Chapter 71: Overdrawn
“That was about fifteen years ago so I would have thought I would have forgotten by now, but I still remember distinctly. For about six months I looked for any similar cases in the area.”
Gu Shi took a sip of tea to stable herself, then continued, “It was just as I expected. That pervert didn’t stop after me; there were two or three kids that were met with the same thing as I.
“Only difference was, one time, a parent who was returning home to get something for work ran into the freak and grabbed him and handed him over to the police station.”
“Given the charges against him, he’s probably not out of jail yet?” Zhang Chi mentally calculated the time but made sure not to say “child molester”. He felt Gu Shi tremble slightly in his arms.
“If he were still in jail then my dad would not have put so much time into it,” she said in a disappointed tone. “I don’t know if it was because they were afraid or had some misgivings or if they were paid off in private, but no one came forward to identify him or testify against him. I had a classmate at the academy check the records and it turns out that Public Security had no basis for detaining him, so he was only locked up for a day and a night and then set free.”
“You think Teacher was busy working those days to find someone who could testify?”
“In my opinion, it’s impossible to pin it on him. So much time has passed, all the material evidence is gone now, and those who could testify didn’t speak out then so there’s no reason they would now. But you know how my dad was. How could he just let things go at that?” Gu Shi’s tear fell on Zhang Chi’s arm. “A few days before the accident I found a few round-trip train tickets to other provinces.”
“He was looking for that person by himself? I don’t remember him making any reports about traveling out of the province.”
“That’s the problem. My dad didn’t pay much attention to protocol except when it came to work; he was scrupulous and methodical when it came to observing the law. What could make him throw that out the window and go on his own on a private trip out? I really can’t think of any other possibility.”
Zhang Chi helped her get up and helped her wipe her face and asked her seriously, choosing his words carefully, “As far as you can tell, do you think this has anything at all to do with what happened after?”
“If he wasn’t careful and the culprit discovered him and felt threatened, and clashed head on, he might have impulsively acted rashly and really could have done something so over-the-top. I can’t guarantee it, but I think it’s quite possible.”
Zhang Chi asked for some specific times and wrote down some details about the culprit she was sure about, then he hugged her with a somber look on his face before hurrying out.
Gu Shi watched him leave and felt an unprecedented rage spur and grow and spread throughout his body, like it was about ready to spill over. She had not been biased or judgmental when she told her secret, only stating what happened plainly and objectively. She felt good, felt relieved. Reliving that day and feeling the pain and sadness over and over again, day after day, had long ago exhausted her strength. Zhang Chi didn’t have much to go on, but his reaction was already better than she had expected.
With that in mind, she sank down into the couch and fell asleep.
Zhang Chi carried his notebook and thought of nothing but going back to the office. Learning of what happened to Gu Shi back then was like strong medicine, spurring his worn-out self back to life. Yet he felt inexplicably fretful. Several times on the road he was annoyed by cars running red lights or pedestrians, causing him to holler out the window, even once stepping on the gas and sticking his head out and cursing at a couple pushing a stroller, “Your own lives are worthless, but that child his innocent, don’t you realize? Adults like you don’t even know you’re supposed to cross the street at the crosswalk and not run a red light?!”
The woman was about to talk back when she realized she was in the wrong, and the look on Zhang Chi’s face made her pull her husband’s sleeve and the couple scurried away.
Zhang Chi stepped on the gas and sped ahead down the open road. His face felt hot for some reason and tears were streaming down his face. After screaming hysterically he felt a dull pain in his chest, a really distressing pain. He didn’t know if his tears were for the child Gu Shi from back then, or for the heartbroken Gu Zhichang after discovering his daughter had been violated while he was working overtime.
He faintly caught a glimpse of the back of an old, strong man. He pulled over and waited until the old man passed by his headlights. He looked closer and saw the man looked like Gu Zhichang. But Teacher was gone, right now laying alone in an ice-cold mortuary.
Sorrow used up a lot of one’s energy. Zhang Chi parked at the station and felt his stomach growling. He walked to Instructor Fan’s small shop.
Business was good and there were no empty seats. The booths were packed as well. Instructor Fan was sitting behind the counter in a daze, his thoughts far away from the hubbub of the restaurant. Who knew what he was thinking about. He only snapped out of it when Zhang Chi appeared before the counter, staring at him.
“Have you been well lately?” Instructor Fan asked, expressionless. He knew everyone on the investigation team, from the higher-ups on down were all not well recently, especially Zhang Chi and Gu Shi. But his brain had shorted and he had blurted it out.
Zhang Chi nodded in response. He could see Instructor Fan was also pained by Gu Zhichang’s sudden departure.
“You’ve not eaten yet, right? I’ll cook you something.” Instructor Fan put on his apron and went to head into the kitchen. Zhang Chi pulled him back and called a waiter over and pointed to a sweet and sour cutlet with rice on the menu. “Don’t go to all that trouble. Let them make it. Come sit with me and chat for a bit.”
Instructor Fan’s eyes welled up. “Your teacher loved to save that all the time as well. Sometimes when I was busy he’d come in looking unhappy and I knew…”
Zhang Chi cut him off, “From what you know, did my teacher offend anyone recently?”
“Offend anyone? Your teacher was well known for being a good man. Aside from those he helped put in the slammer, who would he have offended?”
Zhang Chi smiled wryly. That’s just what he had thought; he didn’t even need to say it.
Instructor Fan didn’t notice the change in his expression. His sorrow had made him talkative. “Actually it’s you who I’m worried about. Those who come into the station, or are let out, petty scoundrels and big shots, everyone knows your reputation and how you’re a ‘criminal sketch artist’, saying you’re their deadly enemy, natural enemy. Who would have thought it would be your teacher who had a mishap instead?”
Zhang Chi frowned. “Oh, just what have you heard?”