Chapter 18: Enlightened
Zhang Chi sat in the office all day. Others smoked; he questioned witnesses. Others ate out; he put his head down and sketched. At meetings everyone was used to his absence, laughing that he was like a hen laying eggs, sitting in “closed door meditation”.
He drew a lot of sketches. His next witness was especially conscientious and good at describing details at length, sometimes repeatedly tweaking every detail mentioned, causing him to have to make big changes to the portrait. Others would have different descriptions, so that he’d have to sketch up to five rough drafts. His sketching speed was getting slower and slower. He was up to his ears in work. Moreover, there would always be someone giving him new critical information collected from the meetings.
At any rate, the first step was to make a sketch that everyone could agree on. Even one small difference in detail, accumulated, could result in a huge deviation. Now the witnesses had their advantages and disadvantages, but he could only do his best to cull, restore, concentrate, eliminate, and integrate, until he positively locked down the true appearance of the murderer. With every sketch he felt he was seeing a familiar, obscure image that seemed to be getting one step closer.
It was already the afternoon of the next day. Zhang Chi wiped the fine drops of sweat from his forehead, so engrossed in sketching that he had neglected to turn on the air conditioning. He saw off a group of witnesses who were waving big fans, then stood there, stretching. His back ached from sitting down for so long.
He looked up at the wall clock. It was already after lunch time. Perhaps his pressing desire to catch the suspect had overwhelmed his biological urges, but Zhang Chi didn’t feel a bit hungry.
He once again picked up the witness list and checked another one off. The only ones left to talk to were the two policemen. He promptly drew a line through each of their names. He took the eight sketches he had just made and spread them out on the conference table and paced back and forth, staring at them and pondering carefully.
Every one of them had clearly been approved by the witnesses. He studied their expressions every time he showed them a final draft. Fear, surprise, astonishment, joy, or conversely, adoration toward him or an admiring look, every expression without exception conveyed the sketch’s accuracy. He didn’t need to listen to the fulsome praise that was coming.
But when he laid the portraits out together it would be going a bit far to say they were blood brothers. At best they looked to have the same father but a different mother or something like that. Just where did the problem lie?
Zhang Chi looked out the window. Overhead, the usual unending haze, where you couldn’t tell if it was day or not, had been swept away from the horizon, revealing a rare, endless blue sky and white clouds. Nice weather like this was a pity for one working overtime after enduring many days of rain. But he couldn’t get those awful photographs out of his mind. Zhang Chi was digging in his pocket, feeling for his cigarettes and lighter, when he noticed out of the corner of his eye Gu Shi a ways off, coming toward him down the hallway. She would frown every time she smelled smoke.
He quietly withdrew his hand and folded his arms over his chest and continued to look at the scenery. In a public housing building diagonally opposite, a person was cleaning a window about seven or eight floors up, the man’s body leaning outward slightly. Sunlight glared off the window, dazzling him and forcing him to squint. Another scene flashed before his eyes:
A large pool of blood on the ground. To one side fragments of a plastic bucket. The dirty water and fresh blood inside mixing together, spreading out over the cracks and seams in the road, forming a large, turbid blood map. A man with tears streaming down his face, along with a staff member, strained to carry a body covered with a white cloth toward a car. The surrounding bystanderes unconsciously stepped backward, keeping their distance, endlessly discussing and sobbing. Police sirens screamed and officers got out of the car and intercepted the carriers, stopping them.
That day at nightfall a woman had suddenly fallen from a ninth-floor window, slamming straight down onto the main road of the residential area, dying instantly. Witnesses immediately called the police. The inconsolable husband told the police on the scene that his wife had been cleaning the window when she slipped, lost her balance, and fell to her death. The police expressed their condolences, but had to order him to halt funeral arrangements. After all, according to national laws and regulations, all unnatural deaths had to be subjected to a public security office investigation. Only after confirming the nature of the death would the body be turned over to the family to conduct funeral rites.
The scene had already been disturbed, and the forensic detective discovered upon examination that the fatal injury was a fractured temple, characteristic of the skull striking the ground first. The police had then went upstairs and continued the investigation inside the home. Fingerprints and footprints from the window ledge confirmed the deceased lady’s husband’s story.
However, just as the police were getting ready to leave, an attentive trace analyst discovered traces of blood on the leaves of a tree near where the woman had fallen. If the woman’s death had been caused by the impact, how could there have been blood before she hit?
On his insistence the police went back up to the home a second time to make a more careful investigation. The husband was flustered when he opened the door, adding more evidence to the analyst’s suspicions. With the help of criminal investigation instruments they discovered bloodstains that were difficult to detect with the naked eye. Authentification of a sample matched characteristics of splashing, and it matched the deceased’s blood type. Moreover, the blood had been spilled less than twenty-four hours before.
With such strong evidence the husband’s mental defenses broke down and he confessed everything. They had been fighting over some trivial family matter. Angry, he struck his wife in the head with an exercise dumbbell from the balcony, then faked the fall. Just like that his hopes of getting away with murder were dashed.
Zhang Chi had thought of that example case from the police academy many times. Every time one of his friends or and elder officer brought it up they had always lamented about human nature and matrimony. This brief recollection was now making him see things in a new way. He neatly packed up his sketches and hurried to see Mr. Gu.