Phoenix and Maya were about to leave through the glass double doors of the courthouse when Edgeworth called out,
"Wright, have you got a minute?"
Phoenix turned to face the prosecutor, who seemed to have an awful lot of things to carry today - he had court records tucked under one arm, a coat draped over the other, a plastic box in one hand and in the other was his briefcase, car keys dangling from one gloved finger.
"Need a hand with something?" Phoenix asked, giving his own court records to Maya to hold.
"Not specifically," Edgeworth shifted uncomfortably. "Do you have a back garden?" he mumbled.
Maya and Phoenix exchanged glances, confronted by this unexpected question.
"Ahh, well, it's not much of a garden," Phoenix smiled sheepishly, scratching the back of his head, "but it's got, you know, grass and stuff-" he jerked back from the plastic container thrust in his face.
"PLEASE," Edgeworth's face, visible through the other side of the plastic container, had a haunted look about it and he sounded on the verge of a breakdown, "take this creature and give it a good home for a while. Would you?" this last question had a hopeful tone to it.
In the container was a little turtle, happily chomping away at a lettuce leaf, but Phoenix was staring at it like it had grown two heads.
"Aw, it's cute!" Maya was eye to eye with the turtle, watching it eat. "It's hungry like me!"
"Where did it come from and why can't you keep it?" Phoenix was suspicious, for Edgeworth was not a man who asked favours, and he seemed all too keen to offload this turtle of his.
Edgeworth wouldn't look him in the eye. Keeping his gaze cast to one side, he mumbled something about it being his aunt's to look after for a month while she was on a cruise, and that he couldn't keep it because of his dog.
"Well, why ask me of all people to look after it?" Phoenix pressed him. "I can barely afford to feed myself, never mind a turtle!"
"It'll eat leftovers," Edgeworth said quickly.
"I can feed it the lettuce out of my burgers!" Maya squeed excitedly, looking up at Phoenix with shining eyes. "We should help out Mr. Edgeworth, Nick! We'll take it," she said to Edgeworth, who passed the box to her as if it were a hot potato, a relieved expression on his face.
"Well, all the best," Edgeworth said, nodding to lawyer and assistant. "There's instructions in the box on how to care for it." Then he was out the door at a 100kph powerwalk.
Phoenix shook himself, a little bewildered by the swift encounter, then he rounded on Maya.
"Now look what you've done! How the heck are we supposed to look after that thing for a month?"
"Well, there's instructions in the box, aren't there?" Maya held the container up to the light, searching for the bit of paper.
"Nothing but lettuce and a turtle in there," Phoenix said, looking too. "Maybe it ate them?"
"To the library!" Maya said dramatically, pointing at the double doors.
"Are turtles meant to have red eyes?" Phoenix scratched his chin thoughtfully as he followed Maya out.
The library had no turtle books, but Maya hopped onto the public internet point and soon she had a notebook full of information on turtle care.
"When we get back we can get him out and have a look at him," she said, nose in notebook as they walked back along the main street. "This site I found tells you how to identify what type of turtle he is and stuff," Maya rambled on - she'd become a fully fledged turtle geek.
Phoenix sighed, looking at the turtle again. It had almost finished its lettuce.
"Let's go to the grocer's," he said. "Buying a ball of lettuce for it would be cheaper than buying you a burger."
Maya pouted. "What if Mr. Turtle likes burger lettuce better?" she humphed.
Back at his house Phoenix found a few bits of broken fence at the bottom of the garden and constructed a crude turtle enclosure, nailing a plastic folder over one corner to provide shelter from the weather.
"Turtle Hotel is ready!" he called to Maya, who was in the kitchen washing the lettuce.
"Looks more like a Turtle Youth Hostel to me," she said blithely, entering the garden with a bowl of lettuce in one hand and turtle box in the other.
Having had his DIY efforts insulted Phoenix sulked in the kitchen, brewing tea, while Maya artistically arranged bits of lettuce around the enclosure.
"So, Mr. Turtle," she said to it, as she undid the container catch and gently lifted it out, "it's time to check out your holiday home!"
"It's got a really long neck," Phoenix commented, handing Maya a cup of tea. "Do you know what breed it is yet?"
"I couldn't find a description that matched it," Maya flicked through her notebook again. "Maybe it's rare?"
"We can always go back to the library," Phoenix picked up a bit of lettuce, offering it to the turtle.
"YARGH!" Phoenix yelped, pulling his hand back, but the turtle's jaws tightened on his finger and he couldn't get it free. "Maya! MAYA! Make it let go!"
Maya dropped her notebook and grabbed the turtle around the middle, trying to pull it away, but it kept its mouth clamped on Phoenix's finger, causing him to shout some colourful swearwords which Maya was telling him off for at the same time as tapping the turtle on the head with her pen. With that, the turtle let go of Phoenix's finger, whipping its long neck around to bite Maya's pen, snapping it in half.
"Yikes!" Maya backed away from the enclosure. Phoenix was already on the opposite side of the garden, nursing his finger. "That was a good pen, too!"
"Never mind your pen, I'm BLEEDING!" Phoenix wailed, and he wasn't exaggerating — the turtle's jaws had crushed his finger hard enough to break the skin, and blood was coursing down his hand. "That thing's vicious!"
"You were bothering him with the lettuce," Maya retorted, but she went inside to fetch him a plaster.
"I'm going to have words with that prosecutor," Phoenix declared, trying to staunch the blood flow long enough to apply the plaster. "I was right to be suspicious about his reasons for offloading that turtle on us. There's got to be more to his story."
"Agadoo, doo, doo," Phoenix sang along to the radio as he buttered his toast. It was early in the morning but the summer had really taken hold this year and he had the back door propped open to allow the air to circulate through the house. "Push pineapple shake a tree." He looked out the window at the turtle enclosure and his face turned dark.
"You're going back to Edgeworth, Mr. Turtle," he muttered. "Maya's not around to defend you right now, so this is my chance!" Well, Maya was around, but she was fast asleep in Phoenix's spare room and unlikely to rise for another few hours. Long enough to remove Mr. Turtle from the vicinity at any rate. He took a bite out of his toast, and was about to turn to get the milk out of the fridge when he realised that there was something that looked wrong about the turtle enclosure.
"Wait a sec… the wall's fallen down!" Phoenix made for the back door, his slippered foot tripping over something that wasn't meant to be there. He went flying, hitting the tiled kitchen floor with a jarring thud, and the thing he'd tripped on skidded forward, rebounding off the wall to come to a rest in front of him. He lifted his head up off the floor, seeing a pair of reptilian red eyes in front of him-
"Dat creadjur has do go, or I'll durn id indo soup, I swear do God!" Phoenix said bitterly, wincing as the A&E nurse injected local anaesthetic into the side of his face in preparation for stitching. He had a blood-soaked cloth clamped to the middle of his face that made his speech difficult to understand. "Id's oud do ged me!"
"Well, you did trip over him," Maya pointed out sleepily, rubbing her eyes. She'd been roused by Phoenix's anguished yells and had managed to remove Mr. Turtle from Phoenix's nose, but not before the chelonian had ripped out a sizeable chunk of flesh. Stopping the bleeding had been difficult and Maya decided that it needed stitching, so here they were waiting for treatment.
"I dripped over id, yes, bud id bloody mudilated me!" Phoenix snapped. "Id shouldn'd've even been in de kidchen in de firsd plade! You know how id god in dere? Id bulldozed one side of de enclosure! Knogged id flad — I'm delling you, id's oud do ged me. Dis is some rodden joke of Edgeword's and I'm going do ged do de boddom of id!" he raved.
"You say a turtle did this?" the nurse was stitching away at the gash in Phoenix's nose. "Sounds like no ordinary turtle to me."
"IT'S A TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE!" Maya burst out, the reason for the turtle's behaviour suddenly clear. "Teenage, it snaps, mutant, it's got red eyes, ninja, it can sneak into Nick's kitchen, turtle, 'cause it's a turtle! See?"
Phoenix gave her a withering look.
"Aw, but I love that show," Maya's eyes suddenly brightened up with the arrival of an idea. "We could rename him Donatello!"
"MAYA!" Phoenix despaired. "We're going do find Edgeword afder dis and find oud whad he's playing ad."
"Mr. Edgeworth's not here today," the bailiff said, turning over a page of his newspaper. "He's at the vet's with his dog — something bit it. Or something. He was all in a rush and didn't tell me much."
Maya and Phoenix exchanged dubious glances, then headed back to the taxi rank.
"How do we find him, then?" Maya asked as they hopped in a cab.
"There's only one vet hospital in this area," Phoenix explained, giving directions to the driver. "He's got to be there." He tentatively touched the stitches on his nose — his face felt thick and puffy from the anaesthetic and the stitches prickled his fingers.
"We can't really give the turtle back, though, can we?" Maya said, looking out the window at the houses whizzing past. "Mr. Edgeworth looked at his wit's end when he gave it to us in the first place. I mean, it looks like his dog's been a victim too!"
"That turtle's scarred me for life, Maya," Phoenix was resolute. "I don't mind doing favours but this is way beyond the call of duty! Edgeworth knew that thing was dangerous — he could've at least warned me. He's got plenty of contacts, I'm sure he'll be able to find someone professionally qualified to deal with that turtle — I think he just left it with us because it was easier for him."
Edgeworth was pacing up and down in the vet hospital carpark, looking very tired, and his face fell as Phoenix and Maya jumped out of the taxi and hurried towards him. As Phoenix got closer and Edgeworth caught sight of the stitches on his face the prosecutor's face went pale.
"God, it got you too," Edgeworth said in a whisper. "You want to give it back to me, don't you?" his voice was dull, weary.
"Damn right it got me," Phoenix began, but the prosecutor looked so worried that he trailed off, finding that suddenly he didn't have the heart to berate Edgeworth. They were in the same boat, really. There was an awkward silence.
"What happened to your dog?" Maya broke in.
"The turtle," Edgeworth took off his driving gloves to reveal bandaged fingers. "It's a Californian Snapping Turtle, to be more exact. It escaped and Pess got too close — he's in the operating theatre," he tilted his head in the direction of the vet's hospital. "The bite went septic. He's… very sick," Phoenix could see the fear fleet across Edgeworth's face and the prosecutor turned away, trying to get himself back under control again.
"I'm sorry to hear about Pess," he said. "I can see why you couldn't keep it, but honestly, what possessed you to offload the thing onto us? It belongs under lock and key in a zoo so it can't harm anybody else!"
"Ah…" Edgeworth looked at the busy motorway heading back into town, then turned to face Phoenix again. He looked ashamed. "Well, you see, I thought Maya might be able to tame it. It's been with my aunt for 40 years and it apparently doesn't like men."
"Great," Phoenix looked heavenwards, counted to three, but deliverance was not forthcoming. "A feminist turtle. You and I were doomed from the start."
"Well, I can get him-"
"It's a her," Edgeworth corrected Maya.
"It's a GIRL?!" Phoenix's jaw dropped open.
"I can get her to let go of people that she's bitten, but stopping her grabbing hold of them in the first place is kinda difficult," Maya said.
"They're a tough breed — once they bite they won't let go. The females are worse for that. That's why you need to keep your distance. The adage that pets are like their owners is true; my aunt keeps it because cats and dogs are frightened of her. She's a formidable woman," Edgeworth shuddered.
"Can't the zoo take it? Or the Berry Big Circus? It's psychotic enough, Regina would love it," Phoenix suggested.
"The zoo didn't have anywhere suitable to put it, and the circus moved on a few days ago. You were my last resort, Wright," Edgeworth sighed. "I'm not sure what else to do - I can't very well abandon the creature, it wouldn't be ethical and my aunt is returning in a month to collect it."
"Why did you accept it in the first place?" Maya asked curiously.
"It wasn't a matter of choice," Edgeworth said darkly, surveying his bandaged fingers. "You don't say no to my aunt if you value the integrity of your eardrums. I've had the animal for a week and I've bites all over because the damn thing kept escaping."
"There must be somewhere for it to go," Phoenix insisted.
There was a long silence as the three of them ruminated, trying to come up with a solution.
"There's one option," Maya said, "but it'd be…a little cruel."
"Crueller than soup?" Phoenix asked.
"Let's hear it then," Edgeworth gestured for her to continue.
Maya explained her idea. The two lawyers looked at each other and nodded.
"That's not cruel!" Phoenix exclaimed. "Urm, not to the turtle at least — it'd be well looked after for certain!"
He turned to speak to Edgeworth, but the prosecutor was at the door of the vet hospital, talking to a nurse. The nurse went back inside and Edgeworth returned with a relieved expression on his face.
"Pess is going to be okay," he inclined his head to Maya. "We'll try your plan — I think it's the only option left to us now."
On a leafy avenue in the posher part of town stood an elegant cream-coloured detached house. Its three storeys towered over an immaculate garden alongside a shrub-lined driveway. One of the bushes rustled and a head popped out, face blackened with charcoal. Maya ducked back down again.
"It's all quiet, ready to go?" she whispered.
"I still think these ridiculous getups are unnecessary," Edgeworth said distastefully through his black mask, picking at the dark sweatshirt Phoenix had lent him and holding up the red inflatable guitar. His face was also smudged with charcoal.
"It's a ninja disguise!" Maya said, saluting. "Nobody sees or hears us, know what I mean?"
"She means it'll stop us being recognized — if we get caught we'll have a lot of explaining to do," Phoenix translated.
Edgeworth made a grumbling noise but raised no further objections.
"Okay, go go go!" Maya said, ushering the pair of them out of the bush.
Keeping low, Phoenix and Edgeworth migrated from shrub to rockery to bird bath across the garden. The front door and its stained glass panellings were in sight.
"Okay," Phoenix muttered, "you get the doorbell and I'll deposit the box, then we run like hell. Ready?"
Edgeworth nodded, then the two of them broke free of the cover, running towards the front door armed with their inflatable guitars.
WOOP WOOP WOOP
Floodlights lit up the garden and klaxons blared — the two lawyer-ninjas froze in the lamplights, caught red guitar-handed.
"A security system!" Edgeworth hissed.
"We can't get caught now!' Phoenix shouted, diving for the door and depositing the box on the doorstep. "RUN!"
As the pair belted across the garden the front door opened and the occupier stood there in his nightshirt, unable to believe his eyes.
"Oh my, it's the Jammin' Ninja!" he cried. "Wait, two Jammin' Ninjas — no, that can't be right. Hoy! Stop! Intruders!"
But the ninjas and their red guitars disappeared into the night. He looked down, seeing a box on the doorstep labelled "Please look after me, my name is Donatello."
"Oh-ho! What have we here?"
TWO WEEKS LATER
"Er, you look a bit…battle-scarred, Your Honour," Phoenix said casually, self-consciously bringing a hand up to his own face to hide the thin white scar across his nose.
"Oh-ho!' the judge said jollily, proudly displaying his bandaged fingers and pointing at the plasters on his face. "Would you believe a pair of Jammin' Ninjas came in the night and left behind a turtle, of all things, in their rush to escape! I took the little fellow in, seeing as he'd been abandoned, poor chap — I think the experience has left him a little traumatised because he likes to nip, bless him. His name is Donatello, I wonder where that name came from… and just who were those ninjas?"
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