Won-Ton Bandits
Part Five


 
The information Gan Wah fed the Dragon Force was so extraordinary that it either had to be completely true, or Gan Wah was one of the greatest dissemblers in history, making everything utterly false. It was to be hoped the former was the case.
Simmons stood at the forefront in that hope, for reasons then not clear even to himself. It was he, after all, who had characterized Gan Wah as "a goddamned liar." But, as early as his second talk with the boy, Simmons knew that Gan Wah was not lying. Call it insight or call it prescience, Simmons KNEW.
Other members of the Force were inclined to consider it wishful thinking and chose the latter of the two possibilites as the more likely. They thought Gan Wah a masterful liar or, if grains of truth indeed were buried like gold nuggets in his statements, a duplex little bastard out for one thing only: the $100,000 reward offered by the City of San Francisco for information leading to the apprehension of the Golden Dragon killers.
This group included the D.A.'s man, Hugh L:evine, who, although willing to listen to and sift through Gan Wah's information, was determined to see that the Gang Task Force not go overboard and accede to any extravagant demands Gan Wah might suddenly decide to make in exchange for what he had to offer--certainly not without proof of the youth's veracity.
Schooled on the rougher turf of New York City when he was an Assistant D.A. in Manhattan, Levine subscribed to the practical theory that the informant must never be allowed to feel he has the upper hand. He must, rather, be made to understand that he is working for the prosecutor. Keep him on a string. Jerk him around. Tell him what to do. If he doesn't like it, cut the string.
Levine had dealt with some very heavy informants in New York, including a Mafioso whom the Manhattan D.A.'s office had arranged to spring from state prison in exchange for information. They had to go right to the Governor to do it. No sooner had they turned him loose in the streets than he committed a crime. The D.A. had to step all over him. That case taught Levine a lesson about informants he would not quickly forget.
A secure and private place was needed to conduct an in-depth session with Gan Wah. It had become a matter of great urgency to collate his information into viable form and, where possible, to test it for authenticity. The Gang Task Force realized he could be an ideal undercover agent. Infiltration was an accomplished fact; the swimming dragon was already a bona fide Joe Boy. Now secrecy was paramount. They did not want to blow his cover. "Jesus," they swore amongst themselves, "what if the press gets wind of this, or, God forbid, those murderous bastards who shot up the Golden Dragon?"
Levine volunteered his apartment. He lived then at Diamond Heights Village, an apartment complex situated within the 325-acre Diamond Heights District on the middle slopes of Twin Peaks. These neighboring north-and-south hills formed, at somewhat more than 900 feet, the highest points in the city. Diamond Heights was named for its "sparkling" views of downtown and the Bay.
The investigators accepted the offer, believing the location to be far enough from the heart of town to guarantee a lack of Chinatown observers. The meeting was scheduled for the evening of October 26th, a Wednesday. A young deputy D.A., Byron Wong, whose Cantonese was considered extremely fluent, agreed to serve as interpeter.
It was a fruitful meeting, both for the investigation and for Gan Wah. By the time it was over, he had put a name on each shooter, who carried which weapons, the use of two cars, who drove them, where they left from, what they did afterward, AND he agreed to do whatever the investigators felt essential to breaking the case...which would mean his certain death if discovered.
He agreed to wear wire and get the perpetrators on tape. He reiterated all the information he had begun giving on September 27th, and more--the information that would enable John McKenna to comment truthfully on various occasions that "we knew by the 27th of September who the perpetrators of the Golden Dragon were," and to add in the next breath, "but we still had to prove it." Gan Wah also supplied information on other incidents about which he was questioned.
During the meeting at Hugh Levine's apartment on October 26th, Gan Wah Woo made his demands in exchange for giving information that, for the Gang Task Force, could lead either to cracking the Golden Dragon case or to considerable embarrassment if none of it were true. That information might earn him either the $100,000 reward or an early death at the hands of proven assassins.
In the matter of demands, heavy ones were not forthcoming, but they were heavy enough, relative to the Task Force's nonexistent budget. He was about to become an important man, but he didn't push it too far. The swimming dragon could have been much more relentless, considering that he had the Dragon Force by the tail.
For the moment, he said he couldn't afford to isolate himself from the Joe Boys because he lived in Chinatown. If he were to continue mixing in with them for the purposes of the investigation, he would need a car.
He couldn't find a school to accept him or an employer willing to take a chance on him because of his criminal record, his lack of education and his poor English. He needed a job.
Aside from the car and the job, a little pocket money might also help.
He was told that money was no object, and a vehicle would be provided. Those were expansive promises from investigators with serious cash-flow and equipment problems of their own, but they intended to live up to them as best they could. It turned out that they had to :nickel-and-dime him most of the time. No large amounts of cash fell into his hands from the Task Force.
Actually, had it not been for Tim Simmons continually dipping into his own pocket for Gan Wah's money, some members of the Force thought they would have lost the kid. Simmons simply tried to keep Gan Wah happy and on the "right" side. Gang kids could change in a flash. They could side with the cops one minute, and the next minute disappear and never again reveal another thing.
Finding him a job was accomplished by the first of November. Ron Schneider and Mike Mullane of the Task Force arranged a meeting for Gan Wah with Wray Jacobs, Robert Parr and a third member of the Janitorial Union. Simmons abd Fred Lau took him to the Roosevelt Cafe on Page Street at Market. He was interviewed for a janitor's position in the Bank of America Building at One South Van Ness Avenue. It was ideal. They had wanted to find a secure place for him to work, and identification was required of everyone entering there.
It provided him with a steady income until early December when he resigned in favor of his father's taking over the job. The former university porfessor in Mainland China accepted it gratefully as a gift of love. Gan Wah explained that "it's more important for a Chinese father to support his family. It's my duty as his son to give the job to him."
Buying him a car entailed a couple of complications: the Gang Task Force couldn't afford it, and Gan Wah didn't have a California driver's license. "I've been reading the Chinese edition of the Driver's Manual, and they can give me the test in Chinese," he beamed at them with his gold-toothed smile, "so there shouldn't be any problem...except I don't know how to drive."
While they looked for a vehicle in the right price range, i.e. "next-to-nothing," it seemed a good time for him to take driving lessons. Someone would have to volunteer. All eyes turned toward Simmons. The unwitting cop agreed...and it turned out to be the roughest assignment of his paramilitary career.
His colleagues at the office were fond of describing Simmons before the lessons as a "decent-looking chap with straight brown hair nicely and neatly combed, a youthful fellow, wrinkle-free, very calm and collected, you might say."
After the lessons were over, however, they spoke of "Simmons? He's that crusty old codger over there, yeah, with the wild and curly gray hair!"
But Gan Wah did, in a manner of speaking, learn how to drive...no mean trick with Simmons shouting in English at his side and an interpreter repeating the shouts in Toy Shan from the back seat. He learned to drive well enough to pass the test, and incautiously enough to qualify for the Force's standard I.D. of a car belonging to a kit jai ("young kid") around Chinatown: "If it's got a big dent somewhere up front, it's got to be a kit jai!
It was that dent in the white car that helped Foley identify the vehicle that passed him on Mason Street the night of the noodle-shop robbery. Yes, with two detectives of the Gang Task Force in hot pursuit through the streets of Chinatown, the won-ton bandits attempted their getaway in the white Chevy bought by the Gang Task Force for Gan Wah Woo!
 

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2000 Brockman Morris