Phoenix knew better than to believe anything without it. It was a basic rule of the court: without evidence, nothing distinguished truth from lies. Without evidence, decision and action were impossible. Without evidence, there was no point in continuing. Phoenix repeated this to himself several times as he gathered his papers, stuffed them in his briefcase and handed it off to Maya, who seemed to be waiting for some kind of reaction.
"Wait here," he heard himself say as he left the back room. "I'll be back."
He could feel her eyes following him as he went, the muted thud of his shoe on the marble echoing in the empty hall. It was late, and the court was near deserted; chance alone had left him here at this hour to receive this news. But there was no evidence, yet. There was no proof. And he had been wrong before. As he walked, he felt his hand check again for his phone in the pocket of his suit jacket – it was still there, still cold and smooth as it been, as though it hadn't just rung moments before, and Detective Gumshoe hadn't just told him of something he could not yet believe. Not until he could testify to it himself.
He had heard stories of this, and now his mind touched on a few of them. Some were of angry families, some of ruined reputations, of revenge. Crime begot crime, and those who worked against murderers knew there was danger in getting involved. But still, the horror stories had always seemed faraway things to Phoenix, things that happened to someone elsenot to him or to anyone he knew, anyone he cared about Passing quickly through the main lobby, he nodded to the guard, then hurried down the steps and towards the bus stop. Only when he realized how late it really was did he think to hail a taxi instead, and hoped he had enough money for the fare. Phoenix sat very tense and silent in the back as the bright lights outside wandered by. The trip took far too long.
When his body stilled, his mind began to move again. Gumshoe could not be lying – he had no reason to lie about something like this, and Phoenix had read the shock in his voice even over the phone. But there was always a chance the detective was mistaken, as he often was; Phoenix's stomach lurched uncomfortably and he silently prayed this to be the case. It was the first thing he'd really felt since the call. He had not told Maya what Gumshoe had told him, as he did not want her accompanying him on this particular errand, and if she had known where he was going, she would have insisted. And, in case the news was true, he wanted a chance to deal with it on his own before she found out, however brief that time might be. The taxi neared the Prosecutor's Office. Phoenix closed his eyes and took a deep breath, some very deep and frightening feelings testing the numbness, a screaming river of cold beneath the ice, but he swallowed them and watched the building draw close.
Several police cars were parked in front, and an ambulance. Phoenix paid his cab fare with the last of the cash in his wallet and shut the door behind him, standing still for a brief instant before he moved forward. He had not expected Gumshoe to be waiting for him, so he was not disappointed. As he moved up the steps and towards the front doors, a policewoman near the front doors stopped him briefly before realizing who he was and unlocking the door for him instead. Technically, he probably wasn't supposed to be here, but he often found himself a special case. She seemed unwilling to meet his eyes. The anxious knot in Phoenix's stomach tightened.
The elevator did not work after hours, and it was certainly after hours in the Prosecutor's Office, so Phoenix began the long walk up the stairs to his destination. The building was eerily silent and dark; only the emergency lights kept him from stumbling on the concrete steps. A brief surge of panic welled up in his stomach. Why was he here, at this time, for this reason? Evidence, he told himself again. He had to know. He repeated this mantra to himself, I have to know, I have to know, I have to know, and by the time he reached the 12th floor, he was calm again, though his legs burned and he felt strangely faint. From the other side of the door came the sounds of hushed activity. Phoenix opened it and blinked twice into the light.
In the hallway, a police officer conversed quietly with a medic, taking notes on a pad of paper. He did not look up when the door fell shut and Phoenix walked past him with measured footsteps, not too fast but not too slow, not rushed, but intent. He did not stop to ask what had happened, because he was here not for testimony, but for evidence. To know for himself.
The door to the High Prosecutor's office was open. A single policeman stood in front of it, and recognizing Phoenix, nodded him silently in. He did not have to tell him not to touch anything; Phoenix knew. He took another breath and stepped into the doorway, his shoulders tensing imperceptibly. In this room, once upon a time, he had come to see a different kind of evidence, to see a note Gumshoe had found. A note that had shaken Phoenix's reality as well as the entire Prosecutor's department. At the time, this had been proof enough for Phoenix: Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth had chosen death, signed his name, and disappeared. Conclusive, it had seemed. Time had scabbed that wound over for Phoenix, but he'd been more careful about evidence since the prosecutor's return had proved the note circumstantial.
Edgeworth's office, on any ordinary day, would have been immaculate. Even when he worked, it seemed to Phoenix he kept things perfectly neat, perfectly organized, stacked and sorted. Edgeworth kept his work as carefully compartmentalized as he did his thoughts. Tonight, though, the office was in complete disarray. Books lay scattered on the floor, open-spined, pages crushed beneath; the black leather chair was overturned, and white papers littered the wooden floor – the floor which, Phoenix suddenly realized, was spattered with no small amount of blood. He closed his eyes a moment and opened them again for the second take. A cold wind was blowing in from the glass wall on the far side of the office: it had been completely smashed though, and a few of its newly razor-sharp edges dripped crimson in the street light from far below. Phoenix tried not to think about what must have happened when the window broke, about what Ema had said regarding the time it would take to…
He forcibly concentrated on the chess board. Like the chair, it was on its side, and its pieces were strewn across the floor, mixed with the papers that fluttered in the cold breeze. The attorney in Phoenix analyzed as he went along, imagining the struggle that must have taken place in this room, but he quickly shut that off too. He did not want to think about that just yet. This was just evidence for now. It did not tell a story, it was merely a collection of facts that would eventually fit into one. The most conclusive pieces had been moved, though, taken into police custody no doubt, so Phoenix tried to prepare himself to leave, but the abandoned, ransacked office pleaded with him not to go, that it was afraid of the broken window and what had happened under its watch. He dismissed the irrational guilt and turned to go. A sharp, sudden sound made him jump as he walked out, and when he looked down, he saw that a chess piece had snapped beneath the sole of his shoe. It was the red king.
Phoenix had no money to pay for a taxi, but the hospital was too far to walk. Despite both these things, he started out into the night anyway, regretting that he'd left his coat with Maya at the court. Doubtless, by now she was wondering why he hadn't come back, and how late she was expected to stay – after a certain point, she would probably be simply locked in. He decided to call her, and dialed the number into his phone as he walked beneath the yellow glare of the streetlights.
"Maya," he said, his voice strange and rather distant even to himself. "It's Nick. You should go home. Do you have bus fare?"
She did. She wanted to know when he'd be back at his apartment, and he paused. Did he have an answer?
"I don't know," he said at last. "I'll see you tomorrow." And he hung up.
It was well past midnight, according to the glowing numbers on the screen of his phone, but Phoenix felt as though he were just waking up. His mind filed the various pieces of evidence with Gumshoe's testimony, but he made no attempt to connect the dots, unwilling to look into the possible truths of that night's events. Wait for definitive evidence, he told himself as he walked along the lonely streets, cold and numb and perhaps slightly in shock.
Just when he suspected he had attempted something beyond his ability, a battered police car pulled up beside the curb, and Phoenix knew Gumshoe had found him. The detective leaned over and unlocked the door; Phoenix opened it, slipped into the passenger's seat and buckled the seatbelt without a word. For once, Gumshoe was silent, though Phoenix could see the flush still draining from his cheeks. He suspected he had been crying, or yelling, or perhaps both. They both knew where they were going, and so the car was strangely silent for a long while as it navigated the empty streets, until Gumshoe at last opened his mouth to speak.
"We caught him," he said rather gruffly, as if trying to mask something more vulnerable in his voice. "The…the guy who…"
"Oh," said Phoenix. The interruption was intentional; he did not want the end of that sentence. He fell back into silence. Unfortunately, Gumshoe did not seem to understand, seemed instead to think Phoenix wanted more details rather than none.
"We don't know why yet," he continued. Phoenix tried to shut his ears. No proof, no proof, no proof. "Guy threw himself out the window after he did it."
Phoenix nodded distantly. He could feel Gumshoe's eyes on the side of his face. At one point, the detective opened his mouth again, then shut it and shook his head in apparent disbelief. Phoenix wasn't sure if it was disbelief at the situation, or at Phoenix's reaction to it. In any case, they did not speak again until the patrol car was parked in the hospital garage and the two were walking abreast into the main building. Gumshoe walked up to the main desk while Phoenix stood a few steps behind, the white of it all threatening him. He didn't like hospitals; they made him uncomfortable.
"This way," grunted the detective, reappearing at Phoenix's side. He led them around a corner and into a long hallway lined with closed doors, then shoved his hands into the pockets of his oversized trench coat with a long breath. Phoenix followed, struggling silently to keep up with Gumshoe's long stride. This area of the hospital seemed deserted. He wondered where the urgency was – where were the stretchers flying by? The nurses carrying urgent instructions? The doctors rushing to save lives? He concluded this was not the emergency wing. An uncomfortable feeling shifted in his stomach, and some unwanted questions squeezed their way into the fore of his brain; he turned his eyes to the floor and hurried around a corner and down another white, white hallway. He saw several more before they arrived at their destination. Phoenix asked himself if he was ready to know, but received no answer, so he just took a breath and stepped into the room anyway.
When he thought back on it later, Phoenix realized that he had not been ready, not at all. Gumshoe had not been either, apparently, and had left the room almost immediately after seeing the steel table and the white cloth, abandoning Phoenix with the faint scent of blood in his nose and a heart that thumped painfully in his ribs. His face remained quite blank.
Miles Edgeworth stared at the white ceiling with glassy grey eyes. Phoenix stared at him in turn, for a while, at the slight bruises around his face, at the crusty red on his bloodied temple. He frowned. The stony stillness of the prosecutor's body, the vacancy of his stare, the sheet that hid the rest of his body from sight, all should have been evidence to Phoenix, but they were evidence which pointed to a case he could not argue, whose verdict was certain and irreparably awful. And so he ignored them, concealed them in his mind, denied he'd even noticed them.
"Edgeworth?" he asked stupidly, as if he expected a reply. He had not called him Miles since the fourth grade, and doubted anyone had; it just wasn't a part of him anymore. Phoenix hesitantly reached out and touched the pale, pale hand that protruded from beneath the sheet, out of a bloodstained white cuff. It was cold and waxy to his touch. He pulled away quickly and looked at his own fingers nervously before shaking it off and looking back up. Strangely, Edgeworth looked far more approachable like this. It wasn't that he looked peaceful – he looked just as stiff as he always had, but Phoenix had rarely seen him when he wasn't working, defending himself with the prosecution's bench or his briefcase or a simple avoidance of Phoenix's eyes. Now, covered by a creased white sheet but without his façade of invulnerability, he seemed more exposed than he'd ever been.
Phoenix took a deep breath. The metallic smell of blood was beginning to cloud his mind, to make his hands tremble at his sides, but he could not bring himself to move away, not after he had come all this way to find this out for himself. And it was not merely his journey tonight that made him stop and think, but his adolescence, his career, his entire life had all at some point twisted around to face the man who now lay before him on a gurney. Without meaning to, Miles Edgeworth had become one of the most defining people in Phoenix's life. In fact, by leaving it the way he had, he had completely changed it. And now, Phoenix thought, feeling sicker by the moment, he was doing it again…
His fingers were trembling violently as he lifted his hand and reached out towards Edgeworth's neck. He had to know. No matter how much the truth screamed through the rest of the evidence, Phoenix would not and could not believe it until he knew for himself.
The tips of his index and middle fingers came in contact with the prosecutor's cold, smooth skin. Unconsciously, Phoenix held his breath as he pressed them gently against what should have been a pulse.
But there was nothing.
As his own heart thumped sharply, counting the missing beats of Edgeworth's, Phoenix held his fingers perfectly still. His gaze locked with the glassy, vacant stare of the High Prosecutor, who looked neither surprised nor pained at the outcome of Phoenix's test. It's over, he seemed to say, like he sometimes would in the lobby, afterward. The truth will always find a way to make itself known.
Phoenix counted the empty beats until he lost track. He slowly pulled his hand away, then stepped back from the table. For a long moment, he stared into space, the evidence tumbling gently in his mind, a safe distance from his heart. At last, he nodded to no one.
The evidence was conclusive: Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth was dead. Defense Attorney Phoenix Wright shut his briefcase and left the building. Case closed.
Back in the white room, human being Phoenix Wright sank to the floor in anguish beside the body of the man who one day, in a better world, might have been his friend.