Chapter 65: Lost Contact
Zhang Chi spotted Gu Shi in the distance at the airport. She was waiting for him, glancing left and right. Even so, she still seemed calm as always. She wore what looked like a gray wool overcoat and a cherry scarf wrapped around her neck. Her tall frame and exquisite face was particularly noticeable among the stream of people.
“You’re here.” Her greeting when he came before her was intentionally ordinary, but she couldn’t conceal her smile.
“I do my best to keep my promises to you. Are you hungry? Let’s get something to eat first.” Zhang Chi took her backpack for her and stroked her hair affectionately, then grabbed her hand and led her with bis strides toward eating area.
She didn’t resist and said nothing. He stole a glance and saw her walking with her head down, her face beet-red as she tried to keep up with him.
Who would have thought an intensely cold girl, once she reached the right temperature, would became as gentle as a lovely young girl. He let go of her hand and held her slim figure in his arms, standing there looking into her eyes. “Are you worried about your dad or you just couldn’t wait to see me?”
Faced with this question, she shyly kept her head down. “What do you think?”
“My guess is both.” Zhang Chi held her satisfyingly as they continued walking. “You don’t need to say. I’m used to him being around all the time too. Every time we go out on business it’s not just you, but I too miss him.”
Gu Shi looked up, smiling. “My dad is doting. He takes you as his own son.”
“No no, a son-in-law is only half a son.” Zhang Chi beamed.
Gu Shi said nothing, but smacked him affectionately. “You’re a smooth talker, just be quiet. Let’s hurry and eat. We have to catch our flight soon.”
Zhang Chi helped her to her seat and went to order coffee, salad, and sandwiches. He came back and set her tray down first; his was just a coffee in a paper back, which he sipped while he watched her eat.
Gu Shi looked up, puzzled. “What, you’re not eating?”
“I’m not hungry. I’m happy just watching you eat.”
“Watching me eat makes you lose your appetite?” she joked.
“No way, it’s what you’d call a feast for the eyes. Watching you is like eating a huge meal.” He sat beside her, smiling.
There was strong affection between them as they sat and ate and chatted and laughed. Then they queued up to board the plane. The crowd of people pushed forward while Zhang Chi stood behind her and led her through without being disturbed by the crowd’s jostling. He stopped her and handed her his papers. “Hold this, I think I have a message.”
Gu Shi said casually,” Just answer it when we get back. At this time, if it was important they would have called you directly.”
It was an unfamiliar number. He shut his phone off decisively. Then he dragged his luggage behind him as he continued following the line of people forward.
Perhaps years later when Zhang Chi thought about everything he would shake his head painfully and helplessly. The bright road ahead shined in through the cabin window. Seemed like the known route was about to be covered by layers of hope, even if they were extravagant hopes.
Sometimes he would even think that if nothing had happened, maybe things between he and Gu Shi wouldn’t have progressed so painfully.
They received phone calls as they were waiting at baggage claim. Their phones went off at nearly the same time. When they turned on their phones a torrent of chat messages poured in, followed by the call. They looked at each other in astonishment and took their calls separately, their eyes still watching for their luggage.
“Gu Shi, come back quickly. Something happened to your dad.”
She jerked and arched her back like a frightened cat. “What’s wrong, what happened? Speak slowly.”
“Captain Gu had an accident while on duty. He’s in the hospital. I’m not sure of the details either at the moment. Hurry back.” Chen Ting was speaking a bit incoherently.
Gu Shi wanted to ask him what kind of accident? Traffic accident? Injured in a fight? But nothing came out of her mouth. It was too much to take in.
Zhang Chi ended his brief call and stared at her back.
He had gotten a call from Captain Liu. “The situation is not optimistic. Come on back with Gu Shi. You need to look after her emotional state.”
Captain Liu’s tone was heavy and solemn. He wanted her to take deep breaths and relax, which was what Zhang Chi was doing at the moment himself. She was shaking uncontrollably, and he knew it wasn’t because she was cold.
Gu Shi held the speaker far away from herself using the loudest noise possible to drown out Chen Ting’s flustered words. After confirming that the detectives were all on their way to the hospital, she held onto Zhang Chi’s shoulder to balance herself before she fell. Zhang Chi didn’t have enough time to ask anything; she had already found their luggage from the conveyor and handed it to him, then she ran to the counter and bought return tickets for the soonest flight.
Zhang Chi flashed his police ID and strongly told the medical staff to take them directly to the operating room. Gu Shi’s face had relaxed a bit. Chen Ting walked quickly over from the hallway to greet them. “No use waiting here. Little Wu was just admitted and it will still be a long time. I’m here, that’s enough.”
Zhang Chi recalled that Little Wu and Teacher Gu had been on the same shift. He pulled on Gu Shi’s sleeve and found another nurse, who quickly and quietly led the way.
Zhang Chi could feel Gu Shi’s hand getting heavier and heavier until he was simply dragging her along. When they got close to the room she stopped, tears running down her face. He waited for her quietly. She lingered by the door for less than a minute before taking a deep breath and hurrying inside.
It was quiet inside, strangely quiet, in fact. There was only Gu Zhichang’s bed and a curtain pulled half open beside it. The first thing she saw was his pale foot.
Chen Ting walked with them part of the way and told them that when the explosion occurred Little Wu was taking a statement from the person who had made the call to the police and Gu Zhichang was about to get out of the car. The loud bang enveloped them in an instant in a mushroom cloud. They were still investigating who had cut Little Wu as the dust cleared from the explosion.
“Still investigating” were words they used all the time in their line of work. It contained hope, but was also often bundled with disappointment. It just sounded like highfalutin empty talk to outsiders, but to police it was a concrete, real morass. Even though you got in there and combed through every clue and turned over every leaf, the public just saw it as passive inaction, a quagmire.
Zhang Chi tried to push all those thoughts away and went inside. Everyone turned to slow motion. Time seemed to stand still. Gu Shi’s step became quicker and quicker until they stopped before her father’s bed. Zhang Chi saw a person covered with a white hospital sheet. More precisely, it was a plain white cloth, a spotless, 100% white cotton cloth.