Trial by Fire
Noll stands uncomfortably in the middle of the judge's chambers, trying not to fidget with the hem of his nice dress shirt as he waits. It feels like he's been standing here for ages, answering the sporadic questions the Judges threw at him. It had started with his physical condition, asking how he had gotten the deep purple bruises encircling his neck. Noll had been able to shrug it off as lingering injuries, and they hadn't asked again.
The five old men, a 'panel' as it had been explained to him (to judge wether or not his case actually had some merit to it) continued on, talking as if he wasn't present; some pretentious, unbelieving, some filled with wonder as they discuss the possibility of preternatural powers.
Usually, Noll wouldn't mind the discussion – he would join in. He would push and calculate and take the situation into his own hands, spinning it to the outcome he wanted. If he had been Shibuya, the cold stares of the judges wouldn't have bothered him in the least. But this, this is different. He is Oliver Davis, world renowned Parapsychologist, not Shibuya Kazuya, no-name ghost hunter, and his heart is pounding loud in his ears, nervousness making his hands tremble.
"Preposterous. The whole idea is preposterous."
Noll holds back a sigh, wishing Mai had been allowed in to accompany him. Wishing anyone had been allowed to accompany him. Alas, he was thrown into the lion's den with nothing to protect him but his own sheer will and a freshly pressed suit. At least the suit would make it out intact.
"Well, Mr. Davis?"
Doctor Davis, Noll wants to correct the judge to his left who had done more than his fair share of the insulting thus far, but he restrains himself. Now is not the time to make enemies. Especially after he'd missed the question. "I'm sorry, Your Honor?"
"A demonstration, if you please."
"Oh." Noll manages a weak nod, pausing a moment to glance at the video camera balanced precariously on a book shelf beside him. He never did like being in front of the camera, especially while using his abilities. But it seems he doesn't have any other option.
One of the judges mistakes his hesitation as a refusal. "Just a party trick." He hisses, gesturing to the other judges, "What did I tell you. This whole case is a fraud. It should be thrown out."
Noll freezes halfway to a pen lying haphazardly on one of the judge's desks, stomach dropping at the thought of James walking free. After everything he's done...
"Give the boy a chance, will you, Harper?"
"Yes, please proceed, Mr. Davis."
Noll eyes the five judges, unsure even as he concentrates on the thin pencil, making an easy connection.
The pencil quivers once before lifting smoothly into the air. He rotates it, moves it sideways through the air, then drops it on Judge Harper's desk. Harper reaches for it immediately, searching for a string, a source for the trick.
He finds nothing.
"H-how did you do that? Show me the trick."
Noll turns to the judge, unable to keep the scowl off his face, "There is no trick."
"Unlike Judge Harper, I do not dismiss what I don't understand." The middle judge, Judge Mathis, states, not hiding his contempt as he eyed his equal. He smiles as he turns back to Noll, "I simply wish to understand it."
"Please explain, Mr. Davis. How do you do these, as Harper put it, magic tricks?"
Noll frowns. He's never been asked to explain it before. Gene had attempted to, something about physics and vibrational frequencies, but it had never made sense to Noll. "I've never been able to adequately describe it." He shrugs, flicking his wrist so the pencil rolls back and forth on the flat desk. "I really don't know."
Judge Mathis nods, "I do believe we have seen all we need to, gentleman. The case against Mr. Dumont will continue as planned." He reaches out a hand which Noll graciously accepts. "Thank you for your time and energy, Oliver. It is something I think each of us will cherish, always."
"No, thank you, Judge Mathis."
Noll shakes each of the judge's hands in turn.
Judge Harper is last, keeping his grip in an almost painful way as he glares down his nose. "I'm not as easily fooled as my peers, Mr. Davis. I will not allow you to make a mockery of this court."
Noll feels his cheeks heat in anger, or embarrassment, he isn't sure, but he meets Harper's steely brown eyes with his own calm blue ones. He knows not everyone in the world will believe him, just as not everyone believes in ghosts or spirits.
He calms himself with this thought as he releases Judge Harper's hand but not before the image of a young girl with her arms crossed in a defiant gesture took over his thoughts. He feels a brief anger for this girl he's never met, and a longing, then the image is gone.
Noll turns to leave, unable to stop himself before he says, "You should spend more time with your daughter. She misses you."
The judge turns to face him, eyes wide and mouth agape, "Howー" but Noll is already gone.
2 days later
Noll leans forward, reaching his arms across the cool wooden desk, absolutely sure if he has to wait much longer he is going to be sick. He knows any second now he will once again be face to face (or at least desk to desk) with Dumont. Part of him is ready; ready to face the source of his and Mai's torment. The other part is absolutely terrified.
Will he be able to resist?
It took a near death experience and his twin brother to break the spell before, if he falls into it again... Noll shakes his head. He can't think like that.
The prosecutor, Alexandra Ryan, shuffles through her papers one last time, offering him an apologetic smile. "Are you okay, Oliver?"
"I wish people would stop asking me that." He mumbles, laying his head in his stretched out arms.
She chuckles, pushing a glass of water his way. "I'll take that as a no. Just try to breathe. I'll be over soon, I promise."
Not soon enough, he's about to say when a hush falls over the court room. A chill runs the length of his spine as the door on the far side of the room creaks open and two wardens appear, each holding the elbow of James Dumont. He gives a cheeky grin when he sees Noll, a grin that screams anger. Noll drops his gaze from those hypnotic brown eyes, turning instead to lock eyes with Mai, sitting in the audience behind him. But she doesn't notice.
Mai's blank faced, studying James intently, as if she were waiting to remember his face. But then she bites her lips and Noll wishes he could say something to comfort her. But then another officer makes his way to the middle of the court room, pulling his attention back to the floor.
The officer looks over the room with an even gaze, his voice loud. "All rise for presiding judge, Judge Mathis."
Noll's stomach flips but he swallows the nausea and stands alongside the prosecutor as Judge Mathis steps up to the Judges chairs. His dark blue robes shimmer in the bright light.
"Be seated," he announces, adjusting his glasses.
The officer hands the judge a thick file, "Docket number 032763, criminal case of Oliver Davis versus James Dumont."
Judge Mathis clasps his hands together, meeting Noll's wide eyes with a nod. "Are both sides ready?"
Mrs. Klein's smile fades, replaced by a serious expression as she stands confidently beside Noll, "The prosecution is ready, Your Honor."
Noll could still feel James' gaze on him as the defense attorney rose from his seat, flattening his tie with a calm smile. "The defense is ready, Your Honor."
The judge nods, rifling through something on his podium. He doesn't look up as he gestures to the bailiff, "Bring in the Jury."
One by one, the ladies and gentleman of the jury file in and take their seats. Noll watches them, some looking around at him, at James, and some avoiding them completely, gaze locked straight ahead. When they are all seated, it hits Noll that these twelve complete strangers are about to learn his entire life story. As if telling it to Dr. Arainn hadn't been hard enough.
Privacy. His whole life, every precaution they'd taken had been about keeping his and Gene's identities secret so they could work and live the way they wanted. Without the worlds judgments and expectations; without being sought after for what they could do.
Obviously, it hadn't worked out.
Noll clenches his trembling hands into fists. When had he become such a cry baby?
This decision had been made for him months ago. The second he woke in that black basement with James Dumont standing over him, Noll knew he would sacrifice anything to end it. One way or another, their lives, the way they knew it, would never be the same.
Noll closes his eyes, focusing on the gentle hum of Mai's presence behind him, and he straightens in his seat.
He can do this.
Judge Mathis' voice booms through the court room. Noll opens his eyes to find him addressing the Jury with a soft but stern smile.
"This case is full of unique circumstances that may seem farfetched or fantastical at times, but I must ask that you all treat this case the same as you would any other. At times where it seems unbelievable, I implore you to suspend you're disbelief so that you may reach a right and true verdict."
The Jury replies in a chorus of "Yes, Your Honor"'s before they take their seats and are sworn in by the bailiff. None of them look at all surprised by his words as Judge Mathis continues on, leaving Noll wondering exactly why these twelve were chosen.
"Let's proceed to opening statements."
Mrs. Klein wastes no time in jumping into her speech, reciting Noll's story in only a few words. She's speaks to the Jury with a strong but emotional voice, promising to prove to them that James Dumont is a monster.
When she is done the defense attorney stands and makes his way to the Jury.
Noll straightens in his seat.
"Ladies and Gentleman, the prosecution would have you believe that Oliver Davis is a victim. That he and Mai Taniyama fell victim to my client's monstrous acts ー but that is not the case. In fact, it's the exact opposite. My client, James Dumont, is a victim of Oliver Davis."
Noll had been warned; he knew this would happen, but nothing could have prepared him to hear it out loud. He feels his heart stutter.
Mrs. Klein doesn't look surprised as she covers his hand with hers. "Oliver, breathe."
He can't. Some of the Jury look incredulous, some are riveted by the man's story.
"Oliver Davis is a well-known parapsychologist. A boy who is frequently sought after for his abilities; abilities that can move a 50 kilogram aluminum block without touching it. Abilities that once allowed him to save an American millionaire's son from suffocation after being buried alive." The man makes a wide sweeping motion to Noll. "It's impressive ー and difficult. So difficult, in fact, that it's not hard to imagine a young teenager buckling under the pressure, especially so soon after his own twin brother's death.
Oliver Davis wanted out and he wanted to take Mai Taniyama with him. So he arranged her flight here and planned to run away with her. But something went wrong. Miss Taniyama was severely injured by the hands of Mr. Davis and he didn't want to take the blame. Instead, he made up a story, a story that involved my client kidnapping the pair and torturing them for use of those impressive abilities. During this trial you will hear circumstantial evidence against James Dumont and his role in this 'kidnapping'. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I ask that you look beyond the lies and storytelling, and see that my client is not guilty."
When the man stops speaking, he strides calmly back across the silent court room and takes his place beside a snickering James. Noll looks away, wishing he could turn to see Mai, to comfort her, but he knew he couldn't. So he just closes his eyes and fights off the urge to stand and express his frustration. He can feel the indignant stares of the crowd and the Jury, trying desperately to ignore them as Judge Mathis broke the silence.
"The prosecution may call their first witness."
"We call character witness, Hōshō Takigawa to the stand."
Noll sat one the edge of his seat through what seemed like hours of testimony about him. The monk kept his promise, not holding back as he aptly describes the teen genius, a work-a-holic with compassion for everyone he helped, even if he didn't like to show it.
He takes the first part as a compliment, choosing to ignore that last bit.
"Would you consider Mr. Davis you're friend?"
Monk didn't try to hide his smile as he nods at Noll. "Yes. I would."
"Then," Mrs. Klein didn't look amused, "as his friend, can you tell me how Mr. Davis got those bruises?" She gestures to Noll who shrinks back in his seat, tugging the collar up around his neck.
Takigawa's calm expression pinches, lips turning down in a frown. "Those are from me."
"Can you explain what happened?"
"Um," the monk runs a hand through his hair, nervousness making him stutter, "I'm not really sure. I-I was just so... Angry. I thought he was going to hurt Mai."
"No. Naru may be a bit cold sometimes, but he'd never hurt anyone. Especially Mai."
"Then what made you think that he would hurt Miss Taniyama?"
"I don't know. I was told afterward that I had been under someone else's influence."
Mrs. Klein leans on her podium, looking completely at home as she asks, "By who?"
"Doctor August Arainn."
"Thank you. No further questions, Your Honor."
Mrs. Klein sits back down beside Noll, her spot by the podium taken by the defense attorney whose name Noll wasn't sure. His presence emanates sly confidence that borders on self-importance. "Mr. Takigawa," he says, pausing.
Takigawa adjusts himself, clearing his throat. "Yes?"
"Have you ever spoken to my client before?"
"Have you ever had contact with him before?"
"Mr. Takigawa, have you ever even seen my client before today?"
"Then how is it that you claim to have fallen under the hypnotic suggestion of a man you've never met?"
Noll has never seen Takigawa as annoyed as he is now, crossing his arms as he shrugs at the defense attorney. "I'm not the expert."
The defense attorney faces the jury who are watching the exchange with curious faces. Noll follows his gaze. "Could it be that you knew the truth behind Mr. Davises ploy and wanted revenge? Is that why you tried to strangle him to death?"
Ploy? Noll openly glares at the man who in turn, spins on his heel to face him.
"No. Naru would neverー"
"Earlier you called Mr. Davis a genius."
The monk is peeved at being cut off but he nods along. "He is."
"But you don't think he's smart enough to plan the kidnapping?"
"That's not what Iー"
"Is it possible, Mr. Takigawa, that Mr. Davis staged the events of December 2003? Do you believe he possess the intellect to devise such an elaborate scheme?"
Takigawa's icy glare melts to an indignant one, as if he didn't want to say what he knew he should.
The defense attorney sees this weakness growing in the monk and moves closer, whispering, "May I remind you that you are under oath."
Takigawa visibly sags in defeat, "...y-yes."
"Yes, it is... possible."
The attorney's face lights up. He nods once at the Jury before turning to the judge, "No further questions, Your Honor."
Noll hangs his head as the monk leaves the stand and a heavy air fills the room. He barely hears the prosecutor call their next witness, Doctor August Arainn, over the rampant beating of his heart. A few hours ago, justice seemed to be just out of reach. Now, Noll isn't so sure.
He listens idly as August delves into his explanation of hypnotism with the gentle prompting of Mrs. Klein, explaining the practices and its uses in a hodgepodge of big words and lingo even Noll isn't sure he understood, but the Jury seemed to. He sneaks glances at them, surprised to find some of them nodding along to the hypnotisms rant.
"And what exactly is an 'anchor', Dr. Arainn?"
"It's a term used to describe a lingering hypnotic suggestion, usually linked to a person's memory of an object or person."
"And this 'suggestion' can be triggered at any time?"
"Yes. If the hypnotist is strong enough, the anchor can last for hours or days before being triggered. Months even."
"And this is what you believe Mr. Takigawa was under when he attacked Mr. Davis just the other day?"
"Without a doubt."
It drones on. An hour, or maybe several hours later, Noll finds Mrs. Klein nudging him. He raises his head to meet her dark, expectant gaze as she pulls him to his feet. "Are you ready?"
"Ready?" He asks.
Her eyebrows rise in a show of pity. He immediately hates it. "To testify. It's your turn."
"Oh." With that one word his confidence crumbles. He has never felt more self-conscious in his life; he can't move, can't think. After watching the defense attorney tear apart Takigawa-san's testimony, Noll is absolutely sure he is in for the same fate.
I can't do this. I can't do this. I can'tーI can'tーI can'tー
Naru? Like an angel in the darkness, Mai's thought comes to him as easily as his own, pulling him back to the present. He half turns to meet her cinnamon gaze to find her smiling at him. He waits for her to say something else, but she doesn't have to; he can read it in her face.
He turns back to the prosecutor, squaring his shoulders. With one last deep, calming breath, he says, "Ready."
Mrs. Klein studies him, searching for any lingering panic, but then she mimics his rigid posture and announces. "The prosecution calls Oliver Davis to the stand."