Conspiracy of Tigers
Part Eight


 
While the blood-sated bamboo tigers slept, The City counted the toll of their victims.
Fong Wong, 48, the Golden Dragon waiter who was also an accomplished violinist, was the first to fall when Melvin Yu began to fire. He suffered a severed spinal cord. He was found lying face down. When a paramedic turned him over, there was blood on his chest. He was conscious, but paralyzed. His eyes were open. He was asked how he felt. "I am dying," he said. He was. Fong Wong was pronounced dead at 5:10 A.M. His widow, mother of his seven children, collapsed at the hospital upon receiving the news. Had he lived, he would have been a quadraplegic, "just a brain and nothing else," according to Dr. John Boey.
Paul Wada, 25, the brilliant law student whose goal in life was to offer legal services to the poor, was dead at the scene. He had six gunshot wounds. Three bullets were found beneath the body, one partially impinged into the tile floor beneath him. All three had passed through his back as he lay there wounded and defenseless while Melvin stood over him blasting away like a demon from Hell.
Denise Louie, 21, still alive on arrival at the hospital, received a series of five gunshot wounds. One entered from the side, another from the front; the others were directed across her upper and lower back. She was on the floor when she received most of them. The pattern of the bullets suggested that she had risen heroically to the defense of Paul Wada and flung herself across his body to shield him, then had been kicked aside by Melvin while he viciously murdered Paul. Resuscitation was attempted on Denise, but she bled to death from stomach wounds. Doctors were able to get her heart started, but she never recovered brain function. She was pronounced dead at 4:45 A.M. When news reached Seattle, the entire International District went into mourning.
Donald Kwan, 20, seated on the upper level with a party of 10 young people, had no chance to get under the table with the others. His blood registered .1 percent alcohol, negligible under ordinary circumstances, but just enough then to slow down his reflexes to the mortal danger at hand when Peter Ng aimed a shotgun at his face. He was blasted three times with three loads of buckshot comprising a total of 36 pellets, each pellet carrying the destructive force of a .32-caliber bullet. He fell forward on the table after the first blast; the next two penetrated vital organs. Actually, he bled to death on the way to the hospital, but was not pronounced dead until 3:35 A.M., after all efforts to save him failed. His family was so grief-stricken, they were unable to talk to reporters about his background.
Calvin Fong, 18, was sitting in the group with Donald. He had not wanted to go to the Golden Dragon, but had to wait for a ride home. He had called his widowed mother to inform her he would be late. It has been argued that Stuart Lin, perhaps unintentionally, shot Calvin in the small of the back with a shotgun blast aimed at the table rather than at him, when buckshot pellets were deflected on impact against the piece of furniture. There is no question that Peter Ng, while Calvin lay on the floor, fired into his chest with a .38-caliber pistol. The shotgun blast, however, would have been enough to kill him. He was pronounced dead at 5:30 A.M. His back was literally blown out. At 10 on Sunday morning, when Calvin would normally have been in Sunday school, preparing to sing in the choir of the Chinatown Baptist Church, his family got the news of his death.
Robert Yuen, 18, who sang in the choir with Calvin and who was his best friend, was removed on a stretcher, placed in an ambulance and taken to Mission Emergency, where he underwent surgery. It was Robert who wore a black leather jacket and whom Peter Ng mistook for Hotdog Louie and shot in the abdomen, in vengeance for the murder of Felix Huey on the 4th of July. Robert required major surgery four times and minor surgery twice. He wore a colostomy device, an attachment to the intestine, for six months. He lived with the nightmare of having told Calvin to shut up when his friend lay dying in a frenzy of frightened screams. "I didn't know! I didn't know!", Robert would weep for years.
Wendy Suto, 23, who came from Seattle with Denise, and Janice Imanishi, to see Paul, was shot so many times the doctors didn't even know how many bullets hit her. No diagram of her wounds could be made because there were too many holes to figure out. Sprayed from neck to legs with machine gun bullets, she was struck in nearly every vital organ of her body. Doctors experienced considerable anxiety for her because there was no blood pressure, nor pulse, nor respiration. Her body was cold and bluish, her pupils fixed and dilated. She was, in medical opinion, dead. But the brilliant and unheralded surgeons at Mission Emergency brought her back to life, and her own indomitable spirit returned her, after a long struggle, to a high degree of good health. Wendy Suto was a miraculous survivor of the Golden Dragon massacre.
Janice Imanishi, 23, Wendy's lifelong friend, took a low-velocity missile in the shoulder from Melvin's gun. It was thought that it might have passed through someone else, most likely Wendy. She was removed by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital and stayed there six days. The bullet was taken out in surgery. The wound would produce no lasting effects on her body, but the loss of friends Paul and Denise, and the near death of Wendy, made the effect of the massacre on her mind quite another matter. Both she and Wendy faced years of serious mental depression.
It has been conjectured that pretty actress Carolina Sanchez, 30, was struck by the very bullet which whizzed through blonde Francine Novick's hair. When it hit her as she crawled across the floor of the Golden Dragon, while she used a chair for cover, it caused a severe wound in the lower jaw from its high-energy strike and produced extensive damage to the jaw, fragmentation of the bone, and disruption of the teeth. Carolina's injury, although not fatal, was of a serious nature physically and of even more devastation mentally to a lovely young woman. Even so, when she opened her eyes and saw Wendy lying near her in great suffering, her impulse was to try to help, but movement proved impossible. Choking on her own blood, she was taken away in an ambulance and hospitalized for several months, only the beginning of a long road to the recovery of her health and beauty through plastic surgery.
Maria Teresa Valdes, 24, of Philippine Air Lines, who was a personal friend of Fong Wong's, thought at first that plates had fallen on her. But they were bullets which wounded her right leg and left thigh. There was no fracturing of bones or other major damage. When a policeman asked about her injuries, she quickly saw that others were worse off than she and begged that they be taken care of first. She was admitted to San Francisco General twice: the first time for 18 days, the second, a month later, for 10 days. In the first surgery, they extracted a bullet from her lower leg, but couldn't do the other till later as it was too deeply embedded. She would always suffer a stiffness when the weather grew cold.
Jimmy Tan, 28, Fong Wong's artist friend, felt something go through his right leg when his companion, Chinatown journalist Lily Yip, heard him cry out. When he was carried away later, he remembered Fong's plaintive statement, repeated several times, "I am dying." Jimmy's wound, in the right lower leg, was painful, but caused him no lasting physical damage. An extremely sensitive person, as artists are inclined to be, he needed time to recover his spiritual equilibrium, and threw himself into his work. He later became widely known in Asia for several major exhibitions of his art.
Dr. William Alexander, the psychiatrist from Tiburon who was seated with the comedy team of Proctor and Bergman, had a single wound in the lower left leg. The bullet is permanently trapped in tissue below the knee joint.
Jose Mendoza, 38, of Daly City, who sat with Danilo Elgarcia and Larry River, received two wounds. One in the right wrist was considered most significant because its damage was of the sort to cause life-long decrease in his ability to move that wrist. It will be an eternal reminder of his escape from death that Labor Day weekend.
In the party of three young men and a young lady who had attended a reunion of UCLA business school graduates at Henry Africa's that evening, only Gina White remained physically unscarred. Howie Green, 23, who had dropped to the floor at the sound of Melvin's shots and pulled his friends down with him, took a bullet in the left thigh. In a television interview outside the restaurant, where he was seen on a stretcher, he considered himself "one of the lucky ones."
Tom Berry, 25, Howie's roommate at Cornell, had surgery twice in 11 days at San Francisco General Hospital for a foot wound. The surgical rooms were so jammed with the worse wounded that he had to patiently wait his turn the first time. His foot is now functional, but the front bone is fused and he cannot bend the toe.
Jeff Kurfess, 29, whom Tom Berry feared dead when he fell beside him at the Golden Dragon, turned out to have been "playing possum" when he hadn't responded to Tom's frantic pleas for him to speak while he lay with his head in his arms. One arm was wounded. He was doubtless very wise in his behavior, for it was only a few feet away that Melvin was standing over Paul Wada, blasting him in the back. Jeff was among the last removed from the restaurant because he wasn't badly hurt. He wanted to watch everything that was going on and to be of help where he could. He later was able to walk to an ambulance and was taken to San Francisco General.
At Hotdog Louie's table on the upper level, the future "Clams" Chan had just left for the kitchen after confirming that the leader wanted a second order of clams. According to Hotdog, Disco Duck, who was facing the bakery doors, got a strange look on his face, whispered "Man with a gun!" in Cantonese, and started sliding under the table. Hotdog looked toward the door and saw a figure outside who almost immediately disappeared. The leader cast a piercing look at Eddie Kwong. Eddie hunkered down like a tiger ready to spring away from danger. Disco Duck tried to speak again, but couldn't. His eyes widened as though he had seen a ghost or as if something had thrown him into shock.
Hotdog stood up halfway, his fists knotted on the table, and looked all around. He saw the gunmen enter. He thought initially that it might be an armed robbery. Then, simultaneously, he heard the first shots and saw the second and third intruders run toward him on the upper level.
"Everybody duck!" he shouted several times in both English and Cantonese. Using his fists for leverage, he catapulted himself across the table and hit the floor at a roll. He sought cover behind Donald Kwan's booth, lying flat, but he managed to get a good look at the shooter who zeroed in on Donald.
He saw people falling under tables or running for the kitchen at the rear.
When it was all over, Disco Duck looked at his plate shattered on the floor. "Jesus, somebody blew up my clams!"
Hotdog rose from the floor, as did Elaine Hom and Stephanie Lee, two of the girls in the group with Donald Kwan and Calvin Fong.
"It's because of Hotdog!" Elaine cried through hysterical tears. "They came after us because he was here!"
James "Jaws" Tom was sitting with Frankie Yee and Michael Fung at the Hop Sing Boys' table on the lower level. He had been a late arrival from the Beauty Palace, not coming over until the lights were turned up and the place closed. He joined them at the Golden Dragon because someone (he didn't know whom) was supposed to be treating everyone to dinner. As he finished eating, he "heard a pop like firecrackers," but he realized at once they were shots when everyone started yelling.
All the Hop Sing Boys, very street-wise, dropped to the restaurant floor, tipping the table over as a shield. They all survived untouched, as did the gangsters on the mezzanine.
A couple of blocks away, Marcos Santiago was busily engaged in a favorite pastime. When the hours began to drag on the graveyard shift after he came on security duty at the International Hotel, relieving Carlos Jon at midnight, he liked to sit in his car outside the hotel and listen to his police scanner. That was especially entertaining on a Saturday night when the police dispatcher sent out a constant stream of emergency messages to the patrolling black-and-white units.
So it was that he heard the news that stirred him into action and sent him dashing to Carlos who still sat in his own car nearby, plying his chopsticks through the noodles.
"Hey, Carlos, there's been a big shooting at the Golden Dragon on Washington Street! You were just up there a little while ago, weren't you?"
The chopsticks clattered to the floor mat. Carlos threw open the door and stepped out. "Don't even mention it," he said. "I think I'm going to be sick."
He could hear sirens coming from all directions, and he saw patrol cars flying by. He walked back to Kearny Street and up Washington. A police car pulled alongside the curb.
"May I be of assistance, officer?" Carlos asked,
Noting the uniform of a security guard, the policeman answered, "Yes, you could stay here and help me out directing traffic."
Waving the motorists on who slowed down to gawk, Carlos watched the ambulances arrive and people being carried out. He stayed until the morgue wagon came for Paul Wada, and the crowd began to disperse. Returning to his car, he drove to the home he shared with his parents in the Sunset District.
The noodles from the Golden Dragon lay undigested in his stomach like stones. It had dawned on him just how wretchedly he had been used by Tom Yu.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris