The Dragon Force
Part Three


 
Foley heard about the Golden Dragon massacre on the radio and then watched the newsreels on TV. It was horrendous--the viciousness of the crime and the number of people killed and wounded. A chill went through him. Like McKenna and Simmons and other knowledgeable cops, he knew it meant war. As an active policeman, he was keenly aware of what had gone on for years in the Chinese territory of the city. The names Wah Ching and Joe Boys were little more than that to him--names, but he knew of their dangerous behavior.
Foley had had only minimal exposure to the Asian population of San Francisco, mostly from his patrols of Japantown. There had been a couple of incidents right after Kenny Mack's brother was killed at China Nights Bar--out on Geary Boulevard, which began as Geary Street at Market and Third and ran obliquely through crowded downtown before widening to more stately boulevard proportions at the crest of Cathedral Hill.
Kenny had been a leader of the Wah Ching and had come back from New York. There was talk of his seeking revenge for his brother's death. He showed up in Japantown a couple of times and had some close confrontations with the Chinese gang youths who hung around there, mostly those who were not particularly welcome in Chinatown. People thought there would be some shooting, but nothing came of it.
This flurry of activity pointed out to Foley the need for some basic education in the tenets of Chinese youth gangs. He went down to Intelligence for a talk with Diarmuid Philpott and Tim Simmons, experts on the Chinatown problem. He found it interesting, but at that time his attention remained focused elsewhere.
While Foley was lecturing at schools, he also visited the Youth Guidance Center, and over a three-year period he noted the arrival of an increasing number of young Chinese in the dormitory cottages. They struck him as odd. All the boys were required to sit in on rap sessions, but the Chinese seldom spoke. They glared. It was easy to break the ice with the others. You just had to listen to a lot of bragging about their cases. But the Chinese wouldn't talk. Foley thought of them as a strange breed.
On the Tuesday following the Golden Dragon, Foley went down to the Homicide Detail to get descriptions of any cars involved or other information which would enable his station to assist in the investigation. He heard Homicide Inspector Mike Mullane talk about how the restaurant was open for business first thing the next morning. While they were still wiping up blood, they were also serving rice.
Foley was shocked until recalling experiences with Chinese merchants in his own district. A shopkeeper might suffer a robbery, and sometimes get beaten up during its course, but when the police arrived at the scene, he would already be occupied with waiting on customers, ignoring the cops until business slowed down. Only then would he take the time to discuss it. On one or two occasions Foley was sufficiently disgusted to think about walking out, yet he never did. He came to accept it as the Chinese way.
Now that the TV and newspapers were full of stories about the gang fights and the Golden Dragon massacre, nobody could ignore it.
That Tuesday, Foley also spotted John McKenna sitting in the Vice Crimes Detail in close conference with Diarmuid Philpott. McKenna, less neatly groomed than usual, looked exhausted. Foley had always admired McKenna and had kept track of him. He knew the heavier man had been transferred to Intelligence awhile back, after a number of years in Homicide. He never expected McKenna to look so disheveled. He entered the office and said, "John, did you get involved in this Dragon thing?" McKenna responded with a tired nod and a shrug. Foley went on his way, pitying the men who were bound to the Golden Dragon affair.
He continued to work his cases at Northern Station. Phone calls came in from motel owners down on Lombard, the final approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, talking about strange Chinese in their motels. Everyone in town was extremely nervous. Foley and his partner checked out the calls. Semi-hysteria and deep suspicion were watchwords that week in San Francisco.
On the 11th of September, a Sunday, Foley returned home from mass with his family. The phone rang. John McKenna was on the wire. "Dan," he said, "we've had a conference at Chief Gain's office. They're going to form a special unit to solve the Golden Dragon shootings and also to stop future killings. Have you heard about the trouble last night in the Richmond District?" Foley hadn't. "Two youngsters," McKenna explained, "and it was bad. Dan, do you want to join the Gang Task Force?"
Foley sensed his new daytime schedule going up in smoke. He loved his wife and their life together, he loved his children, but he also loved the challenge of his work. The stricken look on his wife's face, when he asked her if she would mind, could never be described. After awhile, she settled the silence between them. "O.K.," she said, "if you really want to." She understood the man she had married.
Foley accepted McKenna's offer, and McKenna got a man he had respected for a long time.
McKenna was a natural as the officer chosen to supervise the staffing of the Gang Task Force. He held strong views on law enforcement as it related to the Chinese youth gangs. He insisted upon having specialists who wanted to participate and who would give their all to the assignment. For him, the bottom line was a cop who could be a good "heel-and-toe" man--willing to hit the bricks, ring the doorbells, talk to people, develop informants, and amass a thorough knowledge of the field--a man who looked for the where, what, when, why and how of any incident. It had to be a man with personal life resolved so that he could adapt himself totally to the needs of the organization.
Among other things, this required a settled home life with a wife whose sense of responsibility to her husband's work equalled his. McKenna thought of his own wife and the special relationship they had developed in their years of marriage. She recognized his need to be free to pursue police work to the maximum of his capacity. Witty and intelligent, she kept careful guard on the home front, his protector from domestic difficulties, a wonderful mother to their children, a woman who encouraged and supported him. She represented the kind of wife most successful policemen must have.
The night before McKenna asked Foley to join the new unit, a week to the day after the massacre, almost to the minute, two young Chinese men strolled warily along a dark street out in the Richmond. Both had a history of gang association and were thereby locked into a world where "10 years is not too late for revenge," in the words of a prominent figure from the Chinese community, who used his public life as cover for his gang connections. A person less reticent about his criminality, Joe Fong, founder of the Chung Ching Yee, had intoned from his prison cell: "Chinese people always seek revenge. Chinese make the best of friends, and the worst of enemies."
They shied away from the areas of light glowing through the windows of the homes they passed. Music from a noisy party of college students in a nearby house gave them no comfort. Neither cover of darkness nor a crowd of bystanders made any difference in their world. A hit was a hit. Marked men fell as easily in the sunshine as in the dark, alone or among others.
The Golden Dragon weighed heavily on their shoulders. They were not involved, but suspected who had been. Others undoubtedly suspected, too, and that's what frightened them most. Their names could cross the minds of those who might come for revenge. "Pick a target, any target," their enemies would say, "and shoot to kill."
The dark shadows of Golden Gate Park half a block away provided plenty of cover for hidden gunmen. The two drew closer together. Mark Chan and Michael "Mouse" Lee, both 18, had been friends since their days at Francisco Junior High. Now they worked in San Jose, an hour south of the city, making an effort to build new lives away from the San Francisco gangs, but Mark still lived with his grandmother and sister in the apartment at the top of a three-story apartment house there on 30th Avenue. Michael had come up for the weekend to see a movie with Mark tonight. He would stay over till the next day, Sunday.
The young men turned into the walkway to the house --just a matter of yards from safety. Mark inserted his key in the lock and pushed open the iron gate leading to the foyer. Mouse followed him inside. The door closed behind them. They glanced at each other for an instant, their eyes communicating how relieved they were to be safely inside.
In the next instant, Mouse's eyes rolled upward when a bullet struck him in the temple. He fell. Two figures emerged from the shadows of the foyer. One kept firing a .38-caliber weapon while the other dipped down to pick up a total of 12 spent bullet casings, tossing them into a paper bag. Mark crumpled in a heap to the floor, critically wounded in the chest. Crimson droplets spattered the white stucco walls as the gunman and his associate fled to the street.
Rallying, Mark heaved himself desperately toward the stairway and crawled up three flights, blood trailing behind him. Reaching the apartment door, he finally collapsed under a barrage of his grandmother's screams.
A neighbor who heard the shots reported later that there wasn't enough time to call the police before the wail of sirens announced the arrival of patrol cars and an ambulance. Mouse was pronounced dead at the scene, but Mark, still barely alive, was rushed to Mission Emergency at San Francisco General Hospital.
Shortly afterward, John McKenna arrived at the house on 30th Avenue, once again roused from Saturday night sleep to answer an off-duty call. This time he came prepared, his head full of facial images and Asian names gleaned from photographs and files spread out before him during the previous week of intensive study and investigation after the Labor Day weekend mass slaying. A Chinese proverb occurred to him: "When whales fight, little fish die." Even before he reached the home of Mark Chan's grandmother, he concluded that if little fish like these boys, both known to be peripheral in the gangs, were marked for death, then surely there were whales thrashing in Chinatown.
McKenna led a search of the apartment, where Homicide Inspector Al Podesta found three shotguns--one of them sawed off--in Mark's bedroom, and a box of shotgun shells and a stolen automobile tire. Boosted tires and purloined bowling balls were standard equipment in a gang kid's room. If the evening hadn't been so tragic, finding the tire would have been mildly funny. But under the circumstances, it was about as funny as a sick one-liner then making the rounds on the streets of San Francisco: "Hey, did you hear about the new special on the menu at the Golden Dragon? Sitting duck!" The weapons and bullets were immediately sent to Ballistics to be examined for a possible connection with the Golden Dragon incident.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris