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Q.E.D., vol. 10, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
Motohiro mentions in the forward on the inside cover flap that this volume is different from normal in that rather than having 2 parts - the plot and the solution - in each chapter and 2 chapters per book, "In the Hand of the Witch" took up the entire book. It is his intention, though, to slowly reveal Touma's past throughout the series.
Majo no Te no Naka ni (In the Hand of the Witch, Great Magazine, 2001). Things start out with Touma's sister, Yuu, coming to Kana's house for a visit. Yuu had received a post card addressed to Sou, and she decided to hand deliver it from the U.S. It's a Halloween card set in Salem, Massachusetts, and has "See you again in the next winter" written on the front. There's no return address, but since Salem isn't that far from MIT, Kana asks if the girl can remember any events related to her brother from that location. After thinking for a couple of minutes, Yuu recalls one of the biggest incidents in Sou's life. He'd just been accepted to MIT at age 10, and he encountered two people. The first was Ed Wood, a college student, slacker, drunk and all around liar. Ed is supposed to be working on a team project to make a robot arm that can catch a ball thrown at it. Ed's job is to write the code for the arm, but his software doesn't work. Instead, he spends his time talking people out of their money so he can lose it playing poker. Ed's girlfriend wants her money back and asks why he hasn't applied for a part-time job at the State Prosecutor's office like he promised. Ed runs away, and the girlfriend tells Touma to keep clear of him.
(Touma meets Ed for the first time.)
At the Prosecutor's office , a new female lawyer, Annie Craner, has been assigned her first big case, to prosecute Sara Osborne for the murder of her husband, Mark, ten days earlier on March 10th. A pair of local cops on patrol in Salem had heard a gunshot coming from the Osborne estate. They broke into the house to investigate and found Mark dead, a nearby open window, and Sara cowering in the hallway near the body. No gun was found and no one else was on the estate. Sara was arrested, and her jury trial is coming up soon. Annie is discovering that the old men in the office resent her success, blaming it on her famous, powerful father, but he'd been fighting her tooth and nail every step of the way, saying that a woman's place is in the kitchen. So, Annie has a big chip on her shoulder and the need to prove herself. When she returns to her office, she finds a new part-timer entering past cases into the server database; Touma applied for the job in Ed's place. Annie and Touma get on pretty well, and she notices that the boy has the ability to see people as they really are.
(Police arrive right after hearing gun shots.)
Things get a bit rough when Ed continues to take advantage of Touma, taking money from him, and Annie gets her nose scuffed up by the more experienced, calculating defense attorney. Turns out that while Sara did have gunpowder residue on her hands the day of the crime, it was because she'd gone to a practice range that morning. Further, because she is a member of a UFO worship cult, the cult members gather around the court room, paint graffiti on Annie's car and call her a witch. One of Sara's cult friends, an old matronly woman, testifies that Sara is kind and gentle, and that Annie is bringing back the witch hunts to Salem. Finally, the defense reveals that the cops that had been on patrol that night had been demoted for botching a raid on Mark Osborne's secret weapons warehouse a year earlier. Mark was well-known as a weapons dealer, but no one could pin it on him. When one of the two cops heard about a deal going down at the warehouse, they raided the place without notifying their superiors. All of the bad guys got away, and now the two beat cops have a strong revenge motive. The bullet that had lodged in Mark's skull is compared to that from the guns of both cops and a match is found. Mark gets buried then and there.
(Touma rewrites Ed's code to get it to work.)
=================== Caution !! Spoilers !! ================
Both being depressed, Annie tries to cheer up Touma by encouraging him to do what he feels is right for Ed. In return, Touma tells Annie about his theory regarding her court case. The next day, Touma rounds up Ed and they go to the robotics lab, where Touma gets Ed's code to work right. Ed collapses at seeing the 10-year-old rewriting code he'd spent hundreds of hours on. Meanwhile, Annie presents her case: A year earlier, Sara had started gun training, while also joining the UFO cult to establish a pattern. She was the one to report the illegal gun shipment to the cops. The resulting shootout was in a warehouse that stored bags of grain. Afterward, she snuck in and extracted the cop's bullet from one of the bags. She then rigged her husband's walking stick to act as a crude zip gun, and took the cane on the day of the murder as a way to ensure that she could get close enough to him. When the cops made their rounds, she acted like she was returning his cane, shot him in the eye and dropped the cane next to the corpse. Annie gets the judge to sign an exhumation order. There, in the coffin is the cane, and the bottom still has gunpowder residue.
(When Annie met Touma.)
=================== Caution !! Spoilers !! Really !! ================
The next day, Ed has moved out and left campus. His girlfriend tells Touma that his fixing the robot's code was such a big shock that Ed decided to go out on a hiking trip of the U.S. to find himself. She gives Touma an envelope with his money in it. Touma goes to the prosecutor's office to finish up his work, and Annie grabs him to watch her give her final summary in court. As they step outside, Sara's cult friend (the one that had testified for her) runs up with a gun and shoots Annie point blank. Touma is in tears as he rides in the ambulance with Annie, apologizing for being responsible for the entire mess. Annie tells him to cheer up - because of his help, she was going to flash the V-sign at him in court. She adds that he should continue using his gift to understand people more fully. Back in the present, Kana asks if Annie was the one to send the postcard. Yuu replies that she'd died in the hospital, and since no one was ready to replace her as prosecutor, Sara got a reduced 7-year sentence. Neither of them knows who sent the card. The story wraps up with Sou standing on the doorstep of the Mizuhara residence, calling out to ask if his sister is there.
Comments: This is a depressing story that emphasizes the adage "no good deed goes unpunished". But it does go a long way to explain why Touma is so reluctant to get involved in solving future cases. Recommended. (Note: The one thing missing from the explanation of how Sara killed her husband is "why". There's never any motive given. At the end of the trial, she's portrayed as cold, calculating and cynical, but it doesn't seem to be related to her husband's weapons trade. The only obvious motive is that he was 20+ years older than her, and she just wanted his money.)
(Sara's UFO cult friend accuses the lawyer of witch hunting.)