Chapter 7: Deliberation
Gu Zhichang shook his head at the thought, dismissing the idea.
He felt an inexplicable affection toward Zhang Chi. Now that he thought of it, this kid had the same stubborn streak as his daughter, Gu Shi. It was probably his drive, rarely seen in young people nowadays, that had attracted him the first time he saw Zhang Chi.
However, the kid’s manner of dress was not quite compatible with the organization’s system. No matter. As soon as he entered the force he would be doing most of his work in uniform, so it wouldn’t be a problem. Still, he would need to find an opportunity to prod him. Judging by his anxious phone call just now, there must have been some major discovery. He’d just have to wait until he spoke to him to find out.
At half past noon the cafeteria was already deserted when Zhang Chi hurried in through the main entrance. Gu Zhichang saw him through the glass doors of the cafeteria and he stood up and motioned to him. Zhang Chi saw and jogged over.
“I ate already while I waited for you. Go on and get something to eat before it’s all gone.”
“No worries, just need to fill my belly. I’m all right as long as there’s meat.” Zhang Chi quickly came back with two plates of spicy salted duck leg, a chicken leg steamed in clear soup, and a serving of spicy tofu.
Gu Zhichang laughed to himself. He’s really a carnivore. But he didn’t say anything as he accepted the sketch folder from Zhang Chi and examined it carefully.
“You said on the phone earlier that there was some problem with the sketch. But I don’t see anything wrong. It’s complete and lifelike.”
Zhang Chi was stuffing his face with meat and rice and couldn’t respond so he simply shook his head and retrieved a different sketch from his backpack and gave it to Gu Zhichang. He pointed at the eyes on the portrait.
Gu Zhichang compared the sketches, puzzled. They were three completely different portraits. Not only were the eyes very different from each other—one had big eyes like longan berries, one had long, narrow eyes that seemed to be squinting, and the other had “panda eyes”, the outer corners drooping down—but the facial shape and nose were all completely different.
He was surprised. “Did Miss Zeng contradict her testimony and say there were three suspects?”
Zhang Chi had nearly cleaned his plates. “How could that be?” he muttered.
Again Gu Zhichang examined the three different sketches. He noticed the simple annotations beside the sketches and the doubt on his face cleared.
Zhang Chi drank his soup and wiped his mouth. “Looks like you’ve already figured it out, Mr. Gu. The first sketch I gave you is the final draft. The other two are actually rough drafts.”
“Miss Zeng modified her description of his features?”
“Modifying is actually pretty common. Right after the crime one’s mental state is not very relaxed, plus she probably wasn’t expecting a policeman looking like me, so it’s normal for her to be on her guard.”
Gu Zhichang roared with laughter, his face indicating “so you’re aware of that as well”. He said, “Ah, Little Zhang, from now on you ought to do your best to be like the rest of us. Take my advice: under this organizational system the bird which takes the lead is the one that gets shot. People aren’t going to admire you because you dress handsomely. On the contrary, this is an environment where everyone is used to uniformity. Your different style will make people look at you as an outsider and they’ll reject you and give you the cold shoulder, even to the point of slandering you.”
Zhang Chi didn’t say anything, only nodded, but inside he was moved. He couldn’t recall any of his coworkers ever advising him so frankly and sincerely. Since he started work the most common advice he got was “there are no true friends at the workplace”. Now it seemed that rule had been smashed. There were no absolutes in anything.
“I did it same as last time, guiding the victim through simple psychology.” He saw Gu Zhichang raise his glasses. “It was a focused guiding,” he explained quickly. “I forgot to tell you earlier, but I’m qualified as a national second-rank counselor, and I volunteer in the psychologist’s office in my spare time. You could say it’s an integration of theory and practice.
“But Miss Zeng’s mood was calm for a brief time before becoming extremely unstable. There were many times she didn’t give a straight answer to my questions. She just kept stressing that she was afraid to die, then she would cover her face and cry. Once she calmed down and we got down to the real sketching stage, I would draw what she had just described after once again confirming the details, only to have her change her description to something completely different once I had the facial features all down.”
“So you might as well have been working on two sketches at once?”
“Yes. Considering that she had to frequently take care of the old woman, and her work was busier because of small matters, I thought I’d take the time to finish my work. I didn’t explain to her the latter part of my sketching process. And because she sat diagonally oppposite me, she couldn’t see what I was drawing.”
“So it’s possible she forgot the description she had given earlier and that’s why her changes made the sketches look so different?”
“I noticed she didn’t have any obvious injuries to her head, no gauze or other wrappings.”
“She went with with the old woman’s children to get checked out at the hospital after the crime, before I met her. There was no brain damage, just a slight concussion. She has no history of mental disorders, psychological disorders, or brain diseases.”
“Mr. Gu, ever since I met with her today I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier, about the question of the nature of entry.”
“On the surface, forced or unforced entry appear to be completely different, but in this case both are entirely possible. Similarly, if it was an unforced entry, aren’t there still a lot of possibilities there? Like being let into the room or a friend entering the room, etc.”
“Before knowing the facts anything is possible. But the question is, what is the basis for your deduction?”
“I know that when solving a case you all will first eliminate personal bias and to the best of your ability use evidence and an objective point of view to make your judgments. I’m not a professional. All I can say is, based on her body language and what she said, I am very confident that today’s sketches are completely invalid.”
“Little Zhang, I should tell you right away that I never expected all of you sketches to be accurate, so don’t let that burden you.”
“I know. I’m jut telling you how it is.” Zhang Chi tossed Gu Zhichang a cigarette and lit it for him, but he didn’t smoke himself.
“All right,” Zhang Chi said, “Maybe changing descriptions is a common occurrence for composite sketches, but the microexpressions on her face when she changed her story are really food for thought.”