Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
The researcher groaned as she sat at the table to examine the book and photo more fully. She had worked many times on old books in poor condition. In the beginning, finding a loose photo had been a personal challenge. Her pulse would pick up, her interest piqued. But so many "special" books down the line, and she had become jaded.
She slipped on a pair of cotton gloves and picked the photo up. The young girl was about nine or ten years old. Dressed in simple white, she was surrounded by flowers and holding a big bouquet. A special occasion of some sort, guessed the researcher. The girl had on long socks encased in Mary-Jane type shoes - very much a school girl look. Yet, she wore a flapper-style headband which contributed to the winsome nature of the photo and dated it to the Roaring Twenties. The researcher couldn't tell whether the headband held a feather or other flapper-type decoration. Flipping on a strong light, she began to move past the obvious details to study the more subtle cues.
In the back was a structure of some sort, probably a house with the outline of the photo. The girl's eyes were quite shadowed, perhaps by illness or perhaps by the light angle of the photo. There was a long piece of wood on the ground behind her, but the researcher could not discern any reason for it.
The girl's arms and legs showed her to be thin, but not sickly thin. The researcher decided the light angle accounted for the shadowed eyes. She chuckled as she honed in on the girl's expression. She had seen that expression on her own children's eyes when they were being forced to pose for a photo. At least today's digital cameras were very forgiving of movement! This photo had been taken when any movement became a blur on the print.
Yawning, the researcher looked up at the clock. "Oh my!" she thought. "I've spent over an hour and discovered nothing!" Nonetheless, she switched off the bright life and resolved to return to the photo soon. This was for fun, for a volunteering position. Her paid job demanded more of her time and energy than she often could give, so the little girl would have to wait.
The researcher put the photo in a protecting sleeve, and set it down. "Just for a minute," she told herself, and picked up the book the photo had come from. It fell open to a page in the index, where she found another clue. A note, typed on tissue-thin paper, yellowed with age, said:
You are cordially invited to a
Hard Times party on
June 15th at
Prize for the funniest costume.
Come as soon as you can be relieved of
your blessed duties and stay as long as they
can spare you.