Chapter 36: Idler
Zhang Chi packed up his sketch folder and sat moping for a time.
He didn’t feel angry or hard-pressed by Gu Shi’s blunt barbs, but the sense of loss and resentment that clawed at his heart was hard to bear. This resentment was not toward anyone else, but toward himself, because he had failed himself.
He sat for a while and got himself together, then sprang up like his former self, his head up, shoulders squared, and went to the interrogation room. Smoke curled inside the room. Gu Zhichang was scowling at the person opposite. He saw Zhang Chi and nodded to him, but had no time for pleasantries.
Little Wu was by the side and told Zhang Chi quietly, “That weirdo is a fast talker. We couldn’t handle him and had to bring the old veteran out.”
Gu Zhichang stared. “If you don’t speak we can still send our information out. I’ll give you a chance to call your wife here and explain to her face-to-face. Otherwise, if we have to drop in for a visit it will alarm your neighbors, your mother, and your daughter. You think on it. You want to talk, or do you want us to talk?”
The man mumbled to himself, “Sir, doing it this was is really ugly. Give me one more chance why don’t you?”
“Ugly? Don’t you laugh proudly when you show your thing to people? Don’t tell me about what’s ugly. We’ve given you plenty of chances. If you don’t cooperate then you’ll know what ugly really is. Think clearly. Am I going to have to call or not?”
He was a sharp middle-aged man, wearing a pair of frameless glasses. He didn’t look at all peculiar. He was in a cold sweat, still imploring in a low voice, “My father-in-law is my unit’s old boss. If you do this it will be a messy divorce, and he will definitely know the reason why. I won’t be able to work. Just give me one last chance to make amends, all right?”
“You also have a daughter. These kids are a few years older than her. Did you ever think about if your daughter had experienced that, what would you think? What parents wouldn’t be up in arms with the school, with the police? You can’t do your job, well we can’t do ours either. We didn’t make the laws, and you’re not haggling at the farmer’s market.”
Zhang Chi studied the “voyeur’s” face carefully. It was really quite different than what he had sketched. Gu Zhichang hadn’t said anything to him about it, but he was really ashamed.
The man shakily flipped through his address book, found the number. His finger hesitated over his cell phone.
“Want me to help you?” Gu Zhichang pressed him sternly.
“I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” he answered quickly, and finally dialed. “Hello, I’m at the nearest police station. There’s something here I need to handle. I need you to come down here.”
“I have to warn you, you did what you did knowingly, and you knew what the consequences would be. It’s completely different than someone who has a several mental disorder and does it unintentionally. It’s unavoidable. We already knew the situation when we brought you down here. How long you’re sentenced will depend on how sincere you are in explaining things. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t mince words. Give us details. The closer what you say matches what we already know, and the more behaved you are, the better chance you’ll have that we’ll decide to help you lighten your sentence. Understood?”
“Understood, understood. I’ll tell you everything honestly.” The man’s line of defense had nearly totally collapsed.
Gu Zhichang called in two on-duty officers who took down information from the witness and the suspect. Before he left he told them in detail about how he should be locked up, lest there be some dispute in the days to come that they couldn’t handle, then he turned to Zhang Chi, who had been standing quietly to the side this whole time.
“Sir.” Zhang Chi stepped forward with a look of shame.
“You don’t have to say anything. I know.” Gu Zhichang waved his hand. “You win some, you lose some. But things will be hard for you if you’re always distracted from your work.”
“I was just thinking back to when I drew that sketch. I definitely was distracted.”
“Naturally, the witness’ memory was faulty. You drew it well and she said it looked a lot like him. Still, I can understand, like that guy just now. Actually, I really sympathize with him. He has his own reasons as well for what he did.”
Zhang Chi snorted. “Sympathize? What he did was too nasty.”
Gu Zhichang waved that away amiably, the manner he had earlier when interrogating now completely gone. “Voyeurism certainly has a nastier influence on our society. In my many years here I’ve seen many cases like this one. In short, generally this sort of thing flares up between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. For cases like his, where it’s a man in his forties, most of the time there’s been some major incident in the family, like bad feelings between spouses, or some discord in their lives.”
“What you’re saying, sir, is that these people are a lamentable lot, who suffer from a serious psychological problem and normally are just repressing it?”
“Yes. They feel guilt when they do these things, only they can’t control themselves.”
Gu Zhichang didn’t say anything criticizing, but it sounded weighty to Zhang Chi. If a person didn’t have self-control, normal people and voyeurs shared the same shortcoming; there was really no difference between the two.
Zhang Chi found it laughable to be put be lumped in with a pervert, but he just nodded. “I understand, sir. I will make the right adjustments.”
“So, once this case is finished you should take a good vacation,” Gu Zhichang warned him benevolently. “The second half of the years is usually the busiest, not much time to take your yearly vacation. It’s not been easy for you to adjust to the rhythm of things here.”
Zhang Chi nodded gratefully, his mind still worrying about that sketch.
The were having a relaxed discussion about where he might go on his annual leave when Captain Liu came over with a heavy face, and without even glancing at Zhang Chi, greeted Gu Zhichang, and the two of them left in a hurry.
As soon as they stepped out of the elevator they were met head-on with the father of the missing student. He was smoking in the corridor, and when he saw the criminal investigation team leader he nodded to them with a complicated look on his face, but he held his tongue.
Gu Zhichang closed the office door and sat on the sofa. He muttered to himself and jerked his chin up toward outside the door. “Hey, he’s been checking in every day.”
Captain Liu lit a cigarette and tossed one to Gu Zhichang and smiled wryly. “Right now placating and stabilizing the family is most important. Can’t tell him ‘this is our workplace’ and drive him off. Old Gu, what’s the situation now?”
“Given the leads we have, just the sketch. It’s just that the investigation doesn’t’ look good this time. We have not witness. It will likely be tough to make the sketch.”
“Old Gu, pressure from the public on this case is growing. All over the city people are debating where the girl has gone off to. Even my mother mentioned the news to me.” Captain Liu pointed to the clock on the wall. “You see, from noon til now, more than four hours’ time, I’ve received no less than five calls from reporters.”
“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure. The supervising director heard a report that the army was about to be called in.”
“What I mean is there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Before, Zhang Chi used his sketches to solve cases, sure, but that was when there were witnesses, and the suspect’s features were more evident. Let me just say it, there’s an element of luck here. You telling me he can make a sketch of the suspect for this case by looking at a pixelated photo?”
Gu Zhichang nodded. “I saw it. From my layman’s point of view, I couldn’t even make out a face.”
“So, neither you nor I can guarantee that he will be able to draw and accurate portrait, right?”
“So you’re saying?” Gu Zhichang slowly blew a smoke ring.
Captain Liu put out his cigarette. “What do you think of your apprentice these days?”
Gu Zhichang didn’t expect that Captain Liu had been paying so much attention to Zhang Chi. He hesitated. “That kid’s mind’s a little muddled, but he has talent. He takes initiative in his work, has a sense of responsibility, he’s a good study and can point out his own flaws. He’s sharp.”
“Mm, right you value talented people. Young people still need to be prodded at the right moment and sent along to their post. On our team, everyone does their part. No one is an exception. Otherwise people will start talking and it will be difficult to lead the team.”
Captain Liu’s remarks were clearly pointed. Gu Zhichang knew it would do know good to argue. “Our peripheral investigation has not given up on this case. Our investigation techniques will be sent up urgently for approval. If there’s an arrest operation, then from my experience Zhang Chi will join it on his own initiative for sure. You can rest assured of that.”
“Good. Don’t lose any time. Strive to change the passive to active.”
Zhang Chi’s performance was slightly inferior. Everyone’s “concern” for him steadily increased. Gu Zhichang guessed these people were within the organization, but not part of the criminal investigation team. Within the system, bosses often said to value men of talent, foster men of talent, utilize men of talent, but some would muddle along and not like to see others advance. Maybe they feared that if these men were recognized by the leadership then they themselves would pale in comparison and overshadow them. So sometimes men of talent had all eyes on them, and sometimes they were universally condemned. And once fallen to those depths these people would be all to impatient to hit them when they’re down.
So in a sense he was covertly doing Zhang Chi a bad turn, letting him experience the same situation he was in back in the day. He left the office and aggressively put out his cigarette, and blew a large smoke ring.