It was a dark, moonless night blanketed with the fog of an early spring. Muffled streetlights cast their orange glow over wet sidewalks, where quiet figures scuffled through the gloom. The sounds of cars echoed from the streets, their headlights flaring their way through the surrounding haze. The dull cacophony of a city at night drifted into the sky; to the outside world, it was a bustling scene.
But to a particular shadowy room, it was but a silent light show. At least, until the phone rang.
A hand reached out, plucking the receiver from its stand. "Hello?"
"It is done, then?"
"As commanded, sir."
"Alea iacta est... Audentes fortuna iuvat, tamen. See to the rest."
"Sanguis mutare iustitia."
With a quiet click, the hand set the receiver back down. The lights once again played into the shadows of the room in silence.
March 28, 9:06 AM
Defendant Lobby No. 2
I wonder… are all defense attorneys this nervous before their first trial?
With a heavy sigh, Alexa Acclaro shook her dark brown bangs out of her face. Pacing the lobby, her gray-blue eyes roved over her vest of matching hue, scanning every inch of it with the strength of ground-penetrating radar. Her targets: any inventive balls of lint that had escaped her initial perusal two hours earlier, or the equally thorough inspection she had given it five minutes ago, or the identical examination of twenty seconds prior.
Okay, just calm down. She thought to herself. Your vest is spotless, so focus on something else.
Admittedly, that was easier said than done. The lobby was deserted—it contained naught but a single painting and a lone sofa, both of which had apparently been in the lobby since it was first built. The former's subject was indiscernible due to age, and the latter was, well, a sofa. Not the sort of things which captured one's imagination.
Her eyes fell on her briefcase, exactly where she'd left it five minutes ago when she'd walked fearfully into the lobby for the first time. Contained within, organized to exacting perfection, were her case files. She'd spent all of the previous night studying them, and could probably recite them by memory at this point. Still, it wouldn't hurt to give things one last look.
With a single sigh, Alexa sat down on the couch—it gave a pitiable squeak as she did so—and, making sure the creases in her slacks were still crisp, opened her briefcase. A sense of déjà vu was instantaneous, but not unexpected. Each letter, each word, seemed to wave up at her, as if saying "Hey, fancy meeting you again! Ready to start your first trial? You realize you're doomed, right?"
Alexa shook her head. It's a formidable case, but nothing is insurmountable.
At least, she hoped so. The case was a homicide, of course. What else for one's first trial? It was always more exciting that way. Alexa smiled to herself. That was exactly how her friend and fellow lawyer Sharon Rhys had described it: exciting. And it was guaranteed to be so, with her in the courtroom. She had a knack for theatrics.
Even with her friend to guide her, though, Alexa still had misgivings about the case. Her concerns were probably rooted in the fact that, by all rights, it shouldn't have been labeled a homicide in the first place. The victim, one Otto Creed, CEO of Tradeland Insurance Corporation, had been found hanging three feet off the ground, a rope lashed tightly around his neck. Cut-and-paste suicide, it seemed. Apparently, though, the autopsy had revealed a different cause of death, one which implicated her client.
Exactly what that was, neither Alexa nor anyone else (excepting, of course, the prosecution) had any idea. A suppression order had been placed on that bit of information from the very moment it was discovered—mandated by the police, approved by the judge, tough beans for the defense. Oh, her fellow lawyers at the firm had argued vehemently for their right to view the evidence, but the judge had ruled that their ignorance, and the public's, was necessary for the trial to proceed smoothly.
That hadn't stopped them from speculating, however. Both Alexa's law firm and the press had been relentless in their conjecture, and the general consensus was that some form of poison had been used. If that was truly the case, the defense was in trouble.
Suddenly, with a loud squeak, the door to the lobby swung open. Startled, Alexa turned to see who had entered. At first, it seemed the door had swung open of its own accord, but then, a man's head slid into view, framed by many dark blonde locks of hair. He took a single step into the lobby, revealing his attire: a well-cut, cream-colored suit with a high-collared shirt and white vest. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, and his aquamarine eyes scanned the lobby with a curious intent. His right hand was still clasped on the doorknob, making it appear as though he were gripping a sword at his waist, ready to draw it at a moment's notice.
After a few seconds, his eyes found Alexa sitting on the sofa. He blinked.
"Oh, hello," he said rather awkwardly.
"Hello," responded Alexa, even more sheepishly.
"You're here rather early. Are you a lawyer?" He turned to face her fully, though his left side was still concealed by the door.
"Um, yes, I am." He has to ask? Great…
"Ah, I should have seen the attorney's badge on your vest." His face took on the same inquisitive look it had earlier, "You wouldn't happen to be here for the Creed homicide, would you?"
"Uh…" Alexa's voice seemed to leave her. He's not… No, he couldn't be!
The man smiled, "Well, if that's the case, shouldn't you be in the defendant's lobby?"
It took a moment for the question to register. "What?" she asked flatly.
The man's eyebrow lifted, "This is the prosecution's lobby."
"What?!" Alexa asked again, much more loudly.
"This is the west end of the courthouse, right? The defendant's lobbies are on the east side."
"No, no!" Alexa said, though she was already on her feet. "I'm sure I'm in the right place!"
The man chuckled, "Really? No offense, but you don't seem to be as certain as you think."
"Well, I…" she trailed off, unsure of how to respond.
He took another step into the room, shutting the door with another creak. His left hand was tucked into the pocket of his jacket, and with his right he waved around the room. "When in doubt, retrace everything you know," he said. "How did you arrive at the courthouse?"
Alexa blinked at the sudden change of subject. "W-Well, I got off the subway, walked up the steps… came down the corridor and right in here…"
"And do you recall, exactly, what was written above the doorway to this room?"
"No… I didn't…" Suddenly, she straightened up with a realization, "But I heard the bell directly overhead as I came in. The bell is in the east wing of the courthouse."
For a long moment there was silence. The man regarded her, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly, and that same curious expression formed on his features. Then, a smile touched his lips, and he bowed his head. "A well-made, if unorthodox, deduction," he said, "I'll be going then. Thank you for your time, Miss…"
"Acclaro. Alexa Acclaro," she responded cautiously.
"Miss Acclaro, thank you for your time. And remember: uncertainty is death in court. You must be sure of your convictions at all times if you are to be successful as a lawyer."
And with that, he left as swiftly as he had entered, leaving Alexa alone and more than a little perplexed. She continued staring at the door for several seconds, her thoughts racing. I really hope that he wasn't who I think he was… She sat back down heavily. I really do.
With another loud squeak, the door swung open once more, giving Alexa yet another start. Expecting the mysterious stranger again, she was surprised to see a pair of bailiffs entering the room; they gave quizzical glances in her direction as they took up guard positions. Alexa stood to meet the people following them.
First was a relatively young man—late twenties by the looks of it. He was dressed in a black suit and shiny dress shoes with red tie—very formal, very professional. His black hair was slicked back, revealing a sharp nose and dark grey eyes. Despite his intimidating features, however, the modest expression on his face gave him an amicable aura.
Behind him was Sharon Rhys, clad in her usual courtroom attire: scarlet vest with matching slacks and orange tie. Her auburn hair was done up with a band matching her tie's hue, and two golden earrings sparkled alongside her amber eyes. With tanned skin glowing in the light streaming into the lobby, it was rather understandable that the bailiffs couldn't keep their eyes off of her. That sort of attention was common in court, too—a fact which she was known to use to great effect.
"Well, well, you must've gotten up early, Alex," she said with a wide, white grin.
Alexa shook her head. "I know, I know. Too early. I think I just had a bit of a hallucination. "
Sharon looked surprised. "Really? What happened?"
"Some guy came in here and… asked me questions."
Sharon's surprise turned to suspicion, "Was he a member of the press or something?"
"I…" she chuckled, "No, I'm pretty sure he wasn't. You didn't see him? He left right before you came in."
"Nope. Maybe you are hallucinating. How much sleep did you get last night, Alex?"
Sharon placed her hands on her hips, "How much?"
Alexa hung her head. "Three hours."
"Well, there's your problem! In the future, try to get more sleep the night before a trial."
Ahem. The cough sidled its way into their conversation. The two women turned to look at its source.
"Oh, but where are my manners!" Sharon said. "You two haven't been introduced yet! Alexa Acclaro, this is Jacob Riche, your client."
"Uh, how do you do?" Alexa offered her hand slowly. Real smooth, acting like that in front of the defendant, you idiot!
"The pleasure is mine, Miss Acclaro," Mr. Riche said with a delicately cultured handshake. "I hear you took this case on your own initiative. That was rather bold, considering how much attention this case is getting from the media."
Alexa took a deep breath. Okay, stand up straight, be confident… "That's correct," she said, "I'm pretty sure I even surprised my coworkers at the firm."
"Indeed." He cocked a black eyebrow, "I understand this is your first trial?"
Before she could answer, Sharon cut in, "But not her first time in court! She's worked at least half a dozen cases with me."
Thanks, Sharon. Just don't tell him that we lost three of those cases. "Exactly. I may be new, but I am by no means inexperienced."
The defendant smiled. "Well, I'm glad to say that this should be an easy one," he spread his arms, "I am innocent, after all, and Ms. Rhys tells me that all the evidence against me is circumstantial."
Alexa glanced at her friend, "Well, I'm afraid she may have been fudging the truth a little, there, Mr. Riche. As it stands, there are still some things we don't know about the case. Most importantly, exactly how the victim died. If there's anything else you can tell us about that night, please do so."
Mr. Riche's smile faltered, "I hadn't heard about that." He shook his head, "Pretty much all I have to say is already on record. Mr. Creed and I were served dinner by our maid, Ms. Rose. We had some light conversation about business, and then went our separate ways. I didn't see Mr. Creed again until they wheeled him off in the ambulance."
"How did you not see each other at all after that?"
"Creed Manor is a large structure, a good forty rooms. I went to work out in the gym for a bit, while Mr. Creed retired to his study. And when I say 'retired,' I mean he locked himself in. That was his normal practice."
"I thought you were his protégé?" Alexa asked, "How come you spent so little time together?"
"Well, I can't really say. In years past he spent quite a bit of time with me, most of it focused on teaching me the ropes of running a corporation. I don't exactly know what made him choose me as his successor; perhaps he never trusted the other men on his executive board. I like to think I was the closest thing he had to a son, but I don't know if he ever felt that way about me." His head sank. "And now I never will."
"Hey, chin up," Sharon said, "You always leave a better impression that way."
The defendant smiled, "Mr. Creed said something very similar to me once," he straightened, "'One of the first rules of business is to always be presentable.' I suppose I owe it to him to abide by that."
"That's the spirit!" Sharon patted him on the shoulder.
Alexa resumed her inquiry, "So, what happened the morning the body was discovered?"
Mr. Riche's face took on a pained expression, "Ms. Rose found him… hanging from the rafters of his study, and immediately phoned the police. They took us both in for questioning, and I was being released when they turned me back around in handcuffs."
Sharon crossed her arms, "Did they tell you why they arrested you?"
"I was arrested 'on suspicion of the murder of Otto Creed.' The officers said that forensics had discovered something."
Alexa nodded, "Well, that's pretty much all we know. Did they let slip any more details? Did they tell you what they found?"
"I'm afraid not. Though, considering I ate dinner with him, that may make me suspect."
"That's my take on it, too," said Sharon. "No doubt the prosecution will milk that for all its worth. We'll just have to be ready, I guess."
You guess? I thought we were a little more confident than that, Sharon. Alexa shook her head. It was frustrating, having such a big question mark hanging over the case. The exact nature of the victim's death was like an invisible, armed grenade in the prosecution's pocket, which they could hurl at the defense at whatever moment they deemed appropriate. At present, it seemed all the evidence was circumstantial, save for that one piece. That one piece which led the prosecution to believe they could successfully convict her client.
"Attention!" A bailiff opened the door and announced to the lobby, "The trial is about to begin. Will the defendant and his attorneys please enter the courtroom at this time."
"Well, here we go!" Sharon said with an eager grin, "Let's get in there, Alex!"
Alexa's stomach squeezed tight again, "Right. Well, Mr. Riche? Are you ready?"
The defendant clasped his hands behind his back, "I am. My fate is in your hands, now." He smiled, "And I'm certain that those hands are able."
Alexa nodded back, and with as much care as possible given her haste, she stuffed her records back into her briefcase and hurried to join the other two as they walked out the door. With one final glance around the lobby, she left its comparatively inviting confines and proceeded out into the long hall leading to the courtroom. With every step, her mind became more and more uneasy. Perhaps it was a growing feeling of vulnerability, or the sense that she was walking into something inescapable. Maybe it was the unfamiliar noise of her footfalls—echoing through the hall, disappearing into nothingness—that set her on edge. Or perhaps it was because at the back of her mind, she remembered the stranger's words from before—"Uncertainty is death in court."—and realized that she was feeling more than a little uncertain.
Author's Notes: So, where to start?
This being my first foray into both the Ace Attorney universe and , I admit to a certain sense of intimidation. It's like launching a boat into a black lake, keenly aware that you are not the only ship to do so, and waiting to see how many holes appear in the hull.
That said, the only way for me to "earn my sea legs" is for you, the readers, to give me whatever critiques you can. Be it the characters, plot, or writing style, I will openly accept whatever feedback you can give me. Questions concerning the overall story are also welcome, but not all may be answered.
Now, always one for brevity, I'll save my words for when I need them. Comment ad nauseum, and I'll see you next chapter.