The Nurse is ever so excited to share parts eighteen and nineteen of her black comedy novel, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her revolting life as Britain’s worst serial killer here.
Part 18 – Plastering Over the Cracks
Julie and Mark go nicking to order
You can get away with fucking murder when you’re blonde. The Nurse’s old school friend Julie has known it since she was eight years old, when she first started doing bad things and getting away with them. Now happily settled in Weymouth with Mark, her partner in crime, she is delighted to help an old mate out with an unusually challenging and lucrative robbery project.
The Nurse doesn’t tell Julie why she wants the couple to steal a load of crappy old vintage tools from the nick in Kemptown, and Julie doesn’t give a toss about the reasons behind the deal. She enjoys the look, feel and smell of metal. She likes sharp objects simply because they’re sharp. She appreciates shiny things. And fifty grand for breaking into John Street nick’s evidence room seems like money for old rope.
She briefs Mark, who grins with excitement. They leave the dogs and the cat at Rosie and John’s place for the day, then they board the train from Weymouth to Brighton.
Once there, the couple walk out of Brighton station onto Queens Road, turn left down Gloucester Road and weave their way through the North Laine – which too many ignorant fuckers call the North Lanes – and across the road at St Peter’s church. Then they thread their way southwards through the pretty streets of Hanover towards the seafront, and voila, they’re outside John Street police station.
Julie and Mark stand outside the ugly building, making sure their plan is in perfect order, then casually amble in through the swing doors, holding hands. Once they’re within sight of the desk sergeant, they drop each other’s hands, and Julie bursts into instant tears. Mark starts yelling. She grabs a fistful of his hair and yanks it hard, pulling out a few dark strands, and he belts her across the face… or does he?
The desk sergeant is convinced, but in fact the couple are masters in the fine art of stunt fighting. They know exactly how to make a pretend domestic violence incident look real.
When Julie picks a full cup of scalding hot tea off the desk and upends it over Mark’s head, and he retaliates by tripping her up so she faceplants the shiny marble floor, drawing blood that runs down her chin when she staggers to her feet, the desk sergeant decides enough is enough and hurls himself on top of them, calling for assistance.
Seven rozzers pile on top of Julie and Mark, dragging them down the stairs to the basement cells next to the evidence room, throwing them into one and locking the door firmly. Then they stride away, brushing their palms together, giving the couple ‘time to cool off.’ Perfect.
Five minutes later, Julie has retrieved a hidden tool from inside the wedge heel of her sandal, picked the cell door lock and made short work of the locked door of the evidence room. Prowling the aisles until they find a file named ‘MM,’ for Mystery Murders, they unbalance it from the top shelf and let it crash to the ground, sifting swiftly through the paperwork to reveal the Chief Surgeon’s old tools, which Mark pockets, careful not to slice his nadgers off. Then they put the file back and lock themselves neatly back into their cell, where they sit, all innocent, until they’re asked if they want to press charges against one another. They say no and are let out – accompanied by a stern verbal caution and leaflet about anger management – into the candyfloss-scented dusk.
There’s no need to stay in the city overnight, much as they’d like to. It only adds to the risk of discovery. So they walk back up the hill to the station hand-in-hand and take the late train back to Weymouth, leaving nobody the wiser.
When the Inspector next opens the file to re-examine the still-mysterious vintage tools, they’ve disappeared, and nobody has the faintest clue how, when or where. He almost manages to convince himself that they never existed, that he imagined them, but he can still see their cold, silvery gleam in his mind’s eye, and the scar is still there on his palm like an annoying stigmata. He remembers that odd micro-expression on Mary’s face when he showed her the tools too, something he can’t quite forget.
One more mystery adds itself to the steaming pile of mysteriousness that just keeps on getting bigger and more mysterious as time passes. Maybe he’s losing his edge.
Not so long ago, it would have required press releases, radio interviews and appearances on the news. These days, all the Inspector has to do is harness social media to make an appeal to the nation.
Fortunately for The Nurse and Phil, like many public sector institutions, the rozzers are very shit at social media, and the stiff messages he carefully crafts don’t get very far. Using police language to Tweet and post on Facebook is never a good idea. ‘Persons waking up with a hole in their head must contact Sussex police’ is neither exciting nor interesting enough to attract responses, never mind inspire people who suspect they may have been trepanned to come forward.
What the Inspector doesn’t know is that The Nurse has a massive social media following of her own thanks to her Agony Aunting and the work she does with the Dunbar Euthanasia Club. Not only that, she has set up social media alerts and hashtags for the keywords ‘trepanning’, ‘trepanned’ and ‘trepan.’ Whenever anyone on either network mentions trepanning, she gets to see it. So far, most of the time, it’s just medical researchers and historians chatting idly about the ancient art. The Inspector doesn’t use any important keywords in his social media posts, which means they don’t get seen by anyone who knows about trepanning, might be able to help, or has an experience to share.
It is all very unsatisfactory. Several more potential insights pass the Inspector by and disappear into the murky place where old social media posts go to die. And that’s that. He decides social media is a bit crap in a crime-stopping context and goes back to old school detective work.
It is no good having a social media blind spot. Especially when you’re the police. Come on, you rozzers, get a grip.
As the Inspector interviews more vics and the grand pattern behind the crimes grows clearer, pure instinct drives The Nurse to change her face, the face she’s lived with for so many years. The timing feels right, and she can’t ignore the impulse.
While no fan of the more-than-slightly-mental look that plastic surgery victims often end up with, if she wants to hang on to her freedom, it is definitely time for a brand new Nurse. She’s going to have cosmetic work done, but first she needs to research exactly what it might involve.
The Nurse discovers that permalip lip implants are revolutionary for lip enhancement. Made from very soft but solid silicone, tapered at each end to match the natural shape of the lip, they won’t rupture or deflate. The very fact that the brochure uses the words ‘lip,’ ‘rupture’ and ‘deflate’ in the same sentence makes her feel ill.
Moving swiftly on to nose jobs, she realises that her large, definite nose might be suitable for a non-surgical nose reshape, which involves messing with the bridge and tip, using dermal fillers to improve the profile of the nose and lift the tip. Ow.
Liposuction, she finds, is a method for removing unwanted fat cells distributed in an area where it’s hard to shift with diet or exercise. A surgeon removes the fat by introducing a mixture of liquids under the skin to break the fatty cells down, then uses a series of cannulas to extract the fat. Gross. Luckily, The Nurse isn’t fat, just solid and tall, and that means liposuction isn’t necessary. Thank fuck. And what’s a fucking cannula anyway? It sounds fucking terrifying.
Botox? Apparently, Botox is a highly purified toxin that can temporarily erase or reduce wrinkles by relaxing the facial muscles, extracted from a purified version of the neurotoxin botulinum toxin, made by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Holy crap.
The Nurse winces for the hundredth time since getting the brochure through the mail. Fuck me, it’s all pretty unpleasant. But needs must.
Back to Brighton on the train again, like a fucking human yoyo, The Nurse makes her way along Trafalgar Street, then pushes open the door of ‘A Fantastic New You’ and strides in. This is one heck of a tricky proposition, and she needs to get it right first time. Her act has to be 100% convincing.
The Nurse does not want to look pretty or young or attractive. She merely wants to look different from the way she looks right now, as unrecognisable as possible. There’s only one way to pull it off in a satisfactory manner, and it involves shitloads of ready cash.
Making a guess at the which is greediest of the consultants, she chooses the fattest, sweatiest one, grabs her wheelie case full of fifty pound notes and follows the cunt into his office.
Several hours later, The Nurse emerges from the clinic lugging an empty suitcase, feeling like she’s been beaten up, and makes her way carefully back to the train station, grimacing in pain at every step.
Picking up a box of blonde hair dye at the other end, in her local pharmacy, she staggers home, puts the key in the door, opens it and is instantly floored by an almighty bash on the head. Falling to her knees with her hands, protecting her skull, she bellows urgently at Phil, who hasn’t recognised her and is about to come in for a second blow.
His face lights up as he realises this is no invader. She shuffles clumsily on her knees to a velvet chair, using it to pull herself upright, wincing in agony as a couple of stitches give way. He grabs her, hugs her and sets her back down on her feet, and she pats his cheek fondly. Silly old Phil. Then she punches him in the goolies so hard that he sits down with a whump and hunches there, gasping, for ten minutes while Lavinia calmly puts the kettle on and prepares toast.
One pack of blonde hair dye later, The Nurse is a new woman. You can’t change your basic shape that much. Her silhouette remains strong and tall, mannish and square. But she has a pert button nose peeping out from under the smooth fringe of a sleek blonde bob, much fuller lips, and she is totally expressionless as well as wrinkle-free. Fucking dreadful really, but she certainly looks nothing like her old self.
It takes a while for the Dunbar locals to get used to The Nurse’s new look, but like all of us they have their own preoccupations, and at the end of the day her appearance doesn’t cause much more than an everyday storm in a teacup. The main thing is, she looks nothing like the woman the Inspector down south might or might not be seeking. Once she ditches her signature navy driving gloves, the transformation is complete.
Part 19 – Unravelling
The beginning of a grand adventure
When the Inspector meets Helen, he senses he’s on to something important. The four hundred and ninetieth potential witness he interviews, Helen has a strange story to tell, and it’s an eye-opener. Before she moved to Brighton a couple of years ago, Helen briefly volunteered at a secure facility for mental patients in Cambridgeshire, the last of its kind and so long-forgotten she soon bailed because the fuckers forgot to pay her salary.
The Inspector is unusually good at bringing people out of their shells, helping them to recall things their conscious minds have buried, decided were unimportant, or forgotten. He begins working on Helen, carefully taking her through her story time after time until she feels like she’s going nuts. Then something fresh pops into her mind and she actually gasps out loud.
The Inspector leans in closer and asks, in his softest voice so as not to scare the memory away, what she has recalled. Skinny fingers of excitement crawl up his spine, but he hides his feelings as he looks deep into Helen’s puzzled eyes, calmly holding her gaze to help steady her feelings.
Not realising quite how lucky she was, Helen had walked out of the Unit for good at 5 pm the day before Andy Cockwomble went on the rampage and killed everyone. The whole scandalously embarrassing matter was quickly covered up by the authorities and never reached the media. Helen didn’t know any better until, walking to work a few weeks ago, she felt her scalp crawl as she spotted a familiar-looking silhouette holding a key outside a large, smart villa in Hove, about to unlock the front door.
The woman looked a lot like the most scary patient of all who was imprisoned at the facility, the one who called herself The Nurse, the one who’d drilled holes in the heads of loads of people all those years ago, either killing them or leaving them wandering around Brighton, bleeding and confused. But that wasn’t possible. Or was it? No, it couldn’t be.
Helen shook herself hard, decided she was imagining things and continued her journey to work. Since then, she’d tried her best to forget the incident, but something about the woman’s outline and posture kept bothering her, waking her up night after night in a chilly sweat.
Thus the first genuine clue the Inspector has found so far arrives, fully formed and fucking useful. He claps his hands together in satisfaction, stands up, ushers Helen out of the interview room and opens his desk drawer, pulling out his stash tin. Then he rolls and lights up a corker of a joint – a thin snake of good, squidgy hash inside tightly rolled pure weed – and sets the creative part of his brain to work.
For some reason, his mind wanders to Mary the GP, so he lets it wander. The Inspector is not daft. He is self-aware enough to realise he’s a sucker for a pretty face. But there’s something about her, appealing as she is, that sets his teeth on edge. She’s a bit too willing to please, too happy to be admired, slightly too friendly. Hm.
Within half an hour, he’s beginning to join the dots. He phones a few handy Brighton reprobates, calls in a few favours, then sits back in his chair and heaves a sigh. Something chimes. It’s pretty far out there, even for him. He could be losing the plot. But might Mary the GP be the self-same Mary as the ex-nutter Crazy Mary? The timing is about right. Thanks to the police grapevine, he knows Mary is somewhere in Brighton. And didn’t someone down the pub mention she’d finally completed her GP training? He rubs his hair absently, turning it into a bird-like crest. Yes, he’s sure enough to take things further.
While she doesn’t seem the type on the surface, if the woman is Crazy Mary, she will recall the suspect he has in his mind’s eye, the shadowy woman, the killer he’s after. She and Mary spent a couple of years at the same jail, after all. A quick look at the Crazy Mary file proves his hunch right. This is indeed her. Crazy Mary and Mary the GP are the self-same woman.
Interesting. Very interesting.
This one is going to take finesse. The Inspector grabs the necessary gadget, snaps it on and heads for Mary’s workplace.
Mary knows he fancies her, and he’s going to use that fact to his advantage. The Inspector loves this kind of thing, when he has to wear his double agent hat in pursuit of clues.
An inspector calls
Her receptionist isn’t here yet, it’s only half-past eight, so Mary buzzes the Surgery door open from her desk, expecting a patient. When the Inspector walks in, she instinctively recoils, then tries to cover it up by carrying on the recoil until she actually falls off her chair. It’s the only way to put the man off balance, regain her own emotional equilibrium and get the time she needs to rearrange her face from a mask of shock to a semblance of normality.
He shouts out her name and shoots around the desk to help her up. She sits back on her swivel chair and brushes herself down with shaky hands, blushing. No damage done, she says cheerily, explaining a case of recurring benign vertigo.
When she describes the symptoms and she sees his expression soften with empathy, she knows she’s got away with it. You know when you’re absolutely wankered and the bed spins? There are few nastier feelings than that. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo makes you feel like that all the time. It’s vile. Luckily, Mary carries on, the Epley Movement can make the little bits of stray chalk in your inner ear go back where they belong, resolving the dizziness until the next time they go AWOL.
Being a doctor doesn’t make it any easier to bear, she finishes, then leans forwards, smiling, as she asks what she can do for him.
It’s all very charming, and Mary is very lovely, but only fools underestimate the Inspector. He didn’t get where he is today by being a soft cunt, even when he fancies the pants off his interviewee.
I’ll be straight with you, he says, and she sits back, hands relaxed and still in her lap. Are you the same Mary who was let out of the loony unit early for good behaviour up in Cambridge a few years back?
Thinking fast, she decides there’s no point trying to lie. The closer she sticks to the truth, the better. Bringing on one of her famously lush blushes, which she can do at will, she presents a glowing, ultra-feminine picture of dewy, innocent transparency. I’m afraid so, she answers, frowning slightly while casually weaving a piece of shiny dark hair around a slim finger and managing to make it look sexy.
It was a long time ago. I have always deeply regretted what I did. That’s why I became a GP. I was so very thankful to be given a second chance. I wanted to give something back, make amends, whatever you want to call it. I wanted – I still want – to make things better. Yes, I’m ‘Crazy’ Mary. But please, would you mind keeping it to yourself?
The Inspector says of course, he only wanted to settle things in his own mind, then pats her hand kindly and stands to leave, heart beating fast and hard with an excitement that doesn’t show on his face. Like a duck, he’s calm on the surface, paddling like fuck underneath.
As he reaches the surgery door, he turns and asks one final question: Mary, when you were in Cambridgeshire, did you know a woman who answers this description? Mary listens carefully, head on one side, then wrinkles an eyebrow and says no, I’m so sorry I can’t be more help, before closing the door behind him with a gentle click.
Mary slumps back into her office chair, hot with fear and limp with relief, and wipes her brow. Fuck. He knows she’s Crazy Mary, and he’s sniffing around her old mate from jail. Fuck.
Mary is a fucking brilliant actor. Anyone else would have been convinced by her innocent act. The Inspector, however, was armed with technology in the form of a miniature covert camera. He’d secretly filmed the encounter from start to finish, from ringing the bell to leaving the Surgery and tapping down the stone steps onto the Old Steine.
Keen to get back to the office, he races up Edward Street, hangs a left into the ship-like building, skids along the corridor and arrives at his desk sweaty with excitement. Then he flips open his work laptop and downloads the video of Mary, opening it in a programme that lets him slow things right down and examine her face in sharp, frame-by-frame detail.
Bingo. The Inspector’s heart leaps in his chest, and he lets out an involuntary shout of triumph. Yes! He’s fucking got her.
He plays the film of Mary’s first out-of-kilter micro-expression over and over again, then emails it to his colleagues. It clearly reveals Mary’s momentary terror and rage as she realises he knows who she is. He’d obviously hit a nerve there, and now he looks at the rest of the interview with new eyes. The fall, and the stuff about the vertigo? It gave the woman the time she needed to hide her shock and compose her lies. Oh my days, she’s clever.
The second clue reveals itself in the stubborn, blazing-eyed, chin-up, ‘fuck-you’ micro-expression on Mary’s face when she says she ‘deeply regrets what she did.’ It’s only a flash, but an eloquent one, revealing ugliness behind the pretty exterior. Mary, in fact, has no regrets.
The third micro-expression is as clear as a bell. When Mary claimed not to recognise the suspect from the description, she lied. Her pants were not just on fire, they were fucking ablaze. She might not know where the suspect is right now, but she knows the woman, and she doesn’t want to admit it.
Fascinated, the Inspector plays the three clips back and to, back and to, watching Mary go from nice person to psycho, nice person to psycho. Well, fuck me.
His heart won’t stop beating like a bastard, so he heads outside to bum a fag. Which, if you are an American reading this, does not mean enjoying a sexual act with a consensual homosexual male, but begging a fellow smoker for a cigarette. After which, calmer, he grabs his laptop and gives the Big Boss a buzz.
A few minutes later, he’s blurting out the details behind the Mary interview, and the micro-expressions he’s captured, and his boss is convinced. They already suspect the woman they’re after wears red lipstick, has Thatcher-style reddy-brown hair, a penchant for tweed and owns navy blue leather driving gloves. They know she’s an ex-inmate of the facility up in Cambridgeshire, a survivor of the Cockwomble Massacre. Now they’re certain Crazy Mary knows the suspect, and maybe knows her very well.
Inspector, it looks like you’re on to something, the boss says, shaking his colleague’s hand. Follow the Mary lead, and come to me if you need extra resources, a team of detectives or whatever. These trepannings and whatnot have kept me awake for far too long. If we can catch the bastard, we’ll be heroes. Give it your best shot, eh, son?
The Inspector nods sharply, gives his boss the thumbs up and returns to his office well chuffed. It’s brilliant when your gut instincts turn out to be right.
He doesn’t feel quite so good the next morning when the rozzers break down Mary’s surgery door to find she has fucked off, leaving nothing behind but dust. Bollocks. Double bollocks. The Inspector is fucking gutted. The CSI technicians hoover up the dust, spray chemicals over everything and collect hairs, but it’s fuck-all use. She has scarpered, and his first proper, solid clue has disappeared along with her. How will they find the suspect now?
Dunbar cools off… and heats up at the same time
If you have ever turned a car seat heater on by mistake, ending up with a searingly-hot arse and chilly everything else, you’ll empathise with The Nurse. She is well and truly conflicted. Dunbar has felt safe for a few years. The Nurse wanted to set down some roots, and she has done it, but her love for the place is cooling off. At the same time, in another way, Dunbar is heating up.
The Nurse’s internal danger signalling radar is bing-ing like fuck, and she’s not quite sure why. She senses terrible danger despite her new look and the care with which she has covered her tracks. She’s tempted to revisit the ‘Boro to tidy up, and there’s a plan on the back-burner, but right now there’s enough to think about. She calls a meeting with Lavinia and Phil, and they decide they have to relocate. Yet again. This is becoming fucking tedious. They think for a bit: should they finally put aside the ways of violence and turn a new leaf? Then they shake their heads as one. Bollocks to that.
Gang of four
When Mary turns up in Dunbar out of the blue, having tracked her old friend down without much difficulty – which is rather scary in itself – The Nurse knows for sure her instincts are right. That bastard Inspector has found something out, and while it’s a dreadful situation, at least Mary did an instinctive runner. At least she’s safe with the rest of them, now a cosy gang of four.
Deep inside, so deep she doesn’t realise it, The Nurse is momentarily distraught at the thought of leaving Dunbar. It is a lovely little town. She genuinely likes the locals, her Jocks, her Sweaty Socks, her beloved Sweaties. Her childhood experiences camping at Barns Ness are some of her most innocent and enjoyable. Her chilly heart is slightly heavier, and her face is slightly swollen by the single unexpressed tear that fails to fall as she jams the essentials – clothes, shoes and trepanning kit – into her trusty old canvas travel bag.
The Nurse locks the Agony Aunt premises behind her for the last time and posts the keys back through the letterbox, leaving the rest of the gang to cram themselves into the cab while she pats the tall red sandstone frontage, giving it a final, affectionate look. Then she thinks fuck it and climbs into the cab, giving Dunbar’s shoppers a clear view of her tweed knickers, before slamming the door and barking out their destination: take us to Edinburgh Airport, and fast!
The Nurse detests flying, even when it’s a short hop like this, from Edinburgh to Exeter. As someone with very little conscience and no sense of responsibility other than to herself, she dislikes taking such a personal risk, hovering thousands of miles up in the air in a tin tube so heavy and so jammed with fat fucks that she can’t believe the dratted thing manages to take off, never mind fucking fly. She sits back, grips the arm of the chair like it’s saving her from drowning, trusts the laws of physics, and remembers that flying is statistically safer than crossing the road. Except crossing the road has never been quite this fucking scary.
As for Fucked Up? Buck Up! and the Dunbar Euthanasia Club, they simply disappear. At first the locals grumble, missing the services they’d relied on. But three years of Nurse-led wisdom has given the more intelligent residents of Dunbar a level of awareness and self-reliance they would never have developed on their own. Once they’ve thought it through and given themselves a good talking to, they realise they actually don’t give a shit.
Just as they always do, the waters of everyday life close over the heads of everyone in Dunbar. Within a few weeks the town has completely forgotten The Nurse and her iffy friends.