Chapter 2: 2 - Coffee
April 30 - 11:45 AM Cafe Caffy
Athena kept her voice low when she spotted the blonde sitting alone at a corner table. Never mind that she was already popular on her own; her assistant's recent trial had her even more in the limelight than before. But, impressively, Ms. Sellers had kept her cool. If anything, she seemed to be embracing it.
"Oh, it's... it's you." Ms. Sellers smiled. "I remember you. You're one of the attorneys defending Su."
"Yeah." Athena nodded awkwardly… no mention of meeting at the book signing. Maybe Apollo was right... maybe she did just peg all her fans as "number one." "Heh, yeah, that's me."
Ms. Sellers extended a foot out under the table, kicking a chair out. "Put your cup down. Have a seat. Rest 'em for a minute."
"Sure, you should. It's a hard job, lawyering. And you're going to burn your hand if you don't put your mug down.
Athena looked at her hand clutching her mug. Slowly, she started to register something like pain. "Mm... yeah... this is kind of... scalding." She put it down and took the seat offered.
"I... I'm liking the book, by the way."
Ms. Sellers blinked. "The book?"
"Yeah. I went back after the, uh... event... and picked up a copy."
"Oh, you were there?"
Athena nodded. "I... we... we met."
Ms. Sellers frowned, then gasped, then smiled, all in what seemed to be a perfectly rehearsed series of actions. "Oh! I'm so sorry, dear. I see so many people, I lose track. My deepest apologies."
"No, no... don't worry about it, Ms. Sellers."
"Bess. Please. All my friends call me Bess."
Athena blushed. "Oh. Are you sure?" She's calling me a friend?
"Of course. And I'll call you... Minerva, was it?"
"Athena. Athena Cykes."
"Ah. Right. Athena, then."
There was a long silence as the two drank their coffee, Athena feeling her cheeks heat up as Bess sat just across from her. Her favorite author... the lady behind Pye P.I..... called her a friend?
"You think she's innocent?"
Athena looked up from her coffee. "Huh?"
"Su. You believe she's innocent?"
"I... yes. I do."
Bess pressed her lips together thoughtfully. "Mmm."
"I... honestly, Athena. I don't know what to think. I thought I knew her like the back of my hand, but... well, killing her boyfriend. A lawyer."
Athena twisted her lips into a frown. "That's... why I don't think she did it. I mean, for a lot of other reasons. But to kill someone she cared about?"
"But you know where she's from."
"What does that matter?"
Bess sighed. "How much do you know about Khura'in, Athena?"
"Mm, besides the fact that my boss is currently on a plane headed out there?"
"They... I don't know all the details, but they don't like defense attorneys. I mean seriously don't like them."
"Oh. Oh, yeah…” Come to think of it, she’d encountered that in Trucy’s case a few days ago. That prosecutor with the beads – Nahyuta. He seemed to take her and Apollo’s mere presence as some sort of personal affront.
“I mean,” Athena went on aloud, “I know it’s a thing with the legal system there… but are you sure it extends to, you know… the civilians?”
Bess shrugged. "I don't know. I’d assume it would, though. I haven't actually followed the news that closely out of Khura'in, but if it’s that deep-seated..."
"Huh. That's pretty impressive."
Athena perked up. "Well. WELL, you know, in American Pye, you had that whole segment set in Khura'in, and the critics said you really nailed it. You mean you didn't do any research at all?"
"Ha... Oh. Oh, that." Bess laughed, waving a hand. "Well, that's what they say about me, you know. I've just got a sense for things."
"The point is." Bess took a dainty sip of her coffee. "As sad as it is, Athena, she does have a motive. And I'm not pleased about it, either. But it's something we have to bear in mind, isn't it?"
Athena looked askance, shrugging. "I... suppose. I guess maybe I just thought you'd be a little more defensive of your assistant, especially considering how close you two are."
"Oh, Athena. Of course I want to believe it wasn't her." Bess smiled sadly. "But the facts are there."
"But what is it Pye says? 'Facts aren't facts if...'" Athena looked up at Bess.
Athena opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, surprised. "I-If they haven't been checked as rigorously as lies." Why hadn't she remembered that? It showed up at least once per book.
Well... maybe she was distracted.
"Ah. Well, yes." Bess let out a long breath, almost like a casual sigh. "Athena... I do want to thank you and your associate for representing Su. I really do. Heaven knows I wouldn't want to lose an assistant as clever and capable as she is. But I also want to make sure that justice is done. You understand that, right?"
"That's what we're trying to do, Ms. Sellers."
"Bess," the lady smiled.
Athena stood solemnly, necking the rest of her coffee quickly. "Ms. Sellers. Thank you for your time." And she turned on her heel and left.
April 23 - 12:32 PM Wright Anything Agency
"What is it they say, Apollo? Never meet your idols?"
I looked up from my paperwork. "What happened?"
Athena sidled through the door, stretching out against the doorjamb, her face the picture of heartbreak. "Bess Sellers. She just... doesn't care about Su at all."
“But didn’t you say at the store that they’re inseparable? That Su even goes to interviews with her?”
“Yeah, that’s what I don’t get. All I’ve seen shows me that they’re joined at the hip, but now it’s like she doesn’t care at all.”
"Well, she'd better start caring soon." I went over the autopsy report, feeling more and more frazzled. Poison in a bag of cookies Su had made for Artemis, and no time or occasion for anyone else to have doctored them. Plus, Arty was one of the least hateable people I'd ever met, which meant that the only person with a motive for killing him – unless he had some serious dirty laundry I’d somehow missed out on – was someone predisposed to hating him. And as far as anyone in the courtroom was concerned, Su being from Khura’in fit the bill. "We're striking out."
"We can't stop fighting, Apollo. We just can’t. Her own boss won't stand up for her... someone has to. Even if all the facts are against her."
I shuffled my papers away. "You know, Su said an interesting thing when I went to see her today. She said facts aren't facts if they haven't been checked as rigorously as lies. I liked that."
I went to put my papers away, but Athena had gone still as a statue. "Athena? You okay?"
"... Su said that?"
"Yeah. I liked it. Why?"
Athena's face darkened, but not in anger -- it was a look of disappointed realization. "I think... I may have some new insight into this case.