WHEN A GUNMAN WALKED INTO A DINKY SAN ANTONIO OFFICE last September and ended 53-year-old Eddie Garcia’s remarkable life, more than just a man died; so did the good ol’ amigo network that had run parts of the city for two decades. Although the network’s demise was long in coming, Eddie’s murder was the last straw. Typically, he was on the phone at the time, making a deal. He was the consummate dealmaker in a community where the public and the private sectors are inextricably linked. The San Antonio media christened him the Bingo King, a tribute not only to the fact that he owned three profitable bingo parlors but also to his skill at manipulating the politics of the game, which he learned from his sponsors and mentors in the back rooms of the West Side. Others called him Fast Eddie. They marveled at his ability to spot an opportunity, joking that he would rather make a bad deal than no deal at all. That’s why everyone assumed the killer had to be a professional: Otherwise, Eddie could have talked him out of it.
“If anyone wanted to smoke Eddie, it would have been easy,” says his longtime friend Jack Pytel, a former assistant district attorney of Bexar County. “Everyone knew where he worked, where he ate lunch. He was a creature of habit.” But why would anyone want to smoke him? The question has been asked countless times in bars, grocery stores, pool halls, and gyms, as well as in the corridors of city hall and the state capitol.
Eddie’s murder stunned San Antonio, a city that’s seen it all. A crowd of nearly one thousand, including a few of his current and past girlfriends, packed San Fernando Cathedral to say good-bye. Regulars at Callaghan Plaza and the two other bingo halls that Eddie owned put aside their felt card markers and bowed their heads for a moment of silence. The high and the humble gathered in clusters on street corners or in cantinas, sharing memories and swapping theories of who could have done it. “It was almost as if Luca Brasi had been hit,” one acquaintance of Eddie’s says, referring to the loyal but unlucky foot soldier in The Godfather.
WHO WOULD HAVE DREAMED THAT a poor kid from the South Side could have come so far and gone so swiftly? Eddie Garcia was exactly the sort of ambitious drone who energized the power structure behind the scenes and helped it take root in the seventies. Before then, the city was bonded to the Good Government League ( GGL)—that is, the white business community—whose mentality and social conscience were perfectly summed up in 1970 by then mayor Walter McAllister when he told a television interviewer, “Our citizens of Mexican descent are very