The Nurse Diaries – Parts 12 and 13

The Nurse presents chapters twelve and thirteen of her black comedy novel, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her extraordinary life as Britain’s worst ever serial killer here.

Part 12 – Boyfriend

It’s a love thing

Trundling along with no expectations other than having a jolly good time doing the things she loves best, The Nurse is astonished by her instant adoration of Steve, which hits her hard from the second she lays eyes on him.

There she is, happily hanging with the lads down the Linny one night, when this smart chap skips in. He’s slim and trim, he has a beautiful head of white hair coiffed into a quiff, he is actually wearing tweed… and he is sporting a cravat. A silk one. She shits you not. He is fucking gorgeous.

When Steve feels her staring hard at the back of his head, swivels on his bar stool and looks straight into her pale blue eyes with his thick-lashed deep green ones, she’s a goner. He buys her a gin, and that’s that. For the second time in her life, she’s in love, and so is Steve. It feels different from the proto-love she feels for the cats. This is fucking powerful. She’s thoroughly discombobulated. Actually, it’s fucking fantastic.

The Nurse and Steve are inseparable. The locals down the Linny say ‘aah’ and smile when they see the couple amble into the pub arm in arm. It’s so lovely to see a pair of older people this much in love.

Steve also happens to be a natural cat magnet, which reassures The Nurse since there’s no way she’s forgetting her first furry loves. The cats have changed her life so dramatically that she owes them a lifetime’s debt of loyalty. The cats, being cats, couldn’t really give a shit, but they stick around anyway because the pickings are excellent, the human being they own is kind, and its house is cosy.

At first, The Nurse is nervous about admitting her secret murdering ways. What will her boyfriend make of her life’s work? On the surface, Steve seems like a law-abiding citizen who lives a blameless life, quiet and respectable. But when, a month later, she returns home early to discover him dressed up like Vlad the Impaler, nasty-looking metal spike in hand, she falls even deeper in love. Things might be okay after all.

Feeling safe bathed in her obvious approval, Steve confesses to a peculiarity of his own. He is a great admirer of Gilles de Rais, knight, Lord, leader of the French army and big fan of fellow-crazy Joan of Arc. A deranged serial killer, de Rais despatched at least forty children, probably a great many more, between the years 1432 and 1433, luring them to a grisly fate with fancy clothing, good food, and plenty of wine. While Steve’s fascination doesn’t extend to the murdering part of Rais’ story, he adores the fashions of the time, the curious gentleman’s outfits of the long-lost 1400s, and he likes to dress that way in secret.

The Nurse remains a little concerned since a penchant for short breeches, tights, voluminous robes called houppelandes and fancy doublets – however they happen to be draped, bejewelled or feathered – doesn’t necessarily make a killer. On the other hand, Steve seems to enjoy violent movies, loves bloody video games, and isn’t the least bit squeamish. She is proved happily right a few days later when he discovers a stray blackened hand poking out from under beneath the settee and calmly kicks it back under before carrying on with the hoovering.

When, still feeling a bit shy despite their increasing closeness, The Nurse eventually gives in to her impulses and shows Steve the photos of her tableaux, he’s thrilled. He particularly likes the one she did of the Brighton Escape Club Sunday League football team, made up of dead ‘Boro fans who would be fucking livid if they knew what had happened to their bodies. How deliciously naughty she is.

Steve is so moved, he actually weeps. He has never seen anything so extraordinary, so accurate, so delicately and sympathetically done. That daft cunt Damian Hurst has nothing on his Nurse.

Discovering Middlesbrough

Crossing the Transporter Bridge, an extraordinary piece of engineering, The Nurse is fascinated by the idea of thousands of shabby Smoggies crossing back-and-to over the river in the early twentieth century, day in, day out, to work themselves ragged for fuck all money at the town’s steelworks and shipyards.

The Dorman Long and Vaughan works are long gone, as is Smiths Dock and William Gray & Furness, leaving the bridge oddly stranded. Now a tourist attraction, the Transporter is a major site for extreme sports, mad stuff like abseils, bungee jumps and zipslides.

One day, The Nurse and Steve cross the bridge together several times in a row, watching the daft bastards hurling themselves off the parapet attached to a length of elastic. When it goes horribly wrong and the assholes faceplant violently into the Tees, wailing helplessly all the way down, the couple snigger and hold hands even tighter. What a laugh.

The Riverside stadium proves fun too, a great place to people-watch as the loyal Smoggies cheer the ‘Boro onwards to greater things. The Nurse finds herself enjoying the Beautiful Game for the first time in her life, but that’s love for you. It makes more or less everything seem lighter, brighter and more attractive, including the strange sight of eleven chunky blokes in red and white stripes, chuffing around on a rectangle of grass. When Steve explains the Offside Rule to her one day at Riverside, she doesn’t really give a shit but thanks him gratefully anyway. It’s true. Love makes you go daft in the fucking head.

Steve takes The Nurse on a tour of Middlesbrough Town Hall, where he saw The Clash play live during their infamous White Riot tour in 1977. He tells her how he saw AC/DC there in the Angus Young days, and Eddie and the Hot Rods, and he weaves tall tales about poncing fags off Johnny Cougar at the stage door. He even saw The Sex Pistols, Sham 69 and New Order at the Rock Garden just off Newport Road. The Nurse, whose only claim to fame is seeing Abba win Eurovision at the Brighton Dome in 1974, is fucking humbled, as well as slightly envious. She can’t compete with that.

The couple wanders around Albert Park, admiring the flowers. They visit MOMA and laugh out loud at the modern art. What the fuck is all that about? They nick a rather lovely piece of pottery from the Dorman Long Museum, designed by Christopher Dresser and made by Linthorpe Pottery. It looks great on the mantelpiece at home.

It’s easy nicking stuff when you’re older and in love. Nobody suspects you of anything untoward, let alone stealing valuable treasures from museums and killing people right, left and centre.

From the outside The Nurse and Steve are innocence personified. On the inside, there’s something new and exciting growing between them, something so dark, it doesn’t yet have a name. The pair both feel it, feel the powerful pull of the next big, bad thing, but they resist for a while simply because, while they know that resistance is futile, delayed gratification actually feels quite nice.

Takeaway

The next big thing soon arrives, as the couple knew it would. In The Nurse’s world, it always does. And it’s cats that deliver the inspiration. The clever little furry shits.

Cats can only eat so much meat. Inspired by her successful Brighton blood and bone fertiliser business, The Nurse wonders out loud to Steve whether to launch a foodservice sector start-up based on the Gig Economy. Surely, it would be easy enough to make tasty human kebabs and employ a load of canny Smoggies to deliver them?

Their new kebab shop on Roman Road, christened ‘Shish Happens,’ is a monster hit from the offset, arriving at the exact point in time when most of the good folk of Middlesbrough decide that if they ever see or smell another Parmo, they’ll probably throw up. The staff are chuffed enough about their generous pay packets to do their utmost not to recognise the human-like chunks of meat they’re cooking. As the Parmo’s popularity declines fast, taking most of the town’s takeaways with it, The Nurse and Steves’ kebab house goes from strength to strength.

Before long, they’re making a fucking fortune, living well and stashing tottering piles of faintly human-meat-scented cash in the attic, saving for a rainy day.

Having a shit

You know those times when life settles into a comfy groove and sort of trundles along? Those times that feel so steady and grounded that you start to feel things will always be this way? That’s what happens to The Nurse and Steve.

They arise at half-seven, creatures of habit. They feed the cats fresh meat from the huge freezers in the garage, which discreetly opens onto a blue-grey tiled back alley. They take a light breakfast of fruit and coffee, then stroll down Linthorpe Road to peer into the shops or go peep through the gates at Kings Manor, once Steve’s old school and now a wedding and event venue with serviced office units on tap. They decide to hire one of the units for the Shish Happens HQ instead of doing the books, the ordering and whatnot from home.

Steve recalls smoking behind the bike sheds with Peter Weatherley, Bryan Wheatley and Frank Wilkinson in the seventies, playing on the all-weather pitch which invariably flooded, and chasing bonny bottle-green-uniformed ‘Boro lasses around in the woods. He tells The Nurse about Dave Mill, the pervy music teacher who lured girls into his cupboard, and Mrs. Wander, who instilled in him a love of the English language. They explore the graveyard on Green Lane together and sup a jar of ale or two down the Master Cooper. It is all wonderfully ordinary.

When life is calm, you have time to stop and smell the coffee. Despite having been free for a few years, The Nurse still appreciates having a shit without a load of nosy cunts watching.

One of the best things about being free is the simple act of having a private dump. The Nurse found shitting in public the personification of imprisonment, the very definition of powerlessness, the ultimate loss of dignity. In any other situation, one’s poops are one’s own. In jail, she shat in a large metal bucket-with-seat, and everyone did it in full view of everyone else, the barred cells facing each other across an echoing rectangular space. Some mornings, the shitscape verged on performance art.

Bog roll might seem insignificant when faced with the great scheme of things. But when you’re forced to use Izal loo paper for a decade, made from thick yellowy tissue paper so unforgiving that the wee drips off and runs down your sleeve, it is impossible for life to feel good.

Now, safe and snug in her neat terraced home on Oxford Road, The Nurse squats on the bog, American Tan tights around her ankles, smiling as she glances around the loo in its own little room off the first floor landing. She has stocked up with lovely, thick, soft, three-ply bog roll, and it’s making her ring feel very happy indeed. She is amazed what a big difference such a seemingly small thing can make. It’s warm in the room, and quiet in the house, and the chunk of splintery pine missing from the skirting board to her right is shaped exactly like Beethoven’s head. It makes her feel safe, secure and homely.

Once she adds a joint or two to the equation, kept safe in their own little lidded box fixed to the wall next to the loo roll dispenser, she is about as close to heaven as it gets. This is what having a shit should be like. This is the ultimate in luxury.

Part 13 – Repelling Danger

Despatching The Romleys

When The Nurse receives a cryptic postcard from the Daves back in Brighton, she realises she has to act fast.

It’s those fucking Romley Brothers down in Portslade. They’ve been teasing Eddie mercilessly for months, taking the piss something rotten, and the poor bloke is on the verge of throwing himself off the cliffs at Beachy Head.

Not that she gives a flying fuck about that, but in an effort to ingratiate himself with the brothers, Shitty has told them a few less-than-tall stories from the good old days, when he was helping the Dream Team do their thing.

The Romleys are instantly suspicious because Eddie is not a fantasist, he’s an unusually literal type of bloke, and they’re sure his stories about bodies, burials, and holes in heads are close to the truth. Not good.

Worse still, Shitty’s already serious dwarf issue has come to a head in the most extraordinary way, a coincidence so odd, he can’t quite believe it, and it’s playing a big part in his mental decline.

Shitty, drunk down the Peds the other week, had popped out into the street for a ciggy. It was a misty night, and the visibility wasn’t great. A van drew up, headlights yellow against the fog. As Eddie sheltered his fag behind curled fingers, the sliding door of the van slid open, and out stepped one dwarf, then another, then a clump of at least ten of the little fuckers.

Frozen with horror, Eddie watched as the dwarves flowed as one into the pub and ordered pints. Spotting the dwarf who had punched him on the nose on the train amongst them, Eddie fled, coat flapping behind him.

It was a horrid experience for an already-freaked-out man, it set his recovery back a long way, and an un-nerved Shitty is a dangerously indiscreet Shitty. Something has to be done.

The Nurse makes the long train journey back down south with bad grace and Steve in tow, determined to knock the fucking Romleys off before they get Eddie in such a state, he does something really stupid. This is no errand of mercy. It’s a lot more fucking important than that. People’s liberty is at stake.

It feels funny being back in Brighton, but The Nurse stifles the unexpected feelings of homesickness for her old home and hardens her heart. She sends Steve trotting off down the hill to the Great Eastern at the bottom of Trafalgar Street, then scoots straight onto the next train to Portslade and makes her way to Stoney Close, knocking confidently on the Romleys’ door.

Having never met The Nurse, the men have no idea what’s in store. Nige answers, a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth and The Times newspaper in hand. Dickie hovers, peeping over Nige’s shoulder at the smart, unusually tall, tweedy woman on the doorstep who reminds him a bit of Margaret Thatcher. Grinning widely, she spins a story about a good friend who has sent them a treat. Their eyes glow, and they step back to let her in.

Settled in the front room with a cup of tea, beautifully made by the men’s mum Audrey, The Nurse thinks on her feet before making her move.

The old lady is about to pop out to the bingo, which is cool. Nige and Dickie are big fellas, but they’re off-their-face stoned. That’s handy. On the downside, the walls are thin, and Stoney Close is quiet. Sound travels, and she needs to get away cleanly without being spotted. The origin of these murders absolutely has to remain shrouded, ideally treated like a horrible accident by the rozzers. The shrooms she’s brought with her are the perfect weapon.

The Nurse opens her capacious alligator-skin handbag and takes out a jar of pretty-looking mushrooms, pale browny yellow on top with thick blue-white stems. Nige’s eyes light up. He loves a good trip. The Nurse asks him a few questions about shrooms in general, noting how much he enjoys being quizzed about his favourite subject and flattering him wildly, then leaves him and his well-massaged ego alone to prepare the Psilocybin mix to his own taste.

When he comes back into the living room carrying a stylishly-set tea tray bearing three shot glasses of greyish sticky fluid, she claps her hands together in simulated delight before picking the smallest glass, all very ladylike. Dickie takes the second, and Nige grabs the third.

The Nurse sips hers, and the Romleys neck theirs in record time, as she’d been led to believe they would. Greedy cunts. Neither of them noticed when, before serving the drinks, The Nurse halved a tiny glass vial of deadly liquid neatly into their mushroom tea, and the effects are instant.

Never having played with cyanide before, The Nurse enjoys it a lot. And boy, does it happen fast. First they go weak and kittenish, floppy and pathetic. It’s amazing to see such big blokes lose it so fast. Then they start vomiting in a messy but impressive way and fighting for breath. After a couple of almighty seizures, they lose consciousness, and their hearts stop, just like that. Glancing at her watch, The Nurse calculates it took all of twelve seconds from start to finish. Neat, huh?

No matter how big or brave you are, if The Nurse wants you dead, she will get you.

Audrey is still at the Bingo, leaving plenty of time for The Nurse to use her formidable tableau skills to set the scene, arranging the men in suitably natural positions, each with a half-empty glass of clean cyanide-free psilocybin tea at their feet. It is a master-stroke.

When, a few hours later, the police and ambulance arrive, nothing looks the least bit suspicious. The Romleys are stiffening fast, they’ve obviously taken their love of mushrooms way too far, and they’re carted off unceremoniously to be cremated at Bear Road. The Nurse and Steve send a particularly large and elaborate bouquet of black blooms to the funeral, which raises questions but remains a mystery.

Don’t worry about Audrey, by the way. There’s no need. Before they leave Brighton The Nurse and Steve pay a professional Toy Boy a fucking fortune to court Audrey, seduce her, and stay with her until she pops her clogs or gets bored of him, whichever happens first. Needless to say, Audrey is delighted. She is highly unlikely to make a fuss about the somewhat strange circumstances of her sons’ demise with a good-looking Toy Boy in tow.

Everybody has a price.

Green-eyed devil

A few days later, back in the Boro’ and settled at home, things are going off-piste, and The Nurse is not liking it. Two trollops called Sarah and Alison are doing their best to fuck things up for her, revealing how very easily distracted Steve is and how quickly his head is potentially turned by bouncy young things.

When the girls first come into the Linny one Friday night, they almost cause a riot. A pair of tiny, delicate roses amongst the usual dodgy thorns, they’re fresh and new and very lovely, but they are not the least bit innocent. Far from it. The pub might be full of man-munters, but Sarah and Alison really like the look of Steve, the juicy older guy who hangs out with the scary-looking Thatcher look-alike lady. They make a plan.

It’s the potent combination of light and dark that does for Steve. Alison is a wearer of pastel suits and a worker in insurance, plump and blonde with fluffy hair and the high, squeaky-helium voice so many women adopt these days. Sarah is dark haired and exotic and hippyish, and doesn’t shave her legs or armpits. But when one looks that good, one gets away with almost anything.

Both girls are unusually pretty, both unusually bored, and both unusually determined to shag their way around Middlesbrough in much the same way as they’ve already shagged their way around the entire North West of England and most of Scotland.

Putting their plan into action, the girls layer their creamy light and dark charm thickly upon everyone in the Linny except Steve, whom they ignore. It drives him absolutely bonkers. They steer clear of The Nurse, giving her a wide berth since they suspect she might not be too pleased to see her boyfriend distracted by a couple of arse-pygmy tarts-without-hearts.

As the weeks pass, Steve spends more and more time chatting with the girls, buying them beers and lending them money. They talk back in a desultory fashion, not meeting his eye. They drink the beers with their backs to him. They spend his money buying drinks for other men. As a tactic, it proves irresistible.

When The Nurse comes home early one evening and discovers Steve in a state of flagrante not-so-fucking-delicate with the girls, one on each side, black and blond hair blending into a striped river as it flows over his bare chest, she completely loses her shit. It is not nice, and the girls are petrified by her fury, unable to move a muscle thanks to its gigantic, terrifying force.

Forcing Steve to take some responsibility for his sins, she makes him tie the petrified tarts up with cable ties, which really fucking hurts, dumps them in the wardrobe for now, and storms off with him slinking a metre behind, body language revealing that he knows exactly how much shit he is in. He has never been so afraid. She has never been so angry. It’s a potent combination, especially for a couple who have consciously replaced the urge to have sex with the urge to trepan and haven’t trepanned for a whole week.

Fortunately, adversity brings the couple closer, the cats love the pale pinky girl-flesh, all delicate and perfumed, and the kebabs at Shish Happens sell like fucking hot cakes that weekend. They are particularly tender, rather like veal. The couple are happy again, but only properly happy once The Nurse slices a sizeable sliver of tanned flesh from Steve’s earlobe, just as a friendly warning. He appreciates knowing exactly where he stands, and all is well.

Clubbing Part Two

In the past, The Nurse and co. had failed miserably to access Brighton’s nightclubs in search of the helplessly arseholed and the merely helpless. Luckily, Middlesbrough proves easier. The Empire on Corporation Road is less fussy than its southern counterparts, gladly admitting her and Steve to its humid depths, where they grab a gin each, find a seat and watch things heat up.

Bevvies of beauties stream into the venue, along with gangs of fresh, smart Smoggie lads. The Nurse is impressed. This place could give any posh city centre venue a run for its money. While they roll a fat one and wait for the action to start, Steve tells The Nurse about The Beautiful People, something he’s never forgotten. Back in the ’70s, he’d been a local at Mandy’s nightclub on Albert Road. He’d go in there early, prop up the bar and wait for the Beautiful Couple to arrive. The club was full of young lasses in their finery, and they looked mint, but the Beautiful Couple cast a different light on everything. Compared to them, everyone looked grey, cheap, mottled and wan.

He was at least six feet tall with black, slicked-back hair, and he wore a tuxedo. She had white-blonde sculpted hair in a 1920s-style Marcel wave and wore a flapper dress heavy with rose-pink bugle beads. And when they danced to Boogie Wonderland, to Tragedy, to Ring My Bell, to Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now, magic happened. The dance floor cleared. Everyone stood back and watched, spellbound. The Beautiful Couple danced close together ballroom-style to disco tunes, unworldly beings owning the room. After three or four numbers, they’d disappear, leaving behind a fragrant wake tinged with the other clubbers’ envy. The Beautiful Couple stayed in the club long enough to remain a phenomenon, left before their glory became commonplace, and they were marvellous. Sadly, he sighs, them lads ower there are fucken smart, and the birds are well tasty, like. But there’s nowt like that couple in fucken ‘Boro clubs these days.

Back home afterwards, curled on the settee in their dressing gowns with a fresh bong on the go, the couple carefully review their Big Night Out. They decide their recce of The Empire was a success. Sitting up straight on their velvet banquette, drinks in hand, they had carefully observed the clubbers, who were not much different from the olden days. The ladies wore fewer clothes, mind you. Shitting hell, some of them were almost literally fucking naked, and some of the time it wasn’t entirely nice.

The men? Compared to The Nurse’s youth, when male deodorant wasn’t invented and most men didn’t bother much with grooming, the young fellows down The Empire were rather fine. She found them beautifully fragranced, de-haired, smoothed, moisturised, and accessorised. Many had the same high definition fat caterpillar eyebrows as the girls, but on a less insane scale. Smart, actually. On the downside, a couple of young men wore foundation, the last word in bell-endery, for the sake of fuck. But what united the entire club was the incredible level of off-the-faceness that every clubber in the room achieved in record time.

Thanks to epic-scale pre-loading, within the hour the Empire was on fire crazy-style. By eleven, The Nurse had counted at least five hen nights on the prowl, and an equal number of stag nights which, by midnight, had merged with everyone else into a vast, heaving conglomerate of hot, damp, snogging bodies, all throbbing to the same happy house beat like a tank full of brightly-coloured, wankered fish. They were also fantastically generous, gifting many, many ecstasy pills to Steve and The Nurse, which meant an epic time was had by all.

That’s the beauty of house music. It has no boundaries. Age doesn’t matter. We all just fucking love each other.

Having said all that, for The Nurse and Steve, it’s the overly-botoxed, dermal-filled and dazzling white tombstone toothed look that seals the deal. The I’ve had a wee bit too much cosmetic work girls and boys, an orange-faced scourge on the town, will make perfect trepanning subjects.

After a lively debate before bed, The Nurse and Steve decide to focus their trepanning efforts on the lads and lasses who’ve had the most cosmetic surgery, neatly ridding Middlesbrough of a tsunami of shiny orange horror. And off they go on a spree that baffles the best criminal-catching minds in the region.

Expressionless orange Smoggie lads and lasses are going missing, and nobody knows how. Or why. Some of The Nurse and Steve’s trepanning successes turn up on Carlton Bank, up Snotterdale way and in Whorl Hill Wood. Some stagger onto remote moorland roads with their hands splayed white in front of bloody faces, screaming mouths dark and wide in car headlights, just like a horror film. Others are found slumped in the fragrant bracken by dog walkers, that unfortunate segment of humanity doomed to discover every dead body on the planet. Most of those who disappear, though, are gone for good. They’re never seen again. They are fed to the cats or transformed into the tasty meat products sold at the town’s most successful ever kebab shop, Shish Happens. What a fucking way to go.

None of the surviving victims can remember what the fuck happened to them, how they ended up incoherent with terror stumbling around on the moors. There are no witnesses to the abductions. The pattern grows and spreads. The missing count reaches twelve in one week, and fourteen more severely injured people are found alive in the hills. The rozzers speculate wildly, as does everyone else. The public is scared, and the hunt for the killer steps up.

The problem is, bad people don’t often look like bad people. They do in films and on telly, but most of the time evil looks surprisingly ordinary. The killer is not a seven foot tall, bug-eyed freak armed with a medieval lance or a Hulk-like creature with a taste for flesh revealed by bloodstained gnashers. Crazed killers are usually perfectly normal-looking. Shy Kevin Smith from the corner shop who blows a gasket and beheads his mother, nice Helen Jones from work who stabs her errant husband a bit too hard in exactly the wrong place, murder is mostly a ‘whoops’ sort of thing, or an ‘oh, fuck.’ Not planned or anything.

The Kevins and Helens of this world do not look overly hairy or have suspiciously close-together eyes. They are not followed around by sinister music, nor do they have claw-like fingernails and weird shadows. They look as normal as you and me. The police sometimes forget this. Right now, they are busy stop-and-searching people who are unfortunate enough to look dodgy in some way or another. This leaves The Nurse and Steve and every other sane-looking criminal in town free to carry on as normal, while tens of innocent but ugly or shifty-looking folk are being banged up for no reason at all. What a fucking shit-show.

Eventually, The Empire is pinned down as the place the disappearances and maimings stem from. Plain clothes police are sent to the town centre to make sure clubbers get home safely, focusing hard on the at-risk orange botoxed crowd. But trying to keep the helplessly drunk safe and on track to their beds is much more of a challenge than herding cats. Herding mere cats, in contrast, is as easy as fucking pie. So the disappearances continue while the rozzers scratch their silly heads and continue to arrest all the wrong people.

Some folk hate the way they become invisible to society as they get older. No whistles from builders, no speculative glances from handsome men, no flattery from slinky cougars on the rampage. The Nurse and Steve are grateful that nobody seems to notice them or care what they get up to. People mostly smile, nod, pass the time of day, then hurry off in fear of being bored by a pair of ageing farts. Perfecto.

Saturday nights prove the best hunting ground. On Fridays, the locals practise their weekend craft, exercising their drinking legs for the big night out-out on Saturday. As far as trepanning goes, the drunker people are, the better. Saturdays, it is.

The Nurse and Steve invest in clubbing clothes, nothing too youthful but neither tweedy nor smart. The Nurse feels odd in a pair of purple combat trousers and a sparkly top, Steve feels less than comfy in his super-skinny-leg jeans and fitted shirt, but at least they blend in. They might not be The Beautiful Couple, but they’re actually pretty cool for older folks, and it doesn’t take long before they become a fixture at The Empire.

The orange boys and girls keep disappearing, and the mystery continues. Over time, The Nurse and her boyf perfect their method.

The lads and lasses love Steve, so smart and fragranced, so dapper and tanned. His age renders him harmless in their imaginations, and they enjoy chatting with him. He picks the one he likes the look of, slips a mickey into their drink and waits until they’re biddable enough. Then he leaves discreetly, pulling them along hand in hand to the corridor leading to the loos. The Nurse casually joins him, and they corral the girl in a clever pincer movement so neat she doesn’t even notice, preventing her escape. Then they chloroform the bint, bundle her out of the fire door – always left handily unlocked – into the back alley and into a large leather cricket bag, which they carry to Oxford Road between them, keeping to the back alleys and unlit places en route.

Once safely home, they decant the evening’s victim onto the kitchen floor and hobble them with cable ties before they wake up. Then they carry the victim upstairs and chuck them onto the spare bed, tied down for extra security.

The Nurse, a perfectionist, can’t help being irritated by Steve’s clumsiness and lack of finesse. She won’t let him try the actual trepanning bit, or not yet anyway. She says his fingers are like sausages, which leads them into a very satisfying conversation about Greggs, and then off on a tangent of the kind they particularly enjoy, dreaming up creative new straplines and catch phrases for the bakery chain. Their favourite is ‘Fuck Off.’ Greggs The Bakers: Fuck Off. It’s perfect, and they hoot with laughter, holding their stomachs as the victim struggles violently.

The cats sit in a row on the floor and observe, waiting patiently for any meaty tidbits that come their way. Originally mere furry interlopers, slinky thieves who stole The Nurse’s nut-hard heart, now they’re an essential part of life at Oxford Road. In fact, there are so many cats in the house these days that the couple is giving them numbers, not names.

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