The Hanged Man
Author's Note: I'm sure it's really unlikely for a prosecuting attorney to do a lot of heavy undercover work, but this is the Legal System Of The Sorta Future!™ where nothing is particularly likely. I'd say in this case none of Gumshoe's men could have pulled off a cravat convincingly, and Edgeworth is glutton for punishment. Besides, lawyers can do undercover work! Because I saw it happen once in 1989 on an episode of Beauty and the Beast which is of course totally realistic.
Monday, October 4th
There was one constant in Phoenix Wright's life, and it was paperwork. Even when the trial was over and he'd seen off his latest unlikely client, there was still a sea of triplicate forms and billing statements to go through, court documents to drop off, and evidence files to be returned to the police. It had occurred to him more than once that maybe he should take on a secretary, as Maya was useless for that kind of thing, but the truth was he didn't mind the paperwork as much as he pretended to.
After all, it made him look busy.
Which was especially vital in the bustle of the police department, where Phoenix was sure that the massive force of constant paper-pushing somehow contributed to the planet's orbit. He made his way through cluttered desks and uniformed officers, manila folder clutched under one arm and a look of intense occupation on his face, hoping that was sufficient for him to be left alone. He had discovered that the problem with being a successful lawyer was that suddenly everybody had some sort of tricky legal thing they wanted assistance with, for free. Nevermind that he was a defense attorney, and didn't know very much about corporate law, or tax law, or aviation law, for the love of god. Besides, Officer Yaeger had buzzed the beach in a police chopper just for the jollies, and as far as Phoenix was concerned, he pretty much deserved to have his license suspended. Phoenix could feel the helicopter pilot giving him the hairy eyeball from across the room, and he made an abrupt turn through the nearest door before he could be cornered into calling the FAA again.
The nearest room turned out to be a questioning booth, and it was occupied. Gumshoe sat across a rickety table from a man who looked like he'd gotten the hard end of a mugging, and the tabletop was covered in the omnipresent paperwork and an assortment of paper cups with a thin film of coffee clinging to the insides.
"Sorry," Phoenix muttered, to the floor. "Wrong door."
"Hey, I know that suit," Gumshoe said, looking up from whatever information he was trying to fit in a tiny box on the form in front of him. "C'mere for a minute, pal."
It was the closest thing to a direct address Gumshoe ever gave, and Phoenix looked up. The man sitting with the detective had been almost unrecognizable on first glance, with his back to the door, but he turned around gingerly in his folding chair and Phoenix's papers slipped unnoticed from under his arm.
"Edgeworth! What the hell happened to you?"
"It's been a while, Wright," Edgeworth said, and it wasn't just his usual narrow-eyed expression that made him squint at Phoenix. One side of his face was heavily bruised, eye swollen almost shut. His lower lip was split, scabbed over with a thin line of blood, and his trademark cravat had been torn off at one end and wound into a makeshift bandage around one wrist. "You'll forgive me if I don't get up to shake your hand."
"God, Edgeworth," Phoenix said, bending to scoop up his papers, hoping the worry in his face wouldn't show. "I keep telling you, I don't care what they're wearing in France, but if you keep walking around LA in a damn pink suit someone's going to jump you--"
"This has nothing to do with my suit," Edgeworth snapped, some fire returning to the one eye that could open all the way. "I've been doing my job, thank you very much, which has a bit more work involved than just sneaking down to the station to 'borrow' evidence."
Phoenix shifted the envelope under his other arm, and coughed.
"Hey, blueboy. You know that big park up in the east hills? The new one, memorial whatsit?" Gumshoe was still fussing over his paperwork, oblivious to the electric crackle between the other two men. "Which bus is it that goes by there?"
Phoenix tore his eyes away from the inexplicably vulnerable line of Miles Edgeworth's exposed throat, and fumbled through bus schedules in his memory. "I don't know... I never take that one. But it's probably one of the 530's."
"Thought it couldn't be a 300, lying sonuvabitch." Gumshoe licked the tip of his pen to keep it writing, and scrawled a note in his paperwork. "That's patched their escape hole. Thanks for your help."
"You're welcome," Phoenix said, and then realized in the awkward silence that the last bit hadn't been directed at him. "What happened, anyway?" His smile, he knew, was feeble. "Not sending me more impossible cases to defend, are you?"
"Trust me Wright, you don't want to defend this lot," Edgeworth said, pulling his coat off the chair. It was no longer its usual shade of magenta, spattered all over with a more sinister red-brown color and a good helping of mud. His smile was grim as he put his fingers through a long rip in the sleeve. "Kidnappers, illegal sex trade, child pornography ring... not your kind of clientele."
"Not for much longer. This'll put them away for good." Gumshoe's grin was toothy as he stretched, the warped metal chair creaking at the effort of holding him up. "None of my boys could have pulled this off, Mr. Edgeworth. Posing as a buyer, sticking around to record enough conviction evidence even after your cover got blown... you're crazy! But I owe you one."
"Put it on your tab," Edgeworth said, and slung his jacket around his shoulders. The motion was meant to be careless, Phoenix was sure, but the prosecutor swayed visibly, making a grab for the back of his chair.
Phoenix was across the narrow room in two strides, and it was proof of how badly Edgeworth was hurt that he didn't protest at having a blue-suited shoulder to lean on. "Detective, what are you doing? He should have gone straight to the hospital."
"Huh." Gumshoe scratched at his chin with the end of his ink pen, leaving a blue scribble among his stubble. "Mr. Edgeworth wanted to get all the paperwork in right away, pal. Said he didn't need the hospital, that it wasn't that bad."
"That's because he was lying," Phoenix said. "You've got a squad car, right? Drive us down to Mercy General, and I'll look after him from there."
"Look," Gumshoe said, making a jabbing motion with his pen. "Mr. Edgeworth said he didn't want to go to the hospital, so I'm not gonna take him until he asks--"
"He is not going to ask," Phoenix said, through gritted teeth, "because he is unconscious."
Gumshoe blinked at the prosecutor hanging limply from Phoenix's arms, and broke into a broad smile. "Well, I guess he is, isn't he? Let's go then!"
Emergency rooms always made Phoenix nervous. There was something about the combination of sterility, pain, and potential financial ruin that made it impossible for him to relax, even when he wasn't the one hurt. The oversized pink and blue clowns eyeing him glassily from the dark gift shop didn't help much, either. The shop was closed, so he couldn't go in and turn the damn things around, so they would quit staring at him. He had to wonder if hospital gift-shop prices were so high because they were only open for ten minutes per day, and the sale of a single zagnut bar had to cover all the costs.
Gumshoe had deposited them both at the hospital and then, assuming somehow that Miles Edgeworth was eminently capable even when he was passed out, had left them there. Phoenix was glad his last client had finally paid, and money for a taxi was nothing difficult. It would have been awkward, going through Edgeworth's pockets for his lose cash.
The nurse called Phoenix's name, and he shifted the mass of unread magazines and Edgeworth's ruined jacket off his lap and hurried over to the window. There was another dose of paperwork, and a few fruitless protests that he was not Edgeworth's domestic partner, and then a bandaged, heavily medicated prosecutor was handed into his custody. Unsure what to do with his groggy prize, Phoenix wrangled Edgeworth to the entrance and waved down one of the passing taxis. Edgeworth slid onto the cracked back seat of the cab and slumped over where he was, like a semi-inflated sex doll.
"Where to it is you are going?" the driver asked, and it took Phoenix a minute to get through the man's accent. Apparently he was from Eastern Incomprehensible, like every other cabbie in the city.
"Oh, it's um--" he began, and then realized he had no idea where Edgeworth lived. "Hang on."
"Meter goes," the driver said indifferently, and twiddled with the forest of lucky figurines mounted on the dash of his car.
Edgeworth made no coherent response to questions about his address, and Phoenix felt around in the torn magenta jacket, hoping Edgeworth kept his wallet in there. No luck.
"Man, I'm really sorry about this," Phoenix hissed, and reached underneath Edgeworth to get his hand in the prosecutor's back pocket.
"No ookienook in the cab, sir," the driver said, with a stern glare in the rearview.
"Shut up," Phoenix said, his face going the color of Edgeworth's suit as his hand slid into a silk-lined pocket. He was trying very hard not to think about the actual ass he was grabbing, and to instead focus instead on some very clumsy pick-pocketing. Edgeworth made a soft noise against the nape of Phoenix's neck, and Phoenix felt the skin at the base of his spine prickle. Under the cold scents of sterile bandages and antibiotic ointment, Edgeworth smelled like expensive leather, some kind of spicy aftershave, and pomegranates. Phoenix's fingers stumbled clumsily over Edgeworth's wallet, and he pressed his suddenly shaky hands to his knees as he flipped out the driver's license. "1228 Schadenfreude," he said, and the taxi peeled out while Phoenix ran his thumb over the photo on Edgeworth's ID.
Phoenix was not surprised when the cab pulled up to the most expensive apartment building in the whole damn city. The doorman gave him a funny look but no assistance; either Edgeworth was frequently carried home by strange men in suits, or it wasn't considered proper to help an injured man right in broad daylight where everybody could see. Phoenix's shoulders were starting to ache by the time he got them both in the elevator. Edgeworth was no lightweight, and he was as tall as Phoenix. As the elevator pulled them upwards, Edgeworth muttered something incoherent and tossed his head, pale hair clinging to a suddenly clammy cheekbone.
"Sorry," Phoenix muttered, looking at the elevator doors. "I forgot. But I'm not carrying you up twenty-seven flights of stairs."
Edgeworth was shivering visibly when they got out, and then it was time for another grope in Edgeworth's indecently warm pockets for his door key. At least this should be the worst of it, Phoenix thought, two seconds before the apartment door swung open on a posh flat and a pair of very unfriendly, very snarling, very large dogs.
"Good puppies!" Phoenix squeaked, wondering for a wild moment if he could throw Edgeworth to them and flee. The dogs were lean walls of muscle, their fur a warm silver color that was exactly the same as Edgeworth's hair. When they saw the limp figure hanging off of Phoenix's shoulder their growls increased to a more threatening pitch. "Look, I'm helping!" Phoenix protested, glad no one else was around to hear how ridiculous he sounded. "Did you want me to leave him bleeding at the police station? Gumshoe would have just left him there until he got up on his own or started to decompose, and then who would have fed you and given you walkies? Huh? Answer me that!" The thought of Edgeworth giving walkies to anything bordered on the ridiculous, but the dogs were chastised. They snuffled at their master's dangling fingers and, deciding he wasn't dead, began a nosy investigation of Phoenix's personal areas.
"You should train your dogs not to be so forward," Phoenix said, pushing a bony dog-head away from his crotch, dragging Edgeworth into the foyer, and shutting the door behind them.
The lights in Edgeworth's apartment came on automatically, dim lighting glowing on antique settees and gleaming hardwood floors. Everything was in muted shades of magenta and plum, with an occasional crimson flash like a crime scene. The dogs' claws clattered on the flooring and they danced in little anxious circles around the two lawyers as Phoenix tried to get his bearings. The living room was sunken; two steps led down into it and then back out again into the shadows of what looked like a bedroom. Phoenix had been tempted to just leave Edgeworth on a sofa, but from the looks of them, nobody had sat on them since the invention of the automobile. He wouldn't have been surprised to see little gold tasseled ropes tied across them, like in a museum.
"Okay, lead the way," Phoenix said, and the dogs waved their stubbed tails and scrambled for the bedroom.
"You know," Phoenix said, studying the acres of aubergine silk sheets and velvet coverlet that confronted him when he entered, "you really should talk to a therapist about this color obsession you have." He lowered Edgeworth down onto the two square miles of Victorian real estate that passed for a bed, and stood completely straight for the first time in an hour, spine cracking. "Well, here you are, so..." Phoenix trailed off. The two dogs were watching him with expectant faces. Once he was horizontal on the sea of his coverlet, Miles Edgeworth seemed small and adrift, the frayed end of his torn cravat unraveling and caught in the buttons of his vest. He always took such care of how he looked in the courtroom, seeing him in such disrepair was like looking at a mansion in ruin. His hand was swathed in bandages, and somehow the tape and gauze across his face were more like an injury than the bruising they covered. In the interrogation room, Edgeworth had worn his wounds like proud battle-paint, magenta and purple like everything else in his life; now he just looked like a victim. He stirred slightly, groaning, and his unbandaged eye opened for a moment but did not focus before closing again.
"ThoughokaymaybeIcanwalkthedogsfirst," Phoenix admitted, and there was a scramble of dog bodies past his legs. By the time Phoenix had turned around the two hounds were sitting obediently by the door, leather leashes held in their patient mouths.
"It wouldn't be as bad if you didn't have the Judge trained the same way," Phoenix muttered to a sleeping Edgeworth, and went to take the dogs to the park across the street.
The dogs were quick about their business, probably because Edgeworth had them on a fixed schedule. It was just as well, because once Phoenix imagined the prospect of Edgeworth waking up alone and hurt, without even his dogs there for comfort, he couldn't get them back to the apartment fast enough. Edgeworth was still sprawled where he had been left, legs dangling off the end of the bed.
"That doesn't look very comfortable, Wright," Phoenix said to himself as he hung the leashes back up on the hooks by the door, glad for the sound of his voice in the hushed apartment. "You know, only a real jerk would have left a friend lying there like that."
He tried not to think too hard about what he was doing as he got Edgeworth out of his shoes and vest. His shirt was shredded and underneath it his ribs were already purpling. Phoenix did not have to remove it so much as pull it away, as without the vest there wasn't much to hold it on anymore. "Most lawyers keep a desk between them and the bad guys, Edgeworth," Phoenix said, pulling the coverlet over him. "You're too good for your own good."
He didn't know how long he stood there, staring at Edgeworth while the sky outside dimmed and violet shadows stretched out long fingers through the curtains. A cold nose nudging up into his hand finally startled Phoenix out of his reverie, and he blinked at the dogs as though he had never seen them before. One of them whined softly.
"Yeah," Phoenix said, without really thinking, "he'll be fine, don't worry."
Another whine. Phoenix scrubbed his hand over his face, feeling like he was half-dreaming, wrapped up in the cloying luxury of Edgeworth's bedroom. "Hey, you guys hungry? I am. Let's see if he's got anything fit to eat, huh?"
The bright lights and granite countertops of Edgeworth's kitchen were like a splash of cool water, shaking the shadows out of Phoenix's brain. He took a minute to figure out the high-tech coffee machine, and once the fortifying smell of decaf French roast filled the air, he opened the door of the steel refrigerator. "Lemme guess. Edgeworth's one of those guys who never actually cooks anything, and only has restaurant leftovers and an open bottle of wine in his fri--" His voice trailed off as he was confronted with an array of fancy ingredients--capers and quail eggs and shitake mushrooms. A plate of leftover tilapia drizzled with homemade mango salsa sat side by side with half a plum tart. Phoenix pulled his head out of the fridge and took another look around the kitchen. The evidence was apparent now, and any detective worth his salt would have seen it already. Pots and pans dangled from a rack in the ceiling, gleaming but well-used, like armor. Regimented rows of spice bottles stood at attention on the countertop, next to a knife block and a wrought-iron cookbook stand. A war engine of a bread machine sat behind them, prepared to lay siege to every preconceived notion Phoenix had about Miles Edgeworth.
"I'll be damned," Phoenix said, as the fridge door slipped closed again. "You like to cook!"
His shock was interrupted by a hopeful whine from the pantry, where the two dogs sat next to empty bowls and a container of dog chow, backsides wiggling on the tile with the tail-wagging they couldn't restrain. Phoenix figured that Edgeworth's pedigreed pooches got some sort of organic raw dog diet, but he was grateful there was plenty of kibble there, the same stuff ordinary mortals fed to their dogs.
No, Phoenix thought, catching himself ignoring the proof he had uncovered. Edgeworth obviously loves his dogs. He likes collecting antique furniture. He likes to cook; probably because it takes away the stress of his job. He's afraid of elevators and earthquakes, he's claustrophobic and doesn't like heights. He's willing to get the crap beat out of him just to catch a bunch of thugs selling kids, even though it isn't his job, because he believes in what he does. And he bled all over your shirt collar tonight, Wright. He's human the same as you, and don't you forget it for a moment.
The dogs were face-down in their bowls, tags jangling against the ceramic. Phoenix sheepishly ate some of the exceptional plum tart with his coffee, and looked out the broad corner window at the city lights catching fire in the darkness beyond. It was a nicer view than the scenery outside of Phoenix's bedroom window, and his kitchen didn't have a view at all, as it was just a strip of linoleum with a fridge and a stove. But he didn't begrudge Edgeworth the view. Standing there on the twenty-seventh floor, in the very heart of Fortress Edgeworth, Phoenix could only think of how isolated it must feel to live there, lonely and alone.
The living room was cold and untouchable still; Phoenix couldn't make himself believe that Edgeworth ever actually sat in there, watching TV in his socks and boxers, eating popcorn. The bedroom, while plush, at least felt lived-in. Phoenix dragged in a chair from the adjoining office and sat down in it, no longer pretending to himself that he would leave. He stretched out his legs in front of him and studied the man in the bed: his childhood idol, his courtroom rival, his personal enigma, his unexpected friend.
Edgeworth was actually asleep, not just loopy from vicodin and whatever else they had pumped into him at the hospital. In the dark room two shadows loped up to Phoenix and rested their heads on his knees. He smoothed their velvety ears, scratching them under their collars. Realizing he did not even know their names, he flipped the tags up to read the engraving, borrowing the dim city light from the balcony window. Sturm was one hound, Drang was the other. Phoenix rolled his eyes.
"You're nuts, Miles Edgeworth," he said, and failed to stifle his yawn, fingers slowing down on Sturm's head as he dozed off. "...just like everybody else."