Chapter 47: Depleted
Pictures of the crime scene from the third rape and murder case were being shown on the large screen in the conference room. The body had been discarded on a small, secluded path. The young lady’s blouse had been ripped open and her pants pulled down to the knee, revealing pale thighs stained with blood, the body desecrated. Only the dark red bloody water under the body, diluted by rain, was testament to the fact that she once lived.
Looking back at the first case, there was also a male among the deceased, which would explain the reason for killing the witness. But the location of the body in this case was neither the remote road of the other related cases, not was it within the killer’s predetermined area of operation.
Was this a chance crime of passion or a necessity to hide the clues?
Captain Li reported, “The others are all missing persons cases reported by family members. The bodies were found by passers-by and reported to police. As this photo shows, the killer mostly chose days before or after rain to commit the crimes. Investigators have not been able to uncover any valuable clues or traces at the crime scenes. Autopsy reports indicate the fatal wounds were all at the back of the thigh, slanting to the left, within about seventy centimeters from each other. Arteries and veins were severed, leading to substantial blood loss and death. We’ve determined the murder weapon is the same, some sharp, single-edged instrument.”
There were many older veterans on the special investigation team, and they were not affected by the brutal photos, the likes of which they had seen before. But when they thought of their sons and daughters who were around the same age as the victims they puffed fiercely on their cigarettes in silence. Their intense desire to go all out and expend all effort was bottled up inside, just waiting to get out.
After the meeting, Zhang Chi had Gu Shi wait a moment while he sought the special investigation team leader who had not yet left and proposed all the family members involved in the cases be rounded up so he could meet with them.
Captain Li was all smiles. He looked up and said, “The notes were all provided. Look through them carefully. There’s a lot of information in there.”
“I’ve looked through them, and although the notes are quite specific, I still need to get better and better data. I’d like to see if the family members can help dig up any new clues.”
Captain Li’s face became serious. “The family members are all stressed out. If one of them should lose it and affect follow-up field work, what then?”
Gu Shi had been standing off to the side, silent, but now she stepped forward and said pleasantly, “Captain Li, our work always has to deal with variable factors. To progress we need our leader’s support.”
Zhang Chi gave Gu Shi a surprised look.
Captain Li was silent, his brow creased slightly as he sized them up.
Gu Shi smiled, not paying any attention to the different looks they were giving her. “Note that some times has passed in these cases, and the only witness is a child. Not good conditions for making a composite sketch. As for the families’ emotional state, well even though I’ve only been working a little over six years, I’ve handled many important cases. I can help keep the vibe level. Don’t worry.”
Captain Li nodded with some hesitation, then turned to Gu Shi and smiled. “If there’s a problem I’ll come to you.”
Zhang Chi got his things together and left the conference room with Gu Shi. He had to ask, “How come you spoke up for me today?”
“You think I was helping you?” she shot back. “Or helping our case in Zhenhai?”
“I was helping our case. I believe our investigation skills, tech, and tests have reached their limit in this case. If there’s any hope for a new breakthrough or advance in this case, it must be your irreplaceable composite sketching.”
“Suddenly the pressure is on.” Zhang Chi smiled and held his stomach.
“What you said before was right. Without a composite sketch it might be like trying to rescue people from an earthquake without monitoring instruments and excavation equipment. In the end we might be able to crack the case. But while we’re waiting the suspect might slip away and really important clues might be lost. So, everything is ready. Now it’s on you.”
“There’s no substitute for trace analysis,” Zhang Chi said sincerely.
“Yes, I know.” Gu Shi turned to face him calmly. “But the most I can do in this case is play the role of assistant. Our main battlefield is still in Zhenhai. They’ve made progress there. New footprints were analyzed today. I need to find time to verify them.”
They used the remaining daytime and were left mentally and physically exhausted. They hurriedly received four batches of victims’ family members. Some were cold and detached, some were in hysterics, some were dejected and weeping, and some were still panicked as before. The information they obtained was numerous and scattered. The living appearances of all the victims were outstanding and memorable.
One said their daughter was about to get married and the invitations had just gone out, but instead the elderly had to bury the young. Another said they were left with a wailing infant who now not only could not drink its mother’s milk, but would also never know its mother. Only it was without worry for the moment, unaware of the tragedy that had befallen the family.
The families’ tears just about flooded the conference room, and the atmosphere was damp and sticky, very much like the snot-laden paper napkins they left on the tea table. Every time he saw a family off, Zhang Chi collapsed on the sofa for five minutes to recover his energy before receiving the next batch.
He had no intention of revealing other’s scars, but in the face of their devastating tragedies it was his energy that was depleted. Gu Shi, on the other hand, seemed to be unaffected by these matters. Even the most extreme family member was placated by her soft voice and left the room quietly.
Zhang Chi looked at her gratefully. If it hadn’t been for her he didn’t know how he would have been able to handle such emotional torment.
The last to enter was the sole survivor and also the youngest of the victims. She was little more than seven years old, but you could tell from her features that she would definitely grow up to become a beautiful woman. Now her face carried a rare lack of childishness, but she didn’t lack a young girl’s refined innocence.
Her father carried her in lovingly and set her down on the sofa and said he was going out for a smoke. He gave her several worried looks before he closed the door. Zhang Chi noticed the grief and and indignation in the man’s bloodshot eyes as they silently entrusted everything over to him.
The wife seemed to be used to this as she explained apologetically, “He can’t bear to listen to these things. Every day he thinks of avenging his daughter. You all must hurry. He won’t be able to settle down the longer this goes on. Just do all you can to not make the child uncomfortable, and we will definitely cooperate.”
Zhang Chi nodded in understanding and flipped through the case file, consulted with the mother, than asked the child, “Little girl, would you like yogurt or juice?”
The girl responded in her sweet, child-like voice, “I’d like juice. Thank you.”
Zhang Chi was about to get up when Gu Shi gestured for him to stay there and continue fostering good vibes. She went to the small refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of grape juice, stuck a straw in, and squatted down and handed it to the little girl.
The girl took a few sips and began swinging her dangling legs back and forth, staring at Gu Shi. “Auntie, are you Uncle’s wife?”
Amused and embarrassed, the mother tried to interject, but Zhang Chi waved her off. He thought, this child has really good taste.
“Why do you ask that?” Gu Shi said helplessly.
“At home, when Daddy is tired after work, or when he’s not in a good mood, Mommy will let him stay on the couch and do things for him, such as handing him a glass of water,” the girl said earnestly. “But I have to get mine by myself.”