Chapter 48: Obscene
“Ah, I see. Look, we’re wearing the same police uniform. We’re coworkers. Today we need you to think back that bad uncle. We won’t be able to do our work very well without your help, and then our boss will scold us. Can you help us?” Gu Shi looked at the girl with a pouty, worried look on her face.
Zhang Chi didn’t know she could make that face. He continued watching her.
She would purse her thin lips into a pink circle. Even a little girl looking at her carefully would believe it was authentic. Acting cute so naturally, not the least bit affected, made her quite loveable.
“Don’t worry, Auntie, I’ll tell you. You all won’t get scolded.”
“That’s a good girl. Auntie is thankful. Let’s start from the beginning.”
“That day, I was coming from kindergarten, on the side of the road with grandma waiting for dad. He parked far away. Grandma was talking with the other kids’ parents so I went to play by myself farther down. Then a man came and said dad was looking for me. He grabbed my hand and walked me toward a building.”
“Where did he take you?” Zhang Chi asked.
“I don’t know. He took me inside this big restroom. It was two times bigger than others. I asked him, ‘Where’s dad?’ He told me, ‘Dad wants me to take you somewhere far away, so first he wants you to go to the bathroom first.’”
Zhang Chi saw the child’s mother furtively wipe away tears. Gu Shi handed her a paper napkin.
“Then, I don’t know why, but I pulled down my pants to pee, but the man wanted me to turn around. I heard him undo his pants. I thought he wanted to pee too, cause whenever ever dad went to pee he would turn around so I didn’t see.” There was now a look of fear in the girl’s eyes.
“Don’t be afraid. Just tell us what happened. There’s nothing to be scared of.”
“Mm. He had me bend over. Then I felt him touch my butt. It tickled. I wanted to turn around, but the man grabbed my arm, hard, I felt a hard and warm thing go into my butt. It really really hurt. I saw blood on my leg and was scared. he covered my mouth so I wouldn’t scream…”
Zhang Chi saw she was about to cry, and that the drink in her hand was almost finished. He turned to Gu Shi, only to find she had already slipped out quietly.
He poured the girl and the mother some lemonade. “Child, do you remember what the man’s face looked like? For example, was there anything strange or unusual about it?”
The girl thought carefully. “His eyes were pretty far apart.”
The girl’s mother had been downcast all this time. Now she looked up. “She never told us this part before?”
Zhang Chi nodded and followed up. “Was his face pretty wide? Wider than mine?”
The girl thought, then nodded quickly. “His mouth smelled and it stuck out, and I think there was a scar in the middle.”
Zhang Chi’s eyes brightened. A scar on his upper lip. Unless it was an ordinary scar, that meant the suspect had a natural harelip that had been repaired through surgery. That would reduce the pool of potential suspects a lot.
“Wait for me just a minute, and then we’ll play a game.” He quickly sketched two quick outlines of completely different mouths. “Take a look. Which one looks more like his?”
The girl pointed to the harelipped mouth without hesitation. “That one, lie a little white bunny. But little white bunnies are nice, they wouldn’t hurt me.”
Her voice was so tender, her eyes so innocent. When he thought about all she had been through, Zhang Chi felt like a knife was piercing his heart. He inwardly rejoiced for her. If the suspect had not suddenly decided to act, therefore not carrying his usual murder weapon, if the janitor had not entered then to clean the room, then they might not be able to see her lively, beautiful face alive.
When the girl’s mother left there were still traces of tears on her face. She asked him in private, “Officer, what chance do you think there is in capturing the suspect?”
Zhang Chi spread his hands helplessly. He had to be realistic. “I can’t answer that. But as you’ve seen, everyone high and low is particularly invested with this case. We will use every lead available to progress the investigation.”
The mother nodded. “I was actually really nervous about bringing her here. She cries every time it’s mentioned, but she never speaks. She’s woken up crying from a nightmare the last several days. Nevermind the police, even I couldn’t find out what happened. At least some progress was made today. Ah, it’s our fault for being careless.”
Zhang Chi nodded in understanding. “You need to continue to keep an eye on her psychological state. This kind of incident often requires one to be freed from an emotional hang-up, otherwise later on her personality and marriage relationship could be affected. You can contact me any time if there’s anything I can do.”
He saw the family out, but it was too late to look for Gu Shi. He assumed she was busy working, so he collected himself and finished his sketch.
His previous sketches had utilized concrete, vivid details to capture the suspect’s facial characteristics. But this case was different from those. The features were clear, but the other details were murky. The witness’ description was unable to be compared to other evidence for analysis.
Zhang Chi saw with his hands on his lap for a long time as people came and went outside the office, never breaking the flow of his concentration. He suddenly had a flash of inspiration and grabbed his phone and put it on silent. He picked up his pencil and quickly started outlining on the easel.
It was dark by the time he left his temporary studio. There was thunder. He didn’t know when it had started raining. The hostel was about fifteen minutes from the office building. The cafeteria had long since closed for the day.
He looked at the papers in his hand, then at the rain outside. He stood there blankly.
A clear female voice sounded behind him. It was Gu Shi. “What are you doing standing there in a daze? Let’s go back to the hostel. I had them save some food for us.”
Zhang Chi turned around, somewhat pleasantly surprised. “Where did you go? I didn’t see you.”
“Something came up and I got busy. Aren’t I here now?” They took the elevator down to the lobby.
It was pouring down rain. All the taxis were full. They had to walk back. Gu Shi opened her umbrella. It was a plain white parasol. It was bigger than the kind women usually carried, but it wouldn’t likely hold up against this heavy rain.
They took two steps and Zhang Chi noticed Gu Shi’s right shoulder was wet, the white cloth soaked and clinging to her skin, her shoulder faintly discernible.
She had been thinking of something in that moment when she felt warmth on her right shoulder. She looked up and sure enough, it was Zhang Chi’s big arm. Her initial reaction was to glare at him.
Zhang Chi had been with many women. He’d seen every look and expression. Infatuation, sorrow, love. But he had never seen this kind of look before.
Moreover, Gu shi’d eyes were bright and piercing. Add to that her sharp, fierce aura, and he was bewildered.