TSA Chapter 69

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Chapter 69: Pondering Deeply

Just before dawn the entrance guard yawned and opened the gates. It was dark inside the branch office compound. Two or three stray cats lay on top of a police cruiser, their ears turning slightly to the sound of someone approaching. They opened their eyes and saw it was a familiar face and squinted and closed their eyes again and dozed off.

Zhang Chi was coming from a night snack stall at an even pace, frowning deeply. The usually sluggish Chen Ting was urging him along. “Ah, they’re all waiting for us, can’t you speed up a bit?”

After more than five hours of searching Zhang Chi really did unearth a few fragments of plastic wire casing under a layer of gravel, which elated Chen Ting to no end, who took some simple instruments from his toolbox and made some preliminary inspections. The fingerprints on the casings were not complete, but they were clearly visible.

This was the first time he let Zhang Chi make the report to the special investigations team. Zhang Chi took his phone out casually. When he spoke on the phone his voice was calm. He seemed not to be excited at all.

“It’s too early to say the case has been cracked. The fingerprints might belong to someone who was not involved with the crime.” Zhang Chi spoke evenly as he explained Chen Ting’s question.

“Do you still remember how you came to become a detective?”

Zhang Chi was taken aback. Chen Ting had been the one who had “opened the door to let a wolf in” as his initial love rival. “Wasn’t it because you said I drew well, that they didn’t need to take photos of the wedding dress? That sentence of yours changed my career.”

“Not entirely. Your drawing skill is what in the end altered your fate.”

Chen Ting wasn’t wrong. If he had not solved that case with that composite sketch then Gu Zhichang would not have selected him to join their team, and of course he would not have had the chance to get so close to Gu Shi.

“Composite sketches were the decisive factor in the other cases, so why this time are you resting your hopes on material evidence?” Chen Ting didn’t know if it was because he was tired or because of long-pent-up emotion, but everything he said today was sharper and more direct than usual.

Zhang Chi listened, lost in thought. This was the same question he was asking himself. Why? Why couldn’t he use his sketching to find the murderer for Teacher?

He knew this case was different from all the others. It was Teacher’s blood spilled this time. He could not allow himself to fail.

“Think about it, if Teacher were here, what would he want you to do? He’d probably hope his apprentice would not try for fear of failing. Didn’t he always say that the more tortuous the path, the close we are to the truth?”

Zhang Chi didn’t respond. Two lines of tears rolled down his cheeks in the silent night. He couldn’t help but quicken his pace and over take Chen Ting.

Several members of the special investigations team hurried in from home, and after hearing Zhang Chi and Chen Ting’s detailed account, set to work methodically examining the evidence. The scope of their work extended all the way to the police car’s target area, and there was a lot to check, but at least that had a lead.

Zhang Chi handed everything over and spoke to Chen Ting, then went slowly to Gu Zhichang’s office desk and sat down in a chair in front of it like he always had.

He cleaned off Teacher’s office desk like he did every day. There was a photo on the desk of Gu Zhichang and Gu Shi together when Gu Shi was a child, and a group photo of the team under the glass of the desk surface and a clean ashtray next to his computer, and a large brown glass bottle that Gu Zhichang always used for water. Spread out on the outer edge of the desk was a row of work records, a pair of reading glasses stuck in between one book.

Teacher had a habit of keeping notes about his work. Aside from minutes from meetings and case notes, he also wrote down the activities of each day of work. He would go through a book every six months. On his desk was stacked records of the last five years of his work. Zhang Chi sat their blankly for a long time, then began slowly leafing through the records and took his own notebook and wrote down some important notes.

He noticed that Gu Zhichang’s normal work hours were very regular. Unless he was specifically called away for an important case he would always find someone to go in his stead, but his shifts for the most part did not change. Even if he did switch shifts with someone, he didn’t let that person take his shift, but would work their shift and still work his own as well. “Either they’re getting married or they have aging parents and small kids to take care of, always busy busy. Everyone is like that, I understand, I understand. I’ve got nothing going on, so I ought to work a bit more.” His face appeared before Zhang Chi’s eyes.

Zhang Chi put his head on the desk for a while, tired. He flitted in and out of sleep until about eight in the morning. By that time he had leafed through ten or so notebooks and had taken a bunch of notes of his own.

It wasn’t time to start work yet as Chen Ting appeared in the hallway in high spirits. He had slept in his office the night before so he would save on travel time, and the weariness of the past few days seemed to be mostly gone. He was alarmed when he saw the door to Gu Zhichang’s office unlocked. He peeked ain and found Zhang Chi.

Chen Ting clapped him on the back before Zhang Chi’s drowsy self could turn around and said excitedly, “What I said yesterday was right. You’ve proven your usefulness once again. Yesterday they not only made a breakthrough with the material evidence to advance the case, we also had some luck in finding some security camera footage of the suspect. Hurry up and go see about it.”

Zhang Chi’s grogginess immediately vanished and he hurried to the restroom and washed his face and brushed his teeth like the wind, then ran to the special investigations team conference room. Everyone looked at him when he came in and saw he looked thinner overnight and they whispered and sighed to each other.

Captain Liu told him to take a seat. “You’re just in time. After meticulous work by our technical personnel, we found that the person who reported the crime did block his face as he used the public pay phone near the scene of the crime, but when he left the phone and the scene there was a clear witness who had a strong impression of him.”

“I’ll take a look,” Zhang Chi said.

“Want us to bring him to the station and save you some steps?” Captain Liu suggested, seeing how tired Zhang Chi looked.

“No need. I can also take a look at the surroundings. Maybe we’ll find some other witnesses.”

Captain Liu noticed Zhang Chi’s weak voice and lack of bravado, and also the determined look in his eyes, and he motioned Zhang Chi to go on.

Zhang Chi held his tongue and didn’t get up. Captain Liu looked at him curiously. “If you have something to say, just say it.”

“Captain Liu, can you help me with something?”

“Tell me what it is and I’ll see if I can.”

Zhang Chi flipped open his notebook and wrote down two dates on a sheet of white paper. “Can you determined for me the cases Teacher Gu was involved in or leading between these dates? I need the details of these cases.”

“You think this has something to do with his work?”

“It’s just a guess. I want to expand the possibilities. Right now I don’t have an answer.”

Captain Liu thought about it, his eyes reddening slightly at the edges. He put the piece of paper in his breast pocket. “Alight. Don’t worry, I’ll have the information prepared for you as soon as possible. Gu Zhichang’s business is my business.”

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