Chapter 15: Granted Wish
Zhang Chi returned to the bureau, but before he could even sit down the poitical affairs director called him in. He was excited, immediately thinking that Gu Zhichang’s “fight” must have been successful. Sure enough, even though he went about it in a roundabout wait, basically the director’s tone was one of farewell. He listened to the director’s congratulations and longwinded flattery and nitpicking, but he was already looking forward to life on the criminal investigation team.
It was a rare day of white clouds and clear blue sky that day in Shanghai, a mass of clouds drifting lazily on the breeze along the horizon, a ray of splendid sunlight penetrating the layer of cloud, shining directly through the director’s glass office window. It was really like seeing the light when the clouds parted. Interesting work, an amiable chief, a tight, orderly team, and the beautiful lady boss Gu Shi——aside from some overtime work which a bachelor like him wouldn’t mind, what other job could be more satisying to him than investigative detective? The Beijing case started out difficult, but ultimately it was a speedy success and he came back to Shanghai flushed with victory. Inside he was ecstatic that everything was going his way, but he didn’t bat an eyelid when he responded to the director with a smile and a simple “I was just following orders”, which left the talkative director speechless.
The next day, Zhang Chi, hefting a cardboard box, began moving his things, little by little, to the criminal investigations team. He had been in his old office for less than two years, yet he had already accumulated a lot of stuff. Coffee maker, humidifier, notebook, camera, a small slow cooker, and a complete set of unread law enforcement qualifications study materials. Chen Ting offered to help him move, but Zhang Chi flatly declined, though he didn’t say why. He had just collected these things here and there, simply the way of a Virgo, always pursuing quality of life. Those who didn’t know Zhang Chi well enough would perhaps see these items and think they belonged to a fussy woman, or maybe that he just set these things out in the office cause he had nothing else better to do.
Zhang Chi secured the lid on the cardboard box and walked briskly toward the criminal investigation team office. He still had some personal items left in his old office, but because he rarely used them he figured he’d take the opportunity to get rid of them. After all, he ought to now act swift and decisively like a police officer.
Detective Wu saw him and called to him. “You finally showed up. I’ve been waiting for you.” He hurried over and had him put his things down and follow him. Zhang Chi was happy when he heard the noise and clapping coming from the main office, Gu Zhichang’s voice included. That Mr. Gu really values him. Did he actually arrange a welcoming party?
They walked in and found a place to sit. Gu Zhichang nodded to him knowingly and motioned for him to come forward. Zhang Chi got up quickly and with a few big strides went over and stood beside him.
Gu Zhichang gave some instructions to the captain beside him, then raised his hands and lowered them, asking for silence. “Today, I’m sure you’ve all heard, our investigation team has two big things to celebrate. The composite sketch artist I extracted from the ‘political affairs section’, Zhang Chi, who has solved two important cases in a row, today joins our investigation team. Come, everyone give a warm welcome to our newest member.”
A round of applause and cheers filled the room. Ever since Old Qin had passed away the whole team had been in low spirits. In the midst of their sorrow, everyone advised each other to look after one’s health. They didn’t mention Old Qin by name, but their sad, red eyes betrayed their silent honoring of their comrade-in-arms who had one stood beside them. Now a month later, the new quarterly birthday celebration. Everyone knew the hidden meaning.
Three-fourths of the team were in their thirties, burning with enthusiasm. The few elders were also young at heart, and joined in the applause. Zhang Chi gave them all a reserved smile, but from the corner of his eye he felt someone in the corner behind him watching him coldly. He noticed in the center of the conference table an arrangement of small ruby cream cakes spelling the character “solved” (破).
The slightly older Captain Zheng laughed. “Our attentive Section Chief Gu got a few of us and we made our collective birthday celebration cake into the shape of ‘破’. Can you all guess the hidden meaning?”
“Find your flaws!”
“Break out of old thinking!”
“Crack an important case! Solve a case!”
“You’re all correct. It’s already July, the start of a new quarter. Assessments for the next quarter are beginning. Let’s all strive hard to break last quarter’s record.”
The speeches had been made, the new person welcomed, the elders with birthdays had had their pictures taken, and everyone had clapped themselves out. Now it was time for cake. Gu Shi, as usual, didn’t seem at all like a boss as she stood, and together with two of the other scant female colleagues set about distributing the cakes to everyone. When she handed a piece to Chen Ting, Zhang Chi noticed they both stiffened a little, the one who was originally smiling now turning frigid before him as she quietly handed him the cake, which he took so quickly it was like he had felt an electrical shock. He put his head down and devoured the cake, not even saying thank you.
In the midst of the racket no one noticed these details. But Zhang Chi’s intuition told him “something happened between these two, and it happened when I was in Beijing.” Oh well, those two were poker-faced introverts. He couldn’t tell from their expressionless faces whether the developments between them had been positive or negative.
Zhang Chi finished his cake in two or three bites, his mind somewhat out of sorts. He didn’t know about Gu Shi, but Chen Ting had never been an assertive person. His finances were good, he had a solid personality, and was above-average looking. Aside from the baggage that came with being an only child, Chen Ting was about the same as himself. Had Gu Shi taken a liking to him and initiated things with him in the few days he had been gone? He swallowed hard. His mouth tasted bitter.
He really should have said something earlier, but experience had told him the time wasn’t right. He didn’t know why, but Gu Shi clearly had some problem with him, so confessing now would be counterproductive. He sat there stupidly. Some of the elderly officers came over and started smoking, exchanging pleasantries with him. He handled them fine, but his eyes still drifted over to Gu Shi like they were being drawn by a magnet. Now he understood what “driven to distraction” felt like. Luckily, it was still not too late. Maybe the timing of his job transfer was the inner workings of fate.