Everything to Lose
Notes: The characters are not mine
and this ficlit is. It was directly inspired by the prompt Felony
is a gift to men who have everything to lose at 31 Days,
and I am attempting to use it as a lead-in to a future multi-chapter
fic. Thanks to Kaze for plot help!
When their crimes were revealed, no two murderers had the same reaction.
Von Karma's had certainly been one of the most extreme, with his bone-chilling cry of rage. That was still discussed at times by those who had been in the audience.
Others broke down in tears, their pent-up guilt finally overpowering their desire to hide the truth. Some remained calm, not really seeming to care as their deplorable acts were proven.
As court let out on a cold and rainy Friday evening, Phoenix found that he was still disturbed by what the murderer in today's case had said.
"Why did you do it?!" Maya had exclaimed in a rare outburst. She had never thought that the person had been guilty, especially when she had been treated with kindness by him. To learn the truth was a particularly harsh blow for her.
The man had only given her a grim and rueful smirk in response. "Why?" he had repeated. "Felony is a gift to those who have everything to lose."
Maya had slumped back, stunned by that remark. "A . . . gift?!" she had choked out, staring as the killer was taken into custody. Then she had turned to Phoenix. "What does that mean?" she had demanded. Her eyes had flashed with anger, an emotion they scarcely held. "It isn't a gift! It's horrible!"
Phoenix had only been able to look at her helplessly. "He thought he didn't have any other option," he had replied. He was still angry and bewildered over the case's events, which had turned everything upsidedown for the last few days. The outcome was what he had begun to suspect, but only as far as the murderer himself. The motive had been a shock.
And there was something else bothering him about this case---something that was just out of his reach. Try as he might, he could not quite place what it was. That disturbed him too, perhaps more than anything else.
Edgeworth, who had been passing by, stopped to listen. "There are always other options," he had said."People such as he refuse to take them."
Phoenix sighed to himself as he entered the waiting area outside the courtroom. Those who had been in the audience were coming out now as well, and he had to walk over near the wall to avoid the traffic jam. Some of them were discussing the case as they went past. Snippets of their conversation reached Phoenix's ears.
"Can you believe it was him?"
"He always seemed like such a nice man."
"They always say it's the quiet ones."
And then their words faded, blending with the sound of their shoes on the marble floor.
"Good work, Wright."
Phoenix turned. Edgeworth had waited for the crowd to go by before even attempting to leave the courtroom. Now he was pushing the door open as he walked over to his rival.
"The case was complicated. We barely made the three-day deadline." He frowned.
"Well, I couldn't have done it all by myself!" Phoenix declared. "Don't discredit yourself, Edgeworth." He frowned as well. As the other drew closer, the exhaustion written across his face became obvious. The last days had been a strain on all of them.
Edgeworth crossed his arms. "I only started to believe that he was the guilty party after you uncovered the fatal flaw in Ms. Granger's testimony," he said. "It is strange, though---how it's always the ones you least suspect who are guilty. Everyone is saying he seemed so normal."
"A lot of the time they seem to be," Phoenix said. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Even though a lot of the people we end up involved with are pretty, er . . . unconventional."
Edgeworth only gave a brief nod. "I have to wonder, Wright . . . what would happen if either of us was thrust into such a situation?" His eyes were troubled. "What if we had 'everything to lose'? Mr. Goldman killed because of the information the victim had that could have destroyed Goldman's daughter. He killed hoping to protect her."
Phoenix frowned. Now he knew what had been making him uneasy. Edgeworth had hit right on it. And it was a worrying question, when he thought of it.
"But he didn't protect her at all," he objected. "The crimes she herself committed came out during the trial."
"Yes. But his mind was in a frenzy when he killed. He was not even considering the far-reaching consequences." Edgeworth gripped his arms. "Couldn't that happen to anyone, Wright, if they were pushed enough? How far would we go? Would we have the presence of mind to forbear shattering the laws we have strived to protect, if someone we cared about was in danger?"
Phoenix dropped his hand to his side. "I'd hope so!" he exclaimed. "I mean, I can't imagine we wouldn't, but . . ." He trailed off. He did not want to think that he would ever break the law on purpose. And if it came to killing someone, surely neither he or Edgeworth ever would do such a thing. Not unless it was a very clear case of self-defense or the defense of someone else.
But was that what Goldman had believed he was doing---killing to defend someone else?
Phoenix frowned. Under the circumstances it would not have been right even if his daughter had been innocent, but when she was guilty it was even worse. Her father should never have murdered to hide her own wrongs from the world. She had finally confessed on her own, wanting to atone for what she had done. And that had at last prompted her father to admit the truth of his own crime.
He snapped back to the present. Edgeworth looked pale and drawn. And then it clicked.
"Edgeworth?!" Phoenix gasped. "You're not saying you . . ."
The prosecutor shook his head. "No . . . I haven't killed anyone," he said. "I was only thinking." He began to turn away.
"Only thinking?" Phoenix reached out, grabbing the other's arm. "No, something is wrong, Edgeworth. Don't you think I can tell after all this time?"
Miles stopped, his shoulders heaving as he sighed in resignation. It was foolishness to think that Wright would not have noticed. What he had said was true---at least the part about not having killed anyone. But there was something bothering him---something he did not feel he was at liberty to discuss, with Wright or anyone else.
"There's nothing wrong," he said then. "I just wondered what you thought of the situation, Wright." He turned back to face the other. "Now I'm going to return to my office. There are some mundane tasks I must complete before I can return home."
"I hope one of them isn't writing another mysterious note and disappearing!" Phoenix said. Under the circumstances, he did not feel it was out of sorts to wonder. He had not seen Edgeworth look so disturbed in some time.
"No. Not at all." Again Edgeworth turned to leave.
He could feel Wright's gaze upon him as he walked down the hall. But he did not turn back.
If he knew Wright, he would not let this go. And maybe Miles would finally wear down enough to tell him what was going on. But for now, he had no plans to do anything of the sort.
The note from that morning was still in his mind. The shadows can never be extinguished.
He believed it. And he had no desire to find out what sort of harm would be inflicted this time upon those he cared about if the sender learned that Miles had spoken.