Chapter 40: Difficulty
Zhang Chi flew to Bali at the planned time to film the reality show “Only Unimaginable”. Who knew which leader found out about the news, but it was an important topic of interest at the Party committee meeting, abd the Political Affairs Section quickly organized for the entire branch of police officers to come to the lecture hall to watch the show. A notice was issued, making participation mandatory for everyone except those on-duty, those working on a special investigation team for a case, those away on business, those on vacation, and other exceptional cases. It was called “professional study and emulation training”.
That day everyone congregated in the lecture hall, everyone curiously discussing what Zhang Chi would be doing on the show.
Chen Ting entered the hall and saw the dense crowd of people. He mumbled, “Heh, this is really a big deal.”
Gu Shi scanned the large hall. “Yeah, great. At least there’s no banner hung up. If it had been an entire ‘Comrade Zhang Chi Art Exhibition’ then our team would be diligently working instead of all this sensationalism.”
“Okay, okay, blame me,” Gu Zhichang said in a low voice as he passed by. “I made him go.”
Gu Shi suppressed her unhappiness and entered the hall with a straight face.
It must be said, it was an interesting new show. As soon as it started the screen was filled with Bali and it’s penetrating azure waters. Those watching felt as if a refreshing breeze were blowing through, fine soft sand underfoot. Everyone in the hall exclaimed in admiration. Their vacation time seemed so far away; those who were forbidden to travel overseas due to the secretive nature of their work could only sigh in envy.
The host came to the stage and grandly introduced this season’s three stars. The first was a fashion designer, then an expert in animal languages. Last on the stage was Zhang Chi, the criminal composite sketch artist.
The reality show began quickly. Five assistant guests were brought to the stage, each of different statures, all women of different ages. The only thing they had in common was their unconventional style: they all wore skimpy bikinis. The audience gathered there voted for one of them according to instructions. The fashion designer could not use a measuring tape, but could use any other tool to design within the time limit an outfit for her suitable for attending an evening banquet.
The fashion designer was a man over fifty. At first he was a bit embarrassed, but he kept his cool, only saying, “Excuse me.” After getting permission, he used his arm as a ruler and quickly jotted down measurements on a piece of paper and made a rough sketch. Then, he went to a table with various fabrics arranged on it and selected two bolts of cloth. His needlework was skillful and in less than ten minutes the model was back on the stage in her formal evening dress.
The crowd applauded. The short, pudgy auntie looked five kilograms slimmer in the dress. She looked completely different. The auntie smiled with modest pride as everyone marveled.
The animal language expert was even more incredible. With her various whistling, several black dots suddenly emerged, gradually flying closer. They were different breeds of birds for the audience to choose from. Once the birds had landed, she used whistles and hand gestures and several birds beat their wings and flew off, while the remaining birds perched on each shoulder. There were ten of them, just the right amount the show needed.
The show was live, and after seeing those two spectacles the officers in the lecture hall could hardly stay seated.
“That’s amazing. It really is true that it’s only unimaginable, not impossible. There’s a lot of pressure for the last performance.”
“Portrait sketches take a lot of time and effort. They all had instant results. How can he compete with that?”
The criminal investigations team colleagues looked at each other, silent, all on edge for Zhang Chi.
“Next, let us give a grand welcome to a defender of our safety, the people’s public security, a criminal composite sketch artist from the Chihai branch, a young criminal investigation expert, Comrade Zhang Chi. Everyone give him a hand.”
It was finally Zhang Chi’s turn to take the stage. Maybe the host had slipped, but he had not dropped the “criminal investigation expert” tag like Zhang Chi has requested. He could only shake his head helplessly.
He Meng adjusted his policeman’s tie clip at the last second and gave him an encouraging hug. Zhang Chi lightly held her shoulder as a response, and strode out to the stage with his head up and his shoulders squared.
The lights on the temporary stage flashed and mingled before all finally settling on him. It was a sea of white before him, the heat of the lights on his face no different from the scorching sun. He stood in the center of the stage comfortably, wearing the proper smile, and gave the crowd a standard salute. He looked calm on the outside. Only he knew that inside he was not at all sure of himself.
During dress rehearsal it hit him that this assignment would test all his drawing skills to their limit.
Thirty men and women had been meticulously selected in advance for his sketch, which he would have to draw from memory. They all wore the same clothes, and the men and women had nearly the same hairstyle and of the same height. At first glance even the styles of their faces and their builds seemed very similar. Zhang Chi had only five minutes to note down each of their distinctive features. Audience members would be selected at random to describe to him, while he faced away from the stage. He had to know which of the models was being described, and then could begin drawing.
In the end, the assignment’s success depended on the audience’s assistance. After that one “lucky audience member”, who would be blindfolded and wear earplugs the whole time, would act as his helper for the final segment. Given the sketch Zhang Chi had to draw within the time limit, she would have to select three people of the thirty who matched the portrait sketch. If one of them matched the one the audience picked, the assignment would be considered a success.
The judges all look dazzled by the thirty assistants on the stage.
“It would be a feat if he could get a good look at one of them in five minutes.”
“God, this is too hard. It’s simply impossible.”
Zhang Chi remained unmoved. He calmly concentrated and studied each other thirty people one by one.
The show only needed one of its stars to be successful. If the others failed it wouldn’t have much affect on the show’s ratings. They were only too glad to kick up more interest and discussion, so they didn’t plan on “throwing” the assignment to make it easier on the guest. They just wanted everything to run smoothly.
He quickly went through the lineup and felt dazzled. He didn’t know where to start. Good thing he was prepared mentally. He looked at them again and his mind settled considerably and he immediately eliminated all distractions and got in the zone and quickly began writing down their characteristics.
It was deathly quiet in the lecture hall. The boss in the front row was looking up, fixated on the screen.
At just the right time Zhang Chi nodded calmly, indicating he was finished with the first stage. Then he was told to turn toward the audience. He simply closed his eyes, regulated his breathing, and waited for the command to begin the next stage.
“This program’s set up is ridiculous,” Little Wu whispered to Chen Ting, grumbling on Zhang Chi’s behalf. “The other two contestants only had to rely on themselves to complete their task. Zhang Chi’s has too many variables: the audience members’ ability to describe, how perceptive they are, and also the rapport they have with him. All are uncertain. This just makes it difficult for him.”
Chen Ting patted him to lower his voice. “Otherwise how would they get ratings and enchant the audience? Can’t be helped, it’s the climax. It has to be a lot more difficult than the previous ones.”
The chosen audience member was a young man. He started out using the simplest language to describe the person, so general that even the audience couldn’t tell who he was describing.
He was nervous, plus with the magnesium lamps blaring at him, sweat soon appeared on his forehead. But Zhang Chi tried to help him. “Don’t be nervous. Whether the sketch is close or not is my problem. You only have to tell me what you saw that left the strongest impressions.”
The man calmed down and described the person again, this time a little bit more orderly than the last time, beginning to add visual descriptions.
“Are his eyebrows thin or thick?” Zhang Chi began asking for details. “Is his face wider or narrower than yours?”
The man thought carefully and responded quickly. Zhang Chi asked several more questions and the man tried his best, answering them all, not equivocal hesitations. Zhang Chi compared with his notes and frowned, thinking. Once he was finished with his questions he began sketching.
Everyone held their breaths, watching. The host made witty remarks to avoid an awkward silence, stepping to the side quietly to give him more space.
Over the past two days He Meng had timed Zhang Chi sketching blind. The fastest he had done it in was six minutes, and his average speed had been eight minutes. But now he only had five minutes.
The problem was the final segment. He had to give the audience member enough cues to allow him to identify the person, so the more detailed and complete the sketch was, the better.
Would Zhang Chi be able to put forth his best work? Behind the stage, He Meng pressed her palms together and prayed.