"Objection! The witness's testimony is...objectionable!"
"Nick, what are you doing?" Maya Fey hissed from her spot beside me at the defense bar.
"Well, I heard Edgeworth use that once," I murmured self-consciously. Though come to think of it, the excuse hadn't gotten the cutthroat prosecutor any further than it had me. I had to try something, though, didn't I? My client was on trial for murder!
It was a hit-and-run case. John Q. Public, innocent pedestrian, had been mowed down at eleven-thirty at night. The detectives had already presented the autopsy report to confirm that death was from the auto accident, and blood traces had been found on the crumpled fender of the defendant's car, a high-performance SXT of just the type people liked to drive fast and recklessly.
And as for the defendant...
"Nick, you've got to help her!"
"What? Who is this?"
"It's Maya, Nick!"
"It's...uh...three in the morning. Why are you calling? Are you in trouble?"
"Yes! No! Well, Ayako is! Her trial starts tomorrow morning, and she doesn't have an attorney! She called me because she remembered my sister was a defense lawyer, only Mia--"
Only Mia Fey, my mentor in the practice of law and Maya's older sister, was dead. Maya had acted as my assistant during several cases since then, but she'd eventually decided to leave the city to continue her training as a spirit medium. I was surprised by just how much I'd missed her, and how glad I was to be back working with her.
On the other hand, I could have chosen better circumstances for the reunion. Ayako Avalon, nineteen years old and already a big name as a medium--they even talked about her getting her own TV show!--had been a couple of years ahead of Maya in her training, and they'd become close friends. She'd turned to Maya for help, recalling that Maya's sister was a rising star in legal circles...
...and had ended up with me defending her, instead.
Now, Miles Edgeworth was moving in for the kill with his usual panache. Thus far, I hadn't been able to poke a hole in any of his witnesses' testimony, though I was scoring a high grade in embarrassing myself in public.
"Your Honor, if we are through with the comedy portion of this trial"--Edgeworth buffed his nails on his elaborate burgundy jacket--"then perhaps the witness could give his testimony again?"
The judge cleared his throat. With his bald head and thick, flowing beard, he made an imposing figure, particularly when he was scowling at me in displeasure.
"Yes, indeed. Mr. Berd, if you would?"
Ford T. Berd, advertising executive, showed off a mouthful of teeth white enough to reflect back the ceiling lamps.
"It was around eleven-thirty in the evening, the night before yesterday. I'd just gotten out of a business meeting with Steele and Co., and I thought I'd drop in on Ayako."
"Hold it!" I cut in. "Just why would you 'drop in' on Ms. Avalon half an hour before midnight? Isn't that a little late to be paying social calls?"
"Not if I was planning to stay for breakfast, if you know what I mean?"
"Surely Mr. Wright doesn't need specific details about what consenting adults do in the course of a romance, does he?" Edgeworth asked.
"Um, well, er..." I stammered, rubbing the back of my neck where the muscles had just tensed up. "What makes you think that?" Gee, Phoenix, that wasn't completely embarrassing, was it? "So you're saying that you're the defendant's boyfriend, Mr. Berd?"
"We'd been out a couple of times. Nothing too serious, but what the hey? Her apartment building was just down the block from my meeting, so I was in the neighborhood."
"Is Mr. Berd what they call a 'player,' Nick?" Maya asked curiously. She was seventeen, and all the time she'd spent on the mountain in training had kind of put the brakes on her social life.
"Er, that is--"
"I'll ask Mr. Edgeworth about it after the trial. I'm sure he's a good judge of who's got game."
"If we could return to the significant point?" Edgeworth prodded things along. I had to give him credit; he'd much rather humiliate me professionally than personally.
"Right. Well, anyway, I went into the lobby of her apartment building. The Stonecrest is a security building, you see; you have to have a card key to get past the lobby to the elevators. So I buzzed her on the intercom to let me up, but nada. I tried three, maybe four times, but she wasn't home. So I left. Plenty of other fish in the creel."
Shouldn't that be "sea"? Why is it all the weirdos in the city want to testify in court?
"And at no time did you see the defendant?"
"Right; like I said, she wasn't home."
"Precisely. She wasn't home--because she was out driving, hitting John Q. Public with her car!"
"How do you know she wasn't home? She could have just been asleep!" I snapped. "All you know is that she didn't answer her intercom."
"No way, sonny. There's no way that was the case!"
"Mr. Berd, why don't you explain to the court just how you know that the defendant wasn't home?" Edgeworth suggested. "I'm sure His Honor will permit you to revise your testimony."
"Yes, well, of course," concurred the judge. "We have to get all the relevant testimony into the record. Do try to be specific."
"Sure enough. As you know, I'm in advertising. It just so happens that I worked on the ad campaign for Bar None Security, who installed the systems at Ayako's building. People were worried about missing important callers if they were in the shower or something, so those intercom buzzers are loud enough to wake the dead! If she didn't answer after being buzzed four times, she wasn't asleep."
"Um...I was done, actually."
"There's a woman's life at stake here. There's no need for jokes." I was surprised Edgeworth didn't pitch in with a comment about my whole defense being a joke. "The truth is, you have no idea if Ms. Avalon was home or not. All you can say is that no normal person could have slept through the intercom buzzer."
"Can the defense prove that she was home?" Edgeworth asked.
"I think I can!"
Surprised you that time, didn't I?
"Here's the proof that Ms. Avalon did sleep through the buzzer!"
Okay, so maybe the dramatic pointing was a little over the top. Still, it was the first time all day I'd managed to score a telling point, so I figured I could be forgiven for a little overenthusiasm.
The evidence I produced was a little white pill bottle.
"As you can see, this is a prescription drug bottle. Ms. Avalon is a diagnosed insomniac, and her doctor prescribed these for when she has trouble sleeping. She couldn't have heard the intercom buzz four times, forty times, or four hundred times, because she was in a drugged slumber!"
"Gah!" Berd choked. Music to my ears. Then things went swiftly off-key.
"Tsk, Mr. Wright, think about what you are saying," Edgeworth said, "tut-tutting" at me with wagging finger.
"Huh?" was my brilliant comeback.
"It's certainly true that sleeping pills could explain why the defendant didn't answer her door..."
I could feel the "but" coming--no doubt to make me the butt of his point.
"But you have no way to show if she took pills that night or not! If you can't prove that she was asleep in bed at the time of the crime, then all you're doing is engaging in pointless speculation."
"Well, that's certainly true," noted the judge. "Do you have any more evidence, Mr. Wright?"
Okay, this one I was ready for.
"Yes, Your Honor, I do."
"You do, Nick?" Maya asked, surprised. Such faith my assistant had.
"I do. Take a look at the label on this prescription bottle. It was filled on the very day of the crime! There were thirty pills in the prescription, with a dosage of two pills nightly as needed. Now, there are twenty-six pills left, two used each night since the prescription was filled. So we do know that Ms. Avalon took her medication on the night of the crime. She was asleep in bed when the hit-and-run occurred!"
Slowly, the judge nodded.
"Yes...yes, I see your point. This appears to be concl--"
"This evidence is conclusive of nothing!"
How did I know he was going to say that?
"Of course, four pills are missing from this bottle, but we have no evidence as to when they were removed or by whom. Even conceding that the defendant actually did take the recommended dosage, what's to say that she took the first dose once she returned to her apartment after hitting the victim with her car! Surely this is the kind of traumatic event that would encourage a person to need sedation to sleep? Indeed, I'd say that the defense's evidence goes to prove the defendant guilty!"
There were days that I thought Edgeworth could argue that a nun putting on her habit showed the intent to conceal her appearance for committing a crime.
"Quite so, Mr. Edgeworth. Indeed, I should say that--"
"Objection!" I shouted desperately. "The prosecution still hasn't shown that it was Ms. Avalon driving the car."
I shook my head.
"No, Your Honor. All they've done is to prove her car was used in the killing, and to attack the defendant's alibi. They haven't established that she was driving the car when it struck the victim!"
Edgeworth shrugged, spreading his hands.
"That's true, Your Honor."
Huh? He's agreeing with me?
"The prosecution has further witnesses who will complete the noose of evidence around the defendant's neck!"
I could certainly feel it tightening around my own.