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[personal profile] mllelaurel
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Title: Monochrome Cities
Characters: Klavier Gavin, Ema Skye, Daryan Crescend, Damon Gant, Jake Marshall
Pairings: Klavier/Daryan, Klavier/Ema, background Jake Marshall/Angel Starr
Rating: M/R
Warnings: Non-consensual drug consumption, dysfunctional relationships
Summary: As the date of Lana Skye’s execution nears, her sister finds herself desperate enough to accept the help of a fop of a prosecutor and a shark of a detective. Together, Klavier, Ema and Daryan race against time to finger the real culprit behind the murders of Bruce Goodman and Neil Marshall, over a decade after the fact, with the trail gone cold. But everyone's got their own agenda, and the web they find themselves caught up in may be more tangled - and more of their own making - than any of them have anticipated, when even betrayal is far less simple than it first appears.


Gant is suspicious, and the fact that he has reason to be only makes it worse. “Spit it out, my boy. You didn’t just drag me out of my office so you could pour some inferior scotch down my gullet.”

“I’ve been thinking about what you told me,” I say. “You’re right. I haven’t worked on a real case since NQ-3, and der Ramsch I’ve been taking it isn’t going to cut it forever.”

“About time!” he says, and claps me on the shoulder, the way he did when I first walked into his office. “Well, what are you planning on doing about it?”

I have a line all prepared, about how I’d love his advice on which current case looks most in need of my attention. What comes out of my Dösbaddel mouth is “I’m not sure. Maybe I’m scared.”

He sounds vaguely sympathetic. “Of failing, since you’re so out of practice?”

“Nein. Success is much more of a clear and present danger. What if I succeed where I should not?”

...And not so sympathetic, after. “And what if you do? Does one mistake negate every life you save by putting the real bastards behind bars?”

Yes, I don’t say. Because it’s not just behind bars I’m putting these people. I’m the one who straps on the blindfold, takes their hand and walks them to the gallows, if not literally then on the highest level of metaphor.

“You’ll get over it,” Gant says, the words almost gentle in their finality. “And if you don’t want to make mistakes that cost others their lives, you’ll just have to get so good you can spot the innocent from the guilty, a mile away.” Justice had said something like that, during his trial. Said he could use body language, to tell when someone was lying. Shame I’m not an expert like him. All I have is my own logic and intuition, and both can fail, same as anyone else’s.

“Think I’ve got what it takes?” I ask Damon Gant?

He ruffles my hair, like I’m a kid. “The fact that you’re asking means the answer’s always gonna be yes. I’m not telling you to stop questioning yourself, Klavi-o. Question yourself at every step! Question every decision! But you know what questioning means? It means you get your answers, at the end of that road. And then? Then, you’ll be good enough.”

It’s not bad, as sage advice goes. Shame one of the things I’m starting to question are his own motives.

***

Ema’s dead white, when I see her, next time. “Get me Jake Marshall’s contact,” she blurts out, without preamble. Her voice is raspy, like she’s been running. An airtight bag labeled SL-9 sticks out of her lab coat’s pocket.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“Evidence,” she says. “But I don’t know who it damns, just yet. That’s why I need Jake’s input.”

“Anything I can help with?”

She sighs, reluctant. “If I show it to you now…”

“I’ll still trust you,” I say, and stupid and impulsive as it could wind up, a man can’t live on facts alone. Gotta trust someone’s words eventually, before you scramble your own soul all to hell. Who to trust, that’s the tough decision, but you can’t skate by without ever making it, either.

She pulls out the bag. Inside it is a piece of cloth. It’s faded, but it looks like it was a part of a nice dress shirt, once. ‘Ema’ is scrawled on it, in faded, rusty letters.

“Blood?” I confirm.

Ema nods. “Already tested it. Matches Marshall’s, as do the fingerprints. Except for one.”

“Whose?”

“Mine,” she says.

“You contaminated the evidence?”

“Don’t be stupid!” A pause. “I’ve never touched it without gloves. Not within the last decade.”

Oh. Oh.

“Why would Marshall write your name?”

She bites her lip. “If I knew, then this case would already be solved. There’s just one more test, before I know for a fact he did write it.”

Not fingerprints, not DNA… “Handwriting analysis?”

“Maybe you should be the investigator, fop.”

“It’s not exactly the hardest science,” I feel compelled to mention.

Her eyes are hard as diamonds. “It’s all we’ve got left,” she says. “And if the handwriting confirms it…”

“Then all the evidence would seem to suggest that you killed Neil Marshall.”

“You promised you’d trust me,” Ema says.

I just wish she’d do the same for me. I recall the transcript of her interview with Goodman. It was dark, she told him. She’d seen the serial killer trying to stab Marshall, and shoved him away. Pretty heroic, especially for a scared kid, but she said it had been dark. I wonder if she’d pushed the right man, and what he might have fallen on, when she did.

But… I’ll still trust you. I made her a promise with those five words, and I intend to keep it.

“Three-ten, five-sixty, ninety-two, thirty-nine.”

“Excuse me?”

“Marshall’s number. You said you wanted it, right?”

Maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe our softcore science of the last resort will point to another suspect, so I don’t wind up with Ema Skye on my defendant’s stand.

***

Jake’s wife picks up the phone. From what I can tell, on Ema’s side of the conversation, she segues from wondering what Ema wants with her husband, to flirting with her, in the space of a minute. My kind of woman. Alas, we don’t have time for nice things, and Ema manages to get Jake on the line soon enough.

She doesn’t bother with a preamble. “Do you have a representative sample of Neil’s handwriting?” she asks. “Yes. Yes, this is Ema Skye.” A pause, as he talks. “I’m still sorry I got you fired. Even if you are a ridiculous man with a cactus. What? How many cacti? Uh… That’s nice, I guess. Can I just get the handwriting sample, please?” She rolls her eyes, vaguely fond, from what I can tell.

“Jake says hi,” she tells me, after hanging up. “His wife probably says hi, and she doesn’t even know you. Nor are you two going to meet. You’re gonna wait in the car, while I get my stuff.”

“When did I volunteer to give you a ride, exactly?”

“Two seconds from now,” Ema says. “Please?”

“Fine, but we’re taking the motorcycle. It’s faster that way.”

She puts her arms around my waist, as the hog revs into action, surprisingly confident. Nothing demure here. But it’s all business, as I have to remind myself. Her hair is trapped under a safety helmet, not blowing in the breeze, and even if she doesn’t hate me anymore, a lack of dislike still doesn’t constitute a positive inclination.

***

Ema pores over Marshall’s old case notes and shopping lists, and I don’t wonder at Jake having kept all his junk. Two years, and I still don’t know what to do with Kristoph’s belongings. I’ve called the cleaning services to drape plastic sheets all over everything, but his house stands exactly as he’d left it, to this day. Trucy’s old homework is probably still laid out on her desk, cereal bowls in the sink, assuming Kris didn’t just clean them up. It’s not as though I need the money I would get by selling the house, but maybe it’s time to get over myself and pay it a visit, after this case is over.

Ema frowns, takes copies with both camera and printer attachment. Makes me sift through those copies, underlining every single E, M and A. To my uneducated eye, none of them look remotely like the ones on the bloody cloth.

She seems to agree. “According to handwriting analysis, this… There’s no way this is a match!”

“Even taking into account the circumstances under which Marshall might have written it?”

“Even then.” I hadn’t seen Daryan come in. Guess he’s cooled down, after all that storming out. “A person’s handwriting develops over the years. Even in times of extreme stress, some tells will still remain. The way they dot their ‘i’s, the way they slant the letters. That kind of shit. This-” He looks over my shoulder, then Ema’s. “Yeah, if that’s Marshall, then I’m Ebenezer Scrooge.”

I find myself grinning. I’d forgotten what he’s like when working on a real case. Smart and thoughtful, cocky but with good reason. That’s the Daryan Crescend I remember.

I wonder if he's thinking the same thing, when he looks at me.

We compare the handwriting to Ema’s, to samples of Darke’s, which Daryan produces from God-knows where. To mine, for a control group - probably for a couple of laughs as well. And then, Daryan pulls out a memo.

“Who wrote that?” I ask.

“The chief.” He looks away, faces the wall. I can see his body language tightening up, like he’s mad or scared. “It’s probably nothing.”

Ema traces the E, from a meeting with Emerson Jones. Same name gives her the M. ‘Call Janet about the SX-6 files...’

“Klavier?” she says. “Tell me I’m wrong.” It’s the first time I’ve heard her call me by name.

I’m no expert, and the handwriting’s no direct match, but it’s the closest to a match we’ve seen today.

“It still won’t fly as evidence,” I say. “Not on its own.” It’s not telling her she’s wrong, though, thats for sure. I sink back into the couch. “Scheiße. Now someone tell me why Gant kept that cloth all those years, and we might actually have something.”

“Why would you keep one single piece of evidence, out of a case once buried in it?” Daryan volleys at me.

“Nostalgia? Really morbid nostalgia? No, that’s not it… And Ema’s name is the one on it. Who would that affect?” Before my eyes, Lana Skye develops a motive for killing Goodman. If the man had uncovered evidence implicating her sister…

But Ema’s not the only one it’s implicating, is it? And she’s not the one who’s hung onto it, all those years.

“Neil Marshall’s blood. That’s easy enough to explain. There was plenty of it all around, right? His fingerprints?” I reach over to grab Daryan’s hand, drag it over a piece of paper. E. M. A. “You’d have to do it quickly, before rigor mortis set in, but there’s nothing preventing you from using someone else’s fingers as your paintbrush, ja?”

Ema’s handprint, from when she’d shoved Marshall, instead of Darke.

“According to the files, the next person to enter the room, after Marshall was already dead, was Lana Skye.” I hang the statement in the air, like a question.

“It’s a record,” Daryan says. “Self-reporting. What’s to prevent a record from lying?”

“In that case,” I get up, start pacing. “In that case, let us run a little hypothetical, shall we? Let’s say the next person to enter the office is Damon Gant, rather than Lana Skye.”

Daryan gets up as well. “Okay, so I’m Gant, and I walk in, and there are three unconscious people sprawled out on the floor. I’ve got three major options ahead of me: Do I a) leave the fucking crime scene uncontaminated and wait for backup? Possibly cuffing Darke first, so that he doesn’t escape again. I could go for b) arrange the bodies to make it look like they had an orgy. But I’m just not that cool.”

Ema throws a wadded up photocopy at him. “Three people’s not an orgy, asshole. Also, eww. That was still me in there!”

“Fine, fine. There’s always option c) stab the fuck out of Marshall with the knife already on-scene. Gavin, tell me my motive, so I don’t get stuck doing all the work around here.”

I believe I have it. “There was insufficient evidence, to convict Joe Darke for those fifteen murders, as things stood. But if he was caught right after stabbing the man trying to convict him…”

Daryan nods grimly. “Bye-bye, Joe Darke. Edgeworth disposed of him pretty handily, after that.”

Ema shakes her head. “So Gant bussed Marshall for evidence? And people actually have the gall to ask me why I hate all of humanity.”

Daryan sits, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “In this hypothetical, that’s why he’s bussed him, yeah. Fits with his firing the rest of the team afterward, too.”

“So, what about Herr Goodman?” He’s the one Lana’s fate hangs on.

Ema’s lips move soundlessly, as she works something out, and she snaps her fingers. “I’ve got to go! I’ve got to talk to Lana, stat,” she says.

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