The doors of the Church of the Sacred Heart flung open sharp at eight o’clock. Father Jacob appeared at the entrance, carrying two baskets of bread to be handed out to the homeless of the neighborhood.
Zhang Heng and Holmes observed the priest from a corner.
“Your previous deduction was wrong,” said Zhang Heng.
“That’s impossible. Even if there is a slight deviation in the details, it’s unlikely to be too far-off,” Holmes said flatly, albeit looking a little resigned.
They were referring to the deduction Holmes made based on the letter’s handwriting.
“Left-handed, male, between the ages of 30 and 40, of a weak personality, is unstable, traditional, and conservative.” It appeared that apart from his gender, the other inferences, such as being left-handed and age, were incorrect. As for the suspect’s character and personality, it was still too difficult to tell at the moment.
On top of that, Zhang Heng noticed that Father Jacob’s left shoulder appeared to have an injury, most likely due to his advanced age. He held the bread basket with only his right hand, probably because his left hand was too weak. Besides that, Father Jacob’s hair was combed neatly, and while his clothes were well-worn, they were spotless.
Father Jacob embodied the archetype of a typical priest, a little old-fashioned and imposing, yet, filled with warmth and kindness at the same time.
Holmes and Zhang Heng looked at each other, seeing the doubt in the others’ eyes. Up until this point of the investigation, Father Jacob had topped the suspect list, but now that they had actually seen him in person, Zhang Heng felt that the priest’s chances of committing the crime were slim.
Everything else aside, according to Holmes and clues from the crime scene, the killer probably held the victim by the neck with one hand while slicing her throat with the other using a small knife. With Father Jacob’s shoulder injury, it was doubtful he could have done all that strenuous and vigorous maneuvers.
Zhang Heng grabbed hold of a homeless man who had just received a loaf of bread. “My friend, I have some questions for you.”
“What is it?!”
The man looked alarmed, hurriedly concealing the bread in his coat.
Zhang Heng produced a shilling. “Is there anyone else parishing this church besides Father Matthew and Father Jacob?”
Before he could even answer, the vagrant snatched the shilling and shook his head. “There was a young deacon before this, but he couldn’t stand living in the East End, so he left. Now, there’s only Father Jacob.”
“Does he have a family?”
“No, he has always been alone. He’s been in this church for over thirty years. He has never been married, no children either. Erm… but I heard that he has a cousin, but he’s not in London.”
As the man spoke, his eyes were drawn to the pocket from which Zhang Heng had just taken out his wallet.
Zhang Heng knew what the older man was thinking. It may be daytime, but this was the East End. He gave the man another shilling, but clearly, it wasn’t’ quite enough. Deciding to try something else, Zhang Heng drew his coat back a little to reveal the revolver strapped to his waist.
The vagrant immediately behaved himself. Upon realizing that Eastern man was not someone to be trifled with, he abandoned the idea of robbing him and turned to leave, muttering and cursing under his breath.
Holmes, on the other hand, was already walking towards Father Jacob.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“Every soul makes mistakes in life, my child,” Father Jacob said, “The important thing here is if you are willing to repent or not.” “I want to confess my sins, all the lies I’ve told, the things I have done… the guilt that they have brought, they torment my days and my nights!” cried Holmes.
“Very well! It shows that your heart still belongs to the light,” Father Jacob nodded. “Come with me, child.”
Zhang Heng watched as Holmes followed the priest into the confession room.
About fifteen minutes later, Holmes came out. Before Zhang Heng could ask him anything, he shook his head at his friend. “You don’t have to go. It’s not him.” “Huh???”
Zhang Heng furrowed his brows.
“He had solid alibis when the first and third murder took place,” Holmes explained, “He wasn’t even in the East End when the first murder happened. Also, that injury on his shoulder is real. He couldn’t possibly have done it with one arm.”
“What about an accomplice?” asked Zhang Heng.
“We cannot rule out that possibility. I asked him some suggestive questions when we talked, and he showed no sign of disgust towards the prostitutes. And judging from the crime scenes, I don’t think there are any indications of an accomplice.”
Zhang Heng was not too surprised by Holmes’ answer. He had only asked the question for the sake of asking. It was generally rare that serial killers worked with a partner. No matter their reason of starting their demented journey, they all wanted to play God in their own world. But then, there could only be one God.
Holmes wasn’t discouraged, though, nor was he disappointed by the fruitless discovery.
“This proves that my description of the murderer is accurate. I just need to find more clues. You’re heading in the right directiononce we find the commonality between the three victims, we’ll be able to identify our killer.”
“I hope we still have enough time,” replied Zhang Heng.
Although going the church route did not turn out as expected, it did give Zhang Heng quite a few ideas, and soon his attention fell on a small clinic in the East End.
Apart from the priests, another category wouldn’t raise suspicions when they contacted the prostitutes. They were the doctors.
Until now, the notorious fourth murder case, in which the Ripper sliced open the victim’s abdomen, where he removed part of her uterus and kidneys, had yet to occur. That murder was done in the dark because there were police patrolling nearby, and the whole process probably only took less than nine minutes, not to mention how the cuts were clean and surgical. So, it was no surprise that many people suspected that the murderer had to be a professional surgeon of some sort.
But because Naomi was from Sweden and didn’t fit in with the other prostitutes, she had very limited knowledge about the victims. She wouldn’t have known where they usually got treated. Zhang Heng had to seek out others to get this piece of information.
Holmes had already left. Zhang Heng turned around to take one last look at the church, and his eyes met Father Jacob’s. The priest nodded back politely, picked up a mop, and began cleaning the floor with his head lowered.
As Holmes said, there was quiet and equable energy about him. Zhang Heng felt that someone like him couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the Whitechapel serial murders.
The bet between him and Holmes hadn’t been forgotten, so he didn’t linger at the church and made his way to the tavern, where more prostitutes could be sought.