Old man Kang Yu had been a hard father to grow up under. He stressed education for his son, Byung. But it wasn’t academics that he force-fed the boy. Kang’s idea of a great education was to bring his son up in the family business as early as possible.
Byung had just turned 11 when Kang set him up as an apprentice numbers runner in Chinatown. By age 12 Byung could do the job himself, and by age 14 he was big enough and tough enough to provide some back-up muscle as one of Kang’s collectors.
For his 18th birthday, Byung received the keys to a Mercedes, and the keys to Kang’s number-one money-making brothel, Mama Yang’s, on Beretania Street around the corner from the Beretania Follies. The Follies served as main headquarters for Kang’s mob, and the gang members often walked up the block to satisfy their sexual needs. Byung made sure they paid, never allowing any of them to think there were freebies allowed.
By the time he was 25, Byung ran the entire prostitution operation for his father, seven whorehouses, and he also was the number-one debt collector. Breaking arms, heads, and any other body parts necessary to speed up payments was entertainment for him. And if in the end someone couldn’t pay, Byung took great pleasure in exacting the ultimate payment. The number of men he’d killed by that time was too large to remember.
Byung married a woman from Korea who was chosen for him. Kang had struck a bargain with the Rhee clan of Seoul, in order to cement relations with the Yu clan’s homeland base in Pusan.
Initially Byung and Hyo-joo actually found themselves falling in love. This period was fleeting, however, and not too long after the birth of their second child, Hyo-joo had died in an unfortunate boating accident when she’d gone back to Seoul for a family visit.
Byung thought of her once in a while.
Within three months he was married again, this time to a woman of his choice, Won Myung-hee, the daughter of a prominent lawyer and soon-to-be judge in Honolulu.
Byung thought of Hyo-joo once in a while for only one reason. Both his children took most of their looks from their mother. Byung was handsome, but his daughter was stunning, and his son had the face of a movie star.
Gi, the younger child, was both beautiful and brilliant. She’d attended Lualuna Academy, the most expensive and prestigious school in the islands. Graduating at the top of her class, she’d gone off to Radcliffe, and had just been accepted to Harvard law school, one of the first women to be allowed to enroll there.
Jason, two years older, had also attended Lualuna, and had just barely managed to graduate. He too was brilliant, but unlike his sister, he was lazy. Instead of studying, he would rather surf, work on cars, shoot pool, or hang out drinking with his Lualuna buddies. Still, really not at all amazingly, he’d preceded his sister to Harvard, thanks to recommendations by many Kang and Byung Yu Harvard alumni friends in the business, political, and legal communities in Honolulu, along with a hefty donation made by Byung to that venerable institution.
Jason applied himself with the same vigor as he had in high school, which meant he spent most of his days at Harvard partying. Again, however, because he was highly intelligent, he did just enough studying to graduate with a degree in business. Gi would kid him saying that he’d better watch out or she would graduate before him. She did in fact gain a year on him, but he managed to receive his diploma ahead of her.
If Kang had been hard on Byung, Byung swung the other way with his son and daughter. For a brutal man, he was amazingly soft with his children. His father had brought him into the crime business early. Byung tried his best to keep his son and daughter away from all aspects of the business. He assumed the pose for them of a hard-working business man, but this ruse was effective only so long as his children were young enough to be fooled by it. Although Byung tried to keep up the fairy-tale lie, Jason and Gi grew wise to his true profession fairly early on.
Gi was repulsed by her father’s business. Her goal was to leave Hawai‘i for good and establish herself somewhere as far away as possible from her father and his reach.
Jason, on the other hand, from the time he understood what his father did, longed to be groomed in the business. He resented that Byung did not take him into his confidence, did not mentor him in the ways of organized crime. His goal, therefore, was first to satisfy his father’s compulsive need for his children to be college educated, and then leverage that accomplished paternal wish into an invitation to join in the family business.
When he first came home from Harvard, Jason tried hard to wriggle his way in. Byung was resistant, however, and discouraged his son, consistently pushing him toward other avenues of employment. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of employment, as long as it had nothing to do with crime.
This upset Jason considerably. Still hanging out with his Lualuna compadres, even though all of them were in their 20s now, the days were given to surfing and working on cars, the nights to shooting pool and drinking. Most of the pool halls they frequented were fronts for illegal gambling, the illegal gambling run by his father’s syndicate. From time to time, he’d use his family relationship to worm his way into those back rooms, and he and his friends would play cards or shoot dice into the wee hours.
A taste of crime from the consumer side was interesting for Jason, and by proximity to the illegal activity, his urge to join in with his father’s pursuits grew. And then it hit him. He and his Lualuna friends could use their automotive skills to start up a car theft ring. The idea, as he presented it to his fellow Lualuna alumni, was to steal cars, chop them in a shop, and sell the parts.
With Lualuna graduates, it was always all for one and one for all. But these were not the heroes of Dumas. This instinct to cluster and cling together was inculcated in them, a kind of sick inbreeding, undoubtedly in part an outgrowth of the school being founded by missionaries with very un-Christian interests in exploiting the Hawaiian Islands for their this-worldly economic gain.
In short, all the men were in. And this led to Jason Yu becoming the head of a mini-crime syndicate all his own. To enhance the idea of being one badass gang, he said they needed a name. Accordingly they came up with what they thought was a winner: The Death Stars.
Jason insisted they also needed a tattoo to symbolize their fraternity and their collective strength. The tattoo they created was a spade, as in a deck of cards, surrounded by four five-pointed stars at the compass points. All members of the new gang had this tattoo inked on their left forearms.