Dan Foley and Fred Mollat left the garage in the basement of the Hall of Justice at 9:40 on the morning of March the 24th.
The two detectives drove east on Bryant to the freeway on-ramp at 5th Street. After accelerating from street level to the Bayshore Freeway above, Mollat hooked a hasty left at the "Last S.F. Exit" sign in order to bypass entry of the Transbay Bridge to Oakland. A series of long, sweeping curves channeled them into the only finished leg of the ill-starred Embarcadero Freeway, a project crippled by environmentalists in the late 1960's.
The Task Force cops passed the Main Street Exit leading to Mission Street, Market, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Checking the time on the Ferry Building's clock, they swept around the Embarcadero Center's acreage of shopping malls, townhouses, and high-rise condominiums that landmark the Washington Street exit to Chinatown. Then they breezed along the last lonely span of freeway that soars over the Embarcadero until it jerks away abruptly from the stump of its unfinished second leg and skids into Broadway.
They glided along the North Beach Strip of nightspots, which included the notable Finocchio Club, where female impersonators titivate like ladies, and the celebrated Condor Club, where Carol Doda bounces the real things. At the Condor, Mollat angled the unmarked police car into the northwesterly slash of Columbus Avenue.
At 9:50, they turned into Filbert and drove slowly past Stuart Lin's home.
The detectives staked themselves out a block and a half up the street, where cars no longer park parallel because of the sudden, steep hill. Mollat nosed their vehicle in toward the curb.
Stuart was supposed to meet them near Galileo High at 10 o'clock. That week was Easter vacation, and school was not in session. Stuart didn't know his way around town too well; the school was therefore the best place to meet, especially with no students around. Still, the cops had discovered that he was not the most reliable person in the world and thought it wise to wait near the house and watch him depart.
10 o'clock, 10:15, 10:30, 10:45--no Stuart driving away to keep his appointment.
It occurred to Foley that Stuart's car might be broken down, forcing him to take a bus, or that he'd hitched a ride with a friend, or maybe hadn't even come home the night before. At 10:50, the detective got out of the car and walked around looking for a telephone. He finally found an open warehouse, and the guy inside let him use his.
After several rings, Stuart answered the phone in a sleepy voice.
"Hey, where the hell are you?" asked Foley.
"I just woke up."
"Did you forget I'm taking you on that job interview this morning? We're waiting here for you!"
"O.K., give me 10 or 15 minutes."
Half an hour later, the detectives watched him rush out to his car and take off. They followed him northward along Taylor and eastward down Chestnut. He crossed Columbus and went by the Safeway supermarket on the corner, headed directly toward the Bay Street Projects, where his girlfriend lived.
"Oh, Christ," moaned Foley to Mollat, "he's going to stop off and see her before he meets us!"
But Stuart stopped for a few minutes to talk to a driver in another car going the other way, both of them double-parked in the middle of the street--a typical scene in the heart and environs of Chinatown.
After that, he continued on his way, whipping north on Mason for two blocks, then careening west on Bay Street near the Cost Plus and North Point shopping complexes, traveling like a bat flying out of Carlsbad Caverns at dusk. It was all the cops could do to keep up with him, at a distance of two blocks behind.
He streaked back across Columbus, past the huge Tower Records outlet with its rock-group posters and "Open 'til Midnight!" sign; up Bay and over the bone-rattling tracks of the Hyde Street cable car line; then past the rear entries of Ghirardelli Square. In a last puff of smoke, his auto ground to a halt on Bay just before Van Ness.
Stuart parked across the street from the empty halls of Galileo.
The detectives passed him and turned north on Van Ness. At 11:30 A.M., they pulled into a red zone, sanctum of the law, near the corner. Foley got out and waited for Stuart to join him on foot. "We'll use our car," Foley said, "and bring you back here later."
There was an instant of hesitation on the kid's part, hinting at suspicion, but Foley overrode it, with annoyance reasonable in view of the time wasted by Stuart's oversleeping: "C'mon, Stuart, let's go! We gotta get up there for the interview with your new boss, Mr. D'Trinidad. Eddie's a busy man. We're already an hour and a half late!" Foley had told him that he'd found a job for him as a busboy in the banquet department at the Jack Tar Hotel.
Stuart got into the back seat of the police car. The cops had chosen an older vehicle with two doors and large, thickly cushioned seats and headrests. Foley sat in the passenger's seat up front with Mollat.
Mollat started the engine, U-turned around a center-street island, and headed south up a gradual, 12-block incline that leveled off at Washington Street. In that vicinity, Van Ness Avenue began its downward, 12-block slope toward City Hall and Market Street. Halfway down, on the eastern side of Cathedral Hill, lay the Jack Tar Hotel, since renamed for the promontory on which it stands.
Mollat drove right by it. Stuart never even noticed.
They turned left on Eddy, a block away from Northern Police Station, and headed downtown in an easterly direction toward Market, where a jog to the right across the wide thoroughfare would take them, more or less south again, to their destination: the Hall of Justice.
Two blocks later, at the corner of Eddy and Larkin Streets, Mollat stopped for a red light. It was there that Foley chose to cut short his small talk, turn around, and look Stuart squarely in the eye.
"Stuart," he began, "we have a warrant for your arrest for murder, assault to commit murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. This is the Golden Dragon case."
Stuart looked right back at him. With relative calm, the boy said, "Give me evidence."
Foley read him his rights according to Miranda: "Stuart, you have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; you have a right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned; if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish one. Stuart, do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?"
"Stuart, having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to me now?"
"Yeah, I'll tell you. I didn't do it! Give me evidence!"
Foley leaned over and handcuffed Stuart's wrists so that they hung in front of him.
The kid began to cry, declaring again and again, "I didn't do it!" He pounded the back of the front seat with his shackled fists. "Give me evidence! Give me evidence!"
On their way into the garage at the Hall of Justice at precisely noon, the car passed Peter Cleveland, a Channel 7 newsman on the police beat, with a TV cameraman at his side.
"Aw, shit!" exclaimed Foley. "Someone tipped these guys off." Turning to Stuart: "These are newsmen. Get down and don't say a word! Don't say anything at all."
Stuart did as he was told.
Mollat pulled into what the Task Force called the "getaway spot" near a side door close to the entrance of the garage.
"What's going on?" Cleveland hailed.
"Not too much," replied Foley with a wave.
The cops sneaked Stuart out of the car, hustled him through the door and up a back stairway.
After Easter, Foley ran into Cleveland again. "What were you doing in the garage when I saw you there last week?" the cop asked.
"Waiting for them to bring in the suspects in the 'Meter-gate'case," Cleveland told him.
Toward the end of March in 1978, "Meter-gate," involving a band of municipal employees dipping into funds collected from the parking meters all over town, rated as the biggest scandal in San Francisco so far that year.
Foley then informed the newsman of the identity of the passenger he and Mollat had hidden in the car that day: "the first arrest in the Golden Dragon case."
Cleveland groaned, "Oh, my God, there went the scoop of my life!"
If the newsman had known who Stuart was and had seen him coming in, the story could have broken to the public as a news flash on television before the boy had a chance to open his mouth and confess in the Gang Task Force office.