Chapter Two: Lions.
If there ever were a situation Miles Edgeworth would have thought he’d be in, it wasn’t quite this.
There had been nothing of the sort in his life prior. Nothing at all, unless Franziska von Karma counted. And he wasn’t quite sure she did.
It was meant to be a façade, a front to fool any potential observers, but Miles Edgeworth did not know how to conduct himself in a convincing manner.
Women had nothing to do with prosecuting. Dates had nothing to do with prosecuting. And if he went about it as though he was prosecuting—no, he couldn’t even begin to think of any way he would approach the situation as a prosecutor, although he rather imagined it could proceed in this manner:
“That’s quite a stunning dress. It looks quite nice on you.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. You’re just saying that.”
“OBJECTION! Witness—I have here evidence that proves your dress is indeed—“
He forced his imagination to stop at that point, the scenario becoming too ridiculous for him to stomach. Maya Fey and her rather bizarre imagination vaguely came to mind, which didn’t exactly make him feel any better about his predicament. Actually, any thought of Maya Fey and her little cousin’s antics did not make him feel any better. They—and the rest of the people he was sometimes reluctant to call his friends—had been so irritatingly adamant, and before he’d even had the chance to say a word in protest, Maya, Pearl, and Gumshoe, sadly, had arrived at the conclusion that he and Balfour would have a brilliant wedding in a botanical garden and take a honeymoon to some god-forsaken place in the bowels of Southeast Asia, where he would contract an infection that would so badly incapacitate his left leg such that Balfour would lovingly massage it every night before he went to bed for the next sixty years. Wright had been quaking with silent laughter, and Franziska had sat there with the smuggest smirk he’d ever set eyes on. And, after the whole ordeal, he couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed and sorry for Balfour. She must have been quite shocked at the vivid imaginations of his…friends…and he wouldn’t be surprised if she had been traumatized by the ordeal.
With a sigh, he got up from his desk and picked up his briefcase. He hadn’t really gotten much work done that morning, but he had agreed to pick up Balfour around twelve-thirty, and it was nearly noon. Edgeworth hoped to high heaven that he wouldn’t meet Gumshoe or Franziska on his way out of the Prosecutors’ Office, but, knowing his luck, he would run into both of them…at the same time…with a mass of prosecutors in immediate vicinity that would be able to hear Gumshoe’s enthusiastic babbling.
But it seemed he was lucky—for now, at least. As he passed by the others in the office, he found that there had been a murder at an art gallery the night before and, as it happened, Franziska had been put in charge of the investigation. That would mean she wouldn’t have time to harass him about anything for quite some time—although he knew she would somehow find a time and inconvenient venue to rant about perfection to him. But Edgeworth resigned himself to enjoying the respite while he could as well as taking care to make sure it lasted as long as possible.
The journey to Balfour’s apartment was quite uneventful—so uneventful, in fact, that by the time he parked his car in a visitor’s space of her apartment building’s small lot, he couldn’t help but be suspicious that everything had gone so well for him. But, regardless of his deep suspicions that his day was going so well because something terrible was going to later befall him, Balfour, or someone connected to them, he decided to go up to Balfour’s apartment, feeling it impertinent for him to wait in his car for her. Considering the fact that she must have assumed he wasn’t very gentlemanly since she’d given him fifty dollars, he didn’t want to give her any more reason to doubt his manners.
As he went up the stairs to the second floor, he couldn’t help but notice that the entire building seemed to be quite old and beaten up, with paint peeling off the walls and an overall dank feeling to the place. He rather wondered why she was living in a place like this—he knew software developers could be paid quite a lot, and she should, theoretically, afford to live in a place that was less…damp…even if she wasn’t that high up on the developer ladder yet.
The door to her flat, just like the walls, had peeling paint hanging off of it. He examined it for a moment before giving the door a curt knock. There was a muffled sound of something falling to the floor, and, a few moments later, the door opened ever so slightly. Edgeworth could make out the dark shape of someone and, it seemed, that person could make out the shape of him.
“Mr. Edgeworth!” Balfour said in surprise, opening the door. “I’m sorry, I’m almost ready. Er…please come in.”
“Thank you,” he replied.
As he followed her inside, he noticed that she was holding a tube of antibiotic cream in her hand and seemed to be in quite a hurry to clean up something in her tiny kitchen. From the small living room, he chanced a glance at what she was doing and caught a glimpse of a box of gauze pads and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide before she hurriedly shoved them out of sight. “Ms. Balfour,” he said as she returned, straightening her glasses, “are you all right?”
“Oh, yes, I’m fine,” she said nonchalantly, although Edgeworth wasn’t convinced in the least. “I’ll just change my shirt before we go. Is that okay?”
“Of course,” Edgeworth replied, and Balfour disappeared into the single bedroom of the apartment. He noticed she seemed to be moving rather stiffly—it seemed a bit unnatural.
As she was changing, he took the opportunity to peer around her small apartment. Although everything looked a little old and beaten up, the entire place was spotless and quite organized. Even the table in the far corner playing host to three rather large LCD monitors—as well as two sets of wired keyboards and mice and some other little devices he wasn’t familiar with—was pristine and orderly. Edgeworth couldn’t even begin to fathom why she would need three computers—or two computers and one extra monitor, it seemed—but he supposed that he wasn’t nearly computer literate enough to understand such things.
When Balfour emerged, her glasses were gone and she was wearing a turtleneck shirt, like she always seemed to be wearing, although today’s hue was that of a deep blue. After seeing the gauze and hydrogen peroxide in the kitchen, Edgeworth wondered if perhaps she kept wearing turtleneck shirts to hide something. Injuries, perhaps?
“Well, shall we go?” she asked him, smiling as she shouldered her purse.
“Just a moment, Ms. Balfour,” Edgeworth said, and when she raised an eyebrow at him, he added reluctantly, “Skye.” He pulled out the fifty-dollar bill she’d slipped him the day before and held it out to her. “I can’t accept this.”
“Just keep it, all right?” she said quietly, frowning. When it was obvious he wasn’t going to comply, she moved close to him and grabbed his arm so he couldn’t move away, muttering, “Look, Mr. Edgeworth. If I can tell you things that will help you catch Sigaw ng Liyon, you and your people will be doing all the work. It’s the least I can do. Please.”
“You’re such a gentleman,” she murmured, plucking the money out of his fingers. But just when he thought he’d won, she stuffed it into his pocket and walked off to the door before he could say a word. “Should we get going, Mr. Edgeworth? I’m a little hungry,” she said, her voice back to its normal volume.
Once they were safely buckled into his car—which seemed to make Balfour a bit nervous, either because it was obviously very expensive or because she didn’t particularly like riding in cars—Edgeworth started driving for a small café he knew of in a mall on the outskirts of the city, where he was quite sure none of his…friends…would be able to find him. They sat in silence, although Balfour seemed to be worried about something, as she kept peering out the windows. “Is something bothering you?” he asked, giving her a sidelong glance.
“Mr. Edgeworth, someone may be tailing us today,” she said, returning the glance. “He’s already…very suspicious of me and this ‘date,’ so we won’t be able to talk about anything until we’re sure it can be private. Actually, he’s…he’s been suspicious ever since you showed up at Sago Tea.”
“I see. Is he connected with Sigaw ng Liyon?” Edgeworth asked, although he was sure he already knew the answer.
“Yes,” she replied, and she looked rather perturbed. “He…he makes me call him Leon, but I think his real name is something like…Meng? Joe? I—I can’t be sure.”
“He—makes you?” he asked in slight alarm.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Edgeworth, but I’d prefer if we could talk about this when you’re less…distracted,” she said, giving him a small smile and eyeing the steering wheel. “Anyway, I can’t be sure if he’ll be the one tailing us, but in any case, we can’t talk about anything in the open.”
They spent the rest of the car ride in silence, Edgeworth, thankfully, concentrating on driving and Balfour periodically peering out the windows to check if they were being followed. When they arrived at the mall without anything particularly disastrous happening and were in the vast lot, Balfour said, “I think we were followed. Just so you know.”
“All right. And Ms. Ba—Skye,” Edgeworth said before she could get out of the car, “I believe it pertinent that, since you’ve insisted that I call you ‘Skye,’ you do the same to me when we are in public. Especially if someone is suspicious of you.”
“O-okay, then,” she said, looked almost surprised. “Miles, then, right?”
Edgeworth simply nodded as he got out of the car, Balfour following suit. Wordlessly they headed for the mall entrance, although Edgeworth noticed that she was a little closer to him than he would have liked. Her face, though, looked rather troubled, so he didn’t say anything about it and wondered if perhaps she’d caught sight of the person following them. She relaxed once they entered the mall and even seemed rather happy when people began jostling them as they went by. “They wouldn’t think of doing anything with these many people around,” Balfour murmured to him, and he could just barely make out what she said amid the dull noise of the mall.
“E-Edgey-poo?” Balfour said in shock as Edgeworth slapped his hand to his forehead in aggravation, shaking his head. Why her? Why now?
“Oh, Edgey-poo, I never thought I’d see you again!”
A woman in a bizarre suit reminiscent of those worn in bad sci-fi space shows appeared before them, an enormous glass helmet over her head and a rather bizarre-looking tape recorder strapped to her front. “A-aah, who—what—“ Balfour sputtered, taking a step back in surprise. The woman made an irritated noise and pulled the helmet off her head, revealing her completely grayed hair and her rather wrinkly face. She gave one look at Balfour and sneered,
“Ms. Oldbag, it’s been—a while,” Edgeworth said, struggling to keep his voice civil. Although he thought she probably wouldn’t even bat an eye if he called her an irritating old wench, he decided that it probably wouldn’t leave the best impression of him on Balfour.
“Oh, it’s been ages, Edgey-poo! Not since that brute Engarde’s trial! Where you gave me gum, remember?” Oldbag crooned happily. “Did you get the coffee kit that I sent you last Christmas? I knew you’d love it!”
“Oh, yes, it was…interesting,” he replied, and Oldbag seemed to glow with happiness. He wondered if he should be guilty that he’d sent said coffee kit to Prosecutor Godot at the state prison he was being held at, who had mailed him a letter expressing his immense delight at the gift. But after a moment, Edgeworth decided he didn’t feel guilty at all and was even struck with a sudden idea that may get Oldbag out of his hair.
“Ms. Oldbag, I’d like to introduce you to Skye Balfour,” he said with a thin smile.
“Hello there!” Balfour said, immediately going into waitress mode and giving Oldbag the cheeriest smile Edgeworth has seen yet. Oldbag scowled at her, clutching her helmet defensively.
“Whippersnapper! Honestly! In my day, people used to properly greet their elders!” Oldbag prattled. “Nobody treats their elders with any respect anymore! Not even a ‘how do you do’ or a ‘pleased to meet you,’ honestly, is that any way for a young girl to treat a developed woman like me? And look at that hair! Not even done up nicely like mine is; reminds me of that rude defense attorney with the pointy hair who’s always insulting me and accusing me of ridiculous things like murdering poor old Jack Hammer and Juan Corrida!”
“M-Ms. Oldbag,” Edgeworth interrupted, as Balfour’s eyes had widened in alarm when Oldbag pointed her ridiculous—and incredibly harmless—gun at her, and immediately her scowl changed back to a smile.
“Erm, this is Skye Balfour. She’s my—hmm—girlfriend,” he finally managed to say, unable to keep a vaguely sinister smile off his face.
The look of shock and indignation on Oldbag’s face put a rather happy, fuzzy feeling in the pit of Edgeworth’s stomach, as though he had a fresh cup of tea in hand and a little puppy in his arms. “Er, er,” Balfour sputtered, and when Edgeworth shot her a quick glance, she immediately composed herself and said, “Y-yes! I am, indeed. Miles is a wonderful man.” Oldbag seemed to be getting more and more upset as the moments marched on and Edgeworth couldn’t help but feel guilty that he was so pleased with her unease.
“Like a little whelp like you could ever—hey! How dare you ignore me like that! Where do you think you’re going? I’m in charge of security here—you have listen to me!” Oldbag shrieked as Balfour took Edgeworth by the hand and began leading him away. Edgeworth could barely believe what was happening as Balfour looked at Oldbag over her shoulder and gave her a cheeky wave.
“That woman is…unique, isn’t she?” Balfour said, letting go of his hand once they’d lost sight of Oldbag. “Eh, Edgey-poo?”
“Ugh,” Edgeworth said, shaking his head in disgust as the tea-and-puppy feeling faded away.
He stood there looking quite uneasy, clutching his arm in silence. “Well, she’s gone now,” Balfour said, smiling and looking up at him in apparent hopes that he’d stop looking so troubled. “You must’ve been incredibly nice to her if she acts like that.”
“The problem is that I wasn’t,” Edgeworth mumbled. “She was a witness for two cases some time ago, and I had to—cajole information out of her. Now she sends me ridiculous things like that…that coffee kit.”
“Ah, I see.”
Balfour watched him carefully, as though wondering what to do, before he finally managed to get a grip on himself. Now was not particularly the best time to be showing weakness, especially if a person affiliated with a group of assassins was following them. He drew himself up and, managing to give Balfour a smile without straining too hard, began leading the way to the café. “I suppose you’re hungry now, correct?” he said as she followed.
“I—I guess so.”
The café Edgeworth had decided to take her was a small French café nestled in the far corner of the busy mall. It seemed slightly out of place next to the designer clothing stores and the multimedia store, as though it had been shoved there because there was no room anywhere else, but it had a quaint sort of backcountry charm that almost seemed in defiance of the modern shops around it. Edgeworth rather liked it there—he’d eaten there a few times before and quite enjoyed the subdued atmosphere inside. It didn’t get very many customers at a time, so it would be quite easy for them to take account of all the people inside.
There were a few customers already eating when they were seated, but when a waiter brought over their complimentary bread, Balfour had subtly pointed over toward a two-person table near the entrance of the café. A man in a dress shirt was seated alone with his back to them, his meticulously parted black hair and leather briefcase giving him the general ambience of a businessman on his lunch break. “That’s him—that’s Leon,” she murmured as she spread butter over a slice of bread. “I saw his face before he sat down…Usually he doesn’t dress that way …”
“I’ll call in the police and have him arrested immediately,” Edgeworth muttered as he glanced over the menu.
“N-no, don’t do that!” she hissed. When she realized she’d nearly slipped up, she took care to make it look as though she’d spilled something onto herself. Once she finished, she seemed to force a rather droopy smile on her face. “Please, Mr. Edg—Miles—they might kill my father if you do.”
Edgeworth looked at her in shock before taking a bite of bread. The smile on her face and the urgent statement she’d made—they didn’t go well together at all and made him wonder if he’d heard her properly. But he could see the anguish in her eyes and the way the corners of her smiling mouth kept twitching and knew that he’d heard her correctly. “I understand,” he murmured before eating the rest of his slice of bread.
By the time the waiter returned to take their orders, Balfour seemed to have successfully repressed any of the worry she’d displayed earlier and was cheerfully chattering away about some television program she was hooked on. Thankfully, she seemed to have enough things to talk about that Edgeworth needn’t add much to the conversation other than an occasional “ah” or “is that so?” when she took a breath. He was quite grateful, for while he was able to feign confidence in his knowledge in the courtroom, feigning casual conversations was a completely different story. Among the many things Miles Edgeworth had difficulties with, being casual—and in particular, being casual around women—was one of them.
When their food arrived, bouillabaisse for Edgeworth and pasta for Balfour—although Edgeworth couldn’t quite understand why a French café was serving pasta in the first place—their conversation, or rather, Balfour’s monologue, died down a bit. For a while, they ate in relative silence, apart from Balfour continually insisting that he try some of the pasta until he finally agreed on the condition that she try the bouillabaisse as well. During the entire time, though, Balfour was constantly shooting quick glances over at Leon, who was still there looking as innocent as ever while he ate some sort of cake.
“Thank you so much for lunch!” Balfour said, her voice raised ever so slightly, once Edgeworth had put down money for the bill.
“Ah, it was my pleasure, Skye,” Edgeworth replied, doing the same as he left he added a few extra dollars for the waiter’s tip. “Shall we go?”
“Miles, do you want to go to Greenberry for some yogurt? My treat,” Balfour said, clutching his arm and leaning against him as they passed Leon, whose head bobbed up ever so slightly as they went by.
“I—I’d like that. I believe there’s one a few exits away,” Edgeworth replied, hoping that Balfour was simply bluffing.
Once they had gotten into Edgeworth’s car, Balfour gave a dry laugh. “You know we’re not really going to Greenberry, right?” she asked. Edgeworth noticed that she had carefully leaned back against the seat and only relaxed once she was touching it. Whatever it was that was wrong with her must be something to do with her back, which would fit with her odd stiffness from earlier.
“Of course,” Edgeworth said as he started the car, making a mental note to ask her about it. “Although I do have some ice cream at home if you’d like some.”
“Ah, is that so?” Balfour said with a grin.
“I believe so,” he said, and he could’ve sworn that she had given a small snort of amusement. “I closed all the windows and blinds before I left for work, so it should be safe to speak there.”
“That’s good. Thank you so much for this, Mr. Edgeworth,” Balfour said, and in the brief moment Edgeworth chanced a look at her, he found she was staring at him with utmost gratitude etched all over her face.
As they drew closer and closer to Edgeworth’s home, Balfour grew quieter and quieter. She’d made a little bit of conversation as they were leaving, but by the time he’d parked his car and led her to his apartment, her mouth had been fixed into a perpetual “oh” shape and her eyes had been glimmering with amazement. It made him rather nervous, to say the least, especially now that he knew what kind of a place she lived in herself. His apartment was probably three times the size of hers, and much less damp as well, and he couldn’t repress the guilt—or unease, or embarrassment, or whatever it was—beginning to stew in his stomach.
“Please make yourself comfortable, Ms. Balfour,” Edgeworth said as he locked the door behind him.
“Wow,” he heard Balfour whisper before apprehensively taking a seat on his maroon sofa.
“I wasn’t joking when I said I had ice cream,” Edgeworth said as he removed his jacket and hanged it on a rack near the door. “Would you like some?”
“No, no, I’m fine, Mr. Edgeworth.”
Balfour seemed quite interested in the bamboo plant he’d placed on the coffee table sitting in front of the sofa. It was a gift from someone at the Prosecutors’ Office and, as it had such a lovely red pot, he didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. Edgeworth watched her for a moment, waiting to see if she was going to ask a question, until his eyes drifted to a patch of red on the back of her shirt. He arched an eyebrow and watched it for a moment, until he realized that the red patch was beginning to spread without Balfour seeming bothered in the least.
“Ms. Balfour, you’re bleeding.”
“What? I’m not bleeding,” she said, looking alarmed, although Edgeworth was sure she was about to bite her lip.
“Take off your shirt.”
“Mr. Edgeworth, I’m not sure I like where this is going,” Balfour said almost accusatorily. “I didn’t think you were that kind of person.”
“Ms. Balfour, please take off your shirt.”
“I’m fine, Mr. Edgeworth.”
“Really, I’m okay!”
Edgeworth scowled in irritation and slammed his hand against the back of the sofa.
“You’re bleeding. Shirt. Now.”
The look of surprise and indignation on Balfour’s face made Edgeworth wonder if perhaps he should have tried harder to keep his courtroom voice in the courtroom. She stared at him for a moment before slowly pulling her shirt off, much to Edgeworth’s general surprise—and also to his dismay, once he realized that she probably wouldn’t have anything under said shirt apart from a bra. He began to feel a slight panic and opened his mouth to say something, to tell her that she should probably do that in the bathroom or kitchen or somewhere he wasn’t, but Balfour had already wrenched her head out of the turtleneck’s collar and was carefully folding it up, her upper body indeed clad in nothing but a skin-colored bra.
“T-turn around,” Edgeworth demanded once he got a hold of himself, a little more forcefully than he probably should have. Balfour gave him an almost miserable look before slowly getting to her feet and turning around.
Edgeworth could hardly believe what he saw. There was a crosshatch pattern of faded scars decorating her back, as though some sort of wildcat had torn up her rather pale skin. The crosshatched scars on her back—they were consistent with how Sigaw ng Liyon left their victims after they’d killed them. What could Balfour possibly be doing with Sigaw for them to keep her alive but scarred in such a way? Considering they made a business out of killing people, there had to be something they wanted from her, or else they would have just killed her and been done with it, wouldn’t they? He stared in horror at a set of raw gashes over her left shoulder blade, one of which was oozing blood onto her back. “M-Ms. Balfour! What is the meaning of this?” Edgeworth sputtered, leaning in closer to examine her. The gashes looked rather recent and seemed to be newly clotted—was this the reason for the first-aid items in her kitchen?
“Wait a moment. We should clean you up first,” said Edgeworth, managing to regain his composure. “I’ve some antiseptic and gauze. Wait here.” Without another word, he strode off to his bathroom and threw open the medicine cabinet, snatching a bag of cotton balls, a never-used antiseptic bottle, and the boxes of gauze pads and band-aids that had collected dust over the time he had them.
Balfour was still standing where he left her, looking quite miserable, almost like a child that had just been caught telling a lie. He put the first-aid materials on the coffee table and gestured to the sofa. “Sit down,” he said as he tore the safety seal off the antiseptic bottle, taking a seat behind her. She gave the smallest of sighs and sat down with her back to him as he soaked a cotton ball with antiseptic. “Now, explain yourself. How did this happen?”
“Leon did it. Leon did all of that.”
Edgeworth paused in the middle of wiping the blood from her gashes and stared a moment. “How did he manage this? And why did you let him?” he said heatedly.
“It’s not like I want him to, all right?” Balfour retorted, the anger in her voice startling Edgeworth. “If I don’t do everything he says, let him do anything he wants, he threatens to kill my father, okay?”
“I—I’m sorry,” Edgeworth said, hesitating a moment until the surprise wore off. “Why are they threatening your father?”
Balfour took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, almost as though she was steeling herself for what she was going to say. “Mr. Edgeworth, I want you to understand first that they have told me not to associate with the police or my father will die,” she said, turning to look at him over her shoulder. “That is why they’ve been suspicious ever since you showed up at Sago Tea. Luckily, I don’t think they realize how much I know about prosecutors and their roles in investigations.”
“I understand. I’m almost done cleaning your wounds up—let’s speak once I’m finished,” he said as he began covering her wounds with gauze pads. “I don’t have any medical tape, so I suppose band-aids will have to do.”
When he finished, he got up and gathered up the trash before heading for his bedroom. “I’ll get you a shirt to wear,” he said without waiting for a response. Dropping the trash into the wastebasket in his bedroom, he pulled open a drawer in his dresser, rummaging amongst his sleepwear before pulling out a red, button-down shirt. He rather hoped she wouldn’t comment on how pink it seemed—despite it being distinctly maroon, although people never seemed to see it his way and often came to unsettling conclusions about his personal tastes, be it taste in colors or…otherwise.
“Here, put this on,” Edgeworth said when he returned, holding the shirt out to Balfour. “I thought it would be easier for you to put on if it was buttoned down the front.” She smiled at him as she took the shirt, although he thought her smile was a little too big for his liking.
“Thank you!” she said happily. They stared at each other for a moment, silence hanging in the air, until Balfour opened her mouth to say something. Edgeworth sighed and gave her a rather irritated glare.
“It’s maroon, not pink, Ms. Balfour. Maroon.”
“Ah. Thanks for clearing that up.”
“In any case,” Edgeworth said, looking away and frowning as she visibly stifled a laugh, “please put that on. I’ll put your shirt in the wash.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine! I’ll just wash it when I get home,” Balfour said, clutching her shirt protectively.
“Just give it to me. I’ll run it with my laundry as well. And yes, I do have clothing that isn’t red,” Edgeworth replied in slight exasperation, holding out his hand. She stared at him dubiously for a moment, as though evaluating the truth of his words, before she reluctantly handed him her shirt.
“Thank you,” she said lightly, although her face betrayed her doubt.
By the time Edgeworth had finished putting the clothes in the washer—it had taken him a few minutes to actually find the articles of clothing he had that weren’t red—Balfour was dozing in the sofa, hunched over with her elbows resting on her thighs and her chin in her hands. “Ms. Balfour,” Edgeworth said quietly as he sat down in the armchair across the sofa, and immediately her eyes fluttered open. “Are you ready to talk now?”
“Yes.” She straightened up and settled herself in the sofa before fixing Edgeworth with a determined gaze. “Please ask me what you need to know for your investigations and I’ll see if I can answer.”
Edgeworth returned her gaze silently as he sifted through what information he did have on Sigaw ng Liyon. The currently ongoing, and very secret, investigations have turned up only the facts that Sigaw was the culprit for the murders of rather shady people that associated with the criminal underworld. They worked similarly to Shelley de Killer—Sigaw had clients that wanted certain people dead, and they killed them, leaving their victims with a set of three gashes on the chest, as though a lion had clawed straight across the skin. The first few occurrences of their signature marks were all but passed off as nothing but peculiarities, but when people all over the country, namely those disreputable people associating with the criminal underworld that the police would rather like to arrest, began turning up dead with the marks on them, an investigation into the incidents was launched. They managed to corner a Sigaw member a few years ago after he had killed someone associated with the mafia, and before he shot himself in he head, he had spat at the police that Sigaw ng Liyon would never be captured. However, after that, it seemed they went into hiding for year or so, for there was nary a peep out of them and there were no murders emblazoned with their mark.
“Ms. Balfour, have you actually met them? The Sigaw members?” Edgeworth asked finally, once he had finished sorting through his thoughts.
“Yes. I don’t know their real names, but,” she paused a moment and seemed to sigh a bit, “I’m sure the people Leon have been taking me to see are the leaders. They’re all Filipino, and I think they might all be close relatives.”
“Ah, that would make sense considering the name. I believe ‘Sigaw ng Liyon’ roughly translates to ‘Lion’s Yell’?” Edgeworth asked, looking to Balfour, and she nodded. “I suppose that explains why Leon prefers to be called such. ‘Joe’ is much less impressive.” Balfour let out a quiet laugh, but quickly stifled it when Edgeworth raised an eyebrow at her. “So why does this Leon take you to see the leaders?”
“This may sound weird, Mr. Edgeworth, but…the leaders actually—they actually seem like okay people,” Balfour said, a rather strained look on her face. Edgeworth stared at her skeptically. “I know, I know, but…whenever Leon brings me there, they have me eat dinner with them, they ask me about how I’ve been doing—almost as though I was a family friend.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Edgeworth said, arching an eyebrow. She gave him a rather pleading look.
“I know, but that’s how they act. Th-they don’t know what Leon does to me. They think—they think he’s very good to me. I think all the leaders’ children are like that…I don’t think they’re nearly as outwardly kind as the leaders themselves,” Balfour said, looking to the floor sadly. “Every so often they remind me that they need me for something, and if I don’t cooperate they’ll kill my father. They’re—” She paused and bit her lip, and it looked to Edgeworth that she was mentally steeling herself to continue. “—They’re the ones that hurt him.”
“What? What did they do to him?”
Balfour looked back up at Edgeworth, and he was surprised—although he really shouldn’t have been—to see tears welling up in her eyes. “They tell me that at first my father was friends with the leader until they started abusing the power my father had over the seaport, and my father knew something that probably could have gotten the leader convicted for murder. Sigaw stopped him from getting to the trial to tell the prosecutor and threatened him for years to shut him up…” At this point, it seemed too much for Balfour to hold in, and tears began to roll down her cheeks. “A few years ago he tried to tell the police, but they—they beat him very badly. He had—he had brain damage from it and now his memory is in pieces. Sometimes he has trouble recognizing me.” She attempted to set her face into a determined scowl, but it was clear she was struggling to keep from outright sobbing. Edgeworth felt a wave of pity for Balfour flood him; it was one thing for one’s father to die, but it was another thing entirely for one’s father to be unable to recognize his own daughter.
“Where is your father now?” Edgeworth asked. At that, Balfour’s face seemed to determinedly tighten even more.
“I—I had to check h-him into a-a m-mental ward,” she said, her speech broken by small sobs and the corners of her mouth twitching. “It’s—it’s so e-expensive, b-but I c-can’t leave him a-at home by h-himself…M-my mom d-died when I w-was little s-so he’d b-be all alone…Th-that’s part of th-the reason wh-why I live in s-s-such a dingy pl-place.”
“I’m—I’m sorry,” Edgeworth said, giving her a mournful look. It seemed almost surreal to him that he was seeing her in such a distressed, wretched state—she always seemed so cheerful, even to the point of physical nausea, that Edgeworth wondered what sorts of knots she had tied her mind into to get herself to smile like she did.
“Forgive me if this sounds insensitive, but,” Edgeworth said after they’d sat there silently for a few moments, “why didn’t they simply kill him if he was going to be such a liability?”
“F-from wh-what I understand,” Balfour said as tears dripped from her chin, “th-they only kill i-if it’s for a cli-client. If it’s f-for their o-own ends, they prefer t-to watch the p-people suffer…It m-makes no sense…it w-would leave liabilities e-everywhere, but th-that’s what th-they do…”
“In what way did they abuse your father’s power?”
“H-he was in charge of c-customs at the s-seaport,” Balfour said, wiping her face dry with a sleeve. “I assume th-that’s what they w-wanted…”
“Do you know why?”
She sat a moment, absently fiddling with a button on the shirt she was wearing as she thought, before looking back to him. “S-sometimes I hear them talking about d-deliveries as Leon and I arrive. I—I think they run a door-to-door delivery business,” she said thoughtfully. After a moment, her eyes widened in realization. “I think that’s how th-they meet with their clients. I think you’re supposed to request a certain delivery—or something like that. I—I don’t know the name of their service…”
“Ah, that could potentially be quite helpful,” Edgeworth murmured, carefully making a mental note of it. “And where do you go when you meet with them?”
“I think it’s the seaport that Leon takes me to. We always go at night, and he always—he always blindfolds me,” she said, looking away rather miserably.
“Then I will have the police conduct a careful investigation of the seaport,” Edgeworth said, and before Balfour could protest, he added, “I will make sure to tell them that secrecy is of the utmost importance, so don’t worry, Ms. Balfour.”
Balfour looked at him blankly for a moment and seemed to be racking her mind for more information. He waited patiently; she’d already given him information that he could put to use—albeit rather vague information, but helpful nonetheless—and considering the fact that she didn’t know any of the Sigaw members’ actual names, he couldn’t imagine what more she could tell him. “I—I don’t have anything else to tell you. I’m—I’m sorry, this was all useless,” she finally said. “I—I’ve just wasted your time.” She gave him the most apologetic look that he’d ever seen someone give a prosecutor.
“No, no, Ms. Balfour, it wasn’t useless in the least,” Edgeworth said. “I now know that they operate around the seaport with a delivery business. Now the investigation team will actually have something to investigate. And that, Ms. Balfour, is the truth.”
That seemed to cheer her up a bit, and she straightened up, wiping her face dry. “I could take you to see my father if you like,” she said, giving him a small smile. “If we’re lucky, we might be able to get him to talk about Sigaw.”
“Ah, that could help quite a bit,” Edgeworth said, and Balfour’s smile grew a little bigger.
“Then…tell me when you’re free and I can take you.”
They sat there silently, Edgeworth rather unsure of what to do next and Balfour seemingly in the same boat. He was just thinking about getting up to check on the washing machine when his stomach gave a loud gurgle, which made Balfour giggle a bit. The food at the French café wasn’t particularly filling since the portions were rather small, and he hadn’t really been in the mood to eat at the time. Getting up and looking away to mask his embarrassment—although all it really did was confirm it—he headed for his kitchen and, before pulling open the door of his freezer, he looked over his shoulder at her.
“Would you like some ice cream, Ms. Balfour? I did say that I had some.”
“Ah, that’d be great. Thank you, Mr. Edgeworth.”