The tiny crooner, Tony Reno, kept getting up also, to go to the pay phone, to find his manager, he said. That's who he was trying to reach, he insisted, when an enormous hand lifted him out of the phone booth. He said Jack Whalen told him, "Show me where those bastards are.' "
Mickey's first story was that the shots came from a nearby booth and he "didn't see nuthin'." Then he changed that to, OK, they came from his table. But he still didn't see much.
He said Whalen walked up and said, "Good evening, Mr. Cohen," but he didn't have time to respond because the Enforcer put his left hand on Piscitelle's shoulder and said, " 'Have you got something for me?' . . . and Bingo! . . . he hit George a shot" -- a powerful right -- "and George went to the floor."
Whalen turned to Lo Cigno, Mickey said, and "he said, 'You Dago bastard, you're next' or something of that sort. . . . The next thing, I heard the shooting, and that was it."
"I never seen any gun," Mickey said, describing how he ducked "from force of habit," and stayed under the table, down there with the dog, Mickey Jr., and when he finally looked up, the restaurant was empty.
That became Mickey Cohen's story.
Only the women from the bar had not left. Jo Wyatt and Ona Rae Rogers sometimes waitressed on the Strip and knew who Whalen was.
Wyatt hurried to the dining area and found him lying on his right side, next to the pastry table. Whalen was still breathing, but bleeding from his head, so she got napkins and towels and asked her friend to get ice. To one fleeing diner, it looked like she was kneeling in prayer over the body.
Wyatt said she pleaded, "Please call a doctor," and Mickey did -- he phoned his own physician. "Next thing," Mickey said, "I went and washed my hands."
Whalen was dead when police arrived at 12:10 a.m. The first bullet had missed. The second got him almost between the eyes.
Chief William H. Parker and Capt. James Hamilton, head of the Gangster Squad, were there within an hour. But the honor of questioning Mickey fell to Thad Brown, the cigar-chomping deputy chief who was familiar with the victim. "He'd been flirting with the undertaker for a long time," Brown said of Whalen.
"So help me God, chief, I didn't shoot him," Mickey said.
"I don't know."
When the press arrived, Parker revealed that Hamilton's squad had been tipped earlier that Whalen might be going to Rondelli's "to settle a beef." Parker did not say where the tip came from.