The Reluctant Dragon
Part Two


 
Before Foley met Stuart for the first time on January 5th, the cop had known him only as a name in Gan Wah's file, and, if Gan Wah were right, Stuart had been a member of the Golden Dragon killers' team. Then he had met the boy and found him to be a likable kid who seemed to be sincere and acted as though he wanted to get out of the gang. He loved his girlfriend and was making an effort at school. All in all, a pretty nice boy, certainly not typical of the gang kids the cop had run into.
Stuart hadn't struck Foley as being a dyed-in-the-wool tough, but more as the sort who kicks around with the gangs and then drops out when he matures. It occurred to the cop that there were dark forces behind Stuart's involvement in the Golden Dragon. The kid had been used. It disturbed him.
At that point, A.T.F.'s Cornell Lee was traveling back and forth from Hawaii as undercover agent in the Wayne Yee and Bert Rodriguez case. Wayne's kind of person was one of Foley's pet peeves. If ever there were a dark force operating in the background to corrupt kids like Stuart, it had to be personified in Wayne. And there were others. How much had Peter Ng influenced Stuart? What about Tom Yu? Sai Ying Lee?
Foley's visit to Stuart's home on Sunday, January 8th, had reinforced his earlier intuition about the boy. And now Stuart had, in essence, confessed on tape to Gan Wah that he wielded a gun at the Golden Dragon. The "good boy" may have killed someone. That really made Foley angry, because it was so out of step with the promise of Stuart's character and background.
Foley's relationship with Stuart following this moment of revelation would become one of the most intriguing aspects of the Golden Dragon investigation. Ultimately, the shrewd and practical genius of Hugh Levine would term it "brilliant"; the scholarly and sweeping intelligence of John McKenna would define it as "masterful."
As soon as Foley heard the results of the Nagra tape, a sixth sense told him that Stuart would be contacting him soon to straighten out the alibi. He kept Fred Mollat's tape recorder and borrowed Hugh Levine's phone jack again, preparing himself for the inevitable call. He also asked for the use of the Nagra. He wanted to tape all future face-to-face conversations with Stuart Lin.
The next morning, Tuesday, January 17th, at 10:30, the telephone rang at the Gang Task Force office. It was Stuart calling for Foley. They talked.
Foley suggested they get together. "What's a good time?"
"Maybe today, around noon. Yeah, at school."
Foley vetoed that. "Somebody might see us." For the moment, they left it there. Then Stuart asked if Foley ever saw Gan Wah. "I've seen him," the cop replied, "but he doesn't speak English. Do you think he knows anything about the noodle-shop robbery?"
"Yeah, he knows. Maybe he didn't know before, but he sure knows now."
"Do you think if I asked him about the robbery," Foley inquired, "he'd talk to me?"
"Tell you nothing," Stuart said. They laughed.
"You know, Stuart, at Korea House that night, was Gan Wah there early?"
"I met him there early, right? And he saw me, and he said, 'You're under 18, and you get away from here.' I said, 'You don't tell me to get away from here.'"
The boy's speech grew more rapid. "Then I said, 'What you guys going to do?'I go with you.' He says, 'Fuck no!' Then I go out and cruise around, try to go to girl's house, and I go home."
Fishing around on the alibi, Foley asked where Gan Wah had been seated at Korea House, "upstairs in the restaurant or down in the bar?" Foley hadn't heard everything Gan Wah had told Stuart about the place, but he was familiar with the layout of the Korea House Restaurant and wanted to see how much Stuart knew. He described it, and said they were sitting around two tables in the bar.
"What time was that, Stuart?"
"Oh, I really don't know. I can't remember. I never wear a watch."
"Yeah, but you don't think Gan Wah was there all night. Do you think he went out somewhere?"
"Oh, no!" pooh-poohed Stuart, "No, he was really drunk."
So he got his alibi in place.
Foley had what he wanted, final confirmation of all that Stuart and Gan Wah talked about on the tape.
In continuing their general conversation, Stuart got back to the subject of Foley's meeting him at school that day.
"Hey, Dan, why don't you come out here? My car's parked at Lombard and Polk." The boy hesitated. "Maybe I could borrow $30 to get the brake fixed?"
"Well, I've only got $20 in my pocket, but I'll check with my partner. I'll be out there in about 30 minutes. I think I can lend it to you."
After Foley hung up, he talked to Levine and Murphy about the conversation. It was decided that he shouldn't lend him any money because such an exchange could be compromising in court proceedings. Stuart had been an informant in a robbery case. A "loan" could be interpreted as paying him off. The last thing Levine wanted, at that point, was legal complications in his case against the only Golden Dragon shooter thus far implicated with hard evidence.
Foley met him at Polk and Lombard Streets. Mollat was there, but he stayed in the police car a short distance away. Foley walked down and got into Stuart's car. The detective was wearing the Nagra.
In that conversation, Foley got to know more about him. He wanted to know how Stuart thought and felt about things. He also wanted to know about the other people involved in the Golden Dragon. One fish caught and the others swimming free was not Foley's concept of solving the case, and "the Hundred-Year Egg," Peter Ng, was sitting in jail with nary a crack to reward the Force's efforts to get him to talk.
While Stuart jabbered about his girlfriend and his future, Foley noticed a rosary strung over the rear-view mirror. Roman Catholic himself, "Father" Foley sensed common ground, a connection that might open Stuart's conscience.
"Yeah, my girlfriend gave me those," Stuart answered in response to a question about the beads. They talked about religion for a few minutes.
The man and the boy gradually grew more relaxed together. Foley found himself very comfortable with Stuart. The kid struck him as sincere. Foley recognized that Stuart was trying to consolidate his alibi, but he was also sure the youngster found the budding relationship between them an irresistible force. The cop quickly began to feel that he was exerting an influence on Stuart's impressionable mind.
Stuart spoke repeatedly of leaving the gang forever, but Foley saw that as a self-imposed promise easily broken by the need of youth for companions within the framework of shared social structure. There would be danger in that for Stuart. One suspicion on the other guys' part that he had talked to the cops, and Stuart Lin was as good as dead. Foley was determined to influence him to keep away from the gang associates as much as possible.
At the conclusion of the conversation, Foley asked him to "give me a call at the office on Sunday around noontime; I'd like to talk to you some more."
Stuart agreed, and they parted.
During the days before the next proposed meeting on Sunday, Foley thought deeply about the surprising development of his affinity with Stuart. He had the feeling that if he phrased things in just the right way, Stuart Lin would confess.
Next Sunday, he'll spill his guts, Foley thought. That's the kind of kid he is. I have to be careful he doesn't get excited and suspect we're on to him. I want some more information. Was the car he left at Peter Cheung's apartment used for the Golden Dragon? Can he remember the site of that camping trip with the Joe Boys when they target practiced? Were those the Golden Dragon guns they used? If so, Ballistics could dig the bullets out of the trees and make a comparison with those found in bodies and buried in the walls. Are the guns hidden in Peter Cheung's Daly City apartment? Who hangs out there? Who went with Stuart to the Dragon? Who planned the whole maneuver?
Foley was worried that all these questions might scare Stuart away, or tip him off that he was under suspicion, forcing him to confess too soon in an effort to save his own skin. That would blow everything.
Even though it was Gan Wah Woo who had fed the basic information to the Gang Task Force, the swimming dragon had got it from Stuart Lin. If Stuart confessed to Foley, the Force would have to arrest him. And, once arrested, he would get legal counsel who would be entitled to the prosecution's evidence against him, including the fact that Gan Wah had taped his admissions. That would blow Gan Wah's cover and destroy any future usefulness of him as an informant. The game had to be very carefully played.
Foley had good reason to worry. His was a grave responsibility...and an unusual one. Rarely was a police officer required to make sure his quarry did not confess too soon.
The investigation, at that point, still hinged on the undercover information Gan Wah could develop, added to the meetings between Cornell Lee and Wayne Yee that were firming up the dynamite deal with Bert Rodriguez. "Sam's" trip to Santa Rosa had not yet taken place and would not occur until January 26th. Foley and Stuart were meeting again on January 22nd.
Everything seemed to be jelling at one time.
Considering his position as a patrolman, on a lower rung of the ladder in the hierarchy of the Police Department, in his precarious assignment Foley would need all the backup he could get from the highest official sources at his disposal.
On Friday, January 20th, two days before the next interview with Stuart, Foley went in for a talk with Lt. Murphy and Hugh Levine about the legalities involved. He wanted a decision about how far he should go at that stage, but he made it clear that he thought Stuart should not yet be allowed to confess.
He met with some resistance from Murphy, commanding officer of the Gang Task Force. Political pressure from on high, and public clamor as well, had become an almost intolerable burden on the C.O. His inclination, as a conscientious cop whose primary concern was seeing to it that criminals were caught, was to relieve those pressures with an arrest in the Golden Dragon case. Any arrest would do.
The three men examined the situation.
Any prosecution against Stuart would have to be initiated in Juvenile Court, since he had been 17 at the time of the shooting.
Levine, looking at it from the future prosecutor's point of view, knew that sooner or later the arrest would have to be made. He knew himself to be of sufficient competence as an attorney to have Stuart tried as an adult instead of as a juvenile. Swinging it with Stuart would establish a precedent for any of the other perpetrators who were marginal in age. He was ready to tackle it anytime, but not at the cost of wrecking the case.
If Stuart confessed now, he would have to be taken into custody at once, which might cause his associates in crime to scramble for cover prematurely, as far as the investigation was concerned. It could destroy the Golden Dragon case, and if Wayne and Bert followed suit, Cornell Lee's case, too.
Having been taken into custody, Stuart would be transported for booking at the Youth Guidance Center, presently watchdogged by the press for Golden Dragon leaks. If that happened, the case, if not destroyed, would be broken wide open.
They might wind up with only Stuart Lin. The conviction of one Golden Dragon shooter and the escape of two others, along with God alone knew how many more, would never prove enough to satisfy the public's appetite for justice in this heinous crime.
Of greatest concern to Daniel J. Foley was the matter of his liability for a decision that might botch up the Golden Dragon case and get it thrown out of court. He was low man on the pole. No higher-up would risk his own career by sticking up for the detective later and taking the blame for getting the Lin confession at all costs. The only career to go down the drain would be Daniel J.'s.
The discussion resulted in a decision reflecting Murphy and Levine's confidence in "Father" Foley's ability to play Stuart like a harp: "O.K., Dan, do what you have to do, whatever you think best."
 

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2000 Brockman Morris