The Case Of Four And Twenty Blackbirds by Neil Gaiman, 1984
The magic trick:
Well, it’s a cute idea anyway
It’s noir. It’s comedy. It’s a fun little story. Every detail is accounted for. The nursery rhyme satire is as complete as it is gentle. It reminds me of a really good Weird Al parody – which I say in a (mostly) complimentary way. And that’s quite a trick on Gaiman’s part.
So when the dame walked into my office I was sure my luck had changed for the better.
“What are you selling, lady?”
She gave me a look that would have induced heavy breathing in a pumpkin, and which shot my heartbeat up to three figures. She had long blonde hair and a figure that would have made Thomas Aquinas forget his vows. I forgot all mine about never taking cases from dames.
“What would you say to some of the green stuff?” she asked, in a husky voice, getting straight to the point.
“Continue, sister.” I didn’t want her to know how bad I needed the dough, so I held my hand in front of my mouth; it doesn’t help if a client sees you salivate.
She opened her purse and flipped out a photograph. Glossy eight by ten. “Do you recognise that man?”
In my business you know who people are. “Yeah.”
“I know that too, sweetheart. It’s old news. It was an accident.”
Her gaze went so icy you could have chipped it into cubes and cooled a cocktail with it. “My brother’s death was no accident.”