Chapter 43: Sympathy
“We recovered three different footprints at the crime scene, collected palmprints, and many fingerprints,” Gu Shi reported back at the station. “We’re looking for the right type of shoes and will run the fingerprints of the suspects against Public Security’s database.”
Little Wu followed up with his report. “Now for the time of the crime. That day the last shift for maintenance and security personnel lasted until eleven at night. There was nothing amiss at that time. The boss discovered the theft at 8:30 the following morning. So we more or less know the time the suspects committed the crime.”
Captain Liu nodded. “Any other progress?”
Zhang Chi opened his notebook. “We checked up on the fifty or so businesses near the company, but after interviewing each one we were unable to find an eyewitness. But there was a report of a silver BYD car appearing outside the building around the time of the crime.”
“What does that tell us?” Gu Zhichang asked.
“It’s a commercial building. Usually the owners and personnel park their cars in the underground parking lot. There’s also a music performance group, a beauty parlor and a daycare in the building. Customers to these places are given free parking tickets and park in front of the building or in a common lot next to it. It’s like that all hours of the day because the traffic enforcement on that road is strict. If you’re parked there illegally for less than five minutes you’ll get a ticket, even late at night.”
“Unless there was something unusual, the owner of that car must be familiar with the situation there,” Little Wu said. “Is there any other reason to park there before dawn?”
Zhang Chi nodded. “The witness works at an export company. She was about to start an international conference call, working overtime due to the time adjustment. During a break in from the conference call she looked out the window and saw the car. She was sure the time was before two in the morning. There are no hotels, bars, or snack shops within a kilometer of the building. Doesn’t make sense for the car to have stopped there briefly out of convenience.”
“In other words,” Gu Zhichang said, “she can’t identify the person in the vehicle, in fact can’t even confirm there was someone inside it. What about the license plate?”
Everyone looked at Zhang Chi, who shook his head helplessly. “The license plate was obstructed. The witness’ point of view was from the southwest from top to bottom. She could only see that there was no one in the back seat. Security camera footage shows the car disappearing into traffic on the overpass. It couldn’t follow after that. However, I have noted the interior details and special adornments on the car.”
Suspicions about the BYD might rise. Even if the clues pointing to the suspect were just the beginning, they would form the foundation for solving the case later.
Captain Liu nodded, satisfied. “Follow up on those leads. Check with our sister provincial city and see if there’s any unsolved cases involving a car make of that description.”
Now that everyone was finished, Gu Zhichang spoke up. “I have a witness here that might be able to shed new light on things for us.”
Everyone turned to look.
He continued calmly, “The night after the crime, two suspicious people entered the burglarized office late at night, both wearing baseball caps and carrying toolboxes.”
“Someone not on our potential suspects list?” Captain Liu asked.
“When I went to interview people I told them to increase security patrols and report back if anything happens. That day their boss was on duty. When he left he ran into them. Right now they have not been identified, but he saw both their faces clearly.”
“Everything of value in the office was already stolen, why would anyone come back again?”
“Those who don’t guard against thieves remember them long after.” There was widespread comment on the situation.
“Call in the security team captain and draw your sketch. Get to the bottom of these two people as soon as possible.”
When work time was over Chen Ting hurriedly got his things together, took a call, and ran out. Zhang Chi was in the office eating takeout. “Was he talking to a friend?” he asked Little Wu.
“Him? Only girlfriend he has right now is his mother. She spends a lot of money and effort on him. Every day after work they’ve been going to look at houses. He’s in a race against time. I don’t know what he’s in such a hurry for. I’m the one who ought to be going everywhere looking at houses.”
Zhang Chi took a bit of meat and nodded in agreement. “So what are you waiting for?” he teased. “Your girlfriend’s been talking about marriage for three years. You keep her waiting you’ll be an old man by the time you have kids.”
Little Wu gave him a look. “You’re more concerned about it than I am. Why are you still here?”
Just then Zhang Chi’s phone rang. “See? Speak of the devil. He’s here. I’ve got another sketch to draw. I won’t be able to get out of here early today.”
As Zhang Chi led the security team captain out of the elevator and past the next door, he saw Gu Shi with her face in front of her computer. He had the captain wait in the lobby and get a drink of water while he went to get her an almond drink. On his way out he bumped into He Meng, who was carrying a cardboard pastry box.
“What are you doing here?”
“I heard you all were working overtime so I came to offer some refreshments to our people’s public security.” He Meng opened the box. Inside were exquisite strawberry cheesecakes, almond cookies, and several Japanese daifuku mochi cakes.
Zhang Chi exclaimed in amazement. The security team captain also came out to see what was up. He grinned at the box and swallowed his saliva. “Officer, you’re really lucky. A beautiful girl delivering delicious food. Who wouldn’t put their all into their work after that!”
He Meng smiled bashfully. “Lately I’ve been really into DIY pastries. I made all these. They might not be as good as ones you buy, but all the ingredients are healthy and fresh. No additives or margarine.”
Just as she said this Gu Shi came out of the office, heading toward the restroom. She met them and saw Zhang Chi laughing and joking with a pretty girl and thought to herself he never changes. Then she recognized the girl as He Meng and gave her a friendly smile.
He Meng turned slightly and smiled back. As she did so, Gu Shi noticed their body language, how they kept distance between each other, and how He Meng’s smile contained a faint trace of hostility.
Gu Shi’s heart had been thumping, but now she suddenly felt relaxed and at ease.
He Meng watched Gu Shi pass by and sized her up, comparing Gu Shi’s appearance, in her police uniform, to her own, and her mood deflated. She said she didn’t want to disturb Zhang Chi’s work and quickly took her leave.
He had already given He Meng the drink had been holding, so he went back to get another and then went to find Gu Shi.
Gu Shi’s desk was piled with papers, but it wasn’t messy. On one side were pictures of footprints and crime scene photos, and on the other side were the fingerprints she had collected and her summary report. Her computer screen showed information from the Ministry of Public Security fingerprint database.
“Working overtime? Still sifting through fingerprints and footprints?” Zhang Chi set the drink on an empty spot on the desk and pointed to the computer screen, not sure what else to say. Seeing that He Meng’s visit had not elicited any emotional reaction whatsoever from Gu Shi, his original beaming face subsided a bit.
Gu Shi nodded and thanked him, then stood and stretched her stiff neck.
“Isn’t that all electronic big data? Why do you need to manually go through it?”
“Big data can certainly reduce some of our workload, but if you only set up a few key parameters and run a check, then do the rest manually, even though it will take ten times as long, it was also be a lot more accurate, and you’re not as likely to miss the most suspicious fingerprints,” Gu Shi explained patiently.
“I had no idea you could do it that way,” Zhang Chi complimented sincerely. “Really got to hand it to you.” Whether he knew what she was really feeling or not, everyone had to acknowledge her perceptiveness in her work, and the love and respect she showed to her job.
Paying attention to these details might yield the same result as not bothering with them. No one could know. The time she put into this now came from her heart, which made it even more laudable.
Gu Shi waved away his compliment. “Don’t. I don’t deserve such praise. Actually, you do this kind of work too, so why flatter each other?”
“Me?” Zhang Chi looked dumbfounded.