Written by Lisa See
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Flower Net, 1997
None was more entrenched or threatening to America’s well-being than the triads. These Chinese gangs, what the Cantonese called tongs, had been in this country since the discovery of gold in California. But the traditions — blood oaths and secret rituals — and the organizations — hundreds of which had been established as the Chinese diaspora spread around the world—could literally be traced back for centuries. Like the Italians, the Chinese gangs had healthy international connections. They had glorious access to heroin coming through the Golden Triangle. From new immigrants, they drew a continual supply of foot soldiers to do their dirty work. Looking at the charts that lined his office walls, David could track what he knew of these activities in Los Angeles alone. He had reason to believe—but not enough evidence to make an arrest—that the Rising Phoenix was involved in casinos, bookmaking, loan-sharking, prostitution, extortion, credit-card and food-stamp fraud, illegal immigration, and, of course, heroin smuggling. All of this was supplemental to a wide array of legitimate businesses—restaurants, motels, copy shops.
At around two, the quiet of David’s office was shattered when two FBI agents burst in. Jack Campbell and Noel Gardner had worked the Chinese gang beat with David for two years now. Campbell, the older of the two, was a lanky black man with a smattering of freckles across his nose and cheekbones. His partner, Gardner, was short, brawny, and at least twenty years younger. An accountant by training, Gardner was thoughtful and precise, letting the more personable Campbell do most of the talking.
"Last night’s storm was the break we’ve been waiting for," said Campbell. "The Peony has drifted into U.S. territory. That makes her ours, my friend."
The China Peony, a freighter, had been languishing for a week just outside U.S. coastal waters, over two hundred miles off the California shoreline. The FBI had been tracking the ship because air surveillance had shown hundreds of Chinese crowded on the deck. After a few inquiries in Chinatown, David had surmised that the Rising Phoenix was behind this shipment of illegal immigrants. Once again, David found himself wishing for that little bit of luck that so far had eluded him. Maybe—out of all the people on board—he would find just one person to make the vital connection to the Rising Phoenix.
© 1997 Lisa See; New York: HarperCollins