Cuộc đời Đại Cathay – trùm giang hồ Sài Gòn xưa

Từ chú nhóc ngủ dưới hiên rạp hát, thủ lĩnh băng đánh giày dấn thân vào chốn giang hồ dao búa để cuối cùng trở thành “ông trùm của những ông trùm” ở tuổi 24.

Giới giang hồ trước năm 1975 có nhiều giai thoại về các băng du đãng làm khuynh đảo cả giới chính trị, quân sự. Trong đó phải kể đến 4 cái tên được mệnh danh “tứ đại thiên vương” là Đại – Tỳ – Cái – Thế. Đại Cathay được xếp đầu do anh ta thống nhất giới du đãng khi tuổi đời còn rất trẻ.

Có nhiều câu chuyện về kẻ du đãng này với nhiều tên họ khác nhau. Tuy nhiên, theo hồ sơ cảnh sát Sài Gòn, Đại Cathay tên thật là Lê Văn Đại (sinh năm 1940). Lúc nhỏ, cậu sống với cha mẹ tại khu vực Cầu Mống (quận 1) rồi chuyển sang đường Đỗ Thành Nhân, phường Khánh Hội (nay là Đoàn Văn Bơ, quận 4).

Thủ lĩnh băng đánh giày thành đại ca giang hồ

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Đại Cathay. Ảnh tư liệu

Với bản tính ít nói và cực kỳ lì lợm, Đại bỏ học từ rất sớm, suốt ngày lang thang ở khu vực phía sau Hội trường Diên Hồng (nay là Sở Giao dịch chứng khoán TP HCM) đường Nguyễn Công Trứ, quận 1. Lúc bấy giờ, ở góc đường có rạp chiếu bóng nhỏ tên Cathay. Tại đây, Đại kết thân với đám nhóc bụi đời làm đủ thứ nghề như đánh giày, bán báo, kem…

Ngay từ nhỏ, Đại đã tỏ ra có năng khiếu “du đãng” khi thường xuyên luồn lách vào những sạp chợ trộm cắp dưa, chuối… về chia cho cả bọn. Nhiều lần ẩu đả với những băng khác, Đại dẫn đầu nhóm đánh giày đánh thắng đám lớn tuổi hơn nên giới bụi đời ngưỡng mộ tôn Đại làm đại ca – cái tên Đại Cathay (theo tên rạp chiếu bóng) ra đời từ đây.

Hằng ngày gã đại ca được hàng chục đàn em cung phụng. Mỗi sáng, Đại giao việc cho từng đứa đi bán báo, đánh giày… chiều chiều lại tụ tập để chia tiền. Kể cả thủ lĩnh hay đàn em đều được chia bằng nhau. Nếu đứa bị mưa ướt báo bán không được, Đại lấy tiền chung bù vào. Vì tính nghĩa hiệp, ngày càng có nhiều trẻ bụi đời tìm về quy phục dưới trướng Đại.

Tiếng tăm Đại Cathay lan sang những khu vực lân cận. Năm 1955 khu vực rạp Cathay được chỉnh trang, không còn chỗ cho những đám trẻ bụi đời. Để tìm đất sống, Đại lấn sang khu vực Cầu Ông Lãnh – Khu Dân Sinh – Cầu Muối (còn gọi khu Da Heo) để làm ăn, mặc nơi đây thuộc “quản lý” của Tám Lâu – đàn anh giang hồ chính hiệu.

Hằng ngày, Tám Lâu và đám đàn em bặm trợn lượn khắp nơi để thu tiền bảo kê, khiến các tiểu thương ai cũng sợ. Trong nhiều lần đụng mặt, gã giang hồ thấy thủ lĩnh đám nhóc đánh giày có gan gây sự với băng của mình lại tỏ ra yêu mến. Hắn chiêu dụ Đại về dưới trướng bằng cách kết nghĩa anh em, giao cho nhóm một vài địa bàn quản lý.

Khu vực Da Heo thời điểm đó thường xuyên bị nhóm giang hồ do Bé Bún cầm đầu ở quận 4 lấn sân. Tám Lâu ngại băng này vì quân số đông hơn nhưng Đại Cathay tuyên bố “cho tên cầm đầu nhập viện mới khống chế đại cuộc”.

Sau trận phục kích bị Đại đâm thủng ruột, Bé Bún phải nhập viện, đám đàn em như rắn mất đầu, tan tác. Sau lần ấy Đại chính thức lên nắm quyền thay Tám Lâu làm “ông chủ” thật sự của khu vực Da Heo khi chưa tròn 20 tuổi.

Vị thế giang hồ đem lại danh lợi liên tiếp cho băng của Đại, nên chỉ đến năm 1963, Đại Cathay đã trở thành ông trùm khét tiếng ở Sài Gòn, bảo kê hầu hết các tụ điểm ăn chơi ở quận 1, 2 và 3 lúc bấy giờ như khách sạn, động mại dâm và hàng loạt vũ trường đình đám. Dựa thế đám du đãng, nhiều doanh nghiệp cũng tự nguyện “tài trợ” cho nhóm này để giúp sức trong những cuộc làm ăn, cạnh tranh kinh doanh…

Thời điểm này 3 tên tuổi khác cũng nổi danh ở giới giang hồ Sài Gòn – Chợ Lớn là Huỳnh Tỳ – Ngô Văn Cái – Ba Thế chọn bản danh là Vũ trường Aristo (sau này là khách sạn Lê Lai, quận 1). Ngứa mắt vì bị Đại Cathay nhiều lần lấn sân, chúng sắp xếp một cuộc hẹn để “giải quyết” một lần nên mời Đại đến vũ trường nói chuyện.

Gạt qua lời khuyên của hàng loạt đàn em bặm trợn như A Chó, Hải Súng,  Lâm Chín Ngón, Việt Paker… Đại một mình đến vũ trường thương thảo. Vừa đến nơi xưng tên tuổi, Đại bất ngờ bị Ba Thế đá ngã xuống cầu thang, 4 tên đàn em xông vào chém bằng mã tấu. Cố vùng chạy thoát, Đại mang nhiều vết thương và thề sẽ trả thù sau lần bị “chơi bẩn” này.

Trong thời gian vài tuần, Đại gửi lời nhắn đến 3 “đại ca” lúc bấy giờ trước rồi một mình xách dao đi trả thù. Lần lượt từng người bị Đại phục kích chém thương tích dù được bảo vệ của nhiều đàn em.

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Một góc Sài Gòn thập niên 60. Ảnh tư liệu

Sau lần này, để bảo vệ mạng sống, bộ ba Huỳnh Tỳ – Ngô Văn Cái – Ba Thế đã gửi thư xin lỗi và chấp nhận dưới trướng của Đại CaThay. Chú nhóc đánh giày ngày nào đã trở thành trùm du đãng khu vực Sài Gòn.

Cái chết bí ẩn

Nổi tiếng một vùng, mỗi lần ra đường, Đại Cathay chễm chệ trên băng trước chiếc Mustang mui trần do đàn em lái, phía sau hàng chục tên khác phóng các loại xe Gobel, Push, Brumi, Ishia… tháp tùng.

Sự ngang ngược, coi thường luật pháp của tay giang hồ trẻ cũng khiến nhiều kẻ tai to mặt lớn và cảnh sát tức giận. Nhiều lần bắt bỏ tù nhưng Đại và đám đàn em không sợ nên nhiều quan chức quay sang tìm cách mua chuộc anh ta về dưới quyền. Tuy nhiên, lấy lý do “không thể làm cảnh sát để bắt những kẻ du đãng như mình”, Đại khước từ lời mời làm đại úy, Phó ty cảnh sát quận 7, của tướng Nguyễn Ngọc Loan – Giám đốc Nha cảnh sát Đô Thành.

Không chịu khuất phục trước những thế lực bấy giờ, Đại Cathay ngày càng ngang ngược hơn. Trong một lần đối mặt với tướng Loan ở vũ trường có tiếng lúc bấy giờ, Đại cùng đàn em công khai chống lại, ẩu đả với tướng cảnh sát và đám binh lính đi theo.

Ngay sau đó, một cuộc chiến dịch “bài trừ du đãng” được triển khai, rất nhiều đàn em của Đại bị bắt nhốt. Đại đứng ra mời đại úy Trần Kim Chi, đội trưởng “Biệt đội hình cảnh” để xin cho đám giang hồ được thả nhưng không được.

Chừng nửa tháng sau, đại úy Chi trong lần đi ôtô công tác thì bị chiếc xe tải nghiền nát. Cái chết của viên cảnh sát làm dấy lên nghi ngờ, người đằng sau vụ ám sát chính là Đại. Vì lý do này, tên du đãng cùng nhiều đàn em bị bắt và nhốt tại trại giam ở đảo Phú Quốc khi mới 26 tuổi.

Từ thời điểm này, không ai biết tung tích của Đại Cathay. Nhiều tin đồn lúc bấy giờ cho rằng anh ta được hậu thuẫn trong cuộc vượt ngục nhưng một đội sát thủ của cảnh sát đã sắp xếp sẵn, kết liễu cuộc đời gã giang hồ ngang ngược.

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