Saturday, December 5, 2015

"I Don't Wish to Appear Rude," the Lieutenant Said Crisply, "but It Must Be Obvious to You That It Sounds Decidedly Fishy"

"The Magic Touch."
By Walter Ripperger (?-?).
Found in Collier's Weekly, October 12, 1935.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online beginning HERE and ending HERE (scroll to page 40).
"A mystery story in which Professor Galbow, the conjurer, proves that magic may be employed to destroy illusions as well as to create them . . ."
The classic situation: murder in a country house, but this time in the good old USofA, with all of the suspects gathered together, and just about every one of them with a solid financial motive to kill an old retiree who's about to initiate an investigation into some highly irregular banking practices.

The state police lieutenant scoffs when Professor Galbow, a self-effacing stage magician and unexpected temporary houseguest, begins offering ideas about the murder:
. . . "I suppose I shouldn't interfere [says the conjurer], but this is really something I understand—it's magic."
. . . provoking scorn from the state cop:
"[The victim] was killed by magic, I suppose?"
"He wasn't exactly killed by magic: he was kept alive by magic."
In the final analysis, as this case proves once again, there's always that unknown factor which no criminal can hope to plan for:
. . . "Well, that's that," he said with a sort of fatalistic flippancy. "Life is damn' funny. We would probably have gotten away with it if chance hadn't sent us a magician."
During the story the good Professor drops several professional insights about prestidigitation:
. . . "When you've seen something happen that couldn't possibly have happened, then you can be pretty sure that it didn't happen—that it's an illusion." 
. . . "You know we magicians have a way of noticing little things. We're constantly watching our audience to make sure we're not being caught. The eye is really quicker than the hand."
. . . "Magic not only can create illusions: it can destroy them."
- We can find no biographical data on "Walter Ripperger," suggesting it might be a house name; even if "he" didn't actually exist, "he" did write quite a few stories, as FictionMags indicates HERE.
- ONTOS has previously encountered stage magic and murder HERE, HERE, and HERE.

The bottom line: Magic is an art form where you lie and tell people you are lying.
— Teller

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