Conspiracy of Tigers
Part One

On Saturday, September 3, 1977, Stuart Lin got up in time for lunch. While he ate, he wondered what he would do with the rest of his day. He looked forward to a dismal Labor Day weekend without his car. The Olds still sat in Daly City at Peter Cheung's apartment. Maybe he ought to call those guys....
Oh, hell! The telephone out there doesn't work!
At that moment, his own telephone rang. It was Gan Wah. "Did Dana fix your car yet?" asked the swimming dragon. "I don't know," Stuart replied, "and I don't know what to do."
"You paid him 60 bucks, and you think you gotta wait forever? Idiot! Tony and me, we take you to Peter's place right now. You wait outside."
At noon, Gan Wah drove up with Tony Szeto. Stuart stood meekly at the curb. "Get in, stupid," ordered Gan Wah, throwing open the door. Stuart got into the back seat, nodding briefly toward Tony. The driver paid no attention to his new passenger.
Gan Wah carried on about how Stuart had to be more gutsy in his dealings with the guys. "You stick with me, like I tell you, and I show you how to act."
Tony circled the block and headed down Columbus toward the Transamerica Pyramid Building. At Clay, he made a left beside the Pyramid and drove three blocks to the freeway. He took the Bayshore south to the Route 280 Freeway break-off at Alemany Boulevard and followed its southwesterly course to the Daly City line, passing the high, raw cliff of University Mound within four blocks of Peter Cheung's house on Amherst.
"Peter better be at the apartment today instead of at the house," crabbed Tony to Gan Wah. "It's a helluva haul out there just for your friend." He cast a disparaging glance in the rear-view mirror at Stuart.
When the three of them were together, which was often enough since Stuart's car had been out of commission, Tony spoke only to Gan Wah, as if Stuart weren't there. On his part, Stuart never addressed Tony, knowing too well that no reply would be forthcoming.
Due south of Mary's Help Hospital, glistening on its high hill overlooking the vast acreage of the Serramonte Shopping Center, Tony turned into the Cabrillo Freeway leading to the Skyline Boulevard Freeway Extension and the municipality of Pacifica. Exiting to the east at Hickey Boulevard a mile or so later, he curved downward toward St. Francis Boulevard to the Lincoln Vista Apartments, a two-story, ranch-style complex of flats.
There were several people at Peter Cheung's efficiency apartment. Stuart was not fond of it; it was seldom tidy and always dirty. Nor was there any furniture, except for a mattress or two. People sat around on the carpet. Stuart had difficulty remembering the small place was called a "studio" in English. To him, it was a "stereo."
Peter Cheung was in residence that day, as were Egg Ng, Tom, Melvin, Halfbreed, Chester, Don Wong and Sai. Very little room was left over for the three new arrivals, but, to Stuart's disappointment, Dana wasn't in sight.
"Hey, Chester, did you guys fix my car yet? Where's Dana?"
"I dunno. He'll be around. I got the keys to your car. Let's go see if it starts."
The maroon 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass was parked on the street out front. The car he had bought with his paycheck from his summer job at a children's day-care center looked about the same to Stuart as when he had seen it last, a couple of weeks before. It had never been in the best of shape in the short time he'd had it, but when the carburetor went out and it started overheating on San Francisco's steep hills, something had to be done. He hoped Dana had done it. He was strapped without a car.
Stuart and Chester went down to see if the Olds would start. It wouldn't.
"We'll have to wait for Dana," Stuart said unhappily.
"Yeah," Chester agreed.
They went back inside and joined the others in a few hands of cards. They played a Chinese game similar to poker. Stuart preferred mahjong, in which he lustily engaged with Gan Wah and a couple of others a bit later. Tom sat in quiet conversation with a group including Melvin, Egg, Sai and Peter Cheung.
About 2:30, someone suggested a jaunt over to Bert's tattoo shop for some games of fussball and pinball. It was relatively close by, via the freeway back toward town.
Melvin, Tom, Egg and Sai stayed behind. "We got things to talk over," stated Tom.
Peter Cheung went with the others to the shop. They piled into Tony's and Don Wong's cars. Stuart rode with Don. Unlike Tony, Don at least spoke to Stuart.
It was already getting dark when they returned about 6:45. Dana still hadn't come. Stuart was upset and spoke about it to Chester: "How long I gotta wait for my car, man? I gotta have my car!" Gan Wah gave him an approving glance.
"You don't need it right now," Tom informed Stuart. "I want you to stick around. We're going to Bert's house later. Dana will be over there."
Someone put together a semblance of dinner. They all sat on the floor and ate. The general conversation ran in the usual vein: shooting Wah Ching and Hop Sing Boys. "Yeah, I'm gonna get some of them tonight," Melvin bragged.
"You think you can handle it?" asked Peter Cheung. He was closer to Melvin than to almost anyone else. Melvin turned to Tom: "Shall we go, or shall we not?"
Tom seemed thoughtful, watching Stuart eat. "We'll talk about it when we get to Bert's house."
Instructions were given to Stuart to wash the dishes after dinner. In the kitchenette, Gan Wah glared at him. "So now you do dishes for your 60 bucks! Are you gonna stay here all night and wait for Dana to turn up? Or are you leaving with Tony and me?"
Stuart sponged a puddle of water on the floor. "Tom says I have to stay. Besides, I want my car."
"All right, I'm going to go first." Gan Wah huffed out of the kitchen and left with Tony.
Stuart had no more than rinsed the last dish when he heard Tom say: "There are too many people in this apartment. Why don't we go over to Bert's place now? It's bigger and better-looking over there. Halfbreed, you stay here."
Halfbreed was disappointed. "Hey, that means I'm stuck! I ain't got a car. You guys coming back later? I don't want to be by myself all night!"
Tom made no reply.
Unhappy and sour-faced, the kid nonetheless stayed behind without further protest when they left in two cars, one of them Sai's red Monte Carlo, the other, Don Wong's silver 1969 Malibu.
Nobody questioned Tom Yu's decisions.

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2000 Brockman Morris