Disclaimer: I do not own Phoenix Wright/Gyakuten Saiban or any of the characters or places in those series mentioned in this story. The Ace Attorney series belongs to Capcom.
This story contains spoilers for Ace Attorney 3, case 2 (The Stolen Turnabout), and mentions of spoilers for various other parts of all four games. Rated for crack, violence, bad puns, and general strangeness yet seriousness that makes sense if you think about it for long enough.
Long Live Luke Atmey!
It had been days since Phoenix had used the toilet in his office. Whenever he felt the need to go, he went. Downstairs, to the next available restroom, that is. Being in the presence of the office toilet drudged up memories he would have rather left unmentioned. Memories of not one, but three cases he had taken little over two months ago that left permanent mental scars even weirder than the young attorney was used to receiving. Prove one thing, disprove it next trial, prove another, disprove, prove the original point again…
But Phoenix would not think about that. He would not, absolutely would not. Even though he had been at the office for hours, cleaning up for the holidays. Even though he really, really had to go. How far was it to the downstairs bathroom? It wouldn't take long, after all he had—no, the elevator was out.
"Hold it, Phoenix… Hold it!" he told himself, struggling against his own will. He would just take the stairs, that was it…
The next thing he knew, he was throwing the office's restroom doors open, scrambling inside, tripping over his pants as he tried to undo his fly and relieve himself. Well, stronger men than he had succumbed to nature's call before. It was nothing to be ashamed of.
But just as the defense had predicted, the site of his impeccably shiny toilet began to remind him… The latest of the three cases, back in November. All his cases were crazy, it seemed. That one in particular, though, made him question his sanity and placement in life to a certain extent that Phoenix was almost ready to hang up his suit and pull out a beanie. Life would be easier if he worked in art. He could paint, or try his hand at something more classy like piano. Not that he was any good at playing the piano; he supposed that was what kept him wearing the badge.
Phoenix sighed as the inevitable memory returned to him. Three cases… Three! Two in two days, one less than a month later. This was big news to a guy used to handling about five cases a year, spread nicely throughout that long, timely year. Though he couldn't exactly complain about the extra payoff, Wright often considered that most of it would probably end up paying for the years of therapy he would have to endure at the end of his career as a lawyer. That third case was especially bad. It wasn't every day that he got someone convicted of homicide, and then turned about and defended them against the charge. Getting them accused was one thing; that was the first time he had ever stood by someone with a "Guilty" he had induced hanging over their head.
The case started with three simple but deadly, when grouped as a sequence, things: a newspaper article, a tape recording, and Larry Butz. One thing, if there was one thing, Phoenix liked about the case was that he could easily blame the whole thing on Larry. It was his fault Phoenix had taken it, after all. If Phoenix had had his way, he probably would have indicted his friend on the murder charge just to avenge his humiliation and struggle. Prove, disprove, prove disprove, that was all normal, but he didn't even get the satisfaction of booking the "real" criminal for the crime in the end. "Real" because, in his effort to save his original client—of the first two cases—he had spurned a real criminal of his deserved verdict. It was madness. It was… well, it wasn't worth getting all worked up over. In the end, they had gotten the truth out, even if it wasn't quite enough to prove the real murderer…
And the truth was all that mattered, even if it took him through hell to get it. His defendant had gotten off; the real murderer would at least get checked out. Even if the gratuitous lack of evidence would prevent a verdict on that case from being handed down, Phoenix could consider himself accomplished. He zipped his pants and flushed, moving to the sink to wash his hands. In the absence of evidence, one had to go on testimony. There was plenty of that, at least. And he had established all the necessary…
The sink turned off and the lawyer returned to the main part of the office. There was no use in going over the details now, really, but all the same. The case had already crept back into his mind, and he was nearly finished tidying up. Phoenix sighed heavily as that fateful day reared its ugly head in his spiky one to be remembered from the beginning—the entire, extremely bizarre and coincidental beginning.
- - - - -
November rolled in with a breeze, a cold front sweeping quietly in, cooling the air and mellowing the office mood. Phoenix leaned back in the chair and glanced out the window. He had just handled a pair of cases, a tricky pair. He was good for the year, as far as defending was concerned. Still, it didn't feel right to not come into work every day, at least for a while.
The newspaper laid turned open on the desk. Phoenix had been reading idly to pass the time. One article, in particular, had caught his attention: an unlikely appeal, by a criminal he himself had condemned. Phoenix remembered, he had laughed a little as he read it, thinking to himself that he acted more like a prosecutor than that coffee-vacuum mask guy did. It was weird, though, to see the appeal in the paper. The lawyer distinctly remembered the man in the article… He was the murderer in the last trial, actually.
And he was totally insane, but what was really strange about it was that he had confessed to the killing amidst his fits of maniacal laughter. Really, he had no room for going back with an "Oops, I didn't really do it, aha ha ha." The lawyer sat back up and looked over the article again.
Mad Detective Makes Appeal? read the title. A little skimming told the attorney that no one would answer the request. He almost felt bad… But he knew it was a hopeless case. After all, the guy did commit the murder. That much was obvious to everyone, including the man behind bars himself.
Wright casually dropped the news again and reclined. He was thinking about turning in for the day, after lunch. There was really no point in staying—he only came by for the sake of watering Charley and maybe thumbing through a file or two. Yeah, he'd just go grab a burger around twelve and head home for the day…
"NIIIIIIIII-IIIIIIICK!" Even before the door slammed into the wall "Nick" was toppling over from the shrill cry. It was a battle cry, definitely. Instinctively he seized a fallen pen and readied to defend himself. "Nick, it's terrible!"
…He knew that voice. It was a voice dripping with more sadness than necessary, one that would inevitably follow with mass chaos and a narrative involving some female, and the lack of her. The fallen lawyer pulled himself up off the ground to view the intruder unto his workspace, but the new person was already shaking the desk.
"Nick, man, come on! You've gotta help me! My life is over, Nick! I've got nothing left now!" cried the man, the overzealous tears splashing down over his tiny beard and all over Phoenix's newspaper.
"Larry," Phoenix said as firmly as he could whilst trying to stand using a violently quaking desk. "Larry, calm down… Larry, Larry!" In response, the sobbing man dropped the desk he was about to lift in his outburst and brought his balled hands to his chest, letting the overtly and undeniably fake tears run off onto the obnoxious orange leather of his sleeves.
"But-but-but Nii-iiiick!" sobbed Larry. "You don't get it, man! It's all over for me--"
"Listen, Larry, this isn't the first time your girlfriend has left you," 'Nick' interjected. Larry immediately ceased the flow of his tears (Phoenix knew they were fake) and stood blinking in confusion at his lawyer friend. "Really, it's about the hundredth time. You'll just get another girlfriend within three days like always, and maybe this time she'll actually stick by you… Though I doubt it," he muttered in addition to his speech. It wasn't in Larry Butz's nature to keep girlfriends for too long.
"…Becky?" asked Larry meekly. His emotions snapped over to rage and he pounded his fists on Phoenix's desk. "DANG, NICK! I forgot about Becky leaving me yesterday! Thanks a lot. Some friend you are, reminding me of that in my time of need!"
"Wait, what?" It was always a girl with Larry. If it wasn't… His eyes travelled back to his friend's bright orange jacket. "Larry, are you skipping out on work to come whine?" he asked. It was a working day, after all, and if he recalled Larry had recently informed him that he'd gotten a new day shift. "At this rate, your new boss isn't going to bother putting up with you much longer."
"That's the thing, Nick!" shouted Larry, still apparently infuriated by Nick's cluelessness. "You sound just like him! 'Larry, at this rate I'm not going to bother putting up with you any longer. You're a disgrace to this company and I can't have you making KB look any worse than it already does right now.' Thanks again, Nick, for reminding me of that jerk of a new boss! It's all your fault anyway that I lost the old cool one!"
Phoenix resisted the urge to argue that No, it was actually Larry's fault that he lost his old boss. If he hadn't been out losing another girl, he could have stopped that crazy detective from bashing his favorite boss's head in and booking it. That was his job… Or, well… "…Larry, did your boss fire you?" he asked, unable to hide his mild surprise. He shouldn't be surprised, he knew, but Larry actually seemed to do decently at his job in security…
The other man sniffled, and then suddenly bounded across the desktop, sending the newspaper to the floor as he scrambled and flopped, seizing the attorney by his lapels, his rage now forgotten again in favor of more melodramatic sadness. "You bet he did, Nick! That new boss… He really sucks, Nick! He's terrible! Terrible!" Phoenix struggled to get his friend off of him, but Larry's fists were glued on. "I can't bear it, Nick! Security is where I belong! It's all I've ever been good at, besides arts and crafts… I don't have anything left to turn to now, Nick! I'm hopeless!"
Again, the lawyer resisted the urge to argue that Larry hadn't exactly been good at security either, that was why his old boss was dead now… As the two men struggled against each other, Phoenix noticed that Larry's writhing had knocked loose a small bag from the unemployed man's pocket. The little parcel flopped onto the floor without notice, and Phoenix seized the opening to draw Larry's attention away from his woe.
"H-Hey, Larry, you dropped your lunch," stammered Nick, pointing at the package on the floor. His finger caught the man's attention (at least one talent gained from his lawyer work Phoenix was thankful for) and he turned to look.
"Oh… OH!" he shouted, jumping up and scooping the package off the ground. Nick's shoulders dropped in relief at no longer being yanked upon. When Larry stood back up, holding the paper bag by the top, he pointed at it (though his pointing could use a bit of work, thought Phoenix) with a grin plastered across his face. Like that, he had forgotten everything… again. "Lunch, Nick? I can't eat plastic!" Oh, right, like Phoenix could tell it was plastic just from seeing the bag. "Actually, this is what made me come to see you in the first place! I just thought up all that other stuff on the way here, and I guess I kinda forgot by the time I actually got here… Heh heh."
Leave it to Larry to… Phoenix didn't even know anymore. He asked, defeated, "Okay, you win. What's in the bag?"
Larry quickly unrolled the top of the paper bag and stuck his hand inside, retracting a small, black rectangle from within. A cassette tape.
"A cassette tape?"
"A cassette tape!"
"…And do I want to know what's on this cassette tape?" he continued hesitantly. Suddenly the attorney was no longer sure if he wanted to go through with whatever his spastic friend had planned, even if it would get him out of the office.
"Well, duh, Nick!" laughed Larry. "My partner and I made it! It's pretty weird, I gotta warn ya'."
…Partner? Nick scrunched his spiky eyebrows and did the math as best he could. Larry had made a tape with a person, a person whom he referred to as his "partner." Well, he had just broken up with "Becky," and if the tape was made with another girl, Larry would have just come out and said—Come out. The light bulb went off and Phoenix involuntarily backed away from the desk. "You made a what with your what?" he stammered. "Larry, I don't want to listen to any tapes you make with your… partner… Er, um, congratulations on finding yourself, by the way…" He felt his face turning red as he attempted to work his way through the extreme awkwardness unharmed.
Once again, Larry Butz's expression was that of a confused idiot. "Huh, but I thought it was kind of funny… What do you mean, 'finding myself'?" The gears in his relatively empty head slowly turned. Nick could practically hear the slow thunk… thunk… thunk... Ping! "W-WAIT, NICK!" he shouted. "I'm not gay! I told you, I'm not interested in men, Nick! I meant my partner!" Thanks for the clarification. "From the security team—that old lady! She taught me everything I know about security-ing stuff!"
"Uh, securing, Larry," corrected Phoenix. "And… Old lady? You don't mean…"
"Yeah!" He could have sworn the room got colder then. There was only one old lady security guard known to Phoenix. He had been lucky in avoiding her ever since last March, even though he had felt that feeling, that ominous feeling that she was coming. Especially when Larry had mentioned something about his 'partner' before… "But it's not really the tape that's funny, unless you think an angry old lady is funny. It's kind of hard to understand." Larry shrugged. Phoenix waited for an explanation. "…What? Oh, right. Anyway, it's not the tape that's funny. It's when the tape was made, Nick."
"…Okay," Nick said slowly. "And when did you make the tape?" He was losing faith fast—not that he had much in the guy in the first place.
"The night of the murder!" shouted Larry dramatically. The effect was astonishing, as even Nick drew back a little.
But it didn't last long. "…What murder?"
"Wow, Nick, you sure are slow!"
The pot calling the kettle "black." "Pardon me for taking on ten murder cases in the last two years, Larry."
"Whatever, Nick. The murder! The important one!" He started to pause, but caught on that his sarcastic companion was still in the dark, and starting to feel a little bit irritable. "My boss's murder!"
Alarm flashed across Phoenix's face. It hadn't been that long since the trial for Kane Bullard's murder. Of course—He should have known! But… Then again, it really wasn't important. Luckily Larry didn't notice, so Phoenix simply continued, "Uh, that is kind of weird…"
"Yeah, and you'll never guess at what time!" The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that he probably did. "Right there, at just after one in the morning! When I was going back to the station after getting my butt handed to me by that big jerk who ran off with my girl, I ran into my partner and she got all mad at me for not being there before." Suppressing the urge to slam his head into the wall, Phoenix managed to calmly point out a tape player he had stored on a shelf and watched as his friend eagerly snatched it up and began setting up his presentation. There was nothing Phoenix could think of he'd rather do than listen to an angry old lady rant and rave after being free from her for nine months, except maybe eat glass or gouge out his own eyes, but the date and time of the tape's making intrigued him despite his better judgement.
Larry grinned and pressed down the right-pointing triangle button on the player's set. Static crackled for a moment, and then Phoenix's ears were assaulted with a high-pitched screech.
"—And you really expect me to record all this just because you can't listen right now, well, you better make time to listen I don't have much space on this tape you whippersnapper and I don't intend to waste it all on you I'm only going to record it because if I don't you'll never learn and it's my job as your superior to try and squash the stupid bug that they call 'cool' these days so—"
She ranted too fast for Wright to keep up with every word, but Larry seemed to enjoy listening to it… Which meant that he probably didn't realize he was being chastised.
"—I swear to you boy, you had better pay attention good this time because I'm tired of making these tapes! It's not like you ever listen to them or anything for that matter, I swear, you're just like that pigheaded boss of ours! Where does he get off saying that I'm doing this company wrong when I've given my time and energy to security for years now trying to make this rat hole business look good, I deserve to be able to take some time for myself every now and again! Whatever happened to respecting adults? I know I'm older than he is and he thinks just because he has that fancy title of See-Ee-Oh that he can bully me around like—"
It had never occurred to Phoenix that Wendy Oldbag might have a problem with her boss. For as far as he had been concerned before then, she had seemed to almost enjoy her job. Chasing that little boy around the premises of Global Studios had looked more like a hobby than a job, at least.
"—And that wasn't even time to myself, I was working! I was on the job the whole time, I'll have you know, if my Edgeypoo—"
Larry snickered at the word "Edgeypoo," suggesting that he understood at least a little bit of the rant. Frankly, the word "Edgeypoo" made Phoenix ill.
"—Wants me to debug a room then I'm going to debug that room until he tells me to stop, I don't care about hotel regulations or police lines or all that fancy mumbo-jumbo about protocol! To think he really tried to bring that up as an example, and he said 'Among other things,' what other things? Well I gave him what-for, I tell you! Bap! Right there! If I'd had my raygun he'd have been real sorry, but at least I know my transceiver's good for more than cleaning up after your messes, you whippersnapper! He'll be feeling that in the morning for sure! But that brings me back to my point, and that's you and he are both—"
Phoenix was suddenly pulled out of his daze. He had been on the brink of drifting off listening to the old woman's tangent, but something about that last part set off sparks in his head. He lurched forward and pointed at the tape player defiantly. "Larry, rewind that!" he snapped.
"Rewind it?" asked Larry blankly. "But we haven't even gotten to the good part yet!"
"Just do it," he said before the man could say anything else. The player made a popping noise as he punched the rewind button, followed by a low whir. "Right there." Larry hit the play button again, and the tape began anew.
"—'Among other things,' what other things? Well I gave him what-for, I tell you! Bap! Right there! If I'd had my raygun he'd have been real sorry, but at least I know my transceiver's good for more than cleaning up after your messes, you whippersnapper! He'll be feeling that in the morning for sure! But that brings me—"
Something about her choice of words unnerved the attorney more than he thought she ever could. He stood up abruptly from behind the desk and strode quickly to join Larry at the tape player. "Uh, Nick?" Larry asked, but Nick didn't respond. He hit the button to rewind the tape again.
"—I gave him what-for, I tell you! Bap! Right there! If I'd had my raygun he'd have been real sorry, but at least I know my transceiver's good for more than cleaning up after your messes, you whippersnapper! He'll be feeling that in the morning for sure!—"
With a pop! the lawyer pressed his finger against the stop button. His mind was trying to process the seemingly harmless diction the tape had displayed. If it was so harmless, why did it feel so ominous?
The Larry in question jolted. "Uh, yeah, Nick? What's up?"
"When did you say this tape was made?"
"O-oh, uh…" He idly scratched the pointed beard at the tip of his chin and thought. "I told you, it was the night my boss was murdered. Around one in the morning, I, uh, think—No, yeah, that was definitely it!" he added quickly, noticing the livid expression on Phoenix's face. "I remember, because I caught her right as I was going back to my post. And you can verify it, because she always makes me write the date and time on the tapes, so I know exactly when I learned my lesson! Here, I'll show you—" The tape player popped open as Larry mashed the eject button and wrenched the tape up, before shoving it under Phoenix's nose. "See, Nick? There's the time. I wrote it right there, like she said! One colon zero seven A period M period!"
The attorney forced the plastic rectangle away from his face and examined it, seeing that the timestamp Larry had written was as he had said. "Wait, you mean, you two did this more than once?"
"Huh?" Larry stared blankly, and Phoenix stifled the overpowering desire to hit him with his little recording.
"You and… your partner. You two recorded your arguments before this time?"
"Oh, yeah, Nick!" he exclaimed as though it were the simplest, most obvious thing in the world. "They're lessons on how to be a good security guard! My partner is always looking out for me, so whenever I do something dumb, she gives me a lecture and records it so I don't forget it. You know how some of the guards have those special costumes, with the helmets and rayguns and—"
"Yeah, Larry, I know," said Phoenix lowly.
"Well, the transceiver thing on the front of the uniform is actually a tape recorder, just in case you need to record something on the job."
"Oh, so, your partner records her rants about how useless you are?"
The two men waited for a few minutes, Larry, with a proud look on his face, and Phoenix, with a hopeless, bored stare. Then the lawyer sighed and shook his head. "Okay."
He turned, tape in hand, and walked back to his desk, where he dropped down and began rummaging through the mess Larry had left on the floor. The man salvaged a piece of paper and a pen, along with the newspaper he had been reading that morning—he threw that into his chair—and stood once more.
"Larry," Phoenix asked, "can you do me a big favor?"
"Sure thing, Nick!" Larry replied cheerfully. "That's what friends do! What do you need?"
He tapped the paper with the pen. "I want you to write down everything you told me today—about you and your partner, and this tape, I mean. Not about your girlfriend…s. It's important that you don't forget anything, and sign your name at the bottom. Make sure you aren't telling any lies, though, because I may have to use this…" He groaned. "…In court."
"Oh, yeah, okay." The taller man took the pen and started to copy down the story he had related. "That sounds easy enough."
Phoenix couldn't help but feel no surprise that his "friend," as the man himself had put it, gauged his ability to perform favors by how easy they were. As he waited for him to finish, Nick looked down at the tape in his hand, at the scrawled date on the white sticker. "Oh, and one more thing."
"Yeah?" he asked, scribbling out an e and writing an a above it, his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth in his concentration.
"I'm going to need to keep the tape. Is that okay?"
"I guess. Not like I really need it anymore, now that I'm…" He sniffled, causing Nick to roll his eyes. "…Unemployed! Oh, do you want the other ones too?" His melodramatic act had been cut off before it even began.
"No, I only need this one."
When Larry finished signing his name, he handed the paper over to the attorney. Then, with the friendliest wave he could muster, Phoenix escorted him to the door and sent him on his way, thanking him for bringing the tape over. He certainly wouldn't be bored now…
He returned to his desk and pulled the newspaper out of the chair, plopping into the cushioned seat to think. What was he supposed to do now? There was no question about what he had proven in that last trial. None at all. It was all true. Definitely.
And then there was this tape. The tape didn't make any sense—it didn't fit. There hadn't been anything brought up about another person being at the crime scene that night! There hadn't been… a lot of things, actually. Like a murder weapon. There hadn't been one of those. In hindsight, that little stipulation seemed a bit more important than it had in the actual trial.
Larry's "partner" had been on "vacation" at the time of the murder. But she had been present at the building, that night, that hour, that office, that… evil, evil woman. Phoenix pulled out his bluish cell phone and stared at his face reflected in the blank screen. Was he really about to do this? Honestly?
The phone buzzed to life; he punched in the first three numbers to the phone he wanted to call and pressed the green button as the remainder filled in automatically. The light ring began to purr in his ear as he thought over what exactly he was going to say.
The line clicked. "Hello?" came the voice of a girl on the other end.
"Hey, Maya. It's Nick—Phoenix," he replied. Then he sighed heavily as she cheered a more enthusiastic greeting. "I, uh… Well, you're not going to believe this." Once again, the spiny-headed lawyer leaned back in his seat and looked down at the article he had been reading before. "But I think we have a problem."