Title: No Turnabout
Plot, or Lack Thereof: Phoenix and Edgeworth try to get to the bottom of a messy murder(?) case
Reason for Banishment: Ran out of steam
Of all the people Phoenix thought he might see walk into his office, Edgeworth was by far on the bottom of the list.
(Maybe I should stop staring and say something.)
“Good morning,” Phoenix managed, clearing out a space for the prosecutor to sit down. “Sorry about the mess.”
For the moment, however, Edgewoth remained on his feet. “What, no clever repartee?”
Phoenix shrugged. “Unlike certain prosecutors, I don’t believe in humiliating a defeated opponent.”
“Ooh, zing.” Edgeworth chuckled. “But I suppose I did deserve that, having been the one to bait you.”
(That was too easy. Which can only mean one thing.)
Phoenix leaned against his desk, speaking his next thought out loud. “You let me win, to make whatever you want to say next more appealing.”
Edgeworth sighed. “Well, if you have to put it that way.”
Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You sound troubled.”
“Troubled does not even begin to describe it.” Edgeworth drew in a breath, tugging at his cravat. “I have been asked to prosecute the Anderson case.”
“Anderson? That happened in this court’s jurisdiction?” Phoenix only had vague memories of the murder and the surrounding media circus, having been far too occupied by his own clients at the time.
“On a technicality, since he has residency here.” Edgeworth shrugged. “It was the most neutral place they could find, I suppose.”
“But I thought he plead guilty already.”
A nod. “As far as I can tell it will just be a sentencing trial. The DA wants to push for the death penalty. But—”
Phoenix didn’t need for Edgeworth to finish the rest of the sentence. “You’d like me to be the defense.”
(Huh. Didn’t even have to frame that in the form of a question.)
“Anderson has already made the motion to represent himself. I will see what I can do to have the court deny it, but—” Edgeworth hesitated for a moment, then gave Phoenix what looked to be a rather insincere smile. “Or maybe you can be my co-council and see what it’s like from the other side of the bench.”
Phoenix crossed his arms. “Ha, ha.”
(He’s not telling me something. Should I ask, or—?)
Edgeworth began to pace. “I cannot even begin to describe how dumb this is,” he muttered.
“I have never believed in ‘gut feelings’, especially not my own.” Edgeworth didn’t need to explain why. “But—something about this case does not sit well with me.”
“Seems straightforward enough,” Phoenix offered. He preferred to play the optimist; a cheerful attitude, no matter how fake, always helped ground him and keep his sanity.
Edgeworth paused in mid-step. “And when has something we have been involved in not end up in a Gordian Knot of half-truths and even outright lies?”
(He’s got a point there.)
Phoenix made his decision. “Well, it’s not like I haven’t taken seemingly impossible cases before, right?”
This time, Edgeworth’s smile was much more genuine. “In that case, I shall see you in court, Public Defender Wright.”
They shook hands. “Likewise, Prosecutor Edgeworth.”
Of those present in the courtroom for the hearing, Phoenix was the only one present not (yet) involved with the proceedings, seated one row behind Edgeworth’s desk. From this vantage point, all Phoenix could see of Anderson was the back of his head, but he was already beginning to dislike his potential client despite his best efforts not to judge by appearances. Something about the way Anderson carried himself just rubbed Phoenix the wrong way.
The judge, too, had an annoyed look on his face, as if it was a waste of time for him to be here. “Counsel for the people, do you have any objections to the defense’s motion?”
Edgeworth rose from his seat and crossed to the floor. “As a matter of fact, the prosecution does. While it is well within Mr. Anderson’s rights to represent himself, the prosecution believes that it would also in the people’s interest for him to have proper representation.” He turned to address Anderson. “In case you are not aware, Mr. Anderson, I am informing you now that should you be sentenced to death, the State is required by law to appeal your case on your behalf. I, for one, have no interest in seeing your choice to be your own lawyer be used as a point against the State.”
This made the judge thoughtful. “Does the defense wish to address the court?”
Anderson remained where he was. “By the way you’ve laid out your reasoning, Mr. Edgeworth, I suppose you already have a candidate in mind for me.”
“Of course.” Edgeworth nodded towards Phoenix. “The prosecution recommends Mr. Phoenix Wright to plead on behalf of the defense.”
It didn’t take long for the judge to recover from his surprise, his expression darkening. “Counsel, please approach the bench.”
“You want Wright on this case, Edgeworth?” The judge hissed. “Hasn’t he already made you look bad enough?”
“I was not aware this was about me,” Edgeworth replied, keeping his voice even. “But I am not the one who has been avoiding Wright in court; I have just been assigned to different cases—” and here he leaned forward, a half smirk on his face, “—and I’m sure the media would love to make more hay about how the DA’s office is afraid of the Ace Attorney.”
At this, the judge winced, but he remained hesitant. “There’s plenty of other qualified defense lawyers.”
“You could say the same about the prosecution,” Edgeworth pointed out. “I thought the case against Anderson was iron-clad.”
(Are they going to spend the rest of this time arguing? And I think Edgeworth is actually defending me—again. Heh.)
Phoenix had to chuckle at that thought, as well as the next one.
(And he repays me by saddling me with a case like this. Thanks a lot, buddy.)
He sobered a bit, though, when he remembered Edgeworth’s reservations—that the man was willing to voice them, and to Phoenix of all people, meant serious business.
(Whatever ends up happening, I’m going to help him. We’ve worked together to find the truth so many times already, and if Edgeworth is right about this one it’ll definitely take both of us.)
At long last, the quiet but heated discussion between Edgeworth and the judge ended, the prosecutor returning to stand before his desk. “Thank you, your honor.”
“We’ll see if you’re still in such a grateful mood after this case has ended,” the judge remarked. He cleared his throat and spoke louder, pronouncing his decision: “The defense’s motion is denied. Phoenix Wright will be assigned to defend him.”
Phoenix jumped a bit when the judge banged his gavel down. “Something tells me he’d rather slam that on me,” he muttered to Edgeworth as they passed each other.
“I hardly blame him,” Edgeworth replied, his tone light. “By the way, they do not want to risk an escape attempt, so you will have to meet up with your client at the prison, and I must assume by your lack of a new suit that you also cannot afford your own car yet.”
(Why that little—ugh. I can’t waste energy arguing with him now. Let’s try something different.)
So Phoenix smiled instead. “Thanks, Edgeworth, I’d really appreciate a lift.”
This caught Edgeworth off guard. “What? I did not—” He deflated. “Oh, why not, I might as well.”
(Huh. I should do that more often.)
Phoenix sat down across from his client, who in addition to having his wrists and ankles chained was also separated from him by thick, transparent bulletproof glass. Still, even with the armed guard standing at attention behind the prisoner, Phoenix didn’t feel that much safer.
“Um, ah—” He fought the urge to fidget. “Hi. I’m—”
“Wright, right?” Anderson’s smile was thin and menacing, the harsh overhead lights casting a dark shadow over his sunken features. “The Defense half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo.”
It took a half a moment of open-mouthed staring for Phoenix to collect himself, but he did and decided to let the comment pass; after all, even Edgeworth wasn’t above joking on the nature of their relationship, and he was a hundred times better at making Phoenix feel self-conscious about it. “Since it’s obvious you’ve already heard about me, let’s proceed to the case.” He opened the files Edgeworth gave him. “Four years ago, former FBI agent Shelly McLaughlin was found stabbed—” He paused and winced.
“—fifty-seven times,” Anderson interrupted, and if anything his smile seemed to widen. “I counted.”
Phoenix felt his blood run cold. “So you really did it, then?”
“Would you believe me if I said no?”
“I—I don’t know what to think right now.” Phoenix skipped past the transcript of Anderson’s confession; right now, his principle goal was to examine the man himself. “But I’ve learned not to take things at face value.”
“Really.” Anderson’s expression was one of amused skepticism. “So why is it that I hear you’re very picky about who you defend?”
(Picky? The only cases I’ve ever requested were Larry’s and Edgeworth’s! I’ve never turned anybody down!)
“Last I checked, I’m not the one on trial for murder. So please, answer the question.” Phoenix cleared his throat. Perhaps it was time to get straight to the point. He slipped his hand into the pocket where he kept his magatama. “Did you kill her?”
Anderson held his gaze. “Does it matter?”
Now Phoenix lost his patience and jumped to his feet. “Of course it does! This is a matter of life or death!”
Anderson shrugged. “Everybody dies, sooner or later. At the rate my life is going, I’d rather it be sooner.”
Phoenix stared at the other man. “But—if you’re innocent—”
Another shrug. “It’s not like I haven’t gotten away with worse.”
Awkward silence. Phoenix stared at Anderson, trying to find the question that would crack the his facade, while the other man smirked back.
(I can’t believe I’m starting to wish Edgeworth were in here with me—hey, wait. Maybe there is something I can ask him.)
Phoenix sat down again and folded his hands in front of his face, palming the magatama between them. “I think I’m starting to get why Edgeworth wasn’t enthusiastic about this case. He came to see you, didn’t he?”
“What, the bib guy?” Anderson’s mood shift to irritation was minor but perceptible. “What’s that to you?”
“Just thinking out loud.” Phoenix prepared to give voice to another thought, one that would make him look even worse in the eyes of his client, but perhaps he needed to play the role of the dummy to lower Anderson’s guard. “I’ll bet he asked smarter questions than I did.”
“Nope. Didn’t ask a damn thing. Just sat there and stared and stared and stared. Then, right before he leaves, he pauses at the doorway and—” Anderson caught himself and settled back into a slouch. “My. I almost gave my game away before I was supposed to. You’re more competent than I thought, Wright.”
Having exhausted his time playing mental chess with Anderson, Phoenix was escorted back out to meet Edgworth, who was waiting for him. “So, how was it?”
Phoenix dabbed at his forehead with his handkerchief. “Phew. Talking to that guy is harder than pulling teeth. But I think I’ve gotten a few clues, at least.” He made sure that all his notes were present before packing them into his suitcase. “So—what’d you say to Anderson anyway?”
Edgeworth raised an eyebrow. “You got that out of him?”
Phoenix scratched the back of his head. “It was more like I got the reaction I was looking for and tried to nudge him a bit further, but he figured me out, so.” He shielded his eyes as they exited the building. “Whatever you did say, I think it annoyed him.”
“I do not see why it would.” Edgeworth unlocked the door on Phoenix’s side first. “I just told him that I could not care less about the outcome of the case so long as I got a hold of the truth.”
(That’s some classic Edgeworth right there. If I were the guy, I probably wouldn’t like him too much, either.)
Phoenix sat at his desk, notepad in hand as he reviewed the files. For a case this notorious, evidence was sparse, and most of the little that was collected at the crime scene was deemed confidential. As this stood to benefit the defense, Edgeworth was dispatched to negotiate the red tape it would take to release more information. In the meantime, all Phoenix had were photographs of the crime scene, blueprints of the apartment and building, a transcript of Anderson’s confession, and articles from every major newspaper covering the case since it first broke.
He began arranging the pictures on his desk to match the layout of the room, and he didn’t get far before he realized why he had been feeling a nagging sense that something wasn’t quite right. Although at first glance it seemed that the murder was the result of a robbery gone wrong, the chaotic scene didn’t have any blood other than where the body was found or evidence of a struggle. Even the papers scattered about the room was done so in a more haphazard manner than one would expect of someone tossing them about in search of something. Of course, this wasn’t something he could bring up in court without the conjunction of more substantive evidence to establish its relevance, but he made a note to himself to continue along this line of investigation.
Next came the testimony of McLaughlin’s landlord, the one who had found her body. Before the case broke he didn’t even know he had a celebrity living in his apartment—she registered under the fake name of Dorothy Lam and kept such an unassuming demeanor that she didn’t leave much of an impression until she died. She tended to keep odd hours, so when she didn’t answer the door for the exterminator he didn’t think anything of it. He used the complex’s master key to let the exterminator in—
—wait a minute. The door had been locked? Phoenix checked the files again. Of what he had, he couldn’t find any documents recording signs of a forced entry, nor were there any indications that the assailant had left through anything other than the front door. In addition, the police found no eyewitnesses who saw or heard anything during the estimated time of death; the security cameras installed over the stairwells had been in a state of disrepair and were not turned on.
McLaughlin must have known her murderer. So what was her connection to Anderson, then, if he indeed had killed her? Phoenix didn’t look forward to questioning Anderson about that; except for letting slip the tidbit about Edgeworth’s visit, the man had been so evasive and vague Phoenix couldn’t catch him in any lies.
Phoenix sighed. All signs pointing to him spending the night in his office. Again.
Phoenix muttered and shifted his elbows. He was dreaming. Edgeworth wasn’t poking him in the shoulder. He still had a good five minutes.
“Wright, if you do not get up right now I am walking out of here and telling the judge not to bother because you could not make it to court.”
Phoenix snapped awake, sitting bolt upright, and blinked against the harsh morning light. A moment later a pounding headache hit and he groaned, rubbing his temples. He staggered over to his desk, fishing for the painkillers he kept there.
“I made you coffee.” Edgeworth filled Phoenix’s mug before sitting down across from him with his own cup. As he sipped, his amused glance went back and forth between the couch where Phoenix had been sleeping and Phoenix himself. “Maybe you should have a set of pajamas here, too.”
Phoenix decided not to mention that he once kept on his desk a toothbrush that he’d long since lost in the mountain of paperwork. “So do I have time at least to iron my jacket, or do I have to make a frantic dash down the hallway, papers flying behind me?”
“Actually, you have got a good hour or so. On days I am in court I like to arrive early and meditate about my presentation. When I passed Gumshoe in the hallway he mentioned you having fallen asleep in your office, so I decided to drop in.”
“Oh.” Phoenix finished his coffee and began the laborious process of making some sense out of the chaos on his desk. “You sure it’s a good idea for you to be seen around me?”
“I am not doing anything illegal or unethical, am I?” Edgeworth moved his elbows so Phoenix could check the papers under there.
(He couldn’t have missed all the rumors. But something tells me he’s never cared about what other people think of him.)
“So what witnesses will you be calling?” Phoenix asked instead.
“The landlord and the unit who secured the scene, at least.” Edgeworth checked his phone for messages. “Franziska’s working on getting the rest of the evidence declassified and tracking down agents we can talk to, but she thinks we are being given the run-around. Even convincing them to let me have the photos was a chore.”
That was strange. Why was the FBI being so uncooperative in the death of one of their own agents? Did Agent McLaughlin still have sensitive material in her possession when she died, or did they have something else to hide? “Maybe we can go see that apartment for ourselves,” Phoenix mused.
Edgeworth was skeptical. “What do you expect to find from a four year old crime scene that’s been gone over with a fine-toothed comb by both the police and the FBI?”
“Probably nothing that hasn’t already been covered in the investigation, but at least maybe I might get a better idea of what to do next.”
Anderson was already waiting—along with the same two guards from yesterday—in the defense’s chambers by the time Phoenix got there. “We meet again,” he greeted, waving as far as his cuffs would allow. “I’d shake your hand, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until after the trial’s over.”
“You might not want to by then,” Phoenix muttered, trying his best not to stare as the two guards nodded at him and indicated for Anderson to get up. At the prison, he hadn’t realized how tall the other man was, and he had glossed over that information when going over the files. But now Anderson—all six feet ten inches of him—rose to his full height, and Phoenix saw at once why the public was so ready to believe that Anderson was the murderer.
(What if he is guilty? Can I really go through with this?)
Anderson nodded towards the door leading into the courtroom. “You first.”
Phoenix entered first and was struck by the eerie silence; due to the controversy, the gallery had been cleared of the usual onlookers. Not even a camera was allowed, but an old-fashioned court artist sat next to the stenographer instead. Edgeworth was already seated on his side of the bench, poring over what few files he did have, and he didn’t wait for the foreman’s prompt to get to his feet.
“Let’s not waste any time, then.” The Judge raised the case file closer to better read it. “State v. Anderson; the charge is murder in the first degree.”
Edgeworth nodded. “The Prosecution is ready, Your Honor.”
Phoenix did likewise. “The Defense is also ready, Your Honor.”
“Very well.” The Judge slammed his gavel. “Let’s hear your opening arguments.”
Edgeworth cleared his throat. “Your honor, the intentional taking of a life is the most serious crime a man can commit, and the punishment must meet the crime. Since the defendant has already confessed to the heinous murder of Shelly McLaughlin, the prosecution would like to put forth the case that the brutality of the murder, as well as the defendant’s utter lack of remorse, warrants nothing less than the death penalty.”
“Eloquent as usual, Edgeworth,” the Judge complimented, before turning a disdainful eye on the defense. “Your turn, Wright.”
Phoenix drew in a breath. Here went nothing. “Case? All the prosecution has is the defendant’s word that he did the deed. There are too many unanswered questions to jump straight to a sentencing. The defense intends to introduce evidence that shows reasonable doubt that someone else may have committed the murder.”
The Judge narrowed his eyes. “You’re going to need much more than reasonable doubt to convince me this time, Wright.”
(When has that not ever been the case?)
Phoenix tugged on his suit jacket to keep it straight while he sat down, and had just gotten into his seat when the door leading out into the hallway exploded.
“You might want to duck under the table,” Anderson informed Phoenix in a way one might discuss the weather, while the guards who hadn’t been knocked unconscious surrounded them both, and Phoenix couldn’t tell by their body language whether they were trying to protect the prisoner or prevent him from escaping.
Meanwhile, a young woman with a crazed expression was stepping through the remains of the door, a gun in each hand. Spotting Anderson, both guns were pointed on him at once, the woman ignoring the orders to stand down from the officers.
Anderson shook his head. “You just couldn’t wait, could you?”