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05 March 2010 @ 08:56 pm
097 | April 14, 2019 | Cedar-Sinai Hospital  
He'd been scooped. With a capital S-C-O-O-P-E-D, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. End Of A Legend. Hospital Showdown: One Last Quick-Draw For Zak And Valant? end quote. A dozen headlines, and not a single byline reading Spark Brushel.

There wasn't a moment to lose. Not five minutes after opening the L.A. Times, Spark Brushel was out the door and stuck in traffic, trying to end rush hour by sheer force of will. This Just In: Reporter Minds Words, Not Road, end quote. Horns blared as he squeaked through an intersection, but there it was -- his beacon of light, shining in the night. Or midmorning, but no matter. It was the same hospital he'd been stalking the corridors of for months now, only for the fatal blow to come while he had been tucked in bed.

He pounded up the stairs, shirt-tails flapping, and burst into the long-term care lobby. Police were milling about amid the usual complement of solemn visitors and overworked nurses. He watched for a moment; by the looks of it, one man appeared to be in charge of this madhouse. He walked straight over and stuck out a hand.

"Spark Brushel. A pleasure to meet you. Well, not so much a pleasure, given the circumstances, but it'll do."

Detective Dick Gumshoe looked like a tired mess - his hair was askew, his trench coat wrinkly, and he had deep shadows underneath his eyes. He'd been up all night closing off the scene, putting together information about the crime, and trying to shoo off the press (it was more than difficult in an area where there had to be regular traffic) and he and his crew still weren't finished. The forensics team had finished two hours before, and Gumshoe had stayed behind to finish documenting the remaining data - their suspects were already in custody, and Gumshoe wasn't due in to review everything until 10:30 AM.

When Spark Brushel approached Gumshoe, he was standing near the doorway of the hospital room, rifling through a small folder of files, trying to make sense of the situation through a sleepless mind. The first thing that assailed Gumshoe's senses was the intense smell of mint, the strength of it almost like menthol in his sinuses. Brow furrowing, Gumshoe looked up, a scowl on his lips as he glanced at the person addressing him. Brushel was the skinny, beanpole sort, with a hairstyle that reminded Gumshoe of a trimmed Japanese radish. Only this one seemed a little more minty - like it'd grown in a blended soup of mint. The look of his clothes was pretty familiar, too, and then there was the pen stuck behind his ear...Gumshoe then shook his head in exasperation.

Gumshoe had been bothered by enough reporters in the past few hours, and too much had slipped already - he hadn't gotten a look at the newspapers, but he was sure that the news was making headlines. "Okay, pal, I'm not sure who you are, but we're trying to keep most of this area clear - it's a crime scene, and no one but us cops're allowed. Gonna have to ask you to clear out, pal - there's nothing to see here," he motioned the folder towards Brushel, as if to indicate that he needed to walk the other direction - or rather, go out the direction he'd come.

"W-Wait a minute! Now see here -- I'm a close personal friend of Magnifi Gramarye! Or, for the record, I was a close personal friend..." He trailed off, taking a deep sniff. Not the sort of sniff a so-called friend would take when fighting tears -- this was a reporter's sniff, fueled by the way the man was slowly spreading his (not inconsiderable) breadth across the hallway.

Hoo wee. He hadn't begun to hope for a clue left at the scene -- reporters and cops had been crawling these woods all night. The lights would have gone out on the overtrampled trail hours ago. Reporter's Incorrect Intuition is Scoop's Second Wind, end quote.

"Let me tell you, he would have wanted me here. His so-called final request." Here in the hospital, where he could keep both eyes on this roving reporter, rather than out tracking down old footage and older rumors that all of the Gramaryes had done their best to bury. "Invisible Wires From The Other Side Of The Curtain, end quote". Hang on, that was a good one. He inked a quick CT on the inside of a finger -- no time for notes -- and continued. "Just a peek? I'll be out in a jiffy!"

A mildly disgusted look appeared on Gumshoe's face in response to Brushel's sporadic sniffs, his gaze focusing on the fact that Brushel's nostrils seemed to twitch as the reporter took in air. Close personal friend? Making someone out to be a story is no way to treat a pal, he thought to himself. The detective wasn't unfamiliar with the stories reporters seemed to magically come up with, either - close family friend, pet caretaker, beekeeper, squirrel farmer, to name a few - and this time, he wasn't budging.

"Nope - no can do. The scene's closed up, and I'm sure if you want to pay your respects you can do it whenever the funeral happens, pal," Gumshoe said pointedly, and he opened his folder again to take a look at his files once more.

"B-But..." It was no use. The man thought he was lying. Lying! Him! Spark Brushel! And before he'd even had a chance to ask another question, it was too late. The detective, the case gone cold, had moved his weary eyes back to the endless sea of paperwork that trailed after modern-day man like an old, dingy overcoat. Brushel eased his memo pad out of his pocket and scribbled a few notes while his mind cast about for another angle.

It might have fished forever, had a cart not rattled up towards the security brigade, headed towards one of the patients that could not be moved, even by police order. "Let me get one thing straight, here. Journalist Tells Stories, Not Lies, end quote." He reached out a pen and tapped the rail of the cart. "Miss..." He peered at her nametag. "...Wheeler. Have you, or have you not, seen me around this place before?" When she confirmed she had, he continued. "And was I or was I not permitted, more often than not, to see Magnifi Gramarye?" This prompted some impatient contemplation, but, possibly just to end the conversation, she admitted that was accurate, at least when neither Valant nor Zak Gramarye was also present, after that incident.

"There might have been a little misunderstanding about Zak's...er, unique way of declaring topics off limits." His voice was low and conspiratorial, and one hand rubbed across his left eye. "But what's done is done, and what's a punch or five between friends? Showmen, all of them. Do you think they wouldn't have a friend in the press? The so-called mouthpiece of the inner circle, yours truly." He paused, trying to think of a way to explain the intricacies of maintaining a public figure to what was so clearly a layman.

"It's like...Ah!" His grin was back like it had never been gone, springing out like a fresh stick of gum. "Do you think a politician doesn't vote? Huh?"

By the time Brushel was finished, Gumshoe was giving both him and the nurse a blank stare. The nurse then rattled away with her cart, and Gumshoe blinked at Brushel as he processed all of the data that had just been presented to him, all the while wondering how in the heck someone could smell so damn minty.

There was no denying the fact that Gumshoe felt slightly intrigued about the second portion of what Brushel was talking about. A punch or five between friends? A friend in the press? And then there was the fact that Brushel had been in to visit Magnifi Gramarye...however, Gumshoe shook himself out of his curiosity, steeling himself. He had a job here, and he was going to do it!

"Okay, pal. I don't need to tell you if I think...polly...pollen...can vote. I can see that you knew Mr. Gramarye, but I don't see how this is changing much." Or anything, pal, Gumshoe thought to himself grimly. He still couldn't understand why this Brushel guy was lingering around after his repeated rejections. "I'm still a cop, you're still a reporter, and unless you can show me some paperwork that shows me you got a right to be here, I'm not supposed to let you in."

Gumshoe was starting to get the weird feeling that he'd ended up in this type of situation before. Then it hit him - this type of badgering reminded him of Phoenix Wright. The thought reinforced Gumshoe's decision about not giving out any information - he wouldn't be suckered this time! Gumshoe considered himself lucky that Mr. Wright had proved himself to be pretty trustworthy in the long run, but as he didn't know this Brushel guy, he couldn't know for sure - and he wasn't about to make the mistake just to find out.

Documentation? Documentation!? "Look, buddy, I'm a journalist. I write papers, I don't carry them. And I dislike unnecessary structure. Rules And Regulations the Roadblocks on the March to Truth, end quote."

"It's like...nevermind." He might be able to write for a grade-schooler, but not the dead-end tunnels of an unimaginative mind.

"Why don't we just leave all that behind us. Evidence, procedures, facts and figures fettering us down. What matters is the meat of the story -- the human connection! Eschew obfuscation, my professors used to say. Never quite figured it out, but if I know one thing, it's that the simplest stories are never, ever simple." He paused. The complications on this one started off ugly and grew three warts and a hook nose on the way to tragedy or farce, depending on the spin. Either way, it wouldn't do to be blabbing his scoop to someone not even involved. And...they'd trusted him, Zak and Magnifi. Trusted him to be Spark Brushel, freelance journalist, who follows his nose all the way to the bitter end.

Hm. He pulled out a tin of mints -- bitter was one thing, but lingering bitterness quite another. He popped two in his mouth before offering the open tin. "Tell me, Detective... Detective...what was your name, again?"

"Gumshoe, pal - and don't forget it!" Gumshoe said, as he waved off the box of mints, his tone turning exasperated. All he needed was to smell more mint - Brushel could freshen Gumshoe's breath from a mile away. Rustling about, Gumshoe put his folder into one of the deep pockets of his trench coat.

Crossing his arms, he gave Brushel a level stare. He doubted Brushel could accomplish what he was about to propose - after all, someone who was only out for a story wouldn't be able to meet his criteria. Considering that Brushel apparently knew Magnifi and Zak Gramarye, Gumshoe also saw it as a potential chance to see more information about what may or may not have happened - maybe to somehow solve the mess of data in his head.

"All right, pal. You can do one of two things - I either need documentation, or I want you to give me one good reason why you need to look at this crime scene. It had better be important, or I'm not letting you in. I have fifteen minutes before I need to be off to the precinct," Gumshoe said, as he glanced up at the clock on the wall before looking back down, "starting right now, pal."

Bingo. Fifteen minutes was plenty of time for Spark to make his pitch. If you don't hook them in fifteen words, you'll never make it as a journalist. He could do it in, oh, twelve. One, if he had to. But first, there was one thing he needed to get straight.

"If I tell you this, it's on a strictly need-to-know basis. For Your Ears Only, end quote. I'm not having my big break yanked out from under me by a detective who runs his mouth to every Johnny-come-lately." Never mind that that was precisely what Spark was asking him to do. "I'm talking exclusive rights here. E-x-c-l-u-s-i-v-e."

He folded his arms across his chest, and waited for the answer. "Well, what's it going to be?"

Gumshoe wasn't quite sure as to how Brushel had come to the conclusion that he had any bargaining power, but the detective wasn't picky - the quicker this guy was out of his hair, the better. And if he was able to get some sort of information out of the process, Gumshoe was all for it.

"All right, pal. Hit me with your best shot," he said, with a chuckle at his own song lyric reference. He then adjusted his weight on his feet, as he'd been standing in one place for way too long and they'd become sore a few hours before. The fact that his socks were full of holes and his shoes were too old to be pounding pavement added to the problem, but it wasn't too important - Gumshoe thought eating was a bigger priority. He figured he could retire his old shoe-puppies when the bottoms of his feet could touch the floor through their soles.

One shot was all Spark needed. He Who Hesitates Is Lost, end quote. He whipped off his glasses and leaned forward so his whisper could remain just between the two of them. And because his dramatic gesture had turned Gumshoe into a green and brown blur at any further distance.

"What's older than showbiz, and thrives just as much on secrets? Blackmail. Those two didn't blink without asking permission -- what would it take for either of them to resort to murdering a man already standing on life's threshold?" Ooh, that was a good one.

Gumshoe had to forcibly resist pulling away from the intensity of Brushel's mintiness, the blast of incredibly fresh breath washing over him like a repetitive chewing gum commercial. The detective stared at Brushel, morbidly fascinated with the way his eyes had suddenly shrunk, as they weren't behind his glasses anymore. Once Gumshoe realized how close Brushel was, however, he took a small step back, not too comfortable with being too close to the reporter, even beyond the minty breath.

For a few seconds, Gumshoe didn't know what to say. Blackmail? Blinking? Permission? Life's threshold? His thoughts started to go in circles, and he wasn't sure if any of what Brushel had just said amounted to being a good reason for his admission. In fact, when the dust had settled in his mind, he wasn't sure if any of it made sense at all - but he knew one thing for sure. "Okay, pal," he started, the emotion in his expression turning almost thunderous in nature, "trying to blackmail me into letting you in isn't gonna happen! I know Magnifi went down easy but I'm a different story, pal!" The detective's right hand went to the gun holster at his hip, moving the thick material of his trench coat out of the way as he gave Brushel a level stare, as if to challenge him to make a move.

Spark's eyes widened as Detective Gumshoe's hand went to a point about halfway up his blurred form. He whipped the glasses back on as quickly as they'd come off, only to find the butt of a gun staring back up at him, unblinking as the cold hard gaze of...no, that only worked for the business end.

Then it occurred to him just exactly what he was looking at, and he sprang back a pace.

"W-W-W-Waitaminute! T-That's not what I'm saying! Look, I can explain." He waited a second; when it wasn't followed by any further escalation involving guns, he continued. "I'm not the one doing the blackmailing here. No, that was all Magnifi Gramarye's job. Whatever happened here," he said, hoping it might spur Detective Gumshoe to explain the story again, perhaps with an editorial inclusion that hadn't yet made the headlines, "Zak and Valant didn't set this thing up. Magnifi did. I'd bet my journalistic honor on it!"

He also hoped that that had been small enough words to be unambiguous even to his harshest critic yet. He'd had his share of unpleasant meals the week after a lukewarm review -- Reporter Returns to Scene of Review, Treated Like Criminal, end quote. But undercooked pork had been about the deadliest thing sent his way. Until now.

After a few more tension-filled seconds, Gumshoe finally relaxed his posture from his gun, and he crossed his arms over his chest as he absorbed all of Brushel's information. "Pal, that doesn't make any sense! He's..." ...he's the victim. The look on his face turned quizzical, and he looked away and up at the clock as it ticked the seconds by.

Piecing it together, everything Brushel began to make sense to Gumshoe. Magnifi was a "friend", someone Brushel'd visited before while he'd been alive. Somehow, Brushel had some type of inside scoop on what had been going on in their troupe - some pretty insightful stuff, if everything Brushel was saying was true. And here he was, wanting to see the crime scene of his "friend" - Gumshoe couldn't help but wonder if the reasoning behind everything was because of a personal curiosity, or if there was something deeper that he was just not getting at this point.

Once the detective was able to make all of the mental connections, which didn't take as long as it seemed - Gumshoe wasn't the sharpest knife in the box, but he'd become a detective because he wasn't completely incapable all the time - Gumshoe decided to give Brushel the door in, as long as he fulfilled one condition. "...okay, here's the deal, pal. I got that you have good reason to see all of this, but I need to know what it is, and what you're gonna use the information for. I don't want to hear that any of this is going to the papers - it had better not, if I'm gonna keep my job. Got it?"

"Look, buddy. If I can't publish, I don't have a job. Reporter Reports Nothing, Is Nothing, end quote. Or... Man Starved for Quotes, Is Also Starved For Food, end quote. This is my livelihood here too."

There had to be some middle ground -- some tightrope walk above this entire circus that would keep both of them in their jobs. Right? Right. He smoothed his tie down, took a deep breath, and launched into his pitch.

"How about a deal. I don't publish anything before the trial without sending it past you first. Not one word. No interviews, no eye-witness accounts, no reviews of the hospital cafeteria food. It all goes straight to your desk, and you can ixnay anything you want." If the information he was getting was truly exclusive, he'd still be one step ahead of everyone else, just by knowing it. And if it wasn't, well, who could blame him for re-reporting a story that had already been broken.

"But, for the record? When Zak's trial is over, it's every man for himself. Public Record is Just That, end quote." He'd walk out of that courtroom with his story halfway written, and straight to his interview with just-cleared Zak Gramarye, and everyone would go home a happy man. Including this beat-up old soul of a detective, resting his weary head in the knowledge that his secret was safe with Spark. Hmm. He'd better make that crystal-clear as well.

"Except, of course, for our little agreement here. A true journalist never reveals his sources."

His hand was trembling a little as he thrust it out for a good old-fashioned deal-sealing handshake, though whether it was leftover nerves or plain excitement, even he couldn't have answered.

The entire situation was getting more sketchy by the moment, but Gumshoe had Brushel's reasoning in the very least, and he appreciated the honesty. This time, though, the detective wasn't going to be given the run-around - no person that appealed to his sympathetic side to only make a buck would get past his barriers. Phoenix Wright had been different - the guy had his heart in the right place, and he was a good pal, especially to Mr. Edgeworth. The truth mattered, no matter who had to reveal it, and even if he got a fat ol' pay cut. This, on the other hand, was entirely different.

Expression sobering in mild disappointment, Gumshoe stared down at Brushel's hand before he shook his head. "Don't think so, pal. There's no bartering to be made here, not after hearing all of that. I'm sure Magnifi and his troupe were your buddies," his tone started to get heated as he placed his hands on his hips, "but pals don't make bucks off of pals, pal! You can wait for the funeral, and the trial's gonna have some open seating. But none of it's gonna get past me, no sir." Gumshoe then crossed his arms again, giving Brushel a stern and what he hoped would be mildly intimidating look. "I'd like it if you checked out, pal - there's nothing to see here."

"Ooo wee, do we have ourselves a pickle!" Do you think a chef packs his own lunches? He bit his tongue on the analogy. It would only fall on deaf ears, and he had a better idea.

He took a few paces back to prepare for his pièce de résistance. And, if that didn't work, at least he could work on his lead-in while waiting for the changing of the guard. He pulled his notebook out of his pocket, licked the tip of his ball-point, and started word-crafting aloud.

"The local authorities had their finest men stationed around the perimeter, a second wall of flesh beyond the...walls?" Well, he could work on that part. "Not an iota of information could penetrate the heavy steel doors of the hospital ward where Magnifi Gramarye had made his final performance." He was muttering to himself, and scribbling the occasional word down. The brief flick of his eyes up to Detective Gumshoe's face, and the sweat slowly soaking his shirt, were the only indication that what he was about to say was had a more immediate audience. "There was no place for the man who had spent four long years piecing together the sordid truth behind the Gramarye Miracle. It was a story that could ruin two lives...or save them."

As Gumshoe listened to Brushel mutter away, a low throbbing sensation began behind his eyes, spreading through his sinuses and into his forehead. Lifting a hand, he rubbed his index finger and thumb over the sore spots. He couldn't understand why Brushel was refusing to get the point. Gumshoe had spent too long in this hospital, categorizing evidence and analyzing the situation - and he wasn't in the mood to continue to deal with some reporter that would try to coerce his way into a crime scene by weaseling his way into getting a sympathy vote.

"The courts'll decide who's right and who's wrong, pal, I'm sure of it." A scowl came over Gumshoe's expression, and his bushy eyebrows drew together in irritation as he lowered his hand. "Do you want me to escort you out of here myself, or are you gonna do it on your own? I'm sure there're some dumpsters you could freshen, pal, and don't cross me on this one - I got five minutes to find one, if you're interested."

What about the court of public opinion, 'pal'? Performer Loses Audience, Identity, end quote. It was...it was like telling a reporter all he could write was his own obit. And Spark Brushel wasn't having a word of it.

Nevertheless, this particular alley had come to a dead end. No sense staying on the train when it was sitting in the station. After all, he'd driven over here himself, and he had at least another two solid hours left on the meter.

Spark put his hands up, steno pad and ball-point still firmly in his grasp. "Alright, alright," he said. "I can see you're a man of few words, and less patience. So I'll just be on my way." He turned, and walked back out the double doors of the ward, leaving them to swing behind him like an old-time saloon. Spark might have lost the quick-draw this time, but ten paces or so and he'd be turning back around.

After all, he hadn't promised not to come back as soon as Detective Gumshoe's tattered coattails had left the building. In fact, he hadn't promised anything at all. First up? Interviewing the night nurses. Someone would have an eyewitness account to go under the full-color Gramarye family portrait, even if no-one but Spark currently knew exactly how true to life that caption was. The detective might have scoffed at mere gossip, but not Spark. Not when he was inches from finally making the big leagues. The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth, end quote.