The Sketch Artist Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: Confrontation

On Youth Day the city council hosted its annual awards ceremony. Gu Shi was the city council’s “May Fourth” medal recipient. She and the other award recipients from other units were the highlight of the day and were already backstage rehearsing.

She saw in the distance the “earringed man” in the assembly hall, a camera bag slung over his shoulder. He was selecting a different angle for a shot. She was the only award winner from her unit so there was no doubt the “earringed man” was directing his rapidfire shutter at her.

In the cheering section to the side, several policewomen noticed him, some whispering to each other about which unit he was from. Finally their gaze focused on Gu Shi, who could only chat awkwardly and helplessly with the colleague beside her, pretending not to notice the scene before her.

The “earringed man” looked at her for a bit, as if he was thinking of something, then took his camera and went straight to her and cut her off as she was talking to the person beside her. “Gu Shi, I’m a publicist with the political section. I need to take a photo of you with your award. If you could just look at the camera for a moment; your expression just now was not right. It didn’t come out well, so I still need your cooperation for a minute.”

Gu Shi was a little unhappy. She had always felt that people who interrupted others were uncultured. She didn’t say anything. He wasn’t her friend or subordinate, so she just looked him dead in the eyes. She noticed in his seemingly careless smiling eyes a flash of earnestness and sincerity. She smiled. “Okay. But Political Section Supervisor, why not wait until the award ceremony to shoot instead of going to the trouble to come all the way over here on my account? I’m sorry to trouble you.”

“Ah, it’s not like that.” Zhang Chi waved his hand. “I’m also receiving an award today so that wouldn’t be convenient, so I have to shoot now during rehearsal. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to take the shots, unless you wanted to take a picture together, which you probably wouldn’t want to do.”

Just then, Gu Zhichang strode in. Gu Shi was a little surprised and was about to open her mouth when she saw Zhang Chi motion to her father to stop for a moment. He was serious as he indicated for Gu Shi to look at the camera and smile. Then he packed up his camera and hooked his arm around Gu Zhichang’s shoulder and walked off. This time Gu Shi stood there completely dumbfounded. She could only shake her head.

When she got back to her seat in the audience, Gu Shi pulled Chen Ting over. “What’s with your chief, being so chummy with a common policeman? They know each other well? Also, he said he was receiving an award as well, but I’m the only one in our unit up for the outstanding youth award, and you for outstanding league member, and the outstanding league cadre has limited vacancies, so where does he fit in?”

“Don’t you know who that is?”

“I just know he likes to stroll around everywhere with his camera, put on cologne and wear an earring, and that looks like a playboy.”

“That’s the famed Zhang Chi, the one who ‘won without a fight’ last time, using his portrait sketch to hound that murderer to death.”

“You mean the Zhang Chi who supposedly changes girlfriends every year?”

“Yep. As I understand it, boss recommended him for a third-class merit, and it’s already been specially examined and approved. Everyone is delighted to have discovered this unorthodox genius. After all, he solved what was nearly a serial killer case. If all goes well, the boss ought to be using him more. He might just become our co-worker.”

“Even so, he ought to be a bit more respectful. How can he treat his elder that way?” Gu Shi was taking up for her father, even though she knew he had a passion for talented people and likely didn’t care about these minor details.

“Actually, I know him well. You’ll understand once you get to know him that he’s not at all what he seems to be.”

“And what does he seem to be?”

“I don’t understand the world of geniuses. I just know he is more of a thinker, and more tenacious than us regular people. If you find him idling about, that just means he hasn’t yet found what he’s looking for.”

Gu Shi wanted to ask more, but the host had already begun talking, so she cut her words short. She wasn’t used to asking a stranger all sorts of questions. Still, she didn’t know why, but she clearly disliked Zhang Chi’s nonchalantness toward everything, yet she couldn’t shake her curiosity about him.

Zhang Chi was to her a totally foreign world. Taking stock of all the award recipients in the assembly hall, Zhang Chi seemed to be the most youthfully dashing of them all, yet he completely lacked the look of pride the other award recipients had. After respectfully receiving his medal he stood idly with his hand in his pocket, his spirited eyes looking straight at her as if he were admiring a fine piece of art he was engrossed in. She looked away in disgust. But for some reason she had this feeling that this person was brimming with some unknown adventure, that there was something linking her fate inexorably to his.

“Really an arrogant egomaniac,” Gu Shi blurted as she walked out of the assembly hall with Chen Ting.

It took a minute for Chen Ting to understand she was talking about Zhang Chi. “Miss, be serious. If he’s really that conceited, well look at yourself. Our beautiful section chief winning awards year after year ever since you joined the unit. Someone who didn’t know you would think you were haughty as well.”

“Based on that then, he and I are the same?” Gu Shi replied, smiling.

“I didn’t say that. But you ought to trust Boss’ insight. You can’t judge people based on appearance.”

“If you don’t look at appearance, what do you look at?” Gu Shi jerked her chin and Chen Ting looked. A car was parked at the city council side entrance and a woman wearing sunglasses leaned against the car door, smiling at the person coming toward her. It was none other than Zhang Chi. They said a few words to each other, then both got in the car. She glanced back, smiling, stepped on the gas, and took off.

“Lexus LS, a good import car,” Chen Ting sighed. “Though Japanese, it’s a high-end model. Over a million.”

“I don’t know what’s a good car and what isn’t, but the woman was a nice beauty. Looks to be one of those ‘fair-skinned, rich, and beautiful’ types. That guy’s not low-key at all, meeting his date like that at city council. But why do I feel she looks familiar?”

“Yeah, that’s He Meng, the victim from the last case.”

Gu Shi watched the car disappear in the distance, lost in thought. She sneered, but didn’t say anything.

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