That Freelance Kid

Chapter 12

So," Phoenix started as he leaned against the door.

Apollo didn't give him a chance. "You didn't have to keep your identity from me, you know. You could have just told me who you were from the beginning. "

"Oh, is that right?" Mr. Wright replied wryly, his mouth twisted into a mirthless smile.

"That's right. It would have been very easy to tell me who you were over the phone." Apollo asserted. "And don't tell me you weren't trying to hide it from me. You can say you gave me your business card, but you ran as soon as I got a good look at it."

Mr. Wright hardly looked at him the entire time he was talking, seeming pointedly more interested in the wall behind Apollo instead. After he finished talking, Mr. Wright's eyes suddenly snapped back into focus, and he gave Apollo a steady stare.

"You finished?" Mr. Wright asked, and Apollo could feel his face growing hotter. Not from embarrassment, no, but from anger. At times the man seemed nearly unbearable.

Mr. Wright didn't even wait for Apollo's curt nod, indicating the ex-attorney now had a chance to speak.

"You remember when all the news had to talk about about was how Phoenix Wright, LA's ace attorney, managed to fall into such disgrace with his forging?"

Apollo raised an eyebrow. "Yes, of course I remember."

"Exactly, Justice. Everybody remembers." Mr. Wright didn't give Apollo a chance to reply. "And do you remember when this fallen attorney went through countless interviews, and even went so far as to make public appearances on television, trying to prove his innocence?"

"Mr. Wright..."

"Did anyone believe him? Anybody at all?"

Apollo shook his head slowly.

"Because no one would trust him, right?" Mr. Wright took his hands out of his pocket, and extended his arm to place a hand on Apollo's shoulder.

"Even today, people still don't believe me. But I'm not going to give you a sob story. I'm going to make a point."

"I think I already see where this is going."

Mr. Wright's eyes stared hard into his. "Then answer me this. If I had told you I was Phoenix Wright from the start, would you have listened to me? At all?"

"No," Apollo sighed, breaking the eye contact between them. "I wouldn't have."

"All right, no need to look so down, Justice." Phoenix said as he removed his hands from Apollo's shoulder's, and slid them back into his pocket. "Now that we've got that out the way, why don't you tell me what happened with you and Klavier?"

"Well," he began "He told me the fight started with a misunderstanding he and Ema had a party. That's when Ema started to believe he was cheating on her. He told me he wasn't, though, but I had kind of a hard time believing him." Apollo said. "After a while though, he got pretty drunk. I had to drop him off at a motel. All that liquor loosened up his tongue, and he seemed to sound really upset about what happened between them." Apollo was about to mention what happened with Klavier and the vase, but decided to keep quiet. He knew Klavier didn't want to hurt Ema, and there was no need for Mr. Wright to become suspicious about that. "Personally, I don't believe he was actually cheating on her at this point; he seems to really care about her, and regrets hurting her feelings."

Mr. Wright nodded. "Anything else happen?"

"Umm..Not really." Apollo paused, mentally going over all the events of last night. "I can't really…oh! Wait, I remember! Before I met up with Klavier in the club, he was with some girl named April, and really big man with purple hair…his name was Mr. White, I think."

Phoenix's eyes widened, yet took on a sudden ferocity at the same time. "Mr. White? Did you manage to get his first name?" Phoenix shook his head. "No, never mind," he muttered. "I only know one guy with purple hair with that name…"

Apollo raised an eyebrow. "Is something wrong?"

"Exactly what were Mr. White and Klavier talking about?"

"I didn't hear. I got there near the end of their conversation. All I know is that Klavier gave him a lot of money for…something. I don't know."

Phoenix put his hands in his pocket, and his lips pursed in concentration. "What else, Justice?" He spoke quickly. "What else happened?"

"Um... He made me promise to make sure you didn't tell Ema anything, something about protecting her."

"Promise not to tell her what?"

"About Mr. White." There was a short pause as Phoenix looked at him expectantly, and Apollo only managed to shift his feet. Finally, he said "That's all the information I've got, Mr. Wright."

Phoenix nodded as if he knew that all along. "I really appreciate this, Justice. You have no idea how much you're helped."

"Yeah, well…" Apollo trailed off, not really knowing what to say. What was there to say? He was finished. He had finished doing what Wright had asked him to do, and now he could go home. However, those thoughts couldn't stop the question that came out of his mouth.

"Exactly what am I helping you to do, anyway?"

It was Phoenix's turn to raise an eyebrow, now. "What, you mean you haven't figured it out yet? You're helping Ema and Klavier get back together."

Apollo sighed. "I had a strong feeling you were gonna say that. Look, Mr. Wright, I'm glad I could help you and everything, but…but I don't want to get too involved with the Gavins." When Phoenix didn't say anything, Apollo turned towards the stairs. "I mean, I wish the best for them, and everything. But I really don't think I'm cut out for this."

Before Apollo could even take a step down the stairs, Phoenix spoke up behind him. "I read your book, Justice."

Apollo turned back around, staring at Phoenix as if he had suddenly donned a second beanie. "E-excuse me?"

"A few months ago. I saw your book in a store, and picked it up on a whim." Phoenix walked over to Apollo and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You understand people, Justice. You understand their emotions, moods, what makes them tick. And you get love, you get how people deal with it, or even don't deal with it."

"Mr. Wright-"

"So you can stand here and tell me you're not cut out for this, give up, and walk away. Or you could stay, help a young couple in trouble, and prove me right for believing in you."

When Apollo could find his voice again, it came out as a whisper. "You…you couldn't have gauged that all from reading my book…"

"Of course not. That's why I wanted to meet you in your person. Your book raised my suspicions, but you proved them right."

"But how-"

"You managed to get Klavier to talk to you. You managed to get him to tell you what happened, and express his worries, and guilt, and everything on his mind. And you only knew him for about two hours. I think you're just the man for the job."

Apollo turned around to face Phoenix. His eyes were intent on him, searching, waiting for a response.

"But…he was drunk. He probably won't even remember any of it. It was just a drunken fluke, a mistake. Nothing special happened, Mr. Wright, nothing that makes me 'right for the job.'"

The two men were silent for a moment, Apollo rubbing his hands to keep them from getting cold. Phoenix broke the silence first.

"I'm a real simple guy. Real simple. Even when I was lawyer, simple cases always seemed like they'd be more fitted for me than those twisted, complex murder cases I always solved. And now that I'm not a lawyer, I chose a real simple job, something easy. I'm a piano player at a little Russian restaurant not to far from here. I play a few tunes on the piano, the customers are happy, and I get some money to support myself and my daughter. Easy."

Slowly, Phoenix pulled out a neatly stacked deck of playing cards from the pocket of his hoodie. "But you know, sometimes simple isn't the best thing. Simple doesn't always get my bills paid and my daughter fed." Phoenix shuffled the cards, his gaze never leaving Apollo's face. "Do you know what my second job is, Justice? The one that really puts money in my pocket and food on the table?"

Apollo shook his head.

"I play poker. Underground poker, actually. It's not the most honest business, but it helps out a lot." Phoneix re-shuffled the deck again.

"I've never lost, you know. Not once. I have this special 'charm' I take with me, and it's never failed me once. But I'm not trying to brag. What I'm trying to say though, is even though I've never lost, it doesn't mean that the job is easy.

"And easy may be comfortable, but sometimes it's not the best thing. It's the more difficult things in life that help you accomplish something. Walking away from this would be easy, comfortable. And I'll admit, staying and helping would be a lot more difficult. But in the end, if you do stay, it really will be worth all the trouble."

Apollo was quiet for a long time, absorbing everything Phoenix had said.

"This…this is crazy, Mr. Wright. And honestly, I've tried to pull myself out of this a long time ago. But, I don't think I can anymore. Ever since I made the choice to meet you at Gummy's Burgers, I've felt like I'm being pulled by strings I just can't cut. I see where you're coming from, with the whole…poker thing, but…" Apollo paused. He didn't know what else to say. The way Mr. Wright was looking at him made his tongue freeze. There was a look in his eyes that he couldn't quite place.

Apollo took a deep breath and continued on. "I don't think I really have a choice anymore. I'll stay. I'll stay to help the Gavins get back together. But what exactly is it that you want me to do anyway? Sit them down and talk to them like I'm some sort of marriage counselor?"

Phoenix smiled, and deftly slid the cards back into his pocket. "Actually," he began. "I want you to attend a party."

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