“I hate this God forsaken place,” Robert Fisher grumbled under his breath, as he made his way on the wet streets of Lower Manhattan.
The smell of Chinese food, wafting from every corner of Chinatown, repulsed him. He drew out his clean monogrammed handkerchief and covered his mouth and nose, as he headed down Canal Street toward his destination.
He walked along the narrow street with his head down, avoiding eye contact with anyone. It startled him when an old woman, pushing her cart through a puddle, splashed water on his ostrich leg shoes.
“Watch out, you stupid Chink! Are you blind, as well as stupid?” He screamed at her as he pushed her cart over, and then bent down to wipe his shoes with the handkerchief. He didn’t notice the group of young Chinese men standing within earshot of his comment, but they noticed him.
Robert turned in an alley and hurried to a dingy building with a smiling Panda painted on the door. Inside, the small room overflowed with cheap souvenirs.
“You want Tiger bone?” A middle-aged Chinese woman asked, stepping out from a back room.
“What’s wrong with you? I’ve been coming here every month for two years and you ask me this every freakin’ time. Of course I want the bones!”
“They gone up, now. You pay more,” she said, paying no attention to his rude behavior.
“What! What do you mean? Oh, shit! How much more?”
“Three hundred dollar more,” the woman said.
“Are you crazy? I’m paying fifteen hundred now. It can’t have increased that much in a month. Let me talk to Lin!” He yelled, as he looked past her to the entrance of the backroom.
The woman retreated behind a doorway of red hanging beads.
Keeping her voice low, she said in her real American accent, “Woo, that rich, rotten bastard who comes in for the tiger bones is pissed because the price has gone up. He wants to talk to you.”
“Oh, crap! I’m in no mood for “Mr. Warmth” today.” He took a drag from his cigarette and handed it off to his sister, as he rolled his eyes, then took a second to get into character.
Woo Lin hunched his shoulders, ducked through the beads, bowed and said, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, what the hell’s going on, China-man? My medicine has increased three hundred freakin’ dollars! Why?” He demanded.
“Many people in market for tiger bone. Very potent medicine. Make you live long and youthful life. It illegal trade. Crack down on poachers and smugglers. Less tigers now. All these things make bone scarce. More valuable. More expensive. Eighteen hundred dollar now for month supply. But, every month you take ground up tiger bone pill, you live six month longer. It Fountain of Youth.
“Well, this sucks!” Robert slammed the money down on the counter. “You slant eyes are crooks. Everybody knows that! Come on, give me the goddamn pills!” he screamed.
Woo Lin reached under the counter and brought up the vial of pills and held them out to his irate customer.
Without saying a word, Robert Fisher grabbed the vial and spun around. He didn’t hear the Chinaman curse him under his breath, as he slammed the Panda door behind him.
The rain had stopped. Heavy fog filled every recess of Chinatown. Robert could not have seen the group of men who had positioned themselves surreptitiously in the alley. These were the same men who had seen him push over the old woman’s flower cart. They were members of the Silver Dragons, a self-appointed group of protectors of the Chinese community.
This wasn’t the first time they had witnessed Robert Fisher’s irreverent conduct. In fact, they had been monitoring him ever since he grabbed an immigrant by the neck. The newly arrived Chinese man had given him the wrong change after Robert had bought a men’s magazine at his newsstand.
“You short changed me you sneaky, yellow thief! That was a twenty I gave you, not a ten!” Robert had said.
“So sorry, so sorry,” the immigrant had been truly sorry for his mistake.
Robert had disappeared into the crowd that evening, but not before one of the members of the Silver Dragons got a good look at him. That was the first of many offenses deemed inexcusable by the Chinese men who watched over things here.
The next morning the rain had moved up the coast and the fog had lifted. Pale sunlight slanted in, as merchants and tourists started to mill around the streets of Chinatown. At the end of Canal Street, several detectives were busy questioning bystanders.
“Ah, come on people! A man just doesn’t get dead and nobody sees nothin,’” a detective was saying. “Somebody’s gotta know somethin’! It happened last night – probably sometime after 7:00 p.m,” he pleaded with a few merchants standing in the crowd that had gathered.
A forensics officer took something out of the dead man’s pocket and studied it for a few seconds. “Hey, look at this,” he said, as he held it up to the detective who was questioning people.
“Yeah, what is it?” the detective asked.
“Tiger bone pills. That’s what it says on the label. And get this. It says to take one pill daily to promote longevity.”
The detective looked down at Robert Fisher’s dead body. “Yeah? Well, maybe he forgot to take one yesterday.”