The Reluctant Dragon
Part Three

On the morning of Sunday the 22nd, Foley and Mollat went into the office at 10. As a double precaution for the interview on Sunday, Foley wired himself with a Nagra and took along a Fargo unit as well. Mollat would station himself a couple of blocks away in a vehicle and listen to the Fargo's transmission of the conversation, which was to take place in a second unmarked police car.
Foley didn't know Stuart well enough yet to fully trust him under the circumstances. He needed a witness in case something went wrong with the Nagra, someone to come running if there were trouble. Mollat had an attaché case in his car with a tape recorder inside. He would thus be able to both monitor the conversation and record it. The two tested everything. For Foley's use, they chose a car with a radio so the Fargo could be plugged into an antenna jack underneath the dash, increasing the power of its transmission.
Foley's plan was to pick up Stuart and drive him to the intersection of Pierce and Jackson Streets in upper-class Pacific Heights. The sharp and sudden incline of Pierce, downward toward the Bay, was steep enough to frighten strangers in the city into believing they were driving off a cliff. The location also offered a breathtaking panorama of northernmost San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin County hills beyond.
The view provided opportunities for distraction with its ever-changing focus from sailboats running before the wind to cargo ships plodding out to sea. Foley planned to park nose-in to the curb, with Stuart on the downhill side, thus forcing the kid to brace himself at an angle for balance. If the boy panicked or became violent, he would have to fight uphill, giving Foley gravitative advantage until help arrived in the person of Mollat.
Foley called Stuart about noon and asked to meet with him. Stuart said he was going to be working on his car because his father wouldn't let him go out. "O.K., I'll come by," Foley suggested, "and we'll take a ride."
Stuart waited in front of the house, and Foley drove him to Pacific Heights. They parked exactly where and as Foley had planned. Mollat remained a discreet distance away.
They talked for more than two hours about everything Foley had on the list of things he wanted to know. The detective played masterfully with the kid's mind and avoided all hint of panic from Stuart. Twice that afternoon, Foley got the feeling Stuart was about to confess. Each time, the cop quickly changed the subject, and each time, the technique worked. Stuart let himself be led into other areas of talk.
After the conversation ended and Foley dropped him off at home, the investigator drew some conclusions. He had a good understanding of Stuart now. There was no doubt in his mind that the boy would confess upon arrest. The only concern Foley had, and he had voiced it vigorously while Stuart sat with him in the car, was that Stuart had better stay away from the gang because if they ever thought he had talked to the police, they'd kill him.
Foley's private fear was that Stuart might go to the guys and tell them the police had talked to him. Words typical of Stuart, such as "I didn't say anything, but what should I do?", would earn him a sentence of death. He was their weak link, and from comments Gan Wah had reported, of which Stuart had no knowledge, the gang knew it. Killing him could solve that problem.
In illustration of his point, Foley had stressed to Stuart the shooting of Mouse Lee and Mark Chan, implying that maybe the two were shot by certain members of their own gang because they knew too much about the Golden Dragon. Mouse, as could Stuart, had wound up dead.
For the next two months, Foley made quick work of Stuart's calls in an effort not to deal with him closely. He was "too busy," or hadn't "the time right now," or "Geez, I got this big case going, and I'll be working all night." The danger of Stuart confessing too soon became very real after the conversation of January 22nd.
The Gang Task Force had plenty with which to occupy itself while it worked out the problem of Stuart Lin. Its members were assigned to do profiles and, where necessary, surveillances on all suspects named in Gan Wah Woo's extensive Golden Dragon file, to which had been added those fingered by Stuart himself. In addition, other cases were daily assigned to the Force. It had become the repository for every police matter arriving at the Hall of Justice with any Chinese connection.
A casual scan of the "Gang Task Force Monthly Activities" list for February 1978 reveals the following assignments: on the 1st, "Assist in investigation and subsequent arrest of multiple [armed robbery] suspects..."; on the 2nd, "Assist in investigation and subsequent arrest of...suspect...also responsible for rape, sodomy, kidnap, and mayhem of 11-year-old Chinese female"; on the 4th, "...investigation of aggravated assault"; on the 5th, "....Victim...Big Cookie's relative"; on the 13th, "Warrant arrest..."; and on the 15th, "Assist in investigation of [multiple shooting]. ...Suspect: Gan Wah Woo."
A less relaxed scan of the Monthly Activities list pinpoints February 15th: "Assist in the investigation of [multiple shooting]. Victims: Leon Chin and Leonard Mah. Suspect: Gan Wah Woo."
The swimming dragon, star informant of the Golden Dragon case, celebrated the departure of the Year of the Serpent by galloping into the Year of the Horse with a pistol and shooting two Wah Ching who crossed his path in Portsmouth Square at the height of the Chinese New Year Carnival.
The Gang Task Force, starting with Tim Simmons, suffered a collective heart attack.
One of Gan Wah's victims was "Mama Boy" Leon, historic nemesis of the "Jelly Bean" Gang, the same Mama Boy whose car had taken a Joe Boy bullet in the trunk and, at another time, several more in the windshield. The last time, they shot his house in the bay window. Now the fearful hex on his property had fallen squarely on Mama Boy himself, but, like his auto and homestead, he would survive, as would Leonard Mah.
Gan Wah's crime was described on the Incident Report Form as "assault to commit murder." At the scene, two Chinese witnesses stated they were with the victims prior to the shooting. All were approached by a howling mob of at least 10 Joe Boys. Harsh words were exchanged in prelude to a fist fight that lasted no more than a half-dozen blows. Someone shouted in Chinese: "Shoot them!" Gan Wah Woo whipped out a .45-caliber automatic tucked into his waistband at the small of his back and commenced firing wildly.
Gan Wah would later tell a different story. He said that during the confrontation, a Wah Ching pulled out a knife and stabbed Joe Boy Lloyd Lee in the lower back, whereupon Tom Yu whipped the .45 out of HIS waistband and handed it to Gan Wah with orders to shoot. "I had to do it," reported Gan Wah, "or Tom would have been suspicious. If I had really wanted to kill them, it would have been easy." (Several months afterward, Tim Simmons interviewed Lloyd Lee at the Los Angeles County Jail and established that Lloyd did indeed have such a wound in the back, which lends credibility to Gan Wah's statement.)
Another Joe Boy, Victor Woo, not related to Gan Wah, wheeled about and dashed to the car of buddy Glen Young. They drove lickety-split across town to the Mission Pool Hall at 29th and Mission Streets.
Amazingly, Gan Wah was already there, his presence at the snooker table giving truth to medieval illustrations of dragons with wings. He turned to Victor and queried, "Did anybody get shot?"
When officers went to Gan Wah's home to make an arrest, it was discovered that the swimming dragon had flown the coop. Gan Wah Woo had turned out to be the fly in the ointment for his friends at the Hall of Justice. Gan Wah had really gone undercover this time, but the Dragon Force feared he could just as easily wind up underground--six feet of it.
The meeting staged by "Sam" and "Mike" at the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf, with Wayne Yee and his boys, took place a week after the informant's shoot-out at Portsmouth Square. Simmons and the rest of the Task Force really got worried when they heard Tom Yu and the others talk so cold-bloodedly about sending teen-age hit men to Hawaii to commit multiple murder in exchange for cash.
What if Gan Wah spilled the beans? If he were crazy enough to shoot up Chinatown after his intensive cooperation with the Golden Dragon investigators, was he also crazy enough to admit his informer status to the gang if they confronted him with a witness to his comings and goings at Harbor Emergency? One wrong word, one false move, and those "spooky fuckers" would blow him away. He may not have known it, but he was walking a tight wire. To the cops, that was perfectly clear.
And suppose Stuart Lin found out that his Red Guard buddy had talked? What would be his reaction? He had already said to Gan Wah on tape that he might split for Hong Kong.
Foley swallowed hard at the thought. There goes Gan Wah. There goes Stuart. There goes the Golden Dragon case.
What would that do to the Gang Task Force? Up to then, its public image had been that of a rampant dragon storming the wall of silence. What if it got bruited about that they'd fumbled the only ball they carried and let Stuart get away because they'd been reluctant to let him confess too soon?
A reluctant dragon, sniffing flowers in the meadow like Ferdinand the Bull instead of trampling on the bamboo tigers that left 16 dead and wounded in their wake, would be an outrage to a city and a police department still smarting from the tigers' claws. Heads would roll.
Nothing concrete was known about Gan Wah or his whereabouts, but Stuart was still alive and well in San Francisco as of his 18th birthday on March 11th. Foley happened to pass a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Stockton and Broadway that evening. There sat Stuart at dinner inside, with his girlfriend, celebrating his holiday in much more proper style than Gan Wah had brought in the Year of the Horse. That, at least, made Foley feel better. He relaxed too soon. A couple of days later, he strolled into the Nihonmachi Leisure Center in Japantown, the establishment owned by the gang-harried "Moots."
Oh, my God! gasped Foley under his breath.
Stuart Lin stood at a pinball machine, laughing intimately with several members of the Joe Boy Gang.
The tall kid caught the stricken look in "Father" Foley's eyes. He cast his own eyes downward, blushed, sidled away from the crowd, and slunk out the door. When the detective artlessly ambled outside a few seconds later, he saw the taillights of Stuart's car turning out of sight.

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© 2000 Brockman Morris