Note: Hey, guys. So, I was writing "Turnabout Election" and was, like, "Hey, I have this brilliant idea for the second part of the story!" And then I started that second part, and liked it way better than Turnabout Election. So now TE is relegated to part two, while this becomes part one. I'm not going to apologize, because fanfic means never having to say "I'm sorry."
Turnabout from the Balcony
Day One: Investigation
April 19, 9:18 PM
"There's a fight going on out there," Ed told Kelly with a little smile.
Kelly perked up immediately, dusted off her hands and rushed over to crane around the doorframe. This was the reason she'd gone into the catering business. She didn't really care much about money or food or job satisfaction or making people happy or anything like that. It just gave her an opportunity to see drama in every setting imaginable (as long as whoever was imagining it had an imagination that was limited to weddings, fundraisers, and birthdays).
In this case, the drama was a man and a woman in their late twenties or early thirties. The guy would have been pretty cute in an intense, dark, hook-nosed sort of way if he hadn't been so super-short. The lady wasn't especially pretty, but she was as stylish as anyone Kelly had ever seen, and her hair was an awesome shade of red. At the moment, the guy was grabbing her around the lower arm about as high as he could reach and leaning aggressively in towards her.
"Break it off, Elle," he was saying. "Before someone gets hurt. Break it off."
"Me oh my," she replied, her perfectly arched eyebrows arching a little further, "before someone gets hurt?"
"Before you get hurt," he threatened, giving her a little shake. Kelly was pretty impressed. Usually, when someone delivered that threat, it sounded ridiculous, especially when that someone was like five foot nothing, but the hook-nosed guy was just intense enough to pull it off.
And equally impressive, the woman brushed it totally aside, plucking the man's hand off her arm with the single most contemptuous look Kelly had ever seen. "Last time I listened to you, darling," she said, "you informed me that it was stylistically appropriate to put the names of novels in quotes. I do beg your pardon. I might need a sec before I'm prepared to trust again - "
She was interrupted when the man stepped forward to grab her by the front of her (really quite fabulous) jacket. "This isn't about that!" he bit out, anguished. Then he let her go and stepped back, shaking her head. "This isn't about that."
The woman shrugged, all elegance and nonchalance. "No, I don't suppose it is," she finally said, but she sounded uninterested.
"I don't give a damn about what you can get or what I can get from it, from all this," the man finally said, softly. "I don't even give a damn about Sam. I don't," he said, when finally her long bored face showed a bit of emotion. He took a moment, and then with great difficulty he said, "I only care about one thing."
The woman immediately looked away, her head snapping to fix on the opposite wall. The man kept silently staring at her. Finally, she looked back to him and said quietly, "I'm not giving up. I'm not a coward, Jack."
Another pause. "No," he finally agreed. "I don't suppose you are."
There was a long moment. Kelly started to get bored. She'd been seriously hoping for a fistfight.
The man finally spoke. "Break it off."
"No," said the woman without hesitation, and she turned away.
He grabbed her once more by the arm and turned her back around again. But the woman grabbed him about the wrist and shoved him away, stared at him a moment as he stared at her. Then she declared, "Good God, I need a drink," and stalked off.
There was a moment, and then the man started following, calling out, "Elle - "
Kelly would have liked to have followed, but she couldn't, because she had to occasionally do some work to support her drama llama habits. It was too bad, too, because as it turned out later on in the evening that guy actually ended up killing that lady, apparently, which would have been a hell of a thing to see.
April 20, 10:13 AM
They'd gotten the call earlier that morning.
"It's a rather grim case, I should warn you," came the flat, low voice from the other end of the phone.
"Grim meaning..." Phoenix had said.
"You can open the dictionary and take your pick," the man had responded, and had given a quiet, soft snicker, an almost silent scoff of mirth.
"Well, Nick knows from grim cases," Maya had said, then had shot Phoenix the thumbs-up. At her insistence, they'd used some of their incredibly minimal funds for some conference-call equipment, and she was currently enjoying robbing Phoenix of dignity not only when he talked to people face-to-face but also over the phone. "You should probably wait for his verdict on how grim this is."
"All right then," the man had said, "I'll wait," and that was how Phoenix had somehow ended up committed to the whole thing.
The guy's name was Christopher Murrow, and he was probably the grimmest thing about this case. Not that he didn't have a sense of humor. Sure he had a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it seemed to run along the lines of the first thing he did being sitting down and crossing his hands and asking, "Do you get a choice of method of execution? Because the hanging thing seems undignified. I'd much prefer to pull a Socrates," and then chuckling to himself like that had actually been some sort of joke.
Maya and Phoenix had glanced at each other. "They don't hang people anymore..." Maya had said. Murrow had clapped his hands together.
"Fantastic," he said rather flatly, then looked at both of them with eyes surrounded by deep shadows. "You know, I found a lucky penny just yesterday, and I was like, 'Man, this hasn't brought me much luck,' but I guess it did after all." He clenched his fists and lifted them in the air. "Yay."
"Yay," Maya agreed uncertainly, then grimaced at Phoenix. "Weird guy," she whispered.
"Seriously," Phoenix agreed. "Seems sort of like a masochist or something."
"What's a masochist?" Maya whispered, but Murrow was looking at them almost angrily and Phoenix cleared his throat and looked back at their client. "Um. Yes. Yay. I, uh." He cleared his throat. "Well, how about you tell us about - everything? You know?" he asked awkwardly, and then shifted.
Murrow smiled at this successful discombobulation, but Phoenix was struck by the way that smile didn't reach his eyes. "Well," he said softly, his voice completely devoid of inflection or emotion, "I was at this party. Fantastic. Open bar. What's better? I thought I was having the most fun out of anybody there, I really did, but it turns out someone was having a better night still. And tell me if this isn't the most artistic thing you've ever heard: she was having such a good time that she decided to preserve it forever by taking a header off a balcony."
"Who's she?" Phoenix asked.
Murrow shrugged. "Anyway, they catch me scurrying away from the place where it happened - "
"Why were you running?" Phoenix asked.
"My health," Murrow said.
Now, Phoenix had no objection to defending people facing totally grim cases. He did, however, have an objection to defending people who were totally unhelpful right from the get-go. (Usually they waited at least a little while before they got totally unhelpful.) So he looked at Murrow as irritably as he could. Maya, too, decidedly to contribute.
"He's here to help you, you know," she said. "He's not here to listen to your funny jokes."
"I don't mind paying you guys to listen to my funny jokes," Murrow said lazily, leaning back in his chair and closing his sorrowful eyes.
"We're not in it for the money," Maya replied fiercely. There was a moment, and then Murrow opened his eyes. Another moment, and then,
"No, I guess you're not." A pause. "Then I guess I shouldn't waste your time."
Phoenix hesitated. He wasn't entirely sure what that meant. He was afraid that meant that Murrow didn't want their help - but fortunately, the guy sat up his chair, ran his hand through his hair, and sighed.
"I saw her falling," he replied. "I was running to get help."
"And they thought that you'd pushed her?" That seemed like a pretty flimsy basis for a case. "Did you know the victim?"
"No," said Murrow.
"So, no motive," said Maya brightly.
"Seems like all they have is you fleeing the scene," said Phoenix. "Dunno what makes you think this case is so grim."
Murrow gave them his joyless smile. Phoenix didn't really want to pursue it.
"What party was it, anyway? Where did it take place?"
"It was a fundraiser," he said. "For the upcoming elections, supporting Mayor Nation. Happened at the Gatewater. Do you know it?"
Oh God. Murder Manor all over again. "A little too well, I think," Phoenix groaned. When Murrow looked at him questioningly, he explained, "It's a long story." Then he paused and corrected himself: "It's several long stories."
"You'll have to tell them to me someday," Murrow said. "I'll have plenty of time to hear them from my life imprisonment."
"Hey, it's down to life imprisonment now," Maya chirped, then raised her fists in the air. "Yay!"
"Yes, well, Mr. Wright has impressed me so." It was really hard to tell whether Murrow was being sarcastic or not. Phoenix's gut instinct told him nothing (except that he probably generally should be more critical about when milk can go on cereal and when it should just be thrown away already).
"Well, okay," Phoenix said. "I guess we'll head off to check out the scene of the crime now. Is there anything else you want to tell us?"
Murrow's expression was suddenly hard, suspicious. "Like what?" he asked, and Phoenix glanced over at Maya. From her expression, she saw it too.
"I dunno," Phoenix said, and the expression dropped away from Murrow's face once more.
"Nothing I can think of," he said, then raised his fingers to his forehead in a sardonic salute. "Best of luck."
"What do you think?" Phoenix asked as they walked out.
"Totally suspicious," Maya said.
"Very suspicious," Phoenix agreed.
"Guess we gotta keep at this, huh?" she grinned. "Now I'm just curious."
April 20, 11:30 AM
"What's your favorite memory at this place?" Maya asked, peering up at the all-too-familiar chandelier in the all-too-familiar lobby.
"I, uh, don't think I really have a favorite memory here, Maya," Phoenix said. "Maybe just a least-awful memory."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah. Like you getting kidnapped, that wasn't really something I like remembering. Or spending time with April May, or - "
"But what about the food, Nick!" Maya cried. "I think all my best memories are here. Like my lobster-memories, and my burger-memories, and my steak-memories, and my...Did you hear something?" she asked.
Phoenix had, in fact, heard something, and that something had sounded very much like a pathetic whimper. He turned around. "Hey, Detective Gumshoe."
"Hey, pal," Gumshoe greeted, sorrow in his eye and famine in his bearing. "Don't mind me, you know. You can keep on going."
"That's a masochist, Maya," Phoenix said.
"Ohh!" Maya said, clapping her hands together. "Now I get it!"
Gumshoe sighed and looked at them from underneath mournful brows. "I guess you're here for the murder, huh, pal?"
"Sure am," Phoenix replied. "How's it looking?"
"Pretty bad, let me tell you," Gumshoe said. "Let me tell you, a couple of our guys just about lost their lunches."
"Poor Detective Gumshoe probably didn't have a lunch to lose," Maya whispered, which seemed pretty much right.
"Too bad, too," Gumshoe was saying. "Reports we got, she sounded like a real pretty girl. Real stylish. Is what they say."
"Don't know who she is?" Phoenix asked.
"Didn't have any ID or anything on her," Gumshoe said. "We're running a DNA check - we can't get dental records off her." He paused and looked at them. "Err, sorry. That's probably not the sort of thing you want to be hearing."
Phoenix managed to school his expression into something a little less horrified and said, "No, it's fine. You don't know anything about her?"
"Not much. Real tall - looked like she could take care of herself. We know she was hitting the sauce pretty hard," Gumshoe said.
"The sauce?" Maya asked.
"The sauce," Gumshoe said. "Oh, come on - you know - booze." He looked very disappointed in them both. "Everyone says 'sauce.'"
"Did you ever think it was only just cool detectives who use slang like that?" Maya suggested.
Gumshoe perked up at this considerably. His eyes started to shine, and he grinned widely. "Hey, yeah, maybe!" he agreed cheerfully. "Hey, yeah, that's probably it."
Maya looked at Phoenix, clearly proud of how smooth she was. Phoenix, in spite of himself, had to admit that she was extremely smooth.
"What about the suspect?" Phoenix asked, remembering that earlier weird moment. "What do you know about him?"
"Yeah, that's a good question," Gumshoe said, his good cheer lost again. Maya looked at Phoenix and Phoenix looked at Maya, both of them startled by this sudden turnaround. "Thing is, we haven't been able to find anything about him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean as far as we can tell he doesn't exist," Gumshoe said. "I mean, it's right there on his driver's license, right, pal? 'Christopher Morrow, something-something-something Evergreen-something, Long Beach? I think?' But as far as we can tell there's no such person. We even ran his fingerprints, and notta thing."
"Really?" This certainly sounded like the source of the earlier squirreliness from their client. "Is it possible he's from another state? He was asking what the death penalty is like in this state..."
"Really?" Gumshoe asked, appearing greatly encouraged by Murrow's morbidity and pessimism.
"Uh, well. Could he be from out-of-state?"
Gumshoe shook his head. "California driver's license. Should be registered, but it's not in the databases. You ask me, he sounds like a pretty shady character."
"Yeah," Phoenix agreed, then pulled a face at Maya. "Okay if we check out the crime scene, Detective?"
"Sure thing," said the newly-cheerful detective. "Take your pick of crime scenes: room 718 or the sidewalk below it. And anyone gives you trouble, tell 'em Gumshoe's got your back." And, whistling, he walked off.
"Glad we made his day," Maya said.
"No kidding," Phoenix agreed. "Interesting tidbit about our client, though, huh?"
"Fake driver's license," Maya said. "Pretty illegal to have, right?"
"Pretty illegal, yup," Phoenix said. "Question is, why did he have it?"
"Good question," Maya said.
"And who is he?"
"Another good question," Maya said. "Bet you a dollar we can figure it out no problem at all. Bet we can figure it all out. Where to first?"
Phoenix jerked his head at the elevator. Maya flounced towards it, all energy and cheer, and jabbed at the Up button a couple of times.
Of course, then she saw fit to throw in, "And maybe you can ask him where he got it."
"I choose not to get my license, you know, Maya," Phoenix said.
"Okay," Maya said.
"It's a choice," Phoenix said.
"Sure thing," Maya said.
"I chose to do it," Phoenix said.
"Our elevator's here," Maya said.
"I actively don't want to drive," Phoenix said.
"Okay," said Maya.
"Good," said Phoenix.
April 20, 11:37 AM
"Definitely a guy's room," Maya declared the moment after the detective had allowed them through the crime scene tape.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Phoenix asked.
"Shirts on the bed," she said, pointing to the bed. "Desk's all messy," she said, turning her attention to the bed. Then, pointing to the bathroom: "Toilet's clean."
"A clean toilet is important," Phoenix insisted. "A man gets judged on the basis of his toilet."
"Sure, Nick," Maya said, then went to pick up one of the shirts. "So, whose room do you think it is?"
Phoenix, in turn, went to the suitcase on the floor next to the bed. Penciled in on the airplane name tags was the name Jack Burden, with an address up in San Jose. "Jack Burden's," Phoenix answered.
"Who's Jack Burden?" Maya asked.
Phoenix opened the suitcase. There were a couple of books that looked pretty good, in a trashy detective-novel sort of way. Below them lay a leather wallet. When he opened that, he found sixty dollars, a couple of pictures - a brown-haired woman, a cheerful-looking guy with a hooked nose, and an older couple - and another driver's license, also California, with the name Jack Burden and that same address and their client's picture. Phoenix handed it to Maya.
"Dang, Nick!" Maya crowed. "Nice going!"
"I know," Phoenix said.
"The ID, Maya."
"Oh." She pulled out the ID. "Nice going!" she said, her enthusiasm undampened.
"Now, the question is, is this our guy, or is this just another fake ID?" Phoenix asked. "That's what we have to figure out."
"You are so cool," Maya said. "Also I won that bet."
Hey, now. "I never took that bet."
"I won that bet," she insisted. "You owe me a dollar."
"I don't owe you anything."
"C'mon, Nick, it's just a dollar, why are you so stuck on it?"
The real question was, why was she so stuck on it? Phoenix made a face at her. "Let's just look out at the balcony."
The view from the balcony showed a very, very long path down to the ground. Phoenix had never been especially good with heights. The strong wind right then didn't really help much. The big bloodstain on the ground down there didn't help, either.
"How about you go ahead and look," Phoenix invited her.
"Scaredy-cat," Maya accused.
"Yes," Phoenix said. "Absolutely yes."
Maya grinned and leaned out a long way over the railing. It came up to about chest height for her - maybe four feet high, then? Maybe a little more? Anyway, it didn't seem like someone could fall over it accidentally. Not that that was much comfort to Phoenix, who practically had to hold himself back from reaching out and grabbing Maya as she leaned out a little further.
"Ooh, I see something!" Maya called back. "I mean, besides our office."
"You can see our office?"
"It's pretty cool. C'mon, take a look."
"Here - " She pulled back from the railing, then squatted down and reached out through the bars. It took a moment as she fished around and then gingerly pulled a piece of cloth back through.
"Lookit this," she said. It looked to be silk, best Phoenix could tell (though admittedly he wasn't really up with his fabrics). It was torn around the edges. "Snagged on a bit of decoration," she said. "Maybe it came off the victim?"
"Could be," Phoenix agreed. Gumshoe had said she seemed stylish, and this certainly looked like a stylish fabric. Though again, he was far from an expert. "Anything else?"
"Nope. Nothing I see." Maya grinned devilishly. "Wanna take a look?"
"I trust you," Phoenix said.
Maya grinned more devilishly still. "Reallllly?"
"Uh, just...not a whole lot," he muttered, then cleared his throat. "We should probably go check out where she fell..."
"Which way do you want to go?" Maya asked evilly, approaching the railing.
"You wanna go that way, I'll meet you down there," Phoenix grumbled.
Maya looked down, tilted her head to the side, and then agreed, "Yeah, I'll take the elevator too."
April 20, 11:50 AM
Outside the Gatewater Hotel
They ran into Gumshoe on the way out. Maybe it was because the detective could be so helpful at times, or maybe it was just that he was basically starving and could use all the help he could get at his performance reviews, but Phoenix decided to take mercy.
"Hey, Gumshoe," he said.
"Hey, pal," said Gumshoe.
"Found this up in room 718," Phoenix said, showing Gumshoe the wallet. "Says his name is Jack Burden, from San Jose."
"Hey!" Gumshoe grabbed it happily, then looked up and clapped Phoenix on the shoulder. "You know, sometimes you can be an okay guy, you know that, pal?"
Phoenix grinned. "You too, you know. Every once in a while you're pretty nice."
"I believe that's what's referred to as 'damning with faint praise' in most circles, Detective, Wright," came Edgeworth's voice, and Phoenix looked over to see him walking up to them. Maya looked as impressed as Phoenix felt by Edgeworth's dramatic entrance. (This left, however, the question of how Edgeworth had managed so dramatic an entrance. Phoenix decided the only way it was possible was that Edgeworth had hid in the bushes until the most opportune moment. This, for some reason, struck him as enormously funny, and he sort of snickered to himself and consequently got a very strange look when Edgeworth extended his hand to Phoenix to shake.)
"So, you're prosecuting, Mr. Edgeworth?" Maya asked.
"I am," he confirmed. "And you're defending the client, I suppose, Wright?"
"Yup." Come to think of it, it would be the first time they faced each other in court since Edgeworth had taken up residence in the States again, a few months after the trial with Iris and Dahlia and Godot and everyone. Phoenix had suggested that perhaps Edgeworth had been enticed back by the awesomeness of serving as a defense attorney. Edgeworth hadn't been very amused by this funny joke.
Still, maybe this would go well. Maybe Edgeworth, knowing now how much it was that he suffered, would take pity on Phoenix.
This, too, was a funny joke.
"Detective, you seem to have something to say," Edgeworth was saying wearily.
Gumshoe was bouncing around on the balls of his feet and waving the driver's license excitably and now almost jumped into the air from joy. "Sure do, pal!" he crowed. "You'll be glad to hear that it looks like we got a real name for our suspect."
"I am glad to hear it," Edgeworth replied coolly. "I don't suppose you've been able to work the same miracle for our victim."
"Um," said Gumshoe, a bit less cheerful. "Err, I'm afraid not." He cast his mournful eyes at Phoenix. "Were you?"
Edgeworth turned to Phoenix, his expression deliberately surprised. "This was your information, Wright?" he asked. "I never thought I'd see the day in which you'd actually cooperate with an investigation rather than hindering it."
"Yeah, yeah, live it up, Edgeworth," Phoenix jeered (mostly) good-naturedly.
"Nick's always helpful," Maya said.
"Hear that?" he asked. "I'm always helpful."
"Ah," Edgeworth said. "I apologize for such a gross misinterpretation of your past actions. Detective, thank you for your hard work. I'd like a full report on the suspect as soon as you're able."
"I'm on it, sir," Gumshoe said, and ran off. Edgeworth turned back towards Phoenix with a sigh. Now that Phoenix was noticing, he didn't look his best - he was even paler than usual, his eyes even more shadowed.
"You okay there?"
"Hm?" Edgeworth inclined his head slightly.
"I asked if you were okay."
"Oh." Edgeworth blinked, then shook his head. "I beg your pardon, Wright," he said stiffly. "I'm fine."
"You look tired, Mr. Edgeworth," said Maya.
And Maya got a slight smile from the old crab, of course. "I suppose I am, a bit. The District Attorney is up for re-election, so he's been working furiously to ensure that we clear as many cases as possible in the next few weeks. I'm in the middle of three cases right now, and this one - It goes to trial tomorrow, and well - you can see for yourself the state of our preparations."
"Yeah," Phoenix admitted. "It's not the most together I've seen you guys."
"It's not the most together we've been," Edgeworth responded without rancor (and didn't that just say the most of all, that he didn't have the energy for some good old-fashioned rancor). "We still don't even know the victim's name, and it's only thanks to you that we know anything at all about Mr. - "
"There you are. Thank you." Edgeworth eyed Phoenix. "It doesn't make you at all nervous that your client has been operating under an alias?"
Nervous? Hell yes it did. There was a lot that was making him nervous about this case. The fact that the victim had fallen from what appeared to have been his client's room, and the fact that their client neglected to mention that, and the fact that their client was keeping so many secrets to begin with. And those constant warnings about how grim this case was - that was pretty nerve-wracking, too.
But at the same time, Murrow-or-Burden-or-whatever had trusted them enough to revise his estimation down to life imprisonment.
Actually, that wasn't all that great.
"I choose to think of it as him deciding that we're so good that he needs to throw more obstacles in our way," Phoenix grinned. Edgeworth looked at him like he had just poured milk in a cup of super-expensive imported tips-only fermented-and-aged-for-forty-years tea. (He'd made that mistake once. Once. Not, of course, that Edgeworth was going to afford him a second opportunity - every time since, he'd been served Lipton. That he couldn't tell the difference was a secret he was going to take to the grave.)
"The crime of which he stands accused is nothing to sneeze at, you know," Edgeworth was saying. "And I spoke to him. He seems an intelligent man. He hardly seems the sort who would be under any illusions that he could escape what he's done by hiding behind an alias. The question therefore becomes, what crime is it that he's trying to hide?"
"Maybe it's not a crime," Phoenix pointed out. "There are other reasons to stay incognito."
"Enlighten me," Edgeworth invited.
Phoenix was sort of drawing a blank. Maya decided to help. "Maybe he's a really big movie star, and doesn't want to have to deal with all his fans."
Edgeworth frowned but actually said, "I suppose that's a possibility..."
"What?" How come he got the you-boor stare but Maya got polite consideration? "No it's not! Wouldn't we recognize him? Or at least recognize his name?"
"Well, I'm not exactly current with the movie stars of the day, Wright," Edgeworth said, but at least he had the good grace to look sort of embarrassed. "In any case, a lack of superstardom spells no good things for your client."
"Yeah," Phoenix agreed. "I know. I - " A phone had started ringing, and since it wasn't the Steel Samurai theme, he knew it wasn't either of theirs. Edgeworth twitched his head apologetically and picked up.
"Edgeworth here," was his terse greeting. A pause. "Two?" Another pause. "And the name?" Pause. "Anything else?" Pause. "Well, I'd like to meet with them as soon as possible." He hung up without so much as a good-bye. Edgeworth was such a professional.
He turned towards Phoenix and said, "Annie Doggett."
Phoenix waited a moment, and then he got it. "The victim?"
"Every once in a while," said Edgeworth, "I too can be a pretty nice guy."
"Every once in a while," Phoenix agreed. "How'd you find out?"
The slightly condescending and slightly triumphant expression on Edgeworth's face fell away into something that was just kind of peevish. "I should think that would have been..." he started, then sighed and said, "There were two others who came to the party with her."
"What were their names?"
That peevish expression became out-and-out annoyed. "I'll see you in court, Wright," he said, and turned on his heel.
"I mean, if you really wanna be a nice guy," Phoenix called, but by that point he was already gone.
"It was worth a try." Maya clapped Phoenix on the shoulder. "What say you we check out the scene and then go and beat a confession out of our client?"
April 20, 2:09 AM
The sidewalk had been pretty well picked-over - all there was to find was a very large bloodstain and a number of detectives scrubbing at it. So they hadn't waited long to return to the detention center, to confront the man who until recently had been Christopher Murrow.
Phoenix settled down in the chair opposite the man. "Mr. Burden," he greeted.
"Yes," said Mr. Burden.
Phoenix handed him some deliberate silence.
"Yes?" repeated Mr. Burden, slightly less patient. Then he blinked and his dark eyes flickered and he said, "Oh," and then added in a, "Goddammit."
"Anything else you're hiding?" Phoenix asked impressively (if he did say so himself).
Burden was still off-balance from that earlier blow, so when he offered "Storied past as a movie star?" his voice was sort of snivelly and apologetic when, just a few hours before, it would have been totally monotone except for a slight ironic curl.
Phoenix ignored Maya's excitable, irony-immune pinch on his arm. "Tell me about yourself. You're from San Jose."
"Yes," said Burden warily.
"What are you in town for?"
"The, um - " He cleared his throat. "There was a fundraiser..."
"Supporting the mayor of a city half a state away," said Phoenix. "You felt that strongly?"
Jack had regained his feet to some extent. "I liked him when he ran for governor," he said, almost as coolly as before (but still with a slight apologetic smile). "I liked his condescension and self-important speeches. These sorts of things win me over for life. I can get very passionate."
Phoenix stared at Jack, hoping he'd wilt a bit. He didn't, really; he just stared with his sad eyes and his bored face and finally repeated, "I can get very passionate."
Well, Phoenix's intimidating gaze wasn't working. Maybe if he had some idea of what Jack had been doing there, he could bully out a confession, but unfortunately that was a mystery yet unsolved.
"So, uh, what do you do?" he asked, for lack of anything else. "For a living, I mean."
Jack went kind of shifty.
"C'mon, I thought you promised not to waste Nick's time," Maya said.
"I did," he allowed. "But this is more..." Unfortunately, at that moment he shut his mouth with an almost-audible snap and said no more on that particular subject. "I work for the San Jose Gazette," he said.
Maya clapped her hands together. "You're a reporter!"
Jack shrugged. "Yeah."
"Well, that explains it, doesn't it?" she asked, delighted. "The fake name and all. It was his cover for his story. Ooh, I bet you were uncovering corruption at the deepest levels and all that. Right?"
"Let's say yes," said Jack, which was not the most promising phrase Phoenix had ever heard out of a client.
"So what were you doing there?" said Phoenix. "Was it for a story?"
"I need to know this."
Jack still said nothing.
"Mr. Burden," Maya said softly. He looked at her, and shrugged, and closed his tired eyes.
Phoenix examined his client. The question Do you want me to drop this case - It wasn't exactly on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't deny that it was floating somewhere around his dangly-at-the-back-of-the-throat-thing. But at the same time, he was afraid that Burden would reply Yes. Whether it was that Phoenix was a dogged pursuer of truth or just that he felt sorry for Jack and the way the guy looked perpetually ready to burst into tears, he couldn't bring himself to abandon the case.
"What kind of reporter are you, then?" Phoenix asked.
Jack opened his eyes, then closed them again. "A poor one," he replied warily.
"That's okay," Maya said. "Nick's a poor lawyer."
"She means money-wise. Like, do you do weather, or...?"
There was another cautious pause, and then Jack admitted, "It's the standard stuff, mostly. House fires, school board elections, that sort of thing. Whatever I get assigned."
"Was this an assignment?" Jack was silent. "I can call your newspaper to find out, you know."
"No," said Jack. "It was my own thing."
Phoenix frowned. "You're gonna have to tell me what that is. The prosecution's gonna find out and hit me with it - " Assuming the prosecution didn't fall asleep standing up in court tomorrow. "And that won't be good for either of us."
"Yes," Jack said softly, then performed the kindness of actually sitting up and opening his eyes. "Listen, I appreciate you working as my attorney, Mr. Wright. And I appreciate you being so dogged about the pursuit of truth and all. And I'm sorry that I'm not forthcoming." He took a breath. "Thing is, this goes beyond this trial. This goes beyond me, you have to understand, and I have to keep it to myself." He paused. "I really am sorry. I really am. But I have to stay quiet."
Phoenix scowled as impressively as he could, but Burden was unimpressed. "Why?" he finally asked.
"I'm sorry," Burden said again, and proceeded to, at great length, say nothing more.