Chapter 42: Mortgage Slave
Zhang Chi put his water bottle in the water dispenser in drew water. Chen Ting came over with his tea cup.
Zhang Chi pointed at the red clay tea pot in his other hand. “Helping Teacher get water, huh. Teacher Gu is really unlucky to have me as an apprentice instead of you.”
Chen Ting nodded sullenly. “Did you hear? This year police officers who’ve been here five years only have the original hundred thousand or so as a housing allowance. It hasn’t been increased at all.”
Zhang Chi capped his thermos and took Chen Ting’s cup and filled it up for him. “It’s nice that you have it. Us one-year workers don’t even have that and here you are looking for your housing allowance to increase?”
“Problem is, have you seen housing prices these days? It’s not old-fashioned public housing like in school districts. If it’s even a slightly good area, like close to the metro or above-ground train station, then it’ll be much more expensive for several months, and for half a year it’ll be completely unaffordable.”
“And our allowance is only enough to buy a restroom, right?”
Chen Ting waved his hand. “Don’t mention that. That was just a joke. But now it seems if things go on like this I won’t have enough to even upgrade the tile and adhesives.”
Zhang Chi handed him the cup of water carefully. “So what is everyone going to do?”
They headed to the office as they talked. “For those who are young and single and haven’t been working here long, what can they do?” If they want to get married later they will have to borrow money from their parents to buy a house. I’ve thought about it and don’t plan to buy in a really good area. There’s so much difference in price it’s better to just buy a car and drive. Just buy a small two-bedroom. Price will be lower, and the loan won’t be so bad, and the space is still large enough to be comfortable.”
“That’s one way you could go. Only bad thing about that is there’s not much room for appreciation. Buying a house is a big decision, after all. Think it over carefully.”
Little Wu overheard them and without missing a beat took out his phone and showed them some housing prices and trends on an app. He pointed at an up arrow. “You should move quick once you’ve decided to buy. It’s just like how we handle cases, you can’t let opportunities pass you by. My classmate bought a house last month in a downtown school district, and the price shot up a hundred thousand before the landlord transfered ownership.”
“Didn’t the landlord break the contract?” Chen Ting asked, astounded.
“You think the landlord hadn’t thought of that?” Little Wu said, admiringly. “Good thing my classmate put more money down than normal, and the payment method was straightforward. The landlord moved out in a hurry, so they continued the contract.”
“That’s about what I figured. But I’m not as wealthy as your classmate. I’ll just get a loan and buy a small apartment in a good area and make it an investment. And I’ll just continue to rent.”
Little Wu made a face. “Ah, these days young people have to bear a lot of pressure, and end up becoming mortgage slaves. It’s really tough. It’s painful.”
Chen Ting laughed. “For greedy people like you, maybe. Not everyone can bear being a mortgage slave. I’m still considering whether to buy a large house in the suburbs, or a small place in the city.”
“That’s not up to you,” Little Wu put in quickly. “Your bankroller has her own idea.” He was referring to Chen Ting’s mother, Doctor Chen. Chen Ting always followed what she said.
Little Wu whispered conspiratorially in Zhang Chi’s ear. “We work hard all our lives just to struggle to get a house. You’ve shot up in the world. I heard headquarters already has a nice place waiting for you.”
Zhang Chi was silent. HE seemed to be thinking of something. It got a bit awkward in the room.
“Have you decided about that yet?” Chen Ting couldn’t help but ask.
Zhang Chi poured himself a cup of coffee and wiped his hands dry. His response to them was serious. “I never thought about going to headquarters. Staying here is better. I don’t really care much about that house or the position.”
“You don’t really care? We’re all super envious.”
“Sometimes it’s enough if it’s suitable for you. A smooth career is not the life I’m after.”
“So you want to stay here and be a composite sketch artist forever?” The voice from behind them was Gu Shi’s.
Zhang Chi turned around and looked at her. Her eyes were inscrutable, somewhat doubting, yet more so expectant.
Zhang Chi ignored Chen Ting and Little Wu next to him, his eyes fixed on hers as he nodded firmly. “I’m gonna tell Teacher Gu so he can relax. My time as apprentice is not up, how can I just leave?”
Gu Shi said “oh” absently, then turned and walked off. He had been so absorbed in her, yet she too had fallen into a deep lake. She felt pleasingly ice-cold all over. When he looked at her it was like no one else existed, like he was telling her that she was the only woman for him. As she thought about it the cold face she had put on blossomed slightly into a smile.
“Hey, wait up.” Zhang Chi suddenly went after her and stopped in front of her. Gu Shi subconsciously took two steps back, but she was still only a step away from him. Her head came up to his shoulders. His breath wafted toward her, refreshing, not a bit off.
“Gu Shi, Captain Liu just called. There’s a crime scene that needs some trace analysis done. He wants you to head over there at once.”
Gu Shi abruptly set off so that she didn’t have to look up at him. She noticed him following her and turned. “You’re going too?”
Zhang Chi nodded. “What equipment do you need? I’ll go get it for you.”
Captain Liu was already there when they arrived on the scene. It seemed to be a major case. Gu Shi stepped forward. “Captain Liu, what’s the situation?”
Captain Liu explained quickly while they put on gloves and got their equipment ready. “Someone from a foreign trade company’s general manager’s office called in and reported the door and window in the hallway had been pried open and the safe had been broken into. 800,000 in cash was stolen, as well as 300,000 in US dollars, as well as the two computers in the finance office.”
Gu Shi nodded and turned on her instrument and began looking for relevant traces, telling Zhang Chi at the same time, “Go see if you can find any tools used to commit the crime, and keep close watch for any signs of prying.”
Zhang Chi quickly returned to Gu Shi. “I didn’t find any tools, but I did find six tread marks on the southern wall in the general manager’s office.”
She was prone on the ground, busy with her work. “Okay, I’ll be over there as soon as I collect these fingerprints and footprints here.”
Zhang Chi went over to Captain Liu. “Who do you think is most likely to have done this?”
“It’s hard to say at the moment. Based on comprehensive analysis, there are two types of people likely to have done it. The first is someone who is familiar with the company’s internal workings and daily schedule. After all, cash isn’t going to be kept around for long, only two or three days a month. There’s a motive for someone who knows the amount of money there. But from my experience we can’t rule out gang activity. The methods used and the way this crime scene looks seems to fit more with that.”
Gu Shi packed up her instruments and came over. “Where did you say those tread marks were? Show them to me.”
Zhang Chi got a tall ladder and set it up and tested it with his weight and made sure the lift mechanism was secure. He was a bit unsure. “Are you sure you have to go up yourself?”
“Are you kidding? It’s not a big deal. Just hold the ladder.”
Zhang Chi kept a straight face. “No, I”m responsible for you.”
Gu Shi felt it funny. “Why are you responsible for me?”
Zhang Chi ignored her resistance and grabbed her arm, and secured a rope around her body. “Just consider it me looking after your safety.”
His arm was strong. Just that simple grab had left a red mark on Gu Shi’s pale skin. She suddenly blushed and lowered her head as she dug her equipment out of her bag. She purposely took her time, waiting until her face cooled down, then she nimbly climbed up the ladder and got to work.