Suddenly, all hell broke loose. A piercing bell started ringing and a red light above the main door started flashing. Someone yelled, “It’s a raid.” I heard loud pounding and crashing on the other side of the door and muffled yells. “Police…Police. Open up.” A woman screamed. Confusion reigned on all sides. Noise in the room reached bedlam level.
Out of nowhere, the large Chinese manager in a dark blue suit appeared in the alcove. Fast on his feet, he swept the young kid, the little girl and myself in behind the cage, where we were shielded from view. A jabbering woman in the ticket cage slammed shut a money box and closed down a curtain in front of the cage. My grandfather surfaced at my side. So did two Chinese dealers. A narrow panel in the wood-paneled wall opened behind us.
At this point the main door splintered and the police came crashing through, just as we were shoved brusquely into what appeared to be a downward tunnel. Behind us, the wall panel silently closed.
One of the dealers led the way. We were herded quickly down several steps and along a narrow, dimly-lit passageway underneath the alley. Eventually, we climbed several steps. A door opened. And we emerged in the kitchen of another Chinese restaurant across the alley. It was then I realized there were nine escapees in our underground party: the big man in charge, the woman with the cash box, two dealers, my grandfather, one other gambler, and three kids.
My grandfather and I walked out of the restaurant and mingled with the crowd that had gathered on the corner. A paddy wagon and two police cars blocked the street, with lights flashing. We watched wordlessly from across the street as the police escorted people into the paddy wagon.
In the 5th or 6th grade, I thought I was in love with Nancy Kazarian. She had an exotic, sloe-eyed look, with high cheek bones and velvety, olive skin and a long, graceful neck and shining black hair. She wore colorful, expensive-looking clothes. And when she walked, she walked with her head held high. There was a cool, detached, mysterious air about her.
I thought she was the most glamorous creature in all of Buckman Grammar School, for sure. To my young eyes, she looked every inch like a royal princess out of The Arabian Nights.