Chapter 8: Erroneous Judgment
“Yes. The subtle changes in one’s face, often gone in a flash, reveal one’s mentality, and one is not necessarily even aware of these changes, so they are difficult to cover up. This often provides us with the most authentic information.”
“Did she make some unusual expressions?”
“When I gave her the other two sketches to look at I paid particular attention to the changes in her face. According to convention, although it was possible for one to regard a sketch in a completely new light once one realized one had given a completely different description, it wouldn’t be particularly shocking either. And the small expressions of surprise that occur on one’s face only last a second: slight widening of the mouth, widening of the eyes, the eyebrows raising. If it stays longer than a second then it’s feigned.”
“Was her surprise feigned?”
“Observing her normal expression and personality, on the whole she seemed introverted, not one with an expressive face. But her surprised look lasted a full five seconds. It was a bit much, really. Obviously an intentionally feigned look of surprise. But why act surprised? Simply to make me notice, to show that she had not intentionally altered her description, that it was just a lapse of memory.”
“Was there anything else?” Gu Zhichang frowned, thinking.
“Once I realized the difficulty I would have with her, and I applied suitable pressure, she laced her fingers together and hugged her knees. From a psychology point of view this action is specially for keeping one’s equilibrium, a kind of defensive posture. Logically speaking, I was there to help solve a case. If I could find the suspect it would be helping her, so it doesn’t make sense for her to have such a defensive reaction.
“The psychology interpretation is that if her eyes drift to the right when she’s answering my questions, that means she’s likely making something up and not telling me her true recollection. But since I don’t know her well enough and because she was certainly behaving peculiarly, I don’t put much stock in that. But after I showed her the final sketch her head tilted up slightly. I interpret that as a desire to be far away, like she wanted to distance herself from the portrait.”
“Why do you think she acted that way?”
“First, I didn’t take long to make the sketch, not even close to long enough to exceed the limit’s of an adult’s patience. Second, from the beginning I told her I didn’t want to disturb her work and would just make use of what time we had to ask her some questions. Third, the sketch was based on the information she supplied to me, and was modified many times based on her changing descriptions, so she had no reason to be dissatisfied. Logically, under normal circumstances if a victim sees that the portrait looks like the suspect, they will be excited, happy, or as in the case with the last victim, fearful from reliving the experience, as if the scene were happening all over again. But when I showed her the final sketch her eyes flashed with alarm and unease. None of the emotions I just mentioned.”
“In that case, there seems to be only one answer. She hoped you wouldn’t sketch an accurate portrait, but when she saw the final result was totally unlike the culprit she felt an ineffable combination of guilt and dread.”
“It was just a guess at first, Mr. Gu. But after the sketch was finished she seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and seemed to let her guard down. The questions I put to her then confirmed my previous guess.”
“Kid, you like saving the best for last.”
“You remember? On the day of the crime it was pouring down rain in Shanghai. It rained all day without stopping.”
“Yes, so the suspect was wearing a poncho, which turned out to be a good tool for hiding his identity.”
“However, while I was packing up my sketching supplies I asked her casually, ‘When he hit you did any water splash on your face?’”
“What did she say?”
She said no, without any hesitation.”
“That’s doubtful. If he was wearing the poncho when he entered there’s no way some water didn’t get on her.”
“I didn’t say anything. She seemed to realize right away that she had spoken too suddenly because she quickly corrected herself and said she passed out so how could she remember those details.”
“A blurted-out answer is often the truth. Seems the sketch you made on your trip today won’t be of much use as a reference, despite your skill. But you still provided us with a major clue.”
Zhang Chi smiled and stood, handed Gu Zhichang the yogurt on his plate, hurriedly packed up his sketch materials, and was already at the door of the cafeteria before Gu Zhichang could say anything. “Mr. Gu, there’s a big meeting the Boss will be attending that I have to shoot pictures at. If my deductions can help your case then I will agree to your proposal to join the crime team. Even if the sketch isn’t good, it’s a good starting point. I’ll leave first. If something comes up, give me a call.”
Gu Zhichang smiled and shook his head as he left. “That kid… He’s really something.”
Afternoon, the sun shining, the annual physical stamina evaluations were just beginning. Everyone from the section chief on down hurried out in twos and threes, separated by department, to the testing grounds——the sports field of a university in the Hongkou District of Shanghai. Many there were already sweating and panting as they grumbled things like, “Using up our energy like this, when we get to the running part we won’t be able to do it”.
Ever since they stopped allowing the use of public vehicles for unofficial business, and because these sorts of activities were not considered official police work, they weren’t allowed to use their police cruisers to get to any of these competitions, which was met with complaints. Luckily, the testing grounds arranged by the political affairs department was not far from the police bureau and was only about a fifteen-minute walk, and the first-aid kits and barley tea prepared for them softened their complaints somewhat.
When Gu Shi and her colleagues arrived, Zhang Chi noticed she was looking slimmer than usual in her tight-fitting, black with red trim sportswear. Her curves were attractive, and it seemed her every pore was imbued with youthful vigor. She was in the middle of warm-ups, but her face was taut, serious, not only tense but also cold and detached.
Chen Ting noticed him looking at them. He nodded and came over. “What, still looking at our pretty section chief?”
Zhang Chi laughed nonchalantly. “With her small physique I bet she won’t be up for running. She seems tense. Oh right, where’s Mr. Gu?”
“Hey, don’t you worry about our lady boss. Mr. Gu is with Zeng and her husband. They’ve just about told everything. Who would have guessed it was actually a confidence trick carried out by the husband and wife together. I heard your sketch was a big failure? Not even a little bit close in resemblance!”
“Oh yeah? I did my best. Tell me, what areas were off?”
“The culprit had a flat nose, square face, and small eyes. But you drew a tall nose, an oval face, and big eyes. You really made it look attractive!”
“Yeah, that’s a pitfall everyone has, always trying to correct the human form.” Zhang Chi couldn’t help but laugh. His mind relaxed. It was as he had suspected, that Miss Zeng had intentionally set a trap to beat him at his own game.
The women’s 2500m test had already begun. The seemingly weak female colleagues took off at the sound of the starting gun, vying for position on the inside, taking the first lap in a dead sprint. Gu Shi quickly fell to third and Zhang Chi fixed his eyes on her back.
Chen Ting pointed at the competitive contestants. “Don’t look down on our lady boss. She may not look like a gifted athlete, but she has amazing stamina. She signs up for just about every international marathon, and she always goes the distance. Watch, she’ll be in the lead soon. Right now she’s just politely yielding, lest she trip over her older colleagues.”
“You’re just bragging to stick up for your own.” Zhang Chi wasn’t really paying attention when he spoke. He grabbed his camera and walked to the grass infield and set up his tripod in preparation for getting a close-up shot.
“What bragging, I’m just stating the facts. Nevermind, you’ve never seen her burst of power during arrest operations. If you ask me, her advantage is she has good endurance and she’s an even stronger sprinter. I heard that back at the academy even the strongest man couldn’t outrun her.”
Gu Shi really did slightly begin to overtake the others, her pace large and steady, her breathing smooth, but her face still calm. She seemed to really have undergone specical training, easily overtaking five or six people in half a lap. The other women clearly had used up their strength on the beginning sprint; those who could still maintain a regular pace were already doing well.
Gu Shi blew past Zhang Chi like a whirlwind and he was ready, waiting until she was facing him before rapidly snapping the shutter. With his camera adjusted for sports shots there would surely be a few good photos he could use for a feature article. But was the look in Gu Shi’s eyes disdain, contempt, or hostility?
Zhang Chi felt the cool breeze of her wake after she passed him, and with it a sweet fragrance. According to his knowledge of perfume, it wasn’t a light perfume or a cologne. It was likely a unique combination of her shampoo and her natural body fragrance. Even so, it seemed to reveal its owner’s two completely different temperaments: intractability and tenderness.
Just as he was feeling flustered, Chen Ting suddenly clapped him on the shoulder. “Snap out of it. Look, see I was right.”
Then he noticed Gu Shi was already far ahead of the pack, nearly at the finish line. He shouted “Go” at nearly the same time as Chen Ting. Gu Shi gave Chen Ting a faint smile, but she didn’t even glance at Zhang Chi. He shrugged indifferently. He thought, you’ll be my woman sooner or later. No hurry. We’ll see who has the last laugh.
“Hey, why don’t you answer the phone?” came a panting complaint from behind him.