Chapter 16: Leap
Despite preparing himself mentally, the pace of work on the investigation team was faster than Zhang Chi had expected. They had to be on alert day and night.
In their jurisdiction there was a case involving murder, burglary, and rape. DNA collected at the scene matched the characteristics of the main suspect from a case a month earlier in a fraternal provincial city, a case involving burglary and arson. The same suspect was implicated in both cases.
Zhang Chi received the call at eight o’clock on a Saturday night. He was just finishing a nice shower and wrapping a towel around himself, getting ready to change and go see a movie when the instrumental ringtone of his cell phone sounded melodiously. Immediately he heard Gu Shi’s low, but stern voice. “Did no one tell you your twenty-four hour police cell phone should never leave your side?”
His heart skipped when he heard her voice. He checked the unanswered calls on the phone and saw “Gu Zhichang 3, Chen Ting 5, Gu Shi 2”. He took a deep breath before he responded. “What’s up, tell me. I was just taking a shower and didn’t notice the calls.”
Zhang Chi learned that while he was taking a leisurely shower, Gu Shi and a special investigation team was already at the scene of the crime completing its investigation. By the time he got to the office they had already been working nonstop for five hours. When he entered the room he felt everyone’s eyes on him. Someone offered him a cigarette, but he declined when he saw Gu Shi. Gu Zhichang was stooped over examining some evidence. He smiled at him from across the table, not a trace of reprimand on his face. He didn’t say it in so many words, but everyone seemed to have set their hopes on him. He composed himself and calmed himself inwardly.
“One fatality, another raped repeatedly. Loss of valuables totalling around 80,000 RMB. Several people saw the suspect flee. Here’s the witness list.” Gu Zhichang handed him a sheet of A4 paper.
Detective Wu, the officer in charge of questioning the victim, said, “The victim claims the suspect entered the house, unforced, at around two in the afternoon, pretending to be a repairman there to fix a water leak. He was in good physical shape, very strong. Neither husband or wife had time to resist before he quickly took control. At first he was just after money, but when he saw the wedding decorations pasted on the closet and the glass windows, and saw the woman wearing a negligée, he told the woman to stab her new husband with a knife. When she refused he immediately stabbed the man to death, then proceeded to forcefully have intercourse with the woman repeatedly next to the body. He was there for eight hours. While he was there he also forced the woman to make him boiled dumplings so he could replenish his strength, and forced her to watch a pornographic video with him. The victim’s parents, who also live in the area, came over to visit. Their knock on the door alarmed the suspect. He didn’t have time to dispose of the witness, so he quickly jumped out of the third-story window. The victim cried loudly for help during this time. An off-duty cop on his way home from working overtime, as well as a household registration officer heard the cry and immediately gave chase.”
Zhang Chi listened to the introductions as he read along on the witness list. There were eight or nine witnesses. Aside from the cops, most of the others were local residents, all adults. Now he had a pretty good idea of the situation.
Then it was Gu Shi’s turn to give her report. She turned on the computer and projector and began explaining along with the slides. “According to the biological traces found on the scene, in combination with preliminary forensic analysis, the victim’s time of death conforms to what the wife described. First of all, the wound was clean, so the suspect showed no hesitation when he acted. One stab through a vital area. The suspect’s mental state was relatively stable, not much vacillation or fluctuation, typical of a premediated plot. Secondly, aside from semen collected from the victim and footprints found on the scene, there were no other valid biological traces. He showed no pity or feeling toward the victims’ pleas. After he tied up the deceased and stuffed something in his mouth, once the victim was no longer able to resist or struggle, he said he was only after money and would not kill them. But once he truly had them under control he showed his true colors. After raping the woman he intended to kill her too. The suspect was extremely cold and ruthless, and intensely covetous of material possessions and women. He must have committed other crimes in the past. Third, as we can see the victims’ third-floor apartment is 1.5 times higher up than normal buildings. We ran simulations and it would be difficult for someone to escape directly without some equipment, yet the suspect not only landed safely, he even climbed over a 1.8 meter high wall in his escape from the policemen’s pursuit.”
Zhang Chi had never seen such bloody photographs in his two years since graduating from the police academy. It was such an assault on his eyes he couldn’t help staring at the screen as if in a trance. The coolheaded Gu Shi continued her meticulous analysis. Even though there wasn’t much to talk about regarding her specialty in trace analysis, she still explained the suspect from a phsychological point of view, her fair face showing no emotion whatsoever, though it was clear she took this case very seriously. The normally laidback Zhang Chi quickly sat up in attention. Perhaps through this case he could help her get over her prejudice toward him?
“Right, I want to add something real quick,” Gu Zhichang said. “From the information provided by our fellow officers, during the suspect’s prior crimes, he was not only more violent toward any resistance from his victims, the methods of murder he used varied, including stabbbing with a dagger, strangling with a towel, or asphyxiation with a seat cushion.” Once he finished, Gu Zhichang gestured for her to continue.
“Mm. With that information in mind, my third point is that the suspect is in good physical condition, capable of very violent attacks. That’s our situation.”
“Which of the witnesses are here now?” Zhang Chi asked.
Chen Ting promptly led him to another room. Cigarette smoke swirled around inside. A woman was crying while another person anxiously paced back and forth. It was after nine o’clock at night, all because Zhang Chi had received the call too late. He came forward and shook hands with each of them, feeling very guilty.
He swept his eyes over the assembled group, then pulled Gu Zhichang to the side to consult with him. “Mr. Gu, today I will select three people and make a sketch with each of them individually. Should take about two hours. It’s a waste of time for so many people to wait. Why not let them go home and rest. They’ll still be able to remember everything. I can get the rest tomorrow. What do you think?”
Gu Zhichang would grant just about anything to his favorite pupil. He looked up at the lighting in the room and immediately arranged for Zhang Chi to use his own office instead. “The lighting in there is good, and it’s quiet. Just focus on sketching, don’t worry about anything else.”
Zhang Chi nodded gratefully. Gu’s tone was a bit like his mother’s when she had given him fruit and snacks on his way to take his high school entrance exams. She would say to him, “Chin up, don’t stress out too much.” But that was already a hazy memory. After high school his parents were busy with their trading company, always going back and forth between America and Shanghai.
The sketching started out all right. He finished the first one in half an hour. The eyewitness kept nodding, saying “it’s almost exact”. Zhang Chi relaxed.
His speed and quality was already better now than it ever had been. He had a natural gift for drawing. When he was eight he began sketching, later learning more detailed sketching, ink painting, and oil painting. By middle school he was already the best in the country, even the world, in his age bracket.
Maybe he had grown tired of all the trohpies and medals. Once he entered university his interests shifted to photography. He had only gotten back into drawing when Gu Zhichang came to him.
He had taken the high speed train on his way back from Beijing that time because his flight had been canceled due to the weather. It took five or six hours. The travelers on board were from all over, with all sorts of facial features. It had been excellent source material for him.
Making good use of his time, he had grabbed his sketchboard and concentrated on sketching quickly. He made close to ten sketches during the trip. Drawing depended a lot on insight. A person with low insight could improve with diligence, but a person with high insight would improve twice as much with half the effort. When Zhang Chi picked up his pencil it was like he had never put it down.
At the waiting room at the train station he decided to test himself. He wanted to see if he could take one look at a complete stranger and be able to quickly capture the person’s detailed facial features. And could he take a person’s unconscious, habitual expressions and magnify them in his portrait?
In just a few minutes the lifelike image seemd to jump off the paper. When he was finished he looked up to find a group of people watching him. Some asked who he was drawing while others nodded and praised his work. A mother even pressed through the crowd and asked the price, saying it was her child’s birthday and she wanted a portrait to commemorate it. Zhang Chi didn’t feel like explaining. He dashed off a sketch and gave it to the mother and daughter and quickly boarded the train.
Gu Zhichang entered the office quietly to get some papers. Zhang Chi was already seeing the eyewitness off. “That’s it?” Gu Zhichang asked, astounded. “We want accuracy, not speed.”
“Mr. Gu, you’re still thinking of me like I was back when I made that sketch at the hospital. From questioning to completion it had taken me two hours, then like half a day to make revisions. You can’t compare then to now.”
“Oh? Tell me, did you learn some secret tricks?”
Gu Zhichang was very interested, his face full of curiosity.
Zhang Chi didn’t expect the old man to be so young at heart with his childish curiosity. It was kind of funny. He thought about it carefullly, then pointed to his sketchboard. “I guess I should say, before I used to copy, but now I draw blind. Those are two completely different kinds of sketches. They both look like sketches, but every little detail of the process and the desired result is totally different.”
“How are they different? They look the same to me. Only they’re of different people.” Gu Zhichang picked up the older sketch and the just-completed one, put on his reading glasses and compared them. He look confounded.
Zhang Chi explained patiently, “Before, I was sketching a real person and had to pay special attention to the finer details in order to capture the expressions of a living model. Now I don’t have anyone to look at, only some scattered information and details. I need to help the witness remember, sort out, accurately judge, differentiate, and choose. Aside from all that, which doesn’t have anything to do with drawing, I also have to focus more on imagining their facial characteristics in order to depict a person’s normal look.”
Zhang Chi paused. At some point Gu Shi had shown up and was now standing beside Gu Zhichang, listening attentively. He collected himself and considered how to say it. “Anyhow, the biggest difference is the witness’ ability to communicate needs to strengthen the description, and this is reflected in the portrait, and I have to improve my ability to portray the small details. Of course, because of the complexities of the case, the composite sketch might involve the features of people of different ethnicities and different regions. You have to use your own knowledge and memory for that. Therefore, you can determine some of the person’s features in a short time without many revisions, so naturally it will go faster.”
Gu Zhichang clapped him on the shoulder, satisifed. “That old saying is true: every profession has its own intricacies. I never knew drawing was so complicated.” He turned and clapped Gu Shi on the shoulder. “Remember when you were little I took you to Gulang Island and there was that person doing cheap sketches. Everybody sat for one, but in the end every sketch looked about the same. Haha…” Gu Shi frowned slightly at her father’s sudden change of topic, perhaps worried he was about to reveal some of her embarrassing childhood moments. She hastily turned and went to call in the next witness.