Hung Far Low, all 300 pounds of him, sat alone at a two-seat table, in a coffee shop on Pell Street. Wearing his omnipresent three-piece white suit, he looked like a Chinese version of Sydney Greenstreet’s Senior Ferrari in Casablanca. He chomped on a pork bun and washed it down with greasy Chinese coffee, coffee so vile, no non-Oriental would ever dare swallow it.
Hung Far Low had a decision to make and it was not going to be an easy one.
Junior Bentimova, the son of Tony B, who was still holding on tightly to his chintzy Italian Boss of Bosses crown, had done something of great disrespect. Despite what the police report had said, Norman Chung had not slit his own throat, stabbed himself three times in the back and thrown himself off the Knickerbocker Village roof. As witnesses reported back to him, the killer was one of Junior’s henchman, a creep named Billy the Blade. Hung Far Low knew for sure the official police report on Norman’s death was pure garbage, written by crooked cops on Tony B’s payroll.
Hung Far Low intended to get even. If he didn’t get even, the Dagos might think they had even a slight chance of regaining power in Chinatown. The neighborhood had gone from Lasagna to Chicken Chow Mein and Hung Far Low was going to make sure it would stay that way forever. Or at least while he was still alive and kicking.
The Italians had ruled Chinatown since the early 1900’s. In 1923, an Italian ex-boxer and boxing promoter named Johnny Keyes, real name Canonico, had somehow been voted Mayor of Chinatown. The story on the streets of Chinatown was that Keyes and a few hundred of his greaseball buddies, cracked some Chinaman heads in order to win the vote, even though, at that time, the Chinese outnumbered the Italians 3-1 in the neighborhood.
As the years went by, the Italians treated the Chinese like crap. Even up until the late 1960’s, if the Chinese even dared to try to play football, soccer, or basketball in Columbus Park, the Italians would beat them up and stab the heck out of their ball, telling the Chinese to, “Stay the f**k out of our park.”
All this began to change in the late 60’s, when Chinese businessmen finally started to get smart. They combined their money and they approached the Italian tenement landlords in Little Italy, one at a time.
“How much do you want for your building?” they’d politely ask.
“I ain’t selling to no Chinks,” invariably would be the Italian owner’s first response.
“But sir, if you were selling, how much do you think your building would be worth?”
Now here’s where the Dago’s greed got the best of them.
“Hey, I bet my building’s worth half a million bucks.”
Now the Chinese already did their real estate comps, and they knew the building was worth 300G’s, tops. But now was the time to drop their hook.
“Really sir. How about if we offered you one million dollars for your building, would you sell it then?”
Dollar signs rolled in the Dago’s eyes.
“Yeah, but I’d want the contract signed for half a millions dollars and I want the other half a million under the table, in cash.”
“No problem, sir.”
And this is how the Chinese began throwing the Italians out of Chinatown and Little Italy.
They started buying up dozens of buildings, paying two, and sometimes three times what they were worth. The landlords lived in fancy places in Brooklyn and Staten Island, so they really didn’t care what happened to the old neighborhood anyway.
In a few years, the Chinese owned more than half the buildings in Chinatown and Little Italy. That’s when the purge started.
All of a sudden, Italians who were paying 60 bucks a month, for a two-bedroom cold-water flat, got notice that their rents was being raised to $300 a month. Most Italians could not pay that much rent, and the ones that could, thought it was dumb to live in a rat-infested tenement, when for less money they could move into new digs in nearby Chatham Green, Chatham Towers, Knickerbocker Village, South Bridge Towers, or in the newly built Independence Plaza, on the lower west side of Manhattan.
The apartment the Italians vacated in Little Italy solved another problem for the Chinese businessmen. Most of them were involved in an illegal human smuggling racket, headed by men and woman called Snakeheads, who sneaked illegals into America from China, at a whopping $30,000 per head. Thousands of the illegals were coming into Chinatown every year, but they had no place to live. So the former two bedroom apartments, now rented for $300 a month, split by hordes of illegal Chinese immigrants, sometimes as many 20 bodies living in a two-bedroom apartment.
The floors of entire apartments were filled with mattresses for people to sleep. But illegal immigrants were rarely inside the apartments, except to sleep, because they had to work 18 hours a day, in one of the hundreds of Chinese restaurants in New York City, at less than minimum wage, for years, just to pay the Snakeheads the rest of the $30,000 they owned them. Either that, or gets their hands cut off and they wouldn’t be able to work anyway.
So buying out the stupid Italians had served several purposes for the Chinese in Chinatown. They had gotten rid of the Dago slime. And as a result, they had filled the apartments for $300 bucks a pop and more, making their real estate investment quite profitable after only a few years, even though they had grossly overpaid for the buildings in the first place.
And most importantly for the old-timers, they gained control of the ball field in Columbus Park.
As for the buildings in the neighborhood still owned by Italians, the landlords were now were screwed bad. They either had to sell to the Chinese at bargain basement prices, or stick it out and hope their building burned to the ground, so that they could collect the insurance money.
Which some buildings actually and sometimes accidentally, did.
Now why should Hung Far Low care about the death of a mere gambler like Norman? In Chinatown, even the Chinese people didn’t even like Norman. In fact, it was quite possible, Norman’s own mother didn’t like him too much either. Norman was surly, unfriendly, disrespectful and for those who cared about these type of things, downright freaking ugly.
Yet, Norman Chung was something most other Chinese men were not; a decent freaking shooter with a gun. Not a great shot by any stretch of the imagination, but at least Norman shot in the general direction of the people he was supposed to be shooting at. And sometimes, he even shot the person the bullet was intended for. Which was not the case with 99 percent of the other Chinese shooters on the planet Earth.
Most of the Chinese gangs employed kids right off the illegal boats from China. As an initiation into the gangs, these morons had to perform hits; kill people who the bosses said needed to be dead.
Some hits were performed on crowded Chinatown Streets, but most were in Chinese restaurants, where these fools would barge in, flailing away with their nines, shooting up paying customers, cooks, waiters, a few Peking Ducks, and sometimes, by luck, even the guy they intended to shoot in the first place.
But not Norman Chung, who Hung Far Low used secretly to eliminate the opposition, or anyone else who disrespected his gambling, drug dealing and illegal immigrant smuggling operations. When he wanted someone to die, Hung Far Low trusted Norman Chung to do the right thing without messing up too much of the furniture. Norman would follow his prey, sometimes for days, and always do the dirty deed where there was no collateral damage, and more importantly, no witnesses.
Now Norman Chung was dead, and Hung Far Low was out his best henchman, a killer nobody even knew worked for Hung Far Low in the first place.
Hung Far Low was now awaiting the arrival of the second best man in his operation, Yuan Dum Fuk, who wasn’t a great shooter either. But he made up for that fact by handing a knife pretty freaking good. And with a knife, you can only kill one person at a time, which in Chinatown, was a good thing for the local businesses, especially the restaurants.
Hung Far Low was half way though his Chicken Chop Suey when Yuan Dum Fuk arrived.
“Have a seat,” Hung Far Low said.
Yuan Dum did as he was told, taking the seat on the other side of the table from Hung Far Low.
To say that Yuan Dum Fuk was thin, was like saying water was wet. He wore the traditional all- black outfit worn by Chinese gangsters, right down to the waist-length, zippered, black leather jacket. His face was rodent-like and covered with so many pimples, it looked like a connect-the-dots worksheet.
“I have a job I need you to do,” Hung Far low said.
“You mean ‘a piece of work’”? said Yuan Dum Fuk.
Spit and Chop Suey flew from Hung Far Low’s mouth, spraying the table and Yuan Dum Fuk’s face.
“What are you? A Dago all of a sudden?”
Yuan Dum Fuk wiped his face with a napkin. Then he bowed his head. “No shu ling. I am Chinese. First and foremost. Always Chinese.”
“Then cut out the ‘piece of work’ crap. Speak like a Chinaman, for Christ’s sake.”
“OK shu ling.”
“And cut out the shu ling’ crap too. We’re here in America. You can just call me ‘boss’.”
The waiter arrived with a tray of a dozen egg rolls. He placed the tray in front of Hung Far Low.
Hung Far Low eliminated the first two eggs rolls with only four bites. He spoke with his mouth full, causing bits of the eggs roll to dot Yuan Dum Fuk’s chest.
“I need Billy the Blade to disappear,” Hung Far Low said.
Yuan Dum Fuk’s eyes bulged from his emaciated face. He bent forward and whispered, “You want me to kill lo fan?’
Four more bites and two more egg rolls went bye-bye down Hung Far Low’s gullet. He belched twice, then said, “Yes, you have a problem with that?”
“No boss, but may I humbly ask why?”
“No, you may not humbly ask why. I’ve always operated on a need-to-know basis, and you no need to freaking know.”
Four more bites, and two more egg rolls went sayonara into Hung Far Low’s belly. “Now go and don’t let me see your face again, until Billy the Blade is no more.”
“How do you wish me to do this?” Yuan Dum Fuk said.
“With anything but a gun,” Hung Far Low said. “You have the disease of the Chinese. If you use a gun, you have as good a chance of shooting yourself in the balls, as you do of shooting Billy the Blade.”
The front door of the coffee shop opened and a beautiful Chinese girl entered. Just turning 18 years of age, Lilly Low stood tall, broad and buxom, unlike the past generations of Chinese women who were flat as a surf board and looked like young teenage boys. Her black almond eyes seemed to sparkle and her red pouting lips pointed upward, bringing her chin up with them.
She sashayed over to Hung Far Low’s table. “Hello father.”
Yuan Dum Fuk jumped up at attention, while Hung Far Low quickly devoured two more eggs rolls.
“This young gentleman was just leaving,” Hung Far Low said to his daughter. He waved his hand at Yuan Dum Fuk in dismissal.
Yuan Dum Fuk bowed to his boss, then to Lily. He did a military about face and exited the coffee shop.
Lily sat down opposite her father.
“Would you like an egg roll?” Hung Far Low said, pointing at the tray with 4 egg rolls left.
Lily shook her head. “How many did you eat already? I see four left. So you your either ordered a half a dozen egg rolls and just started, or more likely, you ordered a baker’s dozen.”
Hung Far Low bowed his head. “Straight dozen. Chinese restaurants no give extra egg roll to nobody.”
Lily scanned the coffee shop. She spotted the waiter and signaled for him to come to the table.
“Take these four eggs rolls away,” she told the waiter. “My father has eaten enough already.”
The waiter grabbed the tray and Hung Far Low grabbed the waiter’s arm. “Put them in a doggie container. I will take them with me.”
Lily folded her arms, angrily. “If you don’t stop this gluttony, your heart will explode. The doctor has told you many times, you need to drop at least a hundred pounds.”
Hung Far Low took a sip of coffee. “To do that, my dear daughter, I will surely have to cut off both my legs.”
“You’re probably right,” she said. “But please don’t eat like that in front of me. I don’t have to watch you slowly gorging yourself to death. Mother is already with God. I don’t want to be left all alone in this world.”
“Don’t worry. I’m going on a diet soon. They call it the new Atkins diet. I can eat all the meat, fish and chicken I like. Bacon and eggs too. And I can drink all alcoholic beverages, except beer. How’s that for a diet?”
“Fine, if you’re an American. But no lo mein noodles, or even rice noodles for you. And no fried rice. In fact, you can’t eat rice of any kind. No dumpling. And no egg rolls either. That’s for sure.”
Hung Far Low shook his head. “Don’t discourage me before I even start. But I can have soup. Lots of soup. Egg drop. Hot and sour soup. But no wonton soup, because of the dumplings.”
“Hot and sour soup has dumplings too.”
“So I’ll give the dumplings to the dog.”
“We don’t have a dog.”
“So, we’ll get a dog. A big dog. The dog will help me to stay on my diet.”
She smiled. “Then the dog will get fat, like you.”
“Then we’ll get two dogs. One to get fat and the other to stay skinny.”
She reached across the table and grabbed her father’s hand. “Oh father, you worry me so much. One dog will be enough. I start searching for one today. Maybe a nice German Shepard. Like Rin Tin Tin on TV.”
“That would be nice.”
“In fact, you can get a lot of exercise walking the dog. It would be good for you in so many ways.”
Hung Far Low shook his head. “The dog walking part is no good. A man of my exalted status can not be seen in public walking a dog.”
“Ok, so I’ll walk the dog. As long as you stay on your diet. But If I so much as see you look at an egg roll, I’ll make the dog do his nasty stuff in the apartment, on your favorite Chinese newspaper.”
“Agreed. I’ll start on the Atkins diet tomorrow morning.”
She snapped her fingers for the waiter. “No, you start on your diet right now.”
The waiter arrived and put the container of egg rolls on the table.
Lily told her father, “Those four egg rolls, I’ll take them with me now.”
“Can’t I just have one more big Chinese meal, before I go cold turkey on this diet?”
“No. But you can eat cold turkey on this diet. I’ll make you the turkey yourself. In fact, from now on, you eat all your meals at home. And I’ll do all the cooking.”
Hung Far Low sighed. “The die is cast. I hope after a few weeks on this diet, I don’t want to die myself.”