The Nurse is delighted to introduce the seventh chapter of her dark comedy, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her horrible, violent adventures here.
Brighton, Home Sweet Home
Eddie is an ordinary enough bloke until the shit incident changes his life… and not in a good way. A talented investment banker, he’s on the Brighton to London commuter train one Friday morning after a big night ‘out-out’ clubbing with clients, when he starts to feel poorly.
Realising he has no choice and no time to waste, Eddie races to the train toilet and relieves himself, far too quickly and messily to either hit the bowl or miss his trousers. Thankfully, he has a fresh pair in his gym bag.
He cleans up the best he can using his already-shitty trousers, then throws them out of the loo window before gratefully reaching into the bag for the other pair. You know what’s coming, don’t you? They are not there. The bag contains a cricket jumper.
Eddie has no trousers. He is naked from the waist down. His only salvation is the cricket jumper, which he wears like a pair of woolly harem pants: legs down the armholes, a gaping head-hole where the trouser-crotch ought to be, and the hem of the jumper tied bulkily at the chest. A good look it is not, even for the weirdo-strewn Brighton to London service.
Returning to Brighton at the end of his worst ever nightmare of a day, freshly-trousered before work in a men’s outfitters near London Bridge station, Eddie thinks he’s got away with it. Fatally overconfident, he foolishly diverts, heading to the Pedestrians Arms for a quick, healing pint. Four hours later, he weaves his way home to Scotland Street in Hanover, up that fucker of a hill, as pissed as a fart, and face-plants onto the bed fully clothed.
The next morning, Eddie wakes up, still a bit wankered, with that dreadful certainty that affects the very drunk who have taken the concept of a ‘quick’ drink way too far. He knows in his bones he has done something appalling. When he remembers, he’s so horrified, he actually throws up.
Eddie has told everyone in the pub about the trouser shitting incident. What had seemed shameful when sober had been lent an entertaining glow by some beer, and by pint six he’d spilled the beans far and wide.
Strangers bought Eddie drink after drink, clapped him on the back, spread the word around the North Laine and texted the story to their mates, who told their mates, and so on. Brighton being only two people wide, by this morning everyone in the city knows about his accident, and Eddie isn’t Eddie anymore. He’s Shitty Eddie, and the nickname sticks like shit to a blanket. How are the mighty fallen.
London and Brighton share what the city’s estate agents call ‘excellent transport links,’ which basically means there are trains. Plenty of Brighton’s workers commute, and Eddie is well-known in the financial services sector. It’s a terrible combination. Delighted commuters tell their colleagues about Eddie’s accident, who in turn pass it on to people from every county surrounding the capital, it being far too good not to share.
Before long, the entire Square Mile, indeed the entire south of England, is buzzing with the news. Eddie is a laughing stock, and one cruel week later his boss lets him go, furious that the bank’s name has somehow become a by-word for shit. So here’s Shitty Eddie, head in hands, slumped in his terraced house in Hanover with a mortgage the size of a blue whale – or Wales – hanging over his head. What a disaster.
The trauma takes a long time to fade. Next time Eddie gets on the train, many months later, he remains rightfully wary… for a while. By the time he’s almost in London, having survived the journey intact, beset by neither disaster nor humiliation, he is once again dangerously overconfident. This is becoming a ‘thing’ with the new Shitty in his freshly-shittier form. His confidence levels often far exceed any reason he might have for being confident in the first place. And all this sits against a landscape where, compounding the disaster, those who know and love Eddie best have affectionately shortened his name to ‘Shitty,’ not ‘Eddie,’ proving once and for all that most people are cunts.
Feeling on top of the world on the train journey back home, and as a result peaking way too early, Shitty leans in and tells a joke to the lady next to him. She grins. Emboldened, he tells another. She laughs with delight, as do two more of his fellow passengers. Then he tells a brilliant joke about dwarves, and the next thing he knows, there’s a furious actual dwarf standing on the seat next to him, pummelling him in the face with its tiny fists.
It’s like a nightmare come true. When Shitty staggers off the train one stop early at Preston Park station, bloody and black-eyed, none of the other departing passengers will meet his eye. They look at their feet, and Eddie scuttles off, and it is shameful. Trains and Shitty Eddie no longer go well together, and he decides never to darken their doors again.
Shitty can’t commute, and he can’t get a job. Before long, he’s on the streets, joining countless other homeless people who have made their way to Brighton because they’re desperate, the weather’s nicer than most places, the Council is kind, there’s a beach, and if you’re going to be on your last legs, down to your last fucking groat, you might as well be utterly fucking miserable somewhere fun.
Back in Blighty
Back in her beloved hometown, now re-classified as a city, The Nurse has been as busy as a vicious bee getting her new identity in shape. Her teeth are the first priority. It’s no good trying to be inconspicuous with pointy gnashers. Thankfully, all she has to do is track down and blackmail a former Amateur Brain Surgery Club affiliate, now (hilariously) a private dentist over Rottingdean way, to get them sorted.
You should see her gorgeous new pearlies. They remind her of her false teeth business idea, a cracker dreamed up back when she was in prison. It already feels like a lifetime ago. The Nurse flexes her powerful shoulder muscles in pleasure. Simply being able to walk across a room more than six feet across still gives her a thrill.
Next, a new name. After digging up a secret cash stash cleverly buried in the crematorium on Bear Road many years ago, she buys a false identity. Thank goodness for Chemical Dave, her ex-experimental brain surgery pal who’s still hanging around town, as bald and as easily led as ever, and still a talented forger.
Third, somewhere to live. It proves easy enough to knock off the old bat in the smart Kemptown flat The Nurse now ‘owns’ and bury the body under the small patio garden. Amazingly, it doesn’t smell too bad out there, all things considered. That’s the beauty of cold weather.
The Nurse soon finds out what happened to Chemical Dave, The Chief Surgeon and Hairy Dave all those years ago, the night they escaped arrest and she got nicked.
Over the years, she has convinced herself something terrible must have happened to the men to keep them from coming home. The reality of the matter proves disappointingly banal. The fuckers were telling each other ghost stories and freaked each other out so much, they didn’t dare leave the pub, where there was a lock-in underway. Gradually, she pieces together what occurred.
Bored and half-pissed early that long-ago afternoon, Chemical Dave suggested exchanging spooky tales, and he went first.
“I was walking back home cross country from the pub. I’d only had two pints, so I wasn’t drunk, just a bit mellow. It was a bright moonlit night, and I could see for miles across the Vale of York. I’d just rounded a curve in the grassy lane when I heard a horse some way behind me, galloping fast. As it got closer, I could hear its breath blowing. It was obviously either terrified or really angry, so I threw myself into the ditch before it turned the corner and ran me down.
“As I landed on the ground, the sound stopped dead. But it didn’t sound as though a horse had stopped running. It sounded like a recording of a horse had been switched off. One second it was there, the next it had completely gone. I picked myself up out of the ditch and walked back around the corner. No horse. No people. No nothing. Just silvery moonlight and total silence.”
Overhearing, the old scrote who always sat in the corner next to the pool table joined in. “I’m eighty now, and I’ve lived in my house for sixty years. Every night after going to bed, I hear two sharp knocks on my bedroom door. You know the kind of knock someone makes when they’re saying, ‘It’s only me… are you there?’ A sort of questioning, friendly knock? I’ve always expected a third knock but it never comes. I’m not scared. If something wanted to hurt me, it would have done so a long time ago. I’ve always promised myself if it ever knocks a third time, I’ll tell it to come in.”
Hairy Dave was keen to get his own story heard. “I wanted to explore a local quarry to look for fossils, but I had to ask permission from the landowner first. A little girl answered the door. I explained what I’d like to do and asked her if her mum and dad were around. She said they were out but it should be fine, adding that I should be careful of the horse because it bites.
“I thought I’d better confirm things with her parents, so I dropped by on the way home the next day. The door was answered by an elderly lady. I explained I’d spoken to her granddaughter the day before and wanted to check with an adult that it really was OK to explore the quarry. But she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She said she didn’t have a granddaughter, there were no children in the house and there hadn’t been horses on the farm since she was a child. Then she went white as a sheet with what looked like sheer terror and slammed the door in my face. Weird.”
‘Top Pub Totty’ Claire joins in with her own scary story. “My toddler, Jess, kept waking up crying, saying she was cold and there was an old lady sitting on her bed. Her bedroom door closes with ‘sneck,’ an old-fashioned iron mechanism mounted high up on the door well out of her reach. Even if she could have reached the sneck, she wasn’t strong enough to click it open. But every night for weeks, we found Jess’ bedroom door had mysteriously swung open and it was freezing inside.
“One night, it was about fifteen degrees C in the hallway but so cold in her room that we could see our breath steaming. I knew who the old lady was. It was my Gran. I recognised her from Jess’s description. It went on for six weeks or so, then it stopped as suddenly as it started.”
Then Gary the landlord pipes up with one of his own. “I was staying in this French hotel. I woke up in the small hours to total chaos. The wardrobe was rocking to and fro’, there was all sorts of banging and crashing going on and the curtains were streaming horizontally in the wind, which was really strange because the windows were closed and locked.
“I threw myself out of bed a split second before the wardrobe wrenched itself from the wall and crashed down where I’d been lying. It was a massive great mahogany thing, and it could have killed me. Then, after five more seconds of mad crashing and banging, everything fell silent.
“I packed my stuff in two seconds flat, sat in the car until it got light, then paid and left. The hotel owners didn’t say a thing about the state of my room – or the noises in the night – and I didn’t mention it either, I was so freaked out.”
By this time, the pub jukebox had fallen silent, and the pub regulars were listening, spellbound. The only sound was the steady drip-drip of the tap behind the bar, and the atmosphere was super-tense. When a local opened the door and strode in out of the rain, everyone jumped a mile before guffawing loudly but uneasily. He stepped back in surprise, then grinned, approached the bar, bought a pint and joined in. “My farm is on the site of several ancient settlements, the oldest of which is Iron Age. I’ve always kept my eyes open when I’m in the fields, and over the years I’ve found Roman coins, stone tools, little bronze bits and bobs, all sorts of interesting things.
“The other day, I was out on the tractor, ploughing a long-neglected bit of wasteland when I suddenly felt a strange sensation, as though someone was pushing one hand against my chest to stop me from going any further. I cut the engine and sat for a bit, then decided it was just my imagination and carried on. This time, it felt like two hands were pushing hard against my chest really firmly, harder than before. I tried once more, but the feeling of being pushed back spooked me so badly, I turned tail and drove off at top speed.
“I’ve got no idea what was going on, but I’m not going to try and plough that bit of land again. It can bloody well stay overgrown.”
Kev, who was always drunk but spoke eleven languages fluently no matter how much beer he’d consumed, went next. “I used to work in a pub next door to a theatre. We always had loads of actors in, often in full costume, so I wasn’t particularly surprised to see a man in a tall stovepipe hat and long brown overcoat wandering down the corridor just ahead of me.
“I was puzzled when he turned left into the broom cupboard, but I assumed he was lost and hurried to help. I expected to see an embarrassed man backing straight out again, but there was nothing there. He’d disappeared.”
The barmaid eased herself out from behind the bottles, perching on the edge of a table and adding her own story. “After our cat died, my little brother and I used to hear the bell from his collar tinkling all around the house, especially outside the door of our playroom. We taped it several times and played the recording back to our parents, but they never really believed us.”
Michael stepped in. “I was moving house, leaving my top floor rented flat in Farm Road in Hove for the last time. I’d taken all my stuff down to the van, hoovered every room and was just popping back up to triple check I hadn’t left anything behind. When I walked into the living room, which was light and full of sunshine, I heard an older woman’s voice say, close to my ear, ‘Just leave, then. See if I care.’ She sounded angry, scared and sad.
“It made me jump out of my skin. Spinning around, I could see there was nobody else in the room or elsewhere in the flat. But there was a white, unmarked, sealed envelope in the centre of the room that hadn’t been there before. There’s no way I’d missed it, I’d hoovered so carefully, but there it was, slap-bang in the middle of the carpet. I panicked, scooped up the envelope, ran out of the room and down the stairs without locking the door behind me. Outside, I opened the envelope. There was a fiver in it. No note, just a crisp, new fiver.”
By the time Michael has finished his story, everyone’s on the edge of their seats, and most are starting to feel uncomfortably spooked. It’s dark. It’s late. Brighton’s Ghost Trail, a lurid collection of ghastliness, hardly inspires confidence in those walking home. And Michael’s spooky story, being both genuine and set in the city itself, pushes everyone over the edge. Very, very drunk and hysterical with terror, the locals – including the Daves and the Chief Surgeon – lock the pub doors, barricading themselves in with piles of furniture, and drink the pub dry in an attempt to regain their equilibrium.
At the exact time The Nurse is being arrested on the other side of town, her partners in crime are huddled in the pub, downing their seventeenth pints and praying for fucking daylight.
Roll forward time a few months, and life feels pretty good. The Nurse has settled into her stolen flat like a large cuckoo, building a raised flower bed over the ex-owner’s final resting place. She’s made a load of new pals, none of whom have the faintest clue about her past. She is living it up ‘til late most nights in the Poison Ivy at the bottom of St James St, a splendid funhouse of a gay bar packed solid with top class nutters of every imaginable sexual persuasion. Marvellous place. She’s at peace, or as peaceful as it gets, and she fits right in with her kooky retro style. Appearances deceive, though. She’s much more than a mere well-preserved older bird in a stylish vintage suit. She’s badder than bad inside, and all the old urges are still there.
Now and again, when The Nurse is off her face on E or whatever, she finds it hard to resist jumping some poor sod down one of those quaint little Kemptown snickleways and trepanning the fuck out of him. Or her. Most of the time, she’s stable. But spring’s in the air, the familiar restlessness is growing more insistent by the day and some people – to be frank – would probably benefit from a nice, neat hole in the head.
Sometime during the wee small hours, The Nurse wakes with a start. She thinks about resisting, then decides not to. A sideways grin warps her face as she clambers out of bed, takes a dusty box from the wardrobe and unpacks her old Nurse uniform saved from all those years ago, stashed in a bank safety deposit box while she was locked up. Sniffing richly, she savours the meaty bloodstains, old but still smelly. Nectar. How long can she stay on the so-called right side of the law? She’s doing her best, but despite everything, she’s only human.
What the fuck?
It’s interesting to see how much Brighton has changed since The Nurse has been away. It’s one thing watching telly in jail, or catching up with the doings of society on her smartphone, quite another actually being let loose in the modern world for real.
They don’t buy homes in Brighton these days. They ‘invest in property,’ and the main social game locals play at dinner parties seems to be how much is your property worth? But they’re a fun crew nevertheless. This is a city populated by happy misfits and eccentrics, rebels, anarchists, environmentalists, Greens, socialists and those who love being off their faces. A few things haven’t changed. The place is still unusually tolerant. Weird remains the name of the game.
On the other hand, The Nurse has noticed changes. Cosmetic surgery has become the norm since she last roamed these streets, often carried out to startling effect. There’s a standard look that leaves people looking suspiciously shiny, moony and expressionless, achieved via too much Botox. It doesn’t help that the procedures are carried out by a small group of local surgeons who went to medical school together. A plastic surgery Kabal, if you like, where the men’s sexual tastes are clearly reflected in their patients’ outcomes.
There are more nightclubs than ever in Brighton, which means there are many more spanked people than ever staggering around the streets in the wee small hours in various states of undress. That’s handy.
The pubs, like pubs across the nation, are completely different animals these days. Except for the Pedestrian Arms, which never changes, most of the city’s boozers have discarded carpeting altogether, allowing precious few soft furnishings to darken their doors. It looks nice. But add a crowd, and the hideous acoustics leave punters marooned, imprisoned inside a hellish cacophony, completely unable to hear what their friends are saying even when it is bellowed at many, many decibels, directly from mouth to ear.
There was no such thing as a hipster when The Nurse was young. Thank fuck, with their silly beards, uber-skinny jeans, equally skinny sparrow legs and check shirts done up to the top. Brighton is stacked with the fuckers. But after a while, things settle down, and she starts to actively enjoy the look. Some of them are quite pretty-looking chaps despite the fucking bum-fluff-on-speed attached to their pimply chins.
It’s all very entertaining. But even Brighton can’t offer entertainment potent enough to soothe the impulses she’s feeling right now.
Christ in a barn, she’d love to trepan someone.
Sailing close to the wind
It’s afternoon. The Nurse sits on her leather settee, hunched over her laptop, poised to write in this diary and still working hard to resist the urge to kill.
Her nice middle class neighbours have no idea about her past. The Nurse even babysits now and again. How disgusted they’d be to discover she’s a psycho trepanner who wouldn’t be averse to an experimental taste of soft infant flesh. How horrified they’d be to know how close she often comes to taking a tiny bite. Or a lick. Just the one.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Time passes, and The Nurse is bursting with the desire to experiment. Right now, she is tripping her nuts off. She’s completely spanked. Shitfaced. Trollied. Trousered. Annihilated. It’s nice. She can’t remember the last time she dropped LSD. Must be at least a decade ago.
This afternoon, she has meandered into Brighton city centre. Nobody notices an ordinary-looking older lady, even when she’s off her face. At her age, she’s human wallpaper. A smart beige twin set, tweed pencil skirt, a short helmet of bufty red-brown hair, stolen pearls, tan support tights and sensible navy patent court shoes do the trick. Thus rendered invisible, she explores the streets she used to prowl as a young woman, before those bastards caught her and banged her up.
She revisits her old flat on Western Road, only accessible via Waitrose car park. The pale blue door hasn’t been painted since she was last there. She clicks, in her smart heels, past the damp, insect infested flat down Orange Row, the dodgy back alley behind Gardener Street where she killed her first female during a particularly amateur trepanning session back in the golden days. And she revisits the dilapidated mansion flat on Denmark Terrace, on the first floor, where she first became fascinated by amateur brain surgery and set up the Club, before everything went so horribly wrong.
Following a long and pleasant afternoon reminiscing in town with LSD swirling, storming, coiling, roiling and boiling in her brain, The Nurse is at home, enjoying well-deserved tea and cake, watching the news on telly.
The NHS is in trouble, as usual. But it occurs to her that there’s a bright side to understaffing and budget cuts. She’s wondering whether hospitals might be a fertile hunting ground, what with all those helpless folk trapped in bed.
She has hidden the intricate Victorian trepanning kit from herself, and now she digs it out. It’s as rusty as fuck. Her first job is to sharpen it. Not use it, she promises herself. Just sharpen it. Then look longingly at it. She hums nasally, leering in the gathering dusk as the delicate little tools begin to gleam and sparkle under her expert hand.
The Nurse often ponders whether to stop resisting the urge, give in to the temptation and let her madness sweep her away on a roaring river of joy. She senses freedom from prison will bring lots of opportunities for amateur brain surgery experimentation, perhaps a little light trepanning, maybe even a spot of drug dealing to top up the pension of the old cunt she knocked off. At the same time, another stint in clink would be the death of her. Dare she go back to her old ways?
Life in Brighton is certainly frothy and pithy enough to provide The Nurse with a constant, bubbling stream of delight. The ugly, persistent nagging voices that used to drive her legendary savagery have quietened a bit with age and experience. But they’re still there, still bugging her.
She roams North Street, the North Laine and Hove’s charity shops, fizzing with frustration. After years of imprisonment, ennui, frustration, angst, neglect, violence, hatred and pain, The Nurse is beginning to feel properly free at last. But at the same time, she is sailing closer and closer to the wind.
She cannot resist for much longer, nor does she really want to.
Fuck it. It’s definitely time to trepan again.
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