Chapter 10: Leaked Secrets
None of the handwritten or printed signs, big or small, had his name. There was one that looked like it could be his, but it read “Shanghai Public Security Bureau Investigation Expert”. He was only a newcomer, an unofficial person, not even a real investigator, so how could that be for him? He waited a half hour or so, then hurried to a taxi and went directly to his destination.
At the airport, the city council policeman waited around with his sign for a while. When no one showed, he tried to get in touch with Shanghai, but no one was answering the phone, so he had to go back for the time being. The special investigation team director was just about to dress down the guys who had returned to their unit without authorization and without picking up the person they were sent for when Zhang Chi was led into the room by another officer.
“What, what is it?” the director said grumpily, not turning around.
The officer who led Zhang Chi in saw the situation and timidly thought of the proper words to say. But Zhang Chi had already taken a big stride forward and was shaking the director’s hand powerfully. “Hello, sir, I was sent from Shanghai by Gu Zhichang. I’m the specialist in charge of making the composite portrait sketch of the suspect.”
“You’re the expert sent by Police Chief Gu?” the director said, looking at the two guys he was scolding as he spoke. They both looked innocent as if wanting to say “See, don’t blame us”.
Zhang Chi realized what was going on and spoke up for them. “It’s my fault you made that trip for nothing. I saw the sign didn’t have my name written on it, only ‘Shanghai Public Security Bureau’ and assumed it was meant for a colleague on another team. I should have checked with you to make sure first before leaving.”
The director was a police chief around the same age as Gu Zhichang, his whole person suffused with the drive of one who has been doing investigation work for years. His eyes were sharp as he stared at Zhang Chi unmercifully. “So then, you are a professional artist?”
“Sir, although my specialty is drawing and sketching, I’m not a trained professional, but you have my full cooperation. Our Mr. Gu really values your work and gave me special instructions. I will do my work diligently.”
“Really values it, yet only sends one person?” He sized him up coldly. “In that case, you must really have some skill. When the key moment arrives, don’t hold back. How many years have you been making composite sketches? Do you have any titles?”
Zhang Chi saw the director smoking ferociously with his head down and figured he might as well see this through to the end. “In reply to your questions, Director,” he said frankly, “I just graduated from the academy last year and have already completed my trial period. I work in publicity at the political affairs section. I’ve been drawing for a decade or so and have some experience solving cases with my composite sketches, but not much. There’s no special post in the entire country for this function, so there’s no corresponding title I could have received.”
The director didn’t say anything, only gave him the meeting time and had the youth in charge of picking him up at the airport escort Zhang Chi to the police dormitory to rest, his initially hopeless look now changed to one of skepticism.
Zhang Chi understood how he felt. He had been assuming an experienced, grizzled veteran, or failing that, an Inspector First Class around his age. In any case, a senior expert composite sketch artist. Instead what he got was a young lad with little composite sketch experience and nearly zero experience handling a case, so the drop in his mood was considerable.
Zhang Chi didn’t explain why he had come alone. As soon as he said there was a last minute change of plans because something important had come up in Shanghai, it would only rekindle the vicious circle of “our special investigation isn’t as important as yours”. Plus, he didn’t know what had happened down at the bureau, but he had a faint feeling it was something that was keeping Chen Ting and Gu Zhichang very busy, something they were completely absorbed in. Could it be a big homicide case, or maybe something had happened to Gu Shi? He couldn’t help but worry.
Gu Zhichang felt anxious and called personally to supervise. Zhang Chi simply explained all that had happened, without complaining, just casually telling it objectively. But Gu already had an idea. He consoled him, saying, “That’s not really so strange. I already informed Zhao’s team before you arrived. Relax, just focus on sketching. We’ll use our results to win their respect.”
Gu Zhichang’s voice sounded a bit hoarse over the phone. He didn’t seem to want to hang up yet, and instead told him the reason Chen Ting was absent——his old comrade-in-arms, Chen Ting’s teacher, Officer Qin, learned from the unit’s routine health exam that he had a liver tumor. Malignant, mid to late stage.
They hadn’t known. In fact, Officer Qin hadn’t known either. Qin had tossed the health exam report aside when her went home. It was his wife who opened it and had called to confirm. Due to the special nature of the illness, the hospital confirmed it because she was his emergency contact person.
His wife cried. She knew full well how short the time was for liver cancer, and she hid the news from him. She simply forced him to take vacation time, saying the whole family was getting together, that their daughter happened to have a holiday and it had been many years since the whole family had went out together. He had over a dozen days of vacation saved up, not to mention time he could take to make up for overtime. She cried as she spoke, but Qin just chalked it up to menopause and didn’t think anything of it.
But Qin was a workaholic, not used to being idle, and never took the time off. He just said his unit didn’t approve it. This time his wife was livid. She waited until he was in the underground interrogation room and went directly to the political affairs section for a showdown, crying and in hysterics. “I’ve heard women officers who have just given birth are directly relieved of their post, and can’t even take a break to breast feed. We want to buy plane tickets to travel, but because of a meeting his vacation was canceled and we have to pay the loss. Our Old Qin is dying and you won’t grant him leave. This is too far. Do you want him to die on the job? Holidays aren’t triple pay. You only look at functionary law and not labor law, then fine, but Qin’s situation made me come down here to see if there was any semblance of humanity in this organization?”
The director of the political affairs section was shamed into anger, and lost no time in howling for the deputy captain in charge of the criminal team to admonish him. The deputy captain took the abuse. Considering that Qin, always so diligent and conscientious, had after all come down with such a horrible disease, he took pity on him and put aside his personal feelings and quickly called those closest to Qin, Chen Ting and Gu Zhichang, to find out what the situation was.
Gu Zhichang saw the deputy captain’s face and knew something was wrong. The captain always joked that he was one foot in the grave and should give his position to someone younger, but the over-forty deputy captain still couldn’t conceal his emotions from showing on his face. Once he heard the news about Old Qin he felt a pounding in his head, like heavy African drums were being pounded inside, then his eyes began to sting. But he quickly recovered and told himself the thing to do was to keep Old Qin’s secret, and come up with an excuse to rotate days off within the team. For the criminal investigation team, which always worked round the clock, finding an excuse was easy. And there was already precedence for forcing guys to rotate time off.
Chen Ting took it differently. His whole body sagged, not crying, not speaking, unable to pull himself together. He was in the group with Old Qin who were given time off, and in order not to raise suspicions, Gu Zhichang made him go home immediately. Finally, Gu Zhichang had to prepare a small group for funeral arrangements to be made at any time, lest he be too busy when the time came. In the morning he was busy with these matters, but was now free, but still in shock, and it was all he could do to hold back his sobs.
So that’s what the “important matter” was! Zhang Chi remembered Old Qin. Even though most of the time his work wasn’t on the crime scene, investigating, he wore the “Shanghai Criminal Investigation” vest, ready to get in a cruiser and head to the scene at any time. He clearly seemed hale and hearty, his muscles clearly defined, not at all inferior to the younger men. Zhang Chi remembered several months ago he had been in the cafeteria and had ran over and asked him if he had lost weight. Old Qin had waved his hand, laughing. “I was down with a fever for a week and really did lose three kilograms. I’m fine, just my thumb is a bit numb. I think the nerve is shot.”
Must be his body was already sending out alarms, but a criminal investigator wouldn’t pay any attention to such small matters, and certainly wouldn’t mention such “trifles” as a numb hand. Everyone was doing their all to solve more cases, every quarter looking at the rate of solved cases with either relief or anxiety.
Zhang Chi slowly clenched his fist, worried and sad for Old Qin.
When he first entered the police force he heard the saying, “a safe retirement is a blessing”. Back then he thought that was ridiculous, but now it seemed to be the simple truth. On the memorial wall were smiling colleagues, comrades who had fallen in the line of duty, or in natural disasters. Happened all the time. But the normally glib-tongued Zhang Chi was now tongue-tied when another man was revealing his true feelings over the phone.
They were both silent for a few seconds. To set the other at ease, Zhang Chi guaranteed his sketch work would be good enough to complete the assignment, but he didn’t say much else. He ended the call and stood there for a moment in a daze, feeling as if he had been dunked in a chilly river, as if he could distinguish many things, but his chest felt tight and he couldn’t speak. He could only look on helplessly.
Zhang Chi originally had expected to blaze through this case like he had the last one, but clearly things were not working out that way. Even Gu Zhichang had underestimated it. Once the meeting began that afternoon and he saw the name cards on the table, heard the names of those participating, and saw the number of people, he understood the special significance of this case.
This wasn’t an ordinary district case crime, wasn’t a homicide case. It surpassed a homicide case. This was a major case involving the suspected selling of high-level state secrets. The relevant military departments twice now had intercepted faxes sent from a private copy shop intended to be sent overseas. The other day the “goods” mentioned in the fax had been seized.
Because it happened suddenly and because of its serious nature, it was immediately reported up the chain of command, and the military and police put together a special joint investigation team and began a critical twenty-four hour non-stop investigation, doing everything in their power to solve the case as early as possible and severely punish the profit-seeking “traitor”, and at the same time reduce the country’s losses as much as possible.