It had taken a while after the final verdict was handed down to take care of Edgeworth’s paperwork and final release from jail. The rest of the group— Phoenix, Maya, Larry, and Gumshoe— lingered around in the lobby, waiting in a stifling silence. The whole day had been one of those surreal experiences where simply mentioning it would break the spell. How could they even begin to talk about everything that happened? Phoenix had exposed a truth hidden for one and a half decades by cross-examining a goddamn parrot. He got one of the best prosecutors in the world, Edgeworth’s own mentor, arrested by finding a bullet in his chest. It was one of those instances where reality really was stranger than fiction.
No one said a word— not even Larry, who twiddled his thumbs and nervously winked at the women spectators flooding out of the staircases that led out to the balcony. Phoenix noticed with a twist in his stomach that not a single person came out of the elevator across from where the group was huddled. All of them walked past hurriedly, avoiding looking at the four of them or even getting too close. Phoenix did not blame them one bit. The echoes of Manfred von Karma’s scream still reverberated through the halls, soaking in the masonry of the walls and burning itself into the eyes of the building: eyes which have seen years of despair and the worst of human misery, and faced numerous years more of quietly passing judgment on the fate of those who enter it.
It was already dark by the time they all walked out of the courthouse. The cobblestone was covered in a thick carpet of the day’s accumulated snow, muffling the footsteps of the ragtag five-person gang steadily disappearing into shadow and reappearing under yellow pools of streetlamps scattered across the block. Light dusts of flurries landed on Phoenix’s shoulders, yet they seemed to melt away as soon as they made contact with his coat. He barely felt the winter wind howling in his face while the others shivered and shrank into their jackets. Adrenaline still rushed through his veins, lighting his senses abuzz and making it almost impossible for him not to just take off sprinting towards the restaurant Larry had suggested for dinner. Instead, Phoenix walked at a brisk pace in front of everyone and ignored Maya’s periodic pleas for slowing down. It felt as if he had a flame burning from within, alight from the exhilaration of gambling with luck and trumping the odds after he put it all on the line. It was one of the more addicting parts of being a defense attorney, and Phoenix wouldn’t trade the offbeat danger for the world. A smile tugged at his lips as he replayed the day’s victory over in his mind. He felt on top of the world, quite cocky for snagging the real suspect and showing Edgeworth what he was made of—
In the elation of the victory, Phoenix almost forgot about the man that he won the whole trial for. He glanced behind, and saw the dark form of the prosecutor trailing at the very end of the funeral-like procession. Drifts of snow stuck to his shoulders, and he made no effort to wipe them off. He moved with a stiff pace, almost as if each step he took was the first step of an arduous journey that he only felt trepidation towards. There was a certain air of an oxymoronic presence without a presence around him: there, but not actually. They passed under a streetlamp at that moment, and the glow illuminated Edgeworth’s face in sheer detail. Even though the light was warm, his face still shone with a pallid, lifeless glow akin to the moon. Dark circles laid heavy under his eyes, and a shadow was cast across his visage.
Even though Phoenix knew that objectively he had accomplished his goal of becoming a defense attorney and finding the truth of what happened to his childhood friend, it did not bring that long-awaited closure he always imagined. Something terrible in his gut nagged at him, posing the possibility that it was not over yet. Posing the fact that it was not going to be over for a long, long time.
But as soon as Phoenix turned around and made to walk towards him, Edgeworth stepped out of the light and became veiled again in opaque nightfall.
“Larry, I swear to fucking God.”
Apparently the directions that Larry gave them had led to a Hooter’s.
“I WAS JUST TRYING TO CHEER THINGS UP—“
“Is everything alright?” The waitress said, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.
Larry wasted no time. “Everything’s fine when I’m with a captivating woman such as yourself. Larry Butz: artist in trai—“
Larry caught sight of Phoenix’s glare and immediately shrank away, hiding himself behind Maya.
Phoenix turned back to the waitress with a strained smile. “We’ll take a table for five, please.”
As they began meandering their way through the bustling restaurant, Phoenix felt a hand rest upon his shoulder. He looked behind, and immediately found himself face-to-face with Gumshoe.
“Mr. Wright, I dunno if this is the best place for him to be right now.” He said, scratching his head and casting a glance over at the table the waitress had sat the group down at. Phoenix followed his gaze Edgeworth was staring into his glass, watching the bubbles of his beverage float steadily up to the surface. He appeared deaf to Larry’s attempt at flirting with each waitress that passed and Maya’s frantic scribbling with the crayons she specifically requested when they tried giving her a regular menu.
“If Larry wasn’t such a dumbass—“
“Do ya think Mr. Edgeworth could stay at your place for a while?”
Phoenix blinked, confused at the request coming from out of the blue. “Did Edgeworth say something about staying at my place? I mean, it almost feels like he can’t stand being in the same room with me.”
“Listen, pal. I met Mr. Edgeworth in his lil’ heyday as a prodigy prosecutor, and I can tell you for a fact that that von Karma man was no good for him.” Gumshoe mused almost to himself, rubbing the stubble on his cheek introspectively. “What a nasty man, no wonder. Not the least bit surprised about how things turned out. Can’t even imagine what things he did to make Mr. Edgeworth the way he is. Him and his lil’ sister.”
“Edgeworth doesn’t have a sister.” Phoenix said, scanning his memory back to when he was over at Edgeworth’s house when they were younger. One thing he noticed for sure was the lack of feminine presence in the Edgeworth household.
“Nah, I remember her. She’s a mare of a woman now. I hafta work on cases with her sometimes.”
Phoenix scrunched his eyebrows, trying to think of any time Edgeworth mentioned a sister.
“No, but what I’m tryna say is,” Gumshoe continued, eyes darting to Phoenix with renewed focus. “I know how Mr. Edgeworth can be. He’s not so hot with even a lil’ change whatsoever, so I’m not sure how well he’s gonna take this news. So maybe he should stay at your place for a while, y’know, just to have some eyes on him. Plus, didn’t you two used to be childhood buddies or somethin’? It wouldn’t be that weird.”
Phoenix glanced at the man sitting at the table, wondering how much more unlike someone could get from the childhood friend he once knew.
Gumshoe let out a sigh. “Pal, I’m just worried about him. Aren’t you?”
Phoenix felt that terrible, dark thing twist again inside of him in response to the concern tinging Gumshoe’s voice.
“I’ve been worried for fifteen years.”