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Caught In A Web

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****
This was it. After nearly four agonizingly long months, everything would be over. He’d be safe. He’d be okay. They had the right place this time. They would rescue him. Everything was going to be alright.

Edgeworth’s heart pounded violently as he kept pace with Detective Gumshoe and the unit of officers swiftly moving through the large abandoned building. Maya was behind him, having taken off her geta sandals in order to run easier as they all moved up the flights of stairs from one floor to the next. She insisted on coming along, refusing to abide by his order of staying outside with the many other officers surrounding the area. He couldn’t deny her; she cared and loved him just as much as he did, had endured just as many sleepless nights worrying about and crying over him. Now that they had good reason to believe this was the right location, he couldn’t tell her she’d have to wait to see him, to have confirmation that he was at least alive.

Swarming over the seventh and final floor, there was no trace of anyone found. Both Edgeworth and Maya felt their hopes falling, the helplessness and grief mounting exponentially.

“No sign of anyone, sir,” an officer reported to Gumshoe.
“There has to be some sort of mistake!” Edgeworth shouted angrily. “He’s here! He has to be!”
“We’ve searched this whole place,” Gumshoe stated despondently. “He’s not here. I’m sorry.”

The room began spinning, causing the prosecutor to stumble towards the nearest wall to slide down and sit on the floor. He believed he was going to be sick at any moment from the way his stomach was doing flip-flops. Remembering Maya, he glanced at her to view her reaction to the news and was surprised to find her in one of her spiritual stances – eyes closed, head slightly bowed, and index fingers pressed together.

Please tell me you have some sort of link to him, he thought desperately. Or perhaps Mia, and she has one to him. Anything.

“There’s a basement,” she suddenly said. “He’s there.”
“A basement?!” Gumshoe exclaimed. “How did we miss it?! Let’s go! Move! Move! Move!”

Taking Maya’s offered hand, Edgeworth got to his feet and the two raced after the officers.

“I hope you’re right about this,” he huffed, all the running making him winded.
“I’m fairly certain. Mia has been with him. And….”
“And?” He noted the distressed expression she bore, resulting in his anxiety skyrocketing.
“He’s not well. He’s in a lot of pain.”
Edgeworth clenched his jaw and was able to hold back the tears that threatened to escape. Hang in there, Phoenix. We’re coming. We’re right here. Please stay strong.

-****-
-Four months prior-

It was ten after seven when his phone rang. He smiled at the sight of Edgeworth’s name showing on the screen and answered, “Calling to congratulate me on another job well done in the courtroom?”
“Hardly,” was the unamused reply.
“You know, we do work pretty well together, uncovering the truth as a team instead of you always insisting on a guilty verdict.”
“I suppose that’s true, but you still have a long way to go.”
“Gee, thanks.” He really can’t ever give me credit, can he? he thought amusedly.
“I was calling to see if you wanted to accompany me to dinner this evening.”
“Are you buying?”
“Isn’t it your turn?”
“Well that’s rude.”
“What?”
“You’re the one who invited me! I shouldn’t be the one you assume is paying.” He nearly laughed from the silence on the other end of the line, knowing he was being successful at annoying his friend.
“Very well,” Edgeworth at last replied. “How does eight sound?”
“Can we make it closer to nine? I’m supposed to be meeting with a potential client around eight about a case.”
“Why so late?”
“Apparently he doesn’t get off work until that time and can’t meet in the mornings either.”
“Alright then. I can pick you up from the office, if you’d like.”
“Sure, sounds good. It’s a date.” Phoenix could see the eye-roll in his mind without Edgeworth even being in front of him, prompting him to grin in amusement.
“You know I dislike when you say that.”
“Which is why I do. Besides, why not just call it what it is?”
“I’ll see you at nine, Wright.”
The frigid farewell almost caused Phoenix to burst out laughing. “I’m looking forward to it.” Not until after he hung up the phone did he chuckle and say, “I wish he’d lighten up a bit. He makes it too easy to push his buttons.”

-****-
There was a knock followed by someone calling out, “Hello? Mr. Wright?”

Phoenix stood up from his desk and hurried to the door, finding a person he assumed to be his potential client in the reception area. The man wore jeans and a white t-shirt, was slightly taller than him, and incredibly muscular, making the defense attorney wonder if he was in the construction industry due to his build and the fact that he apparently worked long hours during the day.

“Daniel, I presume?” Phoenix asked, extending his hand for the other man to shake.
“That’s correct,” he replied, taking the greeting.
Jeeze, he’s got quite the grip! Phoenix thought, wincing a bit from the powerful squeeze the man gave. “I’m Phoenix Wright.”
“Daniel Lackey. Thanks for meeting with me. Sorry it had to be so late.”
“That’s alright. I’m here to help if I can. Come in and let’s talk.”

He led Daniel into his office and motioned toward one of the couches, which the man accepted the gesture and sat down.

“Can I get you something to drink before we begin? Coffee? Tea? Water?”
“Coffee, please, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“None at all. Sugar or anything with it?”
“Straight black is fine.”
“Alright. I’ll be right back.”

Phoenix went to the small kitchen and poured two cups. When he returned and set them both on the table, just before he took a seat across from the other man, Daniel tentatively said, “I’m sorry, but I think I would actually like some sugar if you have some.”
“Oh, okay. Let me go grab a few packets.”

He ventured to the kitchen once more, put several packets of sugar into a small bowl, and went back to his office.

“Here we go,” he said, placing the dish on the table and sitting on the couch opposite his company. “I usually have an assistant here to help me with all this, but she’s currently away visiting family. My apologies for not being better prepared,” he said with a kind smile.
“So it’s just you here? I hate to have kept you after hours alone.”
Phoenix waved his hand politely in a sign of dismissal. “Not to worry. I don’t mind. Now, how can I possibly assist you, sir?”
“Well, I have a friend who’s in a bit of trouble. There was a murder that happened a few nights ago, and he ended up being a prime suspect. I know he’s fallen in with a questionable group of what he calls ‘friends,’ but I just don’t think he would do such a thing.”
Phoenix took a few large sips of his coffee before asking, “Was he arrested for it?”
“Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time. That’s why I wanted to meet with you to see if you’d be willing to take on his case. I’ve heard you’re the best defense attorney around.”
“Oh, well, I do try my best,” Phoenix said with a shy smile, his hand going to the back of his neck briefly in response to feeling slightly awkward from the compliment. “I would need to meet with him before I make a decision, as well as get the details about the incident.”
“I understand.”
“Is there any way he could come in tomorrow? Or I can meet him somewhere. I’ve got some time in the morning.”

It was subtle at first after the initial tasting, though the instant he took another drink of his coffee and swallowed, Phoenix realized something was undoubtedly amiss. Steadily, he became horribly dizzy, and his limbs felt as if he was moving underwater when he set the cup down on the table. He could see and hear the other man was talking yet couldn’t understand what he was saying.

What’s going on? he panicked. Did he put something in mine when I wasn’t looking? But why? Maybe it’s just coincidence?

“Could you excuse me for a second?” he inquired the best he could with the way his words were heavily slurred and hard to speak.

He wasn’t sure if Daniel responded or not as he struggled to stand up and all but stumbled out of the office into the adjacent room. His vision was becoming blurred, almost as if he was severely intoxicated, and his fingers fumbled around in his pocket to retrieve his phone before his legs buckled and he collapsed onto the floor.

Have to call Miles. Need help….Something not right….

The phone slipped from his grasp, his eyes slowly closed, and he blacked out.

-****-
When there was no sight of Phoenix outside the building, Edgeworth ventured inside and rode the elevator up to Wright & Co. Law Offices. It was shortly after nine, and he half-expected the other man to be waiting on him to arrive, yet it appeared that the defense attorney had either lost track of time or the meeting was running long. The main door was unlocked, and he casually stepped in and went straight for Phoenix’s office. His expression changed to surprise when he found it empty.

“Wright? Are you here?” he called. He strolled around the area, noticing the man’s satchel that he carried every day on the floor behind the desk. That’s odd. Why wouldn’t he take it home with him? Did he really forget it like he apparently forgot our dinner plans?

He picked up the bag and headed for the door.

I hate to leave everything unsecured, but I can bring him back afterward to lock up. It should be alright.

-****-
Walking up the stairs to Phoenix’s apartment, he found it strange that there weren’t any lights on. The windows were dark, and when no one answered the door after he knocked several times, he began to worry.

Where could he be?

He called him only to receive his voicemail message and hung up.

What is going on?

He wasn’t sure where else to search for him. Rummaging around in the bag, he found a set of keys and went through each one until the door unlocked. He hesitated a moment before opening it and moving inside.

“Wright?”

It was obvious the place was empty, intensifying his unease, while at the same time making him rather irritated. There was no sign revealing that Phoenix had been back recently, prompting him to once again try calling with no answer.

It’s not like him to be so inconsiderate. “You better have a good reason for disappearing like this, Phoenix,” he muttered hotly.

-****-
Pain. Throbbing, terrible pain. Uncomfortable. Cold.

A familiar tune reached his ears, echoing in the area all around him. Emitting a tiny groan that was muffled by the duct tape covering his mouth, Phoenix reluctantly opened his eyes, blinking several times to clear the haziness that clouded his vision, and lifted his head. The room was spacious and empty, approximately the size of a decent department store, with several circular columns forming a line down the center. He was seated on the cement floor, his back against something solid and his hands tied tightly behind it; he guessed it was one of the pillars. His clothing had been stripped off, save for his boxers, and he noticed drops of blood on his stomach and underwear that he assumed came from the source of why his head pounded unbearably.

Where am I? What happened?

The song ended, and it was only then that he realized it had been his cell phone. He looked in the direction it had sounded from, off to his left, and saw a group of six men seated around a large desk. They appeared to be approximately his age, and though it was difficult to see from the dim lighting, he believed he recognized one of them as the client he’d just met with before he passed out.

“Finally awake?” one of them asked upon noticing he’d regained consciousness.
“It’s about time,” Daniel commented. “I didn’t give him very much.”
“Maybe the extra blow to the head was a bit excessive….”
“Did your phone wake you up? Someone’s been trying to get a hold of you real bad.”

The ringtone began again, and the one in possession of the phone held it out towards Phoenix as if he could take it from him.

“M. Edgeworth. Would that be the Miles Edgeworth, the esteemed and fearsome prosecutor himself?”
Phoenix’s heart sped up, foolishly hoping his friend would somehow get the message that he was in trouble.
“Should we answer it? He’s called like, seven times. Must be something important. It’s already two in the morning.”

Two in the morning? He has to know something is wrong, Phoenix thought confidently. Surely he went up to the office to get me when he didn’t see me outside and found some sort of clue to tip him off that something happened. He knows I wouldn’t skip out on him without an explanation.

“I guess there’d be no reason to answer. You can’t really talk right now, can you?”
Phoenix attempted a response, yet it was completely indiscernible.
“You’ll have to speak louder. We can’t understand you.”

They cackled, and Phoenix could feel his face flush from the anger, frustration, and undeniable panic coursing through him now. The phone went silent, and as the group stood to approach him, the latter emotion intensified, fearing what they were intending to do next. He winced as his hair was pulled, yanking his head to the side.

“I hope you’re comfortable, Mr. Wright,” Daniel commented casually, kneeling in front of him while someone unbound his wrists. “It’s unfortunate it has to be this way. You actually seemed like a really nice guy, almost had me fooled, but….you’re going to be here for awhile.”

He whimpered as he was dragged by his hair to the more open area, away from the columns, and the pained noises continued for the next twenty minutes as they proceeded to beat him relentlessly.

-****-
With his final attempt made, Edgeworth locked the door to Phoenix’s apartment and went home. He thought about leaving some sort of note to let the defense attorney know he had his keys yet concluded that the numerous missed calls and voicemails he’d left saying as much would be sufficient.

While he felt bothered by the whole situation, he was able to fall asleep by three. When his alarm went off at eight, he wished he hadn’t stayed so late at Phoenix’s place waiting around for him. The first thing he did was check to see if there were any responses from his friend. Upon finding none, the worry began creeping back into his mind.

Could something have happened to him?

Deciding there was one more lead he could exhaust, he called Maya, who had been staying at Kurain village for the past week.

“Good morning!” was the chipper answer. “Maya speaking!”
“Hello, Maya. It’s Edgeworth.”
“Oh wow! This must be super important! You never talk to me! What is it?!”
“You haven’t by chance spoken to Wright lately, have you?”
“Just yesterday, as a matter of fact! He told me he had a date with you later that night.”
Edgeworth covered his face with his hand and shook his head. “I don’t understand why the two of you insist on using that term.”
Maya giggled. “For a prosecutor, you sure are pretty clueless sometimes.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing! So what’s up? Why do you ask?”
“Well….I was wondering if he came to visit the village last night or said anything about going anywhere.”
“Nope, not here. I haven’t seen him.” Catching the hint that he wasn’t divulging the entire story, she inquired more seriously, “Is something wrong?”
Damn it. I didn’t want to alarm her. What do I say?
“Edgeworth? Is Nick okay?”
“I’m sure he’s fine. I’m just not sure where he is.”
“What?!”
“He seems to have vanished for the time being. I arrived to pick him up last night at the office and he wasn’t there. Since he left his bag, I went to his apartment and let myself in. He wasn’t there either. I’ve tried calling him, but he won’t answer his phone.”
“You better find him! You know he doesn’t just disappear! He’s not like you!”
Edgeworth frowned, though let the insult pass. “I’m sure everything is fine and there is no reason to be concerned. I imagine he’ll show up later today.”
“I certainly hope so! That’s not like him; he wouldn’t do something that would make us worry about him.”
“I know….” Everything she said was true, making it hard to argue that there really was nothing to fret over.
“You better let me know what you find out. I’ll come down there myself if I have to.”
“Alright. I will.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
She made a small noise of acknowledgement, serving as her approval to his word.
“Goodbye, Maya.”
“Bye.”

After hanging up, he bowed his head and sighed. He was already dreading the return call to her that he knew he’d no doubt have to make and confirm their worst fears.