Chapter 487 Let’s Make A Bet
“It’s not that difficult,” said Holmes said “To be honest, after hearing Gregson’s words, I thought I was going to be handling a difficult case. I was expecting to solve one similar to what happened on the Isle of Arran in 1832. In the end, I went to the scene and found nothing great about it. Let’s talk about the John Textile Factory first.”
Holmes paused, “Remember what we were talking about in the afternoon?”
“Are you referring to the study of the shape of hands based on occupation?”
“Yes, I have been researching this area recently. I’ve met many people from London working in all sorts of fields-masons, fishers, cooks, typists. I would leave the house early in the morning and stay in the slums until the sun went down. As a result, I have spent countless hours studying hand shapes and comparing them with those working in the same industry. The results are remarkable. I am planning to write an article about it,” Holmes said. “I was at the river bank just now, and I had made sure to check the child’s palm thoroughly. I referred her palm to my research results. Although her body has been immersed in water for quite some time, there is no doubt that she worked in a textile factory. There is nothing wrong with your observation. The long hours of work made her a little weak, and she was probably still sick when she was killed.”
“But there are many textile factories in London, right? How can you be so sure that she worked at John’s?”
“Good question,” Holmes replied, “I think that the location where the body was abandoned must be very close to where the body was found. That one’s easy to explain. The body was found during the day. Although it was a little foggy, visibility was relatively fine, not to mention passenger and cargo vessels passing from time to time. If a dead body was floating on the river, it couldn’t have floated too far before it would get discovered.”
“Wait. I remember you saying that her body has been floating in the water for quite some time.”
“Yes,” Holmes smiled slyly, “pay attention to my words. I said that her body was soaked, not float.”
“Is there any difference between these two words?”
“Of course, judging from the state of the corpse, the victim’s time of death of the victim should be last night. The assailant must have killed her by mistake, and he panicked. So, he threw the corpse into the river and tied rocks on her feet for good measure. People would have merely thought that another child had gone missing. Many leave this town every day when they realize it’s no place to make a living. Especially for a girl from the working class like her… not much care about her whereabouts. You need to know that the police handle murders and disappearances very differently.
“How did the police discover her body again?”
“Many possibilities. Perhaps the perpetrator was too nervous and he didn’t tie the rope properly. Or maybe something dragged the body and the rope snapped…” Holmes went on. “These are not merely conjectures without facts. Other than the timing, I found traces on the victim’s wrist… a rope had been tied to it. And now, the whole thing makes perfect sense. Her body had been immersed for god knows how long until the rope was cut off, and her body floated to the surface. “John’s textile factory is the closest one in the area, and it is also the first place I suspected. I found some blue crystals in her hair, which appears to be copper sulfate pentahydrate formed when copper sulfate meets water. Coincidentally, a chemical factory happened to be next to John’s. This is also the most important basis for my final inference.”
“A truly impressive deduction! You almost combined a criminal investigation with precise science,” Zhang Heng expressed his sincere admiration.
Holmes did not say anything to the compliment, but the expression on his face told Zhang Heng that he was pleased. So, he paused and continued, “As for inferencing the assailant, it’s not that hard to analyze him.”
“Appreciate the further details…”
“We all know that he attempted to assault the victim, but that child mounted a fierce resistance. She was brave, and she fought for her life. However, too great was the difference in strength between the two sides. In the end, she failed to escape. The murderer couldn’t have had his way on her for too long. While she was being raped, she fought and scratched the perpetrator’s skin. The corpse had been underwater for a long time, but tiny skin tissue fragments remain under her nails. The killed could have gotten angry after she hurt him. Losing his mind, he must have strangled her to death.”
“Wait… you’re saying that the child was strangled to death?”
“That’s right,” Holmes replied with affirmation.
“But wasn’t she hit on the head?” Zhang Heng asked.
“As I said, a fight must have broken out between the two. Judging by her injuries, I’d like to think that she hit her head on a table. That, however, wasn’t the fatal blow. She died by suffocation, but not from water. The murderer strangled her until she suffocated. There was a bruise on her neck, but it wasn’t obvious since the body has been underwater. I don’t believe the layman would have found it. As for why I mentioned that they know each other, it is because it was highly unlikely that two people of different genders would be in the same room after dark.”
“What about the assailant’s height? You said he’s almost six feet tall. How did you know that?” asked Zhang Heng.
“Well, now that, my friend, requires some great deductive skills,” Holmes pompously proclaimed. “I simulated the way they… positioned themselves. The woman must have been at the bottom and the man on top. Then, I compared them with the bruises on the neck to determine his palms’ direction and angle. From there, I could predict the approximate height of the perpetrator based on mine.” Holmes finally clarified all his previous inferences before the dish was even served.
In many instances, this world worked this way. Hearing the conclusion, they would feel it magical and unbelievable. However, once they knew the inference process, it would seem less mysterious, like knowing how a magic trick was performed.
“Positive reasoning is easy. For example, if you see bread, you will know that it is served during breakfast, and not vice versa. Is an ability that detectives need to exercise and master. If you want to learn, start by guessing his job. From a person’s sleeves, shoes, thumbs and index finger’s cocoon, fingernails, shirts, facial expressions… and others, you should be able to single out his profession. For example, the gentleman at the table behind you. Via observation, I see he has just returned from Afghanistan, and he is a military doctor.”
When he heard that, Zhang Heng put on a puzzled expression for the first time tonight, thinking it was way too much of a coincidence.
Holmes thought Zhang Heng didn’t believe what he said.
“We can make a bet to see who can accurately tell more about him. Don’t worry. I’ve never seen that man before.”