A man’s thrift shopping takes an emotional turn when he buys an old camera from a flea market and finds a note inside with instructions to find a girl named Susie Berger.
When Sam Wilkinson was browsing the flea market that Sunday morning, hunting for the next camera to add to his collection, he had no clue he’d stumble across something that would touch his life.
He’d bought a camera from a fragile man who wasn’t particularly old, but his eyes were etched by dark circles, and his complexion was pale as if he was sick – or worse, terminally ill.
“The camera you’re getting is rather a special one,” he’d said when Sam bought it. “Good luck!”
Sam found a note inside the camera. | Source: Shutterstock
Sam inspected the camera closely, but it did not strike him as particularly unusual. It looked like one of those old-fashioned cameras that worked with photographic films. He bought it without hesitation because he didn’t have one like it in his camera collection and because the man had given it to him for a few bucks.
At home, he was cleaning the camera before putting it on his glass shelf, where he frequently kept – or rather proudly exhibited – his thrift store purchases, when he clicked open its back cover and discovered a strip of film inside.
At the market, it didn’t dawn on him to check the camera properly, but now that he was patiently cleaning it, he was surprised to find the film inside, as well as a note – tucked beneath it. Who keeps a note in the back of a camera?
He first took out the film and held it against the light to see whether there was anything visible on it. And to his amazement, he discovered that there was. It appeared to be a photograph of a little girl.
Then he went ahead to open the note and found a strange message scribbled on it: “Please help me find Susie Berger, Age: 19 years. If you find her, please tell her that her father loves her.”
Sam bought the camera from an old man at a flea market. | Source: Unsplash
As Sam read the message, the words of the man from whom he’d bought the camera began to ring in his ears. “Good luck! Yes! He had wished me luck. It means he knew there was a note inside,” Sam guessed. “Or, wait, was it he who put it there? I have to find him.”
The next day, Sam returned to the flea market in search of the man. He passed through several stalls, but the man was nowhere to be found. He walked all the way to the far end several times, but it was futile.
At last, he sat down on the sidewalk, defeated, thinking he wouldn’t be able to uncover the mystery of the note. Just then, he noticed him. The man was right there, preparing his stall.
Without further ado, Sam approached him. “Hey! I – I want to ask something. I bought this camera yesterday and—”
“So, did you find her?” the man asked, his voice trembling. “Did you tell her what was written on the note?”
“Did you manage to track down Susie Berger?” the man asked with hopeful eyes.
“That’s what I want to ask! Why did you leave the note inside? And who is Susie Berger?”
Sam found a film strip inside the camera. | Source: Unsplash
Sam noticed the man’s eyes welling up. “Do you promise me you’ll find her if I tell you why?”
“Ah, man,” Sam hesitated. “Ok, cool. Tell me what’s up with this Susie Berger.”
The man pulled a chair he was selling in front of him and requested Sam to have a seat. Then he spoke. “My name is Timothy Berger. And Susie Berger is my daughter – my Cinderella, whom my wife stole from me. Her photos are on the film you must have already discovered inside…”
“What?” Sam’s eyes widened in surprise. “She’s your daughter?”
Timothy gave a nod. “It all started when my wife Cynthia forced me to divorce her some years ago. She dumped me because I was only a carpenter and couldn’t meet her lavish demands. She married a wealthy man, and she stole Susie away from me. She told that little girl I was the one who abandoned them, which is why my Susie never spoke to me or met with me again,” he managed to say before breaking down in sobs.
“I’m so sorry.”
Timothy shared his tragic story with Sam. | Source: Pexels
Timothy wiped his tears and held Sam’s hand in his. “Do you promise to help me find her? Please? I don’t have enough time. Three…no, two…yes…two months is what the doctor said. That’s why I left the note in the camera, hoping somebody would find her and tell her I love her.”
“Wait, two months? I – I don’t—”
“I have cancer, young man. And I don’t have much time. Please help me find her.”
Sam’s heart dropped as he heard that. He thought for a while, then said, “I promise I will try my best to find Susie for you, sir. I promise that.”
Timothy hugged Sam and burst into tears. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”
That afternoon, after returning home, Sam called his father and asked him for help. “Hey, dad! Could you please do me a favor?”
Sam’s father was a lawyer, and he had friends in the police. He told him what happened and Mr. Wilkinson immediately agreed to help him. He called his friend, Detective Franklin County, and shared all the evidence Sam had sent him through email.
Sam called his dad for help. | Source: Pexels
But weeks passed, and there was still no word of Susie. Sam’s heart sank as he pondered what would happen if he couldn’t keep his promise to Timothy. What if he couldn’t find Susie in two months?
But one fine morning, he received a call from his father informing him that they had located her. Sam went straight to Timothy and requested that he join him at Susie’s house. “This is your chance, sir…to tell her the truth – that you love her and did not abandon her. You can do it!”
Timothy was hesitant, but Sam motivated him, and he finally agreed.
When they arrived at Susie’s house, Cynthia answered the door. She was shocked to see Timothy – all pale, emaciated, and frail. “You! What are you doing here?”
“Please, Cynthia. Let me see Susie. I – I….” Before Timothy could finish, Sam cut him off.
“I think it’s best to go inside and talk, ma’am.”
Cynthia wasn’t pleased to see Timothy. | Source: Pexels
For some reason, Cynthia softened – probably because of how frail Timothy looked – and brought them inside.
Sam told her everything that had happened, and Cynthia burst into tears, much to Timothy’s amazement. She called Susie downstairs and told her to talk to Timothy.
“But why mom?” Susie retorted. “He’s a terrible man! Don’t you remember how he abandoned us? Why would you even invite him inside? Tell him to get lost!”
“SUSIE!” Cynthia screamed at her. “You’re not aware of the truth. Actually, it’s my fault that I never told you the truth. I never had the guts to accept it, but…”
Cynthia admitted that she was the one who had abandoned Timothy, not the other way around. She also said that she was foolish to leave him and that the man she’d abandoned Timothy for had dumped her because he didn’t want to care for Susie.
For the 19-year-old Susie, it all came as a shock. “I – I can’t believe you did that, mom! I hate you! And dad…I – I am so sorry. I had no idea about any of that!”
Susie was in tears after learning the whole truth. | Source: Pexels
Timothy hugged Susie and said, “Oh, I’m so delighted to have my Cinderella back. So would my princess do one last thing for me? It’s not like I have much time….I have cancer, honey, but I will keep bothering you for two months, hopefully…”
“Oh my God, Dad!” Susie started crying and hugged him back tightly.
“Don’t hate your mom after I’m gone, honey. She wasn’t the best wife, but she always loved and cared for you. She proved she was a great mother.”
“You’re not going anywhere, dad! Nothing will happen to you!” Susie cried as she hugged him. Even Sam couldn’t hold back his tears as he witnessed the bittersweet reunion.
Unfortunately, Timothy died a month later. Sam, Susie, and Cynthia attended the funeral, and from that day on, Susie visits her father’s grave every year with his favorite flowers.
Recently, she held an exhibition in her father’s honor and inspired by him. She majored in photography at university after learning how much Timothy enjoyed photography during his university days.
Yes, Timothy loved photography, which is why he had kept the camera where he had stored Susie’s photographs — the special camera that reunited a father and daughter.