so I am going home to get a good night's sleep. I will see you in the morning, Detective."
"Goodnight, Prosecutor Edgeworth!"
Edgeworth had already begun to walk away, and the farewell was met with an absent-minded, off-handed, over-the-shoulder wave. His thoughts were already back at his office, organizing the evidence and contemplating the many possible ways the defense could spin things.
"Uh, Gumshoe, what do you want us to do with the kid?"
Edgeworth's pace slowed, and he turned back towards the kitchen, rolling his eyes when Gumshoe shrugged. Completely out of answers, per the usual.
"I dunno, pal. We can't find any living relatives in the area, and we can't hand him over to an orphanage until the mom is convicted." Gumshoe laughed. "I mean, it's not like one of us can just take him home."
Edgeworth saw Gumshoe's gaze shift seconds after the voice of a young male was heard, and he silently urged the two of them to hurry up and come to a conclusion so he could leave.
"If the precinct is too full, or in a sensitive case like this, someone with legal authority can take them home until the state knows what to do with them. Once the Initial Trial System went into effect, several states adopted a legislation to cut out complications involving minors so trials could still be completed in three days' time."
There was a moment of silence, the policemen all exchanging glances.
"Hey, don't look at me, pal. I can barely afford instant noodles for one person!"
"I don't think my wife would take that kind of a surprise too well..."
"My apartment's way too small. I wouldn't have any place to put him."
The excuses were passed around from person to person until there was no one left, and Edgeworth's hand slowly travelled up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Can anyone in this entire bloody unit accomplish anything at all?
"Gumshoe," Edgeworth started, already regretting the words he had yet to speak. "How long would the boy need to be in the custody of a legal authority?"
"Oh, just until the trial's over, sir!" Gumshoe laughed, and then he started to scratch his neck again. "I think."
Scowling, the prosecutor snapped his fingers and demanded an attentive response. "I do not have the time for uncertainty, Detective, and the police do not have time to babysit a witness. I need a definitive answer, and I need it now."
There were scattered murmurs from the kitchen as the other policemen were consulted, and then Gumshoe nodded. "Definitively just until the trial's over, sir!"
Edgeworth cringed. "Definitively isn't… you can't… oh, never mind." Sighing, he gestured towards the kitchen and gave another snap of his fingers. "Send him out. I'll take him home with me."
Gumshoe stared, jaw dropping and eyes popping out in that irritatingly comical way they often did. "What? You, sir?"
Edgeworth simply shrugged his shoulders. "It's convenient, and he's just a child. How hard can it be?"
Gumshoe threw his head back and began to laugh, the policewoman from before maneuvering the boy between the detective and the wall before giving the prosecutor a deadly glare.
Edgeworth stared back, unfazed. He knew he wasn't the best with children, and he didn't understand a single thing about them to be sure, but it was only three days. He was hardly going to beat the kid or let him starve, and honestly, what more was there to child-rearing than that?
"You guys know I'm standin' right here, right?"
Edgeworth looked down and spied a trouble young boy shaking with some odd combination of anger and grief. He spied a traumatized, nine-year-old witness to murder who was rebuking the adults' refusal to include him while simultaneously flinching away from his new guardian in fear.
Perhaps I've bitten off more than I can chew…
"Well, why don't you stop standing there and march on down to the car instead?"
No, that's ridiculous. If I can handle adults, I can handle children. They can't be that different. Everything is going to be just fine.
However, as he followed Arthur out of the apartment, Edgeworth noted with no small amount of unease that Gumshoe had yet to stop laughing.