Note: Many thanks to everyone who has helped us with each stage of planning and writing this fic, including Can't Fake the Funk, Lyssie, Julie, Eric, Jamie, and all of our readers. Struggling wouldn't be here without every single one of you.
Struggling Against Gravity
The courthouse always looked different to Phoenix right after he finished a case. It wasn't just the looks on the faces of the people as they exited—talking to one another in hushed whispers and darting glances at him as he passed—but the walls themselves seemed changed, expanded. Usually in a good way, like that feeling of taking a deep breath of fresh air. But after a case like that one, all he really wanted to do was go and take a long nap, preferably in a place without irritating prosecutors and accidental homicides centering around plungers.
On his way in, the walk to the courtroom doors always seemed too short, but today especially it felt like the walk towards the exit took half an hour. Part of it was the crowd. As he pushed past an older woman and what he assumed was her son, he felt like he had just exited a long, drawn out movie, with the tired, vaguely annoyed feeling that entailed. Too many people in one spot, moving in different directions.
All the courtroom lobbies on the first level spilled out into the main foyer of the building, a large, high-ceilinged lobby paneled with the same wood as the other waiting rooms, only with benches all along the perimeter instead of couches. There people sat, engrossed in documents, glaring furiously at their lawyers, children sleeping in their mother's laps, and, in the case of one overzealous couple: making out. Phoenix averted his eyes and focused on the exit doors instead. Almost there.
He reached to open the nearest one.
"Hey, pal!" The familiar voice boomed over the low hum in the lobby. Several lawyers glanced up, a look of annoyed recognition crossing their faces before going back to talking with their clients or one another. "I'm glad I caught you!"
For a brief moment, Phoenix considered continuing out the front as if he hadn't heard Gumshoe. His dress shirt was sticking to his back underneath his navy blue suit and he felt vaguely achy from standing so long; the post-trial high had already begun to wear off.
The moment passed. Phoenix turned to face the taller man, who was now breathing heavily from his mad dash across the room.
"What can I do for you, detective?" He sighed.
"Well, actually it's more about what I can—" Gumshoe broke off suddenly, and glanced to both sides of Phoenix, as though he were suddenly missing an appendage. "Hey, where's topknot?"
"Top…you mean Maya?" Phoenix asked. A man hefting a box of evidence cut between them abruptly, so Phoenix moved off to the side of the exit to continue their conversation.
"Yeah," Gumshoe grinned and scratched the back of his head. "It's weird to see you here without her, pal. She's like your trusty sidekick!"
Privately, Phoenix agreed. It never seemed quite right to go to trial without her standing by his side, not hearing her exclamations and encouragement. It had been especially strange to be met with an empty space where she should have been when he turned to see her reaction to the witness's testimony.
"She was called back to Kurain this morning. There was some sort of emergency." He tried to quash an irrational surge of irritation. Over the past year, Maya's duties had left him less and less time with her. She'd managed to make all of his trials except this one, but Phoenix hoped this wasn't a trend in the making.
Gumshoe nodded and stared at Phoenix expectantly. Phoenix waited.
Is that it?
"…Nice seeing you, detective. Now, if you'll excuse me…" The defense attorney turned to escape.
"What?" Phoenix asked, scraping the bottom of his finite reserve of politeness.
Gumshoe's broad features collapsed into a dejected frown. "You don't have to be like that, pal."
"I'm sorry. It's just…I've had a long day, and I'd like to get home. So unless there's anything you need…" Phoenix gazed out the glass doors longingly. He was pretty sure he'd missed his bus by now.
"I wouldn't stop you, pal, if it wasn't something important."
Phoenix frowned. It's obviously not that important if he won't tell me what it is!
But Gumshoe was continuing. "It's about Mr. Edgeworth's trial. I, uh, really think you should come see it."
"Edgeworth?" At that name, Phoenix turned his full attention on Gumshoe. "Why, is there something wrong?"
"With Mr. Edgeworth? No, of course not!" Gumshoe said. "He's won every trial since he got back.
Personally, between you and me, I don't think he's ever been better."
That was good to hear. A few months earlier, Edgeworth had returned to the country just as quickly as he left after his first—and last—trial as a defense attorney. From the way he had spoken before they parted ways, more than a year ago, Phoenix hadn't expected him to come back so soon. There had been undercurrents that he might not come back at all. Phoenix had refused to entertain that possibility.
Yet, here he was. Somehow. He had taken up his old job at the Prosecutor's Office, and, by all reports, was busy striking terror in the hearts of young defense attorneys throughout the district.
It was Gumshoe that had informed everyone that their old friend was returning and had organized the welcome back party and greeting at the airport. Phoenix could still remember the look on Edgeworth's face as he'd come down the escalator to the baggage claim and saw everyone there.
As soon as they caught sight of that unmistakable pink suit and cravat, Maya had hefted the hand-made sign reading "Welcome Home, Miles Edgeworth" far above her head, forcing Pearl to stand on tiptoes to hold her end up to make it readable, if still lop-sided. Both Larry and Gumshoe had started waving furiously, as though Edgeworth might somehow miss the detective towering over the two girls in their medium gear, not to mention Larry's bright orange jacket.
And Phoenix had just smiled.
It was so good to have him back.
The prosecutor had swallowed convulsively, the corner of his mouth twitching as though it couldn't quite decide the proper emotion to display. He'd finally settled on a frown once he reached the group. The first words out of his mouth were painfully stilted, about how unnecessary "all this" was.
No one was fooled.
Phoenix hadn't seen much of him after the subsequent party. He'd considered giving Edgeworth a call a couple of times, but talked himself out of it, thinking about how busy he must be trying to get settled back in. Most of their interaction had been limited to nodding at one another in the court hallways when they passed; they hadn't been assigned any cases opposite one another yet.
There was no rush. Edgeworth was back. It would happen eventually.
All the same, Phoenix didn't feel like sitting through another trial this afternoon, especially one that he wasn't even participating in.
"I don't think—" But Gumshoe had already made up his mind for him; a large hand grabbing his upper arm and a quick pull cut him off.
"Come on, pal. You're coming with me!" Gumshoe said.
Phoenix resigned himself as he was dragged through a crowd of people leaving courtroom number one. Many of them turned and stared curiously in the two men's wake. Gumshoe seemed oblivious as he took a quick left where the hallway branched. They moved past several paintings, another couch, and finally settled next to a bushy plant in a white planter—far away from the exit and all its seductive charms. Gumshoe let him go.
"All right." He grinned sheepishly. "It's taking place on the third level, courtroom seven. I don't have to haul you all the way there, do I, pal? Don't make me arrest you…"
Don't make me sue you! Phoenix rubbed his arm.
"Aww, don't look at me like that. You'll be happy you came, really. I just don't want to spoil the surprise."
"All right, all right, I'll go." Phoenix gave up, shoulders slumping slightly. Otherwise he probably will drag me there…
The elevators in the courthouse were painfully slow, so Phoenix had plenty of time to inspect the buttons—round, numbers rubbing off from use—and ceiling—mirrored—on their ascent to the third floor. The thin carpeting in the front corner on Gumshoe's left was frayed and curling. There was also a faint suggestion of the smell of mildew in the air; Phoenix didn't want to think about the how or why of that one.
"Are you testifying today?" Phoenix finally asked the detective.
Gumshoe paused in staring at the numbers above the door and glanced at him, the same dejected look on his face he'd shown earlier. "No... that was yesterday, pal."
Looks like it didn't go so well... Phoenix shifted as the elevator shuddered on its climb.
"Today I'm just an observer." Gumshoe's demeanor lightened noticeably; he'd seemingly forgotten his failure yesterday—whatever it had been. "I try to watch all of Mr. Edgeworth's trials. They're better than TV!"
I guess that's easy to say when you can't afford cable. Or a television set.
Just then, the elevator eased to a stop and the doors opened.
The two of them stepped out into the paneled hallway. Courtroom seven was straight ahead—it was the closest of the three on the third floor. As they approached the lobby, Phoenix saw the heavy doors to the entrance were open, signifying that the trial was in recess.
Phoenix glanced around, but there was no sign of Edgeworth in the surprisingly thick crowd. He's probably prepping a witness, or making sure his cravat is straight.
On the other hand, he could see what he assumed was the defense attorney for the case sitting on the ubiquitous red lobby couch across the way, a folder thick with documents at his side. He was talking to a man Phoenix assumed was his client.
The attorney looked about Phoenix's age—in his late twenties—with non-descript, regular features and build. Even his suit was a dull gray. The thing that stood out the most was his hair. Though it was also an unremarkable brown shade, it looked as though he had rolled out of bed, put on his suit, and run to the courthouse without even stopping to comb it. As Phoenix watched, the lawyer ran his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture; that explained the odd styling choice.
The client's suit looked much more expensive than his attorney's, which was usually the case in Phoenix's experience; it was jet black and appeared custom-fitted. His dark hair was slicked back and looked so heavily greased that Phoenix half expected to see a rainbowed oil sheen when it caught the light. The man gestured to his attorney; Phoenix could hear bits and pieces of the conversation over the crowd noise.
They're talking about Edgeworth? Phoenix moved closer.
"Don't go too far, pal," Gumshoe warned, glancing around the crowd as though he was looking for someone too. "They should start letting people back in soon."
Phoenix nodded, distracted, and kept moving towards the couch.
"…don't know what you're talking about," he heard the defendant say. "You already beat his 'one day win' streak."
"That was a fluke," the attorney said, fingers twisting in nervous knots. "He's…well, I didn't even know you had—"
The bailiff called the end of recess, cutting off whatever the attorney was about to say. The defense attorney sighed and heaved himself off the couch. Attorneys didn't have to go in until the crowd was seated, but it was getting thick over here, so Phoenix could understand wanting to relocate. Phoenix turned to look for Gumshoe, but couldn't see the man in the flood of people moving towards the courtroom. He waited for a few moments before plunging into the crowd. Gumshoe was instantly recognizable; how hard could it be to find him?
Pretty hard, actually, Phoenix discovered. After several minutes of apologizing for getting in other peoples' way, he gave up going by height and instead focused on spotting the man's dark brown coat.
That didn't work either.
As the crowd thinned, he finally saw the detective over by the front of the doors talking to one of the guards.
"Detective Gumshoe!" he called. Gumshoe lifted his head and waited for Phoenix to make his way to the doorway.
"Took you long enough," the detective said. "Ready to go in?"
It's not like we had a set meeting spot or anything, Phoenix inwardly protested. But he nodded and fell into step as Gumshoe waved goodbye to the guard and they made their way started down the left—Edgeworth's side—automatically. Phoenix shrugged and followed.
"I think that side is full up," the bailiff said. Gumshoe glanced at Phoenix, as if to say 'this is your fault, pal', but said nothing as they veered to the right instead.
Phoenix found it slightly disorienting to head pastthe defense bench to the hidden set of stairs next to the judge's bench and up into the public gallery. Gumshoe's clomping footsteps were heavy behind him. The detective nearly ran into Phoenix's back when he stopped at the top to survey the seating options.
Instead of chairs there were three long rows of benches—not unlike church pews—that ran the entire length of the box. It was already crowded and growing more so as others shoved past Phoenix, turning to glare at him for blocking the way. Phoenix hurriedly took a seat near the end of one of the benches; Gumshoe settled in beside him.
A quick glance across the way told him that the bailiff had been correct; Edgeworth's side was even more packed than this one. It was strange; he hadn't heard anything about Edgeworth taking a high profile case—and that was the sort of thing that usually got around. Granted, it wasn't nearly as full as Engarde's trial was—that had been standing room only—but this crowd was nothing to sneeze at.
Phoenix leaned towards Gumshoe. "What's going on, why is it so full?"
"I don't know," Gumshoe whispered back. "My only guess is that people heard what happened yesterday... it wasn't this bad when I was testifying."
"What did happen yesterday?" Phoenix asked.
"It was a real mess, pal. It should have been an open and shut case, but—" Gumshoe broke off as Edgeworth made his entrance.
It would have been impossible to miss Edgeworth even without the signature pink and ruffles. Despite Gumshoe's earlier words about the state of the case, his stride was utterly confident. As soon as he made it to the prosecutor's bench, he began to shuffle through papers in quick, familiar motions, without sparing a glance for anything else.
You'd never know he was gone for three years...
Watching him made that sense of disorientation come back in full force. The angle seemed wrong, like he was too far away from where he was supposed to be. With Edgeworth in the same room the feeling that he should be down there, across from him, was multiplied ten-fold.
Phoenix's thoughts were interrupted by the familiar sound of the judge's gavel slamming down, officially beginning the trial once again. The murmuring filling the room settled into a sort of expectant calm.
"Now, shall we resume?" the judge asked, settling into his chair.
"The prosecution is ready, Your Honor," Edgeworth said, pushing his papers to the side in two neat piles.
"The defense is, uh, ready as well, Your Honor," the defense attorney responded, looking anything but. He was still scrambling to get everything properly organized.
This is like watching a "fight" between a hawk and a mouse… Looking at the two of them, Phoenix couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for the defense—though that led to the uncomfortable thought of other people watching from up here and pitying him.
"The prosecution is ready to call its second witness," Edgeworth said. The judge acquiesced with a nod. While they waited for the bailiff to bring him or her in, Phoenix took the time to study the defendant.
The defendant appeared to have split in two. One in the suit he'd seen in the lobby, the other in a stained mechanic's uniform. The one in the suit had a small bandage on his hand near his thumb; the other's entire hand was wrapped in thick, white gauze.
Twins, huh? Phoenix thought he now had a pretty good idea of what went wrong with yesterday's trial. It was easy to imagine the look on Edgeworth's face when thatlittle tidbit of information was brought to light. Especially if it had been a surprise. There were few things the prosecutor liked less than "surprises" disrupting his trials.
Poor Gumshoe. It was equally easy to imagine the tongue lashing the detective had gotten because of that oversight. No wonder he was so depressed earlier.
Phoenix quickly glanced at the detective to his left, but Gumshoe's attention was focused on the defendant. As if he stared hard enough, he could put the man away through sheer force of will. Asking him if he thought the defendant did it was probably pointless; if there was one thing Gumshoe tended to be certain on, it was the guilt of the accused. Too bad it's not always that easy…
The bailiff announced the new witness, a young woman Phoenix estimated to be in her early twenties. Her hair was dark brown and tied back in a high ponytail. She was wearing a white lab coat—Phoenix assumed that she was CSI, meaning she worked for Edgeworth—but the pastel pink shirt peeking out from underneath was surprisingly casual for someone working on the force, as were the belt and blue jeans. Then again, Phoenix had seen a lot of pretty unusual outfits when it came to his dealings with the police. This wasn't even on the radar compared to some.
She seemed so familiar. There was a nametag clipped to the coat, but it was too difficult to read at this angle, even though he squinted desperately, trying to remember where he'd seen her, hoping her name would jog his memory.
A pair of glasses were perched high on her head, above her bangs. As she was led to the stand she adjusted them in a quick motion.
"Witness, please state your name and occupation."
For some reason, it was the dark bag resting easily against her hip that made everything click into place. Phoenix sharply turned to Gumshoe, only to realize Gumshoe had been looking at him the entire time. He seemed to be trying not to smile. "Wait a minute, is that—"
"Ema Skye, I'm a scene of…sorry, forensic science technician with the police department," she said.
"That's right, pal!" Gumshoe didn't bother hiding his delight at Phoenix's stunned silence.
When did she…
"Just about a month ago. Passed the test into the CSI division by the skin of her teeth. She's worked a couple cases before this, but this is the first time she's testified in a trial," Gumshoe hurriedly explained.
Ema had already started. "…when I ran the tests, I found two sets of fingerprints on the—"
She paused in mid-sentence, looking thrown. The defense attorney continued, tripping over his words; he seemed desperate to shove them out of his mouth before something cut him off. "Miss Skye, if t-there were two sets of prints then who's to say my client is the guilty party?"
Edgeworth's objection was swift in coming. The sound of his hand slamming down on his table echoed throughout the room. "Mr. Greene, if you had allowed her to finish her sentence, you'd know we identified both prints." The 'you're an utter moron' was merely implied, not stated. Greene flushed an ugly shade of red anyway. "Please continue, Ms. Skye."
"I found two sets of fingerprints on the handle of the kitchen faucet in the victim's apartment. One was the deceased, Ms. Moore's, the other was the defendant, Mr. Black's."
Greene chuckled lowly. That nervous, cowed demeanor was abruptly gone, making Phoenix briefly
wonder if the man had been replaced by an identical twin of his own. "What you're implying is outlandish. Mr. Edgeworth, my client and the deceased were in a romantic relationship! It would be unnatural for his fingerprints not to be in her apartment. It's like accusing me of murdering my wife because my fingerprints are on our television remote."
Phoenix frowned to himself. He didn't know the entire background on the case, but if this was what Edgeworth's case hinged upon, and what Greene said was true, it seemed to be a particularly slender rope to hang a man. Unless the sink's handle was the murder weapon.
But Edgeworth seemed unruffled by the change in Greene's attitude. He's completely sure Black is guilty, Phoenix realized. There must have been more to those fingerprints than met the eye.
As though in answer, Edgeworth opened one of the files next to him. "You haven't forgotten your own client's testimony, have you?" he asked, holding the paper up as he quoted the relevant section.
"Antonia was a great girlfriend. She was practically obsessive-compulsive about keeping me out of the kitchen, wouldn't even let me step in there. She waited on me hand and foot, and she kept things spotless—just the way I like them. Why would I kill her?"
But Greene wasn't finished. "An obvious exaggeration. The point is that Miss Moore was attentive to his needs, not that he never actually walked into the kitchen."
Now it was Edgeworth's turn to smirk and shake his head as though he pitied Greene. Having been on the receiving end of the smirk-and-shrug combination more times than he liked, Phoenix knew Edgeworth was about to unleash something pivotal Greene was overlooking. Suddenly Phoenix was glad he wasn'tdown there for a change.
"You focused on the wrong part of your client's testimony, Mr. Greene. The issue is with 'she kept things spotless'."
Even in profile, Greene's dawning recognition and subsequent grimace were sights to behold. Sweat beaded on his brow. Still, he rallied. "T-that doesn't mean…"
"Ms. Skye, please testify as to what else you found in the kitchen," Edgeworth interrupted.
Ema nodded and resumed her testimony. "Nothing."
"Nothing?" Greene echoed weakly.
"Nothing except the two types of blood discovered in the drain yesterday. No other fingerprints," Ema replied. "I checked thoroughly."
Edgeworth's thin smile didn't reach his eyes. They were fixed on the defendant. "Ms. Moore did indeed keep her kitchen spotless. Mr. Black, yesterday you testified that you left before she cleaned up from dinner…"
Ema took over effortlessly, like she was finishing his thought. "We know from the glass of water found at the scene there was a reason for her fingerprints to be on the handle after the kitchen was clean, but not the defendant's."
The judge spoke, "Yes, what you're saying does sound suspicious…"
At that, Black got up and slowly sauntered to the witness stand. When he cleared his throat loudly, Ema stepped aside so he could address the judge, but not before glancing at Edgeworth again. He gave a curt nod in response.
"I have something to say," Black tossed his words out carelessly.
The judge turned his gaze to Edgeworth. "Mr. Edgeworth?"
"I have no objections."
"No objections, Your Honor." Far from it—he looked like a thirsty man just given a glass of cold water.
Ema took a seat on Edgeworth's side as Black moved into place, but Phoenix found himself studying the prosecutor instead. He'd added a few strands to his rope, but not even the notoriously fickle judge was jumping to pronounce Black guilty.
Black began, but not before slicking back his hair and flashing a toothy grin at the gallery. "I was wrong about what I said earlier. I did leave after Antonia tidied up. On my way out, I stopped to wash my hands—not because of this—" he flashed his bandaged hand at the judge. "—this happened later. As I said yesterday, the only way my DNA could have gotten there is if Jude left it."
"Hmm, yes…I see…you washed your hands. That would explain your fingerprints." The judge nodded.
"Your thoughts, Mr. Edgeworth?"
"Your brother testified that he'd never even seen the victim before," Edgeworth replied.
Ignoring the explanation for the fingerprints? That's strange. Phoenix didn't realize how far forward he was leaning until he nearly slipped off the edge of the bench. Luckily he caught himself from falling in time to hear Black's response.
Black smiled again. "Yes, well, I doubt my brother knew many of the people he's robbed."
Black's brother showed no reaction to the statement except a slight stiffening in his shoulders, like the chair had gotten a little harder, a little more uncomfortable. Edgeworth stood silent, as if waiting for something.
"Is that all? I explained the fingerprints," Black finally said. "Seems to me you don't have a leg to stand on any more."
"You're sure you washed your hands after she cleaned up, defendant?" Edgeworth asked.
"Yes, one hundred percent positive. That's why my fingerprints are there," came the offhand reply. "If I'd done it before like I said yesterday, she would have wiped them away. That's what you were implying, right? But just because my fingerprints are on the handle of some faucet doesn't mean I killed my girlfriend."
Edgeworth smirked and raised his hand to his temple, finger tapping against it in a chiding motion.
"Thank you for verifying your whereabouts, Mr. Black. The only two people that entered the kitchen after dinner were the victim and the killer." He paused to reach down underneath the desk, bringing forth a knife, carefully bagged and labeled. Though benign in any kitchen, here in the courtroom the chef's knife seemed imbued with certain malice. It was obviously the murder weapon. "And this will prove it."
The room exploded in a frenzy of loud whispers. I hope he knows what he's doing, because I'm not following, Phoenix thought. The judge banged his gavel and called for order, with limited success. Though it all Edgeworth stood quietly with his arms folded, the calm eye of the storm raging in the courtroom.
What followed was familiar to Phoenix as a lawyer. Even removed from the action and barely following the case, he was surprised to find his pulse racing at the rapid volley of objections and counter objections. The dull sound of hands thudding against wood reverberated through the air. The judge's head jerked back and forth, like he was watching a particularly heated ping-pong match.
The point of contention had shifted to the chef's knife. After the court finally settled down, Edgeworth went on to explain that due to the blood residue found in the kitchen sink, and the way the knife's handle had been wiped, they knew it had been washed. Since the victim was in no condition to wash the knife after being stabbed nine times, that left the murderer. And there was only one set of prints aside from the victim's on the sink's handle: Black's.
Greene wasn't going down without a fight, but he wasn't gaining any ground against Ema and Edgeworth. Every time he tried to interject, Edgeworth would swoop in, turn things around, and prompt Ema to continue testifying. Watching the two of them, Phoenix was reminded of something that Gumshoe said a long time ago, about the bond of trust between those that worked on the police force and the prosecutors. At the time, he hadn't really understood.
Now he did.
Both of them were working together to build a wall. Bit by bit, the evidence mounted. It was something that would have been impossible to grasp if not for his current observation point. If he was down there, he'd be too busy dismantling that wall—probing for its weak spots—to appreciate the work and trust that went into building it in the first place.
"W-wait a second!" Greene finally stuttered. "Gloves! The criminal could have been wearing gloves."
He could have pointed that out ten minutes ago, instead of arguing that his client didn't touch the sink in the first place, Phoenix noted, glad the attorney finally picked up on something that had been nagging him for the past few minutes.
This time Edgeworth didn't even have to say anything. "I already thought of that," Ema replied, with a jaunty tilt to her chin and a smug grin on her face.
"You did?" Greene said, visibly deflating.
"It's impossible. The killer wasn't wearing gloves." She was utterly firm and confident. "On the handle, close to the bolster, there's a place the killer forgot to wipe clean. I found an unidentifiable partial there. This was in the report I typed up, you know."
"B-but! Then you don't know whose it was! It could have been from the victim!" Greene protested.
"You have a wife, don't you, Mr. Greene?" Ema suddenly asked, looking serious.
"Yes, I do, but I don't see what that has to do with—"
"Have you ever compared your hands to your wife's hands? Like, held them up to one another?" she interrupted.
"Yes, of course. But, Miss Skye, I really don't see how she—"
"Did you notice anything about the two? Like, oh say, the size difference?"
There was a pregnant pause. Greene suddenly seemed to find the top of his desk absolutely fascinating.
"Yes, that's right," Ema continued. "The print was too big to be the victim's—it came from a man. But just to be sure, I double-checked it against Ms. Moore's. Her hands are too small for it to be a match."
Silence spread thickly over the court. It felt as though everyone was holding his or her breath, eyes beating with laser-like focus on the defense's bench.
"Mr. Greene?" the judge prompted.
Greene looked up abruptly, expression unreadable. "Miss Skye. Did you check that print against anyone else?"
"Just Mr. Black, to make sure the size was a possible match," she said, a note of caution coloring her voice.
"So, only my client." He nodded to himself. "No one on…for example, the police force?"
It was Edgeworth who responded this time. "What are you trying to imply?"
"Well, Miss Skye being new to the force and all, perhaps she wasn't as thorough as she should have—"
"I…" Ema gripped her bag strap tightly, knuckles whitening. "It's consistent with the size of the suspect's prints!"
Beside Phoenix, Gumshoe made a sympathetic hiss. "Ouch, that one hit a raw nerve." At Phoenix's curious look, he clarified, "The prosecutor in charge of her first case caught a bad mistake she made during the investigation. Happened just a few weeks ago. Gotta sting when a fellow rookie humiliates you in front of your entire department, pal."
"And it could be consistent with the size of a detective's fingerprints," Greene said. "Perhaps one that's prone to making mistakes? We all know the police force is currently a little…well, let's just say it wouldn't be the first time procedure hadn't been properly followed. But now we'll never know."
"Ms. Skye," Edgeworth began. Far from relieving Ema's tension, she actually jerked at the sound of her name.
"There was no reason to check the prints of those working on the investigation!" she said, speaking over Edgeworth. It was the first time she hadn't let him say his piece. Edgeworth looked vaguely surprised, an expression Phoenix was sure he mirrored.
"But there's always the possibility…" Greene trailed off.
To make matters worse, the judge nodded as the defense attorney spoke. "Yes, if there's no proof that the print is Mr. Black's, then I don't see how it can be used as evidence."
Phoenix heard low murmurs shifting through the courtroom. Someone behind him whispered, "What are the police thinking, trying to convict someone on such shaky grounds?"
"But!" Even from up in the gallery, Phoenix could see Ema's jaw tightening in frustration. Or was it an attempt to keep from crying? Phoenix's stomach twisted; this was beginning to remind him of a particular painful memory. "There's no proof that it wasn't him! It's the only thing that makes sense!"
"You don't seem so sure, Miss Skye..." Greene's smugness seemed unbearable. Ema's gaze was directed at the ceiling—her throat constricting—and then, slowly, the floor. Anywhere, it seemed, except in Edgeworth's direction.
"Objection!" For a split second, it was as though no one could quite tell where the sound had come from. Then, moving as one, everyone's head turned towards the prosecution bench to where Edgeworth stood. "This accusation is ridiculous."
It was a pronouncement. A statement of fact, not a suggestion.
And, for a moment, Phoenix forgot to breathe.
In Edgeworth's objection, he heard a faint echo of nineteen years ago—the tinge of a high and youthful voice, utterly sure, calling out to protect the wrongfully accused.
Phoenix had assumed that part of Edgeworth had been strangled in the aftermath of DL-6 and had adjusted his image of his old friend accordingly. It never occurred to Phoenix that impulse had been channeled in another direction.
Even now, Miles Edgeworth was still defending people.
"The court doesn't deal in 'possibilities', it deals with evidence," Edgeworth said. "All of the men and women working under me are highly trained professionals. Picking up evidence at a crime scene without gloves isn't a mistake any of them would make. If you believe one of them did, where's your proof?"
"You don't know that they didn't," Greene replied.
"Yes, I do," came the rejoinder. "Direct your attention to Ms. Skye's report." At mention of her name, Ema looked up. "Page three. The part about the fingerprint."
Greene reached across the desk and began paging through a folder. "Yes, it says it's a partial print of a pinky finger. I don't see how this changes anything."
Edgeworth sighed, then continued, pointing to emphasize his words. "The bolster is between the blade and handle of the knife. If one of my men picked up the knife carelessly, the partial would be of a thumb. The only reason for a pinky print to be there is if you're holding the knife in your fist, like you're about to stab someone."
Greene flinched, grabbing the edge of his desk for support. "You mean…"
"Yes. As Ms. Skye said, there was no reason to check it against the investigation team's prints. It had to come from the murderer," Edgeworth said.
Phoenix saw Greene's eyes racing, as though the answer to his predicament stood invisible in front of him, if he could only read it. Don't bother, Phoenix wordlessly responded. Somehow he managed to do it. Even without a single identifiable print on the murder weapon. It was clear Edgeworth's time in Europe had left him sharp as ever.
"Yes, I understand your point, Mr. Edgeworth," the judge said. "Truly remarkable. I believe there's nothing left but the verdict."
Edgeworth bowed in response, a look of almost irritating satisfaction clear on his face, in his smile. "Of course."
"Very well. This court finds the defendant, Mr. Felix Black…"
"Hold it!" Greene's voice was loud, but still quavered.
"Yes, Mr. Greene?" the judge asked. "I don't think there's anything left in defense of your client."
"H-his brother!" Greene stammered. Jude glanced up from his intense contemplation of the courtroom floor—Phoenix had nearly forgotten he was there—but didn't say anything in response to Greene's invocation. He looked resigned, like he had expected this to happen long before this point. Greene continued. "Wouldn't the print size be a match there as well?"
"His brother's fingerprints weren't on the sink," Edgeworth parried, looking bored.
"They're identical twins! Doesn't that... couldn't it be possible that, um, their fingerprints are identical too?" The silence was so sudden and still a pin could have dropped on the other side of the room and been perfectly audible. Even Greene flushed in embarrassment. "Well, I mean…"
The judge's eyes widened. His jaw dropped. "Mr. Greene, that... is an excellent point. Your thoughts, Mr. Edgeworth?"
Edgeworth reacted as though someone punched him in the stomach. His eyes bulged, and he took an involuntary half step back, jaw clenching. "You... Your Honor!" he protested, hunching over his desk as if the blow had left him unable to stand. "That's..."
Even Phoenix was taken aback. Poor Edgeworth. I'm not sure I could respond to that either.
"You have no rebuttal?" the judge asked, looking surprised. Greene stood there shell-shocked, blinking rapidly like he expected the scene before him to melt away at any moment.
"I... that's..." Edgeworth made a valiant effort to collect himself. "...not possible. They don't have identical fingerprints," he finally managed to spit out, straightening up.
"Why not?" The judge blinked. "They have the same DNA, right?"
Edgeworth reeled once more. Phoenix winced. Sure, by now there had been plenty of times Edgeworth's trials had gone south at the last minute, but generally because he had pointed the finger at the wrong person, not because the judge wasn't up on his genetics.
Greene shifted awkwardly. Probably doesn't know if he should step in and help or take the verdict and run. Phoenix knew what he would do, but not all defense attorneys were like him. Still, for some reason…it grated to see Edgeworth put in this position. Perhaps it was because Phoenix could remember all the times Edgeworth had stepped in on his behalf, even against the prosecutor's best interests.
"Are you okay, pal?" Gumshoe whispered. Phoenix started at the sound. Looking down, he saw his hands were balled against his pants, material clenched tightly in his fingers.
He forced himself to relax, releasing the fabric. "I'm fine," he responded. "It's just, isn't anyone going to do anything? Black's going to get away at this rate if Edgeworth can't pull himself together."
"If the prosecution can't raise any objections…"
"Your Honor, fingerprints aren't decided by DNA!" The voice came not from the prosecutor's bench, but from the witness stand. Edgeworth straightened again. Ema hadn't said anything since Edgeworth had came to her defense, but now she addressed the judge directly. "They're formed in the womb."
"But, if they're twins, they were both in the same womb at the same time," the judge protested.
Hey, shouldn't this be the defense attorney's job?
"Think of it this way, Your Honor." Phoenix recognized that note in Ema's voice. It had been there four years ago when she talked about luminol testing, dusting for fingerprints, and examining items—that excitement at imparting knowledge. "People can be in the same place at the same time, but will their experiences be the same? Fingerprints are like people's memories—no two are alike, all of them unique to the person in question. Doesn't that make sense?"
Not really, no. But Phoenix had to smile regardless; seeing this side of Ema was like seeing an old, though still slightly incoherent, friend.
"Hmm, yes." The judge nodded. "I see now. That's a poetic turn of phrase, young lady. Reminds me of my youth…"
"Thank you, Your Honor." Ema smiled.
Wait, it actually worked? Phoenix sighed; upon reflection, this probably didn't even make the top ten of the craziest things he'd ever seen at a trial.
"All right, now that everything is finally settled, and if we're done wasting time—" That was aimed in Greene's general direction. "—I think we can all agree on the proper verdict," the judge said.
He's the one that caused the delay.Phoenix rolled his eyes. Greene seemed to fold in on himself before sighing and nodding his head in acceptance.
"This court finds the defendant, Mr. Felix Black…"
"Hold it!" rang out once again through the courtroom. Phoenix manfully resisted the urge to lower his face into his hands—and he thought his trial today had been a pain. Was every day in court like this for Edgeworth?
"Mr. Greene…" the judge began.
"It wasn't me, Your Honor," Greene protested, jerking his head towards the witness stand like he was physically trying to shake the judge's glare off.
It was Black, breathing heavily. He leaned over the podium, trying to get as close to the judge as possible, ignoring both prosecutor and defense attorney. Great rivulets of sweat streamed down his face; tendrils of his hair escaped his previously perfectly coifed, slicked back style and stuck plastered against his forehead.
Ema stood off to the side, rubbing her arm from where Black shoved her out of the way, brows furrowed. Edgeworth's face was an unreadable mask; it was impossible for Phoenix to tell if this was something the prosecutor planned or if it was another unexpected upset. He was surprisingly calm if it was the latter.
"W-what…" Even the judge was taken aback, leaning backwards like he was trying to escape Black just as much as Black was trying to close the distance. "Y-you have something to add, defendant?"
"This is…this is obscene!" Black hissed. As he spoke, his hand began pulling at the corner of his bandage in twitchy movements, like a fly trying to wrestle its way out of a spider web. "You can't even prove I touched the murder weapon and you're going to find me guilty?"
The judge's eyes darted towards Edgeworth. "Well, his case—"
"—is based on nothing!" Black snarled. "Let me tell you something, Your Honor! The only good thing about that…woman…was that she could cook. She thought she could walk out on me? That fat cow? I'm not sorry she's dead! But you have nothing tying me to this case! Prove I touched the knife! You can't!"
"You're the one that said you were sure about the timing in the kitchen," Edgeworth said. "If someone else was the killer, where are his fingerprints?"
"And what if I take it back?" Black switched his attention to Edgeworth effortlessly. The cords on his neck strained. He ripped at the bandage now, tearing it halfway off as his movements grew more and more frenzied. "What if I say I was mistaken again? What will you do? Your case will completely collapse! And that's what you plan to convict me on? Smoke and mirrors? The 'demon prosecutor's' traps and tricks?"
Edgeworth remained silent.
"I should be able to walk out of here right now! You have nothing!"
He's not doing much to make himself look innocent. Phoenix turned to Gumshoe to gauge his reaction to all this. The detective's eyes remained fixed on the raving man below, back tense.
"…nothing!" The last of the bandage flew off; Black flung it to the floor as though punctuating his final yell. When no one responded, he stood there panting, hands gripping the edge of the witness stand so tightly his knuckles turned white.
Finally: "Mr. Black, what is that on your hand?" Edgeworth's voice was deadly calm, quiet, yet somehow it seemed louder than Black's roaring.
Black clapped his hand over the other, all color bleeding from his face. Too late: even Phoenix had seen the five gouges around the area of his thumb, stark red against his tense, pale hands. The marks a woman with long fingernails, clawing and grasping for her life, would leave.
"T-that's…" He turned to look over his shoulder. The guards moved closer to the exit in response.
"…'nothing'?" Edgeworth finished.
Black swallowed tightly, then grinned. It was a pale imitation of the one Phoenix saw earlier—the corners of his mouth twitching, no show of teeth. His shoulders slumped as the tension drained out of his body. "Yeah, Mr. Prosecutor. Nothing."
Things moved quickly after that. The judge read the verdict, a foregone conclusion at this point. Black made no move to struggle when the guards came up to the stand, wrenched his arms behind his back, and led him away.
All of this happened in the corner of Phoenix's vision. His eyes, his focus, remained on Edgeworth.
Gumshoe and Phoenix waited until the crowd thinned before leaving the courtroom. Both Edgeworth and Greene had packed up quickly and left—after the typical scheduling of post-trial meetings—before the last of the crowd dispersed.
Phoenix hadn't realized how muggy it was inside until he exited and the relatively fresh air ran cold against his skin.
"Wasn't that something, pal?" Gumshoe beamed as though he'd put Black away himself.
"It really was," Phoenix admitted, remembering the look of tired contentment that had settled on Edgeworth's face as the verdict was passed down—so different from his usual victorious smirk. He was right. I'm glad I came.
"Ema was great, huh?" Gumshoe said.
"Especially near the end there," Phoenix said as they walked. "I really didn't know what was going to happen until she stepped in."
"And Mr. Edgeworth…" Gumshoe stopped. It seemed they both caught sight of the prosecutor at the same time. He was standing over on the far side of the lobby, Ema facing him, nodding at something she was saying.
"Hey, Mr. Edgeworth!" Gumshoe bellowed across the room. Edgeworth's head flew up—he must be used to it too, Phoenix thought. As they closed the gap, he and Edgeworth locked eyes. Phoenix saw Edgeworth stiffen in recognition, a complex mixture of emotions flickering across his face—too rapid for Phoenix to read—before he collected himself.
"Wright, what are you doing here?" It wasn't hostile, but it was abrupt.
Nice to see you too, Edgeworth. That answered the question of whether the prosecutor had noticed his presence during the trial. Phoenix was suddenly reminded of Edgeworth's aversion to surprises.
Ema turned around at the name "Wright". Underneath the veneer of the young woman, he saw traces of the teenager he remembered in the delighted grin quickly spreading from ear to ear.
"Mr. Wright!" she exclaimed, moving in for a hug. Phoenix returned it somewhat awkwardly, but no less emotionally. "It's been forever! What are you doing here?"
"Detective Gumshoe brought me to see your first trial," Phoenix said. Edgeworth seemed to relax at that.
"More like dragged you," Gumshoe corrected before turning to Ema. "I was just telling him how great you did, pal. Especially for an intern. Anyone would've sworn you were a true professional watching you up there!"
"Well, I am a professional, Detective," Ema replied. But she was smiling.
"Intern?" Phoenix asked. He didn't tell me anything about that. On giving it thought, it was true that Ema would have been unusually young for a fully licensed forensic scientist, but stranger things had happened in this precinct.
"Right," Ema said. "They told me after I passed the initial test that one of my options was to keep studying where I was, but the reason I went to Europe in the first place was so I could be here, on the field. So why would I wait?"
"And they let you prepare key trial evidence and testify?"
"Of course," she replied, with an easy grin and a toss of the head. "Hands on experience is the best."
Or they were desperate. That seemed a more likely scenario.
"I was supposed to testify at an earlier trial, but…" Ema trailed off, biting her lip. Her earlier confidence seemed to waver at the recollection.
That's right. "Detective Gumshoe told me what happened," Phoenix said. Ema blinked in surprise, then shot a look at Gumshoe, who raised his hands defensively.
"It was a stupid mistake with the blood work," she said. "I know I still have a lot to learn, but if I had just..." She shook her head. "Let's just say I'm glad my first trial was with Mr. Edgeworth." Her smile returned as she turned to the prosecutor. Edgeworth had been watching Phoenix and Ema's reunion in silence, and seemed somewhat startled at being dragged back into the conversation. "It was an honor working with you, sir."
Phoenix saw the long-dormant embers of a schoolgirl crush pop and spark in her gaze, before dying back down into a respectful, professional admiration. If Edgeworth noticed, he gave no sign. He was too busy examining the ceiling and the surrounding walls—not meeting anyone's gaze.
"Thank you," he finally managed with something approaching grace. "It was a pleasure working with you too, Ms. Skye."
"Didn't she do wonderfully?" a voice asked from behind. "I knew she would."
Phoenix turned around. For a moment, he didn't recognize the woman with the quiet smile and laugh lines etched beneath her eyes; his memories were of her in jail, expression pale and taut.
Ema answered his unspoken question for him. "Sis, you made it!"
"Yes, I got out early," Lana said. The two sisters looked at one another. Phoenix thought they were going to hug, but instead Lana put her arm around Ema's shoulders and gave a quick squeeze.
"This is quite a reunion," she said, looking at Phoenix.
"It is," he said, quietly. He was glad to see she was doing all right.
If possible, her eyes warmed further. It felt like stepping into a sunny patch of light. Phoenix was struck even further by how different she was from when he had defended her in court, when her words had cut and her gaze was ice.
"I was just telling Mr. Edgeworth what an honor it was working with him," Ema said to her sister.
"I heard," Lana said. She glanced at Edgeworth. Something seemed to pass between them, a silent communication only the two of them could understand. "Thank you for taking care of my little sister."
Edgeworth nodded in response.
Ema raised her hand to touch her sister's, briefly, as she turned her head to look around the room—at the small crowd of friends and family that surrounded her. "I've got an idea!" she said, eyes lighting up, "Why don't we all go out to celebrate?"
Inwardly, Phoenix winced reflexively, already anticipating the bill that would inevitably fall to him.
Still, he thought, listening to Ema's voice rise with excitement, it might not be a bad idea.
"Oh…" Lana's hand flew to her chest. "Actually, I… already made dinner reservations, for just the two of us. That's why I came over here; the trial ran a little longer than expected and I didn't want us to be late." She looked apologetic. "I suppose I could cancel if you want."
Now Ema looked surprised. "N-no, I'm... I'd like that. We haven't had a chance to really sit down and catch up yet."
Still a little bit awkward, huh? Phoenix smiled. It was to be expected. Ema left while Lana was still in jail, and while he was sure they'd been in contact, they probably hadn't had much time face-to-face yet.
"All right," he said. "You two go ahead."
"No, no," Ema exclaimed, hastily. "I'm sure we can pull up another table. Right, Sis?" She looked over her shoulder at Lana for confirmation.
"Sorry, pal," Gumshoe said, "I actually need to get back to the precinct. There was something the chief said during the morning briefing about a meeting near the end of the day." He grinned sheepishly. "I figured this was more important, though!"
And that is why Detective Gumshoe has trouble paying his rent, Phoenix inwardly sighed.
"Some other time, all right?" Gumshoe grinned broadly when Ema nodded. "You keep up the good work, pal. I know you will."
Gumshoe gave her a thumbs-up before beating a hasty retreat down the hall.
Edgeworth, meanwhile, was looking at Lana again, and Phoenix once more got the impression they were speaking without words. He seemed to come to a decision.
"I can't make it either," Edgeworth said. He paused for a split second. "I need to get this paperwork filed."
Ouch, why doesn't he just use the good old 'I have to wash my hair'? But that slight hesitation had told Phoenix all he needed to know. There would be plenty of time to get re-acquainted with Ema; tonight, her sister came first.
"What about you, Mr. Wright?" Ema asked.
"No," he said, "I've really got to be getting back, too." I was planning on having been home hours before now, anyway. He thought he saw Edgeworth nod at him, subtly, from the corner of his eye.
"In that case, we should be going now," Lana said. Then, turning to Edgeworth, "I suppose I'll see you in court."
"Yes." He nodded. "I look forward to it."
"A pleasure, as always, Mr. Wright," she added, turning once more to Phoenix. Ema grinned at him once more, adjusting the goggles resting on her head, before following her sister at a brisk stride towards the courthouse exit.
"What did she mean by seeing you in court?" Phoenix asked when the women and the detective were out of eyesight. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, he and Edgeworth had been left by themselves. "After what happened with Gant, I thought..."
"She's a defense attorney now," Edgeworth said. Phoenix blinked in surprise. That wasn't a career choice he had expected for Lana Skye. Technically, he supposed that it made sense, as her ties to the Prosecutor's Office had been irrevocably cut—but the option of working for the opposite bench had honestly never occurred to him.
Thinking of Lana's smile, and the gentle encouragement she had given her sister, though, he thought it was probably the best thing for her. In the back of his mind, he recalled that faint echo of Mia that had startled him when he had first met the former Chief Prosecutor, more than three years ago.
"Wow…" he managed.
"It wouldn't be the first time," Edgeworth said, turning to face Phoenix. "It's actually pretty common. I'm surprised you haven't heard of her recent work before now."
"As long as she's happy," Phoenix said. She certainly seemed so. Edgeworth nodded, and the conversation lapsed into a familiar, slightly uncomfortable silence.
Phoenix wondered why one of them didn't take their leave and be done with it; they'd both had long days. Just a few hours ago, his greatest wish was to take a shower and a nap. It was hard to imagine Edgeworth didn't feel the same way; the edges of his dark bangs still clung to his forehead and, this close, the circles under his eyes were obvious.
So Phoenix was just as surprised as Edgeworth when the words out of his mouth weren't 'see you around'.
"Actually, I'm hungrier than I thought," he said. "Why don't we get something to eat?"