He didn't want to wake up.
'Mr Wright?' Someone was shaking him.
Pearl is dead.
'Mr Wright,' the voice rang clear with a dozen decades of wisdom. 'Mr Wright. You have to get up.'
Gumshoe is dead.
He tried, tried desperately, to retreat back into his blissful nothingness of sleep, but it was no use. His senses were returning to him, and try as he might he couldn't push them away. Still he kept his eyes closed, treasuring the darkness.
At length he heard someone get up. He heard a door close. A slight rustling.
Nick groaned and rolled over, burying his face in the couch.
A valley of sound opened up. Someone was playing the violin.
It was a slow, sad melody, stretched out meticulously, like beads of a necklace dropping down a string, flowing around his ears and into his skull. Nick opened his eyes.
There was something circling above him, and there was brownness all around the thing. For a moment Nick thought he was dead. Then he recognised he was looking at a ceiling fan. He looked down and saw he was in someone's apartment.
The music was coming from behind a closed door. Nick got up and walked over to it.
'Mr Wright,' a voice said from amidst the melodies, 'If you have had adequate rest, I would advise you use the bathroom to augment your awakening. It should be to your left.'
Nick looked left, and the bathroom was there. He went over to the sink and splashed water onto his eyes. As he wiped down his face, from forehead to chin, he tried to place the somber chords swirling through his ears. He had heard this melody before. What was it? Cannon something? Canon D?
He washed and washed as the music played, until finally he couldn't wash anymore, and he stepped out. At the same time, the music stopped.
The door opened. A man, his back as straight as a ruler, walked out. He placed the tiny violin by the side, walked over to a nearby cabinet, and took out a small case. He slipped a cloth out of the case, wiped his monocle, replaced the cloth, put back the case, closed the cabinet.
Nick recognised the man. Alarm bells started ringing in his head, before he realised that he no longer had the strength to care anymore.
'De Killer.' Nick croaked.
The assassin turned. 'It's a pleasure to see you again, Mr Wright.'
'I'm afraid I must require your services once more, Mr Wright.'
Nick threw his arm over his eyes and said nothing. He started moving back towards the couch, but some sort of angry thudding in his skull had started up, and he knew he wouldn't be sleeping again for a good more seven hours.
'Mr Wright? Are you feeling alright? Do you recognise me?'
'Go away,' Nick groaned.
'Mr Wright,' De Killer said again. After a moment Nick heard him approach. 'Mr Wright. I was under the impression that you had someone you needed to catch.'
'Who told you that?'
'Who else? Mr Wright, if you are going to simply lie down and vegetate, there will be nothing to stop your enemy from killing your friends.'
Nick didn't want to think. He let his brain drift.
'Mr Wright. He specifically brought you here to my doorstep and - '
Nick opened his eyes. 'What?'
'He brought you here. Your enemy. He showed up at my apartment with you over his shoulder.'
'He...he just picked up and carried me here?'
'I thought,' Nick said slowly, 'That he was in Kurain.'
'He seemed perfectly tangible when I saw him.'
'Did he say anything?'
'He said I would find you useful. So he deposited you on the couch and left.'
'He said something else, about how he was hadn't finished, and that his birthday gift wasn't even half complete.'
'That's all. I was surprised as you were when he showed.'
'Did he show his face?'
'No. He was wearing a mask.'
Nick groaned. He brushed his arm off and stared at the fan, studying the rotating blades with rigorous intent.
'Mr Wright,' De Killer said. 'I know who he is.'
Nick, very slowly, rotated his head until he was looking the assassin straight in the eye.
'I know who your enemy is, Mr Wright,' De Killer said. 'But I will only tell you, if you do two small favors for me.'
'Mr Wright? Do you understand what I'm saying?'
'I understand,' Nick detached himself from the leather and dragged himself up. 'I understand what a fucking, crazy, bastard that guy is. I understand perfectly.'
'Mr Wright,' De Killer said. 'Do you wish to take up my offer?'
'What do you want me to do?'
The first favor is extremely simple,' De Killer pointed to the far end of the room, where a rickety table sat at the corner. On top of it was a bottle, a cork, and what appeared to be some sort of hammer.
'I want you to cork that bottle of wine, please.' De Killer said.
Nick got up. He crossed the room and to the table, feeling the weight of his body with every step. He reached the table and looked down. The bottle was already full. He picked up the cork and started stuffing it in.
'Use the mallet, Mr Wright.'
Nick picked up the hammer and struck. The cock was smashed into the neck and stayed there.
'Excellent work, Mr Wright,' De Killer said. 'Now, for your second task.'
He walked over to the closet and opened it. Inside were two pairs of tuxedos, both polished to shine.
'You and I, Mr Wright,' he said, 'Are going to attend a party.'
Nick's body seemed to be on autopilot. He was hardly aware of what he was doing anymore. All of his efforts, his entire purpose, his entire being, all boiled down to one simple goal – find the masked man. That was all there was to it. Nick had been deadened of everything else. He wasn't sure if he was even feeling anything about Gumshoe's death now. The world was moving along, so fast.
When he had changed into the tuxedo, he had kept the beanie on.
'Mr Wright? Are you still with me?'
'Wha - ? Yeah. I'm listening.'
'I shall repeat, Mr Wright. You will stay silent, and I will perform the discourse. And you must wear this mask.'
He brought out two black opera-masks. 'The party is supposed to be a masquerade, so it very conveniently gives us an opportunity to obscure our identities.'
Nick took his and strapped his own. 'Who's throwing the party?'
'I would prefer to keep that secret.'
'Do you mind telling me at least an inkling of what you're trying to make me do?'
'As a matter of fact, I do mind, Mr Wright. But I urge you not to fret. I am an trustworthy man. Once you have performed your task, I will give you the name of your assailant.'
Nick stared at the massive mansion towering above him. 'This is too easy,' he murmured. 'He won't make it that easy.'
'I tend to agree, Mr Wright, but it is none of my business.'
'How do you know who he is?'
'Can you just tell me now?'
'That will not be possible.'
Nick was silent for a few minutes.
'Mr Wright? Are you ready to go/'
Silence. De Killer drummed his fingers against the steering wheel. He flipped down a mirror and checked his monocle. Nick continued wallowing in his solitude.
'Mr Wright,' De Killer said. 'Out of mere curiosity...what is your quarrel with that man?'
Nick turned. 'Do you have a gun?'
'You're a guy who kills people, right? You should have a gun. Give it to me.'
'Mr Wright, you can't possibly expect - '
'Give me a gun, Mr De Killer.'
De Killer surveyed him with his glass eye. 'I must comment, Mr Wright, you seem remarkably different from the lawyer I remembered.'
'Give me. A gun.'
After a pause, De Killer unlatched the glove compartment. He took out a small pistol. 'This is a Beretta, Mr Wright. It can hold up to ten rounds. To unlock the safety, you slide back the bolt here,' he demonstrated by cocking the weapon, before snapping it back. 'I'd advise you to hold it carefully. The recoil may jolt you, even if it weighs less than a kilogram.'
Nick took it, feeling the cold metal dig into his palms, and, very gingerly, slipped it inside his pants.
'Just what are you going to do with that gun, Mr Wright?,' De Killer said. 'I assure you, you will not be in any danger when we attend the party - '
'This isn't about the party,' Nick said. 'This is about him. You asked what my quarrel with him is, right? It's simple. He's just killed two of my closest friends, so,' he patted the lump in his tuxedo. 'I'm going to return the favor. I'm going to kill him.'
Nick opened the door and stepped out into the asphalt. The blaring music enumerating from the thudding mansion greeted him.
He looked back. 'Mr De Killer, aren't you coming?'
'I'm coming,' De Killer said, and got out. The two of them looked at each other and adjusted their bowties.
'Let's go join the party,' De Killer said, retrieving his bottle of wine from the car, and the two of them walked up the driveway.
The main hall was filled with gentlemen and ladies, each with a dazzling smile on their faces and wine glasses in their hands. De Killer ignored all of them. He strode through the crowd, and Nick followed close behind, trying to resist the urge to head over to the buffet tables and blend in with the crowd. But he had no choice. He and De Killer were in the same boat, now, two intruders in marvelous masquerade, and both the intruders had to stick together.
So Nick followed De Killer. He followed him upstairs, past the dancing guests, past the stone-faced waiters, until the blaring music faded away behind them. The corridor they were crossing now was silent.
Until they turned a corner, and found a man and a women thrust up against the wall, wrapped in each others arms and kissing.
The woman saw them and hastily shoved her bra back into place. 'Oh dear,' she said, and giggled. De Killer ignored them and swept past. Nick tried not to look at either of them.
'Listen,' he said to De Killer when they were alone. 'Your task for me...it doesn't involve...killing anyone, does it?'
'I assure you, Mr Wright,' De Killer said without turning round, 'that you will not have to harm anyone tonight.'
'I'm talking about me! I'm talking about you!' The floor progressing beneath Nick's feet suddenly seemed more solid.
'Why are you worrying, Mr Wright?' De Killer said, 'Didn't you condone the murder of your enemy a few minutes ago?'
'That was different. I don't want you to kill any innocent people.'
'Well, in that case, you don't need to worry, Mr Wright. The person I am targeting is most assuredly not innocent.'
Something big and large stepped in front of them, and De Killer stopped. It took a moment for Nick to realise that the obstruction standing in front of them was a man, and a very large one.
'Who are you?' it demanded. 'What do you want?'
'We are guests of your master,' De Killer said.
'The person next to me is Phoenix Wright, and I am his chaperone.'
The man squinted. 'Phoenix Wright? The lawyer who got all crazy and murdered his kid?'
'Yes. That is indeed him. But I think your master would very much like to meet Mr Wright for a few short moments.'
The man stood still, swaying his large arms. 'Bullshit.'
'You can ask your master, if you wish. I assure you, he will be most anxious to - '
'This is all bullshit. Get out here, or I'm calling the cops.'
De Killer gave a dramatic sigh. 'It seems like I'll have to resort to more...conventional tactics.'
Nick tensed, but De Killer simply took out stack of fifty-notes. 'Would this be satisfactory?'
The man grabbed the notes and began counting them. 'I want another half of this,' he grunted.
De Killer tossed him another bundle of money.
'Satisfied?' De Killer said. The man glared at him, and opened his mouth.
'How about this, then?' De Killer raised the bottle of wine, which he had been carrying with him the entire time. 'This is a bottle of Hochheimer Koengin Victoria Berg. Straight from the German vineyards. Rumour has it that this particular wine is so delicate that they measure its fermentation rate in tiny seconds.'
The man grabbed it greedily.
'I'd advise you drink it tonight, if possible, before the chemical reactions decay it further.'
The man was already uncorking the bottle. De killer tilted his monocle and strode past him, with Nick following close behind.
They walked along the empty corridors for a few more moments, before they became aware of a new kind of music floating towards their ears. It was different from the elegant ballroom sonatas – this particular beat had a certain violent, desperate feel to it, some sort of heavy metal rap that screamed frustration with every chord. And, as the pair rounded the corner Nick saw where the music was coming from.
De Killer stepped up to the huge double doors and knocked. As the assassin stepped back, and waited, Nick looked at the name chiselled at the side of the door, and, as the music thudded into his ears, he mouthed the words in silent disbelief.