The photograph that Charlie now held showed a man holding a baby.
The man sat on an upright chair. He had thinning, grayish, hair
and a long, mournful face. His crumpled suit was black and his thick
pebble glasses gave his pale gray eyes a lost marblelike stare.
Instead of pushing the photograph back into the envelope, Charlie
continued to gaze at it. In fact, he couldn't tear his eyes away
from it. He began to feel dizzy and his ears were filled with mysterious
sounds, like the hiss and swish of voices on the radio when you
can't pinpoint the right frequency.
"Oh," he said. "Um, what…?" His own voice seemed far away, trapped
behind a kind of fog.
"What's wrong, Charlie?" asked his mother.
"Is something happening?" Grandma Bone crept forward. "Aunt Eustacia
rang me. She had one of her premonitions. Are you a proper Yewbeam,
Maisie glared at Grandma Bone while Charlie pulled his ears and
shook his head. If only the horrible muffled buzzing would stop.
He had to shout in order to hear himself. "They've made a mistake
at the shop. Where's Runner Bean?"
"There's no need to shout, Charlie." His mother looked over his
shoulder. "My goodness, that's certainly not a dog."
"Ow!" wailed Charlie. But suddenly the mumbling voices broke free
of the buzz and made themselves clear.
First came a woman's voice, soft and unfamiliar: I wish you
wouldn't do this, Mostyn.
Her mother's gone. I don't have a choice. The voice was
Of course you do.
Will you take her , then? said the man's voice.
You know I can't, replied the woman.
Charlie looked at his mother: "Who said that?"
She looked puzzled. "Who said what Charlie?"
"Is there a man in here?" he asked.
Maisie giggled. "Only you, Charlie."
Charlie felt clawlike fingers sink into his shoulder. Grandma Bone
leaned over him. "Tell me what you hear," she demanded.
"Voices," said Charlie. "I know it sounds silly, but they seem
to be coming from this photograph."
Grandma Bone nodded. "What do they say?"
"For goodness sake, Grandma Bone, don't be ridiculous," said Maisie.
Grandma Bone gave Maisie a withering look. "I am not being ridiculous."
Charlie noticed that his mother had gone very quiet. She pulled
out a chair and sat down, looking pale and anxious.
Maisie began to bang about, muttering, "You shouldn't encourage
it. It's garbage. I won't have it…"
"Shhh!" hissed Charlie. He could hear the baby crying.
The strange woman spoke again. You've upset her. Look at the
camera, Mostyn. And please try to smile. You look so gloomy.
What do you expect? said the man.
A camera shutter clicked.
There. Shall I take another?
Do what you want.
You'll thank me, one day, said the woman behind the camera.
If you really intend to go through with this, it's the only thing
you'll have to remember her by.
Charlie noticed that a cat peeked out from behind the man's chair.
It was an extraordinary color: deep copper, like a flame.
From far away Charlie heard his mother's voice. "Shall I take the
photo back, Charlie?"
"No," murmured Charlie. "Not yet."
But it seemed that the photograph had nothing more to say. The
baby fussed for a moment and then was quiet. the gloomy man stared
silently at the camera, and the cat…? Was that a purr? Maisie was
making such a noise with the pots and pans it was difficult to hear
"Hush!" commanded Grandma Bone. "Charlie can't hear."
"It's all nonsense," Maisie grumbled. "I don't know how you can
just sit there, Amy, and let your crazy mother-in-law get away with
it. Poor Charlie. He's just a boy. He's got nothing to do with those
"He's got their blood," said Charlie's mother, quietly." "You can't
get away from that."
Maisie couldn't. She closed her mouth in a tight little line.
Charlie was very bewildered. In the morning he had been an ordinary
boy. He hadn't been touched by a magic wand or banged his head.
He hadn't had an electric shock or fallen off a bus, or, as far
as he knew, eaten a poisoned apple. And yet, here he was, hearing
voices from a piece of photographic paper.