I didn't know what was left to do. Edgeworth had neatly boxed my client into a corner. No, there wasn't any kind of conclusive proof, but the circumstantial case was strong enough to leave Ayako out of luck. The judge certainly was convinced; he was raising his gavel--
Everyone in the courtroom blinked in shock, and then all eyes turned to Maya.
"You can't do this!" she cried. "Ayako didn't do anything!"
"Your Honor, the proof is before the court. We need not listen to the emotional outcries of little girls."
Maya stuck her tongue out at Edgeworth.
"Wait a minute..." the judge murmured. "I remember you. You're that girl I had to have removed in contempt of court a week ago, aren't you?"
We were in for it now. Maya's last outburst in court had gotten her hauled off to jail. Of course, it had also saved Edgeworth from a "guilty" verdict in the Hammond murder case, but twice in ten days...I didn't have the money to come up with that kind of bail! She'd be in jail quite a while, and there weren't many waterfalls in the detention center.
"Um...well..." Maya stalled.
"Regardless, Miss Fey is not an attorney, and there is no legal basis for her objection," Edgeworth pressed. "We need not waste our time on--"
"Hold it!" I slammed my hands down on the desk, capturing everyone's attention.
"Mr. Wright, what is the meaning of this?"
"Maya may only be my assistant, true, but there is definitely a legal basis for her objection!"
"There is?" the judge asked.
"There is?" Maya chimed in, confused.
"There is!" I hope. "The prosecution has built a circumstantial case, yes, but there's still no evidence that Ms. Avalon was the driver of her car!"
Edgeworth sighed and shook his head.
"We've been over this before, Mr. Wright. Unless you have evidence that puts someone else behind the wheel, then these objections are only a pointless waste of time."
"But I have evidence."
I picked up the transcript of the earlier witnesses' testimony and tapped it for emphasis.
"It's right here in the testimony already given, and I can confirm it with one question."
"One question? Do you mean, you want to recall a previous witness to the stand, Mr. Wright?"
"That's right, Your Honor. The truth of this matter will be made plain by this question."
"Hmmm...it's a highly irregular procedure, but if, as you say...Does the prosecution have any objection?"
Edgeworth shook his head.
"The prosecution has no objection to the truth. If Mr. Wright thinks he can sweep away all the evidence we've heard with one question, then let's let him ask."
Weird. I thought I'd have to argue him into it.
"Of course, if the answer to this question does not dramatically change this case, then the defense will concur that a verdict can be rendered immediately."
"Nick, are you sure about this?"
I nodded as firmly as I could manage.
"Well, okay, but this had better be one doozy of a question."
"Mr. Wright, do you accept the prosecution's condition?"
"Then," Edgeworth said with a bow, "by all means, proceed. Which witness do you wish to call?"
"The would-be boyfriend, Mr. Ford T. Berd."
The bailiff went into the crowd to fetch Berd from the witness seats. While he was making his way through the rows, Maya turned to me.
"Are you sure about this, Nick? Only one question? If it doesn't solve the case, Ayako will be found guilty at once!"
"I'm trusting you that Ayako is innocent," I told her.
I laid a hand gently on her shoulder.
"Then trust me to prove it."
She brightened up, showing her old enthusiasm.
"All right, Nick! Go get him!"
Berd was brought down to the witness stand and sworn in.
"Very well, then, Mr. Wright, what is it you wish to ask?" said the judge.
This time the eyes of the spectators were all on me. Everyone was waiting to hear the question, some in curiosity and some in disbelief. Edgeworth had his usual smug confidence, arms folded, tapping a finger against his elbow. Maya looked on eagerly. The judge just looked confused, so at least there was someone who was the same as always.
This was it. If I believed in my client, this was the only thing I could think of to explain the facts. But what if I was wrong? What if I had built a clever solution to the puzzle not on a contradiction in testimony but just a witness being careless?
And why did I only think of that now?
"Nick!" Maya hissed.
I took a deep breath. It was way too late for second thoughts.
"Mr. Berd, you've testified that at 11:30 you visited the Stonecrest Building, you went into the lobby, you attempted to reach Ms. Avalon over the intercom several times, then gave up and left. With that in mind, I have one question for you: where was the doorman during all this?
"Doorman? I didn't see any doorman."
The judge still looked as confused as ever. The spectators whispered back and forth, asking one another what the heck I was talking about. But not Edgeworth. He got it at once, which was why he looked like he'd been punched in the stomach.
"You didn't?" I pressed the point, spelling things out for the benefit of the court. "The doorman who was supposed to be on duty in the lobby until midnight? The one who has to have a card key to the building parking lot in order to valet-park the residents' cars? The doorman who said Ms. Avalon's car was a 'sweet thing,' then said 'Man, can she go!' even though his experience with it was to drive it between the front side of the building and the back--except of course when he was 'borrowing' it to go joyriding at speeds way too fast to keep from hitting an innocent jaywalker? You didn't see that doorman at his post in the lobby at the precise time the crime was being committed?"
The screamer proved to be Albert Pacer, fighting his way through the crowd, towards the exit. Edgeworth immediately pointed at him, snapping out, "Detective Gumshoe! Apprehend that man!"
"Huh, what? Hey, that's far enough, pal!"
As Gumshoe hurtled out of the courtroom after the doorman, I grinned at the judge.
"Can't flight be considered as legal evidence of guilt?"
"Quite. In light of these new developments, this court finds the defendant, Ms. Ayako Avalon--"
I glanced nervously at Edgeworth, then crossed my fingers.
The judge's gavel fell without interruption, and I let out the breath I'd been holding just in time to keep from turning blue.
-X X X-
I wondered if the defendant's lobbies all had copies of the same picture on the wall, or if they kept moving it around from case to case.
"Mr. Edgeworth was so cool!" Maya gushed. "'Detective Gumshoe! Apprehend that man!' It was like something out of a TV show!"
"You mean, like the Evil Magistrate ordering his minions to attack the Steel Samurai?"
"Yeah! No, wait, that's not what I mean at all!"
"It must be hard when your assistant is one of your adversary's fangirls, Mr. Wright."
"Well, you get used to it," I said with a shrug. Victory makes a man magnanimous, I guess.
"I'm glad, because there'll be more of it in your future."
"Huh?" was my brilliant comment. She just winked at me, never a comfortable moment with a medium who has just used the word "future."
"Still, I must say that I finally see why Maya had such confidence in you." She extended a hand. "I'm sorry for all my doubts--and for being so nasty about them."
"That's all right." It's not like I didn't have the same doubts, after all.
"Well, no, it isn't. Someday that temper's going to get me in trouble." She grinned impulsively. "But hey, I'll worry about that later. Thanks to you two, I'm a free woman." Ayako waved jauntily and headed for the door, leaving me with Maya.
"So...I guess this is goodbye, again?" I said, a little hesitantly.
"Yeah...I just came back for Ayako's sake."
"It's lucky for her that you did."
"What, because I know a great defense lawyer? Patting yourself on the back a little hard, aren't you, Nick?"
"What? No, I...I mean..."
"Kidding, Nick. Kidding!"
"Um, yeah, I knew that." Not. "But no, if it hadn't been for you speaking up, the judge would have pronounced the verdict right there before I could figure things out."
"Yeah, you do need me, don't you? Well, don't worry, Nick. Once my training is finished, I'll be coming right back. You can't get rid of a Fey that easily!"