Is there anybody there?
Piers put the record on the turn-table. He lifted the tone-arm back, clicking it into spinning motion. Holding the tone-arm between thumb and finger, he said:
‘It’s an S.P.R. thing. The record of a Direct Voice sitting someone ran up at Tavistock Square once. I forget which medium and they’ve left it off the label as well.’
I said: ‘You mean the S.P.R. vouch for it?’
Piers smiled. ‘No. Not quite. It was a full blackness sitting and they hadn’t rigged up their infra-red cameras and things then. For interest only. Listen.’
He set down the tone-arm. There was the hiss of the revolving needle, punctuated by the usual heavy scratches of amateur recordings. Piers turned the volume up and they became even louder. I listened, inattentively. The first whispering speech was barely distinguishable from the scratchings. But the effect of it, issuing from the radiogram’s heavy, ornate speaker, brought me forward in an involuntary movement of apprehension. Howard got up from his chair and Olivia came across from the divan. We twitched on strings towards that crabbed, shivering voice as it rose and fell above and below the level surge of surface noise. It was joined by another, unnaturally loud – presumably one of the sitters interrogating. I listened, beginning to pick up the thread of the conversation.
The loud voice: ‘… to hear you again. Mrs. Purley is with us this afternoon. She does so want to know if you have seen anything of Lionel, lately. I suppose he won’t be able to come through to-day?’
‘No. Not to-day … There won’t … but he wants to send his love to all.’