Chapter 34: Unmentionable Disease
Even though she was prepared, Gu Shi’s pale face still blushed slightly. She was silent for a moment before saying slowly, “When you can answer my question without hesitation.”
Zhang Chi’s eyes quickly shot to her face. They went through a tunnel and the lights were dim, but he could still see her clearly. Not flustered, not evading, not proud, not disgusted. That was all right then.
Zhang Chi calmly turned his attention back to the road and they headed smoothly through the long, dark tunnel toward the light. His eyes stung, but quickly adjusted to the light as he blinked several times. “Then, please give me a little time,” he said to Gu Shi steadily.
After being greeted by the cadet at the academy sentry post at the entrance, he pulled the car up to the door of Gu Shi’s dormitory. In the hallway forty or fifty people were lined up listening to instructions; At first glance there were only two or three women officers lined up. Gu Shi went up and asked and learned this was her class.
The academy had “a lot of wolves, but little meat”, the genders unbalanced, so a lot of cadets looked at them. Zhang Chi smiled and boldly placed his hand lightly on the small of Gu Shi’s back. “You go ahead, I know the room number. I’ll handle the rest.” He didn’t give her time to refuse, quickly going to the cruiser, rolling his sleeves up, revealing his sturdy arms, and hefted the heavy suitcase onto his shoulder, his steps light as he took the dorm steps three at a time, quickly disappearing into the noisy crowd.
“Nice body,” an officer exclaimed. “Young too.”
“A handsome man and a pretty girl are a good match. Too bad we don’t have a chance.” Several young guys secretively watched Zhang Chi and Gu Shi, all looking a bit forlorn. Truly, be it appearance, build, or physical prowess, Zhang Chi was the most outstanding of all at the academy. No one could compare.
“Are you two from the same branch?” an older lady officer asked, smiling. “Your boyfriend?”
Gu Shi was a bit fed up with these young officers and she glanced at them. She smiled and turned, declining to comment. Whatever, at least none of the other guys would ask her for her cell number, or to add her to WeChat. She just wanted to get through this training peacefully.
Zhang Chi put the suitcase down just as the phone in his pocket was vibrating. He glanced at it: “Instructor Fan”. He usually never called unless to confirm an order. He answered it smoothly and heard a loud voice on the other end. “Little Zhang, where are you?”
“Instructor, what can I do for you today?”
“I’m tipping you off. Go look at your WeChat. Chen Ting said you haven’t returned and Captain Liu is standing next to him so he can’t call you, so I’m telling you.”
“What’s up, what happened?”
“You’re on duty today, where are you? You didn’t take off. Chen Ting and I are covering for you, said you had a stomachache and are at the shop eating breakfast right now.”
Zhang Chi slapped his forehead. “I totally forgot that Gu Shi and I are both on-duty. I’m taking her to the police academy for her training, but didn’t tell the on-duty team.”
“Let me tell you, get back here quick and make amends. Captain Liu is the on-duty boss right now. He’s looking all over for you. Just so happens that some pervert was reported by some people, but the video surveillance footage isn’t good enough, so they really need you. Just say you were here lying down for a bit. Don’t mess up the story.”
“I have to thank you, Instructor Fan.”
“Don’t mention it. You drew that family photo that Old Gu gave me. I don’t know how to describe it. Every night now I have look at it before I can go to sleep. You all did all this behind the scenes so I haven’t had a chance to thank you in person. You know how it is, people like us don’t say thanks, but later I will personally prepare you a big banquet.”
“All right then. I’ll definitely take you up on that.”
The commander was just laying out the training regulations when a cluster of footsteps resounded from upstairs. The half-listening cadets turned to the sound curiously. The footsteps were frequent and loud, like someone was falling down the steps or something. Just then Zhang Chi appeared, smiled at the frowning Gu Shi apologetically, and then in no time the police cruiser was off, screaming out of sight.
“There’s a weirdo in the area, but does he like to cross-dress, peep at people, flash them, or is he a groper?” Zhang Chi’s imagination was limited to these. He didn’t know what the situation was. In this unprecedented battle, all the victories had gone to Gu Shi. He just wanted to give her the answer she wanted as soon as possible, and see what other excuses she had to evade him.
When he pushed open the door and entered, the first thing he saw was Chen Ting giving him a look and his hand closing the door quickly went limp.
Chen Ting hurried forward to help him. “Look at you. Diarrhea so many times, hogging up Instructor Fan’s toilet. You need to drink more water or else you’ll get dehydrated. Your face is sallow; that’s excessive damp heat. Don’t drink cold water.” He gave Zhang Chi a thermos of lukewarm water.
He looked up and saw Captain Liu’s “concerned” scrutinizing face and he threw his head back and downed a cup of water in one gulp. “Captain,” he said in a low voice, “I decided to go out for breakfast today. I never knew the combination of glutinous rice cakes and a cold drink could be so powerful.”
“I told you, you can’t let that humid summer heat pile up,” Chen Ting said quietly from the side.
“It’s all right, I feel much better now.” Zhang Chi wiped the sweat off the nape of his neck. “Just feel a bit weak is all.”
“Hurry up and change, you’re soaked.” Captain Liu watched the two go back and forth. He didn’t say anything, except to tell them, “In a student housing complex here there’s this ‘old account’ who scared several girls half to death while ‘working’. The witness was brought back. Chen Ting, show him the security camera footage so he can try to get a clear look at the man’s face so people can be on the lookout for him.”
“Old account” generally referred to someone who was identified multiple times by different people, and “working” was a term used for law violations or criminal activities, such as theft, public fighting, or it could be rape or voyeurism.
“What kind of ‘work’ are we talking about?” Zhang Chi asked as Captain Liu was leaving.
“Indecent exposure. He’s been showing his johnson like a madman the past month! He goes over to the girls’ apartments. He’s been a real scourge. The higher-ups want him dealt with severely.”
Zhang Chi shook his head. “People will do anything. Does everyone want to know if this kind of person looks particularly wretched?”
“Actually, I’m more interested in knowing about another possibility.”
“You mean he might not be a flasher?” Zhang Chi was a bit surprised. “What else could it be?”
“Indecent exposure is a kind of sexual perversion. This kind of person often likes to expose himself in dark places or at night, getting his rocks off by his victims’ frightening reaction. He also likes it if they insult him. But usually they won’t do anything to them physically. Judging from behavior alone, temporal lobe epilepsy and voyeurism are no different.”
Zhang Chi took the USB drive, and turned on the security camera tape. “There must be some differences between the two. Have you watched the footage?”
“Not yet. It just arrived, wanted to let you see it directly.” Chen Ting rolled his eyes. “There are clear differences between the two, but few know them. Flashers expose themselves to strangers of the opposite sex, and most of them also masturbate as they do it. But temporal lobe epilepsy can happen to anyone, and when it manifests the person doesn’t move. They don’t make any other actions.”
Zhang Chi habitually wrote some things in his notebook, sitting in a chair with his feet up, circling important words as he changed frequencies on the videos. “From what you’re saying, temporal lobe epilepy flares up involuntarily, but a flasher is aware of his actions, so he can recall what he did, and he will have an explicit goal.”
Chen Ting got up and went over to Zhang Chi. “Nothing gets past you, fella. We can check on the internal net system and see which kind he is. However, I suspect it will be difficult to go off that footage.”
“What’s the worry?” Zhang Chi said indifferently. “We have a witness don’t we?”
They moved close to the computer and looked carefully. In the first video on the screen the lighting was dim, a middle-aged man who appeared to be a passerby lit up a cigarette at the entrance to the public housing complex. In the second video he came out of the building, wiping his hands with a paper napkin and walking briskly, then waitied at the roadside for a taxi. In the third video a girl ran out wildly, a police cruiser parked next to her.
“It’s too pixelated. See this person. If you weren’t familiar with his gait you wouldn’t be able to recognize him yourself.”
“No security footage inside the complex?”
“They said it was to protect the students’ privacy. Cameras were installed, but everyone protested, so they took them out. Now, aside from the one at the entrance there’s only the one in the elevator. But he took the stairs.”
Zhang Chi seemed used to it. “License plate’s not clear, the key part of what happened isn’t clear. Don’t even need to mention the guy’s face. But from the way he looks back as he calls the cab it’s clear he wasn’t acting involuntarily like an epileptic. That’s probably the only useful thing we’ll get from this footage.”
Chen Ting was irritated. “He’s already been there several times and the students’ parents have already contacted the principal. Figures, every time he does his business it falls on me. Is that unlucky or what?”
Zhang Chi couldn’t help but laugh. “Our on-duty team’s never run into this either. I heard that shift you temporarily moved to always has strange stuff come up, one thing after another. Today I’ve seen it for myself. All I can say is you’re too popular!”
“Don’t gloat! The higher-ups have said we must apprehend him. If your portrait sketch doesn’t work this time it won’t be us the director comes after; it’ll mostly fall on you. After all, the witness is our only lead. Not only that, the female grad student kidnapping case hasn’t made progress, and if it doesn’t go well you won’t have much to go on to make your portrait sketch. Now stuck with this as well, you tell me who’s popular, you or me? It’s really true that the hotter it gets, the more work you have to do. It never ends.”
“Okay, we’re in the same boat.” Zhang Chi smiled wryly and headed to the open studio.
The studio doubled as an office break room. Gu had specially applied for it. If it weren’t for the awards on display in the window that the criminal investigation team had received over the years then one would think he had walked into an art gallery. Landscape paintings from famous artists were hung on the walls, all moved there from Zhang Chi’s home.
At first the team wanted to help him apply for compensation, but he insisted, “No need. Don’t waste the money. These were just lying around the house. I’m just making use of them now.” But any discerning individual could see that these were no trivial pieces, but of the highest make, concise, low-key, lavish, revealing their owner’s good taste.