TSA Chapter 35

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Chapter 35: Call to Account

Inside the break room an easel was erected beside the sofas where several people sat. Above the easel hung a sketch of the entire criminal investigation team. Zhang Chi had drew them specially for them. Everyone was there, former staff as well as newer members, including the late Old Qin. Gu Shi was right in the middle of all of them.

Zhang Chi had presented the sketch one time after a full team meeting and carefully placed it on the table. As soon as each person there saw it they all exclaimed with admiration. Everyone compared themselves to their likeness in the sketch and one after another gave Zhang Chi a thumbs up.

“Ah, he sketched us all without us knowing. Sketching criminal suspects all day long, it’s really too good for those little bastards.” Old Chen had been depicted a bit slimmer and his beery belly was hidden behind the first row of people, so he was happy. “Boss always talks about team cohesiveness. With a flourish of his pencil he’s brought us even closer together.”

Everyone roared with laughter, Gu Zhichang laughing so that his eyes squinted to slits and deepening the crow’s feet around his eyes. This sketch will just make his composite sketches that much better. If the witnesses can forget that they’re at the public security bureau while they’re here then they will relax and be better able to cooperate with our Little Zhang, don’t you think so?”

“Nice, so young and already has his own studio,” another old officer half-joked bitterly. “I’ve worked here most of my life and don’t even have an office.”

“You never applied for one. There’s still time.”

“So we just need to have some special skill and Boss will guarantee us a separate room. Right, Boss?”

Gu Zhichang just laughed, but Zhang Chi quickly stepped in to smooth things over. “No no no, Boss already said this is everyone’s break room. I just need to borrow it every now and then. Sorry for the inconvenience during those times.”

When Zhang Chi walked into the studio and his eyes went to the sofa. A hard-up looking female university student saw him and stood up at once. He motioned for her to sit and poured a cup of coffee and gave it to her, the strong aroma of the coffee quickly permeating the entire studio. He went to the easel and looked at his watch. “All right, we can begin.”

Friday afternoon the office was silent and still, Zhang Chi hiding in his studio with a laptop before him, brows furrowed, biting his pencil, racking his brain, then looking up and sighing deeply. Just then he heard Gu Shi’s voice in the hallway.

He took out his cell phone and looked at his calendar and calculated her training itinerary. No, she ought to have a class tomorrow. Why has she suddenly come back?

Zhang Chi walked steadily over to her and greeted her. “Training finished? Why didn’t you tell me, I could have come pick you up.”

Gu Shi gave him a sideward glance. She seemed even colder than before. “Not yet. I came back today to work overtime.” She sat on the edge of a desk while she ate a hamburger. “Any headway in that missing persons case?”

“Boss, when you’re not here we’re without our pillar,” Little Wu smiled and then pulled a long face.

Chen Ting couldn’t listen to any more. He clapped Little Wu on the back. “Come on, suck up, tell us, what do we have a handle on right now?”

Little Wu looked at Zhang Chi. “You’re good at explaining things, you say it.”

Zhang Chi didn’t decline, but rather went right into an explanation. “We went to see the girl’s parents. Afterwards, based on what we learned from them, we investigated where she went that weekend when she didn’t return home.”

Gu Shi was confused. “Didn’t she rent an apartment? We went there last time.”

“After that incident her parents felt her her apartment was not safe at all and insisted she move back in with them. Every day she had to have someone accompany her to her internship.”

Chen Ting shook his head. “So over-the-top. A graduate student is already an adult. Seems like we still haven’t learned why she wanted to commit suicide.”

Zhang Chi nodded. “They never ventured to ask her. Perhaps after several weeks they noticed her mood stabilizing and felt that work could help take her mind off things. So when she said we was working overtime and couldn’t come home her parents went with it.”

“But in the end she didn’t work overtime?” Gu Shi guessed.

“Not only did she not work overtime, after checking her phone we found she had transfered 650,000 RMB from the bank ATM to an account over a period of time. And during those two days she again transfered 400,000.”

“She didn’t go anywhere else aside from the bank, right?”

Zhang Chi nodded. “The problem is, the leads came to and when we called and asked and asked about the withdrawals.”

Now Chen Ting put forth his own idea. “Maybe she had some helper to withdraw from the bank?”

“No, she drew the money herself.” Little Wu sighed in frustration. “But we’ve been at this for so long, yet haven’t made any substantial progress.”

This information is all substantial. You’ve all already been very productive.” Gu Shi rarely gave praise, so Little Wu was overjoyed when he heard that. He patted Zhang Chi’s arm, but the latter only smiled thinly.

“At least, a lot better than I expected,” Gu Shi said. “Rather than a kidnapping, from my experience it would be better to treat this as telecommunications fraud.”

“Yes, we felt that way too,” Little Wu said. All along the suspect has never truly appeared with the victim. Just using the parents’ anxiety to make it look like a kidnapping so that they will give in to their ridiculous demands.”

“What about the portrait sketch, is it all right?” Gu Shi suddenly turned and asked.

This was the sentence Zhang Chi most feared to hear. Every time someone asked this before he had a chance to open his mouth, and if it didn’t come from his boss, it came from the witness’ mouth. The former always asked because it affected the case greatly and they were under pressure from their own supervisor. The latter was even more vexing, because they would often ask for someone else to draw it or ask for someone else to describe the culprit’s appearance.

It was a lot of pressure and his sketch could easily become distorted. When a witness described over and over again there would not only be frustrating for them, their account would also begin to deviate, and often it had been several days, past the time when someone’s memory is at his best, so there would always be details omitted. These factors all adversely affected the portrait sketch.

Zhang Chi grudgingly admitted, “Conditions are not ideal at the moment. There’s been no progress. I’m still working on it.” In fact it was much worse than not ideal. The video footage this time was worse than the voyeur from last time.

According to the bank withdrawal records, nothing had been withdrawn from the account by a retail outlet, nor any small sums withdrawn. The suspect was in urgent need of money and personally withdrew money, which usually was helpful for identification. However, the resolution on the camera was too low and the suspect was wearing a hat when he made the transaction, only revealing his jaw and neck, and when he had gotten out of the car to go to the machine he had purposefully hidden his face. Zhang Chi went through each frame again and again until he found the clearest picture of the suspect. But it was totally inadequate for drafting a composite sketch.

“I see. I have some work to do. Let me know if there’s any new developments.” Gu Shi finished her hamburger and turned and went directly to her office.

“What case is she working on?” Zhang Chi asked Little Wu, puzzled.

Little Wu spread his hands and looked at Chen Ting.

Chen Ting looked reluctant, but under their scrutinizing gazes has could only say, “That weirdo from last time apparently was just apprehended. Section Chief Gu just now informed me. Our team will be working overtime in just a bit.”

“How come no one told me?” Zhang Chi pressed excitedly. “Is it the person in my sketch?”

Chen Ting walked out slowing with his cup of water. “Let me go check and see.”

“Aren’t you busy with other stuff?” Little Wu reminded him. “We’re always calling on you; even a person with three heads and six arms would be hard pressed to handle it all.”

Zhang Chi went back to the studio and sat and studied his sketch board. The printout in front of him dazzled him. Not only were there no distinguishing characteristics on his face, he couldn’t even make out the shape of a person there. It was all just a blurry mosaic. He pinned the printout to his sketch board and set it against the wall and went and stood at the farthest end of the room and squinted, trying to see the portraits from a different perspective. He looked for a while, then returned to his easel, took up his pencil, but it was not so smooth-going as before.

In the hallway, that familiar figure once again appeared and Zhang Chi’s attention turned in a flash to Gu Shi. She was coldly hurrying past, but quickly turned back the other way and went straight to him and looked the sketch that he had nearly finished.

Zhang Chi had been smiling at her, but now he wiped that off and matched her frosty expression. As a matter of fact he almost could not even feel his heartbeat, as if the world stood still. She had never been this close to him, face to face. But why was her breathing not hurried at all, and her cheeks were not flushed like that one time. Only her eyes shone gentle and spirited through her cold mask. What did she want to say to him privately?

“You know why no one told you?” Gu Shi said.

“Looks like my sketch wasn’t much use.” Zhang Chi was dejected, but he kept his voice light.

“Not only that!” Gu Shi said bluntly. “If he hadn’t committed another crime we likely wouldn’t have been able to catch him even if we scoured the world looking for someone like the person depicted in your sketch. Your sketch severely misled our colleagues on that stakeout operation.”

Zhang Chi stood, towering over this tactless girl before him. He was never afraid of hurting himself, yet was always easily wounded. Why did he like her?

“I’m only telling you facts no one else is willing to tell you. I warned you last time that an officer’s worth in this unit is reflected in the cases. Your importance to this case lies in your sketch. This is your core competitiveness.” Gu Shi spoke rapidly with, her voice tinged with disappointment. It was like Zhang Chi was seeing the young Gu Zhichang. Sometimes those two were so alike it was scary.

“It’s only been a few days. Give me a bit more time…”

“I don’t know what you’re really asking me that for, and I don’t want to know. All I know is if a man is not focused on his career he won’t achieve anything. Of course success isn’t about honor, but means he’s done something well, done it as well as it can be done. So not reaching it means his judgment, comprehension, or self-control must be lacking somewhere. I don’t know if I like that type, haven’t thought about it, but what’s clear is that kind of man is not the type I can admire. If he can’t even win my respect and admiration, there’s no need to talk about anything else.”

Every time Gu Shi spoke of matter of the heart it was like she was calculating a formula or a logic problem, always rationally, almost indifferently. If she really fell in love with someone would she still clearly analyze it item by item like that? Or perhaps, she was slow to warm to people? He’d rather her be the latter. At least then he’d have room to work.

“Also, I saw the sketch of that voyeur. Are you sure you sure you sketched the right suspect? I feel the person you sketched is not much different from the suspect in that missing persons case. The same face shape, same eyes. Even the hairstyle is basically the same… Keep looking for a reason. Focus more on your work and you won’t go wrong.”

Gu Shi left off her criticisms and added that last sentence after noticing he wasn’t saying a word, as if to save him a bit of face.

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