EF: Investigations - Prologue
22nd December, 1:39 p.m.
Courtroom No. 1
The courtroom was filled with a cacophony of voices.
So… It's finally over, the man in the red suit thought to himself as he folded his arms against his chest.
“It was evident from the beginning! This man was suspicious from the moment I laid eyes on him!”
“The Prosecutor’s claims are ironclad! Let’s end this farce already!”
“Evidence is everything in the Court of Law! And for now it all points to the defendant… Guilty I say!”
The sound of the Judge’s gavel echoed throughout the room. Every eye in the room focused on the old man with a grey beard.
“That’s enough.” - He stated. “I believe we have finally come to the conclusion of this trial and I see no room left for doubt anymore.” - His gaze first fell upon the lawyer to his left.
“Mr. Oobleck. You fought well, but in the end you have failed to give the court sufficient reason to doubt the prosecution's claim.” - He shook his head while the obese, middle-aged man listened. - “I began to grow quite tired of your theories. You of all people should know that evidence here is everything.”
The defense attorney stood still, without so much as even visible concern on his face. He didn’t care much for his client anyway. He did his job, nothing more.
The lawyer looked indifferently in the direction of the accused, Mr. Mamoru Palmer, who was trembling with fear… He had been framed for this murder! And yet no one was willing to even listen, let alone believe him. The judge looked to the right where the prosecutor was silently standing.
“Mr Edge. Do you have anything to add here?” - He asked.
Not a word came out of Adrian’s mouth, his eyes shut, as if processing all that had happened in over the past three hours. The old man nodded understandingly.
“Therefore I hereby declare my final verdict. This court finds the defendant, Mamoru Palmer guilty for the murder of Edward Bell. Court is adjourned.” - The Judge brought his gavel down, the resulting slam like a naming seal on hot wax on the envelope of a death warrant.
While Mr. Palmer was being escorted by the bailiffs, Edge took his time to look at two witnesses whose testimonies proved decisive to the conclusion of a trial; One of them being victim’s secretary, Mrs. Jess Reynolds - a 29 year old woman who had served under Mr. Bell for five years, even starting to see him more as a father figure rather than an employer. His death left a grave impact on her mental state which was clearly visible - once a neatly styled brown long hair braided in a ponytail was now just a disheveled mess covering her big blue eyes.
An elegant blue business suit now replaced with a ruffled black tracksuit of questionable hygiene. On top of that she probably wasn’t eating at all, as she had clearly lost a lot of weight… Quite literally becoming a shell of her former self.
On the other hand there was Ms. Gabriela Lavender - a devoted dollmaker who owned a workshop in the center of Lyonorhama City. Her dolls were the most sought after throughout the area, becoming status symbols for children and collectors alike.
She was a beautiful woman in her mid 20s. Long, straight silver hair; perfectly matching her white dress that wasn't showing too much, but simultaneously emphasized the figure of a person wearing it. She gracefully and confidently opened a parasol; a base of grey lace with white accents.
An anachronistic symbol of status of a different time, it shielded her from both the aging rays of the sun, as well as the unearned gazes of those considered beneath her.
She looked at the direction of a prosecutor. Not making a single word, she soon departed with the throng.
The pews had been cleared, the suspect under arrest and the judge returned to his chambers. Edge stood there replaying the trial over and over in his head. The courtroom around him was already dead silent, why couldn’t his conscience experience the same peace?
He should be glad to bring justice once more and yet Adrian was feeling very uneasy. Everything felt so out of place: the prior prosecutor being suddenly replaced by him on such short notice it barely gave Edge time to prepare, the body of the victim was cremated after being checked by a coroner, the accused claiming there was another gun...
Finally before the trial, he was told to take it easy and get the job done, no further questions asked. He took a long, deep breath and carefully recollected past events from a few hours ago:
ORDER, ORDER! I WILL HAVE ORDER!
The old man tried to maintain order within the sacred halls of justice. He cleared his throat and blinked a few times.
“Thank you, Mr. Edge. I believe it’s time for…” - He didn’t even finish his sentence, before the defendant stopped him right there.
“B-But wait a minute! It’s not right!” - Mamoru Palmer exclaimed.
“What’s the meaning of this outburst, Mr Palmer?” - The judge glared. Everyone was caught off guard and now all eyes were directed at the defendant.
“T-t-this isn’t right, I-I tell you!” - Palmer began to tremble, his mouth hardly letting out next words without stuttering. - “I s-saw it… His p-pupils…”
“What about his pupils?” The judge asked curiously.
“They were… they w-were… Constricted! He was p-poisoned and already on the brink of death! I am s-sure of it!” - Palmer once again shouted, echo of the voice spread throughout the room.
"When I got up to try and help him, I've noticed the gun laying on the floor... I-I don't know why, but I have almost instantly picked it up without thinking... I must've been in a too much of a shock to act clearly... It was then when I heard the gunshot. B-but I know I didn't pull the trigger! It wasn't even aimed at him! She must've had another gun on her! There is no other way!"
He pointed his finger at Gabriela.
People began to talk among themselves, but before the judge could bring order again, a loud “Objection!” was heard. It was Adrian.
“It's quite the story you tell us here Mr. Palmer, but first of all the police and the coroner checked out the body thoroughly and there was no mention anywhere about such unusual signs, therefore it should be noted that poison is out of question at this stage!”
Edge slammed his fist on the desk, startling most of the audience. - “And then you say Ms. Lavender shot the victim even though she was searched and no second pistol was found anywhere? It's funny considering that only you were reported being in a possession of the murder weapon on the crime scene.”
“B-but…” - Mamoru tried to dismiss it, but was stopped by his defense attorney.
“Perhaps there is an explanation for this.” - He said very amused. - “Maybe everything we know about this case if far from the truth? I wouldn’t be surprised, considering that our city's prosecutors had a habit of twisting crucial facts and fabricate evidence to convict innocent people in the past. Would you like to say something about this matter, Mr. Edge?” - He laughed and at this moment a prosecutor was visibly furious.
“Oobleck, how dare you?!” - Adrian clenched his teeth and the gavel struck once more.
At this moment Edge’s recollection of these events stopped. With a deep breath he checked the autopsy report. What if this was… True? The more he thought about the whole case, the more doubts grew in his mind.
Not that he had much of a choice on this particular matter, but he still wanted to believe that authorities did everything accordingly to solve this crime. In the end Adrian felt like being played from the very beginning.
22nd December, 3:30 p.m.
Adrian Edge's Office, 12th floor
The sound of the clock was quite calming. Almost as much as a warm cup of tea in such cold weather. The snow was relentless since it began to fall early that morning, covering everything in a white fluff.
Adrian observed the scenery via a huge window in his office: Every passing car, people going about their business, billboards announcing that Christmas is just around the corner… Behind him on a desk was a laptop showing the news of today’s legal battle; - the media already picked up the story and proceeded to have a 24 hour news cycle field day with it, delivering blow-by-blow accounts of the case all across Lyonorhama City.
He looked at the window, his reflection showed a 26 year old man with short black hair; face covered by neatly styled stubble. Under the brown eyes were fine wrinkles: A sign of overworking and stress despite his young age. Adrian sighed as he heard the doors open; he knew very well who it was.
“Welcome, my friend. It’s good to see you.” - He said and turned around to look at the detective he often collaborated with: Leon Cervantes - “Cerv” to his friends and officers that worked beneath him, although Adrian never truly called him by his nickname, because he was too formal for all of that.
Leon was a man who prided himself in his heritage and his work. Standing at about 1.85M, his slightly pale skin, smattering of freckles, slight belly, broad shoulders, red hair and matching beard would bring many to disbelief when they found out he was actually an immigrant from a Central American country.
He kept that part of his life to himself, as his work against cartels left scars both seen and unseen.
Leon brushed the last of the snow off his clothes and looked at his friend, who showed subtle signs of anxiety; a quivering hand containing a full cup of raspberry tea was perfect proof of that.
Edge sighed again in a more drawn-out manner knowing all too well that he could not fool the good detective.
“Yes, I’m on edge right now. No pun intended.” - His face lit up for a moment, but then he grew serious again - “Anyway, I hope your journey went without any complications.”
“Of course, thank you for asking… But I’m more concerned about you. I saw the news. Tell me everything about the case.” - Cervantes responded.
The prosecutor’s expression remained the same as before, his sight deeply buried into the soul of his longtime partner. He took a moment to embrace the white mug fully with his left hand to feel more of the pleasant warmth; one last comfort before losing himself deep into cold details…
“Mhm. As you wish.” - He said. - “Let’s start from the beginning: Edward Bell, 55 year old businessman. As you know his contributions to the city made him quite renowned and respected among the locals… Parks, museums, operas, orphanages; You name it.
He built it and plastered his name all over it. Three days ago he was found dead, sitting inertly in a chair. One of the witnesses - Miss Reynolds - his personal assistant, testified it was 9 p.m. Mr. Bell had a business meeting at this time and of course wanted to remain undisturbed.
There were three people in the room: Mr. Bell, Mr. Palmer and Ms. Lavender. Apparently they were talking about some business… His secretary didn’t know any details though. It was exactly around that time when she heard a loud
Scared, but also wanting to find out what happened she ran upstairs, only to find a grim picture before her very eyes - Mr. Bell sitting on his chair with a bullet wound in chest, Ms. Lavender covering her mouth in shock and Mr. Palmer next to her, holding a gun in his right hand.”
Adrian placed his index finger on the right side of the temple with a concerned look on his face. He visibly tried to focus on remembering every important detail. Cervantes in the meantime took out his faithful notepad and started writing down everything he thought could be of great importance.
He preferred traditional methods over this whole electronic stuff; in his eyes it was more practical that way. A paper trail was a pilgrimage for him; honest and not subject to outside interference, like digital was so prone to.
“You know… This is all wrong.” Adrian said.
“Why?” Cervantes raised his head to stare at his friend.
“Because there are many inconsistencies. First we have this sudden change of prosecutors. I was called in at the last moment to substitute for Martin Casanova. A great lawyer by the way. Very hardworking individual, always outstanding performance in and outside of the courtroom and yet Chief Prosecutor Black decided to remove him from the case at the very end, which I find strange. I can't seem to contact him ever since. The second thing I can’t comprehend is that despite being equipped with evidence collected by the police I still wasn’t able to check out everything I wanted to… Mainly the body itself.”
Adrian let out a big sigh and continued. - “Can you believe they actually burned it after performing the autopsy? That is very concerning… It gives the impression someone had something to hide. And this takes us to a third point.” - He showed his hand at the photos that were lying on the desk next to the laptop.
Cervantes came closer and saw pictures of the autopsy report that Edge took before leaving the court.
“Yes, I took these to consult with you, because as the trial progressed, the accused said Edward Bell’s pupils were constricted which could indicate poison.”
“Poison?” - Cervantes quickly responded while holding papers in his hands. - “But… They mention only a bullet wound. There is nothing here about traces of poison, or any other substance for that matter.”
“Exactly.” Adrian turned around and rested his arm on the window frame. After a few seconds the first drops of the warm drink filled his mouth. - “Mmm… Despite all of this, I really wanted to believe. But Oobleck was right, he was so damn right... Prosecutor's Offices had quite a bad reputation and you know too well how long it took for us to rebuild public's trust. I thought we eradicated all of the corruption and yet here we are again... Suspecting our own kind of manipulating things."
He turned around to face Leon. - "But mark my words: I will get to the fucking bottom of this. One way or another."
It took every shred of willpower for him to not drop his drink. Cerv saw right through him, perhaps he just needed an outside perspective to clear the brain fog he found himself lost in. Adrian, with newfound will, broke the silence between the two men.
“Let’s have dinner, my treat. We have a long day ahead of us.” - They both agreed on this, but before they would leave the office, Adrian approached the portrait which captured his debut in this profession.
He gently lifted it and set it aside, revealing a giant safe. - “Every prosecutor’s office has this. It’s the safest place to keep crucial evidence before each trial.” - He said while entering the combination.
Cervantes looked curiously in the meantime, because despite working together for so long, he actually never had the opportunity to see one here being used. Soon photos of the autopsy report were deposited inside and with that, Edge was ready to leave.
“Technically I shouldn’t have these with me right now, but at least nobody will check inside. And if by any chance some questions do arise, which I doubt will, but well… You don’t know a thing, alright?” - He warned his friend.
“Adrian, I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.” - Cervantes replied, as he checked his phone, quickly scrolling through his email to camouflage the smirk forming on his face.
Edge nodded his head, also having a smirk of his own. They soon left and started walking down the corridor. At least it wasn’t as long as the ones on the lower levels of the building, containing hundreds of rooms. Eventually, both men would find themselves in the underground parking lot.
“So… Want to drive?” - Adrian began to wave his car keys in front of the good detective as soon as they reached Alfa Romeo GTV: A fine red car which served him for years.
“Well, you’re buying so I don’t mind getting us there.” - Leon threw up his hand, indicating for Adrian to toss him the keys.
“Very good. Let’s get going then.” - He tossed the keys to Leon and quickly sat in the passenger seat. Leon soon followed, taking a while to admire Edge’s vehicle. “I know, it looks a bit weird in the beginning, but as soon as you start the engine… Mwah!” - He gave a chef's kiss.
Cervantes burst into laughter and turned the ignition key making the engine spin. Adrian in the meantime returned to his serious attitude and closed eyes as if trying to recollect yet another set of memories hidden deep inside. It would be a long journey ahead, that was certain…
22nd December, 4:05 p.m.
A slender manicured hand gracefully tapped on her smartphone, the ringing quickly cut short but the calls recipient.
The woman began to speak, her words carrying an air of dignity to them: “So it's done then?” - She paused. “And you’re sure no one will be able to track it back to you, me … us!” Another pause, her voice has grown audibly more tense.
“You do not tell me ‘to relax’. I know we had no other choice, but now there is too much riding on this to allow for any mistakes. Just… Too much.” Her voice trailed off, with one swift silent press of the tempered glass screen the phone went dark - the figure in the reflection showed none other than Gabriela herself.
Previously standing in the court with a stoic calm, now visibly troubled. She reached for a favourite cup of tea to calm her nerves which proved to be more and more difficult each time the clock moved, as if feeling a strong grip on throat.
Too much was at stake…