There is no actual element of Fantasy in this story, but I'm almost sure I read it in a collection of SF&F. I read it only about 10 years ago, but I think it is much older.

There is some very rich person who asks a detective which is, IIRC, a parody of Sam Spade, to find the authentic pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wears in the last scene in the country of Oz (There is no place like home, there is no place like home...) apparently because he thinks that knocking the heels will bring him to Oz, or cure his cancer, or whatever.

IIRC, there were several distinct "authentic" pairs of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland when making the movie. "Sam Spade" finds some of them but not the one used in the final scene. He concludes that this particular pair is lost for good, or destroyed, or whatever. So no actual Fantasy can happen, since it is tied to that particular pair and not the others.

Then the rich man, or maybe some other character, asks "Sam Spade" to find the actual "Maltese Falcon" used in the movie...

  • 1
    The "witch's pair," was supposedly the nicest set of Ruby Slippers made for the film and the one used in all the close ups. They were long said to be the pair that jas been at the Smithsonian since 1979, but that pair is actually mismatched. americanhistory.si.edu/press/fact-sheets/ruby-slippers Most (or all) of the the Ruby Slippers were lifted from MGM's storage, where they had been left to rot, by employee Kent Warner.
    – Buzz
    Sep 4 at 17:30
  • @Buzz Thanks for this interesting piece of information. But there is no reason to suppose that the use of a pair of Ruby Slippers in one or the other close-up, not the fate of the pairs in the story need be the same as in the real world. In the story, the pair used in the last scene in the Land of Oz was used only in that scene and was lost. IIRC.
    – Alfred
    Sep 5 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


Once in a Lullaby by Fred Bals. I read it in the anthology Full Spectrum, and I guess you must have as well since it hasn't been collected anywhere else.

The PI is Johnny Dann. The case is presented to him as:

It started like most of my cases started back then. Wallace Emerson’s secretary called and asked if I could see him that afternoon. Emerson is a judge now, but he was still an attorney in those days. One of the good ones. He tossed a lot of business my way. I ran down witnesses for him, checked depositions, did all that Perry Mason jazz for him. He paid good money for the work too—25 percent over my usual fee with a bonus added on sometimes. I was always glad to get the call from him.
“Then you may also know there will be an auction this Sunday to sell off the paraphernalia they no longer wish to keep. I want you to buy one of those items.”
I stopped on a page circled in red and started laughing. “You want me to buy these? You know, Mr. Emerson, somehow I never thought of you as a movie buff.”
“The ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, yes. You are to buy them. But not for me.”

It ends:

I told her while I unwrapped the package. “Just a piece of business that I wanted to take care of before we left,” I finished. “Seemed like the right time to do it.” I pulled the paper off and uncovered the statue.
I held up the statue of the black bird I was carrying. “We’ll do it. Believe it. This was all I needed. This and you, kid.” I wrapped the paper around the Maltese Falcon and laughed.

  • 2
    An enjoyable read. Sep 4 at 18:39
  • Definitely. Is it (legally) available on the WWW ?
    – Alfred
    Sep 6 at 16:43

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