The only part of Struggling Against Gravity that I found wholly unamusing was the play Phoenix and Edgeworth were getting ready to see when Edgeworth's appendix exploded. There is literally no playwright I can't stand more than Samuel Beckett, and no play I despise more.
Anyway, I'm planning to continue this as another story… hope you enjoyed, and à bientôt!
Chapter 8: A New Complication
It was with no small amount of relief that I watched the hospital fade into the distance, in the rearview mirror. Edgeworth saw me watching, and while he naturally had the restraint not to comment, the look on his face was unmistakable.
I cleared my throat, wanting more than anything for both of us to forget public health services for a very long time. "So, thanks again for giving me a ride home, Edgeworth."
"What was I supposed to do, Wright? Let you take the bus?" But his voice was quiet and wry, not sarcastic, as it so often had been in the past.
For me the past three days had been a flurry of confusion and frustration; my doctor had forced me to stick around in the hospital until they could make sure my concussion wasn't more serious than anticipated. They'd reluctantly released me with strict orders to take it easy, which I fully intended to disobey.
Meanwhile, I'd been forced to watch the grand finale of the trial against Mike Carlson on the television - fortunately it had been so dramatic that someone from the local programming channel had found it interested them to tape the entire thing. Edgeworth, of course, had been superb. Objection after objection, he'd led Jones into questioning Nina about the actual murder itself, until the judge had ordered either the prosecution or the defense to produce a more useful witness. Edgeworth had obliged with Maya, who promptly and cheerfully channeled an immensely helpful Edith Carlson.
It had obviously been a landslide victory from that point. Once the judge (and the court audience) had been convinced that Edith was real, her testimony of Mike's attack on her, and her subsequent explanation of Mike actually owning the cabin that he'd claimed to rent, had entirely turned the tables against her husband. Nina was called one last time, to testify that she'd left the cabin and stayed in a broken-down shack formerly owned by a boat caretaker, inhabited only by a parrot (Edgeworth's expression had been indescribable), and the case was decided.
I watched wistfully, wishing I was there, as Nina (reminding everyone of a certain Ms. Andrews) ran to the prosecution's bench and threw her arms around Edgeworth. General laughter had been the audience's response, then applause, as he awkwardly patted her back and smiled, confetti raining from behind the bench.
Meanwhile, I'd made a few calls and reassigned my next two cases, asking a favor from a friend of mine who was also a skilled defense attorney. I would have felt more guilty about it, did I not know that his primary talent was in ascertaining the truth behind the case, and winning or losing accordingly.
The earthquake had left the city in a state of uproar, though the only building that had sustained any serious damage, of course, had been the police building. Everyone being held in the detention centre had been transferred to county holding cells nearby; most of the detectives in the homicide division were either working from home or had been given temporary desks in the same county police building their criminals were inhabiting. The same held for most of the state prosecutors; with the exception of the High Prosecutor, who, with his usual ability to control everyone in the office, had managed to have everything from his quarters transferred straight back to his apartment's office.
"Fools," the High Prosecutor himself muttered aloud, startling me out of my reverie. I followed his gaze, though it wasn't hard to tell what he was looking at. A mass of people, the majority of them reporters, was making its way down the courthouse steps. At the centre, a knot swirled around three or four people, clearly leaving the courthouse after a momentous trial.
I was just beginning to wonder whose case it was (I hadn't seen anything on the local court channel about a large trial), when I realized what day it was. My heart practically stopped as I saw the defendant, his leonine thatch of white hair held uncaringly above the crowd, belying the shoulders held stiff against handcuffs.
"Edgeworth, you're…" I gasped, and he looked at me sharply. If the trial had started today, then why… "I thought you were prosecuting his case!"
His face utterly closed, like the locking of a safe, and I felt a sudden fear clutch me. "So did I," he responded bitterly, guiding the sports car past the crowd, which had spilled out onto the street, and almost running a red light trying to get us away from the crush. Once we'd pulled onto an almost-deserted side street, he finally let out a breath of irritation. "Yes, I thought I was prosecuting that case, too. Until someone else stepped in."
"Who?" I demanded, without thinking.
Edgeworth was silent for a moment; it was really almost none of my business, but I was already too personally wrapped up in Diego Armando's future to really care about court protocol. Finally, he answered, "She thought you were going to be defending, so she flew in. I managed to keep myself clear of the courthouse today: apparently she had a minor aneurysm when you weren't there. The judge is still recovering in his chambers."
My eyes flew wide, and I shuddered. "Oh, my God! Franziska von Karma?"
Now I saw it: Edgeworth's mouth was twitching as he tried to repress a smile. "Yes, Wright. That's why the trial has been postponed, and that crowd is outside the courthouse. Didn't you see her?"
I shook my head. My eyes had been only for one person. "So… what happens now? Do you think she'll finish out the prosecution?" Then something occurred to me. "Wait just a minute! What gave her the impression I'd be the defense attorney for the case?!"
Edgeworth suddenly stopped the car, yanking up the parking brake abruptly; we were in front of the building that housed Wright & Co. "Because, Wright," he said evenly, "she looked over the case files that I'd sent her, asking for advice, and thought you'd be irrevocably drawn into the case somehow. Like her or fear her, Franziska is a talented judge of character. Beyond that, yesterday Maya called Jeffrey Lowles, Armando's attorney, and asked if there was any way your office could help. Franziska felt beyond a doubt that she'd be facing you in court today, and demanded that I give over the case."
I groaned and put my head in my hand. Maya had done what? "Lowles, in a delightful twist of irony," Edgeworth added, "is now in the hospital, recovering from Franziska's wrath, though I hear it's doubtful he'll be in court tomorrow."
"How does she get away with that?" I demanded, raising my head to look at him.
Caught off guard, Edgeworth snorted faintly, and smiled. "I'm not sure. Fear is a powerful ally, you know." He looked up at the building. "Come up into your office for a minute, Wright. There's something you should see."
I managed to struggle out of the car - the ankle I'd twisted still ached, but I'd promptly left the cane the doctors had pressed on me sitting against the hospital's front façade - and up two flights of stairs, without incident. My ring of keys for the office were presumably with Maya right now, so I pulled out my wallet and used my extra key to unlock the office door.
A faint hope sprang up as the door opened before me; maybe Maya and Pearls would be here, waiting to greet me. Perhaps that's why Edgeworth had brought me here first…
But the small office was silent, if completely spick-and-span. Edgeworth didn't wait for me, but breezed through the sitting room where Maya usually reigned as queen, and into my office. Lights were turning on as I followed him; I noticed that the plant in the corner was still alive, obviously thanks to Maya's attentions.
Several files were arranged neatly on my desk. Edgeworth picked up the very last, at the bottom of the stack, and handed it to me. Taking it one-handed (my left was in a sling and would be for some time), I took a deep breath. Armando, D. said the label at the top.
"I knew you wanted to take this case," he said quietly. I opened the file, shocked, barely seeing its contents; I knew them all by heart, anyway. "Everyone knew, really. And until now it simply wasn't possible for you to take it. Even though the laws of the courtroom didn't specifically prevent it, your reputation was such that everyone in the prosecutor's office knew you wouldn't be able to take the case. But even before Franziska arrived, Lowles had clearly bungled the investigation beyond repair. The judge was desperate to find someone else who could properly defend such a notorious client, but couldn't do anything about it." Edgeworth paused, and put his hand on my shoulder, almost hesitantly. "Now he can. He demanded the case files from Lowles… and sent them here."
A sudden jubilance ripped through me, a vision of Mia's face tempered only slightly by memories of a whip slashing through the air at me. "So I can…" I choked. "But Edgeworth, everyone knows I have to lose! They know I can't properly defend him!"
He smiled ruefully. "Yes. The judge knows it: what's more, the prosecution knows it, and that's one reason you're perfect for the job. You'll do your damndest in this case despite the fact that you and your defendant both already know the outcome… whereas other attorneys wouldn't even bother putting up a fight."
I stared at the file in my hand, letting it fall closed, and set it back on the desk. "The press is going to have a field day."
"Yes," he answered, unconcernedly. There was a pause. "Wright, you can say no. It will be reassigned."
I looked at him in horror. He nodded, satisfied. "I thought not. Well… you can start on it tonight, or wait until the morning. Trial starts at eleven a.m. in District Courtroom 3."
I shook my head, still unable to believe that the only case I'd ever wanted and had been denied was now sitting on my desk, ready for my defense. One last thought occurred to me. "I wonder if it bothers Franziska that it won't be anything of a challenge to beat me."
"On the contrary," he answered darkly. "To the best of my knowledge, she considers this to be your penultimate challenge."
I finally couldn't contain myself anymore, and laughed out loud, until tears came to my eyes. Sitting down in my desk chair, I said, "Well, since I'm destined to lose, at least she won't whip me into unconsciousness again."
"No, I think this may end her morbid fascination with defeating you, Wright," he admitted, delicately perching on the edge of my desk.
There was a long silence; I felt irrationally satisfied, in a way that I hadn't for a long time. I looked up at him; "Did you influence the judge in my favor?"
Unashamedly, he shrugged. "Perhaps."
A sudden memory struck me once more: Edgeworth, miserably curled into a ball next to me in the stairwell, both of us covered in grime and leaning on one another for support. His eyes were clear now, fixed on me, and even back to his normal self, there seemed to be some layer of reserve missing. "Thank you," I said simply, and laid my hand over his.
He had the composure to briefly look embarrassed, and as if he wanted to remove his hand from my touch; but awkwardly he reached out and touched my face. "It… it was my pleasure."
Feeling as if everything were right with the world, I finally stood, irrationally wanting to slide an arm around his waist, yet knowing in my heart that it would satisfy both of us more to wait until later. "Come on. Do you think Maya and Pearls have finished doing whatever it is they're doing to welcome me home yet?"
He closed his eyes and turned his face heavenwards. "One can only hope, Wright." There was a hint of a smile in his voice, and as we left the office I fancied that his eyes were ahead of me, making sure I didn't trip.