Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Z got up and turned off the lights. The room was plunged into an unseen darkness.
“Good night.” He heard Z say.
He mumbled back, “Good night.”
The thought of being in the same room as Z made him so excited he just wanted to jump up in bed. Then he thought, There was no other place in the world where Nightmen and occult practitioners sleep in the same room, was there?
He thought he would stay awake all night, but after he closed his eyes, he opened them again at dawn. Z’s bed was empty with the sheets and bedding neatly tidied. The wall clock showed that it was now ten o’clock in the morning.
“Z?” Duan FeiZhou courageously shouted.
“He went out early in the morning.” A lazy voice appeared in Duan FeiZhou’s head.
“Sword in the Stone?” asked Duan FeiZhou.
“Who else could it be if not me? Is there an invisible man talking to you here?” Sword in the Stone’s tone was a bit disgruntled.
The guy hadn’t said anything the whole trip, so Duan FeiZhou had forgotten that he held such a magic sword. Duan FeiZhou said while he changed his clothes, “You’ve been really quiet lately.”
“A Nightman is right next to me. How could I dare to speak?” Sword in the Stone huffed. “If you want to hear me talk, I can talk all the time. If you accidentally answer a word, and reveal your identity and mine, just see if the Nightman doesn’t stab you with a sword and make you into a human kebab.“
“Do I still have to thank you?” Duan FeiZhou teased.
“That’s for sure. If it weren’t for my restraint, my great spirit of self-sacrifice, you would have been stomped out of your body!“
Duan FeiZhou washed up briefly with cold water, then went downstairs to the hotel lobby. Several guests were eating breakfast, and Z was among them. When he heard his footsteps, Z looked up then gestured to the waiter to serve another breakfast.
“You should have woken me.” Duan FeiZhou said in a reproachful tone as he sat down across from Z.
“You were too tired yesterday, so a little more sleep wouldn’t have hurt.” Z took a sip of tea.
Fortunately, there was a copy of the day’s newspaper on the table. Duan FeiZhou hurriedly grabbed it, and pretended to read it to ease his embarrassment.
“What’s the news?” Z asked carelessly.
Duan FeiZhou scanned through the large and small headlines, “The Aberdeen Council is debating whether to impose a curfew. The police investigation has been slow and has been criticized. A citizen was bitten by a vicious dog…Well, nothing major.”
“Where do you think the investigation should start?” Z asked.
“I don’t know.” Duan FeiZhou sighed. “There’s no clues. Maybe I should read through the files again. What do you guys at Scotland Yard usually do?”
Z put down his cup of tea. “The conventional means of investigation is to go to the scene where the victim was killed,” he said. “Although the Aberdeen police shouldn’t have missed any important clues, we can’t say that absolutely.”
Good point. Duan FeiZhou had read a lot of detective novels, but didn’t know anything about the process of criminal investigation and crime solving. In this area he still had to rely on Z’s professional skills and keen intuition.
“The first victim was found at the pier, should we go there?”
Z shook his head, “It’s been too long. Even if there were any clues left at the scene, I’m afraid they’ve been erased by today. I suggest we start with the most recent case.”
“The scene of Ruth’s death?”
“Yes.” Z said.
Duan FeiZhou recalled the file he had read last night. “Ruth was killed on her way to work at the clinic, so let’s just follow her route to work and find the spot that way.”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
After they finalized the plan, Duan FeiZhou finished his breakfast quickly and walked out of the hotel with Sword in the Stone on his back.
Today was still a rainy day, but the rain was much lighter than yesterday. Z stood in front of the hotel. He lifted his hand to catch a few drops of rain, and frowned, “This rain has really bad timing. The clues may have all been washed away.”
He held up his umbrella and motioned for Duan FeiZhou to come under his umbrella. When he took Duan FeiZhou’s shoulder, he touched Sword in the Stone on his back. Z asked suspiciously, “Why do you always carry this broken sword?”
“You’re the one who’s broken!” Sword in the Stone cursed.
“Uh,” Duan FeiZhou stared sheepishly at the ground. “For self-defense.”
“If you want to defend yourself, why don’t you buy a gun? I can teach you how to use it.”
“That won’t be necessary!” Duan FeiZhou said. “I’m more comfortable with a sword. A gun or something, it’s too violent, haha, hahaha…” He laughed dryly.
They arrived at Ruth’s house in front of Mire Street in a hired carriage. When he thought that this was Ruth’s ‘road to death’, Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but have a heavy heart. He knocked on the door of Ruth’s house. He was still greeted by Ruth’s mother, Mrs. Roberts.
“Doctor! You’re here! Welcome!” She looked in better spirits than yesterday.
When she saw Z beside Duan FeiZhou, she got a scared expression. Mrs. Roberts still remembered the time when Z and Xenophon almost arrested Duan FeiZhou, but only after the Mire Street residents pleaded for his release.
“Isn’t this…Mr. Policeman?” Mrs. Roberts said hesitantly.
Duan FeiZhou introduced him. “He’s Detective Zeno Xenia from the London Police Department, and he’s here in Aberdeen to investigate the serial murder.”
Mrs. Roberts’ eyes rounded. “Investigating Ruth’s case?” she said in a daze, then her eyes moistened. “Wonderful! It’s the London police, London’s best and brightest, who are here to investigate the case…The truth will come out soon. Ruth…she…she…” She choked up, unable to speak.
“By the way, the police department has already done the autopsy.” Duan FeiZhou said. “I hired a restorer to fix Ruth…You don’t object, do you?”
Mrs. Roberts was even more surprised. “That…That’s going to cost a lot of money, isn’t it?”
“It’s all right, I’ve already paid for it.”
“That’s not right!” Mrs. Roberts covered her mouth. “You’ve been so good to our family, Doctor, how can I ask you to pay more?”
“It’s not much of an expense. I can’t do anything else.”
Mrs. Roberts burst into tears, and she lifted her apron to wipe them away, “I’m sorry I lost my temper when you’re so good to us…”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t know how to comfort her, but then Z spoke up. “Madam, I beg your pity. If your daughter’s spirit in heaven sees that you have been crying for her, she will not feel well either.”
Mrs. Roberts covered her face and whimpered, “You’re right, Mr. Policeman, I…I was so foolish…Ruth also used to say that it’s okay to be poor, just be happy…” She tried to hold back her tears and forced out a smile.
“We are planning to investigate the scene of your daughter’s murder,” Z said. “She worked at the clinic, right? When did she usually go to work, and when did she come home?”
Z’s tone was very detached, but in the face of the agitated Mrs. Roberts, this coldness eased her emotions, and calmed her down, “She worked as a nurse at the Stone Clinic in Wharf Street. Ruth…she worked the night shift from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.” Mrs. Roberts recalled. “Dr. Stone’s son was crippled and needed care, so Dr. Stone hired two nurses.” Mrs. Roberts added, “She would usually leave twenty minutes early.”
It was only then that Duan FeiZhou realized the intention of Z’s question. He secretly admired him. Z was worthy of being one of Scotland Yard’s elite, with such a thoughtful mind.
“She stayed at home during the day?”
“Yes, in addition to the clinic work, she also did some needlework to subsidize the family. She worked very hard. She always said that when she saved enough money, she would buy a mechanical prosthesis for her father…”
Mrs. Roberts glanced sadly at her husband’s studio. Mr. Roberts didn’t come out today either, There was only the sound of tinkling and banging coming from the studio.
“Had Ruth shown signs of anything unusual lately?” Z asked. “For example, her vision or hearing was sharper than before, physical strength more abundant, or certain abilities suddenly became more powerful?”
Mrs. Roberts shook her head. “She was normal. None of the things you mentioned ever happened. On the contrary, she had been working continuously, and was more exhausted and weak than before.”
Z lowered his eyes. He had wanted to find out if Ruth possessed any psychic powers, but he was disappointed. “Then we’ll take our leave.” Z said. “If you remember anything unusual, please let us know. I’m staying at a hotel near the police station called…”
After they left her with the address of the hotel, they said goodbye to the poor woman. Duan FeiZhou was familiar with the route, and led Z towards the Stone Clinic. It was the most direct route from Mire Street to Wharf Street.
Turning left from the junction near Ruth’s house, there was a narrow alley between a pub and a food store. If they didn’t want to take the long way around, this was the fastest way to get to Wharf Street.
Duan FeiZhou stood at the entrance, and looked at the water in the alley. There was a sewer at the entrance of the alley. He didn’t know if it was clogged with rain or mud, but water was gushing out like a fountain.
According to the file he read, Ruth was killed in this alley.
The police had put up a yellow ribbon at the entrance of the alley, but now the yellow line was withdrawn, while half of the end of the line swayed listlessly. Several days had passed since Ruth’s death, and with the heavy rain falling, nothing more could be found at the scene.
“Did you find anything?” Z asked.
“No.” Duan FeiZhou sighed.
The salty scent of seawater hit him. Wharf Street and Mire Street were already places with a large mix of people, sailors coming and going with their ships and plenty of unfamiliar faces; perfect for the killer to hide.
Duan FeiZhou imagined the day Ruth was killed. She left home as she always did, said goodbye to her mother, and took the same road she had taken countless times. It was already dark with only street lights to illuminate her way. She entered the alleyway with a brisk pace, and had no idea that a vicious thug was hiding in the neighborhood, ready to take her life…
If Ruth witnessed the murderer’s face, would her memory remain on her belongings? If he used psychic vision, wouldn’t it be possible to find the murderer?
Duan FeiZhou felt that the door to a new world was slowly opening in front of him. He couldn’t wait to go straight to the police station, and ask Aberdeen police for the relics of the deceased. It was logical that the items, as important exhibits, should be kept in the police station.
He wanted to tell Z what he thought. He didn’t have to confess that he had powers, just that he wanted to investigate the relics of the deceased. However, just as he was about to open his mouth, he was interrupted by the deafening sound of barking dogs that came from nearby.
Z furrowed his brow and he covered his ears. The sound was harsh to Duan FeiZhou’s ears, and since Z’s hearing was so acute, it was probably torturous for him. He saw a short, thin, middle-aged man stumble over with two bulldogs. It wasn’t the man walking the dogs either, it was the dogs that were walking him.
The bulldogs were small, but not small-tempered. As they dragged their master around, they showed their teeth and barked loudly at passers-by. Several passersby fled. One woman even tripped on her skirt as she was running away and fell into a puddle.
Duan FeiZhou immediately recognized the man walking the dogs. He sneered and greeted him with a grim smile. “Isn’t it Dr. Stone?”
Dr. Stone struggled to tug at the two dogs, and squinted at Duan FeiZhou for a while before he recognized him.
“Doc- Mister Chester!” He still stubbornly refused to acknowledge Duan FeiZhou, who was practicing medicine without a license, as his counterpart.
“I didn’t expect to meet you here. Walking your dogs?” Duan FeiZhou glanced at the two little devils that were jumping up and down.
Dr. Stone smiled. “Yes. My son’s dogs. Aren’t they cute? He’s in the hospital, so I have to walk them.”
“So it’s a dog.” Z said gloomily. “If you hadn’t told me, I would have thought some kind of monster had gotten into Aberdeen.”
Dr. Stone looked at him, “And this gentleman is…?”
“Zeno Xenia, from the London Police Department.” Z gave his name without expression.
Dr. Stone shuddered, taken aback by his police identity. “You’re here to investigate the…”
“The Aberdeen serial murderer case.” Z said.
The two bulldogs barked again, as they struggled to get off their leashes. One of them spotted the nearest person, Z, who seemed like a good target. It darted at him on its four short legs, like a small cannonball. It took a bite out of Z’s leg.
Dr. Stone let out a scream like a rubber duck being stepped on, and hastily yanked the rope. “Get back! You little beast!”
The dog just bit harder.
Z lowered his head, and looked at it with a cold expression.
The bulldog loosened its teeth, and took a few steps backwards with its tail between its legs. Its face, covered with loose folds, had a frightened expression.
It was no wonder it was so surprised. A normal person would have been bleeding and wailing when they received such a bite, but Z’s leg was a mechanical prosthetic, so it was lucky it didn’t knock its teeth out.
“Excuse me, Mr. Policeman!” Dr. Stone continued to scream. “You’re not hurt, are you? My clinic is nearby, I can treat you!”
“No need. I’m not hurt.” Z said coldly. “But I would like to visit your clinic.”
“… Me?” Dr. Stone smiled. “I have nothing to see there…”
“The late Miss Ruth Roberts was your nurse, wasn’t she?” Z asked. “I have a few questions about the case I’d like to ask you.”
“I’ve told the police everything I know!”
“You didn’t tell me.”
With those words, Z left Dr. Stone, and walked off in the direction of the clinic.
Duan FeiZhou rushed to catch up with him. “How did you know the clinic was in that direction?”
“The smell. The smell of medicine.” Z said without turning his eyes.
When Dr. Stone saw that he couldn’t escape the interrogation no matter what, he had to adapt. He dragged the two ferocious bulldogs after Z with an ingratiating smile. “Let me show you the way!”
That’s not what you just said, Duan FeiZhou sighed mentally.
The Stone Clinic wasn’t far from there. Duan FeiZhou’s impression was that it was mainly for sailors, young and vigorous boys who were often injured in fights, or those who had unspeakable illnesses from illicit relationships with local women. As a result, the clinic always did a brisk business.
Today, however, Stone’s clinic was deserted. The waiting room was empty. Dr. Stone tied the bulldogs to a post at the door and invited them in.
“Are the people of Aberdeen so healthy now?” Duan FeiZhou asked, his sarcasm not lost in his tone.
Dr. Stone heard his sharp tone and gave him an exasperated glare. However he couldn’t dislike him back explicitly because of Z’s presence, so he had to swallow his words.
“Ever since the newspaper reported that Ruth was our nurse, patients have been too scared to come here. It’s as if coming to see us will make them the next target of the killer.” Dr. Stone said bitterly. “Besides, the two dogs are a problem. Alas, they are too aggressive, and the day before yesterday, one bit a passerby. The guy stirred up the news to the newspaper, which caused me to lose a lot of money. But I can’t throw them away, they are my son’s beloved dogs…”
Duan FeiZhou gloated a bit. When Dr. Stone was asking the Mire Street residents for money, and sneering at him for leaving London, did he ever imagine he would be in a bad way?
As for the two vicious dogs, he could only say that he deserved it. As the saying goes, pets were like their masters, and the kind of pets one had showed the kind of person their master was. If it wasn’t for Dr. Stone’s son who indulged those two vicious dogs all day long, how would they be here today?
There are no bad dogs; if there are, it’s the result of bad owners. Not the animal’s fault.
Oh dear, how sad (not), that things aren’t working out for Dr Stone.
I wonder if his son really is crippled.
Thanks for translating and editing.