Bamboo Tigers
Part Five


 
By now the crews from Homicide and Intelligence had more than worked around the clock in the investigation of Lincoln Louie's death. They were tired and wanted to go home. But in the Intelligence Division squad room, George Huegle and Tim Simmons still huddled on the case. "What say we go out and pick up Warren Wong for questioning," Huegle suggested with a yawn.
Simmons shifted in his chair and dragged on a cigarette. "Christ, don't you ever wanna go to bed? Hell, I'm too tired. Why don't we just call the sonovabitch and see if he's home?"
Simmons dialed the number. Warren's girlfriend answered. He came to the phone.
"Hello, Warren, this is Tim Simmons down at Intelligence."
Momentary silence on the other end of the wire, then Warren's voice said, "Are you going to arrest me for murder?"
Simmons winked at Huegle. "Well, Warren, I'll let you know when I see you, but if you're not gonna be home, I don't want to waste my time coming over."
"I'll be here," Warren replied.
Huegle and Simmons went over to Warren's house on Ellis Street. Warren met them at the door, and they placed him under arrest.
The next day Huegle and Simmons stopped by Gordon Wong's apartment, but no one seemed to know where he was. They found a recent traffic citation issued to him showing an address in Novato. Simmons drove across the Golden Gate Bridge with other officers to the placid community nestled in rounded brown hills 40 minutes north of San Francisco. Since they were outside their own jurisdiction, they reported to the Novato Police Department and explained what they wanted with Gordon.
The young Chinese resided with a Caucasian foster parent out near Wild Horse Valley, a woodsy and somewhat ritzy development on the outskirts of town. They found Gordon sitting in his car outside the house talking with a friend. On the drive back to San Francisco's Hall of Justice, he admitted to his participation in the kidnap-murder and said he would be willing to testify to the events that occurred.
Three of the suspects, however--Johnson Wong, Hotdog Louie and Perch Chan--were still hanging tough and had nothing to say.
The Lincoln Louie affair covered three counties: San Francisco where the kidnapping occurred, Santa Clara where the beating took place, and San Mateo where the body was found. This brought about one of the major frustrations in trying to get the wheels of justice moving. Which jurisdiction would accept the case for prosecution? Ultimately, the only one who was not a resident of San Francisco, John Wong, was tried in Santa Clara County.
Because of paternalistic policies then in effect for young offenders, if all the youths had been brought to trial, especially the juveniles, they probably would not have served more time for first-degree murder than they would have upon conviction for kidnapping or aggravated assault. And so, of the eight defendants, all except John Wong were permitted to plead guilty to the charge of assault. The additional charges of kidnapping, conspiracy, and murder were dropped. The juveniles were sentenced to the California Youth Authority. Those over 18 at the time the crime was committed-- David Yee, Gordon Wong, Daniel Yee, and Johnson Wong-- received light sentences. Because he had entered the apartment after the killing, Daniel Yee was convicted merely as an accessory.
That left John Wong, 24, and the case against him was far from strong. At one point, the prosecution was willing to let him plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but his attorney rejected the plea-bargain. Thus it came about that the County of Santa Clara, where John resided, would have to take him to trial.
Hobie Nelson, on loan to the Santa Clara D.A., was in charge of the case. Simmons suggested to him that someone go up to the California Youth Authority facility at Sacramento and talk to Hotdog Louie, who had already been sentenced and was confined there. Despite intensive investigation, it was still not known exactly how Lincoln Louie died and who killed him. Nelson's response was negative. It seemed to him to be a waste of time, an opinion based on vast experience in working on Chinese gang cases. But Simmons, who tended to operate on intuition and whose hunches often panned out, stressed that Hotdog had testified in a helpful manner before a Grand Jury in an earlier assault case and might cooperate again.
Sensing that Simmons' instinct might be more than a stab in the dark, Nelson granted permission for him to go to Sacramento.
Simmons had a special way of dealing with these kids. Sort of an offhanded fellow, he liked to give them the impression that he was a trifle wide-eyed and green, maybe even sentimental, a bit of a country boy not too used to big-city manners and, especially, Asian customs. He was exactly the opposite of burly John McKenna, a big-hearted man whose piercing intellect shone from intelligent eyes and who couldn't help but present the image of an astute college professor who happened to be a cop. The real Tim Simmons tucked himself away behind a façade suggestive of the bumpkin who couldn't quite focus on the matter at hand and to whom everything had to be carefully explained. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Michael "Hotdog" Louie was ushered into a private room to talk with Simmons at the California Youth Authority's Reception Center in Sacramento. Simmons greeted him more as a friend than as a police officer. He would never have addressed the boy by his street name, "Hotdog," but always as "Michael." This policeman showed respect, something the gang kids weren't used to even though they themselves tended--in a stereotypically Chinese way--to be very polite and formal in their dealings with the police.
Hotdog's spirits seemed high when he sat down across the table from Simmons. "Hey, it's real nice of you to come up here and see me," he said.
"Well, Michael, I just wanted to see how you're doing. How're they treating you?"
Hotdog smiled. "It's a piece of cake. Food's pretty good. I been studying. I need more education. This is maybe a good chance to read up on things, y'know."
"Yeah, it's a good idea for a young man to look ahead. I'm glad you're using your head. Listen, Michael, I've been losing sleep over this Lincoln Louie thing. It keeps me awake nights thinking about that poor little guy. We don't know what really happened down there. Jesus, all I can see is his scarred body layin' out on the slab at the morgue. He must've gone through a lot of pain before he died. Do you ever think about that?"
Hotdog looked away.
"The gunshot wounds," Simmons continued, "the cuts, the bruises, the swollen lips, the knocked-out teeth. I still can't figure out how he got the burns all over him."
Hotdog studied a scratch on the table.
"You know, Michael, if you've got anything to say, you can say it to me. You can tell me anything. I mean it. It's sort of all over now. You can't be convicted on any additional charges. Everybody involved has already pleaded guilty to kidnapping and assault, so they can't be retried on this homicide. Perch, of course, killed Gene Fong. We got his thumbprint on the gun. What happens to him in that matter is something else again. But for the rest of you guys, it's over."
Hotdog turned his head to face the policeman. "You mean that, Simmons?"
"I do, Michael."
"Well, sir, I appreciate you tellin' me, but I really don't got nothing to say."
Simmons leaned back in his chair. "Cigarette, Michael?"
The boy accepted one, and they lit up together.
"It sure seems like a waste to me," said Simmons. "Poor little Lincoln wasn't even a hard-core Joe Boy. He was somewhere out on the fringes, and he was only 15 years old. A little boy, you know. Inspector McKenna had to go to Asia Garden and tell Lincoln's mother about it. You didn't know his mother was a dishwasher at Asia Garden, did you? I guess not. I guess you didn't actually know him at all."
"No, sir, he was kinda in the young crowd, an' he was a Joe Boy. I seen him around, but you couldn't say I knew him."
"Well, Inspector McKenna told me that he had to describe everything to her through some interpreters at the restaurant. She came out from the kitchen, and when she found out what it was all about, she got hysterical and fell on the floor and started wailing. He was her only child, Michael. She doesn't have anybody else." Hotdog lowered his head, and Simmons realized he had struck a chord somewhere in the young tough's heart.
"Yeah," the cop went on, "it's gotta be hard for a mother to hear that her little boy died like that. And for nothing. And on top of that, the manager wanted her to finish her shift. It's pitiful."
The youth lifted knotted fists to his eyes, leaned his elbows on the table and sighed. Simmons gave him time to contain himself. After a time, Hotdog rubbed his eyes and began to speak in a low voice.
"We saw him at the bus stop," Hotdog said, "and--I don't remember who it was--somebody hollered, 'Let's get that little fucker! Goddamned Joe Boys killed Anton. Shit, we can plant Lincoln Louie on Anton's grave instead of fucking flowers!' So we grabbed him. Boy, he was scared. He shivered all the way down to Milpitas. We took him to John's place and worked him over. We always go to John's place. That's where Perch hid out after he shot Gene Fong. We use John's a lot for a hideout.
"First, we took turns giving him karate chops, all of us. Whenever somebody hit him too hard and he went unconscious, we'd wake him up with a glass of ice water on his face. That worked the first few times, but then we had to burn him with cigarettes later to get him to open his eyes.
"We did that stuff to him in the living room. The girls was in the bedroom, playin' records. All us guys, we'd take a break and take turns goin' in there an' bullshittin' with the chicks, but they left after awhile. Later, John's wife, Diane, she seen we was sweatin' a lot, so she said, 'You guys want some ice cream?' We said sure, and she went out and got some.
"But it turned out the Louie kid didn't have shit to tell us. Nothin' important. Finally, we realized there wasn't any use keeping it up. We was gonna have to kill him, o'course. He knew where we all lived. He woulda got the other Joe Boys and come around an' killed us.
"We wasn't sure how to do it. If we shot him right there, it might raise the neighbors. The lady next door already pounded on the wall because we was making so much noise. But John's wife told us not to worry about that because the lady was used to noise. A lot of us guys went down to John's regular and worked out. A lotta gruntin' and groanin'. You know how guys are about knockin' things around when they work out.
"We did gag him sometimes, though, when he started to yell. Like I said, he was scared, and he didn't do much of that. So how was we gonna kill him? I thought maybe we could get some chemicals or stuff at the drugstore and knock him out real good and then take him to the beach and drown him in the ocean. Me an' Perch an' Johnson dragged him out to John's car and went downtown to get the chemicals. Hell, we had him sniffing cleaning fluid and everything, and we got some of it down his throat. Then everytime we thought he was out, somebody'd stick a goddamn knife in him and he'd squeal.
"Shit, there was no way, so we took him back to the apartment and that's when John said he couldn't take anymore of this fuckin' around, and we better get rid of him fast. Johnson asked John if he had a gun handy, and John gave him Anton's old .32 automatic. That seemed right, wasting a Joe Boy with Anton's own gun. That's some kind of good revenge. The goddamned Joe Boys got him. Now his gun would get a Joe Boy. That beats a fuckin' flower on his grave!
"We went back out in John's Honda. Perch drove it, and Johnson and me held the kid in the back seat. We drove up to San Francisco, but we couldn't think of a place to do it, so we decided to take him up into the Daly City hills and kill him there.
"I had to drag him out of the car. I was kinda surprised how much fight was in him after all the shit he'd been through. Jesus, I had to grab him by the hair to hold him down. Johnson fired at his head, but he flinched and the bullet went into his shoulder. Then Johnson emptied the gun into him, and that did it. He was really dead.
"Then we picked up Lena. We needed somebody we could trust to run out and get food and stuff like that when we found a hideout."
Simmons moved uncomfortably in the chair, his palms sweaty and anger raging within him, but his voice betrayed no emotion. "You mean Lena Soo Hoo, Michael?"
"Yeah, Anton's old girlfriend, but she's Perch's girlfriend now."
Lena was 19 at that time; Perch was almost 16.
"We checked into a motel on Lombard Street," Hotdog continued. "That's it. I mean there wasn't nothing else we done after that 'cept hope this shit would blow over."
Simmons rose to leave. He extended his hand to Hotdog. They shook hands warmly.
"Thank you, Michael. You've set my mind at ease a bit. It sure helps to know exactly what happened to Lincoln. By the way, since you've been so honest and have laid it all out for me so kindly, would you object if I brought Inspector Hobart Nelson up here to talk with you? Maybe we could get you on tape with this story. It's Inspector Nelson's case. I know he'd be grateful."
Hotdog agreed, and the next day Simmons took Nelson to Sacramento and recorded the details.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris