The Nurse is thrilled to present the fourth chapter of her diaries, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her hair-raising adventures here.
Betty ‘gets by on her looks’
As a young woman, Betty is beyond beautiful. A soft, bird-boned kitteny thing with porcelain skin, violet Liz Taylor eyes and masses of tawny hair, she gets by on her looks. And she does very nicely indeed, thank you.
Betty comes from ‘humble beginnings’ in Woodingdean. Her dad’s a taxi driver for what a lot of locals have nicknamed Comedy Cabs, a terrifying lottery of a taxi service that sees passengers clutching the edge of their seats in horror as the cab careens the wrong way down a one-way street. Or bemused-angry – a tricky combination to handle – as the driver takes them the long route to Whitehawk when they wanted Hove.
Kari, Betty’s mum, comes from Iceland. Not the shop, the country. She’s a dolly bird as well. If MILFs had existed back then, she’d be one. Betty’s mum also gets by on her looks, always has, and that as well as being Icelandic means she has never learned much English. She barely speaks.
Betty’s entire childhood was noted for its silence, the quality of which varied depending on the mood at home. If her mum was feeling blue, as she often did when yearning for the frozen wastes and eggy volcanic stinks of Iceland, her usual daily utterance of around three words dwindled to none. Betty’s dad was proud of not being much of a talker himself, a self-confessed ‘man of few words,’ and his wife’s silences never bothered him. As a result of all this deprivation, Betty gabbles. She jumps on the slightest opportunity for conversation like a woman starving to death for the lack of it and hangs on like a limpet until the unfortunate victim extricates him or herself and scuttles away. But because it’s her only fault, as far as they know, and she’s so very lovely to look at, people forgive her.
By the time she reaches her mid-twenties, Betty is happily attracting, then throwing aside men with an unladylike relish hidden beneath a convincingly demure exterior…under which a large part of her mind is in a constant state of turmoil.
The thing is, Betty loves to knock people out. She has always enjoyed making folk lose consciousness. Not through torture. That’s not ladylike. She just really likes the fading out bit, the bit where you get life on one side and something entirely different and strange, something that hovers between life and death, on the other. She has been trying to figure out where the ‘life’ bit goes when someone passes out since she was a child, and failing, and the challenge keeps her constantly on the scent of new people to bash around the head. Some people have Gaydar. Betty has Victim-dar. It’s uncanny.
All this takes up most of her mental energy. The rest of Betty’s mind is a bit blank, to be frank. She has neglected her personality, as have her parents, her school and everyone else, in favour of her stunning physical appearance. As a result, in her twenties, she’s as shallow as shit. Fur coat and no knickers. A sort of ‘all mouth and no trousers’ creature that some find restful and others infuriating. It’s just as well they can’t see what seethes underneath her fairy-like exterior. They’d totally shit themselves.
Like The Nurse, who is doing similar things in Brighton at roughly the same time, Betty is discreetly practising her craft. It’s tricky in Woodingdean. You can’t just go knocking people for six willy-nilly here. Being far too conspicuous on home territory, Betty gets her dad to drop her off at the bottom of Elm Grove. Then she clip-clops downtown in her high heels, keeping her eyes peeled for the helplessly drunk and drugged, of which Brighton – a sin city if there ever was one, a prime destination for dirty weekends – has many.
Betty, as she ages, remains one of the most beautiful women you’re ever likely to see. But it’s a lonely life. It isn’t easy to find love when you get your most enjoyable, addictive kicks from watching people’s consciousness fade in and out. Betty can’t think of a single bloke who’ll happily sit by and watch as she plays her creepy games with Brighton’s vast population of drunken and drugged ne’er do wells.
When, in her fifties, Betty finally meets Len, sparks fly. Unlike Betty’s mum and dad, Len is a human conversation on legs. He cannot stop talking. As long as he’s awake, he’s chatting. He even converses in his sleep, something that lonely, conversation-starved Betty finds charming. The best thing about Len, though, is his astonishing lack of observation skills. If she wanted to, Betty could bring an entire football team of burly blokes back to their Hove house and knock the lot of them unconscious in the living room while Len watched football on telly. He wouldn’t notice a thing.
Betty lights up Len’s life with her constant chatter. Len brightens Betty’s days with his. They don’t listen to one another, but that doesn’t matter. When she wraps her legs around him at night, she feels she’s arrived, at last, where she belongs. She adores his constant burbling flow of inane chit-chat. His substantial private income isn’t to be sneezed at either, let’s be honest.
As the years pass by, Betty and Len rub along together nicely. Installed in a large mortgage-free Regency villa in Hove, childless and untroubled by convention, they create a lovely life. She and Len wander up the road early each morning to call, uninvited, on the neighbours, expensive bottles of wine under their arms. The neighbours change frequently, quickly losing the will to live thanks to endless unwanted invasions by the tiny, stunningly pretty woman and her husband, whose non stop verbal diarrhoea drives them to drugs, divorce and sometimes suicide. When the housing market goes to shit and people can’t sell their houses, the suicide rate on Betty and Lens’ street rockets even higher, eventually making it onto national TV as a mysterious and deadly pattern that nobody can solve. Rather like the Bermuda Triangle, the ‘Hove Triangle’ is quite famous for a while.
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