If there’s one person who could be said to truly be at the center of the 1871 LA Chinatown drama, it might be Yo Hing. While Yut Ho’s love intrigue was nominally the reason for the conflagration of Chinatown’s ongoing gang conflict, it would never have happened if it hadn’t aligned with Yo Hing’s plans.
Yo Hing represents a side of Chinese America that both Western nativists and Chinese assimilationists are reluctant to face. Ironically, he also represents the embodiment of many of the nominal ideals of American society and the West in particular. Originality, adaptability, multiculturalism, and an almost populist outlook were among the characteristics that won him success in Wild West California. In many Anglo accounts, these characteristics are downplayed or presented as incongruous due to Anglo-Americans’ inability to accept the historical reality of a “Chinese cowboy.” Yo Hing’s outspoken, aggressive behavior is also presented as shameful from the point of view of real or imagined Chinese commentators.
To anyone who believes in the ideal of rough men living by brains and brawn in a lawless West, Yo Hing seems almost too good to be true. However, like other larger-than-life Western figures, his winsome qualities are duly paired with more sinister ones. Chief among these was his affinity for violence. In this regard, the historical records are deceptively forgiving. They implicate Yo Hing in multiple incidences of fist fighting and not much else- at least not directly. However, circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that Yo Hing was complicit or involved in brutal beatings of Chinese men and women and possibly in murder. While this was by no means unusual in 1870s Los Angeles, it should be said that it is no more admirable in Yo Hing than in any of his Anglo or Latino counterparts. Another problematic attribute of Yo Hing’s was his blatant disregard for any semblance of law and order. In the case of figures such as Sam Yuen, a similar disregard could justifiably be chalked up to cultural values; China is not a culture in which the law is widely viewed as holding any moral authority. In Yo Hing’s case, however, his activities in the courts indicate that he had a clear understanding of the ostensible role of law within American society. Aside from his quip in the LA Star saying, “The police like money,” Yo Hing has left us with little insight into his internal attitudes towards legal process. However, his incessant legal skullduggery combined with recorded convictions for almost every imaginable crime speak volumes.
Even in light of his many failings as a human being, it is very difficult not to like Yo Hing. Writing the story, Micah found that Yo Hing came to life in a very vibrant, sometimes even attractive way. In this, we may find ourselves in a position not too different from that of the denizens of 1871 Los Angeles. They knew what he was like, and they liked him anyway both inside of Chinatown and in the broader community. Perhaps this says something about human nature and what we really value in American society. After all, in a tired truism succinctly articulated by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin: “Everybody loves a rogue.”
The final scene in this episode contains music derived from two mechanical player-piano scrolls, printed in Germany during the early 20th century and preserved by the Stanford University Libraries’ Player Piano Project. They are, in order of appearance, Hallelujah! : fox-trot from "Hit the deck" and Tea for two : fox-trot both composed by Vincent Youmans around the turn of the 20th century and performed or “encoded” by pianists Hans Sommer and Edward Johnson, respectively. The digitized scrolls are owned by Stanford University and licensed under a Creative Commons (CC) Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
I transferred the digitized scroll audio to ¼ inch cassette tape via the redoubtable SSL2+ interface and a small valve phono amp, and then manipulated the vari-speed knob on a Sony TC-WE475 cassette deck to create the shifting, ghostly texture you hear during Yo Hing’s conference with the young lawyer Henry Hazard. While the music is admittedly from a later period than that in which the story is set, I loved the texture so much I decided to use it instead of the original guitar composition which I had initially slated for the spot. If Blood on Gold Mountain should ever appear in a commercial or non-educational context, I will happily replace this segment with the guitar material, unless Stanford Libraries see fit to make exception as they have done in some other cases.
This interlude, in which the scrolls play back the motions entered by pianists long dead, has the distinction of being the only segment in the Blood on Gold Mountain soundtrack in which players outside my creative team are heard. I find it thrilling that these players were contemporaries of some of the characters in our story, and that the music was preserved in such an outlandish (by today’s standards) mechanical fashion. Truly, this is a case of the Ghost in the Machine.
As usual, all the other music in this episode was composed and played by myself and my beautiful and talented fiancé, Emma.
If you have questions, thoughts, your own family stories, or historical context to share, please send us a message at @bloodongoldmountain on Facebook or Instagram.
Blood on Gold Mountain is brought to you by The Holmes Performing Arts Fund of The Claremont Colleges, The Pacific Basin Institute of Pomona College, The Office of Public Events and Community Programs at Scripps College, The Scripps College Music Department, The Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at The New England Conservatory, and our Patreon patrons.
Blood on Gold Mountain is written and produced by Yan-Jie Micah Huang, narrated by Hao Huang, introduced by Emma Gies, and features music composed by Micah Huang and performed by Micah Huang and Emma Gies. A special thanks to Kusuma Tri Saputro for the amazing artwork, Sheila Kolesaire for her critical PR guidance, Shayna Krizan for her Instagram wizardry, Rachel Huang for her editing prowess, and Evo Terra from Simpler Media Productions for his immense expertise and support.
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Previously on Blood on Gold Mountain: Yut Ho’s relationship with Lee Yong continued to deepen. Lee Yong revealed the truth about his past- how his mother was forced into prostitution until his father helped her escape. Yut Ho attended Sam Yuen’s banquet with Hing Sing, fulfilling her duties as a figurehead wife. However, the banquet didn’t go as planned. A prominent company member called Dr. Tong challenged Sam Yuen’s decision to enter the opium trade. Sam Yuen kicked him out, but it wasn’t until after the banquet that he truly gave vent to his rage- with Yut Ho and Hing Sing as his victims. Now Yut Ho and Lee Yong must decide how to pursue their newfound love in the shadow of such a powerful enemy.Hao:
It had come late fall, and the sun hung low and heavy in a sky of blue amber. Its rays struck the earth obliquely, casting long shadows and pouring in through Yut Ho’s window. They filled the room with a golden radiance, bouncing off the polished wood panels and pooling on the bed, where Yut Ho and Lee Yong lay side by side.
They had thrown back the rumpled bedclothes and lay there naked as the gods had made them, basking in the sunshine and the heat of their passionate exertions.
The window glass threw fragments of rainbow over the two lovers, and there was no sound but a muted rumble from the street below, and the deep thrum of their breathing.
After a time, Lee Yong reached over and picked up a hand-rolled cigarette. He lit it, and pinched out his match between a calloused thumb and forefinger before passing the cigarette to Yut Ho.
Yut Ho sat up. Cigarettes were one thing about gold mountain which she found really impressive. Lee Yong smoked them from time to time, and had introduced her to them early on in their secret relationship. Yut Ho had been skeptical at first, but they had grown on her. The trick was not to smoke them too often. Their gentle, decadent rush was a delicate thing, to be cherished and cultivated with discipline lest it grow too familiar and lose its luster.
She exhaled slowly, allowing a sinuous ribbon of smoke to escape from between her lips. It twisted and danced in the light like a miniature dragon, reveling in its brief existence before dissolving into the golden void. Yut Ho smiled, and passed the cigarette to Lee Yong.
He looked very beautiful, lying there in the sun. Thick-limbed and powerful, but supple and hairless as any girl she had bathed with in the village. His chest rose and fell with a slow rhythm as he stared up at a scrap of rainbow on the ceiling. Yut Ho poked him. He looked over at her, and smiled
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
Lee Yong exhaled a billowing cloud of smoke.
“I was remembering. When I was a boy, we used to bring in the pumpkins this time of year. Big, fat pumpkins! I couldn’t even lift them until I was six or seven. The Gwailo would buy them like crazy to use in their Hungry Ghost festival, and we used to cook up the ones we had left over into soup.”
Yut Ho frowned. “Hungry Ghost festival? But that was more than a month ago. Around the time that we…” she reached out to pinch him, and he squirmed away, laughing.
“Stop that! The Gwailo have a different Hungry Ghost festival. it’s coming up very soon now, they’ve started carving faces into pumpkins, and putting candles inside so that they glow in the dark. You can see them when you walk down the street.”
“Except that I can't walk down the street.” Yut Ho’s expression was serious. “I’m stuck here, with Hing Sing, and Jade, and Phoenix. I’ve been thinking, Lee Yong; I don’t know how, and I don’t know where, but I think,” She took a deep breath.
“I think we should get out of here.”
There was a long silence. Yut Ho could hear the blood pounding in her ears. Part of her was suddenly frantic with nerves. You idiot, it said, this is your once chance to get out of here, and you’ve blown it. It’s too soon. You’ve only known him a couple of months. What if he’s afraid? What if there’s another girl, who you don’t know about? What if this is all just for fun, and he doesn’t want to give up his entire life, leave his home, and risk everything for you?
She felt panic rise up and grip her throat with an iron claw, but another part of her –a stronger part– forced her to breathe, and spoke in a calm, steady voice. Wait for him to speak, it said. You see him every day. You know him very well. He’s honest, and he’s innocent. There is no other girl. This is not just for fun. He may be afraid, but that does not mean he won’t risk it all for you. He loves you. You know that to be true. What’s more, you love him too, and you are not a fool.
“Well,” said Lee Yong slowly, “I have been saving up my wages for a long time. There should be a fair bit put away by now.”
Yut Ho didn’t know what she had expected him to say, but it certainly wasn’t that.
“What?” She asked faintly.
“Well, my parents died when I was fifteen, and I’ve been working here ever since. I share a room, so my rent is cheap, and I never spend much on food or drink because I always eat at work. I reckon I have something over five hundred dollars stashed away. That’s one of the perks of working for gangsters.” He laughed.
Yut Ho was speechless. Lee Yong continued.
“It should be enough to get us a lease on a few acres of land. Maybe we could even find someone who’d be willing to sell. The Gwailo aren’t all bad; I bet some of the wealthy Mexican landowners would be willing to sell to a Chinaman. My parents used to talk about a place near Sacramento where there’s a huge floodplain that’s perfect for growing rice. I’ve always dreamed of going there, setting up a farm and living off the land like the Ancestors. I’ve never grown rice though, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about…”
Yut Ho laughed. If you can get us there, I’ll stake out the best land and teach you everything there is to know about growing rice. You were a farm boy before your parents died, you’ll pick it up in no time.”
Lee Yong sat up in bed. His eyes were shining.
“We’d have to build a house, I guess. The railroad has a recruiting center in Davis, so there are a lot of Chinese around. I bet we could hire some to help us, if we stretch the money. It wouldn’t need to be big–“
He was so excited that Yut Ho was a little reluctant to interrupt him, but she did anyway.
“Lee Yong,” She said.
He snapped out of his reverie. “What?”
“I’m glad that you have that money. I have no idea if it will get us as far as a rice farm in Sacramento, but I do know that it’s better to be fugitives with money than to be fugitives without money. However, money won’t help us with our most pressing problem: How do we get safely away from the most powerful gang in Chinatown?”
“Well,” said Lee Yong. “Second most powerful.”
They looked at eachother.
“Yo Hing’s gang is really more powerful than Sam Yuen’s?”
Lee Yong nodded. “It’s a close thing. I don’t know who would win in a pitched battle, but at this point Yo Hing’s organization is a lot more agile. That’s why Sam Yuen and Hing Sing won’t allow you to leave the house. They’re afraid that Yo Hing will kidnap you and make them look like idiots.”
It took Yut Ho a minute to digest this information. She had always ascribed her confinement to the wanton cruelty of men–namely Sam Yuen and her husband, Hing Sing.
“Why would Yo Hing want to kidnap me?” she asked Lee Yong.
“Because you’re as beautiful as a goddess and as stubborn as Sun Wukong. Look at you, you’re literally glowing! Who in the world wouldn’t want to kidnap–Ow!”
Yut Ho pinched him in a very sensitive place.
“Tell Me!” she commanded.
Lee Yong sighed.
“Well, other than the obvious reasons, Yo Hing would like to kidnap you because your marriage is a feudal link between Sam Yuen’s gang and Ah Choy’s gang in San Francisco. If Yo Hing got ahold of you, neither the Huiguan or the Triads would ever trust Sam Yuen again.”
Yut Ho knew that the Huiguan was the parent organization of Sam Yuen’s gang. “Who are the Triads?” she asked.
“The Heaven and Earth Society,” said Lee Yong. “Highbinders.”
Yut Ho nodded. Highbinders were a secret society of elite assassins, who the San Francisco Huiguan hired to dispose of their most dangerous enemies. They dressed in black, and each of them carried a sword or hatchet alongside the ubiquitous colt six-shooter. Yut Ho’s brother Ah Choy was one of them.
“Isn’t Yo Hing afraid the Highbinders will come after him if he kidnaps me?” Yut Ho asked.
Lee Yong snorted. “Yo Hing isn’t afraid of anything.”
Both of them fell silent, lost in thought.
The light from the window was creeping slowly up Yut Ho’s body, and she closed her eyes against the glare. Outside in the street, a drunk was singing.
Surrounded by flowers
I drink alone
from a pot of wine
I look to the heavens
and lift my cup-
the moon and me
and my shadow
“What if Yo Hing did manage to kidnap me,” Yut Ho asked dreamily.
Lee Yong let out a hollow laugh. “He’d need a lot of help. The only way out of here is right through the brothel.”
“What if he had an accomplice? Someone who has a key, and knows when everybody in the brothel is asleep?”
“Like who?” asked Lee Yong. His tone was innocent, but his face was already breaking into a reckless grin.
“Like You,” said Yut Ho.
I sing to the rhythm
of the changing moon
proclaimed the drunk in the street.
I dance, and my shadow
turns to madness
Suddenly, Lee Yong got up, and began to get dressed.
“What are you doing?” demanded Yut Ho.
He looked over at her, teetering slightly as he stepped into his pants.
“I need to make the LoBa Gao for dinner. It won’t take me too long– can you take care of refrying it and putting some out for Hing Sing at the usual time? He’s always late, so he won’t notice I’m gone.”
Yut Ho leapt lightly out of bed and grabbed her robe, which was hanging over the back of a chair. Her Gong Gong’s Ba Gua was in one of the pockets. She slipped it over her head.
“Where are you going?”
Lee Yong looked at her strangely.
“To see Yo Hing,” he said.
Yut Ho was suddenly gripped by the realization of just how dangerous a thing they were proposing to do.
Lee Yong smiled. His honest face was a battleground of excitement, anxiety, determination and hope.
“Why wait?” he said.
Then he kissed her gently, and hurried out the door.
Yo Hing’s headquarters was located across the street from the Coronel building, right at the heart of Chinatown. It was only a few blocks from Yut Ho’s apartment, but tonight the walk seemed much longer than usual. Lee Yong kept having to fight the urge to look over his shoulder.
The fastest route would have taken him right past Sam Yuen’s Nin Yung store. Instead, Lee Yong took the back way, circling around to approach the Coronel building from the opposite side. Lee Yong wasn’t important enough for people to take note of his whereabouts, but Chinatown was small, and he didn’t want anyone he knew to see him on this particular errand.
As he approached the Hong Chow company office, Lee Yong cast a furtive glance across the broad, dusty square. There was no one around. He walked up to the door, and knocked.
After a few seconds, which felt more like a few hours, there was a noise inside and the door swung open to reveal a short, fat man with rough, clay-colored skin and enormous hands. “Who’re you?” he asked, by way of greeting.
“My name is Lee Yong. I have a proposal for Yo Hing.”
Even to his own ears, Lee Yong sounded like he didn’t know what he was talking about.
“The Boss is busy,” said the fat man. He was reaching out to slam the door when a familiar face appeared over his left shoulder.
“Tong Won!” Lee Yong exclaimed.
The fat man grunted, and twisted around to look at Tong Won. “You know this guy?”
Tong Won nodded. “He had his erhu case slung across his back, and his long, salt-and-pepper braid hung down the side of cotton jacket. “Sure do. Remember Lee Mouie, the woman who first figured out how to grow Chinese turnips in this town? This is her son. Makes the best Shiu Mai in town.”
“Oh yeah?” the fat man looked back at Lee Yong, who detected the faintest glimmer of respect in his glance.
“Alright, come on in. Tong Won can vouch for you.”
Lee Yong stepped inside, squeezing past the Fat man, and followed Tong Won down a corridor and up a flight of stairs.
“So,” said Tong Won, “”What brings you to Hong Chow headquarters?”
“I have a proposal for Yo Hing,” Lee Yong replied, fighting down his feeling of foolishness. “One that will give him a chance to make a fool out of Sam Yuen.”
Tong Won laughed. “He’ll certainly be interested in hearing about it. I must be getting old–it seems like only yesterday when you were a little boy whose greatest joy in life was chasing chickens. Now you’re cooking up intrigue between Chinatown’s biggest gangsters. Where in the world does the time go?”
They stepped out onto a landing, and through the door of a large room. It was long and lofty, with furniture scattered carelessly about. The walls slanted up from the floor, conforming to the shape of the peaked roof above. Overhead, skylights which caught the last rays of the evening sun and threw them across the floor in a pattern of glowing rectangles, criss-crossed by bars of shadow.
Yo Hing was sitting in the middle of the room. He was straddling a chair, which looked small and spindly in comparison to his enormous barrel chest and tree-trunk arms, which were balanced precariously on top of the chair’s low back.
As usual, Yo Hing was wearing a Gwailo suit, but the room was hot and he had removed his jacket. His sleeves were rolled halfway to the elbow.
Around him, a number of men sat slouched in chairs, or leaned up against the sloping rafters. Yo Hing was talking to them in Spanish, which was one of the two languages that Yut Ho collectively referred to as “Gwailo.”
“Hey Boss,” called Tong Won. “I brought someone to see you.”
Yo Hing broke off his conversation, and looked over at Lee Yong. His bald head, bushy beard and arching eyebrows made him look like Zhang Fei, the War God’s drunken brother.
“Welcome,” said Yo Hing in Sze Yup. His voice was so deep that Lee Yong could feel it in his feet. “Tell us who you are, my young friend, and what business you have with the Hong Chow Tong.”
Lee Yong stepped forward. His throat felt a little bit dry, but he mustered his confidence and spoke. “My name is Lee Yong, and I’m the cook and housekeeper at Sam Yuen and Hing Sing’s brothel on Calle de los Negros.”
Yo Hing did not move, but something in the room changed. It was as though Sam Yuen’s name were a magic spell, which concentrated every eye and ear in the room into a single, razor-sharp beam of attention.
Lee Yong took a deep breath. “I’m here because I want to kidnap Hing Sing’s wife.”
There was a pause. Dust motes drifted between shafts of sunlight.
Then Yo Hing began to laugh. It was a big, boisterous laugh, full of mischief, and it seemed to shake the entire house. The slouching men around Yo Hing began to laugh as well, though several of them were Gwailo and could hardly have understood what Lee Yong had said.
“Excellent!” said Yo Hing, after he had finished laughing. He stood up, and walked over to where Lee Yong was standing.
Lee Yong was not immune to boyish pride, but all the same, he felt a thrill of fear as Yo Hing approached. The man was huge. At a head taller than Lee Yong, he was of middling height, but his neck and shoulders seemed better fitted for a bull than for a man. His hands were large, covered with tattoos and scars. He clapped one down on Lee Yong’s shoulder with enough force to kill a medium-sized animal.
“Come on Tong Won, grab this man a chair! Would you like something to drink? Baijou? Whiskey?”
“Um,” said Lee Yong, who was not in the habit of drinking. He took the proffered seat, and somebody thrust a tumbler into his hand. “Thank you,” he said.
Yo Hing grabbed his own chair, and straddled it again.
“So. Something tells me this is no ordinary kidnapping we’re talking about here. You don’t dart your eyes like a man with gambling debts, or clench your jaw like you’re holding a grudge. You say you work in the brothel–would that be downstairs with the merchandise, or upstairs with the management?”
Lee Yong was taken aback by Yo Hing’s casual reference to the brothel girls as “merchandise.” However, this wasn’t the time or place to start an argument.
“I work upstairs,” he said.
“Ah. So you know the girl.” Said Yo Hing. Then, unexpectedly, “Are you sleeping with her?”
Lee Yong glanced around at the rough men who stood sipping their drinks and leering at him.
“Yes,” he said quietly.
“I see.” Yo Hing’s voice rumbled like a steam engine. “You’re in love with her.”
One of the men began to chuckle. “Shut up,” said Yo Hing, without bothering to look at him.
“What does the young lady think of this plan?” he asked Lee Yong.
Lee Yong smiled in spite of himself. “It was her Idea.”
Yo Hing burst out laughing again. Lee Yong noticed that one of his eye-teeth was crowned with gold.
“And the two of you want me to help you get safely away, is that it?”
Lee Yong nodded.
“Good.” Yo Hing leaned back in his chair, so that it tilted up on two legs.
“Gentlemen, do you notice how this young man says exactly what he means, without wasting any breath on flattery, justification, or promises about how he’ll pay me back?”
There was a rumble of assent.
“I like that,” said Yo Hing. “I like it so much that I’m willing to send a carriage with four men to help him break into Hing Sing’s house and make off with the lady. I’m also going to give them money for a steamship out of here, so they won’t have to worry about getting caught–on one condition.”
He turned suddenly to look at Lee Yong, who felt his back stiffen.
“You’re going to have to marry her,” said Yo Hing.
Lee Yong wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that.
“But...” he stammered. “But she’s already married to Hing Sing.”
Yo Hing chuckled. It sounded like a tiger, purring.
“That’s a Chinese marriage. Do you understand English?” he asked suddenly.
Lee Yong nodded and Yo Hing switched to the second Gwailo tongue.
“Chinese marriages are personal arrangements which aren’t recorded in either the church or courthouse ledgers. As far as the Gwailo are concerned, Chinese marriages might as well not exist. Isn’t that right, Henry?”
A tall, thin Gwailo man stepped forward from his place against the back wall. he was wearing a shabby suit, and seemed to be going bald despite his apparent youth.
“That’s right,” he said. Compared to Yo Hing’s voice, the young man sounded like a friendly ghost. He greeted Lee Yong with a little wave of his hand.
“This is Henry Hazard. He’s a lawyer in the Gwailo Justice system,” said Yo Hing. Even in English, he managed to make the word “Justice” drip with irony.
“Henry is a good friend of mine. He’s a smart guy, very interested in what goes on in Chinatown.”
“Nicee meetee you,” Said Henry in broken Sze Yup. Lee Yong smiled.
“Henry,” said Yo Hing, “since Chinese marriages are not recognized by the state, that means the young lady is single and free to marry under California law. Isn’t that right?”
“That’s right,” said Henry.
“So, if Lee Yong here and…” Yo Hing looked at Lee Yong with his eyebrows raised. “ Yut Ho,” said Lee Yong quickly.
“If Lee Yong and Yut Ho get married by, say, my good friend Father Benicio Sanchez, down at La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, then they’ll be married in the eyes of the law, no matter what Sam Yuen says.”
“They sure will,” said Henry, “and they’ll have the documents to prove it.”
“A marriage certificate,” said Yo Hing. “You can take care of that, right Henry? Two copies.” He raised two fingers.
“What do you say, Lee Yong?” asked Yo Hing.
Lee Yong nodded. “I think we can do that,” he said.
“Think?” asked Yo Hing. “I need you to be sure.”
There was something in his voice that sent a chill down Lee Yong’s spine. It wasn’t a threat, exactly. More like a glimpse of a will so powerful and singular that it felt inhuman, like a force of nature.
“I’m sure,” said Lee Yong.
Yo Hing grinned. His gold tooth gleamed in the dying light.
He stood up again, and walked in a tight half circle around his chair before speaking again.
“Two days from now, Sam Yuen is going to San Bernadino. He’ll ride at dawn– an associate of mine has subpoenaed him in a court case.
That’s when we’ll strike. Lee Yong, would you say that there’s a time of the day when Hing Sing and the brothel girls are least likely to get in our way?”
“Seven in the morning,” said Lee Yong without hesitation. “It’s not unusual for some of the girls to be up till six, but by seven it’s always pretty quiet.”
Yo Hing nodded.
“That’s good. The noise and bustle of morning traffic will cover the carriage’s approach. I’m going to send the team right to the door– no point in trying to be subtle. Can you make sure it’s unlocked?”
Lee Yong nodded.
“When you see the carriage out of that big window, come downstairs with Yut Ho as quickly as you can. Two of my men will stay with the carriage and keep watch. The other two will come inside to make sure the stairway is clear and to cover your retreat. Let me think.”
Yo Hing frowned.
“The front door opens directly onto the central corridor, and the stairway is the last door on the left. Is that correct?”
Lee Yong was impressed. Once upon a time, Yo Hing had been involved in managing the brothel, but the last time he had been inside must have been before his split with Sam Yuen, three years ago.
“The stairway is the second-to-last door on the left,” Lee Yong corrected. “The last one is a broom closet.”
Yo Hing clicked his tongue. “Glad I checked. All the other doors are private except for the common room and Jade’s office, right?”
Lee Yong nodded again. “First and last doors on the right, respectively,” he said.
Yo Hing had been pacing up and down as they spoke. Now he turned to face Lee Yong.
“The carriage will take the two of you directly to the Iglesia, where I’ll be waiting for you with Henry and Father Sanchez. Do you understand Spanish?”
Lee Yong smiled. “Mas o menos,” he said.
“Know how to say Yes?”
“Si,” said Li Yong. One of Yo Hing’s associates, who was Mexican, gave him the thumbs-up.
“That’ll do,” said Yo Hing. “From there, we’ll take you to a safe house to wait for nightfall. With Sam Yuen away, the Sze Yup company will be slow to react, but they’ll definitely be watching the road to San Pedro. We’ll have to be careful. I don’t want a big gunfight preventing us from getting you to your ship.”
Yo Hing suddenly reverted to Sze Yup. “Sound good?”
Lee Yong stood up.
“Sounds good.” He said. “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Yo Hing grinned again.
“Seven in the morning. Not tomorrow, but the following day.”
“The door will be open,” Said Lee Yong.
“It had better be.” The sun had finally gone, and the sky outside was fading from silver-blue to deep purple. Yo Hing’s gold tooth shone like a distant lantern in the gloom.
“Tong Won will take you out the back way, to keep you safe from prying eyes. You can leave that on the chair.” He indicated Lee Yong’s tumbler with a casual wave of his hand.
The whole room suddenly began to stir, shuffling furniture, lighting oil lamps, and talking in low voices.
“Oh, and Lee Yong,” called Yo Hing.
Lee Yong, who was following Tong Won out the door, turned to see the big man silhouetted against two newly lit oil lamps, whose golden light seemed to bloom against the triangular pattern of the rafters.
“Congratulations on your engagement.”
Later, when Yo Hing’s various associates had drifted off to attend to their nighttime activities, the Hong Chow kingpin sat in the big, empty room, drinking scotch with Henry Hazard.
“I don’t understand, Joe,” said Henry, using the English name which Yo Hing went by when moving and dealing in Los Angeles’ Anglo community.
“If Sam Yuen is going to be out of town, why don’t you just make a break for it, and get those kids on the first ship out of here after the wedding? There’s no way the Sze Yup company would be able to stop you.”
Yo Hing took a drink from his scotch. It tasted good; a little smoky, like Bou Lei tea.
“Because,” he said, “I don’t want them to leave until after Sam Yuen gets back.”
Henry stared at him. “What?”
In the light of the oil lamps, the young man looked twice his age, and tired. Time was hard on the Gwailo. Yo Hing suspected it was their diet of hard, dry bread and salt beef that corroded their bodies from the inside, so that few of them lived past sixty, and their streets were full of young men with old faces.
Yo Hing sighed.
“If I just steal the girl and her lover away while Sam Yuen is out of town, then he’ll have an excuse. He’ll be able to pin the blame on some hapless subordinate, and perhaps the San Francisco companies will attribute the whole thing to Sam Yuen’s bad luck instead of my power.
That’s not what I want. What I want is to humiliate Sam Yuen so thoroughly that even his own organization will see him for the stiff-necked mule that he is. I’ve already begin sowing the seeds, with the help of the good doctor who came to visit us after Sam Yuen’s autumn banquet.”
Henry nodded. He had been present when Dr. Tong, who went by Gene among his anglophone patients, came seeking Yo Hing’s protection after his falling-out with Sam Yuen. Dr. Tong was by far the most capable physician in Los Angeles, and Henry had felt embarrassed to hear him negotiate protection payments with Yo Hing. However, the doctor and his family were in real danger, and he could afford to pay. Anyway, business was business.
“As for our two little lovebirds, I’ll get them on a ship. First, though, I need to make sure everybody knows that they’re under my protection, they’re married, and there’s nothing Sam Yuen can do about it.”
Henry shook his head. “That’ll mean going to court. Why risk it? I mean, what if Sam Yuen finds them and kills them first?”
Yo Hing shrugged. “What if he does? He won’t, though. He’ll see the whole thing as a challenge from me. After all, he brought the girl all the way from China to marry his man, and make the two of them look respectable and well-connected. Now my man Lee Yong will have the girl, and he’ll be claiming that the two of them are married. Sam Yuen will want to take them to court, because he’ll think he’s sure to win. He doesn’t understand American law. All he knows is how things work back in China.”
“How’s that?” asked Henry. Yo Hing grinned.
“In China, only the strong survive. At any given time, the strongest gang around will have set itself up as the government, and then its will–the will of its leaders– is the law. There’s no book that says what the strong can or can’t do, in China. Just old Confucius, who respectfully makes suggestions about what the strong should do if they want to appear virtuous.”
Henry took a drink of scotch.
“Anyway,” Yo Hing continued, “Sam Yuen will summon them to court, and I’ll make sure that they go. First, I’ll speak on behalf of Yut Ho, and make my case, which Sam Yuen won’t really understand. Then, Sam will stand up and make a speech about honor, discipline, and how much of a rogue I am. Then I’ll bring in Lee Yong, who will show the court his marriage certificate, and we’ll win the case. Am I right?”
Henry sighed. “Yes, I don’t see how you could lose.”
“Good!” Yo Hing gulped down the rest of his scotch, and stood up. “Then all that remains to be seen is whether Sam Yuen blows steam out his ears like a tea kettle, or boils over like a pot of soup. Now Henry, it’s getting late, and you have a wife and children waiting for you, so don’t let me keep you any longer! Anyway, I have other business to attend to.”
As he walked out the door, Henry fought down the urge to turn back. He wanted to beg Yo Hing to reconsider–to ask him if he wasn’t afraid that someone would get hurt either during this escapade, or afterward when Sam Yuen inevitably took his revenge.
It was no use, though. Everybody knew that Yo Hing wasn’t afraid of anything, and besides, Henry didn’t want the big man to think that he was weak, or soft-hearted.Emma:
If you enjoyed the show and want to hear more, tell us in a review, remember to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts, and reach out with thoughts and questions on Instagram and Facebook at Blood On Gold Mountain. Episode 8, “Heathens,” will be released on Wednesday June 30th.
Blood on Gold Mountain is brought to you by The Holmes Performing Arts Fund of The Claremont Colleges, The Pacific Basin Institute of Pomona College, The Public Events Office at Scripps College, The Scripps College Music Department, The Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at The New England Conservatory, and our Patreon patrons.
It is written and produced by Micah Huang, narrated by Hao Huang, and hosted by Emma Gies, featuring original music by Micah Huang and The Flower Pistils. A special thanks to Kusuma Tri Saputro for the amazing artwork, Sheila Kolesaire for her critical PR guidance, Shayna Krizan for her Instagram wizardry, Rachel Huang for her editing prowess, and Evo Terra from Simpler Media Productions for his immense expertise and support. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.