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Turnabout Nikiforov

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APRIL 10, 4:55 PM

WRIGHT AND CO. LAW OFFICES

 

The work day was winding down to a close. It was five ‘til five, and defense attorney Phoenix Wright hadn’t had a client all day—or even a phone call to answer. He closed his laptop in defeat. “Another day with nothing to do,” he said. “How much longer can we keep this up?”

His assistant—the sprightly, eighteen-year-old Maya Fey—clapped her hands together hard. “Snap out of it, Nick! Work’ll come. Just have a little faith.”

“Faith doesn’t pay the bills.”

Maya shrugged. “We’ve had dry spells before, and it’s always worked out in the end.”

Phoenix leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. “Yeah, we’ve had dry spells, but not like this. This time I threw a client to the sharks. Who wants to hire the rookie attorney who got a big TV star convicted on purpose?”

“Matt Engarde was a monster,” Maya said. “You didn’t have a choice. So cheer up, would ya? I’m starving.”

Phoenix gave a little chuckle. “Our usual burger place, right?”

“Yep!”

As usual, Phoenix admired her optimism, but with no work to be done he couldn’t bring himself to share it. Still, he forced a smile as he rose from his chair. “Burgers it is. Lead the way.”

Maya grabbed her coat and made for the door, but just as she reached it, a loud knock came from the other side. She jumped and shrieked in surprise, then slapped her hand over her mouth.

“Fraidy cat,” Phoenix teased. “Come in!”

The door opened, and Phoenix rounded his desk to greet their visitor. The man in the doorway turned out to be an absolute mess. His silver hair was all out of place, and heavy dark circles ringed his eyes. His features were writ with sorrow. This, Phoenix thought, is a man with a problem.

“Hi!” Maya said brightly. “Come on in.” She stepped aside so the man could pass.

“Thank you,” he said. He had a strong Russian accent.

“What can we help you with?” Phoenix asked.

The man studied him for a moment before asking, “This is the Wright and Co. Law Office?”

“Sure is,” Maya said.

“You must be Mr. Wright, then. My name is Viktor Nikiforov. I’m looking for an attorney.”

“Then you’ve come to the right place,” Phoenix said. “What do you need me for?”

“There’s been a…” Viktor looked away. “A murder. There’s been a murder.”

Then you really have come to the right place,” Phoenix said. “Assuming you’re not on the run.”

Viktor hung his head low. “I’m not the killer. I don’t know who is. I only know who isn’t, and I need to ask you to represent him.”

“This person is awaiting trial now?”

“He’s in detention. He’s… It’s my husband. I need your help, Mr. Wright. He needs your help.”

Phoenix scratched his chin. “Why did you choose me?”

“I spoke with a Mr. Grossberg today,” Viktor said. “I understand he’s the best in the city, but he said the case was too much of a risk. I asked for a recommendation and he gave me your name. I’m surprised he sent me to someone so young, but he spoke highly of you.”

“Marvin Grossberg?” Phoenix asked, taken aback. “I haven’t heard his name in over a year. I’m surprised he remembers me.” He paused to ponder that.

Maya spoke up while he was thinking. “Hey, Mr. Viktor? What’s your husband’s name?”

“Just Viktor is fine. But his name is Yuuri, and he’s a Nikiforov too, now.”

“Alright,” Phoenix finally said. “Go ahead and tell us what happened.”

Viktor swallowed and gave a slight nod. “Yuuri’s best man disappeared during our wedding reception. He was murdered.”

“When was this?”

“They only found the body this morning, but he was killed last night.”

“And the trial is scheduled for…?”

“The day after tomorrow,” Viktor said. “Your country’s laws are so strange. Everything happens so fast. How is there time to build a case? It’s terrifying.”

“I take it you’re vacationing here for your wedding,” Phoenix said.

“Yes, and we did get to have the wedding, but… the police took him away at breakfast, right when we got to the hotel restaurant.”

“If that’s the case, there must be direct evidence.”

“There is evidence, and the detective said they have a decisive witness. It feels like I’m living through a nightmare.”

Phoenix bit his lip. Plenty of evidence and an eyewitness, he thought. “Mr. Nikiforov, to be frank, that all sounds pretty damning.”

Viktor shook his head rapidly. “I know how bad it seems, but you have to believe me! My husband didn’t do it! He could never…”

He trailed off and fell silent, and Phoenix didn’t offer any words of his own. After a few moments of dead air, Maya piped up. “Nick, I think he’s telling the truth.”

Phoenix waited a while—maddeningly long, in Viktor’s mind—before giving a single, deliberate nod.

Viktor’s eyes glistened under the fluorescent office lights. “You’ll take the case?”

“You said Mr. Grossberg called it too risky?” Phoenix asked. “Hmm. I’m not surprised. He’s not the type to take a case with so much going against it.”

“But you are?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time, and I doubt it’d be the last, but I need to pay the other Mr. Nikiforov a visit in detention before I decide. If I believe he’s as innocent as you say he is, then you’ve found yourself an attorney.”

“Thank God,” Viktor said. “But I’ve barely told you anything. How can you agree to this so fast?”

“I can answer that one,” Maya said. “Nick talks a tough game, but he’s a big softie inside. This messed up your wedding, so of course he wants to save the day. Isn’t that right?”

Phoenix smiled. “You know me too well, Maya.” He glanced at the clock, and his smile fell away when he saw the time. “Normally I’d have a laundry list of questions to ask you, but I need to get down to the detention center before visiting hours are over. Just give Maya your number and I’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you so much,” Viktor said. “After what Mr. Grossberg said, I didn’t think anyone would… Thank you.”

“Thank me after the acquittal.” Phoenix clapped Viktor on the shoulder. “We’ll get this solved. I fight ‘til the end for my clients. But before I go: Where did the murder take place?”

“The Gatewater Hotel,” Viktor replied.

Phoenix turned ashen, and Maya sighed dramatically and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“The Gatewater was the scene of my last case,” Phoenix explained. “And that case was unpleasant.”

“Did you win it?”

Phoenix frowned. “You really are from out of the country. Just look up the Matt Engarde trial on the web and find out for yourself. All I’ll say is: If your husband isn’t guilty, I’ll carry him the whole way. I’ve never lost a case for an innocent client. Not one. Engarde, though… He was a true murderer, and he saw justice for it.”

“My Yuuri isn’t like him.”

“Few men are,” Phoenix noted.

“Enough with the doom and gloom,” Maya said. “Let’s go see Yuuri. We’ll take care of him, okay? You can trust us.”

“I don’t have much choice,” Viktor said.

The three of them left the office, and Phoenix locked up behind them. Viktor’s car was parked next to the bike rack, and as Viktor started to get into his crummy rental and Maya set to unchaining her bike, Phoenix called out: “Wait! Are you staying at the Gatewater?”

“Is that a problem?” Viktor asked.

“No, it’s convenient if anything. If I do agree to represent your husband I’ll swing by the crime scene after I speak with him. Then after that…”

“If you have any questions, I’m in room 501.”

“Good, that’s what I was getting at. I’ll catch up with you later on.”

With that, Viktor climbed into his car and Phoenix and Maya mounted their bikes. Viktor drove off, but the defense attorney didn’t make any moves to leave, even when Maya began to pedal away.

She doubled back. “Not coming?” she asked. “What’s up?”

“I just have a bad feeling,” Phoenix said. “I’m paranoid I’ll end up with another guilty client.”

“Oh, stuff it. I’m sure seeing this Yuuri will clear everything up.”

“Yeah… You’re probably right.”

“Always am,” Maya sing-songed.

Phoenix smiled to himself, then put up his kickstand and rode out of the lot with Maya following right behind him.

 


 

 

APRIL 10, 5:47 PM

DETENTION CENTER

VISITOR’S ROOM

 

The detention guard glared at Phoenix and Maya as they walked into the visitor’s room. “You two again?” he asked. They didn’t have a great relationship with him after the night Phoenix had been allowed to visit Engarde after hours. He’d had to personally drive in to oversee them.

“Glad to see you too,” Phoenix said. “Where’s the defendant?”

“He’s in questioning,” the guard said. “He should be out any second.”

Phoenix shrugged and approached the glass window that separated visitors and detainees. He pulled up an extra chair for Maya, and they sat down to wait.

“What kind of person do you think he’ll be?” Maya wondered.

“Dunno,” Phoenix said. “I guess we’re about to find out.”

“I hope it’s fast. I’m still starving.”

Phoenix chuckled under his breath. “Is food all you can think about?”

“Yep! Especially when it’s burgers.”

They waited for a while, and just when Phoenix was starting to get antsy about the end of visiting hours coming up, the heavy door on the other side of the glass swung open, and Yuuri Nikiforov came through, hands cuffed and legs chained loosely together. They must think he’ll try to run, Phoenix thought.

Yuuri was slight of frame—not skin and bones, but slender like an athlete—and his bright orange detention outfit clashed with the blue plastic rims of his glasses. He looked sad and shell-shocked, but that was a common expression for those in detention—especially if they didn’t actually commit the crime. Yuuri settled into the chair across from them and looked down at his lap, saying nothing.

“Mr. Nikiforov?” Phoenix ventured.

Yuuri looked up slowly. His eyes were red, like he’d been crying moments before. “Mr. Nikiforov. It’s strange being called that." He offered a pained smile. “Really nice, but strange.” He pushed his glasses up a little and peered at them. “Excuse me, but… Who are you?”

“They didn’t tell you?” Phoenix asked.

Yuuri shook his head.

“I’m a defense attorney. My name is Phoenix Wright.”

“A lawyer? Who’s the girl?”

“Maya Fey,” she said. “Don’t mind me. I’m Nick’s assistant.”

“Oh.” Yuuri paused. “Did Viktor send you?”

“He wants me to represent you,” Phoenix said.

“Did you agree?”

“Sort of. I want to ask you a few questions first. Plus, you’ll have to ask to hire me yourself. You would be my client, not your husband.”

“Go ahead,” Yuuri said. “I’m sure it’s nothing they haven’t asked me already.”

Phoenix thought for a moment, then said, “First things first: Who was the victim?”

Yuuri looked down again. Phoenix wondered if he was trying to hide tears. “Phichit Chulanont.”

“I see. Who was Mr. Chulanont to you?”

“My best man,” Yuuri said in a shaky voice. “Also my best friend. He’s a skater, like me.”

“A skater?” Phoenix asked.

“Yeah. Both of us are professional figure skaters. Viktor, too.”

Phoenix noted Yuuri’s use of the present tense to describe the victim. That’s not something most guilty men would do, he thought. “Tell me more about your relationship with him.”

Yuuri looked back up. He did in fact have tears in his eyes, but none on his cheeks. “I met him when I trained in Detroit. I guess you could call him a college friend. After I went back to Japan we’ve kept in touch online. We compete against each other now, so I get to see him sometimes on the circuit.”

“Compete?” Phoenix asked. “So he’s a rival of yours?”

Yuuri shook his head. “Not a rival in the way you’re thinking. Phichit and I are friends. We’re happy if either one of us wins.”

“But someone winning means someone loses, and losing isn’t a happy feeling.”

“That doesn’t bother us,” Yuuri said. “The skating world is really good-natured. Those of us at the top are kind of like a family. We do want to win, but mostly against our personal bests, not because we want each other to lose.”

“So you didn’t see Mr. Chulanont as a threat to your career?”

“No, of course not,” Yuuri said. “I would be excited if Phichit took gold.”

“Has he ever?”

“No,” Yuuri admitted. “He’s never actually placed above me.”

“So that’s not your motive, at least.” Phoenix pondered that for a bit.

“Nick!” Maya exclaimed, and punched him in the side. “He doesn’t have a motive! He didn’t do it!”

“Oww! That hurts, Maya! And we’re not sure if he did it or not.”

“You think I’m guilty?” Yuuri said, voice still quavering.

“Right now you don’t seem like a guilty man, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, if that’s not the motive, what do the police think is?”

“I don’t know,” Yuuri said. “No one will tell me anything. They just asked me so many questions.”

“Do you know who the detective in charge is?”

“Umm… I don’t know his name, but he was wearing a green trench coat, and his face was all scruffy…”

“Gumshoe,” Phoenix muttered.

“Pardon me?”

“His name’s Dick Gumshoe. He’s a friend, more or less. I’m sure I can get plenty of information out of him, so we’re safe there.”

Maya beamed. “He saved my life last month.”

“I’d like to be happy for you,” Yuuri said grimly, “but he’s making a case against me now.”

Maya’s face fell. “I guess you’re right.”

“Let’s move on,” Phoenix said. “Your husband told us there’s a witness against you. Any idea who that is?”

“No. They won’t tell me that either.”

“Well, that’s standard, but I bet I can get it out of Gumshoe if I work him the right way.” Phoenix paused. “And what about evidence? They must have some solid evidence if they arrested you so fast.”

Yuuri looked to the side. “Yeah. Well. I… There’s evidence.”

“So?” Maya asked, a little too transparently excited. “What is it?”

“There are other things I don’t know about, but one thing… They, uh… They found blood under my fingernails.”

What?!” Maya cried.

“Shhh,” Phoenix hissed back. “But… Blood? Please tell me it wasn’t the victim’s.”

“I won’t lie: It was Phichit’s. But I didn’t kill him!”

“If that’s true, how did the blood end up there?”

“I… Can’t tell you that. Not until I trust you a little more.”

Phoenix rubbed his temples. “Okay. Okay. I’ve dealt with clients with secrets before.” After a moment he dropped his hands to find Yuuri looking back at him. “How was your friend killed, Mr. Nikiforov?”

“Someone strangled him,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t see the body, but they told me he was strangled.” Tears welled in his eyes, and this time a couple actually tracked down his cheeks. “You’ll find who did it, won’t you?”

“That’s a job for the police. I’m just here to make sure you don’t get locked up yourself.”

“I see,” Yuuri said. “I’m not used to the legal system here.”

“Neither was your husband.” Phoenix locked eyes with him. “Tell me where the body was found.”

“In his room. But…”

“But?”

“It’s strange. The person who found Phichit? I can’t think of a single reason he would’ve gone to that room. He wasn’t sharing with him, or anything like that.”

“Who was this person?” Phoenix asked.

“Another skater. Yuri Plisetsky.”

“Hey, he has your name,” Maya said.

Yuuri nodded. “We call him Yurio, though.”

“Was Yurio accounted for last night?” Phoenix continued.

“As far as I know. He was the last person to leave the reception, and he was sharing a room with someone else, so he must have been with him all night. Otherwise he would probably be arrested too.”

“Did they bring him in for questioning?”

“I’m not sure. I’m sorry, Mr. Wright, but I really don’t know anything about any of this. I’m just… confused. Nothing makes sense, and it feels like everyone’s against me.”

“Well, you did have blood under your nails, so that’s one thing you’re not confused about. You seem to know how it got there.”

Yuuri gulped, his Adam’s apple lolling in his throat. “I do know, but it doesn’t have anything to do with this case. I promise.”

Phoenix waited a beat. “When did you first notice Phichit was missing?”

“I didn’t, really. I was too focused on my new marriage. I thought he’d gone upstairs to bed at some point and didn’t want to bother us by saying goodnight.”

“That’s terrible,” Maya said. “It must’ve been a shock when the cops told you.”

“It was surreal. It didn’t really set in that he was gone until a couple hours ago. I’m still not fully adjusted to it.”

“All of this happened in the Gatewater Hotel, right?” Phoenix asked. “The reception, and where you were all staying?”

“Yeah.”

“What about the wedding?”

“We had it in a gazebo by Gourd Lake,” Yuuri replied. “It was very beautiful. It was the happiest moment of my life, but this is easily the worst.”

“I’m so sorry, Yuuri,” Maya said.

“Thank you.” Yuuri started to get teary again, so he turned away. He wiped at his eyes., “Will you take my case, Mr. Wright?”

“Yeah,” Phoenix said. “I’ll take your case. And I’ll win your case.” He glanced at the clock. “I have more questions, but visiting hours are over, so… I’m sure I’ll be back tomorrow. Stay strong, and this’ll all get sorted out.”

“Believe in us, ‘kay?” Maya said. “We’ll believe in you, too.”

When Yuuri turned back to them he had a small, relieved smile on his lips, even in the face of his tears. “Thank you both,” he said. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

They said their goodbyes, and the lawyer and his assistant left the visitor’s room. Maya seemed pleased enough, but their little Q&A session had left Phoenix with more questions than answers.

The bad feeling from earlier still gnawed at his gut.

 


 

 

APRIL 10, 7:32 PM

GATEWATER HOTEL

HOTEL LOBBY

 

“Didn’t think we’d be back here so soon after Engarde,” Phoenix said as they entered the Gatewater’s revolving doors.

“Believe it!” Maya chirped. “Don’t stress too much, Nick. Maybe we’ll luck out and find a buffet in the banquet hall.”

“Still hungry?”

“When am I not?”

Phoenix grinned and stepped into the lobby of the Gatewater, but his good cheer faded immediately upon entry. The place was swarming with police.

One of them looked up as soon as they walked in. “Hey, you two!” he barked. “This place is off limits! It’s a crime scene.”

“Even the lobby?” Phoenix asked. “I thought—“

“It’s the whole damn hotel,” the cop said. “No one’s allowed in the building other than approved personnel, so unless you’ve got a letter of invitation, you’d better turn—“

“Step aside, Bob. I’ve got this one,” someone interrupted.

Phoenix recognized the voice immediately, and apparently so did Maya. She bounded forward and hugged the detective tight.

“Whoa, whoa, little lady! Let go, would ya? I can’t breathe.”

Maya pulled back. “Sorry,” she said dejectedly, and trudged back over to Phoenix.

“How’s it going, Detective?” Phoenix asked.

“Another day, another murder.” Gumshoe shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his trench coat. “I guess I should say murders, though.”

Phoenix snapped to attention. “Murders? As in more than one?”

“Yup. Three, actually. Biggest mess we’ve seen in this city in years.”

“But Nikiforov was only charged with one murder.”

“For now, sure,” Gumshoe said. “There’s no direct evidence tying him to the other two, but… Where there’s smoke there’s fire, pal. He’ll be charged before the night’s over.”

“You found the other two after he was arrested?”

“Look pal, you know I like you. We have a good working relationship. But I can guess you’re representing the accused, and I can’t just be handing out information to a triple-murderer’s attorney.”

“Aw, come on,” Maya said. “We got you your job back, didn’t we?”

“That was after I lost it for helping you two.”

The three of them stood around in an awkward silence.

“Okay, enough with the silent treatment!” Gumshoe broke in. “I can’t stand it, pal. So I’ll give you one thing.” He fished an envelope out of his right pocket and handed it to Phoenix. “That’s the first victim’s autopsy report.”

“Thanks, Gumshoe,” Phoenix said. “Can I ask just one more question?”

Gumshoe pursed his lips. “Just one? Alright. I don’t see the harm in one question.”

“Maybe you don’t,” came a voice from behind them. “But I certainly do.”

The hairs on the back of Phoenix’s neck stood up. He knew that voice all too well. “Edgeworth,” he said.

“Turn around, Wright. I don’t bite.”

“You might not bite, but from the look on Gumshoe’s face I almost expect you’re about to stab me.” He turned around as commanded.

Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth stood before him in his typical red suit and ruffled ascot with an equally typical sneer on his face. “Meddling in police matters again? I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m not surprised Detective Gumshoe’s lips are flapping, either. And so soon after I vouched for him to be rehired… Hmm, maybe I made a mistake.”

“No, sir! No mistake, Mr. Edgeworth, sir!”

“Right,” Edgeworth said, tipping his head to the side. “Very well then. I suppose Yuuri Nikiforov is your client.”

“What’s this about a triple murder?” Phoenix demanded. “You only have him on the books for one.”

“Yes, well, we weren’t aware of the others at the time. We’ve gotten enough of a look around to have a handle on the situation, however, and I expect he’ll be charged momentarily. Meanwhile, if you think I’m going to let a mass murderer’s attorney traipse around a fresh crime scene, you’re sadly mistaken.”

“I guess there’s no hope of getting a letter of introduction,” Phoenix muttered..

“What was that, Wright?” Edgeworth asked. “You’ll have to speak up so the adults in the room can hear your words.”

Maya balled up her fists and literally growled, but it only came off as amusing from a girl of her small stature. “Mr. Edgeworth!” she said forcefully. “You’re the same age as Nick, and you just helped us on our last case! You can’t go back to acting like… Acting like…”

“Acting like what?”

“A jerk!”

Edgeworth shook his head. “I’m only doing my job, and my job is not to aid the defense. Our goals happened to align during the Engarde trial, that’s all. I doubt they will again, so I’m going to need you both to exit my crime scene.”

Maya growled again.

“Calm down, Maya,” Phoenix said. “We’ll leave and come back tomorrow when things are quieter.”

“Yes, do that,” Edgeworth said. “I’m not an unreasonable man. I can’t allow you access while we’re still collecting evidence, but you can come by the Prosecutor’s Office in the morning. I’ll get you that letter of introduction, hmm?”

“Thanks, Edgeworth,” Phoenix said. “We’ll just get going.”

“Perfect.”

Phoenix turned back to Gumshoe. “Thanks for your help, Detective. Maybe we’ll run into each other tomorrow.”

Gumshoe grinned. “Yeah, no problem! And maybe we will. I’ll be here. You guys go get some rest. Tomorrow could be a long day, pal.”

Maya gave him another hug, then followed Phoenix outside.

He stopped in his tracks on the concrete. “So, Maya… It’s after dark, and we’re going to have an early start tomorrow. Want to crash at the office? Taking the train to your village and back so fast is probably too much trouble. Isn’t it a two-hour trip?”

Maya shrugged good-naturedly. “I don’t mind it, but that sounds like a plan to me. You know I can’t sleep in that dark office all by myself, though.”

“Sure. As usual, you get the couch and I get the floor.”

“That’s what I thought!” she said. “And hey now… Don’t forget the burgers.”