Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Seven hours later, Aberdeen station.
Duan FeiZhou was overwhelmed with emotion to be back in this place again, but now was not the time to be emotional, he was there to do business. To save time, Duan FeiZhou and Z split up, with Z going to the police station to retrieve the serial killer files and Duan FeiZhou going to Mire Street to visit Ruth’s family. They would meet in front of the police station afterwards.
Ruth’s house, located at the corner of Mire Street, was one of the few buildings on the street that looked like a house, thanks to the diligent maintenance of the family. The front of Ruth’s house was always clean, the windows were spotless, and the nameplate that read, Roberts, was polished to a high shine. The other houses were so ‘chic’ that it was hard to tell if they were buildings, or works of Syrian, war-damaged, avant-garde art.
But today, Duan FeiZhou could clearly see that Ruth’s house had been neglected recently. The small area in front of her house was always extremely clean, with not even a puddle or a mud mark, which was now covered with dirty footprints.
Duan FeiZhou knocked on the door of the house.
A woman yelled from inside, “Go away! We don’t do interviews!”
Duan FeiZhou was baffled. “Mrs. Roberts? It’s me, Leo Chester!”
There was a rush of footsteps, and Mrs. Roberts opened the door. Duan FeiZhou remembered Mrs. Roberts as a kind woman with a generous heart. She was always cheerful and with a smile on her lips. However, compared to the last time they met, she had lost a lot of weight, and her eyes were red and bloodshot as if she had just been crying.
She looked at Duan FeiZhou, and her thin face bloomed with a faint smile. This was probably the first smile that she had shown in recent days.
“Doctor, it’s you!” She excitedly shook Duan FeiZhou’s hand. “I didn’t expect you to come back! I’m sorry, I thought you were one of the reporters. Please come in, please come in. You are always the most welcome guest in our house!”
She took out a cup from the cupboard, wiped it with her apron, and poured water for the guest. All the cups in the cupboard were chipped except for the one she took out, which was complete. It was the best cup specially for the honored guest.
“Have there been many reporters coming lately?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“Yes, since Ruth…she…” Mrs. Roberts bit her lip. “There have been a horde of reporters coming to interview us. At first I thought they were trying to help the victims get justice, but I was wrong. They just wanted to dig up some sensational news to increase sales for their newspaper.”
Duan FeiZhou nodded with deep understanding. That was the journalist, that was the media. He asked, “What about Mr. Roberts and little Edward?”
“Edward is working at the factory and won’t be back until later.” Mrs. Roberts replied. “As for my husband…”
She looked at a closed door in the house. There was a clanking sound behind the door, as if someone was working hard with a hammer.
“That room has been his workshop ever since he started learning the shoemaker’s trade.” Mrs. Roberts’ tone had a hint of sorrow in it. “Now he spends all his time behind that closed door, making shoes.” She got up, went to the door and shouted, “Come out, Doctor Chester is here! Aren’t you going to entertain him?”
The pounding in the studio stopped for a few seconds, then started again. The clatter was so regular that it made his skin crawl.
“You see, he’s like that now.” Mrs. Roberts shook her head with hatred. “Even when his daughter’s gone, he’s indifferent…” she said, with a sobbing expression on her face again.
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t bear to talk to her about her daughter’s death, but for the sake of the case, he was determined to ask, “I read about Ruth in the newspaper, and Ruth…she…When will the funeral be held?”
“The day after tomorrow.” Mrs. Roberts said grimly.
Duan FeiZhou asked, “Where is her funeral? Can I go and see it?”
“At St. Andrew’s Church. If that child Ruth knew how much you cared for her, she would…I’m sure…” Mrs. Roberts shook her head violently, “No, you shouldn’t go! Ruth looks so…she would certainly like you to remember her as the same beautiful girl she always was, not…And not…”
She hid her face, and bawled her eyes out.
Duan FeiZhou had no idea how to comfort a woman who was suffering from the loss of her daughter, and could only clumsily repeat, “I’m sorry for your loss,” and so on. It was only when the Roberts’ youngest son, Edward, returned from work that the situation improved.
Duan FeiZhou gave Edward a few pounds before he left. Unlike his sister, he didn’t refuse, but simply said, “I will pay you back when I earn money in the future” and took it. Compared to the last time they met, Edward was much older and spoke like an adult, which was good and bad for a child of only eleven years old.
St. Andrew’s Church was not far from Mire Street. It was where almost all the poor people of Aberdeen had their funerals.
The church was named after St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. However, the church wasn’t very big and could even be considered a bit dilapidated, as if it had not been repaired for many years. Some of the family graves in the churchyard were several hundred years old. Those poor people who did not have family graves, and could not afford tombstones or burial plots, were hastily buried in a grave shared with other people.
Duan FeiZhou had visited St. Andrew’s Church many times in the past when he was practicing medicine on Mire Street (his medical skills weren’t so good that he could bring back the dead), and he knew the old priest here well.
The priest was surprised to see him. “Isn’t this Doctor Chester? Why are you back?”
The news that he had inherited a large sum of money and moved to London had already spread among his acquaintances, and everyone seemed to think that he would stay in London for the rest of his life and wouldn’t possibly return to this poor, decrepit place.
“I came back for Ruth’s funeral.” Duan FeiZhou said.
The priest made the sign of the cross. “Poor girl. May she rest in the arms of Our Lady.”
“May I see her body? Her mother has given her permission.”
The priest nodded. “I’ll take you there.”
Before the funeral, the body was temporarily placed in the church basement. The two men went down a narrow, dark staircase to the ground floor. Duan FeiZhou could feel the temperature getting colder the deeper they went, and even with Z’s coat on the chill seeped into his skin. At the bottom of the stairs was a straight corridor, which ended in an iron door. The priest unhooked a set of keys from his waist and opened the door.
“This used to be the catacombs.” The priest said hoarsely. “Then the funeral system was reformed, and the bones were moved out.”
Duan FeiZhou walked into the crypt. The temperature here was so low that he breathed out white mist. The air was filled with the smell of formalin and the faint smell of blood and decay. Freezing technology hadn’t yet been invented in the current era so if people wanted to preserve a body for a long time, they would need to use either an embalming treatment, or the body could only be placed in the cold cellar.
There were several coffins in the center of the cellar. Most of them were empty. Only one was covered with white cloth.
Duan FeiZhou reached out to remove the white cloth from the body.
The priest clutched his wrist. “You’d better be prepared. It’s very scary. If you see a good little girl in this state, you may have nightmares for the rest of your life.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve seen a lot of scary things,” Duan FeiZhou whispered. “Some may not even be nightmares.”
He lifted the white cloth. The moment he saw the dead girl’s face, Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but twist away.
The priest grunted, and on his face was a ‘Look, just what I said’ expression.
Duan FeiZhou gritted his teeth, and forced himself to face the dead.
The priest was right. It was horrible. The deceased was a young woman, but for a moment Duan FeiZhou wasn’t sure if it was Ruth, because she only had half of her face left, the other half was so bloody that he could not identify her features.
The body of the deceased was no better. She has a mangled arm, with broken bones that pierced the flesh. The flesh and blood from the chest to the lower abdomen was completely gone, and the internal organs were also missing. The mangled wound was also covered with teeth marks, as if it had been torn by a crazed beast.
“How pitiful.” The priest said sympathetically. “When her mother went to identify the body, she couldn’t manage to recognize it. Finally she was judged to be hers based on the birthmark on her body.”
Duan FeiZhou’s hand trembled uncontrollably. The cellar was so cold, but his heart seemed to be a blazing fire, one that burned his eyes red. He wanted to rush out of the church right now, into the streets of Aberdeen to find Ruth’s murderer and cut him to pieces. He closed his eyes, and tried to suppress his anger.
You can’t be impulsive. No recklessness. He repeated inwardly.
“Do you know anything about medicine, Doctor? Can you tell anything?” The priest asked curiously.
Duan FeiZhou looked over Ruth’s remains again in detail. “There are many wounds, but no living tissue reaction,” he whispered. “She was killed first, and then the killer took her…”
“That’s what the police said. She was strangled first – mechanically asphyxiated – before the body was subjected to…Uh…mutilation.” The priest didn’t want to say, ‘swallowed’. That was just too appalling.
A few finger-shaped petechiae remained on the small section of Ruth’s neck that remained. There was no fingerprinting technology in this era, and Duan FeiZhou could only tell from the shape of the bruises that the killer had larger hands, and was more likely to be male.
“Someone with this kind of strength should be male.” Duan FeiZhou said. “But it doesn’t exclude strong women.”
“I think it should be a male.” The priest said, “In addition to her, there were four other dead. Three men and one woman. Among them was a physically fit worker. Whoever could subdue him would have to be Hercules, I’m afraid.”
Duan FeiZhou hesitated, then asked shyly, “Did the deceased suffer…uh…sexual assault?”
The priest raised his eyebrows. “Not from what I’ve heard. It’s strange, isn’t it?”
Not strange at all, Duan FeiZhou thought to himself. If the killer was the last member of the Blood Feast, and an occult practitioner, then his purpose was to devour human flesh to satisfy his appetite, not his sexuality. Also, if the murderer was an occult practitioner, then of course he could subdue the victim with occult techniques. Female occult practitioners could also do this easily.
Duan FeiZhou leaned down and looked closely at the marks around the wounds. There were one or two bite marks left on the tattered torso. Judging from the shape of the teeth, they were human teeth. Everything matched with Z’s deductions. It was becoming more and more likely that the murderer was a fugitive occult practitioner of the Scarlet Feast.
Duan FeiZhou was reluctant to look at Ruth’s remains again. Her mother was right. If it was Ruth, she would have wanted to remain in the world’s mind as the innocent and beautiful young girl, not…a disfigured and mutilated corpse.
“Father, is this how Ruth is going to be buried on the day of the funeral?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“Of course not. Her family will come and dress her in her best clothes, and then hold a mourning ceremony where everyone takes turns with flowers and looks at the remains.” The priest paused, and added, “Alas, the memorial service may not be held. Poor girl.”
“Is there a restorer in Aberdeen?”
“A restorer?” The priest repeated the unfamiliar word.
“It’s when you put makeup on remains, fix the broken parts, and make them look pretty.”
The old priest looked up at the ceiling and squinted his eyes in thought.
“There’s a coffin shop on Silver Road,” he said. “And I seem to remember that the owner there knows the trade. I once saw a dead man who had his head smashed in with a stone. But at the funeral, he looked as if he’d never been hurt. His wife said it was all the doing of the coffin shop owner.”
Duan FeiZhou nodded and grunted, “Thank you.” There was nothing he could do, except…At least let Ruth go in a nice and decent way.
The two men left the crypt, and the iron door slammed shut behind them.
After having spent so much time in the cold cellar, Duan FeiZhou actually felt it was a little hot outside. He said goodbye to the priest and headed to Silver Road.
How utterly horrifying; it’s the ones left behind that suffer most, especially parents. Hope they catch this maniac soon and lock him (or her) away to starve to death!
DFZ needs comfort now.
Thanks for translating and editing.
What a sad and disturbing chapter!
So considerate of DFZ to help ‘beautify’ Ruth before her funeral. Poor girl!
Thank you for the chapter!