Chapter 19: Collision
Gu Shi was writing her investigation summary report when she heard the captain in the hallway call her name. She closed the file and reported to the other room.
She was noticeably disconcerted when she saw Zhang Chi next to the captain. This guy hung around with her father all day. Except for when he was sketching, the two were inseparable. What was he doing here with the captain? She had been writing her report, but her hands had just been resting on the keyboard, her head down looking at them. She had long since gotten used to men chasing her; it was normal. Zhang Chi’s look, however, put her in a daze. It’s not like she had never considered her suitors, weighed the pros and cons in her mind. But now was not the time…
The captain noticed her and laid out her assignment. “Section Chief Gu, go with Zhang Chi to the crime scene. He wants to get some inspiration.”
Almost at the same time they both said, “No.” Gu Shi gave him an inexplicable look. His face had a grateful, “understanding” look.
“Section Chief Gu, Little Zhang is our new man. Even though he doesn’t have an official title, a criminal sketch artist is a very important supplementary posisiton for our team. Any time he’s effective it’s a huge help to us. You’re in charge of the crime scene and know the situation well, so who better to take him there.”
The captain was a top-notch middle-aged man, in good shape because he always played tennis. He walked with a brisk pace and took steps two at a time. Not only did he look younger than his beer-bellied contemporaries, he also had a lot of energy. Everyone generally did whatever he said and didn’t dare disobey.
Zhang Chi didn’t know all this and so tactfully declined. “Captain, Section Chief Gu has her hands full here. I can go by myself…” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gu Shi shaking her head behind the captain.
The captain’s cell phone rang and he waved them away violently with his big, veiny hand. “Section Chief Gu, your written reports can wait. It’s decided. You all hurry along and hurry back.”
“Oh,” Gu Shi said helplessly. She had wanted to decline, but she had to follow orders.
Police work meant sorting through a chaotic jumble of clues to find logical connections among them and evidence to confirm the true situation. The truth wasn’t a lucky guess or a bizarre deduction, but careful emlimination and verification following a daring hypothesis. This was what Zhang Chi was preparing to do at this moment.
When Gu Shi took Zhang Chi to the crime scene it was already getting dark outside. They walked the route the suspect had taken while Gu Shi reviewed the order of events. Before the incident, the criminal had knocked on two of the witnesses’ doors, but when no one came to the door he went on to the third door, the door of the victims. He used his made-up excuse and easily gained entry inside the unsuspecting new couple’s apartment. Then, the tying up, the struggle, the stabbing, and the rape all happened over a number of hours, until the dead husband’s parents knocked on the door and the bride cried for help. The parents rushed to the window hoping to catch the suspect, but he was able to escape. When he landed he nearly hit a nearby father and son who were passing by. He drew the attention of the police who gave chase. Because he carried a knife he was able to avoid many residents who otherwise might have stopped him out of a sense of justic, and in the end succeeded in escaping.
“In theory this all bodes well for making a sketch, but…” Zhang Chi stopped thinking aloud and made some scattered notes at every place they went, just simple jottings and numbers. Gu Shi didn’t get what he was doing, but this was the first time she had seen him so absorbed like this.
This must have been what her father meant when he said “he looks like a hippy on the outside, but he has the spirit of an artisan”.
“Truly, no job is easy to do well.” Gu Shi was about to say “don’t put too much pressure on yourself”, but she held back.
Zhang Chi looked up at her curiously. He saw a gentle look in her eyes and replied simply, “I thought gifted experts like yourself do everything effortlessly.” This time he was ready to fight. Since Gu Shi had a lot of suitors pursuing her, it would be better to make the best of things and carry it through to the end. Maybe he would get lucky and surprise her. Hadn’t his every emotional nerve been inadvertently affected by her?
“You don’t understand. Though I’m a trace analysis technician, the lack of manpower on the force has made me have to be a jack of all trades. Crime scene investigation is actually very complicated systems engineering. Protecting the crime scene, inspecting it, questioning witnesses on the scene, keeping notes, as well as the crime scene analysis I just finished up, if there’s an error or oversight in any part of the process it can affect the entire investigation. Plus, timeliness and correlations greatly enhance one part’s accuracy coefficient.”
Some of the residents were out en masse, taking a walk to aid their digestion after eating supper. In the garden by the apartment complex a young couple were making out on a bench. Zhang Chi noticed Gu Shi’s face as they passed the lovers who were stuck together like glue. She seemed to walk further out away from them in disgust, deliberately keeping her distance from them.
Zhang Chi pretended not to notice her reaction, only taking a few strides to match her. “Now that information is so widespread, criminals are not only good with computers and with integrating information, they also pay a lot of attention to current affairs. We’d be no match for a highly intelligent criminal skilled in counter-detection.”
“Judging details of a case, inspecting a crime scene, questioning people, interviewing witnesses, interrogating suspects, and investigating and wrapping up a case all require a lot of brains. You rely on your passion to get it done, and these skills are not mastered overnight. You not only have to be diligent, you also have to have intuition.” Gu Shi glanced at his notes. In just a short amount of time he had filled two pages, many words crossed out. It looked like a jumble of chicken scratch.
Zhang Chi noticed how serious she was, bending her fingers back as she spoke, and he smiled disapprovingly and shut his notebook with a bang. “The cafeteria is probably closed by now. Come on, I’ll treat you to a simple meal.”
“No, I know a good Japanese place. We’ll split it.”
Gu Shi expertly led him down a small alley nearby. She walked with her head up and her shoulders straight, taking small, frequent steps. Zhang Chi, long legs and all, had to quicken his step a bit to keep up. Following this tall, slim woman around today, his eyes would often wander to her jet-black hair and her bare neck above her collar. It was a real treat. One walking by herself, the other following, smiling; these two atrractive people turned quite a few heads along the way.
They were seated in a small dining room that was relaxed and tasteful. The concise menu was printed on a single sheet of A4 paper. After politely asking about preferences and dietary considerations, Gu Shi called the waiter and directly ordered a two-person meal. Zhang Chi had been waiting for her to hand him the menu and say “I don’t care”. He never expected this rare easy turn of events, not having to think about it. It wiped away his fatigue from working round the clock.
The witnesses were called in that very night, the older ones looking sleepy, but no one complained. They all understood the police’s job. Some even brought late-night snacks from home to give to the officers working overtime.
The freshly printed black and white composite sketch still smelled of fresh ink. The sketches had been combined together. Each portrait had gone through extensive adjustments. “I’ll step out for a minute. Don’t let their minds be overburdened and they’ll be able to tell you their true opinions.” He went to hide out in a nearby office.
He paced back and forth in the room, waiting for someone to come in and report a positive outcome. He calculated the time in his head. Verifying with each person one by one should take about an hour at the most. During that hour he held a law enforcement qualifications exam book, but not a single word registered.
An hour passed and he opened the door ready to go see what the results were, when he heard a ruckus in the hallway. Someone yelled, “Oh no! Quick, pinch the philtrum.” “Someone call an ambulance!” He rushed out to see what was going on. A lot of people were huddled together in a corner of the conference room, Gu Shi trying to maintain order. She calmly pushed through the crowd and made them all back up and leave the room. “Please cooperate, she needs some fresh air.” Chen Ting was already following her order and calling 120 for an ambulance. Gu Zhichang was helping support the old mother and father in his office.
When the crowd dispersed, Zhang Chi could see clearly who they had all been gathered around, the wife of the deceased victim. Her face was pale, her hair in disarray. She sat limply in a chair, her head resting agaist the armrest. Her eyes were half-closed as if she were almost asleep.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, walking up to Gu Shi.
“What else but your sketch?” Gu Shi grumbled.
The witnesses one by one had leafed through the nine sketches. When they got to the final draft, the newest sketch, they had all said the same thing: “Looks just like him”, “That’s him”. The wife who had tragically lost her husband and suffered violent rape was already weak and pale, restraining her dread as she looked at each sketch. When she saw the last sketch she looked like she had seen a ghost. She didn’t say a word, but fainted on the spot. Gu Shi helped support her so she didn’t fall to the floor.
Zhang Chi breathed a sigh of relief. He wanted to laugh but knew this was not the time. He turned his back to her and sighed facetiously, “Too much resemblance is not good. Not enough resemblance is also not good. It’s really not easy to win this boss’ approval.”
Gu Shi’s tense face finally relaxed. “If you want praise, don’t look at me. And you’re not part of our section, so you’re not my subordinate.”
An ambulance siren was heard approaching. The old couple, with the help of police, helped their daughter-in-law leave. The mother turned back to them and extended her hand to Gu Shi, her other to Zhang Chi. She said tearfully, “Officers, thank you for your hard work. Please, you must catch the man in that sketch. I just want to see if he has a heart, if he has a mother and father and children.”
Gu Shi nodded slightly. Zhang Chi pursed his lips and lightly moved his chin. The mother wiped her tears, satisfied. She limped away, but the warmth from her hand lingered. Her tears seemed to have remained on his own face, wet and burning.
Then Zhang Chi noticed two lines of tears running down Gu Shi’s face, flowing down her neck to her collarbone.