Chapter 30: Set Straight
Little Wu really knew his way around, quickly bringing up the examination results page. It asked for information and he entered it and the arabic numbers jumped out.
Their faces froze. Little Wu looked at the computer screen awkwardly, then looked at Zhang Chi and sighed. “Ah, it’s really a lottery. Almost everyone passesd; I guess I’m just unlucky. Oh well, you can always take it again.”
Zhang Chi didn’t respond because Chen Ting knocked on the door and nodded at him. “Mr. Gu seems to be looking for you.”
He didn’t hesitate and quickly went over to Gu Zhichang’s office. He went inside and Gu Zhichang spoke without looking up. “You’re here?”
He grunted yes and quietly shut the door. This must be about the exam.
Gu Zhichang didn’t motion for him to sit on the sofa like he usually did, but left him remaining standing as he lit a cigarette and took a large drag. “Do you know why I called you in here today?”
He didn’t say anything, only deferentially sat down and slowly shook his head.
“In fact, you do know. But before I get to that, I need your help with something. Something personal.”
“Say it. I’ll do anything within my power, and if I can’t then promising won’t do any good.”
“You know ‘Instructor Fan’, right?”
“The guy who runs the restaurant?”
“Yes. Everyone calls him by his nickname. This year is the ninth year he’s been in this city.” Gu Zhichang’s face was uncommonly serious, like he was about to make some incredibly major decision.
Zhang Chi frowned, zeroing in on Gu Zhichang’s face.
In the past, due to unforeseen circumstances, his wife and child perished in a fire. I won’t say the specific reason. He never talks about this to anyone, so not many people here know about it.”
“I won’t bring it up, don’t worry.”
“Next month marks ten years since his wife and child’s death. When he came here by himself, he came with nothing of his family except what would fit in the bags he carried. He doesn’t even have a photograph of them. I hope you could draw a picture of his family, based on some conditions I set.”
Zhang Chi nodded and was silent for a moment. “In other words, I can’t let him know about this?”
“Right. You could say he’s an old friend of mine. With the help of your pencil I want to give him this pleasant surprise, give him a memento. I heard about the other private matter you carried out recently. You mean to tell me that because you were recently sketching the deceased you’ve run into a spate of bad luck and therefore were not even able to pass even this basic exam?”
Zhang Chi couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s a pretty good reason, but the two are unrelated. I made the sketch after I took the test. But seriously, that test was much more difficult than I expected. I didn’t understand any of the topics.”
Gu Zhichang pointed at him, his face serious. “My impression of you is you’ve never been one for making excuses for your mistakes. You surely thought there was no way you wouldn’t pass, right? Okay, I’ll tell you now why those less talented than you passed while you failed. To boil it down: you didn’t take it seriously enough.”
Zhang Chi avoided Gu’s eyes and looked at the bookcase behind him. There was a picture on the top shelf in the corner of Gu Zhichang as a young man in uniform, standing in profile, his face full of lofty self-confidence. The sun on his body cast a shadow. That year, Gu was full of youthful vitality, arrogance and ambition written all over his face. If he hadn’t seen that picture he would have thought Gu Zhichang had been an old young man, never full of piss and vinegar, but always composed and sedate.
“Also, you’re absentminded. Look, if you’re not thinking properly it can really hurt you. If you keep on like this and fail the test again then we’ll see if you have the self-respect to wear a police uniform again.”
Zhang Chi was surprised. “It’s that serious?”
Gu Zhichang stood up, disappointed. “What can I say? This time was a fluke and can be forgiven. There’s good and bad test-taking luck. But in the end it’s because you weren’t prepared. If you don’t pass the next time, then you will still lack law enforcement qualifications. Doesn’t that mean you’ll just have to sit in the office as an assistant and do pure civilian work?”
Zhang Chi knew he was at fault and so had nothing to say to that.
“Whenever others said there was something wrong with you, kid, I always stuck up for you. Why? Because I can tell you have a natural gift for this work; you have a sense of responsibility and don’t care about fame or wealth. Like me when I was your age. But I don’t want you to go down the same tired path as me. A proper person should care about others’ point of view. There’s trouble and selfishness everywhere; you can’t escape the criticism of others. Sometimes this criticism is fabricated, other times it’s embellished. The more you don’t care about fame and wealth, the more outstanding your work becomes, the more people will take notice of you. Your occupational hazards will become more and more. Tell me, how can you develop yourself and grow if you don’t protect yourself? If you don’t have a good environment or basic opportunities or talent, then how can you develop yourself?”
Zhang Chi only nodded, gratitude mixed with shame. “Thank you, Teacher, for your instruction. I understand. This isn’t how I wanted things to go.”
“You still don’t understand enough, but that’s normal. Usually I ought to be consoling you because you didn’t have enough time to study during the busiest period of work. But others passed and you didn’t, so what’s the use of consoling? You should have expected this outcome becuase you never put much effort into it.”
“Next time I will take the exam seriously.” Zhang Chi shook his head. “When I saw the results I felt my chest constrict. I never expected this result. You’re right. I thought too highly of myself and didn’t make any effort, so failure was only natural.”
“I’m not finished yet. I never said the third thing. I was afraid it would kill your enthusiasm.”
“Please tell me, I’m still right in the head,” Zhang Chi said happily.
“Kid, sometimes you’re really scatterbrained.” Gu Zhichang beckoned him to come forward and produced a folder. He opened it. “These are old rough draft sketches from several cases ago. I made duplicates of them. They all share some things in common. Take a close look.”
Someone knocked and entered, needing a document signed. Gu Zhichang hurriedly shut the folder as Zhang Chi stood up quietly. He studied the sketches while he waited for Gu to read the material and sign it.
Things in common? He quickly recognized these sketches were all ones witnesses said didn’t resemble the suspect, but aside from that, what else did they all have in common? They people giving the descriptions had all been men, the rough drafts had all been made at night, all had detailed notes off to the side. Had he been in a hurry to revise and finalize them the next day? What was the problem Gu Zhichang was trying to point out to him?
Seeing his puzzled expression, Gu Zhichang finally showed a trace of a smile. “They say that spectators see the game more clearly than the players. Looks like experts are no exception. You really can’t see what they all have in common? Take note, I’m speaking literally.”
Zhang Chi shook his head. He was convinced Gu Zhichang wasn’t referring to the things he was thinking of. “Teacher, just tell me. Criticism will benefit me, I know this.”
Gu Zhichang spread the sketches out in a row before Zhang Chi and pointed at the facial features on each one. “Did you notice that when you drew these sketches you made all the eyes, noses, mouths, even the contours of the face all like the standard model portrait?”
“Standard portrait? What standard?”
“To put it simply, everything you drew looks good, so even though the witnesses were different, they all described the same suspect. But you seemed to have drawn them all based on you ideal conception. Only the fine details were changed.”
Now that he said it Zhang Chi could see he was right. All four sketches were the same handsome guy. Those who didn’t know would think it was some new internet celebrity, a fresh new star!
“You see? Think back to your sketch process, the environment. Can you find the reason?”
He was drawing a blank. Aside from the noise of people talking and the lights outside the window, he couldn’t think of anything.
“Do you know why I have these rough draft duplicates? Because these are the worst sketches. Back then I also thought, these are all the same person. Aside from the fact that the witnesses were different, what other variables and undetermined factors might have influenced you? Later, after passing by your office several times I noticed a pattern.”
Zhang Chi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Teacher, seems you were using your investigation experience on your own apprentice!”
“Not focused!” Gu Zhichang’s face stiffened. He emphasized every word when he spoke. “The answer is you weren’t paying enough attention to your work. You weren’t aware of it yourself, but when you made all these sketches you were not alone. In every case there was someone else there chatting with you or watching you work. This interfered with you and you subconsciously slipped into complacency when you sketched.”
Just then Gu Shi pushed open the door and entered and she saw the two of them standing there. They pretended to be chatting lightly, but the abrupt way they stopped indicated something had been going on. Gu Shi’s perception was sharp. She didn’t ask what was going on; she just expressionlessly turned and went back outside.
Gu Zhichang continued nagging, repeating his point over and over again, but he spoke with the force of justice and was making sense. He brooked no retort and his points were irrefutable.
Zhang Chi knew he was in the spotlight and would get excited when people were paying attention to him. But the result of that was he became sloppy with other things. And for someone who needed to concentrate to make his sketches, the situation became a weapon of mass destruction. Gu Zhichang had ruthless insight; he never had trouble seeing through the issue. One glance and he knew the crux of the problem.
“Don’t think silence is courteous. You need to listen to what I’ve been saying. It’s for your own good.” As he remonstrated, Gu Zhichang was revealing his good intentions. “Composite sketching is not easy, I know that. But getting you accepted as an official composite sketch artist was even more difficult. Promise me you’ll appreciate all this, all right?”
What could Zhang Chi say? It was because he was headstrong and absentminded in his work, and because he had been careless and negligent in testing for his professional qualifications. He couldn’t help but keep in mind these basic mistakes he never ought to have made in the first place, after Gu’s instruction and admonition.
Especially, “what other people think is of no importance, but you must protect yourself in order to develop yourself”. Zhang Chi thought it over carefully and took it to heart. He really had just begun his career and had been too short-sighted. Gu’s advice had enlightend him.