Henry meticulously trimmed around the outside edge of the photograph, applied a thin layer of rubber cement across the back and placed it carefully onto the prepared background. The slight stripes reminded him of someone’s old wallpaper.
Methodical research had resulted in the names of several relatives, both alive and dead, for Henry to choose from. He’d found photographs of a long dead aunt, and a sister that lived in another state. Gluing each image in place, he next set up his plate camera. He hung the result in the darkroom to drip as he put the final touches on the room.
Truman was bigger than Henry remembered, and he wondered if all his well though out plans would fail.
“You brought the plate as requested,” Henry asked.
“Yes. It’s signed as well.”
Henry led Truman to the camera, instructing him in the proper insertion of the photographic plate.
“You can remove it once the seance is completed. Now, sit here,” Henry said, placing a stool at the front. “And Mrs. Murphy, can you sit here on this side. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” He didn’t need to complete the thought that Truman’s large bulk pressing against her knees would encroach on her personal space. She would understand that.
Mr. Murphy sat on the opposite side of Henry, hands loosely relaxed on his lap, knees slightly spread. It wouldn’t matter nearly as much to him that he sat so close to Truman. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy managed to appear very grumpy, and Henry noticed Truman’s mouth gaped open just as he pressed the shutter, but it was too late to change that.
Once the plate had been removed, Henry led the three to his darkroom, deftly removing the now dry photo off the line and dropping it into a drawer before anyone noticed. Anticipation bubbled inside him. This was the part that always excited him. After all his careful preparation, he could hardly wait to see if the last image taken would transpose onto the new plate. It always worked for him, but he still worried that once, just once, his planning would fail.
Swishing the paper in developing fluid, he twitched slightly in discomfort as Mrs. Murphy leaned too close as the image started to unfold before them. A strange white blob began to coalesce in the centre, followed by the trace of something that could be a veil or long hair.
“Oh.” Mrs. Murphy covered his mouth with both her hands, eyes wide. “Martha. It’s Martha.”
Mr. Murphy barely managed to catch her before she folded onto a heap on the floor. Henry smiled. This one turned out even better than anticipated.