Zhaoyuan Morón Welcome to part 42 of my black comedy novel, The Nurse Diaries – The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. My main character, The Nurse, swears terribly, wielding the c-word like a mighty weapon. If swearing makes you feel poorly, unhappy or cross, you’d best click away before it’s too late. Otherwise, enjoy the story. This time around The Nurse, who is perfectly disguised as the lovely Elise, sets about meeting and seducing her arch-enemy, The Inspector.
The Nurse knows exactly the right time to wiggle sexily past the police station on John Street. The Inspector is a creature of habit, as she has discovered. He always leaves the office for lunch at half twelve.
When The Inspector first catches sight of The Nurse, the sight of her shocks him so badly it almost knocks him off his feet. The woman who has just walked past Brighton police station looks so like his ex Jacqueline, the one who broke his heart, that he can’t breathe. A pedestrian flinches as The Inspector lurches, drops his gym bag, and puts a shaky hand out to steady himself against a wall. Propped up, his skin slimy with anxious sweat and his stomach bilious, he wipes his hanky over his moist forehead and breathes deep. It can’t be Jacqueline. It just can’t be.
The ‘Elise’ persona The Nurse has created suits her very well. Having never been beautiful in her home town before, she’s revelling in it. The cleverly timed walk-past she has just achieved is masterful in its timing, appeal, and simplicity. She unknowingly wears a discreet spray of Jacqueline’s favourite scent and the fragrance, when it reaches The Inspector on the breeze, rings all sorts of unconscious romantic bells inside his tough nut of a heart. She watches from a distance, grinning as he staggers and grabs the wall, his face grey. Then she nips off down a narrow snickleway between two buildings, escaping before he can gather his wits enough to follow.
Dazed, The Inspector leaves his gym bag in the gutter, pelts up the road, and turns the corner. Nothing. Hands on knees, head down, gasping, he swivels around. She’s gone. He has lost the woman, if she ever existed in the first place. Maybe he’s been working too hard. Perhaps she’s an apparition born of serious burnout. Since failing to crack that mass-trepanning, mass-murder case a few years ago, this fucking job has started to get him down.
Next time The Inspector sees Elise, he handles it better. He’s actually just relieved he isn’t going mental. He stops and stands perfectly still as she walks briskly across a T-junction a hundred metres away, there for a few seconds then gone. This time he walks fast, figuring a cool head will make a good result more likely than a full-on fucking run-for-your-life panic like last time. As he reaches the junction and looks left he can see her in the near distance, erect and proud-looking in a classic navy linen shift dress. This woman isn’t Jacqueline, but there’s an uncannily close resemblance.
Two agonising weeks later, The Inspector is a wreck. He keeps spotting the Jacqueline-woman on the streets, but she’s always just a little bit too far away to catch up with. She disappears around corners and into alleyways, vanishes like smoke in Churchill Square shopping centre, slips into pubs and escapes through back doors, leaving him breathless and confused. She shows up after dark, a tall shadow hidden by undergrowth looking up at his third floor window, gone by the time he has clattered down the stairs and thrown open the front door. He can’t sleep. He is losing his appetite. And he is starting to worry he’s losing the plot.
The Nurse is puzzled by the sheer power of her foe’s reactions. Okay, she looks pretty fucking good. She is a beautiful mature lady with a flavour of Sophia Loren about her. But the intensity of the surprise, the physical impact of her presence on The Inspector, doesn’t quite sit right. Maybe she reminds him of someone? That must be it.
When The Inspector leaves work one fine summer evening and walks straight into the woman of his dreamy nightmares, knocking her to the floor, all he feels at first is a wave of relief. He is not going mad. She is flesh and bone, and she smells gorgeous. Blind-sided by a swarm of powerful feelings he shakes his head to settle them and bends to help her up, almost floored by her perfection.
As she rises gracefully from the pavement, his hand firmly around her waist, he feels suddenly sick, the kind of soul-deep sickness you get from fierce food poisoning. Fuck me. Swallowing hastily, fighting the horror and nausea, he battles it away and smiles shakily. She calmly tucks a strand of glorious hair behind a curved pink shell of an ear and holds out a strong, square hand with beautifully kept scarlet nails. I’m Elise. I am so sorry. I honestly was not looking where I was going. Are you alright?
A French accent sounds fucking sexy on someone ugly. On Elise, who is stunning, it is out of this world. The Nurse has always been good at accents, and her time en France has lent hers authenticity. While her growly voice was scary when she looked like her natural self now, together with her glorious appearance, it is enough to drive a person crazy with dazzled lust. Smiling calmly at The Inspector, The Nurse has a momentary, familiar pang of horror. Is it safe to be so fucking conspicuous, standing right in front of her worst enemy? She shakes herself hard and shelves the fear. Fortunately every fleeting emotion is concealed by the top class surgery she’s had, and the Botox that subtly supports it. Thank fuck for that.
The Inspector is so used to spotting micro-expressions that he does it without thinking. When he senses nothing much from the woman’s friendly, frank smile except friendliness and frankness, he doesn’t find it odd. Some people just are what they appear to be. They don’t bother concealing anything. The Nurse’s open expression and lack of guile feels especially good to someone like him, who spends most of his life communicating with a tediously wide variety of liars, bell-ends, and psychopaths. The Inspector eyes the beautiful woman in front of him then relaxes as far as he’s capable of relaxing. Not far, but it’s a big step for such a control freak.
Aware he has held onto her hand for a fraction too long, he drops it and blurts, oh, don’t worry about it. You must be a bit shaken up, though. Can I make amends? Would you like to join me for a spliff? There’s a nice place around the corner. Elise’s calm smile, cat-like now the Inspector thinks about it, remains on her face. Yes please, she replies. That would be lovely. Thank you. Lead the way, Monsieur.
Two hours later they’re still at the table in the little cafe on George Street. Both tall people, their knees are wedged together under the table and the low ceiling looms just above their heads, so there’s no need to force intimacy. Intimacy is well and truly forced from the start. At first it’s a bit much for both of them. The Nurse doesn’t like being touched, it makes her want to lash out. The Inspector can’t remember the last time someone touched him with anything except violence or professional necessity. It has been nothing but punches from crims and handshakes from colleagues for longer than he wants to remember. Both of them feel weird having someone squidged up so close to them, less than a breath away.
Eventually, they relax. Elise orders more cake, a double G&T each, and another big spliff to share, and weaves her lies, telling her new friend the seamless back-story she prepared in Dieppe. The Inspector confesses she almost drove him nuts, popping up all over the place and looking so much like his ex, Jacqueline. The Nurse is able to be genuinely shocked by that one, since she is genuinely shocked. Fucking hell, what a fucking stroke of fortune. She had no idea she was the double of his ex. She really is a lucky cunt sometimes.
It feels like the Universe has decided The Nurse is not such a bad egg after all. It obviously isn’t going to take a lot of effort to make The Inspector – Anthony, as she is already calling him – fall for her. Once he’s hooked she can reel him in, render him harmless, then quietly kill him, securing her liberty for the rest of her life. No more worries about getting sent back to jail or, worse, being subjected to the omni-shambles they call ‘Care In The Community’.