I suddenly become aware that the group is staring at me and our guide is talking to me.
“Sorry,” I say quickly. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Obviously,” he says. “Because you missed the bit where I said I wasn’t a resident charity.”
“I think I’ve missed something,” I say slowly.
The other members of the group shift slightly, obviously enjoying the entertainment, but not wanting to draw too much attention to themselves in case his laser gaze turns on them.
“You have missed something,” he says. “You’ve missed the part where you pay for the tour.”
“Oh fuck, sorry.” I edge forwards and dig in my pocket for my wallet. “Of course I’ll pay. How much is it?”
“Well, usually it’s six pounds.” I open my wallet, and he stares at me. “But that’s for people who are on time. You, however, are late, so it’s a tenner.”
I’m about to argue with this logic when a big man stirs at the back of the group. “Can we get a move on? It’s fucking freezing.”
“Could you watch your language?” another man says crossly.
“I can. I just might not want to,” the big man says.
My guide sighs and glares at me. “See what you’ve done now? This was a very well-behaved group before you turned up. You’re like a human grenade.”
I open my mouth to refute this unfair observation, but he shakes his head. “Okay, people,” he calls out to the group. “Let’s be off to our next stop on the ghost tour led by the Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings.”
“Sounds like a circus act,” I mutter. Then I pause. “Is your name really Blue?” I exclaim.
He stares at me. “Yes.”
“You’re kidding,” I say far too loudly, making him and a couple of other members of the group jump. “Sorry,” I say quickly. “It’s just that it’s what I called you in my head.” I realise what I just said and flush.
“Okay,” he says slowly. “And do you talk to the voices in your head?”
“Oh no, I’m not mad. Not that you’d have to be bonkers to hear voices,” I say quickly to a lady who’s staring at me and attempting to edge away. “I mean, who doesn’t have a voice or two in their head?” I end slightly desperately.
A couple of people obviously don’t as they move away from me too. Incredibly, Blue smiles. It’s a real smile, not one of those sharp, toothy ones he seems to give everyone else, and I blink, struck by his quirky beauty. Then he turns, and I hasten after him as he sets off at a fast clip through the streets of York, his top hat set at a jaunty angle.