November 3rd, 1921
The streets were busy with all sorts of people but Emilie kept to herself, walking along the dusty road. As she approached her small town house she knocked on the door with her elbow, the stack of books from the library wobbling back and forth.
The door opened and Emilie smiled when she saw her young maid standing there, “Hello, Jane.” She sing songed.
“‘Ello, Miss. May I help you with that?” Jane asked her hands reaching to the stack of books that Emilie was balancing against her chest.
Emilie swayed the stack away from Jane’s helping hands and replied,“No, I’m fine, thank you, dear. I’ll be in my study if you need me and,” Emilie scuttered up the stairs, but stopped and said, “Do ask Mrs. Powell what’s for supper.”
“Yes, Miss.” Jane smiled proudly to be of service and Emilie continued up the stairs. “Oh and Miss!” Jane exclaimed.
“Yes?” Emilie called from the top of the stairs.
“A man came to the door while you were away and ask for you. Said something about a case. He left a letter; I put it on your desk. I think name was...Mr. Wickes.”
Emilie’s forehead wrinkled with curiosity. “Thank you, Jane.” Mr. Wickes…the name ran a bell but Emilie couldn’t quite make it out. Emilie continued on her way to her study and opened the squeaky door to the cozy atmosphere of her favorite room.
It was a small room with old red wallpaper slightly stained but not so badly that Emilie would pay for it to be replaced. There was an old rosewood desk in front of a big window and a fireplace on the opposite wall. In front of the fireplace was an old brown chair covered in a nice knitted blanket from her aunt, Margaret.
Emilie let out a deep breath, let her shoulders relax and smiled, before walking into the room at her same fast pace. She caught the door with her heel, slammed it shut, and strutted over to her desk. It felt wonderful to plop down that stack of books and stretch. Dust swirled in the sunlight seeping in from the closed curtains, drawing Emilie’s attention to them. She walked over to them and ripped open the curtains. Down below she could see the streets of London, busy with pedestrians and cars. School boys played in the streets as they walked home. The windows couldn’t keep out the sound of the city but Emilie loved it.
Suddenly, she remember the letter and looked over her shoulder to see the envelope in the middle of her desk. She turned around and sat down in her leather desk chair. Emilie took off her gloves and picked up the letter. Handwritten in the blue ink, the envelope read, 217 Short Street, London, England, Ms. Emilie Butter. Emilie carefully opened the letter with her crested letter opener and read the blue ink inside.
I most desperately write to you in times of need. I am an english professor at Ginterby Boarding School, an academy you once attended, but I am sure you haven’t forgotten that. Lately students have gone missing. At first the staff and I just shrugged it off, suspecting it was simply foolish children running away, you of all people know what it’s like. But it’s become quite noticeable and the children are scared to death. They talk of ghosts snatching them up at night. The headmistress grows weary by the minute. It wasn’t until she saw you in the papers, an educated woman working to solve crimes and a Ginterby alumni. That’s when Headmistress Olivier asked me to find you. Please, Miss Butter, for the place you once called home, help us.
Emilie bit her lip and place the letter down on the desk. That’s where she knew his name from, he was an english professor at the boarding school she attended. The weight of her past was heavy on her chest. It ate her inside. Emilie promised herself she would never go back when she left that horrible place, but she couldn’t help but think it was wrong to ignore the call of help. In her mind she saw the children lying awake at night in the drafty school. Scared, with no parents they could run too and the staff were always so heartless and cold.
There was a knock at the door. Emilie looked up and called, “Come in.”
The door opened with a squeak and Jane stepped in, “Mrs. Powell said that she is making shepherd's pie for supper.”
Emile smiled at the news, “That sounds wonderful.” Emilie had a happy life, far from what her life used to look like. She made a life for herself with hard work and to run back to the past just felt so painful.
Jane nodded and offered her service again, “Is there anything else you need, Miss? Perhaps some tea?”
“Actually, Jane...I do need help,” Emilie spoke, looking down at the letter.
Jane looked over curiously, “Is it the letter, Miss?”
“Yes, it’s from a professor at the boarding school I used to attend. Apparently children have been going missing, many children.”
“And?” Jane asked, trying to understand what the problem was.
“I promised myself I’d never return to that school.” Emilie spoke sharply.
“Well, Miss. The decision is yours to make but my best advice comes from my mother. She used to always tell me that if I had an itch for something, that I might as well do it. I was a very shy girl growing up so I found that advice quite helpful.” She chuckled to herself.
Emilie couldn’t help but smile. Jane was such a joyful little doll that never failed to warm her heart. In some ways she felt like Jane was the little sister she never had. “Thank you Jane.”
Jane nodded and starting closing the door. Before the door closed, Emilie called out, “Some tea would be lovely!”
She could hear Jane giggle and answer, “Yes, Miss.”
The sun had set a few hours before and now Emilie and Jane sat in the living room. The living room was a brighter and bigger space than Emilie’s office. It had light blue wallpaper and white sofas. The floor was covered with a dark blue rug imported from Persia and there was a vase full of tulips on a coffee table.
Jane was knitting away in the corner by the crackling fire and Emilie sat in her chair with a cup of warm tea watching her. Perhaps if she kept watching her she’d learn how to be as joyful as her or something like that.
Mrs. Pellow’s dinner was comforting as usual. She cooked like the mother Emilie never had. The warmth Emilie had in her life at that present moment didn’t exist ten years before. Emilie was certain that was another reason she couldn’t take the case. Emilie didn’t want to awake the horrors that she buried in her past.
“Miss?” Jane broke the silence with her gentle voice.
“Have you decided yet?” She questioned, looking up at her with respect.
Emilie sighed and after a long pause replied, “I don’t know. I’m not usually this indecisive. I’ll read the letter over on more time and make my decision then.”
“Very well,” Jane smiled, satisfied.
“I’ll tell you my decision in my morning.” Emilie spoke, standing up from her chair and starting the leave the room.
“Alright. Good night, Miss.” Jane looked over at Emilie and watched her leave.
Emilie caught her eye and smiled “Good night, Jane.”
Emilie kept her promise and walked into her office again. The floorboards creaked under her slippers as she edged towards her desk. Emilie picked up the peace of paper and read the letter again. In her mind she let Jane’s mother’s advice sink in as she read the words. The last paragraph settled down on her heart.
At first the staff and I just shrugged it off, suspecting it was simply foolish children running away, you of all people know what it’s like. But it’s become quite noticeable and the children are scared to death. They talk of ghosts snatching them up at night. Please, Miss Butter, for the place you once called home, help us.
Emilie swallowed but she couldn’t seem to get rid of the lump that lingered there. She had solved many cases and been to through all sorts of terrifying experiences, but those never scared her much. It was her past that scared her.
Emilie sighed and felt a horrid feeling of certainty wash over her and she knew her decision. Emilie was going to Ginterby.