"An actual witness to the crime?" I groaned, rubbing my nose. It still hurt from when I had faceplanted onto the defense bench in surprise at Edgeworth's announcement. Maya's response had been less than sympathetic.
Serves you right for being so surprised, I told myself. He'd announced it in advance, after all. Besides, by now I ought to expect Edgeworth to have something up his sleeve.
"Nick, that's just not possible!" Maya protested.
I turned to the defendant.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ayako was still running true to form.
"I mean, are you telling us the truth?"
"What happened to all your big talk about believing in my innocence, and about getting to the truth? Was that all just hot air?"
"Look, I'll say this again: I came home at . I had a late supper. I watched TV. At eleven I took two sleeping pills and went to bed. The next thing I knew, the police were pounding on my door. I don't know anything about a hit-and-run. After five, I never left my apartment. That is the absolute truth."
She sounded earnest and convincing. Of course, that didn't actually mean anything, but...
Dammit, she was Maya's friend. Maya had come back to the city, walking away from her training, for the sole purpose of helping Ayako out. Maya trusted her when she said she was innocent. And Ayako trusted Maya, too. Ayako was a successful, fashionable medium who lived in a fancy building and drove an expensive sports car. When she'd learned of Mia's death, she could have hired the top defense firm in the city, but instead she'd trusted me with the job, because Maya had told her I could do it and she believed in Maya.
If I let Edgeworth win a "guilty" verdict, I'd be turning Maya into a liar or a fool in the eyes of her friend. I couldn't do that. That's what it came down to.
I'd believed in Maya before, when she'd been accused of murder and I hadn't even known her. Couldn't I believe in her now when she had put her faith in a friend?
How could I not?
"All right, then that's how it's going to be. I'll just have to try and poke whatever holes I can in this witness's testimony."
Maya clapped happily.
"That's the spirit, Nick!"
"Yeah, but if I can't...we'll find ourselves speeding right towards a brick wall."
-X X X-
"Trial in the case of the People versus Ayako Avalon is back in session."
"The defense is ready," I lied shamelessly.
"The prosecution is ready, Your Honor." Edgeworth obviously wasn't lying.
"Very well, Mr. Edgeworth. Please call your next witness."
"The prosecution calls Mrs. Minnie Cooper to the stand."
Minnie Cooper proved to be a grandmotherly type in her mid-sixties, short and a bit plump. She wore a flower-print dress and sensible shoes, but threw off the image a bit with the open-face motorcycle helmet, leather driving gloves, and goggles (bifocals, natch).
"Witness, please state your name and occupation."
"Minnie Cooper, young'un! Retired now, but back in the day I was one of the hottest pit popsies on the circuit!"
"Racing groupies, Edgie-boy! Caught every single event six years running. They were fast on the track but none of those racers ever drove anything faster than me!" She patted her hip. "Care to see my autograph collection?"
"Not if you were holding my mother at gunpoint."
Looks like Edgeworth's met his match.
"You wouldn't have said that forty years ago, young'un!"
"Let's just proceed with the testimony, shall we? You saw the incident, didn't you?"
"Well of course I did. Wouldn't be here if I hadn't."
"Then please go ahead and tell us what happened."
"Well, I was stopped at the traffic light at the corner of Fifth and Garden. It was around eleven-thirty, as best I can remember."
"As best you can remember?"
"Don't get your undies in a twist, Edgie-boy. I didn't have a watch, not that I'd be looking at it all the time if I did. Life's too short to be wasting it clock-watching! Now anyway, I happened to notice this very cute fellow on the other side of the street, but going the same way as I was. So I called out to him. Just then, this cherry-red SXT came screaming through the intersection going north on Garden."
"You were facing east on Fifth at the time?"
"And the victim was walking east on the sidewalk on the north side of Fifth?"
"You're catching on, young'un. The next thing I knew, the SXT made a sharp U-turn and came racing back southbound just as that poor boy dashed out into the street. It hit him--pow!--and he went flying. The car slowed while the driver looked back, then sped up again and tore away south on Garden. I hopped off my bike and ran over to the injured man, but he was already dead. I then went up half a block to a pay phone and called the police."
"I may add that it was this witness's identification of the vehicle as a new-model SXT that enabled the police to so quickly locate the defendant. There are only four such cars registered in the city," Edgeworth finished up, "so it was an easy matter to check up on them all. Now, Mrs. Cooper, did you happen to see who was at the wheel of that car?"
"Well, of course I did!" She leaned forward at the witness stand and speared her finger directly at my client. "It was her, grinning like a crazed demon!"
Gak! All that and she's ripping off my dramatic finger-pointing, too!
The courtroom had erupted into a buzz of excitement at Mrs. Cooper's testimony. The judge had to hammer his gavel repeatedly while calling for order to get things to quiet down. Edgeworth, meanwhile, swept a deep bow in my direction.
"I believe that completes the prosecution's case quite nicely, Your Honor."
"Yes, I see! You have a decisive witness indeed, Mr. Edgeworth. Still, in the interest of courtesy, I suppose we should allow Mr. Wright the opportunity to cross-examine."
Gee, thanks ever so.
"Okay, Nick, this is it! Time to prove she's lying!" Maya said.
"Do you have any suggestions?"
"Um...not really." She hung her head. "It all sounded pretty bad to me."
Maya wasn't the only one. Mrs. Cooper's testimony had seemed rock-solid to me, too. But it couldn't be, could it?
"I guess all I can do is squeeze her and see what pops out."
"Yes, Your Honor!" I cleared my throat. "Mrs. Cooper, would you say that the driver of the SXT intended to hit Mr. Public?"
She shook her head.
"Oh, no, I'm sure she couldn't see him."
"You are? That part of town is well-lighted, isn't it?"
"Of course, young'un. Bright as Daytona under the lights."
"So how is it that the driver couldn't see Mr. Public standing at the corner?"
"Because of the trees."
"That's right, Edgie-boy, and when you're southbound on Garden, you can't see someone at that corner until they actually step out to cross."
"Hold it! You just said that the SXT drove through the intersection, then made a U-turn and came back southbound. Isn't that the case?"
"That's what I said."
"Well, then, couldn't the driver have seen Public while going northbound?"
"I...well, I suppose so."
"And what's more, the driver, upon seeing Public, immediately made a U-turn and shot back through a red light to hit and kill him. I don't see that as being an accident."
"But the light wasn't red!"
I blinked in surprise.
"Wait, are you saying that the light was green for traffic on Garden?"
"So Mr. Public was crossing
"Yes, he was."
"But you just said that he was standing at the corner, waiting. Then he just decided to cross against the light? Why would he do something like that?"
"Well...um...er..." She pressed her forefingers together nervously. "I guess there could have been a reason..."
"What?" Edgeworth exclaimed.
Ha! This is something he didn't expect. Maybe I'm on the right track after all!
"Mrs. Cooper, please give your testimony again, and this time try to include all of the important details," advised the judge.
Sonny-boy? He's as old as you are!
"Anyway, like I said, I was stopped at the light, so I looked around. That's when I saw this hottie standing on the corner. I looked him over from head to toe and back up again--yum! So I called to him, 'Hey, baby, want to take a ride on this?' Then, he got all wide-eyed and darted into the street."
Okay, now it makes perfect sense, I decided.
"The way I see it, young'un, he just knew he would be out of his league."
"I think we'd all agree that you're in a league of your own," noted Edgeworth, unamused. "Still, not even the esteemed defense attorney could call this anything but a tragic accident turned into a murder by the heartless attitude of the driver, who didn't even stop once before making her getaway."
"He's right, Nick. What are we going to do?"
Good question. As Edgeworth had promised, he'd shot my murder theory all to heck. The police had proven Ayako's car was the killing vehicle, so the only way out was to show that someone else was the driver.
"That does seem to be the case, Mr. Edgeworth," the judge said, swaying with the testimonial wind as usual. "Does the defense even wish to cross-examine?"
I nodded firmly. There was no turning back now.
"Yes, Your Honor, I do."
"Really? Well, I suppose that would be okay."
Okay, Wright, you've already caught her holding back once. Can you do it again?
"So, Mrs. Cooper," I began, "you were 'scoping out' the victim while he was at the corner?"
"You betcha, young'un! Just because there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there isn't fire--"
"Objection!" Edgeworth snapped. "I don't think we need any metaphors that would put those kind of images into our heads."
"The Court agrees!" the judge said in desperation. "Objection sustained!"
"After that," I hurried on, "you spoke to the victim, and he dashed into the road, where he was struck by the defendant's car?"
"You've been paying attention!" she said approvingly.
"Yes, I have...close enough attention to see there's a clear contradiction in your testimony!"
"Order in the court!" the judge shushed the suddenly buzzing gallery.
"Objection! There's no contradiction in the testimony!"
"Well, Mr. Wright? Can you show us this supposed contradiction?"
"Yes, Your Honor, I can!" I hope. "You've already testified that the hit-and-run car drove north through the intersection while the light was green, made a U-turn and came back south to strike the victim. But! You've also said that you looked the victim over 'from head to toe and back up again'--all before you spoke to him! So how is it that you could tell the details of the defendant's car while you were watching the victim?"
"Eep!" Mrs. Cooper shot bolt upright at the stand, causing her helmet to pop up off her head and show off her bald spot before it dropped back into place.
"To see the victim, you had to turn your head to your left, and your helmet restricts your peripheral vision," I kept after her. "You couldn't have seen the car at all, not even out of the corner of your eye, until it came through the intersection, and after that you were talking to the victim! Tell us the truth, Mrs. Cooper!"
"Objection! What the witness told the police led directly to identifying the defendant's car as the hit-and-run vehicle!"
"Objection! That's exactly why we need to hear the truth of her testimony!"
"Indeed we do," agreed the judge. "Mr. Edgeworth indicates that your testimony led to the police discovering the fatal vehicle, but as Mr. Wright has demonstrated, that testimony indicates you couldn't have seen it."
"B-but I did see it! It went right past me after the accident."
"While you were looking at the body of the victim! You only got a glimpse of the car at best! There's no way you could have gotten a clear look at the driver!" She reeled beneath my onslaught.
"A...all right! I admit it!"
"You...'admit it'?" asked the judge, stunned.
"I was looking at that cute boy. I barely saw the car at all, only enough to notice the color."
"Then how did you know it was an SXT?"
"Well, really, I may need my glasses but I'm not deaf, you know. Do you think I could mistake that McCulloch and Sons V8 with the racing cam and factory-option supercharger they've put in SXTs for the past three years? Do I look senile to you?"
"Y-you recognized the car by the sound of its engine?"
"Is that so surprising?" Edgeworth put in. "Given the witness's long--ahem--experience with high-performance cars, I suspect she could easily do what she claims."
Yeah...I suppose so, I thought. I'd almost had her, until Edgeworth had managed to wriggle her back off the hook.
Or had he?
"Hold it! The point isn't that the witness was able to positively identify the car. The point is, since she could only do so by sound, she can't testify that the defendant was driving it! That leaves this case right where we were before the witness took the stand!"
"Not quite," Edgeworth wagged his forefinger next to his temple, a gesture I was coming to hate. It always meant disaster for me. "The significant fact revealed by Mrs. Cooper is that this crime was by no means a premeditated murder."
Oh, yeah. I'd forgotten about that.
"This means that, having already ruled out theft for gain, we can now establish that no one could have stolen the defendant's car to provide an alibi. Only the defendant would have used her own vehicle, and she has no alibi of her own. She claims to have been home asleep, but the man who came to visit buzzed her intercom repeatedly without success. With the defense's last argument shattered, all that is left of this case is to enter a verdict of 'guilty.'"
Uh huh. Definitely hate that finger.