Defendant's Lobby No. 4 was not a happy place during the ten-minute recess. It was funny how the place where I'd celebrated my first courtroom win, or avenging the murder of Maya's older sister, or solving a fifteen-year-old incident that had loomed over the heads of nearly everyone I worked with, could carry none of those happy memories forward. Or had that been a different lobby? I never remembered which was which. Gut-wrenching nerves will do that to a man.
"Decisive witnesses!" moaned Maya. "This is bad, Nick! What are we going to do now?"
"I...don't know. Those sleeping pills were our big gun, and Edgeworth batted them aside like they were nothing."
"You don't know!" Ayako screeched. "What do you mean, you don't know?" She was literally trembling with anger, making the prayer beads around her neck click against one another. "What am I paying you for?"
"Pay!" squeaked Maya. "I told you, Ayako, that you don't have to pay us. Nick is always glad to stick up for a friend."
Yeah, you did say that. One of these days we'd actually get a client who paid for our services.
"Well, maybe I should be paying for my attorney, then," Ayako snapped. "I know you mean well, Maya, but so far I'd be just as well off with a real porcupine as with this imitation one."
I wondered why people who were mad at me always went for the hair first. Ah, well, at least Ayako actually cared about her defense. It was a nice change of pace from some of my clients. If I was on trial for murder, I certainly wouldn't be pulling the "stoic and sacrificing" routine...oh, wait, I was on trial for murder once...but at least I was right. "Panic in the streets" was more or less my motto then, passing out in the courtroom, talking to dead people...
Hold on a second.
"Okay, back up. Let's not panic yet."
"Huh? Nick, you have an idea?" Maya brightened up.
"Well, not quite..."
I've never seen a face fall apart quite so fast.
"But remember what your sister always said. Do we believe Ayako is innocent?"
"You'd better!" Ayako snapped.
"Well, yes, of course."
"Then there must be a flaw in the evidence somewhere. The truth can't prove someone guilty of something they didn't do."
"Y-yeah, Nick, you're right. We have to go back in there and do our best, even if Mr. Edgeworth is crushing you underfoot like a slow-moving cockroach."
"Maya, you might want to work on the pep talk a little more," Ayako noted. She was grinning now, though, so maybe I'd managed to lift our spirits a bit after all.
Too bad that high spirits weren't going to score us points with the judge.
When we returned to the courtroom, Miles Edgeworth was full of high spirits, too. In fact, he looked positively smug.
"The prosecution calls its next witness."
A skinny young man about twenty trooped his way to the stand. He wore a forest-green jacket and slacks edged with gold braid and an elaborate peaked cap in the same color, clearly some kind of uniform.
"The witness will state his name and occupation."
"Albert Pacer. Albert M.C.
Pacer, that is. Doorman at the
"And are you familiar with the defendant in this case, Ms. Ayako Avalon?"
"Yep. Lives at the Stonecrest, you know. Tenant for six months. Pretty girl. Car's a sweet thing, too! Cherry-red SXT. Man, can she go!"
I wondered if Pacer was allergic to complete sentences.
"We'll get to the car later. What are your duties as doorman?"
"Well, I...I get the door. I sit in the lobby, see, until . If a resident comes in with packages or something, I help them out. And I get their cars for them, or park them, when they come in."
"So you parked Ms. Avalon's car for her when she returned home from work that evening?"
"Yeah. It was around . I put the car in the lot out back and hung up her keys." He grinned broadly. "Man, what a ride! Even the leather interior!"
"You hung up her keys?"
"Yeah, sure. There's a board in the parking lot. Park in slot two, hang keys on peg two."
"Hold it!" I burst in. "Mr. Pacer, are you saying that anyone could walk into the parking lot, help themselves to the keys, and drive off with the car?"
Pacer didn't so much as have time to draw breath before Edgeworth objected.
"Tsk, tsk, Mr. Wright. We haven't even finished the testimony. Don't be so eager that you start questioning before cross-examination starts."
"Objection sustained!" said the judge. "This is an orderly court of law, not a circus."
You could have fooled me.
"Go on, Mr. Pacer. Explain to us about this parking lot so Mr. Wright doesn't have to remember his question for later."
"Right. Security building, you see. Nine-foot fence. Wire at the top--police permit for that. Automatic alarms. One gate only. Card key to get in--doors use card keys too."
"So in fact, no stranger off the street could get into the parking lot without either injuring himself or setting off an alarm. In fact, neither of these things happened, as you'll recall from the detective's report. The only way to get to the parking lot is to use a card key--the same one a resident used for their door. This proves that it was Ms. Avalon who took out her car, then returned to the building after twelve, when the doorman was off-duty."
"Hm, well, yes...this does appear to be conclusive evidence," harrumphed the judge.
You would say that.
"Mr. Wright, you may cross-examine."
"Nick, what are we going to do?" Maya asked. "This witness...it looks like it's all over."
I do so love when my own side is confident about our case.
"Yeah, maybe so...but I can't let this opportunity slip by. You never know."
I turned to the witness.
"Mr. Pacer, you said that you went off-duty at ?"
"The prosecution claims that you didn't see the defendant return to the building because she came back after ...but did you see her go out?"
"No, I didn't."
"Well, then, how is she supposed to--"
"Objection! Witness, is there another way out of the building?"
"Sure. Could have used the fire stairs. Goes to the back of the building. Only opens from the inside, though. Can't come in that way."
Crap. I should have known Edgeworth wouldn't have missed that one. I'd better come at this from another angle.
"Mr. Pacer, let me see if I understand you correctly. Each resident has a card key that lets them in and out of the parking lot, is that right?"
"Yeah. It's their door key and the one that lets them past the lobby as well."
"Inside the lot are all the residents' cars, as well as the keys to those cars?"
"So anyone who got into the lot could help themselves to any of the residents' vehicles, then?"
"Well, yeah, but that's why the lot is fenced off."
"But anyone who could get in--"
"Objection! The witness has already testified to the security measures in place. It is clear that only a professional burglar could get into the lot without a card key, and that is clearly not what occurred here."
"Why is that, Mr. Edgeworth?" the judge wanted to know.
"Because even if an expert car thief could break in without leaving any traces whatsoever--a suggestion that is dubious at best--such a thief would never return the car to the site of the theft! No possible motive could explain it."
"Yes...yes, that's quite correct."
"Objection!" I shouted, slamming my hands onto the bar before me.
"Really, Mr. Wright, what could you possibly be objecting about?"
"Just this..." I straightened up and grinned, resting my hands on my hips. "The prosecution has a good point in that it's highly unlikely an outsider broke in and stole the defendant's car. But! There are many different people who have access to the lot! Mr. Pacer, how many apartments are there in the building?"
"Forty-four. Four suites each on floors two through twelve."
"So," I said, warming to my theme, "there are at a minimum forty-three other people who could have walked into the parking lot at will with their card keys and have free access to Ms. Avalon's SXT."
"And just why would a resident take the defendant's car instead of his or her own?"
"In order--to commit murder!"
The courtroom erupted into frenzied activity, the crowd talking, cheering, or booing as suited their attitude. The judge hammered his gavel, demanding order, and eventually things settled down. He then fixed his gaze on me.
"Mr. Wright, what is your explanation for this?"
"Simply this, Your Honor. What are we here for? This is the trial in the case of the murder of John Q. Public. Who would want to kill this man? I haven't heard a motive suggested by any witness or by the prosecution as to why the defendant would want to commit murder, and I submit that there is none! She hadn't even heard of him before!"
"B-but this is a hit-and-run case."
"Exactly!" I was on a roll, now. "And what could be a better murder weapon that two tons of speeding metal? It's efficient, lethal, and unlike a shooting or a stabbing it might not even be realized to be murder! Only, if you were going to commit murder with a vehicle, would you use your own car? Not if you have forty or so others to pick from! I submit that the real murderer took Ms. Avalon's car, ran down the victim, and returned the car to the lot. He or she had to bring the car back, because the real murderer lives in that building! Did the police question other residents about their relationship to the victim? Of course not, because they had a suspect in hand already." I pointed dramatically. "I submit that the investigation of this case is nowhere near complete! In light of this shoddy police work, the doubts about Ms. Avalon's guilt are too great to overcome! I move for a verdict of 'not guilty' at this time, Your Honor!"
Wide-eyed, the judge blinked in surprise.
"Well...that is...I certainly never expected this, but we can't be shuffling people off to prison on the strength of half-finished police work. I therefore find the defendant, Ms. Ayako Avalon--"
The gavel paused even as it was sweeping down.
Gah! So close!
"This has all been very entertaining, Your Honor, but it is all baseless speculation on the part of the defense. Mr. Wright has spun out an interesting scenario of murder and mayhem, but he has not produced one single shred of evidence of its truth." He turned to me. "This is a court of law, Mr. Wright. Where is your proof?"
"It's true that the Police
Department has not ascertained if any of the other residents of the
He's right, but...
"But you can't prove that! The point is that other possibilities haven't been investigated yet."
"Mr. Wright is...well, right, Mr. Edgeworth," the judge said. "Unless you can prove that this crime was an accident and not premeditated murder, I will have to rule in the defense's favor."
"You've got him on the ropes now, Nick!" Maya cheered.
Then, Edgeworth smiled.
"Oh, is that all? Fortunately, I can prove that and more. After all, I said before the last recess that I had further witnesses to call. My next witness will not only prove that the killing was in fact an accident, but cement the fact that Ms. Avalon was indeed the killer, because this witness actually saw the crime take place!"