You might think it was rather careless of Charlie Bone to lose his father a second time, especially when he had only just found him. They had been apart for ten long years, spellbound years for Lyell Bone, a time spent in deep forgetfulness, when he could remember nothing of his past or even recall his name.
This time, at least Charlie knew where his father had gone. He was taking Charlie’s mother on a second honeymoon. What could be better than to get away from the cold, dark February days, to watch whales and dolphins roll through a sunlit sea? They had asked Charlie to join them, of course, but he had politely declined. His parents needed to be alone and, besides, there were things that he had to attend to at home. A few mysteries to clear up.
At that moment Charlie was standing by the gate of the house where he was born. It was an old, red-brick building, with a steep slate roof and four stepsup to a blue front door. Charlie and his mother had left the house when he was two, and he couldn’t remember it at all. Even the name was unfamiliar to him: Diamond Corner — it stood on the corner of Diamond Street and Lyme Avenue.
Charlie was twelve now, a boy of medium height with dark, unruly hair and walnut brown eyes. A boy who was ordinary in every way except one: He was a picture-traveler, a talent he had inherited from the legendary Red King.
Beside Charlie stood a very tall man with strong, finely chiseled features and straight black hair that almost touched his shoulders. He wore a long, dark coat and the brim of his black hat had been pulled down, as if to shade his eyes, though there was not the slightest glimmer of sunlight on this murky Sunday afternoon.
“Needs a lot of repair,” the man remarked, looking at the dark holes where slates had fallen from the roof.
“I wish I could move in right now, Uncle Paton,” said Charlie.
“You won’t have to wait long,” said his uncle. “They’re starting work next week, builders, painters, plumbers, and roofers.”
“Let’s have a look.” Charlie opened the gate and walked up the overgrown path. His uncle followed, jangling a bunch of keys. As they drew closer they noticed a light in one of the lower windows.