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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Mile-A-Minute Murder

By Solomon Stein

The Magpie, Spring 1941, v. 25, n. 2, p. 16.

Pinsky shifted gears and relaxed.

"Don't thank me—It's just my luck that the sergeant has a bratty kid.—O.K. I'll take you up to Wandini's house, but don't blame me if he kicks you out on your ear. Magic—phooey! A first rate detective like me running around with a . . . Do that again."

Whitey rubbed the coin. It vanished.

"Gee, you certainly can do things with those hands of yours. Some day you'll be a real magician instead of worshipping guys like Wandini. Well, here we are." The wheel hopped the curb. Pinsky put the Ford in reverse.

"Sloppy," commented Whitey. "Come up some time, and I'll teach you how to drive."

Pinsky lifted his hand threateningly. "Slither out, Houdini, before I take that bank of hair that's hanging in your eyes and tie it around your neck. Git."

His face tinged slightly on the crimson side. Whitey put the wandering lock back in its place. Pinsky followed, and they quickly skipped up the two flights. The door was open. The detective walked in. "Hey, maestro, where are you? Wand—nobody home! How do yuh like that?" He sat down heavily on a coffin-shaped box.

Whitey was busily browsing around the room. Magical paraphernalia was neatly displayed around the room in glass showcases and shelves.

"What's this thingamajig I'm sitting on?" queried Pinsky.

Whitey stepped over to the oblong case and looked at it with a know-it-all air. "I'll show you Wandini's original Mummy Sword Mystery. A man, usually an assistant, is placed in the box and the lid is shut tight. Ten swords are jabbed through the box as they are now; the cover is opened, and the guy isn't hurt at all. Look, I'll show...... Eeeeeeooooow!"

Pinsky looked into the box and hiccoughed twice rapidly. A man was lying in the coffin-like box, dressed in a tuxedo, pipe in mouth, and looking perfectly peaceful . . . only he was dead!

Whitey groaned. "Wandini?"

"No, it's his assistant." Pinsky was examining the pipe. He sniffed it and turned slightly emerald around the gills. "Phew! This guy mixed shut-eye powders with his tobacco. Must like it strong. Here catch." He threw the pipe. "Clue number 1!" Picking up the telephone, he lackadaisically asked for the police.

"Sergeant? Yeh, yeh, I took him. Wandini's assistant has been bumped off. No, darn it. Your pie-eyed legerdemaniac is still in one piece. Huh? O.K. Send some of the boys over. No, dammit, I'm awake. Thanks. Good-bye!"

When the four policemen walked in, Pinsky was poking the corpse with a wand. Whitey had slipped out. He was walking up and down the corridors, thinking, thinking. "There, I've got it!" He started towards the left staircase. Wandini had a small theatre, to which he used to invite his fellow magicians, located in the same building. Whitey was sure. He had read about it in some magazine . . . or was it the paper? He neared the door; opened it. His idol was standing in the corner counting money. There was a red smudge on the prestidigitator's right cheek. Stepping softly on the thick carpet, Whitey picked up one of the footsquare blocks used in the Magic Transposition. He hurled it.

It hit the wall a foot above the magician's head, crumbling. "So, that's it . . . hollow," the boy thought. He ducked as a cane came flying at him. Ducking behind a row of seats, he narrowly missed being hit by a Magic Lota Vase. Glancing up, Whitey saw Wandini towering about him. Crack! The hand came down once, twice—there was a hushed whisper. A whistle roared and sparks were shooting in the daytime in a maze of mirrors that laughed. Then everything turned black and just as in the stories he read in the detective magazines, Whitey slowly felt himself slipping into dark oblivion.

* * *

Pushing his hair back and rubbing a swollen eye, Whitey felt fine. Wandini was handcuffed to a slightly damaged Pinsky, who was, nevertheless, smiling. The magician was reciting in a voice like John Barrymore at his best.

"Sure, I killed him. He was always asking how the tricks were done.... I was in trouble with the Expose and Ethics committee, and I had to get rid of him. I put some of that knock-out powder in his tobacco, and when he went out sitting in a chair I put him in that Mummy Sword case and stuck the things through him. Yeh, it's his money . . . what good would it do a dead guy, anyway? Besides . . ."

"Aw shut up," interrupted Pinsky. "You talk too much. Take 'im away, boys!" Wandini was led out, and the detective turned to Whitey. " Kid, where that guy's headed for, no magic will help him . . . it's all yours." Whitey looked about in awe.

"All mine," he gasped. Pinsky slapped a hat on his head and a rabbit jumped out. "Darn it! Wrong hat!" They both laughed.

That evening Whitey saw his picture in the paper, but he didn't like it.... That lock of hair was hanging in front of his face.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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