The Nurse Diaries – Part 43 Welcome to the next chapter of my black comedy novel about The Nurse, the worst ever British serial killer and a lady to be reckoned with. Don’t read it if you get all het up about swearing 😉

smoothly In this chapter The Nurse, in her guise as the lovely Elise, experiences a flash of genius following a desperate toothache. At the same time her prey, The Inspector, can’t quite figure out what’s making him feel so weird every time he sees her. What the fuck?

Capgras Syndrome

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Something about Elise sets The Inspector’s nerves jangling. Obviously the woman is a marvel. He adores her. But he’s bedevilled by instincts that refuse to let him relax. Yes, her lovely, warm presence fills his heart with lust and joy. Nevertheless a small, primitive, and annoyingly stubborn part of his brain begs to differ. Whatever it is, it’s  making him reluctant to turn his back on her, and causing him to jump a mile when she approaches silently on her strong, elegant bare feet. It is all very odd. Maybe he’s ill, perhaps it marks the secret growth of a deadly brain tumour. He mulls things over, switches on his laptop and rolls a fat one, muttering OK, let’s skin up for Jesus as he packs it tight with good weed, sparks it up, and begins his Google search.    

Elise bears a passing resemblance to his ex, Jacqueline. She also slightly resembles the presumed-drowned serial trepanner and killer who kicked his professional ass so hard a few years ago, the one who almost lost him his career. She reminds him of that woman, just slightly, every time a faintly familiar shadow crosses her features, fleetingly fast. Maybe it’s simply something about the line of her jaw. But while Elise is around the same height, there the resemblance ends. You can’t go around accusing people you love of being serial killers in disguise. That’s just mental. All the same, like a constant high frequency only dogs can hear, a thin fingernail-on-blackboard scratch of anxiety spoils his pleasure in their affair. He is never wholly immersed in the relationship, always alert for fuck knows what. It’s exhausting.

He types on. Then stops, sits, and stares into the middle distance. There’s an outside chance it’s Capgras syndrome. Christ on a bike. He ruffles his hair, joint in hand, then stops quickly, afraid he’ll set his head on fire. Steady on, tiger. Sighing gustily, The Inspector drags his gaze back to the screen and delves into Wikipedia. 

The Capgras delusion, a neurological condition, convinces the sufferer that a friend, spouse, parent, or someone else close – even a pet – is an impostor. The French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras, who died in 1950, classified it as a delusional misidentification syndrome. It sometimes creates delusions about places and things as well as humans, and it can last for a short while or many years. Most of the time it happens to people with paranoid schizophrenia, brain injuries or dementia, and it’s more common as you get older. The Inspector sits up straight and unconsciously sucks his belly in when he reads that bit. He might not be a spring chicken but he’s no pensioner. Oh, hang on… it also occurs in people with diabetes, hypothyroidism, migraine, and in one case in someone who took too much ketamine. And women are a third more likely to get it than men.

By now he’s pretty confident it isn’t Capgras. But hell, it’s a fascinating condition. Take the unfortunate Mrs D, aged 74. She was convinced her husband had been replaced by another man, refused to sleep with him, locked her bedroom door against him, was desperate for a gun and fought the police like a woman possessed when they tried to hospitalise her. Then there was poor Diane, a young victim at twenty eight who was certain a doctor had damaged her internally, leaving her infertile. Refusing treatment led her to develop a second delusion: an evil man was making exact copies of people, one bad and one good. And there’s Fred, aged 59, who began to see his wife as an impostor, as her own double. Shit. Poor old Fred. He eventually came to a bad end thanks to a ‘severe, all-encompassing frontal syndrome’, whatever the flying fuck that means. 

The Inspector sits back, relieved. That’s not right. That isn’t him. He is very glad he isn’t a Capgras sufferer. Thank fuck for that. On the other hand he’s no closer to knowing why his feelings for Elise are so strangely conflicted.  He sighs, shuffles paperwork, and gets back to a case so boring he’s forcing himself at metaphysical gunpoint to investigate the blasted thing. Talk about an attitude problem.

He’ll be seeing her again tonight, his Elise, and no doubt he’ll be in the same old bind. The Inspector is in love but his skin tingles subtly whenever she’s close, and not in a nice way.  It’s actually more of a crawl than a tingle, to be honest. Now and again he catches himself unconsciously scenting her, that barely-discernable fragrance that is entirely hers, reminding him of Jacqueline in a ghostly sort of way and sending his senses thrumming with alarmed lust.  Longing tinged with fear, a distant scream of terror in peaceful countryside, the smell tugs at his memory, a silvery fish with its tender mouth caught on a sharp, barbed hook.

The Inspector catches himself and grins grimly. Oh shut the fuck up, Anthony, he whispers, shrugging and circling tense shoulders. Silvery fucking fish? Man, you are losing the plot.

It doesn’t help that Elise is unusually opaque. He is utterly fascinated by her. Most women would kill for a man who clearly wants to know everything about them in fine detail, from birth onwards. But Elise keeps her past to herself. She brushes him off. She changes the subject. She dismisses his eager questions about her childhood with an airy wave of an elegant hand, ignores his hints and refuses to open up. He senses a difficult history, maybe a lot of suffering, and beneath it all a steel core that he worries he will never be able to breach. Her mysterious private income, her reluctance to tell him anything about her past life, it all adds up to a growing feeling of psychic discomfort.   

Binzhou Toothache

The Nurse wakes up to find her mouth feels weird. She opens her eyes a crack and experimentally rolls her jaw to and fro’. Fuck, that hurts. It feels like someone is prodding the flesh around her top left wisdom tooth with a steel shiv, wiggling it around. Holy crap. The Nurse pokes her tooth cautiously with a finger, wincing. Bollocks. She has not just developed a toothache, she has a large, fast-swelling abscess that’s hurting more by the second. Her eyes water with pain as she fishes blindly in her handbag for her mobile phone. Google delivers the name of a good dentist, a Greek guy called Ilias, famed for his gentle touch and unusually popular despite an appalling sense of timekeeping. Two hours later she’s in the waiting room for an emergency appointment and eventually gets to see Ilias at two pm, by which time she is fucking livid.

Once she’s safely in the chair, Ilias cheerily asks The Nurse to open her mouth wide then takes a look. He pokes carefully around the area of the abscess with a sharp tool then stands back and sighs happily. My dear lady, you appear to have a whopper of  an abscess, and it must hurt like fuckery. You have a choice. I can give you antibiotics to take the swelling down, then try to save the tooth. Or I can whip the bastard out and have done with it. What do you reckon?

The Nurse appreciates Ilias’ straight talking, and carefully mulls things over. She does not want to get to know too many people, or become in any way conspicuous. She wants to stay discreet and private, at least for now. It will be risky having to visit the dentist every time this fucking idiot of a dodgy wisdom tooth decides to flare up. So the tooth is going to have to come out. Ilias says that’s fine, it won’t take long, and does she want the extraction done today? 

Well, there’s a thing. The Nurse entered the surgery in agony but leaves feeling fantastic despite being lighter by one very large, pointy tooth. The process wasn’t much of an ordeal, to be honest. The surgery smelled good, all clean and spotless. The receptionists were kind. And dentistry is obviously a lucrative career, one with a never-ending supply of agonised clients.  But the thing that’s making The Nurse’s heart sing most of all is the tools Ilias used. The tools of the trade.

As it turns out, dental surgery tools are almost as beautiful and strange as her vintage trepanning tools. The glint of spotless steel, the sharp edges, the curls and points, and the handles’ cunning shapes… it’s enough to give her a secret thrill. It might be a poor cousin of the much bigger thrills she used to get when trepanning her victims in the olden days, but it is better than no thrill at all.

That’s it. The deal is sealed. It only takes The Nurse two more days to do the research, enrol on a local course and kick off an exciting new life as a dentist.

Big plans

A couple of evenings later, freshly shaved and fragrant, suited and booted, The Inspector turns up bang on time, unconsciously holding the enormous bunch of scarlet, orange and pink gerbera he’s brought in front of his body like a weapon. Elise flings the door open in her typical French way, kisses his cheek with a soft smile and briefly caresses his hair. The clammy terror he always feels in her presence swells nastily then recedes as he forces it back into its cage – fuck off, you. The rest of him melts with sheer pleasure. He has never felt so happy/sad/safe/terrified/sane/mental. It must be love, love, love.

Shooing him into her large, bright kitchen, Elise grabs a bottle of red from the fridge and pours them both a generous glass The she leans against the table, head cocked slightly to the side and arms folded, eyeing him warmly. So Anthony, my love, she purrs. I have decided on my new career. I can’t leave Brighton. It’s where you are, and I want to be with you. I am going to train to be a dentist. It’s a lifetime’s fascination, I have the cash, and it’s time to take the next step. He stands up, knocking his chair over in his enthusiasm, and hugs her close to him, Oh Elise, that’s wonderful!  The Inspector hadn’t quite realised how afraid he was that his Elise would simply disappear just as suddenly as she’d arrived. Now he can relax a bit. Or can he? He’s still tense, still all over the place. How strange. 

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