Inside a San Francisco International Airport satellite, Dan Foley stretched to peer above the bobbing heads. The Gang Task Force policeman sported a plaid wool jacket to ward off the Northern California nip of a day in early March. An unlit pipe drooped from his lightly clenched teeth.
He knew he'd come to the right gate. The crowd pouring into the lobby through the jetway, leading from a 747 at the dock, could only have arrived from Hawaii. Sunburns, floral leis, and calls of "Aloha!" to waiting friends made that clear. Foley caught sight of a tee shirt labeled "Suck 'Em Up" and did a double-take on the ample young lady who wore it. "That's the standard Hawaiian toast," she shot back, laughing, "so don't get any ideas!" Then she flung herself into the arms of an impatient boyfriend.
One of the new arrivals stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. A dark-haired young man--obviously not a tourist, if one judged from his business suit and the attaché case swinging at his knee--scanned the throng waiting at the gate. Wide-set almond eyes bespoke Cornell Lee's Korean descent, but the additional heritage of his family's generations in Hawaii and his career in undercover law-enforcement combined to give him an unmistakably American air. Spotting the bespectacled Foley, Lee rushed forward and offered his hand.
"Dan!" he cried effusively. "Thanks for coming to meet me, buddy. Jesus, that was a crowded flight!"
"Good to see you, too, Cornell," Foley grinned. "Got any other bags?"
Lee waggled the briefcase he carried. "These are my files. Everything else is checked through. Let's go down to Baggage Claim."
Walking rapidly beside the taller man, Lee cast a sidelong glance at Foley. He hesitated slightly, knowing the devastating effect his words might have on the Golden Dragon investigator, and then announced, in a determined voice: "I'm getting off the case."
Thunderstruck, Foley came to an abrupt halt. "Oh shit, Cornell! Why?"
Lee maintained a brisk pace, not wanting to discuss it there. "We'll talk more in the car," he tossed back.
Catching up with Lee, Foley waited with him at the luggage carousel. An awkward silence had fallen between them in sharp contrast to the warm greetings of only moments before.
Foley didn't speak again until he slid behind the steering wheel of the unmarked police car at the curb outside. "What happened?" he asked then. "Why do you want off the case?"
Looking straight ahead as Foley pulled into the line of traffic leaving the airport, Lee ignored the question. Instead, he asked one of his own: "Where do they have me staying?"
Annoyed that Lee evaded an answer by countering with a query he considered irrelevant, Foley couldn't help but bark, "At the fuckin' Wharf, where you always stay!"
Lee barked back, "Goddam! I don't want to stay at the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf! Find me another hotel!"
The car sped past San Bruno Mountain where kidnapped gang-kid Lincoln Louie met death nearly four years before. For a plainclothed investigator like Foley, there were reminders of such incidents almost everywhere he drove in and around San Francisco, but at the moment he found it impossible to think about anything except Cornell Lee's threat to pull out of the case.
While Lee sat in strained silence on the opposite side of the car, Foley tried to collect himself. He knew Lee only slightly, having met him no more than twice before, but he had gathered that the man was a cool performer. Lee had accomplished a lot on this assignment in a relatively short time. He knew his job and did it well. Therefore, there had to be a reason for his reaching such a drastic decision. Foley was determined to find out why, but he realized he couldn't do it or have any influence on changing Lee's mind if he stayed uptight, too.
Setting aside his momentary sense of irritation, he conjured up the placating and persuasive "Father" Foley image of his days as a cop on the Fillmore beat. "You've always liked the Sheraton," he said to Lee in a quiet and reasonable way. "You're a regular there. They treat you right, and it's an easy place for us to cover you. Please tell me what's really wrong, Cornell."
As Foley had hoped, his gentle tone earned a favorable reaction from Lee. He could feel the other man soften, ready to cross the breach.
"O.K., Dan," said Lee, taking his eyes off the road and looking straight at the detective, "it's that meeting at the Sheraton last week with Wayne Yee and his boys. Wayne doesn't bother me; I can handle him. It's those other guys--they scare the shit out of me! You see, I have to change hotels because I don't want any of them to know where I am. I'd be a sitting duck at the Wharf. Sure, the Sheraton's a great hotel, but what good am I to my wife and family if I stay there again and wind up dead? I mean, what if they figured out I'm a cop? What if they 'made' me? If they did, they'd know where to find me. I said it after the meeting and I'll say it again: spooky fuckers! They're the spookiest fuckers I ever met!"
Now Foley could understand why Lee was so uptight about his decision. Although a hundred percent American in the matter of birth, the man still had to deal with his Oriental background, and that would involve saving face. Lee's record showed him to be a courageous and daring man. So how could he justify, not only to others, but also to himself, a decision to quit because he was frightened?
Foley harrumphed. "Christ, Cornell, you're a helluva guy to admit a thing like that! Now let me tell you something. You know what scares the hell out of me? The thought of you pulling out of this case. You've done a great job so far. It'd be a shame to see all the effort wasted. Shit, if you pull out, it could blow the whole thing! Please give it another chance. Stay at any goddam hotel you want. Just don't quit the case!"
Foley well remembered it hadn't been easy to find an Oriental agent to infiltrate "bad" Wayne Yee's operation. The Gang Task Force knew Wayne would never give his full trust to a non-Asian, and whoever took him on had to be smart and cool.
Among the governmental agencies that rushed forward to offer assistance at the start of the Golden Dragon investigation, the A.T.F.--Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Branch of the Treasury Department--had been the first to deliver the goods. A San Francisco A.T.F. agent, Jim Smith, along with Ted Royster and Joyce Seymour, had come up with Honolulu agent Cornell Lee when they heard what was needed.
Lee had agreed to take on the case and assumed the code name "Sam" as his undercover identity.
"Have you talked this over with Jim Smith yet?" Foley asked, glancing across a span of Bay water toward Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
"No, I plan to do that today."
"Would it change your mind if you only had to deal with Wayne Yee?" Foley suggested hopefully.
Cornell nodded. "That would help. I can handle him. It's those other guys...."
"We can talk it over with Jim when we get to the office," Foley interjected, relieved that a negotiable point had been found which might persuade Lee to continue.
Lee turned over Foley's suggestion in his thoughts. Dealing with Wayne alone would be no problem, although that was probably dangerous enough. Wayne himself had once told Lee, in so many words, that when negotiations with him were called off, people got hurt. Being "hurt" by Wayne was a possibility Lee had faced from the beginning, but his "boys"! They, by God, were another matter. They looked like guys who relished nothing more than killing.
Lee recalled his excitement when he first heard about the case. He had been told he would be dealing with some of the darkest mysteries in San Francisco's Chinatown "where they've built the toughest wall of silence you'll ever have to crack--and you might even be instrumental in breaking the Golden Dragon's back!" Christ, what a challenge, he had thought at the time. A challenge it proved to be, but now he knew that every trip he made back to the mainland from his beloved Hawaiian home meant stretching his neck on the block for the Gang Task Force and the citizens of San Francisco.
"Yeah, maybe we can talk about it," Lee conceded to Foley after sorting through his mind.
The San Francisco detective relaxed. "It's just as well you won't be at the Sheraton anyway," he joked, "because I hear the manager's after you to pay the bar bill from the last time!"
Both men laughed.
The car crested the next hill, and San Francisco's impressive skyline swept into view. Lee turned his innermost thoughts to the case. An informant had told Tim Simmons on September 13th that Wayne Yee and two of his Chinese Youth Alternatives associates, Brian Lee and Robert Huey, both known Joe Boys, had gone to Hawaii on August 24th and returned on the 30th. He did not know why they went, but Wayne had commented, after returning to the mainland, that he had observed a former Wah Ching lieutenant from San Francisco driving a cab in Honolulu.
The Gang Task Force had to wait until the 20th of October for a follow-up report, from yet another informer, on Wayne's Hawaiian holiday. It seems that someone had overheard Gary Pang, Wayne's right-hand man, chatting with a friend the previous August. Gary asked his friend what he would do if "something big" happened in Chinatown. The friend told Gary he "wouldn't do anything." Having got that possibly satisfactory answer, Gary went on to talk about Wayne being in Hawaii at that time "getting a place for our people," (inferring a hideout), and about his (Gary's) desire to do away with the Leng brothers, who had moved to Hawaii after testifying against Joe Fong.