Button Man - Continued
A canary-yellow Packard taxi cab disgorged Tiny in front of the Cairo Club promptly at 5 o’clock. Pedestrians variously glanced, did double-takes and, in a few instances, stopped dead in their tracks to stare in amazement at this vision out of the Arabian Nights. Roscoe had not stinted on swaddling his client in oriental finery, and if he charged by the yard, he did some brisk business that day, decking Tiny out in the gorgeous raiment of an extra-large Mamluk sultan. In his green turban, white silk pajamas, and embroidered yellow vest adorned with silver buttons, he might have walked down a street in the Casbah, receiving the awed salaams of the multitude. Tiny grandly extracted a sawbuck from inside his violet cummerbund and paid off the hack-driver (not so grandly insisting on his change), and proceeded along the covered walkway to the door.
“We ain’t open yet, bud.” The gravel-voiced announcement was punctuated with a cloud of cigar smoke that rose from behind a newspaper clutched in the ham-sized fists of a large man sitting on a stool – judging by the cut of his clothes, evidently a General of Janissaries in the service of Suleiman the Magnificent. Tiny peeped over the top of the newspaper, and his face broke into a wide grin.
“The Bronx Behemoth!”
The General of Janissaries looked up in surprise, and smiled in turn.
“The Wild Man of Borneo! How’s tricks, Tiny?”
The two men clasped their great, bear-like paws in a friendly handshake.
“I ain’t seen you in, what, three or four years? Ever since you quit the wrestlin’ game!”
“Eddie Ryan! Nice to see ya again, kid! What, you workin’ here, too?”
“Yeah, I’m the doorman Tuesdays through Thursdays. I’m still wrestlin’ Fridays, though. You?”
“I’m startin’ work here as a bouncer tonight.”
“Well, how ‘bout that. Say, Tiny, if you don’t mind me askin’, why’d you leave the wrestlin’ racket?”
Tiny’s nose twitched involuntarily. “I been havin’ a little trouble with the arthritis. Hey, you know where I can find Mr. Ross? I need to check in.”
“Sure, he’ll be inside somewhere. Go on in and have a look around. Good to see ya, again, Tiny.”
Tiny entered the club and was dazzled by what he saw. There were the neon-light pyramids, just as Dave had said, and the camel lamps, and the potted palms, not to mention a half acre of tables covered in immaculate white tablecloths, a dance floor and a stage for the entertainment. A cigarette girl dressed in a belly-dancer’s costume was sitting in a chair, massaging a foot and reading a movie star magazine.
“Hey, sister, you know where I can find Mr. Ross?”
Glancing up from her magazine, she said, between small explosions of bubble gum, “Try the kitchen, Gargantua.”
Tiny made his way through the double doors into the kitchen. A chef and his assistant were preparing salads, and on seeing Tiny enter, the chef smiled and nudged his assistant, who looked at Tiny and snickered. Tiny was pretty sure he heard the chef make some kind of crack about a circus elephant, but he was willing to let it slide. He noticed a bowl filled with cake batter and furtively dipped a finger into it.
Unfortunately, as he was leaning over the bowl trying to sneak another taste, a loose button fell off of his vest into the batter. He started to fish it out, but was brought up short by a booming voice.
Tiny did an about-face and found himself looking at an angry little man in a tuxedo.
“Oh, hi ya! Are you Mr. Ross? I’m Tiny Weismann, the new bouncer.”
“Well, bounce your keester out of the kitchen, buddy! The food’s for the clientele!”
Tiny cast one backwards glance at the bowl, where his button had sunk without a trace, then marched into the main dining room.
(To be continued)