Conspiracy of Tigers
Part Four

Eddie Kwong, 19, considered by many gang kids to be a Wah Ching, thought of himself as attached to Michael "Hotdog" Louie's inner circle. Thus, because Hotdog inclined toward independent status, Eddie could not properly have been called a Wah Ching. In truth, Eddie was not as close to Hotdog as he figured, although he behaved as though he were aide-de-camp to the youth most of Chinatown deferred to as a gangster big shot.
Hotdog had earned his Wah Ching identity legitimately. An F.O.B. who had arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong at the age of nine, he became a Wah Ching in 1970 as a 13- or 14-year-old. When he was once asked how a boy became a W.C., he replied: "You have to do some fighting. You listen to the people, you know, the big guys. You show loyalty. You fight against the black people, the white people, the Mexican people, the Filipinos. School fights, street fights, you know, fist to fist. If the gang likes you, they accept you."
One of the big guys now, Hotdog was on the V.I.P list at several places around town. A regular haunt was the Rickshaw Bistro, a disco torn down since then to make room for new construction in Chinatown's first block of Grant Avenue, beyond the pailou arch. He had run into Eddie there that evening, about 9. They had a few drinks together, during which time Hotdog informed Eddie that a report had come to him warning of a possible attack that weekend on the part of unspecified enemies.
When the Rickshaw closed at 1:30 A.M., the two were joined by the bistro's disk jockey, Wayne Yule Yee, 22, the "good" Wayne Yee of the soon-to-be-formed Gang Task Force. A social butterfly in the Chinatown set, he was, even then, also known familiarly to the cops as "Disco Duck." His relationship with Hotdog and Eddie was a casual one, completely unrelated to their gangster status. They were steady patrons of the bistro, and were his fellow students in a martial arts class.
Disco Duck accompanied the "Wah Ching" to the Golden Dragon for hsiao yeh. None of them carried a gun. It would seem that prophecies of forthcoming doom did not scare Hotdog Louie. John McKenna's "doomsday kid" was, above all, a born survivor. He had to be, for, as McKenna said of him, "The guy was like horseshit...all over the place," and had to be prepared for encounters with destiny every moment of his day, anywhere he went. He must have believed in the superiority of his wits over mere weaponry.
At the restaurant, they all sat together in a booth on the upper level and dined on clams. Eddie sat with his back to the bakery doors. Disco Duck faced them, and Hotdog sat between the two boys with his back to the west wall. They knew a couple of the kids in the booth across the aisle, where a second table had been added to make more room. It would have looked as though the whole crowd, fun-loving teen-agers on one side and young gangsters on the other, were part of the same group.
Earlier in the evening, a cocktail waitress at the Beauty Palace nightclub had overheard a conversation among members of the Hop Sing Boys who were regular patrons at the bar. They had talked about going to the Golden Dragon for something to eat after the Beauty Palace closed. One of them was carrying a weapon and planned to go with the others to act as bodyguard.
The waitress also went to the Golden Dragon for hsiao yeh at the end of her shift, but not with the Hop Sing Boys. While there, she noticed that the guy with the gun didn't show up. The gang members, clustered at a round table near the northeast corner of the lower level, continually cast glances at the restaurant's doors as if looking for the bodyguard. They would, understandably, have been a trifle nervous with no arsenal at ready command. They were sitting ducks if an enemy took it into his head to suddenly appear and engage in a bit of target practice. They probably took notice of Hotdog, whom they considered to be a Wah Ching, but the big shot on the upper level was not presently in a state of war with them, so would have posed no immediate threat.
Nor did the Hop Sing Boys pay more than cursory attention to a stocky, uniformed young man who entered and placed a take-out order at the cashier's counter shortly before 2 A.M. The counter stood immediately inside the second set of double glass doors, comprising an ideal place to scan both levels of the dining room.
His cheeks were slightly flushed from three or four snifters of fine cognac he had drunk at the Beauty Palace after getting off work at midnight as a security guard at the International Hotel. It is possible that he had seen the Hop Sing Boys at the nightclub before they went to the Golden Dragon, but that would have been before the hour of hsiao yeh, which was the time he had on his mind.
While waiting for his take-out noodles at the front of the restaurant, he propped himself against the counter and appeared to scan the crowd casually, his gaze pausing at random to caress the most attractive of the female diners. His Latino face took on a distinctly Oriental look when his eyes narrowed at sight of the larger group of young people on the mezzanine.
At that moment he turned from the counter and strolled a few steps into the bar. He inserted a dime into the coin slot of the pay telephone on the wall.
Someone answered at the other end of the wire, a voice the security guard knew. That confirmed, he spoke quickly into the telephone in Cantonese: "Those people are here at the Golden Dragon. Frankie Yee and some Hop Sing Boys are sitting at a round table on the lower level, near the back corner on the right as you enter. Hotdog and a bunch of W.C.'s are on the upper level near the bakery doors. Policemen? Well, I noticed one outside as I came in, sort of hanging around on the street, you know. Maybe he is coming inside. Yes, you're welcome. Goodbye."
He hung up and returned to the counter. Paying for his order, he took it to his car, which he had parked across the street at the corner of Waverly Place. He drove through the alleyway past the green marble faade of the rival Hop Sing Tong, turned left on Clay, and a block later passed his own Hip Sing Association. He went left two blocks on Kearny to the International Hotel. There he parked on the street near the door.
Remaining in his car, Carlos Jon then dipped his chopsticks into noodles from the Golden Dragon and proceeded to celebrate a private hsiao yeh.

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2000 Brockman Morris