Chapter 21: Speed
At nine o’clock that night, Zhang Chi, dressed in outdoor wear, started up his Harley and rode to a small auto shop. The owner was underneath a car, working on it when he saw the big Harley pull up. He crawled out from under the car and greeted Zhang Chi with a smile. He was an expert. He knew his stuff. It was rare to see an 883N Iron on the road. This must be a big new customer.
“Boss, I think there’s a problem with my rear brakes.” Zhang Chi frowned and pointed to the rear of his motorcycle, but he didn’t get off.
“Okay. Have a seat and I’ll take a look.”
“Don’t go to any trouble, you’re busy. I’m not in a hurry. You can just call one of your assistants to help me.” He still didn’t get off the bike. He knew this shop was not very big. Normally, after six in the evening all the other employees would be off already, leaving only the father and son pair.
The unaware boss was acquiescent and turned around and yelled in his local dialect inside the shop, his manner completely opposite from before, like he was cursing and hurrying his son to get out here.
That face, it was a perfect match! The son begrudgingly walked out, wiping his hands.
When their eyes met the man bolted like a startled bird toward a prepared Kawasaki Ninja parked to the side by the shop entrance, started the motor and sped off in a flash. Almost at the same time the idling Harley, along with a police cruiser parked a block away, chased after it.
The Kawasaki was not road legal and it immediately turned down a residential area, hoping to lose Zhang Chi. The complicated layout and the many parked vehicles made it difficult for the police cars to get close to reinforce, so Zhang Chi called on the police radio for reinforcements to stop at a street entrance to wait for an opportunity.
It wasn’t just the Kawasaki rider who knew the area like the back of his hand; Zhang Chi had done his homework and chased closely, accompanied by screams as the Kawasaki barreled into residents out enjoying the cool air, the Harley doing its best to avoid the fallen tables and chairs and people. All the people out for a night stroll quickly forced the Kawasaki out of the dimly-lit narrow roads of the residential area. The rising and falling roar of the two big motors pierced the still early summer night air.
The Kawasaki became even more desperate, turning sharply toward the high-traffic North-South Elevated Road, weaving through the stream of cars at high speed, hoping to get the Harley to collide into the back of one of them. The frightened motorists laid on their horns one after another, leaning out their windows and cursing.
Zhang Chi hadn’t raced like this in a long time, the wind whistling past him as the golden street lamps blurred together into a static blur before his eyes. He thought of the obstacles at the driving course at the police academy, then of Gu Shi pushing her hair back with her head lowered, and an odd feeling came over him. It was like the air solidified and his heart stopped. Everything became a blur.
He felt calm and could already make out the suspect’s license plate clearly. The suspect kept looking back, nearly colliding several times with the rear of a car that was changing lanes. There had been no time to put on a helmet so Zhang Chi could clearly see the hopeless look in the man’s eyes. He bit his lip and sped up, pushing his Harley nearly to its limit. He thought he could hear the sound of the engine about to burn.
A police car flashed its lights and sped up, pulling along the right side of the Kawasaki, siren wailing. It pulled out in front to block, but the Kawasaki swerved out of the way and sped up, briefly losing control before crashing into the median, throwing the rider into the next lane, the driver of the adjacent car slamming on the brakes sharply.
Zhang Chi quickly came to a stop and nearly leapt off the Harley and sprinted at 100m dash speeds and pounced on the suspect who was just struggling to get up. The man reached around to his back as if to rub the spot where he fell. Zhang Chi strode forward and dodged to the side, whipping out his baton and knocking the dagger out of the man’s hand. Then he gave him a swift blow to the knee.
The strong young suspect quickly got up again, his ferocious eyes burning with murderous desperation and pain. He grabbed Zhang Chi’s neck with his bare hand. Zhang Chi had not been expecting that, and after prying the man’s iron-like fingers off his neck, he grabbed the man’s wrist and dropped his waist, sending the suspect flying over in an arc. The man landed hard on his back and clutched onto Zhang Chi’s arm in a death grip, pulling him down with him.
They both quickly got up and Zhang Chi kicked the suspect in the side, who bent at the hit and clenched his hands into painful fists. Another kick to the midsection and the man fell to the ground, stopping his fall with his meaty arms and doubling over at Zhang Chi’s feet. The police were already out with caution tape as traffic police directed vehicles away. The suspect looked up and saw the police filing out of the cruisers and sat down on the ground, defeated. He raised his arms up slowly.
To everyone’s surprise the suspect gave up fighting. They didn’t even have to cuff him because he put up no resistance as they escorted him to the police car.
As the car drove away the suspect’s ferocious, glaring eyes were softened by two lines of silent tears.
Zhang Chi had a colleague take his Harley back to the garage for safekeeping. Now he sat beside the suspect. He suddenly thought it funny in spite of himself. “Are you scared?”
The man had now seemed his age, replying in an eighteen-year-old kid’s voice. “I miss my family. Haven’t been home in a long time. I miss my mom and grandma.”
“Why commit such heinous crimes just for money? I mean, you have a trade.”
“I have a trade, but what can I earn working odd jobs with my dad? This is the quickest way to get cash. What else could I do?”
“So you had to murder someone?”
“They saw my face. Not killing them would be suicide.”
“Even killing them in the dark? How could they see your face then?”
“They resisted. If they resist, what choice do I have? Just had to kill them.”
Zhang Chi watched him wipe away his tears. In that moment his face again had that desperado look it had before when they were out on the road.
“How tall are you? What size shoe do you wear?” He was still curious.
“Not tall, just 170. Why do you ask?” The suspect was still on guard.
Detective Wu leaned over. “Uh oh, didn’t you make a bet with Chief Gu? She’s won’t like that.” Zhang Chi smiled, but said nothing.
“Can I ask you something?” The suspect stared at Zhang Chi, his eyes shining. “How did you all know I looked like that?” He pointed to the portrait sketch on the seat.
“You think it strange?” Zhang Chi asked.
“Every time, they didn’t have long to see me, and those who saw my face clearly were all scared. There’s no way they could remember that clearly. To tell the truth, even my mom, who gave birth to me and raised me, and who is skilled at drawing, even she couldn’t draw me like that. Just how did you do it?” He couldn’t believe it.
“Well, can you tell me what it is you want most?”
This fresh-faced suspect clearly had not expected such a question. He thought about it before giving a serious reply. “Actually, I don’t really want anything. If you ask me what I really want, it would be just to live comfortably, have a bit more money. It would be enough if I could have studied a little better to begin with so I wouldn’t end up like my father.
He was referring to only studying two years of middle school before his father pulled him out to work odd jobs. Young, violent criminals all seemed to find it difficult to escape that story. Lack of education, prematurely cut off not only from family education, but also school education. This big kid before him at a young age was forced to work hard labor on construction sites for meager wages, later learning the auto mechanic trade from his father. He was often scolded in front of clients, and was only given a little bit of pocket money as compensation. Over a long period of time his constrained spirit and means fostered in him a penchant for bad hobbies. Like other internet addicts, violent and pornographic videos became his sole comfort.
“Is that a drawing or a photograph? It looks like a photo. Can you tell me where you took it?” He had not forgotten his original question, and was not letting it go.
Little Wu turned and reprimanded him. “That’s not for you to ask. We’ll tell you what rights and privileges you have, and we have the final say in your method of punishment. Stop wasting your breath asking questions.”
Zhang Chi rubbed his neck, his skin burning. He couldn’t help but laugh. On the way he had kept looking at the suspect, at that face he had imagined dozens of times now come to life before him, a “lost brother returning home” kind of feeling, mystical, subtle.
They got out of the car and the captain had Little Wu and them take the suspect to the interrogation room. Zhang Chi was about to go to his office to get his bag when he was stopped.
“Do you need to be looked at?” the captain said, concerned. “Are you badly injured.”
Zhang Chi rubbed his neck and waved his hand. “It’s nothing. Just a bruised hand, looks worse than it is. It’s no big deal, I’m all right. Thank you for your concern.”
“Old Gu really knew what he was doing. Your display today showed us all you really are a real policeman.”
Zhang Chi didn’t face his boss’ approval with a grateful nod or modest remarks. Actually what he wanted to say was, “If I wasn’t a policeman I would have handled him even rougher. Now I have to be careful when I fight so that I don’t hurt the suspect too bad, or else I’d have to answer for it later.”
“Have you called him and told him about it yet?” the captain asked, still smiling.
“I did. I sent him a text on WeChat as soon as I got in the car so he wouldn’t worry.”
The captain nodded and the two left side by side. After a moment of silence he said, “Actually, we all want to know the answer to that question that kid asked just now. How about it?”
Zhang Chi told him. It’s not like it was a big secret or anything. In fact, the credit had to go to Gu Shi. With her help that day he had walked the route the criminal had taken at the scene of the crime and determined the angles at which the witnesses would have spotted the suspect. From that he had sifted through the different positions and began piecing it together.
“For example, the victim’s parents. They had a higher vantage point than the couple when looking at the suspect, so the critical area they provided was the area from the nose up. As the suspect was fleeing, a boy not even 170cm tall, who had to look up at the suspect, provided me with details of the area around the mouth and chin, etc.” Zhang Chi explained that he used these criteria to repeatedly sift through descriptions, fine tuning the angles, until he finally emerged with a composite sketch that everyone approved of.
Now they had reached the elevator. The captain gave him a generous thumbs up. “Just by your cursory explanation I can see your work is really amazing. You have to think hard, work hard, then repeatedly put it to practice to achieve this method and attain such perfect results. If you ask me, Old Gu is the real hero behind the scenes, to find our team such an amazing intellectual and physical talent. This is our team’s pride and honor.”
Zhang Chi was too tired. Hearing those formalities just made him yawn all the more. He said he was going to go wash up and get something to eat, then join in the interrogation. The captain happily approved.
On a night like this, with sudden relaxtion came fatigue after the keyed-up apprehension of the suspect, but he still was far from that worn-out moment. The moon was dim and a stray cat lying on the hood of a police cruiser eyed him lazily, yet threatening. When it saw he was a familiar it shut its eyes slightly. Zhang Chi livened up his pace.
Maybe the captain was right. He really was a policeman. A real policeman would only feel completely exhausted after he had formally handed over the suspect for detention.