Chapter 51: Admonition
“Having been a police officer all these years, how has your thinking changed?” Zhang Chi wanted to break the silence to cover up the awkward vibes.
Gu Shi shook her head. “I haven’t been at it very long. At most, I know that the stars are brightest between three and four in the morning. My dad, on the other hand, has had a tough life.”
“Sometimes it’s not easy on a police officer’s family, especially a detective’s. Even more so since you are in the same profession as Teacher Gu. Sometimes I envy that you have a dad like that.”
“Accumulation over many years. When I was little my dad would never tell me about the big cases he was working on, but every time he played with me the phone would ring and he would hurry off. I remember my old man never talked as much as he does now. In fact, he rarely said a word to me.”
“Teacher Gu always speaks great truths. They’re simple, but very wise.”
“He’d always say the current difficulties are nothing, that only when you couldn’t solve a case you could get anxious. But you must succeed once, and that feeling of satisfaction would be enough to keep you going to the next time you come to some difficulty.”
Keep going, that was what Zhang Chi would like to tell Gu Shi, that in his pursuit of her it was that phrase he kept repeating to himself through the countless times he was met with her indifference and hostility.
The next day at the special investigations team meeting, Zhang Chi took the last moment before they adjourned to put forth his conjecture: that the culprit was not a local.
Captain Li listened, then smiled and put his hand out in a “hold it” gesture. “Comrade Zhang, I said your main job was composite sketching. The follow-up work should be handed to us crime investigation specialists to handle. Every profession has its specialties, am I right?”
Gu Shi didn’t know how sure he was of his conjecture, but she was not happy with Captain Lu’s attempt to stop him. She stood again and said, “Captain Li, why not hear him about his his reasoning for coming to this conclusion.” Everyone was quiet when this young lady officer spoke up for the first time. There was an awkward silence.
Gu Shi didn’t pay any attention to the delicacy of the situation. “Our Officer Zhang’s speciality is composite sketches, and what does sketching rely on? Accuracy. If something is the least bit wrong it could throw the whole thing off. Similarly, criminal investigation first and foremost requires sharp attention to fine details and meticulous reasoning. These are the fundamental qualities of a composite sketch artist.”
Captain Li looked at several veteran officers. They all wore tolerant smiles which seemed to say “young people are fearless”. Captain Li merely nodded and motioned for Zhang Chi to continue.
When sketching it is easy to discover that people from different regions have different facial characteristics. Take the suspect of this child molestation case, for example. If we ignore the harelip, which is the most obvious distinguishing feature on him, his face could be generally described as having a plump forehead, a wide face and nose, and his eyes are set far apart.”
“What’s the reason for this?” someone asked.
“It’s hard to explain the reason, but I must say that people raised in a given region all tend to share similar facial characteristics that are closely linked with that region.”
“How can you be sure of the accuracy of the witness’ testimony?” someone else asked.
“Experience. I can tell what they are confident about, what they describe from direct observation, and what they are not certain about, and the lapses in their recollection. It’s just like interrogation, you have your own rules and techniques. In short, these facial features are characteristic of people from Shaanxi.” Zhang Chi continued, anticipating the pushback. “Some of you might ask, then why did he use a local accent when questioned?”
“That’s right, his accent is just like a local’s. What’s the explanation there?”
Zhang Chi was already prepared for this. “Our capital houses a lot of people who came from other regions and who have spent a long time living here. After a long period of time one naturally begins to pick up the local accent. You have to pay special attention to the finer points to pick out their original accent. But some areas, such as appearance or clothing, are linked to their habits accumulating over many years and are not easy to change, and it is through these that one can easily give himself away.”
Zhang Chi pointed to an image on the video. In the video, the suspect was wearing a baseball cap and a light color Chinese-style vest and sports shorts. “This get-up is a mix of Chinese and Western dress, at most a bit uncoordinated, but actually this vest in Shaanxi is called “guagua”. Usually made from white cloth or fine linen, similar to the vests people like to wear here. No collar and no sleeves.”
“There’s another possibility, that the clothes aren’t his,” an officer said. “He could have just happened to be wearing them when he committed the crime.”
“So, I combined the clothes with the appearance to come to my conclusion.”
Captain Li said, “Alright, we’ve heard the possibilities, which will just give us all a different perspective. That’s all for today.”
After the meeting, the veteran officer who had objected came over to Zhang Chi and offered him a cigarette. “Young man, I used to be like you, willing to say anything, not afraid of anything. But sometimes you have to look at the situation before speaking.”
Zhang Chi said modestly, “Then as a favor may I ask you to tell me what the situation today was?”
“You and that pretty girl were the youngest present today, am I right? Us old fellas treat you all like we’re parents, as us detectives are all pretty much older than you. Let me ask you, how confident are you in the conjecture you just put forth?”
“About ninety percent?”
“Yep, if you’re not a hundred percent sure, don’t speak up. Don’t you know the one who sticks his neck out is the first to get it chopped off?”
Gu Shi was quietly putting away her things as she waited for Zhang Chi and listened to their conversation.
“Thanks for the warning, but I really don’t think it’s that complicated. No matter how old we are, aren’t we all working on the same case? I just wanted to help out a bit.”
“Young man, you’re still going your own way and not listening to advice.”
Zhang Chi ignored his “disappointed” expression, and said, neither haughty nor humbly, “Perhaps you all think I’m young and that I was lucky to break cases with my sketches. But from start to finish I always work on the basis of the reality of the case and take an objective view and rationally handle things according to the patterns of the case. I never rely on luck.”
The old officer was not done preaching. “Well, let’s see how lucky you are this time, eh?” He left, dejected.
Gu Shi smiled and looked up. “We’re only sent away on cases every now and then, why offend these old men who like to spout their knowledge?”
“Just like you also offended old Li there, I was just keeping up with you,” Zhang Chi said jokingly. He helped her pull back a chair.
“Shall we continue tonight?” Zhang Chi asked her as they left.
Gu Shi drew a blank, then reacted. “Ok. Let me go back and get ready and I’ll meet you in the lobby at eight.”