“No way. No. No, it’s too dangerous. No, you can’t. Seriously, you’ll hurt yourself. It’s not worth it. There could be a total psycho! Oh for goodness’ sake, all right. But if you get hacked to bits, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
My 12-year-old daughter has been telling me off for the past ten minutes. She’s adamant that entering the abandoned building on the waterfront is going to lead to my death, or at the very least, curtail her hopes of purchasing something unhealthy on the drive home.
I’m sulking. She’s being very strict. It’s not like her. Normally she’d be the first to yank at the metal sheeting and crawl through the broken glass and rubble into the darkness beyond. But tonight she thinks there is a very good chance that there is some psychopath waiting for us on the other side. Last time we came here it was daylight and the squat grey building on the dockside looked merely uninviting. As the rain blows in off the water and the thumbnail of moon is devoured by surging grey-black clouds, I can see why, on balance, she would rather that tonight we had used our weekly bonding evening at the cinema.
I’ve been a published novelist since Elora was six. She doesn’t really remember a time when Daddy had a real job. She’s grown up listening to me give talks at literature festivals and libraries and documenting her best moments of weirdness with endless tweets and status updates. She’s spent her formative years discussing the merits of bludgeoning versus throttling and has her own views on whether or not it is cool to have your dad come into school and give an expletive-laden and unremittingly bleak motivational speech to the older pupils.
The thing is, Elora has a mind like mine. She has a dark, surreal and occasionally twisted way of looking at things. She gives insightful answers that will blow your mind. At five, when I asked her which came first, the chicken or the egg, she pondered for a while and then said it was ‘the’.
I write books in which decent detective and family Aector McAvoy gets sucked into dark, grimy investigations filled with acts of brutality and hate. His is a world where good and evil are abstract concepts. Good people do bad things and vice versa. Actions have consequences. Coincidences serve as catalyst for bloodshed. He is a light in an expanding ocean of utter blackness and only the love of his wife and children keeps him afloat. Elora has heard me say all this plenty of times and has yet to agree with those who contend that I’m clearly a dangerous man who should be locked up forthwith.
I’m not one of those parents who wakes up in a morning determined to make my child all that she can be. I’d rather she picked a healthy breakfast cereal and brushed her teeth and polished her shoes but in truth, we’re usually sprinting across the playground as the school bell rings – she’ll be devouring a Kit-Kat and cleaning her teeth on her collar and I’ll be chomping on her homework diary to make it look as if the dog ate the bit which told her what work she should have done. I get a lot of disapproving glances from other mums and dads, but in my defence, Elora is an awful lot more interesting than they are.
Elora has learned a lot as my partner in crime-writing. She has sat quietly in the back seat of my car while I have interviewed members of the UK Travelling community about recent bare-knuckle fights. She has cowered beside me, trying not to giggle, as security guards have swept their torches into the shadows of abandoned buildings, seeking out intruders. She has seen people in pubs and restaurants shoot terrified glances at one another as we have sat and worked out where the third body in book four should be displayed and whether or not a rug made of human skin would be difficult to vacuum. Like I say, it’s an odd relationship, but we do laugh a lot and she’s quite an expert at spotting the flaws in my dastardly plans.
I imagine I’ll talk her into entering the creepy building with me. We took a load of photos last time we were inside and when we looked at them when back in the safety of the car, we spotted a load of graffiti on the walls which signposted the way to Hell and claimed to be seeking victim number four. We’ve already worked out what it might mean but she won’t be able to drop it until she climbs back into the darkness and opens the lid of the large white refrigerator that the camera flash picked up in the corner of one frame …
Don’t worry too much about Elora. She sleeps soundly. It’s me that gets the jitters.
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