Chapter 26: “Certain”
As the police cruiser wove through traffic, Gu Zhichang listened to Zhang Chi’s careful report, and his initial anger mostly evaporated. This kid had a case-solving mentality. He had not been trained as a detective, yet he still understood how to be flexible and adapt his investigation and questioning tactics.
He had utilized limited concepts and heuristic language to help his subject narrow things down and stimulate his recollection. The results were good, the objective reached. If he hadn’t broken protocol in the process then Gu Zhichang would have commended him.
It was quiet in the car, the other two young officers resting their eyes.
“Send that sketch to Little Wu. He’s at the hospital. Let him have the girl identify whether or not that’s our suspect.” Early that morning the others had been dispatched to the hospital to question the granddaughter. They had yet to return to the station.
Zhang Chi grunted assent and pulled out his phone. Seeing that Gu’s expression had brightened, he leaned forward and asked, “What’s their situation like?”
“The girl is weak and her mind is not all there yet, so they’re making slow progress. Right now all we know is there are two suspects. The younger one is 1.8 meters or so tall, and the older one is around thirty and 1.7 meters tall. The younger one is the one who slashed the girl. We’re looking into it.”
“Poor girl,” Zhang Chi said. “Never seen her parents, only her grandmother and younger brother with her. Her grandmother’s death will likely be an even heavier blow to her.”
Gu Zhichang didn’t respond to that, but continued, “Right now we’re taking measures to strictly monitor withdrawals from the deceased’s bank account, monitor suspicious outpatient injury cases at every major hospital, and further discussions with the deceased’s family. And… what else?”
“Send officers to further question the injured party to obtain concrete details about what happened. Little Wu, Gu Shi, and them are doing that.”
It was rare to see Gu Zhichang so serious. He nodded. “Our job is to handle the case and not let our personal feelings get involved. Only then can we have a neutral perspective and be able to uncover what really happened as best as possible. That will be the biggest help to them.” He then closed his eyes and rested.
Zhang Chi felt really bad about his earlier negligence. But it seemed Gu was not really angry, only putting on an act to let him know this was no trivial matter, that it could be treated as either major or minor. To do a good deed you must first learn from a good man. With Gu there was room to remedy his mistake, but if he messed up like this with another superior he might not be let off so easily.
Before long came the sound of light snoring. Officers who stuck around would find that all the veterans, regardless of build or age, had a special ability: sleep. It wasn’t quality sleep, but an ability to catch some Z’s whenever they could. This ability allowed them to conserve their energy. When a case arrived sleep was for them like water was to a camel in the desert: necessary, but not urgent.
Zhang Chi looked out the window. Was he overthinking it, or did he just understand Gu well enough? Why did he feel there was hidden meaning in what Gu Zhichang had said earlier? Was he already certain, and just waiting for evidence, for a verdict? Then who was the suspect? Would his portrait sketch be a helping hand in pursuing and capturing the murderer like it had been the previous two times?
Gu Zhichang’s phone rang. Sitting in the back, Zhang Chi could tell it was from Gu Shi. The volume on Gu Zhichang’s phone was loud so Zhang Chi could hear what she was saying clearly from the back seat. “Team Gu, our basic collection work is complete, so I’m calling in to report. I drew a blood sample from the victim, took palm prints, and surveyed the severity of the victim’s wounds.”
Gu Zhichang was sitting up, not moving. “Okay, I got it.”
“Aren’t we going to see the suspect right now?” Zhang Chi asked. “Why the need for palm prints?”
“You’ll know when we get there.” Gu Zhichang closed his eyes again, not in the mood for more talk.
Gu was furtively cold-shouldering him. It was obvious the terse, to-the-point replies between father and daughter, their tacit understanding, was not because they were family, but was a rapport developed between senior officers.
It made Zhang Chi feel ashamed. Same crime scene, he had questioned suspicious parties, interviewed people in the vicinity, yet he almost doubted he was talking about the same case as them. What link had branched off and led him away from the case, making his analysis and judgment so different from theirs?
They had just got out of the car when news came quickly from the person in charge of their fraternal unit. He spoke with an apologetic look on his face. “Gu, we caught him. Looks like this case belongs to us…”
Gu Zhichang nodded as if he expected it. “Since we’re here there’s no problem with us taking a look at him and asking a couple questions is there?”
“Of course not. It was your assistance that led us to the suspect and helped us grasp this great opportunity, and saved us a lot of time. Gu, your man is really a diamond in the rough. Come on, I’ll take you to him.”
They went down a long corridor and turned the corner to an underground interrogation room entrance. “There’s no signal down there. If you’re expecting an important call you better leave a man up here with a cell phone.”
“Zhang Chi, you stay here. If a call comes in report it right away.” Gu Zhichang handed him his cell phone and gave him a meaningful look. The two young officers behind him looked at him with sympathy, then the three disappeared quickly through the underground entrance.
He found an empty conference room and sat down, thinking. The more he pondered the fishier it seemed. Did the wallet on top of the closet contain any money? Did the girl recognize the person in the portrait sketch? How did the culprit change clothes and escape from a residential area without attracting any notice? And how did no one hear anything unusal from such a violent scene?
Question after question kept piling up, but he could only sit there. A criminal composite sketch was not always useful for every case; they weren’t necessary for most ordinary criminal cases. Like this one. With no witnesses, a portrait sketch was useless. He had long ago realized that he had to accumulate a lot of experience, investigation, reasoning, and analysis. It was all necessary, not just simple questioning and sketching. It wasn’t that he was unsatisfied with the present situation, it was just that he was being hit for the first time with the frustration due from lack of involvement.
Zhang Chi of course knew that every police officer was just a necessary link in the chain, but he wanted to run the length of that chain. Being kept at arm’s length from the truth was even more unbearable than the cold indifference Gu Shi treated him with.
Zhang Chi scrolled through the cell phone’s address book before finally calling Gu Shi. The voice on the other end sounded busy.
“You’re a composite sketch artist. Just focus on sketching. Why are you so concerned with all these questions? Do I have to make reports to you?” Gu Shi was questioning him instead and he could almost see that face with its sardonic smile through the screen.
He heard the sound of something moving, and the tapping of a keyboard, as well as someone discussing data. He heard her calm voice.
Like father, like daughter. Calmness often signified they had a well-thought out plan for uncovering the truth.