Button Man - Conclusion
Lipinsky arrived at 8 o’clock, the assistant DA about a quarter-hour later. A tall, reedy fellow who had an air about him of wanting very much to be someplace else, the assistant DA affected a nonchalance which was substantially undermined by a series of unhappy accidents, beginning with the adhesion of his toupee to his hat when he offered the latter to the hat-check girl, progressing through a succession of collisions with tables and waiters as he peered into the dim light made even dimmer by his dark glasses, and culminating in the receipt of a stray champagne cork in his ear before finally being deposited at his destination by the maître d’. After securely ensconcing himself in a comfortable chair, however, he entertained high hopes that the evening would pass without further incident.
Meanwhile, Tiny moved along the fringes of the crowd, eventually sidling over to the bar where he surreptitiously upended the shot glasses of distracted customers. A stern look from the bartender sent him on his way, but overall, this seemed like a pleasant enough job. From time to time he’d walk over to where Lipinsky and his new friend were dining, concealed in an alcove formed by two pillars and a small forest of tree ferns, and he would loom for a while, as per instruction. He cheerfully watched the stage and tapped his foot to the percussive rhythm of the piano player, who was pounding out a series of boogie-woogie numbers to the accompaniment of a drummer and a bull fiddle plucker, and he gazed upon the dance floor, awash in a violent sea of agitated jitterbugs.
Around 10 o’clock – shortly after the public highlight of the evening, when a couple of enthusiastic, but not particularly skilled, lindy hoppers had executed an over-the-hip maneuver, sending the female half of the team flying into a waiter who was carrying an ice sculpture of the Chrysler building - Tiny took another peek behind the greenery. Lipinsky and the assistant DA had finished their steak dinners, and the waiter had brought the dessert cart. Tiny licked his lips as his brother-in-law’s guest selected a large slice of coconut cake. He hadn’t had anything to eat since he had wolfed down a small snack in the early afternoon, and two hamburgers and a piece of apple pie were practically half-rations for a man of Tiny’s heft.
A few moments later, he heard a curious noise, a sort of strangled cough. He took a gander at the table, and was astonished to see the assistant DA standing up, frantically beating his chest with one hand and pointing to his throat with the other. Lipinsky was rushing to the aid of the man, who was obviously choking. Tiny pushed through the ferns and said to Lipinsky, “What’ll we do, Dave? You want I should find a doctor?”
“No! We can’t afford to draw any attention to this guy. Just start pounding on him!”
So, Tiny and Lipinsky went to work behind the cover of the foliage, desperately trying to dislodge whatever it was that had gotten stuck in the man’s windpipe. They punched him in the chest and slapped him on the back. Tiny even picked him up and held him by his ankles, like a human divining rod. After a few minutes, though, the Assistant DA went completely limp, and Tiny laid him out on the floor. Ross had now stumbled on the scene, and leaned down to check the man’s pulse.
“He’s dead, Mr. Lipinsky.” Lipinsky’s face drained of the little color it normally possessed, as he contemplated the catastrophe that had just occurred – the mob’s one chance at getting an inside man at the DA’s office had come unstuck in a freak accident.
Lipinsky wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and said, “Ok, Tiny, pick him up. Take him around to the front door like he’s drunk and you’re throwing him out. Then we’ll get him in my car and figure out what to do with him.”
Tiny hoisted the body; but when the dead man’s sternum collided with Tiny’s beefy shoulder, something shot out of the corpse’s mouth, hitting the dessert plate with a Ping! , then bouncing into an empty coffee cup. Tiny heard the noise and turned to see what it was. Lipinsky had witnessed the entire flight of the mysterious object, and reached into the coffee cup with a thumb and index finger, extracting a silver button. He frowned at it in perplexity then looked up at his brother-in-law, eyeballing Tiny’s vest. Tiny, meanwhile, was staring with unfeigned horror at the button. Lipinsky took two slow steps toward Tiny and extended his arm, touching the button lightly to the place whence it had broken ranks with its identical fellows earlier in the evening. Lipinsky’s complexion suddenly did a quick march through the color spectrum, changing from its natural pasty white to pink, and then to crimson, before finally settling on magenta. His lips moved, but only a little mewing noise emerged. Tiny turned to Ross and stammered, “Uh, thanks for the job Mr. Ross, but I think I might wanna find somethin’ else. I’ll be seein’ ya!”
Tiny dashed toward the entrance, not recollecting his cargo until he drew level with the hat check booth. He tossed the corpse on the counter, which elicited a scream from the hat check girl, and then plunged through the front door, skidding to a stop just long enough to ask the doorman a question.
“Say, Eddie! Is Ted Lyman still bookin’ wrestlers in Miami?”
The startled doorman said, “Yeah, I think so. But wait!” He shouted after Tiny, who had started to leg it again. “I thought you had the arthritis?”
“Everything’s jake!”, Tiny yelled over his shoulder. “Change a’ climate’ll fix me right up!”
With that, the gaudy figure of Tiny Weismann receded into the night, like a fortune teller’s tent blown away in a high wind.