Chapter 17: Ripples
The harmonious atmosphere on the team didn’t last long, but Zhang Chi never expected the first person he would have a problem with would be Gu Shi. To put it more precisely, Gu Shi was the first co-worker on the job to give that he conflicted with head on. She just happened to be the last person he wanted to quarrel with.
At least their dispute was about work.
Based on the footprints and other biological evidence recovered at the scene, Gu Shi concluded that the suspect was around 1.7 meters tall and weighed about 80-85 kilograms, and was likely 23-35 years old. These conclusions might influence the composition of the criminal composite sketch, so the captain called for the information to be provided to Zhang Chi.
The office seemed deserted when Gu Shi knocked and entered. She saw Zhang Chi with his head down, drawing. Gu Shi didn’t explain, she just handed him the paper. He took it and glanced at it, his eyes unconsciously fixing on her hand for a few seconds, her purple veins clearly visible under her pale skin. Her fingernails were white and clean and glossy smooth. He snapped out of it and looked closer at the figures on the paper. He shook his head slightly as he read.
Gu Shi was heading toward the door, but she was senitive enough to notice this and turned back and moved closer to see. “Is there some mistake?”
“How did you come up with this data?”
“You wouldn’t understand if I told you. It involves formula calculations, biomonitoring, and instrumental surveys. What do you think is wrong with it?”
“From my point of view, there’s only one point I agree with: it was a crime involving murder and robbery. That’s easier to understand. You can determine that from the material traces and psychological analysis done at the scene of the crime.”
Gu Shi smiled. It was the first time Zhang Chi had seen her smile like that. It was a chilly smile, not a sweet one, yet still so attractive. He keenly observed the faint dimples at the corners of her mouth when she smiled and he felt like a pebble had been skipped over the lake of his heart, causing a fan of ripples. But he kept his face serious, like he was listening attentively. “So you’ve studied some trace analysis, eh. Then why don’t you fill me in?”
Zhang Chi knew she was a brilliant student in trace analysis. She had studied it academically and even published some papers on it in scientific periodicals. She had easily accomplished more in three years what the average student would struggle to achieve in ten.
Zhang Chi hadn’t wanted to show off his meager knowledge before an expert. But then she had to go and challenge him, so he had no choice but to explain. “Most murder cases are about killing someone and taking their wealth, or killing someone in a fit of revenge. Psychologically, they are different, so the the murder methods also have larger distinctions.”
Gu Shi’s raised eyebrows and smiling face seemed to say “yeah, tell me something I don’t know”.
“Killing someone and robbing them is just a means of obtaining valuables. There are more traces left on the belongings and the victim’s injuries are usually things like rope burns and other injuries inflicted to threaten them. If the victim is killed then it’s with a more direct, mortal wound, not the messy, numerous wounds inflicted by an impassioned killer. Revenge killings, however, are the opposite. The victim’s body is often riddled with fatal wounds, not just one, and there are more varied ways of inflicting these violent injuries. There’s often an element of humiliation involved.”
“In other words, they do whatever it takes to make the victim long for death. This case clearly belongs to the former kind, and is easier to determine, so even a layman like you could figure it out. All right, do you have any basis for eliminating other conclusions?” Gu Shi spoke slowly, her clear eyes fixed on him.
Zhang Chi wiped the casual smile off his face. He felt a tense vibe in the room, but not the kind of “tense” he had anticipated. “Did you refer to the witnessed’ testimony to come to this conclusion?”
“I looked at the transcripts. The conclusion tallies with what the two policemen described.”
So she prefered that conclusion. Perhaps she was even the one who had reached it. Zhang Chi realized he was “on the wrong team”, but they couldn’t afford to make a mistake here. How could he be influenced by personal feelings?”
His only choice was to try to tactfully explain himself. “In my amateur opinion, it doesn’t matter what the witnesses’ profession is. It’s better to determine how reliable their testimony is based on their mental state and memory at the time. Did you notice that the descriptions those two gave of the suspect did not quite agree with the other witnesses?”
“I trust our officers’ perception and judgment. They are both experienced professionals.” Gu Shi sat down in front of him and crossed her arms on the desk. If it had been some other girl it would have looked like she was cutely listening respectfully, but for some reason it looked overbearing and aggressive when she did it. Still, Zhang Chi couldn’t resist an “ice queen”.
He thought for a moment. He still wanted to try to persuade her. “If several witnesses give different versions of the same person when I’m sketching then I have to try to be selective or prioritize correspondingly. Take our case for example. Those two policemen were in a relatively excited state when they were purusing the suspect, and they didn’t catch him. Even though it’s not their fault, there’s still some worry there. As you can imagine, they will make sure they get their stories straight.”
“You’re saying they conferred with each other and gave testimony that would be beneficial to them?” Gu Shi didn’t know why, but she was uncharacteristically aggressive, biting, and blunt when facing him.
Zhang Chi laughed awkwardly and asked her if she was hungry from working overtime. He took out two snacks from a box he had not yet had time to unpack and handed them to her in an attempt to ease the tension.
She cut him short right away with an odd, barely-discerinible look. Her smile was polite, yet cold. “Thank you, I don’t eat junk food.” Another difference between her and other girls!
“If it were me I would select a more emotionally stable witness who also lacked any conflicts of interest. The witnesses whose description conformed to the age and other characteristics of the suspect said that he was about a head shorter than me. I’m 185cm, so the suspect must be about 175. Not the same as the 170 in this report.”
“It seems you strongly doubt our trace analysis methods. According to your reasoning, you can’t even say whether or not it’s an habitual offender. If the first offense was done with a skilled method, cleanly and deftly, you can’t rule out that it might have been committed by someone with more natural talent instead, who committed the crime to express his extreme emotions?”
Zhang Chi was a bit taken aback. “Oh, you got me! No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I mean is…”
Gu Shi wasn’t listening. “I believe in science,” she said coldly. “It seems neither will be able to persuade the other about today’s disagreement. Our work shouldn’t intersect anyway. We’ll just use our different perspectives to solve the case the way we think best. In the end we’ll see who was right and who was wrong.” She took the paper from his easel and walked out quickly.
Zhang Chi stood and watched her leave, a sense of loss beyond his control rising in him. He didn’t know what the problem was. It was like the more he wanted to get close to her the farther away she went. She didn’t see his dedication to his work, and she wasn’t affected by the special friendliness he showed her.
Gu Shi was like a lone sprinting mother panther in a field. She seemed docile but would often become alarmed and keep her distance from others, as if she was so formidable she need not rely on anyone, not even her father. But somehow, he distinctly felt that deep down she was lonely, though he didn’t know where that loneliness came from.
Just what was it that was hindering them? Not only did Zhang Chi not know the answer, he couldn’t even see what the problem was. This was not like him, who could always guess what a girl was thinking. Or maybe it was Gu Shi’s unfathomable differences from others that drew him to her in the first place?