The Case of the Pilfered Publication
by
Inspector Gadget
as told to
C. "Sparky" Read

Another eventful day on the Metro City Police Force. It never ceases to amaze me the kind of criminal masterminds that crawl out of the woodwork when you're least expecting it.

I received an assignment this morning from Chief Quimby regarding a possible crime scene at the City Library, and when I arrived (after being reminded of the way by a helpful young person who had forgotten the keys to his Beemer and was trying to break the window to get inside) I was confronted by the most ghastly information I could have fathomed: someone had removed a book from the library without using their library card! Imagine, someone taking a book that might be needed for a college student's thesis, or solace on a dark night for a lonely widow, or perhaps to bring a shred of joy to some unfortunate child confined to a dismal hospital room while awaiting a tonsillectomy. I knew this was the kind of case that required my immediate attention and full capacities as a special agent.

I started by interviewing the librarian - your typical, spinsterly old woman librarian with skin like paper and hands like turkey buzzard's feet. I remember countless librarians just like her from my youth: the way they watched me over their spectacles and constantly asked what I was always doing in the Restricted section. I grilled her on her whereabouts when the alleged book was allegedly taken by the alleged perpetrator, but she could offer no more excuse than a brief lapse in which she neglected to watch the door while stamping some cute little moppet's copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I then proceeded to question the janitor, who was the first to respond to the library's door alarm when the book was illegally transported out of the building. The extent of his knowledge turned out to be him shutting off the alarm before being hit by an encyclopedia hurled by an irate patron who firmly believed in the Quiet, Please mantra issued by libraries around the world.

The only witness to the crime I could find was a young boy whose index finger of his right hand seemed to have an inexplicable attraction to the inside of his right nostril. He managed to relate to me that he had noticed a shadowy figure slipping into the Periodicals and back out again, and then hastily exiting the library, at which time the alarms sounded and - I can only assume - startled the young lad to the point of actually removing his hand from his face for a brief moment.

Having at last something to go on (although frankly confused as to how you can have a shadowy figure in a brightly-lit library), I commenced to search for clues. I found a space on a shelf that I was fairly certain had once been occupied by the appropriated tome, and combed the area. I came up with a smallish, rectangular, flat piece of material composed of compressed wood pulp with symbols imprinted upon it: in short, a library card. The name Lila Shrewsbury signed on the card led me to believe that it did indeed belong to a Lila Shrewsbury, and extensive tests with my chemistry set and microscope suggested that the card was issued by the very library I was standing in. Well, that and the name of the library printed on the face of the card, but that could have been put there by anybody.

When I presented the library card to the papery librarian, she informed me that it was probably dropped by a character who was none other than Lila Shrewsbury herself, and at that particular moment, the aforementioned person burst in through the front doors and confronted us, bearing the very book that had been stolen earlier that morning! It only goes to show you that some individuals just cannot resist returning to the scene of the crime.

Lila Shrewsbury - if that was her real name - proceeded to explain to the librarian and myself that she needed the book right away for an oral presentation at her school but when she went to pull out her library card she didn't see it and therefore thought she had misplaced it and wouldn't be able to check out the book and therefore flunk her assignment and therefore her class and then the entire school year would be a bust and her father wouldn't send her to horse camp that summer and she would have to stay home and mind her little brother who picked his nose constantly and made up stories about shadowy figures. I don't blame her; I would certainly hate to run into such an unsavory child. So Lila had decided to just 'borrow' the book for the morning and return it by the afternoon, no harm done. I asked the librarian if she wished me to haul Lila in for further questioning and maybe call her mommy, but she declined and opted to just exchange the book for the library card, which she did, and Lila exited the library happy with the crime she had pulled off.

As for me, I was not entirely satisfied with the outcome of the case but I knew better than to argue with a librarian like that - they always peer creepily into your face and have cambric tea on their breath - so I contented myself with going back outside and having a nice stroll. On my way to the station I passed the helpful young man who had pointed me towards the library earlier, and as he had still not managed to gain access to his locked car I presented him with my own crowbar and wished him well. If only there were more citizens like him about and less like that slippery Lila character, all would be right with the world.