Chapter 56: Man-made Disaster
Zhang Chi looked at him in encouragement. “Don’t worry, Teacher, I’m here. She’ll be fine.”
Gu Zhichang nodded, weeping.
He sat cross-legged and swiftly bandaged her simply, putting the skills he learned at the academy to use in this life and death situation. He heard the ambulance siren as he finished up. He helped the paramedics get Gu Shi onto the stretcher. Her slim figure seemed to have lost the weight of her soul and become unusually heavy.
Zhang Chi wiped the blood from his hands and made a quick call, then told the driver, “Take her to Fenyang Hospital.”
Gu Zhichang staggered up into the ambulance and stared at his daughter blankly, holding her hand tightly, not willing to let go.
Zhang Chi consoled him. “Teacher, let the paramedics examine her. She’ll be fine as long as there’s no internal bleeding or arterial damage. Fenyang Hospital has the best emergency surgical center close by. I called a classmate and had him prepare for her arrival. The head of their surgical department will be in charge of her operation.”
Gu Zhichang nodded and let go of her hand and the paramedics surrounded her and began their checks. Tears streaming down his face, he mumbled, “She’s my only daughter.”
“How was this girl wounded?” the paramedic said as he administered first aid.
Gu Shi, on the stretcher, didn’t hear anyone. Her face looked calm and relaxed. If she were not biting her lip one would not be able to tell she was in pain.
“I’m not sure. She called my number but passed out before she could say anything.” He wiped his tears. “A cop at the station said she was helping pursue a thief when a gang member came out of the crowd and ran toward her, but she didn’t notice because she was focused on the person she was chasing, and she was stabbed unawares.”
“Are you all police officers?” another paramedic asked as he worked. He sized them up and pointed to their police uniforms.
“Such a pretty girl doing such dangerous work…” Several of them shook their heads, feeling sorry for her.
The two of them looked unhappy, but didn’t say anything. At that moment it seemed a police uniform was an object of ridicule, always protecting total strangers, yet now not even able to save the person closest to you.
Zhang Chi was the first out of the ambulance. He carefully received the stretcher and set his end down lightly on the ground. His old classmate was waiting for him at the hospital entrance. He hurried over to help push the hospital bed when he saw the situation as he called to the nurses to assist. Gu Shi was quickly carted into surgery.
Zhang Chi and Gu Zhichang waited in the corridor, the latter holding his head in his hands, blaming himself. “Isn’t this an old man’s usual routine? I got up early. If I had known something like this would happen on the way to work I would have waited for her and went with her.”
Zhang Chi pulled back his arm and patted him on the back. “Let the doctors take care of her. You shouldn’t blame yourself. No one could have predicted something like this would happen.”
“It’s my fault. Since she was a kid I raised her like a boy, taught her to run faster than others, always the first to step in and help someone in trouble.”
Gu Zhichang was talking about how Gu Shi had been a sprinter in junior high, the top of her class. If it had not been for an injuury sustained in a match she might have gone on to represent China in the Olympics and would not have thought about enrolling in the police academy, and she would not have met him. Zhang Chi rejoiced quietly as he thought of that.
Zhang Chi handed Gu Zhichang a cigarette, but the latter shook his head wearily. So he had to go out to the little garden outside and smoke by himself. Gu Shi had always looked on in disgust when she saw someone smoking, but he couldn’t help it now. He needed a smoke to calm his nerves.
Gu Shi’s pale face and spilled blood pained him, and his teacher’s unabashed and unable to conceal frailty pained him as well. He called a classmate of his at the train station police and confirmed that the person who stabbed her had been caught and was in the middle of interrogation. He waved his fist in the air and finally felt a little better.
He went back inside. All he could do was accompany this father-daughter pair who depended on each other for survival. Gu Zhichang had his head down, looking at his phone. Looking at a childhood picture of Gu Shi, a family photo of the whole family, all three of them.
“Teacher, her mother would be proud to see how outstanding her daughter has become.” Zhang Chi got closer and examined the photo. The little face of Gu Shi was had not changed that much to now, just a bit more mature, a bit more stubborn and aloof. The only difference was the Gu Shi in the photo was smiling sweetly, cozying up close to her mother’s shoulder.
Gu Zhichang shook his head slowly. “My wife would not have been pleased to know her daughter had become a cop. She would have been the first to object.”
“Then why did Gu Shi want to enroll in the academy?”
“In the beginning, it was because her mother had passed away. She was always in a bad mood, and I always had to work overtime, leaving her home alone. Whenever anyone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she would say whatever it is, it won’t be a police officer. Then later she began crying every night. Cried for a whole week. Then suddenly said to me, one day I will definitely become a police officer.”
“Why? There is a reason for everything.”
“I don’t know if it’s because she missed her mother or because she had been affected by my overtime. Even now I couldn’t say for sure. Either way, from then on she became more introverted, more reticent. I neglected my duty as a father. My mind was preoccupied with nothing but the cases. The child would not tell me what was on her mind. Ah.” He kept looking up at the surgery room door.
“Teacher, a single man raising a girl on his own is not an easy feat.
“Who said it was. But after becoming a parent I always felt it wasn’t enough. I really let my child down.”
“Don’t think too much about it. No matter how parents raise their kids they always rebel in adolescence and don’t want to talk. Don’t keep blaming yourself.” Zhang Chi handed him a tissue.
The red light outside the surgery room was still lit. They held their breaths and kept on waiting.