"…I don't see why you had to kick me, pal. I didn't do anything wrong."
Gumshoe had just finished hopping up and down on one foot for awhile, holding his knee and his smarting shin. He had that usual scolded 'kicked-puppy' look on his face that many people found familiar, and for the situation it seemed rather appropriate. Maya had taken a good portion of her aggression out on the large detective and she was much calmer, while Edgeworth had stood back and observed without interference. All three of them were standing on the steps of the detention center, Edgeworth and Maya going in while Gumshoe had been coming out.
"I feel better now." Maya sighed, stretching in the cold morning air. The sun was out but it wasn't doing much to dispel the seasonal chill. She hadn't seen Gumshoe since the night before. It looked like he hadn't had a chance to change his clothes yet, they were all crinkled and his tie was crooked. He noticed Maya inspecting his clothes and adjusted said tie accordingly.
It was embarrassing. Dick had been up all night trying to keep the other detectives from antagonizing their suspect too much, but his body was burnt out on caffeine and he was ready to go home for some blissful sleep. Gumshoe couldn't be everywhere at once though, so during a few interviews he hadn't been there to mediate. He felt really bad for it and once the little girl found out the reason why he felt bad those kicks would be justified. Maybe she'd even come back for round two.
Unfortunately for Gumshoe his luck had never been very good. By the time he was permitted to go home and put everything out of his mind for awhile the chief came up and told him to get his butt on over to the crime scene, because he had just been appointed head of the police investigation team. As the first cop to react to the murder it had become his duty to manage everything himself. Dick had to suck it up, pour something black and strong into a thermos and then get back to work.
"Are you in a hurry, detective?" Edgeworth questioned smoothly. Most of the time he practically had a set of strings attached to Gumshoe and the young prosecutor knew it. He liked it that way, it made things so much easier when gathering information to gain a guilty verdict. He supposed that Gumshoe was his puppet, but the guy was a puppet who was also his friend.
"Of course! Somebody has to solve the mystery of the curtain killing! It's going to be in all the papers soon enough, so I have to work fast! Not that it'll be difficult to figure out seeing we know who the killer is. I just gotta start with that and work backwards! It'll be easy." Gumshoe laughed, but felt bad for lightening up a bleak situation so he frowned right afterwards.
"Agatha Christie used that same method too." Edgeworth said in a bemused tone. "We are here to speak with Wright. Will Miss Fey and I be able to gain clearance to see him?"
"I don't see why not." Gumshoe smiled. "Just tell them that I said it was alright. Now I'd better be getting out of here. If I can get to those curtains before anybody else does I might be able to ebay 'em and get some savings into my account. 'The curtains from the Curtain Killing murder!' See you later Mr. Edgeworth, and you too kid!" He blundered down the steps but stopped abruptly as he remembered one last thing. He looked embarrassed as he shouted; "Tell your friend I'm sorry 'bout what happened to his face!"
"What?" Maya called back, not understanding what the detective meant. Gumshoe was already out of shouting range, scurrying to his beat-up brown bomb of a car. She guessed that justice never rested or slept. Poor guy.
The mismatched pair of the girl in strange garb and the prosecutor in the magenta coat slipped into the detention center and managed to score a brief half hour visit with the suspect of the theater stabbing, or the 'Curtain Killing' case as Gumshoe so uniquely put it. They got this visit only through three supporting factors. The least was the mention of Gumshoe's name, the next was because Edgeworth was obviously a lawyer of some repute, but the main reason was that the officer clerk was afraid that Maya might rip his throat out if he didn't give in.
Still, it took a while for the interview to be arranged. Nick had to be extracted from his cell, briefly searched, marched to the visitor's center and then searched again before being let inside. Maya and Edgeworth knew this because they had once been prisoners themselves, however they also knew that they had been treated to minimum security while Nick was receiving security to the max. All in all they had to wait twenty five minutes for the prisoner to arrive.
The guard led Nick into the visiting room by the arm and then securely locked the door behind him so escape would be impossible. The spikey-haired man was stripped of the costume he had been wearing the night before and he was clothed only in an ugly orange jumpsuit, normal prison wear. He had an eight digit number printed where the front pocket should have been and he raised his bound hands up a little so the guard could remove his handcuffs. The metal bindings came off with a snap and Nick rubbed at his red raw wrists sheepishly. He walked over to the thick plastic screen and sat down heavily, burdened in some invisible way.
He seemed so tired that he hadn't even noticed Maya and Edgeworth waiting on the other side of the screen. Maybe he had been expecting legal aid instead of a visit from his friends. Maya jumped up and pressed both her hands against the screen, smiling widely. This was an awful situation but she was just glad to see he was more or less okay. "Nick! Nick, how are you? Are you okay? Have the police been treating you alright? It's me, Maya! Edgeworth's here too, I dragged him along with me."
Nick looked up at her and Maya saw the hideously large bruise down along his cheek and jaw. It was dark and sore-looking, made some time last night. Phoenix smiled despite the pain he must be feeling, both physically and in his conscience. "Aw Maya, I'm glad you came. I'm sorry about last night, I ruined it for everybody." He rubbed the side of his neck wretchedly. "Especially Polonius. God, I still can't believe that actually happened. I keep expecting it to be some sick joke played on me, but it's the next day now and I haven't woken up yet. Were you okay after I left? I was worried about you."
"Well, luckily for me Mr. Edgeworth took me in for the night. He took good care of me so you didn't have to worry." The expression of relief on Nick's face made Maya feel better as well. She calmed down a bit. Edgeworth was standing by, as detached as he could be, looking like he was wasting his time standing around there. He was waiting for a phone call, the phone call that would put him in charge of this case.
But with Nick's relief something else followed it. Tears. His eyes watered and then he held his face in his hands, not making a sound aside from sniffles and shakes. Maya wanted to leap through the plastic screen and give him a hug, make him feel better, but anything she could do now would be ineffectual. She couldn't wind back time and undo the crime had he committed, though she wished dearly that she could. "Hey… don't cry." Maya said gently. "It'll be alright, you'll see. This is all just a big misunderstanding. You'll be found innocent and then you'll be free."
"But I did it. I really, really did it. I murdered somebody, I'm not denying that. I'm guilty." Saying that out loud, admitting it to somebody who wasn't an unfriendly policeman made Phoenix feel much better. He wiped his face with the back of a hand and winced as he touched his bruise. Letting out a deep breath helped as well, and Nick finally felt partially in control of himself again. He looked Maya and Edgeworth in the eye and tried to smile. "No court will find me innocent if I'm truly guilty."
"Pull yourself together Wright and stop your sniffling. Nobody is doubting your guilt regarding the murder of that actor." Edgeworth said with a sharp tongue and an even sharper glare. He should have found it amusing to see his rival sink so low but instead he found it simply pathetic. When he had once been in Wright's position he had accepted it with far more grace. Phoenix hung his head in shame. "I do not care whether you killed that man or not, the question is whether you intended to kill that man last night. Did you intend to?"
"Of course not!" Nick shouted and it was the first bit of energy he had shown all morning. His mood was shifting from resigned to depressed to angry so fast that Edgeworth wondered if the police had given him some kind of drug to mess with his nerves. "I'd never plan to kill anybody! If I had planned to kill that night I never would have invited any of you to come watch! Edgeworth, please. You know I couldn't do something like that, least of all to an old friend."
"So, wait. You knew Polonius from before the play?" Maya asked, feeling that they were on to something. If Nick hadn't intended to kill Polonius then that branched out to two lines of thinking. Phoenix had either killed due to a simple, horrible accident, or somebody had taken the time to set him up. Maya was in the role of the detective now, having to put the pieces together practically by herself.
He nodded, but he was looking at Edgeworth more than he was looking at Maya. "Yes. Back when I was in acting college he was my teacher. Actually he was more like the dean of the school but he still taught classes on the side. I learned everything I know about drama from him. When I dropped out I heard he resigned about a year later, and it was only a coincidence that he happened to be managing the theater troupe when I joined."
"Is that the truth?" Edgeworth pressed. Nick looked like he had just been insulted but nodded again. It sounded awfully convenient to just be a coincidence, but Phoenix lacked one thing that all pre-meditated killers required; a motive. Maybe if they kept asking they might uncover one. "Can you tell us any other details about the victim? Anything that a court might find to be relevant?"
The prosecutor had dealt with hundreds of liars in his near-perfect career. He could just about see a lie forming on a person's face. Edgeworth observed Phoenix hesitate and then come within a hair's width of telling a lie, but then he changed his mind at the very last moment and chose to omit details instead. What he said was the truth, but it was not the entire truth. "First of all Polonius' real name was Mr. Stanislavski. It's a bit of a mouthful, that's why people preferred to say his stage names instead. He was a very kind and understanding man, he always had time to spare to help you out no matter how far behind in grades you were. He gave everybody a chance."
"Including yourself?" Edgeworth pressed further. Maya was just watching their exchange, much as she used to do while behind the defense's bench.
"I never needed help in college and my grades were good. I was the forth or fifth best actor in the school. Good enough to be better than average, not good enough to receive any special acclaim. I didn't care about stuff like that, but I needed the money now to pay all the bills. In the present he was helping me, yes. Why would I want to kill somebody who was lending me a hand?"
It did seem a little strange. Perhaps the real reason lay behind the omission of details. Edgeworth couldn't trust Phoenix totally on the facts for as long as he seemed to hide things, but this information here seemed pretty valid. In the beginning of the visit he had only planned on standing by and just listening, only that, but he was involuntarily taking control of the situation. Nobody else would. If Maya had known this was going to happen and had dragged him here because of that then she was cleverer than she appeared.
"I believe you may have been framed." Edgeworth said, choosing his words carefully.
"The whole thing does smell pretty fishy. If somebody knew that Nick had a history with Mr. Stan… Mr. Stanislav… uh, Polonius then they could have used him to commit the murder for themselves!" Maya announced, her hands balled into fists. If she thought things that way it made much more sense. "Do you know what this means? Nick's innocent!"
The idea didn't seem to console him much. Even if it was true it'd be nigh impossible to prove. He would never be truly innocent, as that man's blood had been all over his hands. Phoenix couldn't help but yawn, the cops had laid into him with their questioning all night long. He thought that he'd finally be able to sleep later on, knowing that his friends still cared about him despite his actions. "I'll just have to wait and see what the judge thinks I am. Nobody's going to want to represent a self-confessed killer so I'll just have to represent myself."
"Isn't that a little risky? And won't that make you seen even more suspicious? You won't be able to gather and compile evidence while you're locked up in a prison cell either. There'll be no ammunition for you to use during the trial." Maya announced. What he had professed to do would only make things harder for himself. If he was the only defense attorney willing to take his case then he had no choice, but it certainly wasn't fair.
"I think I'll have to get used to risky from now on." Nick replied sadly and absently touched the bruise on his cheek. It was in just the right place to be thrown by a right-handed man with a firm punch. "I coughed on some cigarette smoke from the detective interviewing me and he took it as an act of aggression. I suppose I also said something unflattering about his hygiene as well. I guess there's one bad cop for every good cop in the force."
"You should put some ice on that." Maya advised but Nick just smiled wanly at her and didn't say anything. At that moment Edgeworth's cell phone rung, playing a brief polyphonic ringtone of the Fur Elise. He took the small streamlined object and retreated to a corner of the room, leaving Nick all to Maya. She took this chance to say the things she wanted to say without the prosecutor looming over her shoulder. Maya started to cry silently, but the emotion was thick in her voice. "I can't let you do this alone. Let me go to the crime scene and I'll find all the evidence you'll need to get a not guilty verdict."
"Maya, you know that isn't going to work. The crime scene would only be open to the police investigators, the prosecution and the defense teams. You're not a lawyer, they'll just think you're a kid nosing around. I appreciate the thought, but if you really want to help me then keep yourself safe while I'm unable to take care of you." Phoenix looked very sincere. "I'm grateful to Edgeworth for what he's done. If anybody is going to prosecute me I hope it'll be him."
The girl jumped in her seat like she had been pinched. She hadn't even thought of a concept like that yet. Surprised, Maya's eyes widened. "Oh no! That's not funny at all! I was going to make him help me but if he's the enemy I'll have to do this on my own. Maybe I can get Larry or Gumshoe to help me. I've decided, Nick! As soon as you're out of this place I'm going to get a car and a license. No more carpooling for me!"
"How exactly are you planning to get a car?" Phoenix asked uneasily. He had a bad feeling about this.
"Easy! You're going to buy me one."
"What? I can't even afford one for myself and you're saying-"
"Excuse me." Edgeworth said over the both of them and effectively killed the conversation. He snapped his cell phone closed and pocketed it professionally. His face was neutral, calm. Whatever news he had just received he was able to keep completely to himself, because Maya and Phoenix could not read his unruffled expression. "I have just received a call from the prosecutor's office. They are wondering where I am, but I also made an inquiry as to who will be managing the Wright case. It seems that the media are planning to make this the story of the month, and because of my recent 'dealings' with the sharp end of the law the office has chosen to keep me out of the spotlight."
"So that means…" Maya ventured, hoping that this was what she thought it was, but daring not to say it herself.
"I will not be prosecuting Wright's case." He said. Maya sighed in relief and rested her head on the bench. Phoenix and Miles fought all the time but she didn't want to see them participating in a tug-of-war over Nick's life. However, this also meant that the crime scene was just as closed off to Edgeworth as it was to Maya. His use had suddenly dwindled down to nothing. He continued. "It seems that a new prosecutor has elected to take this case. It is to be his first trial and he wishes to be broken-in before the eyes of the media. It's a foolish idea if you ask me."
Well, if the prosecutor was a rookie then Phoenix felt a little more confident about the upcoming trial. He himself had a small handful of cases under his belt so at least he'd be the more experienced adversary. "So who is this prosecutor? Do you know him, Edgeworth? What's he like?" If he couldn't compile evidence the best he could do was know his enemy as well as he was able. Unfortunately for Phoenix, though, he was about to get the shock of a lifetime, one that would not be as bad as the cold rush he had received last night but pretty close.
"I have never met him so I don't know what he's like. He only came to the prosecutor's office last month." Edgeworth took his phone out of his pocket again and checked the time. Thanks to this idiotic lawyer and his assistant he was running mortifyingly late. He also had an appointment with the chief in a couple of hours time. "His name is Mr. Allegory. I think he was schooled locally." The prosecutor looked up from his phone and met an interesting sight, an unexpected sight.
The only time he had seen Nick glare so venomously was when his defendant's life was on the line and he was running out of ideas. He seemed quietly furious, but his hands on the dull white table were trembling. "Allegory?" He demanded with a hoarse twist to his voice. "Dante Allegory? Is that who you're talking about? It is, isn't it? Tell me the truth!" Phoenix slammed his fists down on the table at the accusation.
Miles blinked. "Uh… yes. Is that a problem?"
Yes it was. It was a huge problem. The spikey-haired man seemed to crumble when he heard Edgeworth's affirmation. "No." He groaned to nobody in particular and slumped down onto the table, wrapping his arms over his head to block out the world and what he was hearing. When he spoke again he was wracked with frustrated sobs. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. He couldn't take it anymore, it was all too much. "I can't do this. This isn't happening. I want to go back to my cell. This… this is all wrong…"
"What is it? What's wrong? Nick, please talk to us!" Maya cried, but Edgeworth placed a hand on her shoulder and kept her from saying anything else with a single glance. Saying that prosecutor's name had completely broken the remaining semblance of composure that the defense attorney had. Pressing him any further would do more harm than good. It was so pitiful seeing a competent man reduced to a whimpering mess. It made Miles feel sick.
The guard had heard Nick's plea to be taken away and he was strolling over to the screen, taking out the cuffs again. "All right, this visit's over." He barked and handled Nick with a careless amount of force, prying his arms away from his head and twisting one a little to make the prisoner straighten up as a reaction to the pain. Phoenix gritted his teeth as his hands were bound but he stood up by his own free will, wishing that he had wiped his eyes before he lost that ability.
As he was guided to the door he turned back for a second to say; "I… I'm sorry for being difficult. Come see me again… before the trial tomorrow, please? Maya, be good…"
The door slammed shut and locked behind them. Maya was left sitting there trying to take in all that had happened. She had never seen her friend lose it like that before. Prior to Nick shielding his face from Edgeworth and herself he had looked like a terrified child. The nightmare was only deepening for him. "I wish I knew what the heck was going on." She admitted to the older man standing behind her. "Nothing makes any sense."
Edgeworth left the room without replying to her. Maya got up to follow and found him a few minutes later leaning against a pillar of the detention center outside, a hand on his chin as he thought. He had fulfilled his promise to Maya and now he was free to go. Edgeworth knew this but still he stood there, thinking. Wright's reaction to that other prosecutor's name meant something, he just didn't know what. When Maya caught up to him he spoke his mind, plain and simply. "I feel sick. It's strange. I was feeling fine this morning."
The spirit medium could sense that Edgeworth was going somewhere with this. He flicked his cell phone open and hit the speed dial, a sober frown upon his lips. "I feel so ill, in fact, that I don't think I can go to work today. The prosecutor's office will just have to get along without me for a time." He left a curt message at the office about a migraine and Maya smiled, understanding what he was getting at. Knowing Edgeworth he'd have plenty of sick days to spare.
"What are you going to do, Mr. Edgeworth? I mean, what can you do with a migraine and all?" Maya asked, flashing a little conspirator's grin. Things wouldn't seem so daunting if she had somebody else to help and rely on. She was sure that Nick wouldn't mind if she tagged along with other people.
The young prosecutor walked leisurely to his car parked nearby, Maya trailing behind him like a shadow. "I think that on my way home to recover I'll stop by the theater on the other side of town. I didn't get enough of last night's performance. Are you coming, Miss Fey?" He opened the door for her and smiled craftily. A wind blew through the car park, carrying a gust of dried leaves. Maya felt the cold breeze sting her face and silently remarked ot how absurd it seemed for Edgeworth to volunteer for anything. She hadn't even begun to bug him yet and he had already caved-in.
Before getting in the car Maya jumped on him first. She tried to hug him as best as she could with the young man trying to push her away. Edgeworth probably wasn't used to hugs. That was okay, because if they found the evidence needed to get Phoenix off the hook she'd make him used to hugs. "Of course I'm coming! Let's get down to the theater, pronto! Drive as fast as you can and ignore all the red lights!"
"Hey! Hey, let go of me! What on earth are you doing?" Edgeworth pried the girl off his chest and set her back down on the asphalt. He began to have second thoughts as Maya dived into the car and slammed the door loudly. She grinned like a little fiend at him from behind the glass, then wound the window down with the press of a button near the door handle. "I don't understand how you can be crying one moment and then smiling the next. You don't have some kind of attention disorder, do you?"
"Actually it's the opposite. As a spirit medium I have to be able to focus hard for really long periods of time. The truth is that if I don't believe I can make a difference and just sit by and cry then I really will be useless." Maya sat back in the seat. "Come on, Edgeworth. We don't have much time."
With this girl by his side the make-believe headache that Miles supposedly had was slowly becoming real.