The Golden Dragon
Part Five


 
Tim Simmons strolled in, as yet unaware of the magnitude of the situation, his lips cocked in a crooked smile beneath a mass of graying curls and vivid blue eyes.
"Hello, John," he greeted, "what's doing?"
McKenna blanched. "Take a look," he replied.
Simmons scanned the room through the milling crowd. His smile vanished. "Holy Christ!" he muttered.
McKenna's gaze drifted to the restaurant's mezzanine. Several familiar faces stared back. Gang kids. One of them acknowledged him with a nod. With a start, McKenna recognized the tough leader he had mistakenly identified upon seeing the first victim sprawled on the floor beside the dragon pillar. The boy's presence among the survivors confirmed the cop's belief that he had probably been an intended target in the shooting. The policeman went up to him and took him aside in the bakery.
"So you were here when it happened," commented the older man.
"Yeah," said the kid, "I was here." "Did you recognize any of the shooters?" asked McKenna.
"Well, maybe I did," drawled the boy, "but I ain't sure. I don't wanna say nothin', though, 'cuz I might be wrong."
McKenna was up against one of the smartest of the bunch. The cop knew him well enough to realize that if this young warlord suspected you had the goods on him, he'd admit his involvement. Hardly more than a boy in calendar years, but already a vicious criminal, he was a man who reasoned out what you might know, and if you knew enough to put him in jail, he would cooperate just enough to lessen the amount of time he might have to spend behind bars. It was apparent to McKenna that the kid suspected certain names had already crossed the detective's mind as the possible perpetrators, but the cop was too clever to verbalize his suspicions at this early stage.
From an investigator's viewpoint, it was unwise to isolate suspects before positive proof was offered. There was too much risk of being burned on the witness stand later. The gang kid's hint that he might be useful in breaking the Golden Dragon case with a positive identification was a bid for a deal with McKenna. It was obvious that the boy was not a perpetrator of the Golden Dragon incident by reason of his exposure. It was equally obvious that if the young man really knew who did it, he wanted to save the information as a bargaining point on something else of which McKenna was not aware. That could have been anything from extortion to homicide. McKenna opted for no deal.
Sensing that McKenna had chosen not to bite, the boy grinned impishly.
"Well," he said, "at least you know I didn't pull this one. After all, I coulda got my ass shot off!"
Both the kid and the cop mentally filed away the encounter for future reference.
On the main floor of the restaurant stood other young gangsters, draped casually against a back wall in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the survivors. Their leader was among them. Their demeanor suggested boredom with the present proceedings, an attitude quite unlike the one they had displayed during the shooting. There had been nothing casual then about the fei jai, "flying youth." None of them had taken a bullet, nor had any of them returned fire. To the surprise of policemen, they were all unarmed, which was highly unusual. These were the Hop Sing Boys whom McKenna had suspected he might discover hiding in the Hop Sing Tong building in Waverly Place.
McKenna, Simmons and officers of that night's on-call Homicide crew, John Fotinos and Carl Klotz, jockeyed among the youngsters in pursuit of information, having already taken on the second gang on the mezzanine above. While they questioned the boys, John Barisone from the Crime Lab and Ernie Ellison, the police photographer, went about their own grisly business a few feet away. Barisone carefully collected bullet casings and recorded data on body positions and bullet trajectories. To Ernie Ellison fell the onerous task of staring back at the dead through his camera's eye. Dr. Boyd Stephens, San Francisco's coroner, and his staff examined the objects of Ellison's photographic attention, initiating reports to be used later in court if the San Francisco Police Department were fortunate enough to bring the killers to justice.
In spite of Chinatown's wall of silence, the police maintained a conviction record of Asian youth criminals higher than most American cities. Nevertheless, McKenna and his colleagues were having a rough time gleaning anything useful from the fei jai in the corner. One after the other, the boys dummied up: "Yes, I was here. Ain't that obvious? No, I didn't recognize them guys. Chinese? Shit, how do I know? They was wearing stocking masks. Besides, you white people say all Chinese look alike." (Vicious chuckle.) "They didn't have no class, though, shootin' all around like that. Well, I gotta go home. My family don't like me stayin' out too late. I'm under 18, y'know." (A reminder that he's still a protected juvenile in the eyes of the law.)
Behind his studied countenance, McKenna began to get furious. This is bullshit, he thought. He recognized that the presence of two disparate groups of bad guys, one on the lower level of the Golden Dragon and the other on the mezzanine, left little room for questioning the reason for the shooting. He had already observed that the focal points of the shooters appeared to have been in the general areas where the two gangs had stationed themselves.
That at least one of the killers, the soloist on the lower level, had fired at random could be attributed to trigger madness. He had taken up a position near the Hop Sing Boys and had concentrated his murderous energy on the prostrate form of the young man he undoubtedly thought was the targeted leader. On the upper level, another innocent look-alike of the leader lay seriously wounded after one of those shooters zeroed in and shot him in the stomach with a certain intent to kill.
Some thought the entire incident had derived from a miscalculation by trigger-happy kids on the prowl for money from the tills of late-night Chinatown, but the conclusion drawn by McKenna and others in Homicide and Intelligence carried the stamp of truth.
The Golden Dragon massacre represented no random robbery gone sour. The restaurant was a battle scene set on a field of white tablecloths. None of the slain or injured who colored it with blood knew they had sat down to supper in a war zone. They were victims of the conspiracy of silence that had long sustained packs of bravos like those still skulking on the lower level and the mezzanine--the young warlords of Chinatown.
Most of the victims were rushed to Mission Emergency at San Francisco General Hospital. The staff was ready. It had learned of the event at 2:45 in a call from Central Emergency, a unit incapable of handling such a large influx of patients. The injured began arriving at San Francisco General at 2:55 A.M. The most seriously hurt were directed to three "trauma rooms." Dr. John Boey, chief resident physician in charge of trauma services, thought it "the nearest to civilian warfare" he'd seen in seven years of service at the county hospital.
Within the next few hours, 100 pints of blood were used by a trauma team numbering 12 doctors and six nurses. There was a shortage of emergency room nurses because many were away on summer vacations. Dr. Boey was in charge. Three senior surgeons and nine interns and residents worked with the six nurses. Calls for help resulted in doctors responding from across the city. By 6 A.M., there were at least three doctors for each patient.
That was too late for five of the victims, but just in the nick of time for others. Most had never met before and those who were conscious got their first look at each other while rolling by on gurneys in and out of surgery at Mission Emergency.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris