The Nurse is delighted to introduce the sixth chapter of her diaries, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her terrifying adventures here.
The Winds of Change
Len meets a sticky end
In Hove, Betty is feeling a lot less tolerant of Len’s constant yakking. Decades of uninterrupted talk have taken their toll, and sometimes Betty thinks she’ll go mad with it. Len, she’s starting to suspect, could do with knocking out… and maybe permanently. Now that’s what she calls a plan.
At the same time as The Nurse is dreaming about doing a runner from jail, Betty is busy killing Len. She hasn’t actually done anyone in before, not totally, and she’s finding it quite spectacularly messy and awkward. The outfit doesn’t help. She doesn’t have an overall or a pair of dungarees or anything ghastly like that. She’s dressed in her best pale pink silk kimono, and Len’s bodily fluids are getting everywhere. Literally everywhere.
It’s a big, complicated task. Having bashed Len over the head with her lump hammer, Betty is disconcerted to discover she’s actually a little bit squeamish about the death bit. The blood’s OK, she can handle that, it’s such a gorgeous shade of scarlet when wet. But the splintery bits of bone sticking out of Len’s head are making her feel nauseous. It’s something to do with the colour combination – scarlet blood, pinky flesh and white bone, plus the slight greenish tinge that blemishes Len’s skin. Yuk.
Betty sits holding Len’s fast-cooling hand until darkness falls, then sighs with relief and gets up, massaging the small of her back to soothe the stiffness. The she rolls herself a massive joint. Well, that’s that. Len is done in and ready to bury. Thank goodness the garden is big enough for an army of done-in blokes, never mind one naked Len, who seems to have shrunk in death. He looks like something small and shabby that the bin men forgot to collect, a sort of mucky, flesh-pink umbrella with broken spokes sticking out every which way. Anyway, it’s time for bed. She’ll think about the burial side of things in the morning.
This is the first time Betty has slept alone since she met Len. It’s heavenly. It is so quiet and peaceful without his permanent chatting getting on her wick. While talking to herself isn’t much fun, she realises she should have gotten rid of Len years ago.
Escape From Fuckditz
Back in the nuthouse, the runes are looking good. Nobody’s around. The Nurse wants out of here, and fast. But at the same time, she’s half-starved and locked in a fucking solitary cell in the basement. Shite. She curses herself for taking her eye off the ball recently. Let’s face it, lately her eyes have been more sous le ballon than dans le fucking thing. She’s been losing her edge for a long time, and she wants it back.
The Nurse figures out a plan. She has no tools except fingernails. Luckily, they are horny, yellowing, and as tough as Bakelite. She scrapes experimentally at the loose plaster where the cell bars meet the crumbly wall. Then scrapes harder with two nails, and even harder with all of them. Bloody but relieved, an hour later she’s out, padding swiftly along in her pink towelling loony bin slippers.
If horrid smells bothered The Nurse, she’d be vomiting by now. They don’t, and she isn’t. The stench is awe-inspiringly foul, but The Nurse ignores it. She’s just glad to be alive, humming jauntily as the glassy stares of dead inmates, all fishy, follow her along the damp, grey corridors.
The woman whose name nobody knows is dead. That’s a shame, she was a laugh. Now she’s dangling from a light fitting outside her cell, her swollen blue-purple tongue sticking out rudely. The Nurse strides past and puts her tongue out in response. She doesn’t find Lavinia, whose cell door is hanging loose and covered in blood. Where’s she got to?
Simon, the guy three cells down, is dead. Simon was a Hedge Fund Manager with a massive mansion in central London, a trophy wife and two smart kids in public school before he was clonked on the head by a passing felon toting half a brick. His brain injury left him unable to resist draping himself from head to toe in bling, designer frocks and Jimmy Choos. Harmless in itself. But the police took a very dim view when he started accosting small boys outside the Co-op in Mayfair, claiming to be their Mummy.
Wayne from cell seventy-six is dead too. What a pity. Convicted of mass murder, kidnapping, arson and starting – single-handedly – several vicious wars in small African countries, he was a proper nutter who smelled like a stoat, had gimlet eyes, permanently moist palms, and an unfortunate twitch. You know the score: the kind of bloke who’d joyfully cut your goolies off for a tenner. Luckily, a judicious trepanning experiment by The Nurse – which saw her sent straight back to solitary yet again – sorted him out. In Wayne’s latter days, the inmates christened him ‘Saint Wayne.’ He was helpful, self-effacing and immaculately polite. Best of all, when The Nurse and her fellow inmates got bored, he’d let them crucify him. He claimed to like it.
Finally emerging through the front gates of the deserted, death-filled prison, the Nurse realises she’s forgotten about the moat. Bugger. Back indoors she goes. Hot and sweaty by now, she undresses the bloated body of the Unit Administrator, then takes off her own clothes, tucks the Administrator’s garments under her arm and swims across the moat. Then she dries herself with handfuls of grass and pulls on the knee length A-line skirt, nylon blouse, acrylic cardi and plastic wedgie sandals. Drab and respectable. That will do nicely.
The Nurse spent years envying free spirits who had days and days in the glorious countryside to look forward to. All those fuckers who could walk to the corner shop in their under-shreddies if they saw fit, or take a naked stroll round the park on a whim. Bastards. Now that she’s free, simply walking, just putting one foot in front of the other, feels wonderful. The Nurse hasn’t walked any distance for years. Since being jailed, she has been forced to satisfy herself with imaginary walking.
The Nurse was always a keen hiker. She’d stride the South Downs Way twenty shining miles at a time, spirit happily drowning in the spiralling song of skylarks. She’d push her lithe body up the soaring crags of Langdale Pikes in Cumbria. She’d wander the Cleveland Way up north, collecting owl pellets and smelling the heather. And she’d sit on top of Dorset’s sky-hugging sea cliffs, watching the gulls wheel and cry against the vast bowl of blue.
In prison, limited to exercising for a few scant minutes in a grim, grey lavatory-sized yard twice a week, significant amounts of imagination were required for this mind-walking. The Nurse was forced to work ever-harder over the years to recall the sights and smells of the Lake District, the Downs, the hills and dales of lovely England.
When the weather was beautiful outdoors, her memories were especially poignant. She’d dream about crawling from her tent on a bluer than blue, summer-frosty Helvellyn morning. Hitching her rucksack onto her sturdy back for a day following the knobbly chalk spine of the South Downs, swinging along parallel to the balmy sea. Or happily venturing deep into Devon’s cool, echoing, bird-loud woods.
Sometimes The Nurse wonders whether all the murder and mayhem was worth it. This is one of those times. She has missed the outdoors more than anything. Occasionally, when a visitor from the outside world used to waft past her cell, she could almost taste it. She has missed the tantalising scent of the trees, of sun-warmed sheep, of cut grass. She has missed the pleasure-pain stretch of sunburn after a strenuous hike on the first hot day of the year.
On the other hand, the shining metallic thrill of her old amateur brain surgery exploits is hard to beat. To someone like The Nurse, screams of human terror can’t really be surpassed by a robin’s song. Observing the caterpillar’s elegant progress up a stem will never beat the thrill of tying some poor sod up and bundling them into the back of a van. Even Alfred Wainwright’s majestic Coast to Coast Walk doesn’t put her ad hoc trepanning exploits into the shade. Nowhere near.
Properly outdoors for the first time in a decade, The Nurse studies the lay of the land. This place really is in the middle of nowhere, a squat, long, dark brick building, a Victorian loony bin set in a slim valley at the end of a winding lane with long grass growing down the middle. Nobody’s been down here for ages. It’s muddy, but The Nurse can’t see a single footprint or vehicle track. Fuck knows where the Screws have gone. Fuck knows why the inmates are dead. Fuck them all. She doesn’t bastard care.
Her first night on the run proves tricky. Coming down from the adrenaline high of escape, The Nurse is cold, thirsty and exhausted. She creeps across the flat patchwork landscape, sticking close to the ruler-straight fenland hedgerows and ditches and keeping her silhouette safely below the horizon.
Falling foul of razor sharp barbed wire in the pitch dark, she mops up the drops with a handful of dock leaves, enjoying the black gleam of moonlit blood. She catches a baby rabbit and eats it raw. It tastes like shit, and the fur sticks to her teeth, but eating warms her up.
That night, she sleeps in a ditch, rolled like a maggot in an old piece of carpet. For a woman once known for sharp dressing and immaculate grooming, it’s a kind of hell. But The Nurse can scent her beloved Brighton, distant on the wind, the city of her heart, and she shoves the humiliation roughly aside. This is no time for weakness.
As The Nurse treks determinedly southwards, now somewhere between Bedford and Hertford, she’s mulling over the news. What a shit show. The Nurse doesn’t like politicians much. They’re not funny. They are not clever. They are dangerous too. The news makes her head hurt, and she can’t stop the rant. The only problem with head-ranting is, it makes The Nurse crosser and crosser, winding her up like a rusty spring ‘til she eventually explodes into a chilly rage so all-encompassing and vast that it darkens the inside of her head like a storm. And that’s when people really get hurt.
Slapping herself around the head a few times, she remembers that this is no time lose the plot. It is time to calm down, sit on a dry patch under a hedge and gnaw on some leathery leftover chunks of rabbit – rather delicious when you’re this hungry. After all, it won’t be long ‘til The Nurse reaches London. She can already see the city’s orange glow to the south when darkness falls. And beyond that, on the far horizon, there’s Brighton.
If you want to blend in, come to the capital. The Nurse, having tidied herself up as best she can in a Swiss Cottage public loo and stolen a rather smart little tweedy outfit from a charity shop, cuts a reasonably inconspicuous figure. With nutters galore everywhere, an older lady limping along with a bouffed Margaret Thatcher hairdo, filed pointy teeth, a brown tweed suit and a thunderous expression doesn’t stand out too much. Especially in a place like Oxford Street, where the loonies of the world congregate. Stand here long enough, and you’ll eventually see every booby on the planet shuffle by.
Right now, The Nurse is hanging around outside Lloyd’s of London in The City, discreetly smoking skunk, admiring the funky metal tubing and reminded – momentarily and pleasurably – of a pile of steaming intestines.
Last night, she broke into a posh flat along a leafy London street and slept like a baby in the softest bed she’s encountered for ages. Then she breakfasted well in a stranger’s spotless contemporary kitchen, hooking a tin of grapefruit, a stray avocado and a chunk of Battenburg out of the cupboard with rubber-gloved hands, leaving behind a few crumbs and an enormous shit in the silly bastard’s bed. How very satisfying.
Tonight, she’s walking through the wee small hours, hoping to hit Sussex by Christmas Day. Her mobile battery is long dead, and at this stage in the game, sleep isn’t an option.
Paralleling the A23 and moving steadily south, The Nurse imagines she can taste the salty tang of the sea on the westerly breeze. But it’s probably wishful thinking. The English Channel’s siren call has always brought out the best in her. Or the worst, depending on your perspective.
If you object to having your skull trepanned when you’re least expecting it, you probably won’t approve. If, on the other hand, you think carrying out amateur brain surgery on unwilling victims without their permission sounds like fun, she’ll see you in Brighton.
A lunatic took over the asylum
Startled from a light slumber by a piece of newspaper blowing across her face late the next night, in a crappy park playground somewhere north of Coulsdon, The Nurse is unable to get back to sleep for the cold. She huddles back down into her pile of leaves and scans the headlines. Her eyes narrow, and her breathing quickens. Fuck me sideways. So that’s what happened back at the prison.
She never had much to do with Andy Cockwomble in jail. His nickname’s origins lay in a Womble costume, a mate’s prank with scissors, a habit of Going Commando, a group of Japanese EF students and a fucking massive machete. Join them together, add that special West Street ambience of vomit and violence, long famed in Brighton, and you can probably guess the rest. The outcome was not good, leaving a man whose real surname nobody remembers with one of the worst nicknames known to kingdom come.
Cockwomble was off-the-scale crazy, batshit-mental-crazy-bonkers, as well as mean, stupid and cruel. It’s just as well he was whippet-thin and just tipped four-foot-eight. As a big lad or a fat lad, he’d be fucking lethal. He was bonny, mind you, a looker with that foppish Hugh Grant hairstyle and those big green eyes.
Apparently, Cockwomble completely lost it the weekend before The Nurse’s escape, having wolfed down fifty grams of speed he got from a naïve Screw in exchange for one of his shit drawings. Not ‘shit drawings’ as in pictures that are a bit crap, but drawings done with actual excrement. Some people have no taste. Nor sense of smell.
Anyway, Cockwomble apparently threw a massive wobbly, got naked in record time, flinging clothing left right and centre. He nicked the terrified Screw’s cuffs, securing the man to the bars of his cell, locking the door and taking the keys – including the master key for the entire facility – with him. Then he happily went on the rampage.
The pattern eventually becomes clear to investigators some days afterwards. Cockwomble lets the prisoners he likes loose, accounting for three or four escapees out of a total of a hundred and fifty high security nut-jobs. The rest he dispatches in breathtakingly creative ways, from simple throat cutting through flaying and quartering to complicated rituals involving random blends of cancer drugs nicked from the prison pharmacy. He completely forgets about The Nurse, the only inmate locked in Solitary at the time.
Having killed almost everyone and sent the terrified prison staff fleeing in their cars, fish-tailing down the gravel driveway in a blind panic, he slits his own throat and dies with a smile on his face. That’ll show the fuckers.
Even The Nurse, immune to violence, is momentarily shocked. Then she roars with gravelly laughter. That’s actually as funny as fuck. The irony is delicious; as a serial killer of epic proportions, she has been saved by a weaselly fucker whose illegal activities were so extreme, they sent him to a secure nuthouse for three decades. Thanks for the favour, Cockwomble. If she sees you in hell, she’ll owe you one.
The next day is bright and chilly, the walking good and brisk. The Nurse is wending her way from the deadly dull ‘burbs of south London to Brighton, along a route she has decided is nice and discreet. She doesn’t want to be spotted marching along the hard shoulder of a busy road, nor does she want to stick to the country lanes, where she’s just as conspicuous in her tweed suit and heels.
The route she has chosen is a countryside one, an official public footpath, but things have changed an awful lot since she last did this walk all those years ago. Now her enjoyment is constantly interrupted by a series of middle aged men in Lycra – MAMILs – aboard stupendously expensive cycles made from crazy shit like carbon fibre and weird aluminium alloys.
Annoyed beyond belief as yet another of the cunts tries to hurtle past her without warning, making her jump out of her skin for the fourteenth time, she sticks an arm out and grins as he wobbles, momentarily recovers, loses it again, then sails off the path, yelling as he and his silly fucking bike plunge sixty feet down into a quarry. Ha, got the fucker.
Abandoning the footpath, she changes course onto the disused railway line that runs between Guildford and Shoreham-by-Sea. What a bonus. There’s enough room for walkers and cyclists, it’s as straight as an arrow, and there’s more or less no uphill or downhill to deal with.
Thirty-four and a half miles and two days later, feeling ragged and sore all over, The Nurse staggers off the riverbank footpath onto Shoreham High Street and grabs a Comedy Cab to Brighton. As she expects, the driver takes her the long way ‘round, drops her off in Kemptown instead of Hove and tries to charge her fifty quid for the privilege. It’s great to know some things never change. She refuses to pay, tells him to fuck off, and strides determinedly towards the city centre. Home at last!
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