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Swan Song

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Klavier volunteers to juggle extra cases through the end of December, acting as a counterweight to the coworkers who take vacation days. He could, himself, but with no one to spend the time with he might as well just do his best to get justice for the poor bastards murdered on Christmas. Sebastian does the same; he always has, Klavier gathers from their conversation, in imitation of Prosecutor Edgeworth, who “has the least holiday spirit of anyone I’ve ever met,” Sebastian adds, in a tone suggesting neither indictment nor judgment but a camaraderie between them. Los Angeles’ Lonely Prosecutors Club.

He got the hawk a bandana with snowflakes on it, despite the local climate being the opposite of such. Klavier liked the snow, whenever they ran into it on their tours, but he likes the sun more. Such was not the reasoning behind declining several offers to appear as a solo artist at Times Square for the new year; he would rather tell the outgoing year to go fuck itself in the sole company of alcohol in his own apartment. Alcohol and Kris’ — no, his — dog.

Prosecutor Edgeworth enters the too-quiet courthouse, his footsteps echoing, while Klavier is cooing at the hawk. “I see you’ve met Taka,” he says, and Klavier flinches in surprise, not at Edgeworth’s appearance, but that he is actually addressing Klavier. The past year Klavier has spent very sure that Edgeworth would like to trip him down at least a dozen flights of stairs.

“It has a name?” Klavier asks, which is silly: obviously it has a name. It was obviously someone’s pet. The better question is how Edgeworth knows its name.

“Yes,” Edgeworth replies, offering a hand to the hawk, for it to stare suspiciously at him at response. He lowers his arm. “Taka. He was once Prosecutor Blackquill’s.”

“Oh,” Klavier says, very softly, all the air feeling to have vanished from his lungs.

“You know him, then?”

“Not personally, but I would be remiss as a prosecutor were I to not recognize his name, ja?”

Klavier had left the office by the time of Blackquill’s conviction. His first trial had been in April; he hung on until the next year before the Gramarye ghosts ate away at too much of his spirit, and the road and adoration of the people who had rocketed his little garage band to stardom was too tempting. He can’t remember where on the continent he was in October, while the trial eventually designated the UR-1 Incident was going on, but he remembers reading about it: just a few hours on one day for an open-and-shut guilty.

“That was seven years ago,” Klavier adds, suddenly wondering whether Edgeworth expected him to recognize the name Blackquill or whether he doubted that Klavier had been paying attention. “Has Herr Falke lived in the courthouse for all that time?” He scratches Taka under the chin. “Were you not allowed to be a jailbird?”

Edgeworth snorts and when Klavier looks at him he hastily composes his expression. “Truthfully, I do not know,” he answers. “I have spent most of the past nine years in Europe. I cannot say I have been here often enough since Blackquill’s conviction to know whether or not Taka has been here this whole time.”

“He has since April,” Klavier says. “Since I returned.”

Edgeworth heads for the stairs, leaving Klavier behind with Taka. “Prosecutor Gavin,” he says, glancing back over his shoulder. “You might do well to familiarize yourself with Prosecutor Blackquill.”

A few days later, Edgeworth is named Chief Prosecutor, and Klavier wonders what he meant.

His suggestion is one easier made than fulfilled. News articles about Blackquill from the time harp on his guilt, the injustice committed by someone who was supposed to carry out justice, but didn’t have much concern for minor details like where or who; most outlets were focused more on the HAT-1 rocket launch and the series of mechanical failures that followed once the craft was in space. The UR-1 case file contains a sparse summary and a transcript and evidence log sealed entirely with the necessary clearance far beyond Klavier’s head. When Edgeworth comes into his office to find a copy of the case summary on his desk, he gives Klavier a copy of the transcript, heavily redacted. The victim’s name, the location of the crime, a motive, pages of testimony and pages more of supplemental details that did not make it from the investigation into the trial — all buried beneath the black bars of redactions. What is left are two damning pieces of evidence: security camera footage showing Blackquill leaving the murder scene (wherever that was), and a picture (from an unknown source who was at the unknown location for reasons unknown) in which he could be seen holding a bloody sword.

Open, and shut.

Klavier knows he is missing too much to actually understand the case, the verdict, and even why Edgeworth told him that he should look back into this now, going on seven years past, but what he can see on the page of the man leaves talons sunk into his heart. Blackquill might as well not have had a defense attorney at all, because the state-assigned defender clearly gave up less than ten minutes in, when Blackquill made his guilty plea. He spoke for himself, often speaking over the aforementioned defense attorney, to make the statements that plunged the legal system into darkness: It was me. I killed her.

He would have been convicted without the confession, but his words were the first thing to leave him dead in the water.

And Klavier has prosecuted many cases, seen reactions of guilty and not to accusations, confessions, indictments, convictions — but he has never seen a man walk so willingly to his death as Simon Blackquill.

Sometime in March, a case takes him down to the prison to interview a supposed accomplice, already convicted of another crime, of the suspect. He doesn’t leave right away after and instead sits to reexamine his notes, absorbing none of it, thinking instead about how his brother is right here and Klavier could visit him, now.

— Or he could visit the jailbird, instead, the other prosecutor in the other inciting case of the dark age of the law.

So that is what he does.

Having submitted himself to reenter as a visitor and not an interrogating prosecutor, he waits and wonders if Blackquill knows his name. Did the man keep an eye on what happened — surely then, but now, now eight years later, seven of them imprisoned, does he remember the name of the first young prosecutor to snuff out the lights? Their time at the Prosecutors Office intersected briefly, just enough that Klavier thinks he can remember Blackquill, younger, haunting the halls. They were both so young then.

The man who emerges to meet Klavier has long, tangled hair, going gray at the roots in uneven patches, and dark, sunken eyes. “For what reason does the glimmering golden boy stoop from his spotlight to meet me?” he asks with a scowl.

So he does remember him — and not impressed, either.

“A little birdie told me it may be worth my while,” Klavier says. He stands, because Blackquill has remained standing, and it puts him almost at eye level to the prisoner. He is tall, a towering void with not a speck of light or life in his eyes. “The chief prosecutor has mentioned you several times of late and though I find him typically inscrutable, I thought it perhaps a decent use of my time to meet you.” He searches Blackquill’s expression for any trace of a change. “I’ve also had the pleasure of making Herr Taka’s acquaintance. Quite a smart bird, that one.”

There. A reaction, the twitch of an eye, and moving to sit. “And how is Taka?”

They take the next twenty minutes to discuss Taka and hawks in at large; at several moments Klavier feels he is being interrogated. Time spent at the office researching hawk biology and habits has its payoff in the way Blackquill’s glare softens from frigid to cold. When he leaves, he still doesn’t know what Edgeworth has been hinting at, but he thinks it time better spent than having nothing new to say to his brother.

In April, as the anniversaries of two cases that shook Klavier to his core draw closer, a year ago, eight years ago, something else too approaches. Blackquill has not had a retrial. He has not been cleared of any charges; yet the Twisted Samurai will be brought out of prison to prosecute a case. A convicted prosecutor — a prosecuting convict — one of four men, one of two prosecutors, who Klavier marks as the harbingers of the dark age of the law.

When the chief prosecutor confirms it, throughout the office there are not whispers about the decision; there is a cacophony. Klavier has long learned to filter out most of the talk, because so much of it has been about him, and there are only a few colleagues to whom he bothers to listen. “I trust Mr. Edgeworth’s judgment,” Sebastian says, which is decidedly not the overall office atmosphere, “and this is still…”

“Fucking weird?” Detective Skye asks, batting Kay’s hand away as she reaches for the Snackoos bag.

“That’s not exactly what I was going to say, but you’ve got the right — sensibility? No—”

“Sentiment,” Kay fills in. “I was gonna say ‘fucking weird’, too, though. Klav?”

“If Herr Chief thought it a wrongful conviction, why not a retrial, why not reopen the case? Why instead this performance? This—”

“This fucking weirdness,” Skye says. “Like sure there’s a lot of incompetent fucking prosecutors in this office” — she is looking at neither Klavier nor Sebastian, but instead shoving Kay away from the Snackoos again, and Klavier knows her well enough to know that if she meant one of them she would not hesitate to make that subtext text — “but if Mr. Edgeworth wants to get some more employees who aren’t useless, grabbing one out of prison is a weird fucking choice.”

“Hey,” Kay says, pulling her hand back away from Skye’s snack bag but still eyeing them, “Blackquill’s not a twofer, at least, and maybe that’s all we can ask for.”

“A ‘twofer’?” Sebastian repeats.

“A two-for-one evidence-forger and murderer. Like sure he stabbed a human being to death with a katana but he’s not, like, corrupt.”

“I think murder is a kind of corruption,” Klavier says.

“You know perfectly well what I mean without being pedantic,” Kay says.

“I know what you mean,” Sebastian says, which is no surprise. Professionally and personally, he and Kay are two halves of an incomprehensible whole.

“Like it’s fucked up still, obviously,” Kay says, glaring at Klavier as though he is about to suggest that she fails to grasp that murder is bad, “but it’s a separate different type of fucked up, you know? Like usually when it’s lawyers or detectives murdering, they’re forging evidence too.”

The silence that falls over the four of them is the silence of all having experienced that far too personally.

“Okay but it’s still really fucking weird of Mr. Edgeworth to do,” Skye says.

Klavier put the striped bandana back around Taka’s neck the prior week, as soon as he heard the rumor — still a rumor, back then then — that Blackquill would be back in the courthouse. Ever since he learned that Taka was Blackquill’s, those stripes have looked to him like the black-and-white of old prison jumpsuits. Jailbird, he thinks, but he cannot summon a laugh.

The trial lasts two days. Klavier is not at the courthouse for the first, and on the second he does not get the chance to speak with Blackquill before he is ushered out, in handcuffs, by a detective that Klavier does not recognize. Was he in handcuffs while prosecuting, too? Taka wheels about in the air, shrieking, when the doors close him off from Blackquill. “You will see him again,” Klavier says, when Taka finally comes over to him, the poor replacement for his favored human. “Herr Edgeworth intends him to prosecute more cases, I believe.”

The day after he goes to visit Blackquill to check that Taka’s weight is acceptable and that Klavier has not spoiled him, now that Blackquill has had a chance to assess the progress of the past year. When Klavier asks him about the case, Blackquill gives him the alleged reason that he, specifically, was called up out of prison to prosecute this case. With his background training in psychology — which Klavier did not know about — who better to handle a case shrouded in superstition, a murder alleged to be by a mythical monster passed down through village stories?

“Well, ‘who better’ would have been a prosecutor knowledgeable in the realms of psychology who has not committed murder,” Blackquill continues, “but our options are only so many, and so often we do not get as we wish.”

And he grins, and it is threatening the way Taka is — that Klavier knows he has talons and is aware of the damage they can do even though at this moment they are not pointed in his direction. It is a grin of a man laughing at his own joke, but said man happens also to be a convicted murderer.

“You studied psychology?” Klavier asks, because he is enjoying the conversation, happening though it is in the visitation area of a prison, and he is eager to know more about the man who is haunting him.

Something shifts in Blackquill’s face, like a shadow gone darker, a motion Klavier could easily have missed were he not treating the man like a crime scene whose every last detail needs the closest attention paid. “I thought it useful in the line of reticent witnesses and obfuscated motives.”

What was Blackquill’s motive for murder? For what reason did he cut down a woman with a sword and plead guilty to it on the stand? “And yokai now as well, ja?”

“There are no monsters,” he replies sharply. “Only men who hope to glove their own bloody hands in the guise of something else — a demon’s mask in a fool attempt to shift blame from the demon soul beneath it.”

Who was it that asked for the diary page forged?

It was the Devil.

“I wonder what you would make of my brother,” Klavier says.

He wonders what it would be like to be a witness, or worse, a suspect, underneath the icy spotlight of Blackquill’s stare. Even here, a conversation with no stakes, a chill settles along Klavier’s spine. He wonders what Blackquill is trying to read from him — the intention of that offhand remark, perhaps, or how Klavier feels about his brother (to which he wishes him good luck).

“Would he deign to be in lockup with the rest of us common murderers, I could answer.” Blackquill’s smile is not the expression of a man with no answer. “As it stands,” he adds, that smile folding into something that looks more like a barbed snarl, “he having bought himself into the nicest of the clink’s accommodations, I have not had the misfortune of meeting him.”

“The misfortune,” Klavier repeats. “I see his reputation, at the very least, has reached you.”

And then, with none of the finesse that would make the switch in topic seem like a natural progression of the conversation, Klavier asks him again about yesterday’s case. Blackquill had already outlined the progression of it, but he humors Klavier’s clumsy redirection to flesh out the details. He has a lot to say about each of the witnesses. He does not mention the defense team at all.

They talk until visiting hours are over and Klavier decides that it is better not to pull his badge to stay longer. The explanation given for Blackquill-as-prosecutor makes no sense when he steps back out into the sun’s lengthening shadows. Edgeworth made that cryptic statement back in December — he could not have known that in April there would be a case that would play to Blackquill’s strengths. There is no way that something like this could be called together on a whim. There is no way, from what he knows of the chief prosecutor, that Edgeworth would do something like this on a whim.

Why not just reopen the case?

He sees Blackquill again that Monday, at the Prosecutors Office, talking to Edgeworth with the same detective trailing after them through the lobby. Klavier catches Blackquill’s eye and waves and decides to linger — out of earshot, because Edgeworth has also noticed him and is glaring — to see if the conversation will be over quickly and he will get the chance to say hello. When Edgeworth leaves for the stairs, Blackquill is still left standing there, a tall black figure to whom everyone but the detective, a white-clad shadow, gives a wide berth even as they slow to gawk.

Klavier walks over. Eyes are on him too, now, but that is nothing new. “You garner quite a reaction, Herr Blackquill.”

“Jealous that their eyes are not on you?” Is that a smirk or a sneer that crosses his face; is he tactless or malicious? “No doubt these nosy onlookers wonder if I am to be moved into an office here,” he continues. “The chief prosecutor, however, thought it quite wasteful to go to the trouble of installing bars for the window and door when there is already a perfectly fine jail cell for me to occupy.” And he chuckles, and when he moves the chains around his wrists clink. “No great loss; I doubt they would allow a convicted murderer such as myself to decorate in the same manner. I wonder what dullard now occupies my old office.”

“Dare I ask what your old office looked like?” Klavier says.

The smirk returns to his face. “I found a simple way to dissuade halfwits from quibbling away my time was to keep a katana near at hand.”

All Klavier can see now is the decisive evidence, the still image of the bloody blade in Blackquill’s hands. That katana? No, the location in the picture was more like some sort of workshop and could not have been the office — and even if the room had held more ambiguity, there have been murders at the Prosecutors Office before and word got around quickly. That couldn’t have been kept a secret. “I am picturing a wall of a dozen of them,” he says.

Blackquill stares at him and for the first time, Klavier catches confusion on his face. “For what reason would I need that many?”

“I have a wall of guitars, so I was thinking along those lines.”

“I reiterate: for what reason do you need that many?”

“Do you want the answer, because I can tell you, and we will be here a while.”

“I don’t think Prosecutor Blackquill has the time for that,” the detective says. Klavier tries to remember if he has worked with him before. He thinks he would probably recognize the white suit and the gleaming smile if he had. “I’m afraid I do need to get him headed back to prison.” He thrusts a hand toward Klavier and all he can think is how many bloodstains this detective must need to wash out of his gloves and suit on a daily basis. “Detective Bobby Fulbright! Defender of the citizenry and champion of justice, at your service!”

Daryan didn’t like a lot of his fellow detectives; Fulbright, if they ever met, doubtlessly would have been on that list. Klavier wonders if he has heard complaints about Fulbright before, just detached from his name. “Prosecutor Klavier Gavin,” he replies, accepting the proffered hand. “Quite nice to meet you.”

Blackquill’s eyes, over Fulbright’s shoulder, narrow ever so slightly with what Klavier thinks might be skepticism about Klavier’s statement. “I’m the detective in charge of managing Prosecutor Blackquill here, so if you’re seeing more of him, you’ll be seeing more of me!”

Managing. That is certainly a choice of a word. Blackquill’s lips twitch in a smirk. He thinks it funny? Spending more time with the man hasn’t given Klavier a better grasp of him.

“Gavin-dono,” Blackquill says, as though he has not noticed Fulbright at all, as though the detective is a figment he does not hear, “do you know that wretched imitation of a ninja attempting to hide around the corner?” When he makes the gesture to direct Klavier’s attention, rather than point with one hand, he moves both, like a marionette whose arms are controlled by the same string. His wrists never stray far enough apart that the slack in the chain tightens.

Klavier turns in time to see Sebastian duck out of sight. “He lacks both the stealth and grace which he will find necessary for such maneuvers as he attempts,” Blackquill says dryly.

“That’s Prosecutor Debeste,” Klavier says.

“As in Blaise Debeste?” Blackquill asks.

“He — yes, that is Sebastian’s father.” Is, or was? Will Kristoph, once six feet under by the state’s decree, still be Klavier’s brother, present tense?

“You sound surprised,” Blackquill says. His dark eyes, sunk into shadow in the chasm between his thick unkempt hair and the bony peaks of his cheekbones, rove over Klavier’s face. “As though you expect that seven years should have rotted my memory. Did yours atrophy while you played the entertainer? Then do not act shocked that my blade once finally unsheathed is still sharp.”

“Point taken.”

“Good. Some dunces need the point driven between their ribs several times before they understand.” When he looks toward Fulbright, he does not move his eyes; he turns his whole head, subtly abandoned or perhaps just never known.

“I did not, if you would believe, intentionally set up the sword metaphor,” Klavier says.

“In the end, that is always where we return.”

Back to the bloody blade in Blackquill’s hands.

Blackquill might not have acknowledged the detective’s words, but he obviously heard them, because he takes several steps toward the door, away from Klavier. “I suppose I shall see you around again, ja?”

“I do not know how often I shall find myself in this building,” Blackquill replies, “but you well know where to find me, and I as yet have nowhere to go.” Sometimes when he laughs at his own jokes he closes his eyes, and without that dead stare emerging from his gaunt face, he looks a little less like a ghost. “And as penance for what I have done, when I will finally leave, it will only be by a short ferry ride down to Hell.”

The smile does not fade from his face.

Klavier doesn’t move from where Blackquill left him, watching the doors swing closed behind the dark ghost and the white wraith. Sebastian creeps up at the corner of his vision, nervously wringing his hands together and plucking at the fingertips of his gloves. “You didn’t need to run and hide like that, Herr Debeste,” Klavier says. It takes effort to tear his eyes away from the space which Blackquill formerly occupied.

“He’s a murderer!” Sebastian is grasping at the air, hands flexing until he closes them around each other with a nervous force which leaves him visibly trembling. “Not just allegations but a whole conviction and you just walked over to him like it’s nothing!” He looks at Klavier with wide eyes. “Do you think he did it?”

“Have you read over the case?”

“As little of it’s available. I was curious what Mr. Edgeworth was basing his judgment on but…” Sebastian shrugs. “I guess he probably had clearance to read the whole thing? I mean, the evidence that’s there was damning but there’s so much more behind the scenes.” He spreads his hands apart, as though to gesture at the scope of information that they are missing, and then with a sigh his arms drop to his sides. “There’s always, um, mechanations—machinations, behind the scenes.”

“That is how this office greets new prosecutors, ja?” Klavier asks. “‘Guten Tag! Here is your own personalized conspiracy, guaranteed to leave you with residual trauma!’ Very welcoming.”

Maybe Blackquill would have laughed, maybe even Skye or Kay, but Sebastian, twisting his hands together, only looks concerned. “I have no more information than you with which to make a judgment on Herr Blackquill,” Klavier adds, “and we both are lacking.”

“But from talking to him,” Sebastian says. They start for the elevator. “From talking to him, what do you think?”

Klavier jams the button to call for the elevator with more force than necessary. “I think I am proven to not be able to tell whether someone I know is capable of murder, ja?”

When later that week he is back at the courthouse, he poses to Taka the question: is Simon Blackquill a murderer? Taka studiously ignores Klavier to preen himself. Klavier would swear the hawk, doubtlessly hoping for Blackquill’s return, had looked disappointed when he saw him. “And would you even tell me if you knew?”

Taka scratches his head.

And were I to put you on the witness stand, it would accomplish nothing, because you are a bird, and birds do not understand perjury.”

Taka continues to scratch.

“Though in fairness to birds, many witnesses do not seem to, either.”

Taka sticks his beak into Klavier’s briefcase. “You already had your snack,” Klavier says. “Are you looking for more? Don’t be greedy.”

He watches as the hawk pulls the autopsy report free of its folder. “You know that is not food, ja? I need that. Please don’t eat that.”

But rather than tearing it up, as Klavier feared he would, he hops forward, his head thrust toward Klavier as though he is presenting the paper. “Why thank you, Herr Taka. I suppose I should take the time to review this.” Taka flutters his wings as Klavier takes the page from him. “Herr Blackquill hasn’t… trained you to assist him in the courtroom, has he?”

Taka raises his head, one eye fixed on Klavier, demanding scratches under the chin. Klavier obliges. “Are you his only friend, as you were at one point mine?”

Being a bird, Taka again has no answer.

These are the facts of the case which Klavier knows:

  1. A woman was murdered.
  2. Simon Blackquill was sighted at the location of the murder.
  3. At that time, he was holding the bloody murder weapon.
  4. He again was spotted when leaving the scene.
  5. He pled guilty.
  6. The trial ended on the first day.

These are the facts of the case which Klavier does not know:

  1. [REDACTED]

This is another fact which Klavier knows:

  1. More of the information than not about the case is redacted.

Somewhere in that blacked-out text must be, at the very least, the identity of the victim and location of the crime. He doubts the on-record existence of a motive. Blackquill’s admission would be enough. Why bother asking why when he is already willing to say he did? Motive isn’t always even necessary for a conviction — Kristoph, sentenced for the murder of Shadi “Smith” long before the victim’s true identity became clear, can attest.

And there is one last fact that Klavier keeps returning to:

  1. There must also be something beneath those redactions which seems to Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth a reason to doubt the verdict.

The moniker Demon Prosecutor has been whispered more and more again these days, in tandem with Twisted Samurai, but Klavier has never felt reason to doubt Edgeworth’s honesty. He respects him, and always has, even when it looked like that was not a two-way street — and as many stories of the Demon Prosecutor as there are, there are more of a man who alone has thrown himself against the tide of corruption, and won. It is why Sebastian trusts and admires him as he does — it is why all of them do. Edgeworth is to Sebastian and Kay and even jaded, cynical Skye, what Courte is to Klavier, or perhaps more. Some history has bred in them an unshakeable faith of a strength that holds even through this that Edgeworth has not tried to offer an explanation for. It’s some kind of secret club that Klavier is locked out of and couldn’t even join if he tried. They have all been burned, too, but somehow they still trust.

But he — he can’t trust anyone like that. He wonders, certainly, because of Edgeworth’s strange behavior; at times he doubts, but Kay believes. If Edgeworth thinks there is something about Blackquill’s case worth reconsidering, then Kay will believe not just in Edgeworth, but in Blackquill, too.

He learns that one night in June, when at Kay’s behest, her pleading that none of them have met up and relaxed — “Fuck does ‘relax’ mean?” Skye asks — in months, they get together at a bar again. Skye is dead-eyed and cursing when she arrives; she has been reviewing well in advance to retake the forensics exam and thinks all of them distractions. “Mandatory fun kinda bullshit,” she grumbles, awkwardly clambering into the chair across the table from Klavier. “Bet Kay’s late because she knows I’m gonna kick her ass.”

Kay and Sebastian arrive five minutes apart, both looking exhausted from the case they’ve been pursuing. Kay has a list of grievances against half of the detectives in her department from the week, which she announces she will complain about alphabetically as she reaches over and plucks the paper umbrella from Klavier’s drink to stick in her ponytail. Klavier decides to head her off by jumping to the Fs: “I have meant to ask — what do you think of Herr Fulbright?”

“Ugh.” Skye glowers at the name.

“You feel that way about everyone,” Klavier says to her.

“You all deserve it,” she says. “Especially Fulbright. He’s so fucking annoying.”

“Herr Blackquill calls him ‘Fool Bright’.”

“Ooh, I like that one,” Skye says. “I’m going to steal it.”

“He’s enthusiastic,” Kay says. “Very, aggressively, enthusiastic.”

“The fucking audacity of not being dead inside like the rest of us,” Skye says.

“I think not being dead inside is an admirable trait that we should try to, um, emulate,” Sebastian says. “Though…” He taps his finger on the side of his glass, frowning. “He sounds really patronizing when he talks about Prosecutor Blackquill, sometimes. Yes he’s a murderer but it’s still—”

And that’s when Kay interrupts to say, “Allegedly a murderer.”

“He was convicted,” Klavier reminds. “That puts it more than allegations, ja?”

“Yeah, I know.” Kay glares at him. “But I don’t believe that, if he was just a murderer, case-closed, Mr. Edgeworth would be bothering with him.”

Skye shrugs. Sebastian is drumming his fingers on the tabletop now. Neither objects.

“And he doesn’t seem like a murderer, either,” Kay adds.

“As though that’s easy to tell,” Klavier says. Now Sebastian is conspicuously staring at the floor, while Skye throws her head back and downs the rest of her drink. “I will remind you here, it is not.”

“Klav,” Kay says plaintively, her chin in her hands, pouting. Something hits his shin and he glances beneath the edge of the table to see that she is kicking him. “I thought you liked Prosecutor Blackquill.”

“I… do,” Klavier says, and the admission is the reluctant realization that at the office he has less friends than he needs all of the fingers on one hand to count, and one of them is a convicted murderer. “But that hardly precludes him from having committed the crime of which he is accused.”

And honestly, the more Klavier thinks he likes Blackquill, the more certain he becomes that there really is nothing more to the case than Blackquill murdering someone. After Kristoph, after Daryan, why would it work out any other way?

“He’s right,” Skye says. Her mouth twists like she has tasted something unexpectedly sour. “I’m not drunk enough to be saying shit like that.”

“I will treasure the memory of it forever,” Klavier says.

“You do that.” Skye slides from her chair and heads for the bar.

“Weren’t we talking about Detective Fulbright?” Sebastian asks after some twenty seconds had passed. “You’ve never worked with him, Klavier?”

Klavier shakes his head. “Most of my cases have been with the detective who just left this table. Have you?”

Sebastian nods. “A couple times, a few years back. He’s — enthusiastic, like Kay said. Loud. He had a lot of thoughts about the concept of justice. It’d be a mistake to get him and Justine talking — the most just justice versus the Goddess of Law.”

“My money’s on Judge Courtney,” Kay says. She has plucked the umbrella from her hair and twirls it between her fingers. “I worked a couple cases with him back in the winter, some murders, missing persons, fun times that turned into cold cases like some unlucky dude with a busted-up face we fished out of a river.” She shudders and takes a long draught. “Or the dude found dead in a koi pond,” she adds, much more upbeat. “I like him, though, even when he’s out-enthusiasticing me.”

“I don’t think that’s a word,” Sebastian says.

“Hm.” Kay contemplates a stain on the table like it will grant her an answer. “You know, I don’t, either.”

“I mean, I guess he’s sort of nice,” Sebastian adds, and as he continues he starts to talk faster, his words running together, “but he’s just — sometimes, sounds so condescending when he’s talking about Prosecutor Blackquill, even when Blackquill’s right there.” He looks close to tears and Kay leans over to throw an arm around his shoulders. There is some context that Klavier knows he is missing.

“I didn’t notice,” Kay says, now leaning her head on Sebastian’s arm, “but I’ll keep an ear out and I’ll kick his ass if he does that while I’m around.”

“Whose ass are we kicking?” Skye asks, returning with full glasses for each of them in her arms.

“Fulbright’s,” Kay says.

“I’m down,” Skye says. With the volume of the bar, Klavier doubts that she even heard the reason why.

June rolls into July; time doesn’t slow to give him time to prepare for the next painful anniversary. Blackquill has prosecuted more trials since April, ones that don’t even pretend to need a specialist in psychology. Klavier sees him around the courthouse, has several times not spoken to him because Kay was already there, chirping at him and cooing at Taka while Fulbright attempted to get them to the doors. (“I want a pet crow,” she says to Sebastian and Klavier later, and Sebastian looks like he has been paralyzed with terror. Klavier knew her meeting Taka would be bad.)

Edgeworth has been predictably evasive when even Sebastian has put new questions to him; Klavier witnessed another of those exchanges in the hall this morning and is still turning it, and everything else, over in the back of his mind while he works. He thought if anyone could get an answer out of Edgeworth, it would be Sebastian.

“You really do have a plethora of guitars.”

Klavier jumps, yanking his headphones halfway from his head. “Warn me before you sneak up on me next time, ja?” he says, smoothing his hair back out of his eyes and spinning his chair to look at Blackquill in the doorway. Over his shoulder, there is Fulbright, the omnipresent shadow.

Blackquill raises his arms and shakes them, once, so that the chain and cuffs rattle loudly. “I thought that enough to herald my approach.”

Well, maybe he’s right about that one. “I would not have joked about something as serious as this,” Klavier says, standing and waving his hand at the wall. “To which I believe that you, Herr Blackquill, asked for a very detailed explanation of what makes each of these fine instruments differ from the others?”

“I most certainly did not,” Blackquill replies. Klavier laughs. He wonders if that is simply Blackquill, or whether it is symptomatic of life on death row — that with nothing more left to lose, there is no reason to mince words. “Though I may make an attempt at supposing what sets that one apart,” he adds, raising his hands and motioning at the remains of Lamiroir’s guitar, hanging closest to the corner, half-hidden by a small table.

“Sentimentality does,” Klavier replies, “in regards to the magnificent artist who gave her guitar to me, and my best friend who torched it and murdered a man in attempts to cover up his smuggling operations.”

He runs out of air too quickly on that sentence. He can hold a phrase longer in song but finds himself gasping for breath. A year doesn’t lessen the sting. He realized that back in April.

(And god, it’s been a year now since Klavier lost his best friend, an entire fucking year.)

Blackquill’s dead eyes slowly drift from the guitar to Klavier. He says nothing and Klavier does not feel the pause is a deliberate one on Blackquill’s part, but rather, for the first time, he does not have a response easily at hand.

“So if it was not to discuss with me my collection of guitars, what brought you here?” Klavier asks, forestalling any response Blackquill might be about to make, because in the silence he realized he does not know how to talk about Daryan, at all, in the slightest. He has no words to say about Daryan, because all of the words he ever wanted to say were cut up and rehashed and transformed into something else by two bandmates, two publicists, and a manager, and he has taken all of the feelings that were stripped from those public statements and buried them somewhere deep inside his heart where he no longer knows how to reach.

“I doubted you had yet heard and as I was here to speak with the chief prosecutor, assumed you may wish to know — Phoenix Wright has his badge back.”

Now it is Klavier who does not have a response ready. Wright, behind the bench again — of course the Bar Association would have cleared him of the prior charges against him. The evidence that came to light was enough. He shouldn’t be surprised, he should have expected this to one day be the case—

“Ach, news travels faster in prison than I have heard, ja?” Klavier asks. “Enough that you have heard this before I?”

“Only because tomorrow I am to stand against him in the courtroom in his first case in eight years,” Blackquill replies.

Klavier wouldn’t count it as such — from the transcript, the trial which he ran from the defendant’s chair, before climbing behind the bench with Apollo, might as well have been one in which he stood with his badge. But he has just barely staunched the flow from the wound of bringing up Daryan, and he has no desire to reopen one more, not when Blackquill has just lodged another blade in his gut. “Oh,” he says.

One of these days he’s just going to fucking fall to pieces in front of Blackquill, isn’t he? Only one other man has loomed before him like a manifestation of all of his guilt, a specter of his failures, which he cannot just lock away like he does with grief. How does Blackquill, who Klavier only met a few scant months ago, so much resemble his brother in this regard?

“That will be quite the trial, ja?” His desperate attempts to feign detachment are grains of sand through his fingers. He spins his chair back to face his desk, as though some part of his work will have become so pressing that he needs to send Blackquill away. “Viel Glück, though of the two of you it will be Wright who needs luck, as his school of thought only builds cases on luck and bluffing, which — nein, you surely know already—”

“Gavin-dono.” His name has weight to it, like a heavy blanket thrown over his head, and he stops. “Yes, I thought given your history you should appreciate a warning, but should your inane and childish babbling not cease this instant you will miss the part which you will most like to hear.”

What else is there even to say? Klavier closes his eyes and reopening them steels himself to face Blackquill. He does not expect him to be laughing when he does.

“He is defending an orca.”

“An… orca?” This is a fever dream, surely; the Twisted Samurai is not here to tell him that Wright is defending an orca as his first client in eight years. “As in, a whale?”

“They are closer related to dolphins,” Blackquill says, “as both have teeth, while what you might consider ‘true whales’ do not — but I believe you understand the crux of what it is I am saying.”

Of all of the aspects of this which Blackquill could choose to overexplain—

“Wait,” Klavier says. “This means that you are — you are prosecuting an orca.”

“Yes,” Blackquill says, an answer given without hesitation, an unreserved admission to his role in this latest courtroom lunacy.

Klavier presses his hands over his eyes and tries to imagine the expression which Apollo made upon finding out that his boss is defending an orca. He tries to imagine the sequence of events that led to Wright taking up the defense of an orca. “Was your meeting with Herr Chief to convince him of the merit of this case?” he asks. “Or perhaps the logistics of flooding a courtroom to allow the defendant to enter? What will Herr Taka think about no longer being the only animal present?”

“I do not think that the orca will be physically present in the courtroom,” Blackquill says, but he again is laughing, the rattle of the chain between his wrists a discordant background track to it. “Though I would not be surprised should the defense make an attempt.”

“Nor would I.”

He always can’t help but think of Kristoph, the good and the bad and the murder, around Blackquill, but this, the laugh, is different. Kristoph’s final tirade against Wright was the culmination of over seven years stewing in resentment about losing out to someone he thought inferior, ending in a screaming breakdown insisting that the law is absolute, immutable, and sacred; what mockery would he think it that Wright, with a badge once again, having slipped free of Kristoph’s plots, is bringing an animal into the hallowed halls of justice? How furious would he be? “If by any chance you are ever to run into my brother,” Klavier says, “please, please tell him what Wright is up to.”

“And I will doubtlessly be able to enjoy the expression on his face when he hears of this?”

“Ja, ja. Most certainly.” Klavier leans back in his chair. “And you will have to tell me how this trial goes and what your delicate psychological technique is to draw out testimony from such a defendant.”

Blackquill smirks. “‘Delicate’ has never been a word I have heard used in conjunction with myself.”

“I cannot even begin to imagine why,” Klavier drawls. Blackquill laughs, again. Klavier remembers once thinking him stoic. That impression has not quite held.

He should hate him. It should be easy, lacking the history he has with Daryan and Kristoph that makes his heart stay softer than the courts have determined they deserve. He may know that there are no ends without proper means, and the information he lacks about Blackquill’s trial means that he cannot make a proper judgment, but if he trusts the verdict reached by those at the trial, with full evidence and testimony—

(Trust is a hard thing to give in this legal system; still, why does he assume the worst of the prosecution and defense but the best of Blackquill?)

No, he should hate Blackquill — not even for being the straw stacked on the scales of justice that caused them to break under the strain, but for ending a woman’s life. Doubt everything, but he admitted to it in court, on the record, plain to read in black ink. Who was she? How did Blackquill know her? What do her friends and family think seeing her killer stand in court as a prosecutor? Is it salt in that old, but no less painful, wound? Does it seem a mockery of justice, a mockery that Klavier should stand against?

(He wonders what Kristoph thinks of this.)

He could ask Blackquill if he knows the best way to deal with cognitive dissonance.

He does not ask Blackquill this. Instead, he asks about how he came to own and train Taka, and whether he knows that he chose the most boring bandana possible.

“Do you know that you have chosen the most eye-searing hues?” Blackquill asks in response, watching Taka survey the options Klavier has laid out for him. After several moments of what Klavier presumes is contemplation — though Taka is a bird and Klavier does not claim to understand bird psychology — he plucks up the bright yellow bandana and presents it to Blackquill to tie around his neck. Blackquill frowns.

“Yellow not your color, ja?” Klavier asks.

“Yellow is fine,” Blackquill replies tersely, in a tone making clear that this answer had better be fine to Klavier.

Blackquill arrived late to the first case he prosecuted, as he told Klavier, but since then he and Fulbright seem to have developed a schedule that leaves adequate “preparation time”. Privately Klavier believes Blackquill just wants to spend more time with Taka, but it makes for a system that if Klavier arrives early on a day when they both are prosecuting, he can spend some time chatting before witnesses arrive. The cushioned benches are much more comfortable than the prison visitation room chairs, though here, Blackquill has clattering chains around his wrists and Fulbright never out of earshot.

“What is your opinion of purple?” Klavier asks. “And the Gavinners logo?”

He grins as Blackquill gives him a once-over, eyeing his necklace. “Tacky,” he answers, “as your aesthetic sense is long proven to be.”

“You will be sorry when you find your bird blinged out in said logo, with no other bandana in sight.”

Taka, perched on the bench in between them, lets out a shrill chirp.

“And you shall be sorry when you find yourself, your bandana, and your glitz and glamour back in the dumpster, and while you are there you may wish to search for the fashion sense you lost long ago.”

“Oh, you think me glamorous?”

“Did I not just speak of a dumpster?” Blackquill shakes his head. “Still, it pains me to say that you are more presentable now than the imbecilic boy you once were, wearing sunglasses in the halls of the office in what must have been a poor attempt to fool us all into thinking you someone important and worth knowing.”

Klavier glances at Fulbright, who is, as he always seems to, wearing sunglasses indoors.

“Your past wardrobe keeping company with Fool Bright’s is a sad indictment of your state of affairs.”

“You often give this much thought to the manner of my dress?”

“You would refrain from flattering yourself—”

“Ach, I’ve been told that’s what I do best—”

“—because much nature’s most colorful and oft hideous beasts, you dress yourself with the intent to draw all eyes in what is an obvious warning to keep far away lest you be poisoned.”

“Nein, now you’re just mistaking me for my brother.” Klavier waves a hand toward the prosecutor lobby. “Well, feel free to leave at any time, Herr Blackquill. Is your drab monotone meant to be camouflage from the predators of the courtroom such as those defense attorneys and their orcas?”

“Much like the orca, I mean to mark myself as the peak of the food chain.” He chuckles. “And why should I leave? That dull blade you call your wit cannot hurt me as you swing it.”

“I thought the animal metaphors to be a bit of a surprise, but I suppose you are not quick enough on your feet to continue with it and must return to the usual.”

“Challenge me to a duel and you will see how ‘quick on my feet’ I am.”

“And the weapon? Guitars, perhaps? I have quite the collection to arm both of us.”

Blackquill looks like he’s seriously considering the logistics of that. “I suppose that would do. It is after all a blunt instrument.”

Klavier groans. “Get out of here.”

“Prosecutor Blackquill!” Klavier jumps; he had forgotten about Fulbright again. “I’m afraid we really do need to leave — your witness is here.”

“Then you get your wish,” Blackquill says, standing and looking back down at Klavier. “I am forced to blink first, and you are presently rid of me.”

He takes one step away and Taka for a moment hesitates, glancing between Klavier and Blackquill. Then, as Klavier expected, he takes to the air and settles into his usual place on Blackquill’s shoulder. He stops, and ahead of him, so does Fulbright. “I think your bird has taken a liking to me,” Klavier says. “Do you worry I will steal him?”

Blackquill shakes his head. “I have not the faintest fear of that. I…” He frowns. “I am grateful to you, Gavin-dono,” he adds, very quietly.

“What for?” Klavier stands up as well, so that the distance in height between him and Blackquill is no longer a chasm.

“For taking interest in Taka,” he replies. At his name, the bird flutters his wings and raises his head slightly higher, appearing dignified for almost a second before he looks at Klavier with his head cocked much the way Vongole does when she hears a sound she doesn’t recognize. “I am… heartened to know that there will be someone to care for him once I am gone.”

Klavier’s stomach drops.

“I hope he’ll get along with my brother’s dog, then,” he says, his voice wavering when he tries to make it sound like a joke.

“So long as you keep him properly fed, he should behave himself,” Blackquill replies, already moving again to the lobby where the witness waits, already burying vulnerable moment. “But you seem to have discovered that on your own.”

Not again. Not someone else ushered toward the gallows, and Klavier only to watch and care for a life they left behind.

He doesn’t need more reminders of Kristoph as the months pass, summer fading into October to mark a year since he last spoke to his brother. In what feels a mockery of the fact that he broke up the Gavinners immediately after, Klavier gets an email from Themis Academy asking if the remaining members want to come play a reunion concert for the school festival. He texts the others immediately: I’m going, he tells them, before firing off an affirmative response to the school administration. An hour later, a second email asks him if he wants to teach a class on prosecuting for the winner of the mock trial. We’ve reached out to Phoenix Wright to ask if he will be the guest defense lecturer, it reads, which Klavier thinks a cruel irony, to put the two of them together — but this he accepts as well. It all will force him to see Courte again, no excuses on his part.

He’s been ashamed to see her since he came back, over a year ago. His own brother, a murderer, and Klavier with no idea. He didn’t want to see anyone who might force him to confront that, or worse, to confront his first-ever case and his murderous brother’s role in it. Courte would have told him to stop doubling down on his adamant belief that it was all Wright, him alone the sole player in his own demise; she would have told him to keep an open mind, and he hadn’t wanted to think about what that meant. And then once he couldn’t run from the truth any longer, the shame had piled on too heavy like the weight of a grave filled in above him: he had been careless, too trusting, and a man’s life had been ruined for it.

Because for all the lingering doubts, and despite the fact that Gramarye had literally disappeared from his sentencing, he had been proud to go to Courte and tell her that on his first case he had brought a corrupt, dishonest defense attorney to face the music. It’s what she taught him, wasn’t it — above all else, the truth, through proper means. And he thought that was what he did. He thought he took down a man of dishonest means. And he was proud to tell her that.

And he was wrong, so very wrong, and how could he go back and face her?

Themis is just far enough outside the city that he can lie to himself and say that it was a bit too out of the way; he is just busy enough that he can lie to himself that he missed any emails from her even though he read every word. On the times he thought to send an email himself, shame kept him at bay: after avoiding her for so long, what excuse can he make to justify himself? What can he say to stop her from being disappointed in him? It’s too late, he thought again and again, too late to just reach back out after hiding from her for so long.

And then when he has ironclad reason, an outside force pushing him to see her, it really is too late.

He doesn’t feel angry, or grieved, or anything; the heart that he had that could ache was torn out long ago, and the pulsating void that remains pumping his blood offers him only numbness. All he feels is a small, soft, oh: oh, that was why no one had seen her this morning when he asked about her after he arrived. Oh. Oh, she’s dead, and that explains that.

Fulbright recognizes him as “Prosecutor Blackquill’s friend” and waves him over; Blackquill has been assigned as prosecutor, he learns, and has already determined a witness to call. Approximately half an hour later, Klavier passes this information over to the defense. He wants answers about Courte’s death, and the more informed both sides are, the better chance of reaching the correct verdict.

Apollo has seen him at two of the other worst moments of his life. Why not now, why not this moment? Klavier knows he is failing at putting on a brave face; Apollo knows him well enough to know to raise an eyebrow at the way Klavier’s accent thickens, German phrases dropping more and more heavily into conversation. Apollo can see he is pushing his rock star persona downstage to take the heat and leave the rest of him, the gaping emptiness, sheltered in the wings. Cykes is young but sharp, reading through his words to what lies below, and something about her reminds him of himself at that age.

 

When he parts with them, he runs again into Fulbright, who has Blackquill on speakerphone; Klavier supposes that phone calls from on-scene is the best that Blackquill can do, and he doesn’t envy the difficulty of investigating remotely. Fulbright talks more about the case and the possibility of the crime scene being a different place than where the body was found. Klavier accompanies him up to the art room to look it over and on his way back down runs into Wright — literally.

He wishes he had Blackquill’s warning, like back in July, to cushion this.

Klavier had intended to — somehow, he hadn’t gotten that far into a plan — dodge Wright for the duration of this event. Instead, here he is in an empty hallway, with Wright making casual conversation like it’s nothing, like there isn’t eight years of painful history haunting them both, plain in Klavier’s face and tarnishing the golden badge on Wright’s lapel. Klavier stammers out some sort of response to some friendly, irreverent remark, tells Wright what he has learned about the real scene of the crime, and bolts. The hollow place where his emotions should be has again filled up with shame.

Wright is the reason he avoided Courte, and now she is dead, and Klavier—

Did she die ashamed of him, or having forgiven him, or had she stopped thinking about him at all when he stopped responding to her?

He hopes it was the last. He hopes she washed her hands of him. He failed her and then avoided her in an attempt to, even worse, avoid confronting his mistakes; and not having asked her forgiveness he does not deserve it, but neither did she deserve bearing the weight of his failure. He hopes she wrote him off as a lost cause and found better students to carry her teachings. He hopes she wasn’t looking forward to seeing him again when he accepted the position of guest lecturer.

But still he hopes, if he cut out the Gramarye-Wright debacle from his history, she would be proud of the rest.

That evening, starting too early, he drinks until the shame is gone and falls asleep on the floor, waking at four am with a hangover that is still not the worst ever in his life. He doesn’t go back to sleep but showers, drinks about a gallon of water, and goes into the office before the sun has risen to get some work done before he arrives at the courthouse for the first day of Woods’ trial. The building is still silent as a crypt when he arrives, curling into himself on a bench near the vending machines. Taka is not there, and Klavier does not move to seek him out, but before long the bird settles next to him.

“Why?” he asks.

Taka, being a bird, cannot answer.

This, no one can.

As people begin to trickle into the courthouse, Klavier remains there, saying to Taka any words that pass through his head: a story from his days at Themis, an idea for a new song, the color of a new bandana. It is as he rambles about this last one that from the corner of his eyes he spots the towering dark figure of Blackquill, and he expects Taka to immediately take to the wing and greet him.

Surprisingly, the bird stays right there next to Klavier, and it is Blackquill who moves to them. He stands there silently looking down at Klavier.

He is thinking green for the new bandana. He tells Blackquill this, an inane continuation of the inane conversation he was having, but now with man instead of bird — but now with someone who can actually respond, someone who can say something, anything, to break the silence that has consumed Klavier for the past twelve hours. What must he look like, how tired, how broken, to crack the stone-faced Twisted Samurai and the heavy dark circles around his dead eyes into showing pity?

He has heard Blackquill speak too smoothly so often to doubt that he could easily pluck some pretty and meaningless words of condolence from the air; he has heard Blackquill speak too sharply so often to doubt that he would not even make attempt at comfort if he did not genuinely mean it. Blackquill has no trouble brushing off Klavier, or anyone else, when he wants to; but he remains with words that are almost awkward. Even a few minutes later Klavier doesn’t remember exactly what was said — he is too dazed, too empty — but he knows that Blackquill’s comfort was of justice. He will cut down the one who did this.

Justice is the only comfort that Klavier has ever had: the guilty, found and exposed to face the punishment they deserve for the crime.

Funny, then, to be consoled in that way by a murderer.

Watching Blackquill stand at the bench is and isn’t what Klavier expects from him. Typical are his sharp words that even generously are hard to interpret as anything but threats and an excess of blade puns, but something about the jabs he lands on Cykes are different than anything Klavier has heard. Belittling at best, cruelly personal at worst — does he know her outside of the courtroom? And how could he, her so young, him in jail for seven years?

The trial ends with an extension to tomorrow when the defendant’s two friends offer up perjurious confessions of committing the murder themselves. The most generous thing Klavier is willing to call them is frustratingly, stupidly naive, to think that obscuring the truth is a way to help anyone.

Blackquill knows that Klavier assisted (leaked information to) the defense, mentioning such when they spoke about Courte before the trial; this does not stop Klavier from returning to Themis with the express intention of continuing to do such. Cykes asks him point-blank for his help, as though he wasn’t going to give it, but he does think that the girl is probably getting some strange ideas about what the dynamic between defense and prosecution should look like. That’s not his problem, though. That’s Apollo’s future problem.

They reinvestigate the scene where the body (the body, he frames it in his head like another crime scene, not someone he knows, not someone he loved) was found and try to reconstruct the stage as it was meant to be from the initial plans. When Cykes suggests rebuilding his statue, he cracks a joke about picking up the pieces of a shattered rock star, stunningly apt in both the literal and the metaphorical, but the more he thinks about it, the more inside he is screaming. Bickering with the two defense attorneys is almost relaxing, but the second time Cykes echoes his own original joke it stings and he tells her, perhaps too curtly, to reword what she has said.

Apollo and Cykes are more familiar with Fulbright than he is, enough that he and Cykes have some shared greeting or something. It’s funny in some sort of way that for however familiar he is with Blackquill — friends? Fulbright said such but Klavier does not know what to think — the detective who trails him is a fixture more like furniture. As the defense move on to investigate further, he remains, the weight of memory heavier than ever on his shoulders. With the art room window open still, he can hear the faint chatter of investigators as he sits alone on the edge of the stage, wondering how the one untainted memory of a victory he had, here at this school, in the mock trial, has become yet another shadow. Everything around him is shadows now, dark corners into which he can barely stand to look.

His Gavinners banner comes back to him as a sooty scrap of rags, an injurious insult on top of everything else. Later, he catches up to them in the main lecture hall to find the defense with suspicions of fabricated evidence. He makes a copy of the of the voice recording that so became a point of contention in the trial today and of the mock trial tape and drops them off at the lab for analysis, leaving them with his number for when they learn whether the former was fabricated using the latter, and goes home. The sun has dipped below the skyline on the ride back, the artificial lighting of the streetlamps not banishing any of the autumn cold that cuts him down to the bone.

He doesn’t drink that night but still falls asleep sideways on his bed, his head wedged up against Vongole’s chest so that he can feel her breathing. He needs reminding that there is something else alive in this house; some days he lives only with ghosts. Some days he thinks he is one of them.

In the morning he picks up the results of the audio analysis and heads to the courthouse, where for the first time in many months he does not seek out Taka but instead makes straight for the lobby where the defense team has gathered to make their scant preparations. Cykes is wild-eyed and visibly exhausted but still grinning when she sees him. He hopes that having proof the recording is a fabrication will ease some of her anxiety, but he doesn’t have time to find out for certain; someone thumps against the wall, unsubtle eavesdroppers looking for an edge, and Klavier takes off after them, leaving the defense to shout “I’m fine!” at each other.

He spots them, black, blue, and red, turning a corner, but the trio of students don’t make it any further than that; O’Conner is trying to run with his hand still in his pocket, and the girl in the box — Scuttlebutt? — and her lack of peripheral vision out of her cardboard box collides with Newman and sends them both into a wall. O’Conner appears to realize then that any attempt to flee is futile and recomposes his face into a cloying smirk while the other two scramble about on the floor, Scuttlebutt yelping and ducking into her box when Klavier’s eyes turn toward her.

He knows exactly what they were up to but still asks, and Newman, still on the floor, pretends that absolutely nothing is wrong and asks him what he was doing. Scuttlebutt has now retreated entirely beneath her box and is inching away from the scene of the pileup. Klavier takes one step closer and places his hand firmly on top of the box. She squeaks and then hisses — actually hisses, like a leaky steam heater or a snake. More entertaining than the usual paparazzi he deals with, but have teenagers gotten stranger in the years since he attended Themis? He doesn’t remember anyone like — oh, Mien Gott, he was the weird one, wasn’t he.

At least being famous means he can upgrade to eccentric.

Two answers he expected: Scuttlebutt, looking for a scoop, and Newman, going where her friends go. That leaves the one who Apollo and Cykes suspected as the killer. “And you, then, Herr O’Conner? What exactly were you doing, ja?”

“Heh.” O’Conner’s face is almost contorted as he stares down Klavier. “What does it matter to you? You’re not the prosecution or the defense.”

“And why do I need to be officially assigned to this trial to be concerned about some untoward suspects skulking about the courthouse?”

“Suspicious of me?” He laughs, an attempted deflection, but it sounds pained. “I’m a witness, not a—”

“Then perhaps a witness ought to be off preparing with the prosecution, not spying on the defense, ja? You seem awfully worried about what they will do, despite only being a witness.”

“They’ve accused just about everyone of murder! Why should I not think I’m next?” O’Conner rubs his neck and from the corners of his eyes glances at Newman and Scuttlebutt. “You’ve really got it out for me, huh,” he says to Klavier. “But of course, a genius such as myself should expect that — for a prosecutorial has-been to recognize the threat I pose.”

“A ‘has-been’?” Klavier repeats. Of all the insults—

O’Conner ignores him. “What defense attorney goes into court unprepared, besides that laughable pair at the bench yesterday?” So he really does want a punch in the teeth. “And since I’m probably next on their list of baseless accusations” — Klavier would hardly call it baseless but to each their own — “I have to prepare myself, as I’ve learned. The ends justify the means, don’t they?”

“No,” Klavier snaps. “They don’t. Not your desperate, underhanded means, and I will enjoy when that unprepared defense team rips you apart on the stand.”

“Is colluding with the defense ‘underhanded’?” O’Conner asks. “I don’t listen to lectures from lawyers who don’t know what badge they wear.”

“Fortunately, the lecture that I was to give would be to the prosecution course, not you.” Was Klavier this insufferable while he was in school? Probably. “I would be careful, ja? Or that badge you will so be happy to have will be stripped from you like—” He snaps his fingers.

“Oh, you’d know all about taking away the badge of someone who doesn’t deserve to lose it.”

He should have expected that, and it hurts. He doubts it will ever not, but missing every last chance he had to speak with Courte because of it is seawater far above his head, salt stinging in the open wounds as he drowns. He sinks. “You flatter yourself to think yourself comparable in any way to Phoenix Wright,” he says. “Nein, if you know his story, you should know how I mean it when I say this — if I ‘have it out for you’, as you seem to believe, it would be because you remind me very much of mein dear brother.”

O’Conner recoils; Newman inhales loudly, in preparation to yell. All of them, Klavier included, freeze as the clanking of chains heralds the approach of another. “My most sincere appreciation, Gavin-dono,” he says, his tone sickeningly sweet, deeply unsettling, “for softening up my witness for me.”

He turns his cold smile to O’Conner, who shrinks away and grips his neck like he is in pain. “I cede the stage to you, Herr Blackquill,” Klavier says, and he leaves them, Newman indignant and Scuttlebutt a large box tucked conspicuously in the corner and O’Conner still on the line between terrified and smugly thinking himself unjustly persecuted, to retreat up into the gallery. Blackquill’s lifeless eyes burn into his back as he goes.

Klavier thought the first day of the trial a mess, owing to the friendship drama of Newman, O’Conner, and Woods; somehow, he didn’t think it would get worse. But somehow, the cases that Apollo takes are still left throwing him for loops. O’Conner’s testimony starts solid and solidly unfavorable for the defendant and the defense’s theories, to the point that the judge nearly lays down a verdict, before suddenly he makes an objection and his new testimony takes a hard turn off the rails into incoherent.

Blackquill walks out of the courtroom.

What should he care of consequence? What punishment can he face greater than death for the crime he has already committed, and what mockery can he make of the courtroom more than his very presence as a convicted murderer at the bench? And worse — the judge barely bats an eye. What else has Blackquill done in the hallowed hall of justice?

(Well, there was the orca he brought to trial.)

But he would be frustrated were he at the bench, too; he is frustrated in the gallery even knowing that Apollo has pulled the truth out of the ridiculous before and Cykes seems to be learning that from him. Blackquill, though, has none of Klavier’s patience for their antics. He pulls the chain between his wrists taut, a motion that Klavier has not seen of him outside of the courtroom, when he slams his fists on the bench. One of them has to give, the prisoner or the bindings — and it is the chains that break.

The judge is shocked, terrified even, but as he cries out, Klavier catches the word “again”.

Blackquill has done this before?

O’Conner goes on, babbling about how he has to lie to protect Juniper because innocent though she may be, the truth isn’t enough in this dark age of the law. And Klavier thinks of a page out of a diary, though Kristoph loved nothing but his own pride and no one but his dog and would never perjure himself for the sake of another. The means are the same and it is not enough that they seek different ends. O’Conner goes on to confess the bribes that birthed his perfect grades and Klavier knows this story too: a student who believed the forged evidence of his genius and clung to the false confidence and bravado that his parents bought for him along with his grades, because that is a hard truth to face down. That story is very much not Kristoph’s. Klavier almost regrets what he said earlier.

A call from the lab pulls him out of the courtroom. Their further progress is no more progress; they suspect that the voice in the original recording is too deep to be Woods, but no substance is yet recovered. Klavier hopes that the proof that it was fabricated will be enough. He gets back inside, making a note on his calendar to send the lab a fruit basket, to find Cykes has somehow pulled Professor Means onto the stand.

From the gallery he himself wants to lobby an objection when she suggests that they listen again to the mock trial speech. He sat through it once before and that was more than enough. But the defense insists, and Klavier sinks in his seat and does not hide the fact that he has again pulled phone from pocket, because if the courtroom is now a lecture hall then he will act like it. Themis gotten no better about their corruption since we were there, he texts to Sebastian as Means’ voice on audio drones on. Witness’ perfect grades bought by parents.

Blackquill, with his back at the bench and his head bowed, hasn’t moved in three minutes. Has he actually fallen asleep?

What does a man on death row care for courtroom penalties?

The defense seem to be pushing to accuse Means now. For all that the professor surely would have loved Kristoph, he does not have his grace under fire and Means’ demeanor shifts quickly, courtesy giving way to lecturing as though this is lecture hall and he can win if he sways the defense to his side. They’re too surprised to do anything but agree that this is now a roll call; Blackquill does not play along until Means demands that he leave the “classroom”. He has already walked out once, after all.

But that was before the chains broke.

Blackquill straightens up from leaning on the bench with a smirk that suggests he will very well heed those words, and suddenly he flinches, twitches, and — no, he spasms, for a full second that is one of the longest of Klavier’s life, before slumping forward, gasping for breath. Fulbright appears — or maybe he has always been here, somehow in bright white still no more substantial than a shadow, a phantom who easily fades away when all eyes turn to the convict he shepherds around — near the stand, grinning, almost ghoulishly it seems to Klavier now, with a jab about discipline, and—

Blackquill sneers back in between heaving gasps, but he doesn’t seem surprised. Has that happened before, too? What goes on in these trials?

He has a text from Kay asking how the trial is going, and so he tells her exactly what has just happened. She is a detective. If there is anything standard department-issue about — fucking taser-shackles, whatever the hell it is that Fulbright has, she can tell him.

Cykes fights valiantly, but Means knows where to hit, and hit hard. What better way to break a teenage prodigy than to tell them that they are a failure, undeserving of their badge? And break she does; before the eyes of Klavier and the gallery, she folds into herself, arms curled protectively around her body. Blackquill’s barbed blades through the past two days could only dream of drawing out such a reaction.

But maybe that was never what he intended. Not when he calls across the aisle, harsh as always, with not quite reassurance, not quite encouragement, but a reminder: a purpose to why she has chosen this path in life. Someone that she will disappoint should she give up.

He must know her outside of the courtroom, but how? If Klavier is ever to get an answer he knows it will not come from Blackquill and the tangle of secrets he has locked away.

And for all the turns the trial took, the truth is laid bare: Professor Means killed her. As though Klavier didn’t hate him enough for “the ends justify the means”, as though Klavier had not already been thinking how satisfying it would be to punch him, to just bash him over the head with—

It is not for Klavier to think he can dole out what anyone deserves. Blackquill swore justice for Courte, and that, they got.

“Proudly serve her memory,” Blackquill says. “Do not let her death be in vain.” His words are to Woods, but Klavier remembers their conversation the prior morning; while the exact words still don’t come back to mind, he knows the shape of it was the same. And slightly more clear-headed than yesterday, he finds himself surprised at the sincerity, that to the whole courtroom the Twisted Samurai would again show a heart.

He slips out of the gallery at the clack of the judge’s gavel.

Again he finds himself playing that game of avoidance, fleeing the courthouse without a word of congratulations to Cykes for her win or Woods for her exoneration. He doesn’t have long to hate himself for it, spared by a call from Themis asking if he will be able to make it back tomorrow for an extension of the school festival. He’ll be able to see them tomorrow. He’ll be able to sing with Ms. Woods, Courte’s chosen successor.

After Daryan, he swore to never play the Guitar’s Serenade again, but he had also thought he was breaking up the band for good, so what does he know, really? When Woods was chosen as student representative to sing with him, they exchanged a few emails, and she told him she was a huge fan of Lamiroir. And that had been enough for him to offer to bring the song to the stage, one more time. What was it that Daryan always said he was — a sucker for a pretty face? He wasn’t ever wrong about that one.

Klavier had hoped that he could at least create for himself a new memory of the ballad, form a new association that wasn’t the murder case that took away his best friend. Now it’s the murder case that took away his mentor.

Apollo and Cykes look at him like he’s glass that will shatter with a glance head-on. Trucy is there as well, with an invitation to her magic show, and a smile dimmed just around the edges by the concern in her eyes that she doesn’t voice. She’s a performer, too. She understands the masks they wear. Time spent with the three of them, plus Woods, briefly lifts the weight off his heart; running into O’Conner doesn’t drag him down, even though O’Conner doesn’t look him in the eyes and Klavier still can’t bring himself to apologize to his face.

On the stage, pre-show preparation — that’s when it hurts. That’s when he awkwardly hops about the stage to avoid the white-tape outline that has been taken away but still is burned into his mind; that’s when he looks around and counts only four of them, a shadow left in place of the last. What is Klavier’s life now but shadows filling holes?

He doesn’t put his feet down where Courte’s body lay all night. He tries not to think about her otherwise, tries to keep himself only in the moment, and it holds him together until he’s left alone with the clouds blocking the last of the evening’s light. How he looped back to the stage he isn’t sure but he stands there now, thinking about his banner soaking up the last of her life as it bled away. There’s a song in that somewhere. It isn’t a happy one.

He sits with his back against the mock defense’s bench. “I’m sorry,” he says to the empty air over which he can superimpose the the crime scene photograph of Courte’s body. “You thought better of me, Professor Courte, and I let you down.” Just like so many others have done to him. “The dark age of the law you so valiantly fought, with I as a cause, only for it to kill you.”

Proudly serve her memory, Blackquill said, but Klavier is not proud.

“Prosecutor Gavin?”

Over the stage edge he sees the top of Sebastian’s head. Did he hear him speaking to Courte’s ghost, another regret to haunt him until his own grave rises to meet him? “I didn’t know you’d come, Herr Debeste.” His text informing Sebastian that the festival had been continued through today was sent this morning; it had only then occurred to him that it might be something his former classmate would want to know.

“I nearly didn’t,” Sebastian says. “Since sure I felt great about being a student while I was a student but now that I look back…” He stops on the steps. “My memories are all tainted and sour now.”

“Mine, too,” Klavier says.

But he’s growing used to that.

“After you told me about Professor Courte,” Sebastian says, “I asked Justine, and she said that she knew her. She admired her, too.”

Courte and Courtney; with names like that, what career can there even be but one in the legal profession? He can’t to find his voice to joke.

“I wish I could’ve met her.”

“I wish you could have, too.”

And in several ways, it’s Klavier’s fault that he never got the chance, isn’t it?

In the morning, he awakens with an ache in his chest from a backlog of tears he has not managed to cry and a text from Kay telling him that they are meeting up at her apartment tonight. It isn’t an invitation. It is a demand. If he backs out, she will show up on his doorstep and pick the lock on his door. He knows her well enough to know that, so he takes Vongole for a walk in his Saturday-morning anti-paparazzi disguise of glasses and unwashed hair in a messy bun and crawls back into bed for a few more hours to steel himself for the evening and the look of concern he knows he will find on Kay’s face.

Ema is already on her couch when Klavier arrives, Kay with a stack of flashcards in her hand when she opens the door. “When’s the test?” Klavier asks.

“First week of December,” Ema answers, too promptly for her to really have registered that it is him, specifically, speaking to her. She pulls a handful of Snackoos from the large back next to her and shoves them one-handed into her face. “I’m not cramming this time. For six months I’ve been fu—” She lifts her head and squints at him. “Oh,” she says. “Gavin.”

And he thinks that will be the last she speaks to him tonight, but she adds, “I asked him about the thing.”

“Who about what?” he asks.

“Mr. Edgeworth,” she says irritably, like she expects him to obviously understand her vagaries. “About Fulbright.”

“You — you asked Edgeworth?” He hadn’t expected that. He hasn’t expected Kay to take the question to Ema in the first place.

“Mhm.” She crunches another Snackoo. “Because it’s fucked up. How much have they vetted Fulbright — oh wait I don’t give a shit because I’m sure Gant was vetted way more when they gave him a fuckton of power and I still wouldn’t give him a remote control shock collar on anyone no matter what they’ve done or who’ve they murdered.”

Gant. The name feels some sort of familiar, but hazy and distant. Ema raises her head again and glares at him. “Damon Gant,” she says. “Police Chief, 2015 to 2017, arrested for murdering a prosecutor, forging evidence, murdering a detective, and threatening a different prosecutor into taking the fall for it” — she inhales loudly — “and the reason I’ve got trust issues. Sentenced to life, but I don’t doubt there’s more of his type in the ranks and I don’t want a single one of them getting their hands on that shit.”

Klavier realizes that he has stood paralyzed just inside the doorway for nearly a minute and moves to where Kay has piled some beanbag chairs in front of the couch. “So what did he say?” he asks, and face-first in fabric it sounds like a mumble even to himself.

Someone kicks one of the bags near his face. Kay and Ema are both on the couch now and Klavier suspects either equally. He lifts his head. “What did Herr Chief say?”

“That it’s not gonna be mass-produced or standard issue, ever,” Ema says.

“A special leash for our jailbird, then.”

“One of a kind, and they built the cuffs separate from the chain and fucked it up somewhere putting it all together and have to keep welding it back together now — or not even welding, I think welding was too much heat and going to damage whatever the hell mechanism is in those cuffs. Totally not an optimized design or construction process, and at that point I tuned Fulbright out because sure it might be science but it’s fucked and I am not a fan.”

Ema shakes her head and stares blankly ahead, even as Kay reaches over her and takes the Snackoos bag. The door handle rattles and Kay bellows “It’s open!” with a volume that makes Klavier flinch, lost as he was in trying to take in what Ema had said. Sebastian inches in, obviously still in the process of deciding whether he wants to back out of socializing now.

“I asked Mr. Edgeworth if he thought he was innocent,” Ema says, like she didn’t notice Sebastian had entered. She stretches her hand towards the bag and Kay places a handful of Snackoos in her palm. “He said the answer is above my security clearance.”

The blacked-out pages tell the same story.

“He must, though,” Kay says. “Why would he do any of this if he didn’t really believe it? Wouldn’t even a little doubt stop you from going this far?”

“He’s Chief Prosecutor,” Klavier says. “Who can stop him?”

The Prosecutorial Investigation Committee, if they aren’t corrupt as well; the Chief of Police, if they aren’t corrupt as well; whoever holds the cards to blackmail the Chief Prosecutor. He doubts Edgeworth has those problems, and he has never seen evidence of it, but he is not willing to say it for certain about anyone.

“I read as much of the case as I could,” Sebastian says, “and if he was innocent, why would he so ferverently—fervently proclaim his own guilt? What reason would anyone have to do that?”

“Kay, let’s hit the flashcards again,” Ema says. The expression on her face is one of wide, unfocused eyes, like she is seeing what none of them can. Like she had a revelation.

Like she has found an answer she cannot speak.

“If you can run tests to find out what kind of poison was used, why do you need to know all of the properties and symptoms from memory?” Sebastian asks, as Kay flings a note card labeled arsenic into his lap and reads off the next, cyanide.

“Ask the idiots who wrote the test,” Ema says.

“The more I’ve thought about it,” Sebastian says to Klavier, “the less surprised I am, I suppose, that Prosecutor Edgeworth has done this with Blackquill. It’s just what he does.”

“What do you mean?” Klavier asks.

“He’s giving Blackquill a chance, when no one believes in him, because he thinks — he must think — there’s a deeper truth and he wants to find it. Like he did with Mr. Wright.”

Klavier pushes himself upright. “What do you mean?”

— “Hexapsycho, um, hexacycle—”

“It’s pronounced exactly as it looks, Kay.”

“Well Emmy you know I don’t know how to read!”

“Those cases that Kay and I worked with Interpol and Prosecutor Edgeworth over in Europe — sometimes he would bring Mr. Wright over as a consultant too. And he’d sometimes bring his daughter. She always made my badge disappear.”

Wright somehow never lost his touch in the courtroom after seven years. That could never be owed entirely to Kris. There’s a history between Wright and Edgeworth, one that everyone knows, even Klavier, though he never dug into it because he didn’t want to have anything more to do with Wright. It makes a certain amount of sense that Edgeworth would believe, believe there a truth to bring to light, monsters lurking beneath to burn to ash, even when the evidence said it was all Wright, only Wright. And there was and if they succeeded at drawing out the truth behind one inciting case of the dark age of the law, why not the other? Once he had fixed Klavier’s main mistake, why not push back against the dark that he and Blackquill brought on? Why not exonerate Blackquill, like Wright?

The notecard for hexo-whatever drops into Klavier’s lap. Kay reads off the next. “Atroquinine.”

Klavier rolls up onto his feet to see what she keeps in her kitchen.

November passes in a blur. He gets Taka an emerald-green bandana, like he said he would; he tries to broach the topic of Fulbright and the shackles to Blackquill and is shut down in an even more dismissive way than Blackquill usually does when Klavier tries to say something he is not interested in. Fraülein Wright is overzealous in inviting him to her magic shows, and he wonders if it was Apollo or Cykes who told her that he was coming unglued. He lands a case against the pair that lasts only one day but as complicated as he has come to expect. (Do they deliberately try to take the most fucked-up cases?) Kay and Sebastian invite themselves over to his apartment several times, and Kay doesn’t even try to claim that it’s Vongole she wants to see.

The arrival of December feels like the tiniest relief. He is ready for the year to end. Maybe next year, he thinks, maybe next year will be free of tragedy. With email inquiries from his manager and publicist about various New Years’ Eve celebrations that would be happy to host a Gavinners reunion (declined, as they all agreed that Themis was a very special and very one-off occasion) or a Klavier solo performance (also declined), he has been thinking about it again, the never-ending passage of time, the hope for a fresh start. With thirty-one days left to go he already wishes to just let the year die, to bid it to its grave alone, like the year before.

He is working on wording his responses to those emails, and an entirely different professional email to Ema, when there is a knock on the door. When he looks up, a dismissal ready on his lips to chase away one of the usual suspects, he sees Edgeworth standing in the doorway. “Do you have time for a word, Gavin?”

This seems — unofficial. Were it something on the record, Klavier would have been called up to his office, right? But with that expression of his — tight, closed off, bordering on anger — what else could it be but a reprimand? “Of course, Herr Chief,” he replies. The piles of cross-references on the floor betray that he is lying. Edgeworth’s frown deepens as he looks over the mess. He still doesn’t yet speak, and that further worries Klavier. The chief prosecutor is not a man who minces words or concerns himself with cushioning their impact.

“I’ve noticed that you and Prosecutor Blackquill seem close,” he says.

Many people have commented on that. From Sebastian, it was merely confusion as to what made Blackquill friendship material. From Kay, it was merely an observation, with perhaps a touch of jealousy as to the way Taka took to Klavier much more than her. From Fulbright, it was a statement almost glad that Blackquill has managed to form another human relationship. From most others, it is a jab — the two horsemen of the dark age of the law, together. From the chief prosecutor—

“What of it?”

Again, there is silence before an answer, and a heavy sigh as Edgeworth closes his eyes. If he has to brace himself to speak—

Ice is gathering inside Klavier’s ribs.

“Prosecutor Blackquill won’t tell you this — and I believe he has threatened Detective Fulbright as well to make mention to no one — but I thought it better that you be warned in advance. The date is set for the twenty-first of December.”

The cold has made its way through his chest and up his throat, leaving his mouth dry, his voice a croak. “The date of…” He cannot force the words out. “Of…” Edgeworth just looks at him; there is no pity in his gaze, no attempt to finish the sentence and help Klavier with the words that his lips will not form. “Of his execution?”

Of course it is. What else could it be?

And the damned emotionless Chief Prosecutor just lets him flounder. “Yes,” he says, sharply, and he doesn’t even have the fucking sympathy to have answered by saying I’m sorry instead.

December twenty-first. He doesn’t need to put the date into a calendar. Already it is burned into his mind — the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, sparse daylight with darkness encroaching too fast and too close on every side. Fitting, really, but for the fact that after that day, the light comes back, the night gets shorter. It doesn’t just go on and on like eight years, like forever, dark age of the fucking law, Klavier rolled out the red carpet for it, and now all there is to do is fucking watch.

Edgeworth is already starting to turn away, to leave having done nothing but tell Klavier that the long night he helped usher in is never, ever going to end. The ice in his chest layers thick on top of itself, squeezing out room for anything else but the twisted cold, and he is on his feet before he knows what he’s doing, spitting poison at the chief prosecutor’s back. “Then why the hell did you do any of it at all?”

Edgeworth stops and slowly faces Klavier. His expression is thunderous. “If you have something to say, Gavin, then—”

Then by all means Klavier already intended to say it. He slams his fist against the door. “Why? If you believe him innocent then you have had a year as Chief Prosecutor to do something! Instead the end is fast approaching and all you have done is—” give me someone else to lose.

Edgeworth, staring at him unblinking, pushes his glasses further up on his nose. The gesture reminds Klavier too much of someone else. “I do not answer to you, nor do I owe you an explanation of my actions, but I very much do resent your implication that I have done nothing

“Then what have you done, besides walk in here and tell me that in three weeks he will be dead! What have you done but watch the noose tighten?”

“Prosecutor Blackquill knows what I am doing, and you, Gavin—”

“And what is it that you’re doing? Putting him on a leash — a shock collar like a dog?”

“Detective Skye told me of your collective concerns and I very much understand and agree. I will have you know, however, that while the position of Chief Prosecutor is one which has been long abused by those who held it, I have sworn to not get my way through threat or blackmail. This means that while I am able to issue the writ to place a dangerous criminal back in the courtroom to prosecute other criminals, it is not a plan that has not met resistance every step of the way. Do you think that the police have not balked? Do you think with no negotiation I could simply force them to devote one of their detectives to the full-time task of shadowing a convicted killer who I let walk forth? Do you think I could convince them to do such while not having contingencies in place for the protection of both the detective and the rest of us?”

He doesn’t give Klavier time to say anything.

“This is the bargain I have struck for the chance to bring an end to the dark age of the law and save Prosecutor Blackquill from an early grave — this is the most kindness I have been allowed for him, because for his crime most are content to let him rot, and none willing to chance on the good behavior of a man who brutally murdered his own mentor!”

“His own mentor?” Klavier repeats, aghast. He thinks of Courte.

He thinks of Blackquill comforting him after Courte’s death.

The ice clings tighter to the edges of the hole where his heart was.

Edgeworth’s eyes flare open wider for the briefest of moments and then narrow back into pitiless steel daggers. “As you see, you, much like Detective Skye, lack a significant amount of evidence with which to understand both this case and my actions surrounding it, so if you have any more duly uninformed opinions, I would suggest you save them for another time.”

Klavier slams the door shut.

Stupid. Stupid. Blackquill has been on death row this entire time. He was convicted. What did he think, that he could draw the truth out of the man by being friends, that the truth would be anything other than the verdict cast down upon his head?

Eventually he finishes the email to Ema, but the ones about his musical career wait until another day, and when he finishes the work he throws himself back into as a distraction, he makes straight for the detention center. The sun is already sinking between the buildings, lighting up the sky bloody-red before it stretches up into darkness. He flashes his badge, submitting himself as a visiting prosecutor, and paces the detention center’s visiting room as he waits for Blackquill to be brought in on the other side of the glass.

“And for what reason does your path cross mine this evening?” Blackquill asks. He doesn’t look surprised — does he ever? “Or shall I guess? You are not the most predictable man, but you appear agitated, and oh what a fearsome glare with which you turn to me now.” He grins. “Perhaps a kitten would cower from you but I hold more doubts than not about even that.”

Klavier circles back to the glass, Blackquill sitting there with that frustrating smirk still set on his face. “Did you kill her?”

“Surely you have gotten your hands on at least part of the trial transcript by now. I made my plea very clear on several occasions and the stenographer cannot have been so incompetent as to improperly record all of them.” He chuckles. “Though, the quality of others I have had the misfortune to work with in this justice system does leave some room for doubt. Perhaps they were.”

Klavier slams his fist against the partition. “Did you kill your mentor?”

In an instant, Blackquill’s smile vanishes. “And from whom exactly did you hear that she was my mentor?”

“Edgeworth.”

“You have my admiration for managing to draw such information out of him. He does not usually give anything away.”

“I asked you a question, Blackquill.”

“And I did answer it — unless you have never looked at even the case file, which made plain that my plea was the same as my verdict is the same as I deserve. But I should hope that you are a curious enough man that you would not make association with me without first reviewing all of the facts and evidence available to you, however scant that may be. After all, you are not as the Wright Whatever Agency, with their aversion to thorough preparation, however you may ally yourself to them.”

“I wanted the truth,” Klavier snarls, “about my mentor — and yours, Blackquill. Did you kill her? Tell me!”

Blackquill slowly shakes his head. “I am disappointed, Gavin-dono, in your skill as an investigator and prosecutor if you have dismissed decisive evidence and a confession to stand here and plead like a child for a different answer. I have made no reservations about or attempts to hide from you what I am. Perhaps you thought better of me, given that I have not lied to you, and that is more than what the others in your history have done, but know this — better to leave me to sink than in folly to chain yourself to me in hopes of finding some secret truth. There is none. Yes, I killed her. Of course I did.”

Klavier sinks into the chair. “She was your mentor.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because there were things I wished to learn and that she was able to teach me. You should very well know what a mentor is.”

He is laughing. His laugh is the opposite of Kristoph’s unhinged hysteria; he is all-too composed for the situation. “This isn’t a time for jokes,” Klavier snaps. His rings clack against the sill when he brings his hand down on it.

“And why ever not? I met once in the clink a former comedian who imparted the wisdom that it is better to laugh at the darkness than wallow in it. I am the man upon the gallows; why should I not find it humorous?”

“Because you killed a woman! Because she is dead and you — why?” He inhales and tries to force away the image of Courte. “Why did you kill her?”

“It matters not.”

“It matters a lot!” Like Kristoph, and Shadi Smith; no confession of motive to hide something so much darker lurking beneath the surface.

“Why? Because you think of Professor Courte? Because you think the comfort I offered you insincere now that you know this of me?”

Klavier blinks.

“Do not look so surprised. I would not know well how to manipulate people if I could not read them well.” He settles back in his chair. “It is the word ‘mentor’ which has set you off, as though it is a fresh blade across a wound which has not even had time to scab over. Did I not just say I have never lied to you? I was more than sincere when I offered my sympathies for the loss of someone who meant a great deal to you, nor to Juniper Woods when I said to honor the memory of Constance Courte. Your mentor was not mine. They are in no way linked. That I killed her does not mean I cannot feel sorrow at the unnecessary death of another. And though my condolences are genuine, you should not stand so in need of them. You need concern yourself with nothing of what a damned soul as I thinks of you. Be rid of me.”

“Yeah,” Klavier says. The winter solstice looms. “I’ll be rid of you quite fucking soon.”

“Make it sooner,” Blackquill says. “Leave.”

Klavier gapes at him.

“I hardly know what keeps you here,” he continues. “I have never been famed for my magnetic or attractive personality, yet you remain. Disentangle your fate from mine.”

“Like it’s that fucking easy!” Klavier snarls. “Like the dark age of the law won’t still haunt me! Like you’re not about to die and leave me alone with our fucking legacy of this mistrusted mess of a legal system!”

And in that instant he understands why exactly he has been drawn to Blackquill, why the man has haunted him. He never thought so much about the darkness he was the catalyst to, not even immediately after the Misham trial, as he has since he first stared down Blackquill. Where he can’t face himself in the mirror, his fellow prosecutor, fellow herald to the so-called dark age, is there to be a twisted reflection that he cannot run from, a killer where Klavier was pawn. It is why he thinks so often of Kristoph, and and for that reason he is a man from whom Klavier should not, cannot, seek support in shouldering the burden of that legacy. Yet he has. Stupid. Stupid.

“You ask me, the man at fault for this darkness, for assistance in bringing back the light,” Blackquill says. “What a dunce I thought you eight years ago, and some part of you has not changed; still a child, thinking now that you have fixed your mistakes you can do anything for mine. I — ah.” He closes his eyes and heaves a sigh that is visible in the slump of his shoulders. “‘About to die’,” he repeats, like he has caught up to all of what Klavier said. “‘Rid of me soon’ — this is what you mean. It was the Chief Prosecutor who told you this as well, I presume, that on the calendar has been marked my final day?” Klavier nods. “So my request of the fool detective, that we not speak of it, needed to be extended as well to one man who I thought surely understood the value of privacy.”

“So you were just going to let me find out with no warning one day that you are now dead and gone?”

The light glints off his eyes when he opens them, glaring with all the precision and force of a hawk about to strike. “Yes, I was,” he says. “And you were not to wallow in it.” He sits up straighter but keeps his head bowed, scowling out from beneath his hair and the chasms around his eyes. “But seeing now that you appear imbecilic enough to care for me in some regard, consider it a practice run for when the rope necklace takes its long-deserved place around your dear brother’s neck. Did you beg him for an answer that was anything but the truth, too?”

Klavier feels like he has swallowed an icicle sideways — no, not swallowed. Had it lodged horizontally into his throat from the outside in.

When he leaves the detention center, the light is gone from the sky. He goes home and straight from his front door to his studio, soundproofed walls so if he wants to play the guitar until three am he can, and drops his briefcase on the floor. And standing in the middle of the room, he screams.

He screams for a long time.

How can an unapologetic murderer help the public regain its trust in the legal system? And what can Blackquill be but a murderer?

And how did Klavier think he could uncover a truth that Edgeworth, with full access to all the details of the case, still hasn’t? And why did he think that exonerating Blackquill would relieve him from this crushing sense of guilt? As a prosecutor, he does not make cases on benefit of the doubt. Is this because of Wright? Is he trying to make up for the case he so badly bungled by affording Blackquill the benefit of the doubt that he never granted Wright?

It has gotten him nowhere but his own apartment, alone in it, screaming at the empty walls.

He is left alone with himself for most of the following week; he chats with Taka, sees not a shadow of his owner, and tries not to lend further thought to that ghost, the dead on earth, whose chains rattle through the courthouse. Then, T-minus fourteen days, Kay barges into his office, flinging the door open so hard that it bounces off the wall and smacks back into her. She upends half of the contents of a table once she makes it in past the threshold. “He — he threatened me!” Her voice is practically a wail. Usually when she is angry she can maintain some small level of apparent detachment and disdain, but there is nothing of the sort now. “With a salary review! He’s never done that!”

“Who did?” Klavier asks. “Herr Debeste?” That doesn’t seem possible.

Kay knocks the rest of the papers on the table to the floor and sits on it. “No!” Her expression is in flux between an indignant pout and something anguished. “Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth!”

“What happened?” Klavier asks; through his shock he at least has the presence of mind to phrase it that way and not the worse way that he is nonetheless still thinking, what did you do?

Still scowling, she folds her arms across her chest. “So I tried to pick the lock on his office door—”

Fraülein.”

“—to get to the classified UR-1 case files. Because—”

“Fraülein—!”

“Because the truth is in there!” she yells over his second protestation. “And we aren’t allowed to know! Blackquill’s dying and we aren’t allowed to help! Mr. Edgeworth won’t let us help!”

He closes his eyes. “Even in service to the truth, that is—”

“A crime?” she snarls. “Yeah, tell me about it, Herr ‘stole the mock trial script to let the defense look at it again’ Gavin — or is it Herr ‘manipulated my fans in Criminal Affairs to get them to look at this evidence tape that I shouldn’t have because it’s not my case’ Gavin! You draw the line in a weird fucking place, huh, Klavvy.”

He doesn’t have any rebuttal, no justification or excuse to make himself into not a hypocrite. He wonders how she learned about the mock trial script, whether one of the detectives on that case told her enough that she was able to put it together.

“If he won’t give us the truth, then I’ll try and steal it.” She raises her chin, shaking her hair back, for a moment composed and haughty and almost regal. “I am my father’s daughter. I am the second Yatagarasu. I will not sit and do nothing!”

“And when the only truth there is to find is the one that has been plain in front of us all this time?”

Yes, I killed her. Of course I did.

“All those classified files, all this time Mr. Edgeworth has spent, and you think there’s nothing more?”

“He admits it, Fraülein — unapologetically.”

As unapologetically as someone else.

Phoenix Wright and Zak Gramarye both deserved what they got!

“Adamantly insists upon it, in fact,” Klavier continues, “and made clear that he thinks me an idiot for even the merest implication that there could be any possibility but that one. We spoke about it at length the other day.”

You have dismissed decisive evidence and a confession to stand here and plead like a child for a different answer.

“I’m sure he would be happy to have such a conversation with you as well, though perhaps not as happy, because I do not believe you bear as many open wounds as I for him to salt.”

Did you beg your brother for an answer that was anything but the truth, too?

“I don’t know what you look for that you think the Chief Prosecutor has not found in a year, Fraülein.”

She hits him in the chest with a binder which she retrieved from the floor to lob at him. “Stop it!” she screams. “Stop it! Your stupid rock star accent! Stop it! Stop trying to pretend you’re all cool and detached! You’re not! You’re his friend too! You care about him too!”

“And where has that left me, but with someone else to lose!”

“We’ve all lost people, Klavvy! In case you’ve forgotten!” Stooping again, she reaches for a file folder, and he springs from his chair and wrests it from her hands. “If Mr. Edgeworth thought he was guilty, he would say that. He wouldn’t do this. He won’t say he thinks Blackquill is innocent because — liability or some shit, I don’t know — but he does! I know he does!”

“Then why has he found nothing? Why does Blackquill fight him every step of the way? What innocent man would not fight the end as it draws so near?”

“Ask Emmy! Ask her about—” Kay throws her hands in the air. “Ask her about her sister! She would’ve told you and Sebby back in October if she wanted to talk about it but fucking ask her and she won’t tell you because she hates you and your annoying insincere German shit!” She jabs her finger into his chest and he smacks her hand away. “There’s always another possibility until there’s decisive evidence with no other explanation—”

“And what about the evidence from the trial isn’t decisive?” Klavier demands. He turns back to his desk. “You’ve seen it, ja? Shall I remind you? Show you the photographs of the man and his bloody sword at the scene of the crime? You work for prosecutors, not defense attorneys! What is this faith you have in him—”

“Not him!” Kay snaps. She grabs the UR-1 file he has retrieved from a drawer and drops it on the floor, spilling open to the black-marked pages of missing information and the pictures of Blackquill, so young when they were all still so young. “In Edgeworth! Who’s harder on corruption than anyone I’ve ever known—”

“Except when it’s Phoenix fucking Wright!” He remembers what Sebastian says again now. Wright, disbarred for corruption, and Edgeworth — what a farce. No matter if he was innocent, with the way the deck was stacked against him, the evidence that was everything, it was not the place of the future Chief Prosecutor to defend him. “He was one of you Interpol consultants while he was disbarred, ja?”

Kay wrinkles her nose. “What’s that got to do with any of this?”

“Edgeworth has his biases, like any other man; even he and I do not quite manage to be the impartial arbitrators of justice that we strive to.”

“Even if — and maybe he is — he’s biased toward Mr. Wright, he doesn’t have history or a preexisting relationship or anything with Blackquill,” she says. “And you just wanna be angry, huh?”

“I am tired,” he tells her, a redirect away from the very good point she made about the history of Edgeworth and Wright versus Blackquill. “I am tired of losing people. I am tired of them letting me down.”

Her eyes widen as she looks at him, pity welling up in their dark centers, and he would prefer her fiery anger. “But you care about him, though?”

I shouldn’t, he could answer, or, unfortunately, I do. “In the last conversation we had,” he says, “he made it quite clear that he wished me to accept his guilt. And because we seemed at some point friends, I will do for him what he wants.” He points at the door like he has an objection to it, rather than his objection being to Edgeworth, to Blackquill, to this entire abstract situation. “Please leave and let me clean up the mess you’ve made, Kay.”

She stops in the doorway, staring down at the mess. “Sorry,” she says, but she has the audacity to only look sheepish for a mere instant. “He — Mr. Edgeworth told you when the date is, right?” she asks. Klavier nods. “He didn’t tell Sebastian — not specifically, now, anyway. He’d said to him at some point that it would be the end of the year, but…” She fiddles with the cuffs of her gloves. “I guess he didn’t think Sebastian and Blackquill were — are! — close enough to… to need the warning.” Her hair falls across her face, eyes fixed on the floor again. “He mentioned it to Ema, too. To us together, I guess since she’d asked him about the shackles, last week. I only managed to get over here today to try and get the files. I’m going to try again.” She lifts her head, shaking her hair back, her face set like stone. “I’m only telling you so that you know you and Sebby are buying me ramen when my salary is down to pennies.”

The door clicks quietly shut behind her.

Klavier thinks about screaming again.

The days count down like sands to the bottom of an hourglass, the noose pulled tighter and about to drop. Thirteen, twelve, eleven: December tenth, Klavier at the vending machines after a trial, trying to retrieve the autopsy report that Taka snatched away from him as soon as the judge called his verdict. “You have no need of that,” Klavier says. Taka peers over the edge of the machine at him. “What will you do, eat the paper? Do not eat paper. Give it back. Herr Taka. Herr Taka.”

A sharp whistle causes Taka to stiffen, casting his eyes about for a moment before he takes to wing, talons buried in the paper, and lands somewhere behind Klavier. He can guess where, or rather, who, even before hearing his voice. “I see my darling beloved bird is not behaving himself.”

The autopsy report that Blackquill hands back to him is pierced through with holes. “Fortunately I only need this for my own records, now,” Klavier says. Taka lifts his head proudly. “Naughty birds get coal in their stockings, you know.”

He is about to walk past and leave it at this but Blackquill’s question stops him. “You do not actually have a Christmas stocking for this ungrateful bird, do you?” He sounds confident when he hit the word actually but faltering and turning it into a question, after all this time still not knowing when the joke becomes serious with Klavier.

“Where would we hang it?” Klavier asks, turning back around to look at the convict, soon a dead man, and his hawk, soon Klavier’s, on his shoulder. “Off the vending machine?”

Blackquill laughs.

Ten, nine: December twelfth, Kay comes down from Edgeworth’s office, again fuming; the UR-1 case files aren’t where they should be on his shelves. He hid them from her. Eight: December thirteenth, Klavier waiting for a witness, and Taka taking to wing at the approaching death rattle of chains. “Gavin-dono,” says the ghost. “I have something for you.”

“Ja?”

Blackquill jerks his head and Fulbright, always, to the end, following in step as his shadow, is suddenly at his side to hand to Klavier a stack of papers. All are covered, front and back, in straight even rows despite the fact that none of the pages are lined, of the most beautiful handwriting Klavier has ever seen, like an entire document in calligraphy. Flipping through to a random page, he starts reading at a paragraph in the middle and finds Taka’s name. He looks up. “What is this?”

“It is as close to everything about this bird as I could put to page,” Blackquill replies. “All of those things which I presumed you may not know from your merely periodic exposure to him; what I guessed to be the best way to lure him out of the courthouse and convince him to adopt a new location as a home; again a guess, this as to how to acclimate him to yet keep him apart from a dog as friendly yet unintelligent as you have explained your dog to be; and more such as that.”

At the bottom corners of the pages are tiny numbers inked into place. In the body of the writing, Klavier spots at least one cross-reference. “How long have you been working on this?” Klavier asks.

“Many months,” Blackquill replies, a little softer than he usually speaks. “A labor of love and necessity both.”

Klavier is starting to feel a little nauseous, and more than a little dizzy. “Is there a section on how Herr Taka feels about hats?” he asks, flailing for something, anything, any deflection, because that is what he does, he deflects, he runs, he never faces head-on what he needs to until he is forced. “Picture a tiny Santa cap — or perhaps those New Years glasses with the year for the frame, but bird-sized.”

“Do not do this,” Blackquill snaps.

Klavier blinks. “What?”

This,” he repeats. “You speak of a time that I will not be here but ask of me to imagine it — for what purpose? To deny that which is plain in front of you, as you have tried before? As you have asked of me my assistance? By Christmas I am gone. Whatever nonsense you attempt to usher in the next year with, I shall not see. Stop flinching from that fact!” He raises his arms up to his chest in tandem and brings them down like he has forgotten that there is no bench here to slam his hands on, but the clanking of the shackles is jarring enough.

The next wave of nausea that rises in Klavier’s chest is cold. Everything has been cold for a long time now. “Would he try to bite off a necklace of little tiny lights?”

Blackquill’s expression does not change. Have the hollows under his eyes gotten darker? His face is the sharp, barren surface of a faraway moon, and beyond that, a black hole, swallowing all light. Klavier can barely recall the time he moved him to pity. “Yes,” he answers tersely. “He would bite apart the wires, should he not simply tangle himself in them. Glasses would fall from his head as he plainly does not have external ears on which to balance them. And a hat he would shake off regardless of how you attempted to secure it.” He shakes his head. “Stick with the colorful bandanas of which you are so fond. Do not seek to overcomplicate the matter.”

Klavier slips the papers into his briefcase and hopes he will remember to secure them safely as soon as he is back in his office. Taka from his perch on Blackquill’s shoulder is preening his hair. “Steel your resolve, Gavin-dono,” he says, gesturing toward the prosecutor lobby. “You have a case awaiting you.”

That, and more to come. Klavier nods.

The cold has turned to numb.

Seven, six, five: December sixteenth, Sebastian slamming straight into Klavier’s door, too much momentum causing him to fail at opening it while on the move. “The news,” he gasps. There are tears in his eyes. “Did you see—”

Klavier turns his eyes back to his computer screens and silently points at three different news stations, each covering the explosion at the courthouse. “Kay had a case this morning,” Sebastian says, his hands curled tight into fists, one clutching his phone, his face twisting in a poor attempt at holding back tears. “I can’t get her or, or anyone. Who had cases today? I think Prosecutor Blackquill, he was going against the Wright Somethings, and—”

The pressure gathering at Klavier’s temple is threatening to burst and it feels like it will split his skull in half when it does. “It was contained in one courtroom,” he says, which is scant reassurance because he didn’t know a moment ago that half of the people he knows were down at the courthouse this morning and because—

“Someone died!” Sebastian yells. His voice cracks. “Someone died and Kay’s not—!”

Klavier lunges across his desk to his phone. One dead, one taken to the hospital in serious condition, numerous injuries treated on-site — was Kay in that courtroom? Was Apollo? What about Cykes, or Trucy even, Wright, Blackquill, Taka, Fulbright, where was Ema this morning? Apollo’s phone goes straight to voicemail. Trucy’s rings and rings. He doesn’t have Cykes’ number so he searches for the office website and calls their phone. Sebastian is still trying for Kay, no longer trying to stifle his sniffling. Klavier tosses him a box of tissues that hits him in stomach and drops to the floor.

“Herr Edgeworth might still be here,” Klavier says after his third attempt at calling Apollo comes up immediately unsuccessful. “If anyone has information about — about who — and…” None of the words come to him properly but Sebastian nods and they start for the elevator. At the ringing of his phone, he stops dead in the middle of the hallway, seeing the anxiety on Sebastian’s face dissipate to be replaced by confusion and a question that he does not get to ask but Klavier knows would be coming, is your ringtone really one of your own songs?

He’s answered before he has managed to process the caller ID, and Kay’s voice is a shriek at his ear. “Klavvy! Where’s Seb? He didn’t have a trial this morning but I’ve been trying and trying to call him and—”

Even with the direness of the situation, he has to laugh. “He’s been trying to call you, Fraülein.”

Now Sebastian is shouting in his other ear. “Kay? Kay!”

Klavier holds the phone between them and Kay’s voice echoes out into the corridor. “Sebby! I called Ema and then I couldn’t get you, what were you—”

“Trying to call—”

“One of you could have sent a text,” Klavier says, before realizing that he has not done so and he pulls the phone back closer to himself to send messages to Apollo and Trucy both.

“Oh, aren’t you so smart?” Kay says. “Bleh.”

“He’s not smart,” Sebastian says, wiping the tear tracks off of his cheeks with his sleeve. “He’s just going to text someone now.”

He has Woods’ email from the event at Themis, and she and Cykes were close friends, so if he emails her and asks her to ask Cykes to tell him if—

“Courtroom number four,” Kay says. “Blackquill was on the bench there — he’s fine, he dumped Taka off on me, Fulbright’s dragged him away now. No idea if I’m supposed to be here—”

“What happened?” Sebastian asks.

“That’s what I’m hanging around trying to find out. Detective who was supposed to testify in the trial is dead — Armie, I think? Arnie? Arme! Candice Arme. And the, the defense, Wright Anything Office, whatever those guys are called” — Klavier’s heart seizes up — “they carried the red one out on a stretcher, practically had to dig him out, poor kid—”

The phone slips from his fingers. He is at the elevator before he knows he is moving, jamming the button, not sure what he expects to get from Edgeworth now but something, anything, he is friends with Wright, he will know, or find out—

“Klavier!” Sebastian flings an arm through the elevator doors before they shut him out. “Klavier, wait—”

He knocks once on Edgeworth’s door before barging in, finding the chief prosecutor with his cell phone in one hand, scowling at it, and his desk phone in the other at his ear. “I am well aware of that!” he barks. His eyes are alight with fury when they turn on Klavier. “Nonetheless, what you suppose is that — no.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “One moment. Hold.” He jams the button and drops the phone to his desk. “Prosecutor Debeste, Detective Faraday is fine, and Detective Skye as well. Gavin, this wouldn’t happen to be about Mr. Justice, would it?”

Klavier nods, numbly. Edgeworth tosses his cell to him and it bounces off of his hands and to the floor. “What I know is that they took him out in an ambulance,” Edgeworth says. Klavier retrieves the phone to find it open to the call log, displaying seven unanswered calls to Phoenix Wright. “Anything more than that, I don’t know either. You might try calling Wright; maybe he will better respond to an unknown number. If he does, let me know, but otherwise, get out.”

He takes down Wright’s number into his own phone, moves to set Edgeworth’s down on the coffee table, and changes his mind and tosses it back. Edgeworth, snarling into the other phone again, catches it one-handed. Klavier didn’t know he had that kind of coordination.

Head still spinning, he follows Sebastian over to his office and slumps down into an armchair to try and get answers from someone. He alternates calls to both of Wrights, tries Apollo again, hopelessly, and finally sends a text to Wright: Is Apollo okay?

Sebastian has a baton in a pencil holder that he is now tapping against his desk to make an absolutely infuriating clicking sound. Klavier almost flings his phone at him. He almost screams. Ema shows up half an hour later with two bags of Snackoos that she does not offer to either of them but instead tears through by herself, sitting on the floor with her back to Sebastian’s desk. He has the news on but the volume is turned down to a low murmur that Klavier can’t make out. He could ask for it louder but doesn’t. It is a full hour that feels so much longer by the time his phone chimes with a text.

-At hospital. Looked bad but hes stable n shld b fine

Klavier slides halfway out of the chair, all of the tension that he was using to hold himself upright gone.

-Whos this

Ah. Right. Wright doesn’t know his number.

Klavier.

-K
-How did u get my #

Edgeworth gave it to me. I was worried.
Sorry.

-Dnt worry abt it

He was trying to get thru to you. You should call him.

-K

What kind of phone does Wright even have? Klavier hasn’t seen anyone text like this in more than a decade.

Thank you for the update on Forehead.

-Yw

It is still hard to breathe and his hands are still shaking but the heavy lump in his chest is starting to shrink. Sebastian launches his baton across the room while flexing it and without looking, Ema throws a Snackoo up over the desk. It doesn’t hit him. Edgeworth stops in the doorway, looking at the three of them, shaking his head like he is about to say something, but he doesn’t, not a word about the work they aren’t getting done, or that Ema doesn’t even work in this office, and he leaves them there. Too late does Klavier think to confirm with him that Wright called.

Kay arrives after another hour with takeout for all of them and a laptop tucked under her arm. “We’re not assigned to these cases so it’s not like anyone should expect us to get work done,” she says. “It’s fucked. You guys see about the Space Center yesterday?”

Ema nods; Klavier shakes his head, and Sebastian mutters a negative. “Bombing there too,” Kay says. “And someone stabbed to death. Center tried to keep it all hush but it didn’t work.” She snags a handful of Snackoos. “That was the trial for that murder there, in this courtroom that got blown up. Shitty unlucky break there.”

“You say like it’s a coincidence,” Ema says. “I doubt it is. Any other courtroom going to shit today of all days, maybe. That one? That’s fucked.”

“That’s what the investigation was thinking so far, though,” Kay says. “That it’s unrelated. Then someone realized I wasn’t supposed to be part of that investigative team and threw me out.”

Ema sighs. “Oh, Fraülein,” Klavier says. “Never change.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Kay replies, stealing a piece of chicken from Ema’s plate.

The afternoon wears on with Kay trying to extort information out of her coworkers on the scene and while she is engaged in her second argument with the supervising detective, Klavier gets another text.

-4hed says he wdnt mind if u came 2 visit

Klavier writes and deletes a response three times before a second message arrives.

-Figured u mght wnt 2 kno

He deletes a fourth message and simply sends: Thank you.

And because they weren’t doing anything anyway, he gets up and leaves.

Wright is not at the hospital when Klavier arrives, but Trucy is and she meets him in the hall, apologizing profusely for never responding to his messages. In a low voice she explains to him exactly how bad the situation was even before Apollo got blown half to hell: his best friend (Klavier thinks of Daryan and shakes it out of his head) was murdered yesterday and Apollo is defending the man accused of doing it. (Klavier thinks again of Daryan and thinks that what Apollo is facing would hurt worse.)

Trucy clambers back into the chair next to the bed and says nothing but watches Apollo with wide sad eyes, blinking much too frequently. He is unsurprisingly, but unnervingly, quiet, a bandage wrapped around his head over one of his eyes and his bracelet still on his arm, slid over a layer of bandages. Juniper Woods was arrested for the bombing, he says, and Klavier feels a pang of pity for the poor girl. He doubts she is the culprit, trusts Courte had better judgment when it came to all of her students but one, and evidently Apollo doubts it as well, as he says he will defend her. Klavier is about to ask how — you plan to be the first defense attorney to mount a defense from a hospital bed? — when Apollo abruptly asks Klavier about the cases he’s worked on recently. It is an obvious plea for any sort of distraction from the situation that Klavier willingly obliges. God knows he’s been there too many times — and he would even if he hadn’t.

He leaves not having shaken away the unease that, once panic had subsided, hung over him throughout the rest of the day. Worry has clawed its way into his chest, too; that look on Apollo’s face he has seen before in his own reflection. Balanced right on the edge of despair, tipping toward numb. When Trucy texts him that Apollo is released from the hospital, Klavier is lying on the couch with his face in a cushion and Vongole wedged in between him and the back of the couch, and he hopes that Apollo has something more the silence of the grave and the echo in his own skull to come home to.

Four: December seventeenth, Woods’ trial dragged out until a second day, Apollo back in the hospital. Three: December eighteenth, Woods not guilty, an email that Klavier sends Apollo asking how he is doing, no reply. Ema receives word that she passed her forensics exam and will be moved to that department with the new year. Kay wants to plan a party.

Two: December nineteenth. Taka affixes himself to Klavier’s shoulder and doesn’t leave when Klavier tries to shoo him off to go prepare for his case. He has a final pre-trial conversation with the witness with a hawk on his shoulder. This does not help said witness concentrate on what Klavier is trying to say. This does not help Klavier concentrate on what he is trying to say.

“How smart are you?” Klavier asks Taka after the trial, having left the courtroom to find the bird immediately there in a plant by the door, waiting for him. “Can you sense something amiss?” He scratches him beneath the chin. “I am glad you escaped that awful bomber,” he adds. He’s glad Blackquill did as well, for whatever difference the scant few days remaining could have made. “I need to go speak with your samurai soon.” He feels like he did over a year and a half ago, now, alone, lost, set adrift, no one to speak with but a bird whose name he did not know. “‘Soon’ is all he has left now, I suppose. Today? Or tomorrow?” Not the day of, and not just because he doesn’t know what time it will be — the stroke of midnight, an immediate end? Or with the sunrise, or noon, or sunset, his life gone with the last of the light? — but he doesn’t want to know, doesn’t want that countdown running in his head, and he doesn’t want to impose on Blackquill’s last day, not when the man so obviously wanted him gone.

One: December twentieth, waking in the morning to a decision. He skips most of his usual routine for styling his hair and heads for the detention center, having realized that he doesn’t want to face Blackquill after the workday, not when he’ll be stepping out into the dark after that, not when putting it off will mean that he will be haunted one last day searching for the words he could say to draw out the truth. They don’t exist. Better to end this now. Make a clean break of it.

Say goodbye.

Blackquill shakes his head when he sees Klavier, and first he thinks that it is about the hour, although Blackquill has obviously been awake for longer than him, and then he thinks it is about Klavier being here at all. But it seems to be neither. “You look like,” Blackquill begins, casting a critical eye over him, “a maggot-riddled corpse that the vultures will come swooping down to pick at any minute now.”

“Thanks,” Klavier says.

Blackquill sighs.

“What was it about your case that convinced Edgeworth that you could be saved?” Klavier asks. “For what reason did he even bother with you?”

“For sad naivety,” Blackquill replies, though Klavier would not describe the chief prosecutor as naive, “and an unwarranted, baseless hope for a future that could never be.”

“But why?”

“That is, I believe, still classified, and will remain so even after Hell has taken me.”

“Then I expect an answer when I see you there.”

“You won’t.” His smirk almost loses its edge to become sad, but in the next moment his mouth twists into a sneer. “Even now, you think you can draw some truth from me? You think there is some truth left yet not found? I hope not, or I have badly misjudged you these many months.”

“Deathbeds are good places for confessions, I hear.” Klavier can barely force himself to meet Blackquill’s cold stare, even knowing that this is the last time he will ever see him. How can he ever banish the ghost if he cannot face him one final time?

He shakes his head very slightly, his empty eyes never breaking from Klavier’s. “Yet dead men give no testimony, and I have been dead for a very long time already.”

“Was it worth it?” Klavier asks. He doesn’t know exactly what it is he is referring to.

But Blackquill raises his head, lips pursed together, and something about his eyes looks more alive than Klavier has seen him, the most proof offered that the grave has not quite yet claimed him. “Unquestionably,” he says, but even as he says it, the muscles in his throat tighten and he blinks twice in quick succession.

Klavier doesn’t know what to make of that. Klavier has never known what to make of him. All this time spent trying, and he has still not found an answer.

“I will take good care of Herr Taka. You need not worry over him.”

“Good.” Blackquill smiles.

The silence stretches out like infinity even when Klavier knows they have no time left at all. “This is goodbye, then, ja?”

Blackquill nods curtly, once. “It is, and one long overdue, at that. Do not mourn me, Gavin-dono. I am not worth your time or that soft fool heart of yours that would do you credit anywhere but death row. Take comfort that this fate of mine is justice well served.”

Justice is the only comfort that Klavier has ever had: the guilty, found and exposed to face the punishment they deserve for the crime.

Funny, then, to be consoled in that way by a murderer over his own impending execution.

“Goodbye, Gavin-dono.”

If he has nothing left to say, then Klavier has nothing, either. “Goodbye, Herr Blackquill.”

The lump growing in his throat and his chest does not feel like grief; he does not know what it feels like. Anxiety? Apprehension? It doesn’t leave him but sits like a cloud across his shoulders, and he still gets more work done that morning than he has in the past week. The day drags on until sometime after two, when Sebastian charges in to once again tell Klavier to turn on the news, to reports about a hostage-taking at the Space Center.

“What a fucking week,” Klavier says. This new incident is related to the bombing there, he presumes.

“Prosecutor Edgeworth left to deal with some part of it personally,” Sebastian says. “I don’t know what is happening anymore.”

“Have we ever?” Klavier asks.

Sebastian leaves but calls Klavier up to his office an hour and a half later, saying that Ema has arrived with information. She is sprawled in the armchair, her shoes on the floor, angrily munching. “He’s prosecuting it himself?” Sebastian is asking.

“Yeah, and then he told me to stop pulling a Faraday — not in those exact words, mind, but he threw me out of the courthouse and told me to come back over here and wait to be on call for anything that he needs me for.”

“Who, and what’s going on?”

Ema throws a Snackoo at him. “Mr. Edgeworth,” she says, “is prosecuting a retrial of Blackquill’s case, at the demand of the Space Center hostage-taker.”

There are so many moving parts to that sentence that Klavier can’t exactly follow. “What does the Space Center have to do with—”

“I don’t know.” She chucks another snack at him. “I’m just telling you what I do know, which is that.”

“But if Prosecutor Edgeworth is prosecuting, then that would mean that he’s trying to prove Prosecutor Blackquill guilty, even after — even after all the time he’s spent letting him prosecute and all.” Sebastian frowns. “Unless they found a new suspect?”

Ema flicks a Snackoo into his face. “I said, I don’t know.” She scowls at the bag, which evidently is empty, and she crumpled it and flings it in Klavier’s direction. “I got out of a trial and there’s this commotion over in the Courtroom Four ruins, because that’s where they’re holding this shitshow, and this is what I learned before Edgeworth found me trying to sneak in.”

So that’s what pulling a Faraday means. He could have guessed as much. “And he asks me to be on call for anything he needs analyzed, except he still doesn’t tell me what’s happening with the case.” Ema starts to make the motion of reaching into a snack bag, only to realize that she doesn’t have one. “And that’s where we’re at,” she says, her arm dropping dejectedly over the side of the chair.

Again, he remembers this — sitting in Sebastian’s office listening to the live news coverage on his computer and simply waiting for any information. Sometime around 4:30 the report arrives that the police and the Chief Prosecutor have secured release of the hostages and have the culprit in custody. Ema arrives back in the room after wandering the halls searching for a vending machine, cursing prosecutors in general for not facilitating her stress-eating. Sometime after five, the door crashes open, hits the wall with a loud bang, and swings closed.

“That was unfortunate,” Kay says, pushing the door back open.

“What are you doing here?” Ema asks.

“Waiting for instruction,” she replies, blinking curiously at Ema, like she expected to have some Snackoos to steal and is utterly baffled as to the sudden lack thereof. “Just got off from the Space Center situation.”

“You were down there?” Klavier asks.

Kay gently pushes Ema’s legs off of the arm of the chair and sits down on it. “Yeah, me and Little Thief” — she pats the pouch on her belt where she keeps the device — “got called to help find another way in to the Space Center and do some sweet hack job to shut down the robots, but Mr. Edgeworth lawyered the way out of the situation before I had to pull off that heist.”

“Is the trial still going?” Sebastian asks.

Kay shrugs. “Dunno. Probably.” She stares at the floor for a long time before she adds, “The hostage-taker was his sister. Prosecutor Blackquill’s, I mean. She was a roboticist at the Space Center and she didn’t believe the verdict from seven years ago so she — she…”

“Was going to throw other people’s lives away?” Ema demands. “A dozen people she would’ve sacrificed for one? Even — even for the truth, no! If it was just her own life she was going to throw away for him, fine!” She sits upright now, but as Klavier watches, she sinks back into a slump, placing her face in her hands. “No. Still not fine.”

“And what if the truth still isn’t what she wants to hear?” Klavier asks.

What a strange thing, to believe so staunchly in her brother’s innocence.

Kay’s phone rings and she jumps like she didn’t expect it and unbalanced she falls off the armchair. “Yo!” she says, answering the phone while lying on the floor. “At the Prosecutors Office — yeah.” She scrambles up onto her feet, knocking her head against the arm of the chair, appearing entirely unfazed by such. “Really?” The way her eyes sparkle with delight is almost frightening. “Wait, really, you — okay, okay, yeah, I can do that. Where in your office? I checked the shelves like a week ago but they weren’t where they — I mean, no, I totally wasn’t in there again.” The grin leaves her face and is replaced by fierce concentration. “Okay. That won’t be a problem, not for a Great Thief like me! — I’m with her right now, actually. Want me to just hand the phone to her?”

She takes the phone away from her ear and hands it to Ema. “Chief Prosecutor wants to talk to you.”

Edgeworth? What does Edgeworth want from them? Is the trial over? “Hello?” Ema asks, frowning. “Yes, of course, why?” Her frown deepens. “Okay. I’ll call you when I’m there, if you aren’t already. Bye.”

“What’s Prosecutor Edgeworth want?” Sebastian asks.

“Trial is on a recess and Blackquill’s taking the bench after,” Kay says. “Chief wants the UR-1 files out of his office, and meet him over at Criminal Affairs, and something from Ema.”

“Go to Criminal Affairs, instructions to follow,” Ema says. “Who’s driving? I’m not waiting for you, Kay.”

Kay pouts. “Well, Sebby can take you, and I’ll go with the files and Klav—”

The beginning of a problem is forming in front of Klavier, along with another tension headache. “I rode my bike in today, Fraülein. Not the best for carrying objects of dire importance.”

“Gavin, you’re fucking useless,” Ema snaps. “I’ll wait. Fine. Go, Kay.”

“I’ve gotta crack the lock on his office and his desk,” Kay says. “You’re not going to want to — or okay I guess you might rather than—”

Ema pinches the bridge of her nose and closes her eyes, spinning in place. “Fuck. Fuck it. Gavin, do you have an extra helmet?”

His headache isn’t going away but this is not where he expected this to go. “I — yes, in my office—”

“Then fuckin’ get it and I’ll meet you in the garage.” Ema throws her hands in the air. “Dying in a motorcycle wreck in rush hour was not my life plan but fuck it, I passed the forensics test, dream fulfilled. Mr. Edgeworth needs my help so let’s fucking go die.”

She bolts from the room before giving Klavier time to absorb any of what she has said beyond rush hour and dying, which would both be slight obstacles in the plan of getting to Criminal Affairs in time. Can he get a police siren for his personal motorcycle? Of everyone he imagined that he would ever actually give a ride on his bike to, Ema wasn’t even on the list.

She is glaring daggers at his bike when he arrives with a helmet for her, but asking her if she is sure gets the helmet snatched out of his hands and the glare turned to him. Neither of them say anything more and Klavier speeds from the garage making the mental calculus of how reckless he can be with a passenger, someone else’s life in his hands instead of just his own, and though he doesn’t weave his way through traffic like he could were he an idiot, he suspects that he’ll have bruises around his ribs from Ema’s deathly forceful embrace.

A few blocks around Criminal Affairs are blocked off with barricades and police cars but Klavier sidles in and swings around the front of the building to drop Ema off. She springs off like she was sitting in lava and rushes up the front steps, and Klavier looks for a place to park and to negotiate his presence with the officers. He flashes his badge and drops both his own name and Edgeworth’s a few times before he is allowed to go, and inside he has already lost Ema. He has to ask the few detectives left in the building — most are currently scattered between the courthouse and the Space Center — where she went. He finds her in the lab on her cell phone, queueing up a fingerprint analysis but confusedly staring at the screen. “That — I’ll do it, but can you explain to me why?” Next to the keyboard is a bag of Snackoos and Klavier is almost impressed with how she has managed to acquire a snack in such a short time. “Okay. I understand. I’ll call you when she gets here, if you aren’t already.”

“What are we doing?” Klavier asks, trying and failing to catch the Snackoo lobbed at him.

“The chief prosecutor wants me to run a check on fingerprints for every still-unidentified victim from the past two years.”

“Against what?” Klavier asks, because he might not pay much attention to those little aspects of an investigation, but he’s pretty sure that a fingerprint for comparison is needed.

Ema pauses with her hands over the keyboard, frowning even more than before. “Against Fulbright’s,” she answers.

“That doesn’t make any sense, Fraülein.”

“Shut up, fuck you, I know that! Edgeworth says he has an explanation when he gets here.” She grabs something smaller, tablet-sized, off the table and swings it into his chest. He’s going to be bruised in the morning and not in the fun way. “You want to make smart remarks about fingerprints, here.”

It must be the instrument she uses to compare fingerprints (which was not within her investigative scope but he has fought and lost that battle before) but — “I don’t know how this works.”

She snatches it back out of his hands muttering something that sounds suspiciously like “glimmerous fop”, and she jerks her thumb at the screen which is now, slower than he expected, running the fingerprint analysis. “This thing is going oldest cases first, so I’m loading this one up newest first, and you can run it backwards and meet in the middle.” She shoves the machine at him again. “Just hit the button to go to the next one.”

It seems possibly the most mind-numbing task on the planet, but he accepts it, because when Edgeworth arrives, Klavier knows which of the two of them here is his favored employee. “So we are looking for a dead man with fingerprints identical to Fulbright’s, ja?”

Which doesn’t make any sense.

Nobody has identical fingerprints,” Ema says, again leveling on him a glare containing all of the disgust she can muster. “We’re looking for Fulbright, period.”

“I saw him two weeks ago,” Klavier says. “Why is Herr Chief having us look back two years?”

“I saw him today, and I told you I don’t fucking know.”

The analysis comes up with another failed match and Klavier hits the button and thinks that a good interrogation technique would be to leave the suspect with this or the choice to talk. Ema sits on the table and starts angrily munching snacks. Time seems to go on forever, the two of them in the lab with nothing but fingerprint data for company. In the quiet, Klavier can hear when there is finally a clattering of footsteps down the stairs, long before they arrive with a cacophony of voices.

“—name is Ponco! Ponco! And I can move on my own, thank you very much!”

“Well, sorry, pal, but it seemed quicker this way than bouncin’ you down the stairs.”

Kay is the first through the door, skidding to an abrupt halt when she stops herself by grabbing onto the edge of the door to hold it open for Detective Gumshoe, carrying what appears to be a robot, which is squealing indignantly in its mechanical voice. Edgeworth and Sebastian trail them, Sebastian carrying two binders and an assortment of manila folders.

“Why are we running Herr Fulbright’s fingerprints?” Klavier asks at the same time Ema asks, “Why are you manhandling a robot?”

“Quicker than waiting for the elevator,” Gumshoe says, depositing the robot on its stubby legs. “Sorry ‘bout that, pal,” he says to it, patting it apologetically on its orange head.

“That is not my name!” it shrieks. “I am Ponco! Say it with me!”

“Yes, yes, Ponco,” Kay interrupts, hopping into its line of sight and patting it on his head as well. “Gummy and Mr. Edgeworth aren’t so good with names, okay?”

“Hey!” Gumshoe says.

“The robot?” Ema repeats. Sebastian already has the files open and is so absorbed in their pages enough that he nearly misses the table that he tries to sit on. “Anyone going to answer?”

“She contains a facial recognition database from all visitors to the Space Center,” Edgeworth answers, sounding very irritable and raising his voice to be heard over Kay who is chatting amicably with the robot. “I want to get from her information about all of the first responders to the murder at the Space Center seven years ago.”

“There was a murder there back then, as well?” Klavier asks.

Edgeworth fixes him with a piercing stare that Klavier can barely hold his ground against. “That is the crime for which Prosecutor Blackquill was convicted,” he answers.

“Oh,” Klavier says, very softly.

“Ms. Ponco is ready to help!” Kay says, springing back onto her feet from where she had crouched in front of the robot. “Not sure what you’re looking for, so your turn.” She drops her voice, but barely, so that it is more of a stage whisper, and says to Gumshoe, “I think calling her ‘pal’ upsets her.”

“Er, sorry, pal.”

“And the fingerprints?” Klavier asks, as Kay’s eyes turn to the screen and she asks, “Why are we searching Fulbright’s prints?”

Edgeworth stops on his way over to the orange robot. Gumshoe, bent over to examine it, looks up. “Is this like a Shih-na situation?” Kay asks.

“That is… about as close a precedent as we have for this situation, I believe,” Edgeworth says.

“A what?” Klavier asks. “What is going on, Fraülein?”

“Blackquill’s not guilty,” Kay says. “And I don’t know what Fulbright’s got to do with it but Blackquill and they” — she points to Edgeworth and Gumshoe — “have a trail on the real killer from Blackquill’s case seven years ago, and at the Space Center this week, and the bombings, and everything.”

That doesn’t answer anything but Klavier focuses on the first words that Kay said. “Blackquill isn’t guilty?”

Kay shakes her head forcefully, her hair flying.

“Then why would he claim he was if this — repeat criminal, was responsible?”

“Prosecutor Blackquill calls him a phantom,” Gumshoe says. “A real big spy trying to sabotage the Space Center back then and now, and Prosecutor Blackquill knew he was around back then, but he didn’t know it was the phantom who did the killing of the poor victim. He thought it was one of his pals who killed her, thought it was some mistake, no evidence of the phantom, so he let us convict him to protect his pal.”

This still leaves questions, so many questions, and too much to process while the fingerprint scan is still running up on the screen, hostages not long freed from the Space Center, that Klavier doesn’t even know what to ask. A spy? A murder at the Space Center — how, so many months ago when he read articles about Blackquill’s arrest, surrounded by celebratory articles of the Space Center rocket launch, did he never read about it? Who was Blackquill lying to save?

What the hell happened?

Ema closes her eyes and lets her breath out in a hiss. “Fucking stupid,” she snarls. “He was going to die to cover for someone who didn’t need covering for! If he’d just dug one layer deeper into it — he was a prosecutor! You’d think someone used to investigating would — I don’t know — assess the evidence instead of getting stupid for love and accidentally covering for the crimes of a monster?”

“Detective Skye,” Edgeworth says softly. She doesn’t look at him.

“Prosecutor Edgeworth!” Sebastian calls, waving a file at him. “I looked over everything, and Fulbright was not one of any of the detectives who were anywhere on scene during the incident, first responder or later investigator.”

Edgeworth nods curtly. “That’s exactly what I am seeing from this little robot here.”

“Ponco!” it yells. “My name is Ponco!”

“So what does Fulbright have to do with this?” Ema asks.

“Know why Prosecutor Blackquill calls him a ‘phantom’, pal?” Gumshoe asks.

“Because that is just how Herr Blackquill talks?”

“Nah, but y’know you remind me, the couple times I talked to him—”

“Detective,” Edgeworth says firmly.

“It’s ‘cause of him being a master of disguise,” Gumshoe says. “Got all fancy gadgets, but the worst part of him, reason why we’ve been chasing him for over seven years to no end, is he can turn into anyone. S’why we never found him, but let me tell you, pal. This time, he’s not gonna get away.”

They wait, watching the fingerprints scan, and the sky sinks into inky blackness outside the window. Klavier is relieved from his personal hell of fingerprint comparisons when Edgeworth gets a call from a court bailiff that Blackquill and Wright — of course Wright is involved in this — want prints from the Space Center murder case rerun. Gumshoe calls down an officer to deliver the results over to the courthouse and Kay tries to volunteer, for the sake of finding out what is going on with the trial, and is denied.

He is mulling over the mystery of Blackquill’s past behavior with the new information that is still not enough —there has never been enough to explain the man to Klavier in all the time he has known him — when the computer dings and the words match found flash across the screen, and everyone’s eyes turn to it. “Fulbright’s prints match to the victim in a cold case from last December,” Ema reads off, tapping a few keys and pulling up further details. “The fourth, body washed up on some rocks out of the Eagle River—”

“No,” Kay says, lunging forward and nearly pushing Ema out of the way to look at the screen. “Oh no no no no, that can’t be right! There’s some mistake, Emmy, you screwed something up—”

Excuse me?”

“I worked that case!” Kay shouts, jabbing a finger at the screen and the photograph of the body, bruised bloody face and a bullet hole between the eyes. “I was one of two detectives to first respond, and that can’t be Fulbright dead there! Because Fulbright was with me! How can Fulbright be dead when he was right there next to me the whole case!”

Klavier’s mouth has gone dry.

“And we’d worked one two weeks before that!” Kay continues, and she has turned her fury from Ema to Edgeworth. “Together! And he was — he was the same, those first cases, and when we were at the river, responding to that one, he was—” One of her hands is clutching her scarf beneath her chin; the other is gathered in her hair like she wants to rip it out. “He was the same!”

“No,” Edgeworth says. “He wasn’t.”

“That’s what we mean by phantom, pal,” Gumshoe says. “Right under our noses.”

“Your phantom didn’t even burn off Fulbright’s fingerprints before he dumped the body?” Klavier asks. “Destroyed his face but not — and you — you didn’t even check the prints! If you had run a comparison you could have easily—”

“There’s a high probability that the wounds to the detective’s face were post-mortem injuries caused not by the phantom, but the river rapids and its rocks,” Edgeworth says tersely. “So depending on where their confrontation took place, the phantom might not have even had a chance to get to Fulbright’s body at all — not that he could have expected the body to ever be found. So few are ever recovered from those rapids; the phantom could not have chosen a better location to get rid of the evidence. The odds of the fingerprints coming back to haunt him were very low—”

But Edgeworth has avoided a key part of what Klavier said. “But they have, and would’ve much sooner had you bothered to—”

“Hey! Watch it, pal!” Gumshoe interrupts, rounding on Klavier, seething, shoulders hunched. “Prosecutor Edgeworth always does the best of anyone I’ve ever worked with! You wouldn’t have done any better yourself, pal!”

“Detective Skye, can you print these results, please?” Edgeworth says, like Klavier isn’t there, isn’t worth personally acknowledging.

“He was right there!” Klavier yells. “The whole time! The man responsible for this was right next to Blackquill, the entire time, and you—”

Edgeworth turns from the screen, slowly, one hand extended and still waiting for the print-out. “And how would you,” he says, voice low and dangerous, “have thought to compare a corpse’s fingerprints to those of a man very much alive right in front of you?”

“I would have taken more care with the detective I chose to hold Blackquill’s leash! The — you gave control of a shock collar to this phantom — we’re lucky Blackquill isn’t dead! Because you — you—”

Ema places the paper in his hand and Edgeworth folds it with very careful, deliberate movements, while his eyes never leave Klavier’s face. “For what reason would you ever run the fingerprints of a John Doe against the database of living detectives in our employ? How would you have foreseen that, Gavin? How would you have put together pieces that simply weren’t there? You berate me with the benefit of hindsight when you couldn’t even see that right in front of you your own brother was corrupt and a murderer!”

It never hurts less, never feels less like a hard kick to the gut, winding him, and not even Kay’s gasp, almost scolding, “Mr. Edgeworth!” like she thinks he has gone too far, helps put the air back into his lungs. Edgeworth rubs a hand over his eyes, his teeth gritted together, and he turns his head away from Klavier.

“We gotta get going, sir,” Gumshoe says to Edgeworth. “Who knows what they’ve got up to while you’re gone?”

“Call in more backup,” Edgeworth says, and they start for the door. “We need to close every possible avenue of escape in case the phantom tries to run, or his employers attempt an extraction.”

“Hey,” Kay says. “I’m here. That’s my job. Little Thief can help, too.”

“No,” Edgeworth says. “Detective Faraday, you will stay here with your three compatriots.”

“Hey!” She is indignant now. “It’s my job I’m trained to do, and I’m not a child anymore, Mr. Edgeworth! You can’t try to protect me, not after everything I did with you even when I was a kid!”

Kay,” Edgeworth says firmly. “We have the entire courthouse locked down, but even then, I will count nothing out when it comes to this criminal, and I readily anticipate the worst. Should something happen to me, to Detective Gumshoe, to all of us — you are someone I trust to take up the mantle of putting this to an end. You all are, all four of you, which is why I expect you to look over those case files now that we know the truth” — he gestures at the screen, the damning fingerprints still displayed — “and to stay out of the way and stay safe should something go direly wrong.”

He turns on his heel and sweeps from the room, Gumshoe trailing right behind him. Kay remains standing stock-still in the center of the room, staring at the doors, and it is Klavier who finally breaks the pall of silence that settled over them. “All… four of us?”

“Yes,” Sebastian says, and that is all he says.

“I’m gonna go grab a radio,” Kay says. She returns after a few minutes, dropping another bag of Snackoos in Ema’s lap, with a small radio in her hands that is humming with static until she manages to tune it to the right frequency. The chatter from the courthouse is quiet, announcing Edgeworth’s arrival after about twenty minutes, where he heads straight into the courtroom to presumably announce the fingerprinting results. All on edge, they wait; Klavier expects an explosion, gunfire, something horrible, something dire, but the minutes crawl by and by with none of that. Ema leaves her seat to go poke and prod at the robot, which loudly complains about the treatment, and Kay moves to intervene in the growing conflict. Sebastian is still absorbed in the UR-1 files and Klavier paces circles around the room.

Ema is called by one of the detectives at the courthouse to test some evidence from the courtroom bombing earlier in the week; conversation over the radio heralds the arrival of another detective with a blood sample to be compared to the one Ema found. As soon as the results and the evidence, fragments of a rock, are sent out, the liveliness fades from her and she sinks back into her chair. Kay has begun pacing now too. There is nothing to do but wait, and wait, and over the radio there is a conversation about finding someone who can run specialized testing of mineral composition, a suggestion of getting back to the Space Center, and then there is a loud noise that Klavier prays is a car backfiring or even another part of the badly damaged courtroom collapsing in on itself, anything but—

“Shot fired! Shots fired!”

Kay lunges to the radio and turns it up too loud, loud enough to hurt, loud enough that Sebastian claps his hands over his ears, but nothing coming through is anything useful, any answers about who, what, more than that someone was shot — someone might be dying

Klavier is on his feet, heading for the door, not sure what he’s going to do, how he could even help, and Sebastian and Kay and Ema are all loudly arguing about those same questions over the frenetic energy of the radio. But Klavier leaves them behind, up the stairs and out the door back into the chilled December night air. The roads are so much emptier now, and easier to traverse, the traffic lights all lit up only green. It takes him fifteen minutes to speed to the courthouse, and another five arguing with the officers closing off the scene about whether the danger is passed, whether they can let him through. It’s only when he takes his helmet off and hangs it on the handlebars that he left the one he gave Ema back in the lab.

The streetlamps along the sidewalk in front of the courthouse cast a cold illumination around two figures sitting on the steps; he recognizes them both, bright red, and a powder blue top hat. “Herr Forehead!” he calls, and Apollo jumps, jostling Trucy, who was resting her head on his shoulder. “Fraülein!”

“P — Prosecutor Gavin?” Apollo asks. His eyes are wide and hooked over his arm is an unfamiliar, dark blue jacket. “What are you doing here—”

“Are you both all right? Is anyone hurt? Is everyone alive? What happened?” He takes a deep breath and tries to choke down the rising panic. Neither of them look good — exhausted, upset, obvious even through the smile that Trucy turns to him — but if someone was dead he thinks they would look worse. “There were gunshots—”

“Just one,” Apollo says tiredly. Trucy’s head droops back down and her hat slips from her head into her lap. “Whoever the phantom’s employers were had a sniper try to silence him.”

Klavier leans against the railing to stop himself from sinking down to the ground. “The phantom.” Apollo nods. “The man pretending to be Herr Fulbright.” Apollo nods again. “And everyone else—”

“We’re fine,” Apollo says. “We’re all fine.”

It’s over, then.

“How are you feeling?” Klavier asks.

Apollo looks away, down at his hands. His arms aren’t wrapped in bandages anymore but still look red and raw. “Terrible,” he admits quietly, too quietly for comfort, “but I’ve still been worse.”

“Sometimes that is all you can ask for, ja?”

“What are you doing here?” Trucy asks. “Shouldn’t you be…” She pauses, pouting as she thinks. “Not here?”

“I was down at Criminal Affairs. We were listening to the police radio and heard them speaking of gunshots and—”

“And you decided you’d run right into what could’ve been a shootout,” Apollo says, and his voice is at a more typical volume for him, sounding stronger than before.

“I… Ja, I did.”

It had seemed natural then, because almost everyone in the world he cares about, besides three bandmates and his dog, all of whom thankfully stay out of the trouble that defines the lives of the rest, was either with him in the lab or here at the courthouse. What was there to do but rush in?

Even Apollo’s exasperated sighs are loud.

At the top of the steps, the courthouse doors open, Wright and Edgeworth deep in conversation and trailed by a young woman wearing a pink sweater and a robe-like dress. Wright stops abruptly in the middle of a sentence, looking down at Klavier and Apollo and Trucy. “My number of kids seemed to have multiplied,” he says loudly, and he bounds down a few more steps, leaving Edgeworth behind. “Hello, Klavier.”

“Guten Abend, Herr Wright.”

“Gavin,” Edgeworth says with a sigh audible all the way at the bottom of the stairs, “did I not tell you—”

“—To remain in the lab? Ja, and then Fraülein Faraday wanted to listen in over the radio frequency, and we heard gunshots—”

“And so you ran toward the gunfire?” Wright asks, a faint amused smile forming on his face, and Edgeworth’s frown deepens.

“Herr Forehead already gave me a lecture on the wisdom of that.”

Wright laughs, and laughs louder when Edgeworth says something quietly to him. After a short exchange between the two, Edgeworth’s glare settles again on Klavier. “Should I expect the rest of your entourage to be arriving shortly?”

His entourage? Klavier opens his mouth to respond, or maybe protest that specific way of referring to them, but the screeching of tires is a better answer than he could give. He glances over toward the parking lot, where Sebastian’s silver car takes a second corner too fast and hops up over a curb. “And it looks like Kay extorted the keys, at that,” Edgeworth says, shaking his head. He says something else, and Wright replies, but Klavier misses whatever exchange they are having as movement up at the courthouse doors again catches his eye. The bright yellow popping out of the gloom heralds Cykes, and next to her, fading into the heavy shadows that the streetlights leave—

 

Klavier pushes himself off the railing and weaves his way between the others up to face the ghost. He takes one step down to meet Klavier, and the movement is made with an unnatural emptiness, his every motion no longer accompanied by the clatter of chains. Even in the dark, Cykes’ eyes are visibly bloodshot and her face blotchy, but her grin doesn’t seem forced and there is something of a spring in her movements as she hops down to again stand next to Blackquill. “Guten Abend, Prosecutor Gavin!” she chirps. “Are you coming to Eldoon’s with us?”

“The — the noodle stand?”

Cykes nods. “It’s a Wright after-trial tradition, but with everyone tonight.”

He hears Kay, loudly introducing herself, and wonders if he will have to intercept her and stop her from bowling over Apollo. Trucy is chattering with a little more energy in her voice, saying something that Wright loudly tries to talk over, and then Klavier catches part of his name, “Prosecutor Gavin”, and he glances back down at the small crowd gathering, to find Trucy is already looking at him and she calls up, “You should join us! Your friends here are!”

“Simon’s coming too,” Cykes adds.

Simon?

“I suppose I will, then,” Klavier answers.

Cykes is beaming, and Blackquill is looking at her, and when he finally acknowledges Klavier he speaks with his chin raised but his head turned away. “Gavin-dono.” It is the closest to shame that Klavier has ever seen from him. “I shall not even pretend to be shocked to find you here.”

“Blackquill.” He thought he had spoken his last with the Twisted Samurai; he had thought he said everything he could. Now even having been given part of an answer, he still does not know what to say, how to process any of it. He manages to find three words: “What the hell?”

Blackquill laughs.

“What the hell happened?”

“It is a long story.”

“Seven years long?”

Blackquill nods. Cykes leans up against him, her shoulder pressed into his arm.

“Then perhaps you should now begin the telling, ja?”

“Tomorrow,” Blackquill says resolutely. Even in the dark, in the harsh shadows cast by the cold yellow lights, there is life evident sparkling in his eyes. “There will be time enough for the full story tomorrow.”