Chapter 33: Tacit Agreement
Zhang Chi stuck his head out the car window, but the dump truck obstructed his line of sight and he couldn’t see anything except a few scattered drivers getting out of their cars to stand in the road. From his experience he guessed, “There’s probably an accident up ahead.” Ahead was a tunnel, and with the high-speed traffic and the many bends in the road, accidents frequently happened there.
Gu Shi looked at her watch. “We should have left earlier. We’d have ample time if we hadn’t been stuck here for over ten minutes.”
The cars backed up in the road grew, drivers constantly getting out and coming forward to see. The group of people were clustered together. Someone shouted something and there was an alarmed and chaotic discussion. In the distance came the faint sound of an ambulance.
Gu Shi looked at Zhang Chi. Without hesitating they both got out at the same time and ran ahead.
They ran about three kilometers and were the first to arrive to the first car parked outside the tunnel entrance. It was a manned long distance sleeper bus. The crowd was carrying a young man out of the bus. He looked to be no more than twenty-five, and good-looking, apparent even though he was covered with sweat and vomit.
Seeing two police officers running over, the crowd acted as if their saviors had arrived. “The ambulance still isn’t here, but the police finally came. It had looked as if no one had called the police.”
Zhang Chi didn’t have time to respond when a loud voice asked, “Who knows what happened? Speak up.”
A middle-aged man who claimed to be a fellow passenger stepped forward. “About five minutes ago, he suddenly told me he felt a sharp pain in his back. I asked him if he had sprained it, but he seemed unable to reply. I asked if anyone had safflower oil or Yunnan white powder.”
But as they were asking around for it, the young man’s face was getting more and more ashen, and he was sweating and beginning to vomit violently. Everyone called for help and the driver pulled over and stopped. Someone was about to hand him a plastic bag, but just as he stood up, his eyes closed and he fell down in the narrow aisle.
“Everyone backed off a bit at first to give him some fresh air.” Gu Shi squeezed through the crowd and knelt beside the young man and patted him, but there was no response, and his chest was not moving. She felt his carotid artery for a pulse and looked up at the crowd. “How long ago did he collapse?”
Everyone looked at each other, but no one said anything.
Zhang Chi yelled, “Speak up, how many minutes?”
Several responses came back. “Three minutes.”
“About two minutes.”
Gu Shi looked up at him gravely. “His heart has stopped. Do you know CPR?”
Zhang Chi looked at the vomit all over the man’s mouth and hesitated a second. Gu Shi raised her eyebrows. “Hurry up and help me. You pump the chest. Make sure you use enough force.”
She tilted his head back and opened his mouth. Zhang Chi quickly took out some paper napkins and wiped hims off. Gu Shi seemed not to mind and quickly unbuttoned his collar, took a deep breath, knocked away Zhang Chi’s hand, and put her mouth on the man’s and started mouth-to-mouth. Zhang Chi quickly knelt down on the other side of the man and intersected his fingers together and rapidly pumped the man’s chest with his palms.
They went back and forth like this. Gu Shi’s face was red from exertion and the veins were popping out on Zhang Chi’s hands while everyone else stood around watching and holding their breath. The man’s eyes remained firmly shut.
“He’s likely had a heart attack. Is this any use?”
CPR is used in just this situation. It’s the only first-response method we have.”
“Ah, doesn’t look good. Think he’s already dead?”
“Why is the 120 not here yet? What do we do if it’s blocked by the other cars?”
The crowd was talking it over in low voices, but they ignored them, not slowing down or letting up as they continued to administer first aid, sweat dripping off their faces.
One minute, two minutes. Gu Shi felt again for a pulse and looked at Zhang Chi excitedly. “He has a pulse. One more round.” They went all out, fighting for him.
Two minutes passed and Gu Shi and Zhang Chi stopped, panting, as the man began to cough violently. The crowd erupted in cheers and the man slowly opened his eyes, looking dazed, as if he didn’t know what had just happened.
Gu Shi slowly moved away and leaned against a railing to the side to rest. Zhang Chi had some people help the man up. Once the ambulance arrived and everything had been properly arranged, he huffed and puffed his way over to Gu Shi. She was standing with her back to the crowd, bending over to vomit. Zhang Chi hesitated. He was going to pat her on the back, but in the end he let his hand drop and waited quietly to the side.
After she was finished he handed her a paper napkin and smiled. “Why are you vomiting too? Is it contagious?”
“I’m a bit of a clean freak. That was really disgusting just now. I couldn’t take it.”
“He’s a handsome guy; you didn’t hesitate before.”
“You weren’t willing to. You think I’d want to if it wasn’t a matter of life and death? There was no time, you only have a few minutes to administer CPR. Ugh…” Gu Shi once again doubled over and retched.
Once the bus had started up again and the road was cleared, even if Zhang Chi stepped on it, they’d still be late. He turned on the radio, hoping to relieve Gu Shi’s anxiety, but she ignored it, calmly looking out the window, like she was recalling some distant memory. She was no more than two years older than he, who was twenty six, so why the need for such heavy brooding? A cynical smile creeped onto his face, but it quickly disappeared when he remembered her previous angry look.
If you compared women to cities, Gu Shi was like Chongqing, covered in dense fog. Although it was difficult to see the shining sun, the fact that it was a mountain city and had many delicious foods made people nostalgic, and loathe to part with those romantic feelings. He Meng, on the other hand, was like Hainan with its dazzling sunshine. There was rarely an overcast, gloomy day there, with birds chirping and fragrant flowers blooming in abundance, full of youthful vitality. These days she used their connection as high school classmates and their shared love for art to invite him to an exhibition nearly once every two weeks. If he still declined her he would seem like a stick in the mud, so instead he happily accepted. He had to admit, whether it was her choice of exhibition or her knowledge of art, she always hit on the things he liked most, including her knowledge of obscure artists’ history; she knew it all like the back of her hand.
There was no doubt that when it came to her profession she was a great companion, but when it came to more than that, she never brought it up, and he didn’t feel like thinking about it. For eight hours or so a day his body and mind was completely divided up by work and that cold, haughty face. He didn’t seem to have the space to fit in a woman. And this woman was still lukewarm to him. But perhaps their joint effort in emergency first aid had closed a small gap between them and created more sympathy between them?
He calmly turned to look at her, just as she was turning to look at him. “Watch the road,” she said icily. “Pay attention to your driving.” When they had been performing CPR earlier, Zhang Chi had done well, had kept up using the right amount of force the whole time to keep pace with her until they had saved the man. Thinking back to his focused expression, his calm demeanor, and his painstaking effort, one could see he had undergone special training, and his arm strength was above average. She felt she was seeing him again for the first time, this man who had seemed all along to be a playboy. But that she was grateful, that she was touched, that she saw him in a new light, it seemed these were things she would never say to him.
“Okay, I won’t look at you. But I want to ask you a question.” So her feeling had been right. This whole time he had wanted to ask her something, and she was sure it had nothing to do with work.
Gu Shi quickly cut him short. “First I want to ask you something. You answer me, I’ll answer you.”
Zhang Chi gave a thin smile, but just nodded. For the first time Gu Shi noticed his profile really was handsome. His heavy eyebrows were neat and tidy, his eyes large and spirited, and his skin was not rough and leathery like an old chain-smoker, yet neither was it smooth and pale an unblemished like a young lad. His hard-won smile was fresh and straightforward, steady like a mature man, yet with still a lingering trace of the childishness of a big kid. No wonder he was always the focal point whenever there were a lot of lady cops around. How had she not noticed? All the same, she had never really taken a close look at him.
At that moment Zhang Chi’s head was swirling with thoughts. What was she going to ask? Why did he want to take her home all the time? Why in a crowd of people did he always look at her? Or why had he several times now worked overtime with her even when there wasn’t a case to work on? Nah, she was a love insulator. He didn’t know why, but even if she felt those things she would just quietly ignore them.
“I heard that recent case was not so typical.” Gu Shi was asking sentence by sentence. “What I want to ask is, in situations where there are no witnesses and one must rely on video surveillance, can your composite sketches still be of any use?”
Of course, she was asking about work. Were their feelings always going to be about work? Zhang Chi’s throat constricted and he tightened his grip on the steering wheel, staring straight ahead at the road, his heart surging with an indescribable anguish.
“I can’t answer that right now.” Zhang Chi copied Gu Shi’s tone and replied methodically. “It’s not that I don’t want to answer, it’s just that the relative quality of the surveillance footage, the ability of the suspect to avoid detection, and whether or not the footage is relevant or helpful to the case are all unknowns right now.”
Gu Shi nodded in understanding. “There’s no hurry to answer. But I want to remind you that since you are here as a composite sketch artist, that means for every case, even though people might not say it, there will still be that question.”
“You mean from you?” Zhang Chi’s sudden statement took Gu Shi by surprise and she was speechless for a time. He went on, “Actually there’s something I always wanted to ask you.”
Gu Shi was still silent, seemingly waiting in torment for his question, yet she also seemed to know what he was going to say, but had not thought of a good answer.
“What do I have to do between you and I to get beyond a work relationship?” Zhang Chi had finally said it. At that moment he felt a weight had been lifted, but it was followed by nervous and flustered thoughts.