“There it is again.”
Jaina Hayes bent close and stared at the computer monitor. She scrubbed
at the picture on the screen as if the smear could be removed that way.
“This is nuts,” she muttered to herself. “Three different days and
thirty pictures and every one of them with this flaw? That just doesn’t
Sitting back, she nibbled on her lower lip as she gazed
at the photo before her. It was one she’d taken just the day before at
the Père Lachaise Cemetery, one of the several she was using in her new
coffee table book of photography, Paris Cities of Silence.
She’d already finished with the pictures she’d taken at
Montparnasse and Montmarte cemeteries, and had gone through the pictures
she’d taken of the largest and most famous graveyard in Paris— Père
Lachaise—only to find no matter how many times she’d photographed this
tomb, it came out flawed. She’d gone back twice more to try again, and
still the weird smudge kept showing up. It was driving her crazy.
“It can’t be my equipment—” Jaina patted her precious
camera gently, “—or all the pictures would be damaged. So what is it
about this sepulcher that makes the difference?”
She studied the tomb carefully. Not nearly ornate as
it’s neighbors, its elegant designs and artwork were much simpler, the
lines cleaner. Architecturally, it was a medium-sized square building,
barely bigger than the single tomb it contained. It wasn’t one of the
better maintained ones in the cemetery. Stained with age, the roof was
crumbing at the edges and looked as if it might come down at any moment.
Some of the figurines and small statues were disintegrating, and the
tiny plot of land around it was badly overgrown with weeds.
But even with all that, even though there were many
more picture-worthy graves and sepulchers in the cemetery, for some
reason it was this monument she’d been drawn to. This was the tomb she
had to photograph over and over again. And she had no real idea why.
As she stared at the shadowed picture, a thought
crossed her mind, and she opened a second window to the internet. A few
key words and a moment later she was blinking in surprise at photographs
that looked remarkably similar to her own.
“Taken at La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires.” She
shook her head. “And this one is taken at the St. Louis cemetery in New
Orleans. This one at Arlington.” She clicked a few more links and found
dozens of pictures just the same. “My God, there are so many of them.
And all of them with the same kind of marks I have on my photographs.”
For a long time there was no sound but the steady snick
of the touchpad and the sound of the rain on the window outside. Then,
after a while, she clicked back to her own work. Thoughtful now, she
leaned back and stared at what she now realized was no ordinary image.
No. Best to say it outright, whether she really believed it or not.
She’d taken pictures of a ghost.
“The Marquis du Bolet,” she murmured. She traced the
etched name of the tomb’s occupant on her computer screen. “Okay,
mister. Who are you? And why do you keep messing up my photographs?”