Witness Stand (8) Defense’s Inspection

“The security camera footage?” The judge blinked his eyes as he said it.

“Yes. The first clip I’d like to show the defendant is the elevator’s interior.”

I looked at Claudia on the witness stand.

“Defendant, make sure you watch this footage carefully. If you feel anything questionable or strange, say it at once.”

“Um…”
I’m pretty sure this was the first. That Claudia struck up a conversation with me.

“Hmm? What is it?
“Um… w-why are you… me…”

She wanted to say something. But Claudia’s mouth simply opened, and closed without anything else coming out. As if something at the back of her throat was preventing anything else from coming out.

… What is it?
I waited for her words, but in the end, she didn’t say anything.
Even so, I thought. Compared to when she was wearing her wariness around her body like a cloak, her impression changed a bit.

It’s true she still looked wary of me. But the hostility in her eyes had disappeared, and she looked terribly confused, as if she couldn’t find the expression to express it.

Embracing her sword in both hands, she simply stared at me intently. Her soft, pale face was now dyed pink, and perhaps because she had cried, her blue eyes were cloudy.
Her light lips were extremely thin, and because of her rough breathing, they were partially open.

Her entire body stiffened as she stared at me trying to say something.

“I’m counting on you.”
“… Eh?”

Leaving her with those words, I flipped the switch on the table. The lights of the courtroom went out, and my vision went dim. The air projection display started up in the center of the court.

With the display popping up right in front of the witness stand, Claudia retreated back. Not letting her grip on her sword slacken in that space, her anxious eyes looked up at the scene.

The judge and audience of the gallery the bailiffs and clerks showered it with their attention.
Cate looked at me once before watching the display.

As all eyes gathered, the footage started to play.

From the staticy sandstorm in the court’s center, it changed to the elevator’s interior.

The scene was right where Claudia entered the elevator, and after she pushed the ‘Close’ button, she hit the button for the top floor.

“There’s something I’d like to confirm with the defendant.”

I paused the video momentarily, and as Claudia was making a blank expression, I turned to face her.

Her slim mouth closed tight, as she stared hard at me.

Her attitude stated she wouldn’t answer anything unnecessary, but if I don’t get her to answer unnecessary things, I’d be troubled.

… Though I’ll do my best not to startle her.

“I won’t ask anything difficult. So you don’t have to worry. Do you know how to ride an elevator?”
“… It was written.”

“Written where, exactly?”
“In the letter.”

… The letter, huh.

Come to think of it, Claudia’s journal did say she received a letter from an unknown sender.

“Do you still have that letter?”

Claudia gave a small shake of her head. “Gone.”

“Why?”
“… Because it told me to burn and dispose of it once I had finished reading.”

Then I won’t be able to obtain it anymore.

… Even so, just who in the world sent her a letter?
Claudia was living in the most dangerous no-man’s land in the world.
Even if there was some way to know her location, just how would you deliver a letter?

… I had never questioned it, but there was some secret to this case.

From the overall impression, it seemed as if there was no doubt Claudia was the culprit. But after processing each and every bit of evidence, the seams come apart.

… Perhaps it’s best I investigate this case more cautiously and diligently.

“Um…”

Claudia fidgeted as she tried to make herself smaller, looking at me with upturned eyes.

“Was that… no good?”

“Hm? Ah, you mean the letter? No, even I’d toss it if it said something like that. No need to mind it. More importantly, the letter didn’t tell you how to get off of elevators, did it.”

“… It didn’t.”

“Just what sort of conversation have you been having over there!?”

With irritated tone, Prosecutor Schaefer intruded in. As she stood imposingly with folded arms, she was definitely angry.

“It doesn’t matter if it told her how to ride elevators properly or not!”
“That’s not true.”

I flatly cut off her words.

“The defendant grew up in an environment outside the reaches of civilization. Why did she who’d never seen an elevator before know how to ride it… this is extremely important testimony. Clerks, I must confirm that this testimony is properly on the record.”

The clerk of court’s job was to make sure all statements were recorded. Even if I didn’t say it, I’m sure they had properly written it down, but if I didn’t say something, there was a risk the judge would forget that statement.

… Now then, the preparations are in order.

The security camera, the evidence, and the contradicting testimony, on top of the unnatural conduct.

I killed my doubt.

There was only one conclusion these arguments led to.

“The defense pleads the defendant’s innocence once more. Besides the victim and defendant there was another one, a third party that had slipped onto the scene.”

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