Witness Stand (11) The Accused

“When I saw the surveillance camera footage, there was something strange that I noticed. It was the defendant using the elevator.”

I turned back the footage. The display floating in the center of the courtroom followed in kind, and showed the scene of Claudia getting on the elevator from the first floor again.

I pressed play. Claudia in the footage pressed the elevator buttons. First she pressed ‘close’, and then the button for the roof.

I stopped the footage there. “Here is the problem.”

“I’d like to ask you, m’lud, but when you board an elevator, what button do you press first? The floor? Or the ‘close’ button?”

“Muh? Well let’s see, I don’t really pay mind to it, so I wonder? Which is it? I think I probably push the floor button.”

“Thank you. By the way, I have a tendency to press ‘close’ before the floor.”

“… If I see someone who might want to ride coming, I press ‘close’. Otherwise, I want to ride in leisure, so I only push the floor number.”

… When no one had asked her, Prosecutor Schaefer took the initiative in answering for some reason. And she continued on in an irritated tone.

“What about it?”

“As you’ve all just answered, there is no right answer to it. Whatever order you press them in varies from person to person, it’s free choice. So in the camera footage, the defendant pressing ‘close’ before inputting the floor number isn’t anything particular to take note of. But… for some reason, the figure caught on the third CD didn’t do so.”

I changed the scene. While it was a different video, the place it displayed was identical, the same elevator interior as before. The only difference would have to be there was no one inside it. But as the digital count started from 0:00, it was clearly in a different frame of time than the previous one.

After the clock’s numbers ticked by, the elevator’s door opened, and a figure entered.

The figure was wearing a black coat. Their face was completely covered with a hood, so it wasn’t clear.

That black figure that entered the elevator prioritized pressing the floor button, before waiting for the door to close on its own.

“To this point, I had thought this individual was the defendant. But something felt off. Why would the defendant press ‘close’ before the floor number when going up, yet only press the floor number when going down? Of course, there’s a possibility it’s just a coincidence. A person’s sense of values can vary. It’s a strange habit, but I won’t say it can’t happen. However, that is something you can say precisely because you live in a civilized society.”

I pointed at the defendant. “Until the day of the incident, the defendant had never ridden an elevator in her life. Even if she just so happened to know how to go up in an elevator, she didn’t know how to go down. There’s no way she’d take the risk of pushing a different series of buttons on the way down.”

“Hah? Are you an idiot? Anyone could figure an elevator out if they looked at it!”

I shook my head at the prosecution’s rebuttal. “That is your common sense. That sense isn’t common to her.”

“What’s that? You mean to say she has to be taught such a simple thing before she can understand it?”

“Precisely. The defendant didn’t know. Anything. Knowing how to get on an elevator does not mean knowing how to get off. So after getting off the elevator, she went out of her way to try closing it with the button on the outside, for us, it’s a bizarre action we’d never take in the first place. And that has been firmly left on the security camera’s recording.”

I looked at the court again. And I spoke to the judge.

“M’lud. The person shown in the third CD is not the defendant. There was a third party we still don’t know about at the scene. As long as this third party isn’t identified, we can’t conclude the defendant as the murderer.”

The judge followed the air display with his eyes.

“Hmmmm. I didn’t notice it when I first saw it, but there truly is no consistency with the defendant’s conduct. Looking once more, it does indeed look as if the second and third disk show different individuals.”

“They are different people. The defendant has testified. She spent the night of the incident camping out on the cliffs. Meaning at this late-night timeframe, there’s no way the defendant would use the elevator. This is a clear contradiction. So… we are in need of a thorough investigation!”

After I declared the last part, I felt an ominous chill.

Turning, I saw Prosecutor Schaefer was glaring my way with narrowed eyes.

Come to think of it, why was this woman keeping silent all this time? When she’s so annoying regularly, if she suddenly turns quiet, it actually worries me.

Prosecutor Schaefer was expressionless. Simply tapping her index finger against the desk.

It seems she had nothing left to say… if she wasn’t going to say anything, this was a chance.

I started with my questions at once.

“A question for the defendant. After you attacked the victim, and moved to the cliff, you spend the night there. Did you move anywhere after that?”

On my question, Claudia’s mouth turned sour for some reason.

… Was she angry? Why?

Still glaring, Claudia opened her mouth.

“Um… no… I was in the forest until day broke the next day… around eight in the morning, I took the elevator, and left the hotel.”

Her hesitant tone was hard to hear, but I’m sure that’s what she testified.

… Alright! I did it!

I felt like clapping for myself. With this, we can prolong the trial for investigation.

“Objection.”

That one word soaked the triumphant feel I had built up in cold water.

I wondered who had objected, but I immediately found the perpetrator. It was Prosecutor Schaefer.

“W-what is it?”

“No. Just that testimony she just gave… I just thought it contradicted the evidence.”

When she had been so irritated to that point, she was especially calm. On the contrary, that made me feel anxious.

“Meaning after the defendant assaulted the victim on the roof, she didn’t use the elevator once until eight in the morning the next day?”

“T-that’s what it would mean.”

I agreed. That wasn’t wrong. But what is it, this feeling. She was expressionless to the end, as she replied in a somewhat dry voice.

“Then let’s watch the continuation of the third CD. The third is the continuation of the second, so naturally, when this disk hits eight, the defendant should be displayed, right?”

“… Eh?”

Huh? But if you think of it chronologically, that’s what it would mean, but…

… What’s this chill I’m feeling?

Prosecutor Schaefer took the remote in one hand, bringing up the air projection display. The images immediately came up.

She put it on fast forward. Since the testimony said eight, we only had to look at that timeframe, but she faithfully paused the scene whenever anyone came in, confirming them.

She fast forwarded whenever no one was on board. Paused whenever anyone appeared. That cycle went on and on until the end came at 23:59.

“Huh? That’s strange. Defendant, I didn’t see you anywhere.”

… Isn’t that a contradiction, Mr. Lawyer? The prosecutor said.

 

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