She checked her appearance one last time in the mirror. Hair: perfect. Attire: perfect. Whip: prepared. Franziska von Karma was never anything less than perfectly prepared for court. Today’s trial promised to at least be interesting, as she had never faced this particular attorney before. At least, she hoped it would be interesting- Kristoph Gavin could easily be just as much of a bore as the other foolish attorneys she’d faced in this country since that fool Phoenix Wright had gotten himself disbarred. She felt the old anger flare again- the fool had fallen for a ruse, clearly. She didn’t believe for a second that he’d actually forged evidence- that just wasn’t his kind of foolishness. And just like that, he was gone. She’d never have the satisfaction of crushing him.
She pushed down the anger and frustration. As much as she hated to admit it, she hadn’t had a decent challenge ever since he’d left; even Germany’s best hadn’t been able to beat her. More than anything else, she was bored. Her fervent hope was that Kristoph Gavin could be a source of entertainment, at least.
There were still a few minutes before the doors would open. She used them to glance over the court record one more time. The victim was one Vatis Updog, a local gangster. Her suspect was a member of a rival gang, Machette E. Stabbac; both had been involved in a skirmish this week as part of an ongoing turf war. It had ended poorly for Updog. It was a fairly routine case, with the usual roster of intimidated witnesses and lack of cooperation from the suspect. She did at least have one witness who could establish motive- Stabbac’s erstwhile girlfriend, who had seen the two exchanging some very personal insults recently. Her name was Jaqueline Stroker, and she was the prosecution’s best chance. Franziska had interviewed her two days ago, extracting all the facts- she wasn’t about to let anything surprise her as it had during her first few trials in this country. They had been over her testimony repeatedly, and thankfully it was all damn incriminating.
She made her way to the prosecution’s bench as the hour struck, surveying her opponent. Gavin was tall, well dressed in a blue suit. His hair was as foolish as any she’d seen in this country, with a ponytail-esque thing draped over his left shoulder. He was smiling pleasantly, peering at her through his glasses. She returned the smile, adding just a touch of honey-sweet venom.
The sound of the gavel interrupted their staring contest, bringing her attention to the judge’s bench. “Court is now in session for the trial of Machette Stabbac,” he said. He looked cautiously at Franziska. “Er… is the prosecution ready?”
“Of course, Your Honor.” She kept her eyes on Gavin. “I hope we can get through this with a minimum of foolishness.”
Gavin inclined his head slightly, still smiling. “The defense is also ready, Your Honor.” He’d better be, thought Franziska. I’m going to wear out my whip arm if he’s not.
“Very good,” said the judge. “Your opening statement, then, Ms. Von Karma?”
She nodded briskly. “A few days ago, Machette Stabbac and several of his associates met with the victim and his associates…”
As she progressed through her opening statement and the detective’s testimony, Kristoph Gavin remained mostly silent, annoyingly. Then again, unlike Scruffy, Detective Skye was not one to let inconsistencies slip by. In his cross-examination, Gavin just asked for clarification on a couple of points and relinquished the witness. Franziska’s brow furrowed- this was not showing promise.
“The prosecution calls Jacqueline Stroker.” Franziska caught a flicker of something across Gavin’s face. Finally. Stroker took the stand, looking nervous. A natural reaction, and one she’d seen in many witnesses, but she needed Stroker’s complete focus. The young woman jumped as Franziska’s whip hit the desk. “Your name and occupation, witness.”
Stroker was of middling height, with black hair drawn back in a bun. She was clearly uncomfortable with all the attention, slowly shrinking behind the witness stand. “Er… Jacqueline Stroker. I’m a waitress at Jack Flap’s Pancakes.”
So far so good. “And your relation to the defendant?”
“We, um…” She hesitated a second too long; Franziska’s whip lashed out to get her going again. “Eep! Sorry! We used to date! Sorry!”
Dealing with recalcitrant witnesses had always been something of a specialty of Franziska’s. She did feel a little bad about whipping a witness who was so obviously scared (it was so much more satisfying to punish the uncooperative ones), but it was necessary. “Very good. Now, please testify about any interactions you witnessed between the defendant and victim.”
Stroker was suddenly looking at the floor, wringing her hands behind her back. “Um… I saw them talking once or twice. I know they were part of rival gangs, but… they always seemed to get along fairly well despite that.”
There was no reason for Stroker to change her testimony so suddenly and drastically. Franziska’s first instinct was to go for her whip, but she pushed it down- if there was a reason compelling enough to risk her wrath, the actual practice of said wrath wouldn’t be likely to change anything. Franziska’s mind raced, trying to figure out why in the world Stroker would betray her. Retaliation from one of the gangs? No, we’ve been over that, nobody really likes Stabbac, he’s just handy as an enforcer. A sudden surge of loyalty? Doubtful, Stabbac was hardly kind to her...
“Er… is there a problem, Ms. Von Karma?” Franziska started as she heard the judge’s voice. She whipped around to face him, whip lashing out simultaneously. “Yeek!”
“Fool! I am merely considering my next question. Refrain from foolish interruptions!” As the judge apologized from his place beneath his bench, Franziska glanced at Gavin. He looked the same as he had throughout the trial: polite smile, formal posture… wait.
He had seen the witness list. He had known that Stroker would be the prosecution’s star witness. And yet, when she had nothing to give, he hadn’t reacted.
Franziska felt something cold settle in the pit of her stomach. She had no proof, but she knew. Gavin had somehow tampered with her witness.
The pieces fell into place. The witness’ sudden nervousness, the reversal of all they had talked about, Gavin’s smug little smile, the way he had barely bothered to question Ema Skye… it all added up to a very familiar scene. Familiar, because she had seen these tactics before.
She felt the cold thing in her stomach uncoil and start to burn white-hot with rage. With difficulty, she kept a lid on it as she met Gavin’s gaze. “The prosecution requests a recess,” she heard herself say. It was faint, but she could swear that Gavin’s smile got the tiniest bit broader for an instant. As he turned to the judge to agree, she kept her eyes on him. For just an instant, it wasn’t Kristoph Gavin’s face she saw.
It was her father’s.
In the prosecution’s lobby, away from the public eye, Franziska let out her rage. Pacing angrily back and forth, she whipped anything and everything that looked at her funny- the couch, the chairs, the light fixtures, Ema Skye, and so forth. He thinks he can tamper with my witness? she thought as she paced. That he can just stand there looking ever-so-satisfied with himself and the trial will just win itself? He’s got another thing coming. Lying, cheating, smug bastard…
It wasn’t fair. She had spent years overcoming her father’s shadow, coming to terms with the fact that he was a fraud and putting a stop to her own tendency to bully witnesses into concealing anything that hindered her case. And now this Kristoph Gavin though he could just waltz in and do everything she had trained herself out of?
She finally stopped pacing, taking a deep breath. Fine. Fine. If he wants to play dirty, he picked the wrong opponent. Manfred von Karma may have been a fool, but he wrote the book on achieving victory at all costs. I can play his game better than he… Unbidden, an image flashed in her mind.
She stopped, mid-thought. Wright had always played by the rules- he had beaten her and her father without cheating. To beat Gavin through manipulation would be to sink back to her father’s level, and she was not going back there. She took another deep breath, letting it out slowly. Very well, then. The clean way it is. Her features set as a plan began to form in her mind. Kristoph Gavin, your foolish overconfidence will be your undoing.
“This trial will now re-convene.” The judge looked down at Franziska. “I believe you were questioning the witness?”
She nodded. “Yes.” Without warning, her whip lashed out to lick at Stroker’s elbow. She shrieked, jumping. Good. Keep her attention on me. “Witness! Testify as to why you have stopped seeing the defendant!”
Stroker looked surprised. “Um… well… eek!” The whip snapped directly next to her ear. “Ah, well, Machette’s really aggressive! And he really doesn’t let go of stuff! I mean, he’s got the muscles going on, yeah, but he just does not forget a thing.” She was looking more annoyed than scared now. Good. I need her to forget about Gavin. “You’d think it would be nice to have someone who remembered to bring home milk and fill up the car, but jeez, every little plate you don’t clean, every single time you’re late, it’s just-“
”OBJECTION!” All heads swiveled to look at Gavin, who was for the first time looking concerned, and more than a little confused. “Your Honor, of what relevance is this line of questioning?”
”OBJECTION!” Franziska took back control before the judge could respond. “If the defense will let me finish my questioning, I will establish relevance. From the witness’ statements, it is clear that the defendant is the type of man to carry a grudge. This-“ she brandished a document- “ is a police report describing an altercation six months ago at Jack Flap’s Pancakes, the establishment at which the witness works. The defendant was speaking to the an unnamed person in the parking lot when they were interrupted by the victim, who was inebriated at the time.” She could see the realization dawning on Gavin’s face, and suppressed the urge to smile. “The victim and defendant exchanged blows, and were separated by a passing police officer, who took them both into custody. Now,” she glanced at Stroker, “while we may not have a firsthand account of this or any other incident, we do have Ms. Stroker’s testimony that the defendant was unlikely to forget any such confrontation. Thus, we have a motive. Detective Skye just established the fact that both were at the gang skirmish this week- opportunity. As to method, it seems the murder weapon has unfortunately disappeared.” She raised an eyebrow at the defense. “A pity. It could have made this case so easy for one side or the other.”
Gavin’s strangled look of fury was incredibly satisfying. Franziska smiled as she packed all the sweetness she could muster into her voice. “Your witness, Kristoph Gavin.”
The judge looked to Gavin. “Would the defense like to cross-examine the witness?” The attorney had a death grip on his tie, and appeared to be wrestling his emotions under control. He finally took a deep breath, and gave a tight smile to the judge.
“Just a moment, Your Honor.” He turned his icy gaze on Franziska. She held it, smirking just a tad. He’s not used to having his plans go awry. Hm. Fool. He cleared his throat. “The defense feels no need to cross-examine the witness, as nothing substantive has been proven.” His smile returned. “All we know is that yes, the defendant may have held a grudge, and that he may have taken the opportunity to finish the victim, but there is no decisive evidence.”
“Objection!” She smiled at him lazily, the way an orbiting weapons platform smiled at anything less than 200 feet underground. “Ah-ah-ah, Kristoph Gavin,” she said, wagging a finger. “The burden of proof is on the defendant, not the plaintiff. Do you have any proof he didn’t kill the victim? An alibi? The murder weapon?” Watching his face grow redder and redder with each passing second, she continued. “Perhaps some testimony from another witness? Anyone who actually saw the crime and wasn’t, I don’t know, pressured into not coming forward? Threatened in some way? Well?” This really is quite cathartic.
Gavin looked like he was attempting to force out an objection, but all that came out was a kind of strangled growl. Franziska let him seethe for a little while, fondly running her whip through her hands. Finally, he took a deep breath, affixed his usual smile, and turned to the judge. “The defense has no evidence to present.”
The judge raised an eyebrow. “I must say I’m surprised, Mr. Gavin- your trials usually go better for you.” Franziska managed to keep her face neutral, even as she felt a spike of elation. The gavel came down, and the guilty verdict was pronounced. Even after all these years, she felt it- the thrum of satisfaction, the thrill of victory. But today…
Today, it felt even better than usual.
She watched Gavin as he left, keeping his pace strictly under control, keeping that smile in place. His control faltered for only an instant as he glanced over at her. That glance could have killed a weaker person, but she was not just anyone- so she looked him straight in the eye, and smiled. Welcome to your new world, Kristoph Gavin.
From now on, it is no longer perfect.