The Nurse Diaries – Parts 24 and 25

The Nurse is awfully proud to share parts twenty four and twenty five of her black comedy novel, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. You can find out more about The Nurse and her foul adventures as Britain’s scariest serial killer by clicking here.

Part 24 – Breaking Evil

Self-delusion

The Nurse likes to think she’s always under control. But being a fully-fledged psycho, she actually isn’t under much control at all. Especially when she’s feeling perky, the risk of discovery has plummeted, and she hasn’t done any trepanning for fucking ages. Phil is feeling much the same, his most powerful urges having been bottled up and his deepest needs repressed for so long. He is aching to carry out a lobotomy.

Waking up the next morning feeling fresh and bright, both of them are desperate to get out there and get cracking. Mad-keen to re-break their cherries, the pair decide to find just one, single victim and share the joy. The Nurse will trepan one side of the vic’s head while Phil lobotomises it via the other side.

They’re so self-absorbed that they don’t consciously realise what a massive step they’ve just taken towards being badder than they’ve ever been before. There is no way a person is going to survive being both trepanned and lobotomised, which means death is a certainty. This has never happened before. For the first time in their lives, Phil and The Nurse are setting out to kill, with no holds barred. They have morphed into fully-formed murderers.

The pair double-check their notebooks, nodding in satisfaction. Isn’t it cool when a plan conceived while hugely stoned looks just as good straight as it did when you were off your tits? It is very satisfying. Linthorpe was always the best fun in the olden days, says The Nurse. Let’s go for it. The pair dress in their smart new clothes – tweed for The Nurse as usual, a lightweight wool suit with a silk shirt and cravat for Phil – and catch the bus to the Linthorpe Hotel.

It is like going back in time. The same calibre of regulars, the same level of awe-inspiring drunkenness, the same lack of care for morals or reputation or personal safety. Perfect.

Hooking up with a couple so pissed they can’t actually see, The Nurse and Phil ply their new friends with drinks and eventually snag an invitation back to a flat in a big Victorian house on Cambridge Road.

Shutting the shiny black front door carefully behind them as the vics stagger up the stairs, hanging drunkenly onto the bannisters as they go, The Nurse feels her pulse quicken in the way it only does when there’s a conquest in the pipeline. As they reach the flat door, she discreetly jabs Phil in the side with a sharp elbow and he grins wickedly back at her. This is fucking brilliant.

Handed a glass of whisky each by the woman, who has decided it’s time to break out the hard stuff, The Nurse and Phil do a secret eeny-meeny-money-mo and decide she’s the one. By the time the whisky is finished the man is out cold on the kitchen floor snoring like a cunt., and the woman is laid out on the kitchen table, ready for the fatal operation she neither sought, expected, nor needs.

Phil ties the man to the radiator just in case he regains consciousness. They attach each of the woman’s hands and feet to a table leg so she’s sprawled out in a star shape. The Nurse takes her beloved trepanning kit out of her boxy classic handbag and removes a blade, wiping it carefully on the skirt of her tweed suit until it gleams softly in the subdued light. Phil watches, breathless, then extracts his lobotomy tool from his trouser pocket.

The poetry begins.

It’s rather like ballet. The Nurse and Phil know each other well by now and they’ve created a beautiful rhythm together. It’s so lovely, in fact, that they decide to film the event on Phil’s smartphone to enjoy at home later. And therefore the pair, too tied up in what’s going on right now to think straight, make another whopper of a mistake, bringing the rozzers a little bit closer.

Phil chooses the woman’s left temple, being left-handed, and The Nurse the right. They carefully move her long hair out of the way, pinning it aside so they can see her scalp. It’s almost ceremonial, their slowness, and as they proceed smoothly to their conclusion, they know for sure they have never done it so well before. This is an absolute triumph in the art of trepanning and the lobotomising. They deserve a fucking award for this one. Perfectly synchronised, The Nurse’s tool swipes down at the exact time as Phil’s, and they both plunge into the woman’s skull. She jerks, then stills, and the blood stops running instantly. One moment she was there, warm and alive, the next she’s gone and cooling fast. Yay.

The Nurse and Phil, breathing hard, take some time to calm down. They wipe their tools clean on bog roll filched from the loo, put them away neatly, and turn to face one another. It’s a solemn moment. It was almost fantastic. But something’s not quite right. Not quite good enough. This experience was a whisker short of 100%. How come?

The entire experience was a blast, dramatic and emotionally satisfying in almost every way. But the woman was too drunk to know what was happening to her, and that was a real shame. Working on someone who actually understands they’re about to be trepanned and lobotomised adds an extra frisson of pleasure to the deal, they recall, and vow to pick a vic who’s less arseholed next time. Someone who will appreciate the efforts they’re making and be fully aware of what’s happening from start to finish.

Back home in South Bank, The Nurse shuts the front room curtains to block the view of the police station; out of sight is out of mind. Phil gets his smartphone out and scrolls down to the video they’ve taken. Fucking hell, it’s amazing. They watch the action again and again, enjoying seeing themselves operating in perfect harmony, causing great beauty with the silvery swipe of their tools. It is compelling stuff. They know it’s probably wise to delete the video but on the other hand, it is so mega-fucking cool, something they’d like to keep and revisit whenever they feel bored or blue.

The next night, when they trot back to the Linny for a few drinks, Phil’s phone drops out of his trouser pocket, tumbles under an easy chair in the pub lounge and whoops, that’s another big mistake well and truly made.

Two days later, the phone is found by some honest fucker who hands it in at the police station. You can almost hear The Nurse and Phil’s lives unravelling, their freedom starting to spiral down a gigantic cosmic toilet.

Mortal foe

Down in Brighton, the Inspector is as frustrated as fuck. The trail has gone stone cold again. He hasn’t seen a relevant disappearance, murder or mutilation for months, nor has anyone in Devon or Dunbar. Middlesbrough is equally quiet. Shithamster. Fuckmeister. Dickcheese.

He sighs, picks up the phone and starts the daily grind of phone calls to his colleagues across the country. And he’s very surprised indeed to hear excitement in Detective Crocker’s voice. Somebody has done the decent thing and handed in a lost smartphone. In order to find out who the owner is, we took a look at the photos and videos on the phone, Crocker says. And you will not fucking believe what we found.

The inspector listens, spellbound, as the detective describes the video. The quality isn’t 100% thanks to the dim lighting, but it clearly reveals a female and a male who have choreographed some awful kind of murder-dance with some poor drunken lady as their victim. They can just about see a socked foot in the left hand corner of the video screen, which they assume is either another victim or someone asleep, drunk or otherwise incapacitated. Best of all, they can see out of the window of the flat onto a sodium-lit late night road that looks very much like Cambridge Road in Linthorpe. The beautiful Art Nouveau stained glass in the front door of the house opposite delivers another useable hint. The clues are arriving thick and fast now, as the Universe does what’s needed to bring harmony back to the world.

The Inspector bangs down the phone, runs out of the nick, chuffs up the hill to the train station and hurls himself onto the next Thameslink service to Kings Cross St Pancras. He’s on his way to the ‘Boro to hook up with Detective Crocker, and he cannot wait.

The train moves maddeningly slowly through Farringdon and the city, disgorging great clumps of commuters – lemmings in suits – at every stop. At St Pancras, he jumps aboard the fast train to Newcastle and sits on the edge of his seat for the entire journey, willing the countryside to pass by faster. When he finally steps off the train at Middlesbrough station he’s jazzed to fuck and really hungry but unable to eat – therefore fucking hangry. He’s thirsty too, horribly so, but he is unwilling to stop for a break in case the story falls apart yet again like a mirage, leaving him with empty hands and a chronic bad temper.

Puffing his way into Bridge Street police station, the Inspector pulls at his tie to let some cool air in and plumps himself down in reception with an oof, waiting for Crocker. A few seconds later, his colleague clatters down the stairs, and they shake hands. OK, let’s take a look at this film, says Crocker, as they quickly make their way back up to his office. Once they’re settled around the desk Crocker clicks through to the video clip he’s downloaded from the phone, gets it up on his screen, and presses ‘start.’

As the action unfolds, the Inspector’s heart beats faster. Fuck me, he says under his breath. No, thanks, mate mutters Crocker absently, watching his colleague’s face closely as the action on screen unfolds.

A pair of smartly-dressed people enter a dimly-lit kitchen. The video pans to the kitchen table where an unconscious woman lies, hands and feet tied to the table legs. When the smart couple swings into action the Inspector gasps out loud, covering his mouth with one hand as his eyes widen.

It’s ugly. It’s terrifying. It’s horrendous to watch. But at the same time, something deep and dark in both policemen responds to the sight of two people who clearly know exactly what the fuck they’re doing, creating their horrid death dance with such extraordinary skill and grace. It is so beautifully smooth it’s almost choreographed, and that means the odd couple must have been working together for some time. You don’t get this fluid and confident when you’ve never done something before, or only practised it a few times.

The video ends with the man and woman turning to face the camera and giving a small, neat bow before switching off. And that’s when it clicks. This is the frayed end of the metaphorical string the Inspector and his colleagues will tug at, pull loose and follow. And it will ultimately end in the arrest of the killers. He’s confident now thanks to the murderers’ bizarre over-confidence. When a suspect gets this cocky, arrest is never far away. These two characters look downright smug. The tossers.

The Inspector books a room at the Linthorpe, then he and Crocker ride, siren-less, in an unmarked cop wagon to Cambridge Road. Slowing down as they reach the house they think they’re looking for, the policemen instantly recognise the Art Nouveau stained glass from the video and swivel to observe the large red brick house opposite, which has been converted into flats. They leave the car outside, ring the doorbell of the ground floor flat with its shining glossy black door, and are let in by a resident who wonders if they’re from Missing Persons, since he hasn’t seen the couple on the top floor for a few days.

The Inspector and Crocker push past him and race up the stairs two at time, stopping at the front door of the top floor flat, out of breath. They knock hard, then listen. Knock again, then listen… and hear a faint groan. Taking a few steps back, the men run at the door with their shoulders but it’s unlocked, and they crash clumsily into the hallway, tangled up. Following the groans, they enter the kitchen and find a man hog-tied to the radiator, as hungover as fuck by the smell of the poor cunt.

When the hungover man points weakly to the kitchen table, they swivel around and gasp out loud. There’s a dead woman – very dead – tied to it. There’s a whacking great hole in one side of her head, a neat hole mind you, almost a perfect circle. On the other temple there’s a small hole through which it looks like someone has poked a slim metal spike, then wiggled it around. Ouch. Nasty.

Revelation

If the men are not mistaken, they decide, going slightly green at the gills, this is a case of simultaneous trepanning and lobotomy. And then they experience a blinding flash of insight: this is what the case is all about. Christ on a bike.

Maybe the dead weren’t meant to die. Perhaps it isn’t all about killing. Is this whole bizarre thing some sort of ghastly experiment? An experiment carried out by people who are busy honing their medical skills? Maybe the maimed who’ve been found wandering in the countryside with holes in their heads are the successes. And that means there must be an awful lot of failures out there, still undiscovered. Many missing people who are actually not missing at all, but dead and buried. Oh, the poor fuckers. And their poor, poor families. Good grief. The men grimace at one another, momentarily speechless. What on Earth have they uncovered?

The Inspector and Crocker call an ambulance, untie the man, accompany him down the stairs and gently guide him into the back of it. He’s obviously shocked, a gibbering wreck. Instructing a colleague to do the interview once he’s calmed down and been cleaned up, the men pile back into their car and head for the police station, determined to find out where the phone the movie was filmed on was bought and potentially get a name for one of the suspects. Sadly, the burner phone wasn’t registered. There’s no name to be had. But they’re not worried. Who cares when the clues are arriving this thick and fast?

Two days later, once the vic’s interview is completed, the Inspector and Crocker gaze at the transcript in wonder. Despite being so arseholed he couldn’t actually see, the man has managed to provide a pretty decent description of the suspects. One, the lobotomiser, is a six-foot tall male with a shaved head, wearing a good woollen suit, white silk shirt and vintage paisley cravat. The other, the trepanner, is a thin six-foot tall woman with eminently forgettable features… but there’s something off-key about her face. The vic struggles to describe it. Maybe it’s something to do with the fine silvery lines on her cheeks that caught the light as the shining blade in her hand came swooping down. And there was something slightly weird about her nose, too.

Because the victim has dated a fair few of ‘Boro’s expressionless orange lasses over the years, he is nagged by the idea that the woman has had bad cosmetic work fixed recently. When Crocker recalls the plastic surgeon struck off for adding vast bazzonkers to women who actually wanted breast reductions, another plump clue drops fully-formed into place with a satisfying poomph. The struck-off surgeon is living in a shipping container over the border in Middlehaven, and the rozzers are about to pay him a visit.

Fuckarama

Shit. The Nurse and Phil are at their wits’ end, having just realised Phil’s phone has disappeared. They retrace their steps carefully, searching with a fine-toothed comb but finding nothing. When they arrive at the pub and ask questions, the landlord proudly tells them about the good citizen who found a mobile under a chair in the lounge the other day and handed it in down at the pig station.

You know that feeling when you realise you’ve been burgled? Or wandered away from the cashpoint machine when off your nut, leaving the cash flapping out of the slot and your card for anyone to steal? Or put your wallet in a litter bin and taken the rubbish you meant to put inside it home with you? It is not a good feeling, and it overwhelms The Nurse and Phil with a rolling tsunami of sick-making horror. The video is on the phone, the phone is with the rozzers, and there’s no time to lose. Fuck the flat. Fuck everything except escape. It was a burner phone, but all the same… they run for it, taking nothing but the clothes they’re standing up in and the precious, glimmering tools of their trade. It’s just a shame The Nurse has forgotten her notebook. There it is, in a kitchen drawer.

At the exact point The Nurse and Phil do a runner, the Inspector and Detective Crocker knock on the door of the disused shipping container where Doctor X lives. They’re about to discover the next solid clue in a dazzling run of clues so juicy they can’t quite believe it. It is fucking awesome.

The ex-surgeon, Doctor X, is a colossal tit. But he’s also an observant tit, if a cowardly tit, and it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to squeeze the required information out of him. Waving a whopper of a joint around as he speaks, spittle flying from his blubbery gob, the Doctor waxes lyrical. Yes, he has recently fixed the face of a woman whose previous cosmetic work was of the worst possible quality. What does she look like now, Dr. X? they ask. Well, sir, she’s still an ugly bint, he replies. The two policeman look at each other, wince, then eye Doctor X with disgust. Just give us a description for fuck’s sake, sighs Crocker.

Both men’s eyes widen as they absorb what the greasy little fucker has to say. Result. Now they know who they’re looking for. More than that, the men know what the savagely skinny woman looked like before as well as after her corrective surgery. They also have an excellent image in their minds’ eyes of the woman’s partner in crime, a very tall, exceptionally thin man with a gaunt shaved head and googly eyes. Whatever clever shit the crims dream up next, there’s one thing they can’t fix. Neither suspect will find it easy to disguise their unusual height and extreme thinness.

Further investigations in various police stations deliver even more insight. It doesn’t take the rozzers long to notice patterns emerging around specific types of victim. In Brighton it was random at first, then the slaughter seemed to focus in on the hen and stag segment. Then it looks as though there was a brief but successful foray into the world of criminal hunting gangs, something that may or may not be connected with the cold case concerning the Sussex Hunt barn explosion. In Middlesbrough the victims appeared random at first. Then the killers quickly moved on to expressionless orange botoxed women before progressing to the pampered, worked upon, over-tanned and over-tarted of both sexes.

Devon’s hunting, shooting, hare coursing and lamping community has suffered terribly at the hands of the gang. A great many toffs, psycho-farmers and knuckle-dragging hunt followers are no longer alive on this sweet earth, no longer able to torment the wildlife. Devon’s police find it a challenge to give much of a shit about the hunters and secretly laugh their tits off about the whole thing down at the pub. Ha, the arrogant cunts finally got what they deserved.

In Dunbar, the police have perked up somewhat, but they’re struggling to spot a decent pattern. Local people mutter amongst themselves about the unusual number of well-known wankers, bell-ends, dickheads and cunts who’ve disappeared from the area. Could that constitute a pattern? It is, of course, but the rozzers scratch their heads and decide the idea is far too out-there to be true.

At the same time a number of puzzled Scots have come forward. The region has inexplicably lost several walkers and geologists, mostly from along the coast around Barns Ness. Workers from the nuclear plant have frequently failed to turn up after lunch, a phenomenon HR has so far attributed to ordinary, everyday employee pissed-offness.

The payment kiosk people at Tantallon Castle eventually remind the police about the strange rash of cliff-fall accidents involving Japanese tourists, idly wondering if it has anything to do with the killings. It isn’t taken seriously. Up here, the wheels of justice grind a bit more slowly, mostly because this is Jockland and everyone is almost always drunk.

Part 25 – The Universe Gets on the Case

Karma

When the Middlesbrough police find The Nurse’s notebook, the one she left behind in the kitchen drawer, another distant cosmic door slams shut for her and Phil.

The chaos they’ve caused is revealed in all its horrid technicolour glory by her meticulous jottings, which nail it for the rozzers. The notebook confirms what they suspected – that the killers have been doing their grisly work for some time. A man and a woman, a mutual obsession, plus an astonishing history of bloodthirsty mayhem.

The motive? This doesn’t look like murder for its own sake. It feels more like experimentation, something carried out without a care for the victims or consequences. It is evil beyond belief. It is vile, impersonal slaughter and waste in pursuit of perfection. It’s a production line-style murderfest of a kind that no rozzer anywhere on this beautiful blue planet has seen before. But there’s a mad logic to it: we want to know x, so we do y.

Once the various body dumps around the nation start to come to light, revealing a vast amount of unholy wickedness spread far and wide, the police finally have enough evidence to get their teeth into – the big picture is finally emerging.

The South Downs around Brighton turn out to be a grisly repository for several hundred previously-missing people. Bodies start to turn up in odd places as well. One is spotted by a hiker thanks to a bony finger pointing from the newly-ploughed earth, beckoning at the innocent periwinkle sky. Others are discovered by dog walkers in hidden valleys, still more buried six inches deep in shallow scoops of chalk covered with thin blankets of neat, sheep-cropped grass. In the end, it’s like fucking buses. You don’t see a dead body for ages, then hundreds of the cunts turn up at the same time.

In Kemptown and Hove, two abandoned, long-empty, recently auctioned properties deliver vomit-inducingly grim tidings as the new owners attempt to get their gardens in order. The city’s body count so far is clocking up to several hundred or so in Kemptown, and at least twice that in Hove. Christ on a bike.

The Cleveland Hills prove similarly grim, with numerous dead people posted carelessly into shallow graves. One is found by a boy searching for his drone, a body sitting high in a tree at the rim of a deserted quarry, perfectly mummified, all yellow and leathery like those dessicated pig ears you see in pet shops, the ones dogs eat.

In Devon the rozzers take their brand new, horribly expensive electronic nose gadget up to Exmoor and discover a slew of graves – shallow and shallower still – dotted around the bleak, heathery moorland. When an estate agent calls, breathless with excitement because she thinks she sold a cottage to the suspects about eighteen months ago, Devon Constabulary creaks into action and raids the place. It’s deserted, of course, and deranged as the suspects are, they haven’t shat in this particular nest. There are no bodies in the garden.

The rozzers in Dunbar take longer to catch on. They’re familiar with the disappearances and maimings in other parts of the country, and they know there are signs of a similar pattern in East Lothian, but fuck it – no real evidence has come to light in the town just yet. Plus, the trouble is mostly down in Sassenach land, and they can fuck off anyway. Bloody English. Then a lone Wild Camping fan called Tim attempts to insert an extra-long tent peg into the beach at White Sands and gets the shock of his life.

When Tim’s tent peg hits rotting flesh, the stink is indescribable. The rozzers bring a cadaver dog with them, expecting to find a body, and the dog goes berserk. Over a period of three weeks they dig up three hundred and seventeen bodies from the sand, in various states of disrepair. The long process of identification begins, swamping the nation’s DNA labs and giving many, many dentists nightmares. It is not nice having to identify a person’s teeth once those teeth are no longer attached to the owner’s head.

1507 dead

The end result of all this digging and discovering is shocking in the extreme. A total of a fifteen hundred and seven dead so far, and fuck knows how many maimings, make this the planet’s worst ever serial killing event by a long chalk. These criminals make every other criminal in human history look amateur, substandard, and a bit shit at their jobs.

Shit-eating grins

Chief McDonald in Dunbar, The Inspector from Brighton, Detective Crocker from Middlesbrough and Chief Castle from Barnstaple arrange to meet in London to coordinate the various regional investigations. Each of them wears a brilliant shit-eating canoe of a grin, absolutely delighted by the latest turn of events.

Spliffs in hand, they go over the facts together. Yes, the sheer number of vics is embarrassing. But they’re well on track, and there’s no fucking way they’re going to lose the thread this time. The men pool their knowledge, share their personal and professional insights, and travel home feeling they’re en route to victory. They’re going to catch these cunts, and it won’t take long. They’ve reached the tipping point. From now on, clues will arrive thick and fast. That’s the way the biscuit usually crumbles at this stage in an investigation.

Meanwhile, Phil and The Nurse are on the run, heading northwards on foot. This isn’t particularly clever since the farther north they go, the fewer people there are, and the more suspicious-looking they, as odd-looking strangers, become. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, though. The cat is already out of the bag. The pair don’t realise it, but they’ve just become very conspicuous indeed. Their faces – or an approximation of them – have been plastered across the physical and digital worlds for every cunt to see. The police have pinned up photofits of them outside police stations across the land. And now that social media is heavily involved, the pair are in real danger of discovery. What a load of shit-fuckery.

At this stage, although they don’t fully realise it, the pressure is beginning to have an effect. They’re losing the plot bit by bit, brain cell by brain cell. For now, The Nurse and Phil remain just about rational enough to realise the only way to stay safe is to avoid civilisation.

Hartlepool does nicely. Exhausted after three days on the run with no money, no change of clothes and no final destination, they tumble into the outskirts of the town, hoping to find anonymity. No fucking chance. They stand out like a couple of sore thumbs. When Phil walks past the Avenue Road police station on a recce and sees himself and The Nurse scowling out of a poster, their features exaggerated but far too close to the real thing for comfort, he’s horrified. They scuttle off and hide in Summerhill Country Park for the day, hungry and cold and hacked off, then make their way back south in a counter-intuitive sort of way to Teesmouth National Nature Reserve to regroup overnight.

This is fucking shite. Nature is only any fun when you’re observing it from a position of comfort, when you’re warm and well-fed and you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Hiking is only enjoyable when you actually want to go on a hike, not when you’re forced into walking mile after mile in unsuitable footwear, pursued by cunts in uniforms. And the natural world? Fuck that. When you’re freezing cold, damp and bored shitless, nature is nothing but crap. There’s nowhere to crap. There’s no solace in trees and bushes and fucking birds fucking singing like cunts when you’re fleeing from the police, running for your life and liberty with no energy, your ribs becoming clearly visible, poking through your sticky, gritty skin.

The Nurse gathers some yarrow, ground elder and monkshood. Phil hides in the undergrowth until an unwary blackbird alights, then grabs it and breaks its neck with a twist. They rub sticks together hopelessly until Phil feels in his pocket and finds a lighter. A fire and a mouthful of blackbird and vegetable soup later, the pair are still mightily pissed off but at least the worst of the hunger pangs are gone. They dig down into the fine sand to make a neat depression, which they fill with marram grass – fucking spiky but better than nothing – and huddle down to sleep.

The next day, Phil and The Nurse are forced to face facts. It’s bad. They’re being sought by the police. The search has gone national. They’re probably – no, come on for fuck’s sake, definitely – all over social media like a rash. This is shit creek. They are up it. They have no paddles. They have fuck-all food. They’re beginning to look like the living dead, and they don’t feel much better.

It is revolting having to wear the same clothes for one day and night, never mind day after day, night after night. It’s dreadful not being able to wash your hair and clean your smelly bits. The Nurse and Phil quickly discover it’s also fucking awful having to wash in salty water. It is no fun squatting to dunk your privates, dipping your lady-garden into the North Sea. Nor do Phil’s frightened testicles appreciate their frigid baptism. It. Is. Freaking. Freezing.

The Nurse, used to the relatively balmy waters of the English Channel, is shocked at how fast her feet go blue. Literally blue. She glances up and catches Phil looking at her, seeing her own horror mirrored in his gaunt face with its enormous eyes and blade-sharp cheekbones. They pull their clothing back into place over goose-pimpled, wet, salty skin. Then brush the sand off their outer layers, patting each other down before turning turn to the north, red-faced and watery-eyed in the stiff easterly gale.

The coast feels safest. At this time of year, only the hardy-as-fuck and mental cunts venture out to fight the fierce winds and near-zero temperatures, a wholly shitty combination. The Nurse and Phil stagger wearily onwards, hugging the seashore. Nobody gets a good night’s kip on sand. They’re whacked. Sleep is all they can think about. And water. It becomes a mantra. Food, water, sleep, warmth, food, water, sleep, warmth, food, water, sleep, warm, food, water, sleep, warm. food, water, sleep, warm, food, water, sleep, warm, food, water, sleep, warmth, food, water, sleep, warmth, food, water, sleep, warmth.

The Nurse remembers, when she hiked as a young woman, the sheer joy of walking miles and miles, head high, tall and strong-bodied and sturdy. This is different. Very much so. Hiking when you’re so thin you make a garden rake look like a fat-arse is not a pleasure. It hurts. Court shoes are no good for walking any further than the shops. Her tights are ripped to fuckery. Phil looks like a living scarecrow in a suspiciously good suit, the loose soles of his town shoes flapping miserably. Their skin is grey and dull, their fingernails are filthy.

This won’t do. There’s no hope of escape when you’re half-starved and half-dressed.

The coast between Hartlepool and Easington is remote and blustery. The Nurse and Phil, almost folded in half by the sheer strength of the gale, plough onwards, paralleling the coast road with the North Sea to their right. Their route is a frigid hell of cold, salty water hurled by the white capped sea, the wind’s batterings and blusterings flinging them left and right so they can’t relax a single muscle. Everything is tensed tight in an effort to stay upright, and it’s knackering. The Nurse is a tough woman, but she’s flagging. As is Phil.

When a light comes into view through the growing dusk on Old Cemetery Road, emanating from a tatty VW campavan parked on the verge, The Nurse and Phil stop and take a deep breath. It’s risky interacting with people. But they’re completely fucked up, and the opportunity is too good to miss.

The Nurse knocks on the door, not too hard, not too soft, just right. It opens to reveal a hippy. He smiles a great big welcome at them. Fuck, man, what the fuck’s happened to you two? Dudes, come on in. Have a bifter. Actually, have mine. I’ll roll a couple more to get us going. Fuck me. What the fuck? Hey, I’m skinning up for Jesus, guys. Sit yourselves down. Once we’re sorted, I’ll bung the kettle on, and I’ll find you some dry threads. Phil glances at The Nurse, and they grin. He’s their kind of hippy.

A good wash in super-hot water from a camping kettle using a worn but spotlessly clean flannel. Old, soft, newly-laundered borrowed clothes. Several massive joints of top class weed. It all does its magic. The pair sit opposite the hippy and wriggle their feet, now happily encased in knitted rainbow socks with individual toes. Nice.

The hippy rolls more bifters and extols the relative virtues of various varieties of home-grown weed. The Nurse and Phil gradually relax, eyelids drooping. The hippy eventually packs his stash neatly into a carved wooden Indian box, finds blankets in a tiny storage area and covers the couple up. Then he retreats to his comfy hanging hammock bed with a large nighty-night spliff before drifting off into a beautiful sleep.

They may be murderers, but they are not complete monsters. Fair is fair. After a breakfast of home-caught mackerel and a couple of generous tokes, equipped with a dozen large joints of neat weed that slot comfortably into the top pocket of Phil’s borrowed hoodie, the pair wave a cheery goodbye to the hippy and continue along, parallel to the sea. It’s a sunny day, and they slow down, not wanting to seem too suspiciously earnest just in case there are any hikers or dog walkers around. It is quiet at this time of year and The Nurse, snug if a bit itchy in the hippy’s old Peruvian alpaca wool jumper, hopes they don’t stand out too much.

Luckily, there’s no fucker around anyway. Only sea birds like elegant coat hangers surfing the crisp air and the waves rolling in and out, in and out. It isn’t long before they hit a lovely, natural walker’s high and the miles start to disappear under their newly-comfortable booted feet. That fucking hippy was a fucking diamond geezer.

Food is a big deal. The human body can’t keep going indefinitely in crap weather without proper sustenance. The Nurse and Phil soon discover seagulls don’t taste good, a thoroughly unpleasant blend of fishiness and meatiness that makes them feel terribly sick for a few hours. They find an almost-full plastic bottle of Lucozade rolling in on the brown, frothy tide, which provides some much-needed energy as they approach Crimdon Dene Holiday Park, where they break into a static caravan and spend a warm, reasonably comfortable night.

By the time they stagger into Blackhall Colliery late the next day, they’re starving again. They spend a minute or two with their noses squashed miserably against the cold glass at the fish and chippie on Coast Road, which doesn’t open until six, then they scoot around the back and break in. The Nurse coughs loudly to hide the sound as Phil smashes the glass in the back door with a sharp elbow.

Inside they fall, ravenous, upon a heap of uncooked chips, pushing handful after handful into their mouths. If you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know that raw potato tastes like shite, but when you’re this hungry flavour is mostly immaterial. Your body simply demands nourishment, and it doesn’t really care what kind. The way the pair are feeling right now, cardboard would taste pretty good. Or grass. Even dog shit. Raw chips are a fucking luxury, relatively speaking.

The worst of their hunger cravings satisfied for now, The Nurse and Phil play their favourite game while the miles unfurl under their blistered feet and evening falls. It’s called Inventions. The Nurse usually wins, but this time Phil’s idea proves way better than anything her weary mind can dream up.

As the cars steam past them on the road to their left, Phil notices very few of them obey the speed limit. He hates that. The selfish cunts. He proposes a shiny metal spike to help drivers remain road-legal and thus avoid fines. The spike is somehow attached to the steering wheel via the steering column, poking out of the centre of the wheel pointy end first. Whenever a foolish driver starts to ease the car they’re driving over the speed limit, the spike steadily moves upwards towards their chest. If a driver actually exceeds the speed limit, the point of the metal spike enters their chest to cause instant death. The Nurse is fucking impressed, if she says so herself. This invention is not just about safety either, claims Phil. The rozzers would love it. Dead drivers don’t cause anywhere as near as much paperwork as the living fuckers you have to actually arrest.

Sadly lacking in cunts

The police forces in Middlesbrough, Brighton, Dunbar and Devon have set up a temporary incident room in Lewes, each transferring several key staff to the town, specifically tasked with investigating the case.

Once the paperwork from each county has been pooled, the patterns become even more obvious. One pin per victim on a massive map of the nation reveals large clumps of maimings and killings, kicking off in Sussex, then moving to the North East, then Scotland, then Devon. The trail is revealed, as clear as a bell.

It’s just a shame there haven’t been any sightings of the suspects for fucking ages. Not since Devon. The tall, rangy, ugly woman seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. The thin bloke she might or might not be travelling with hasn’t been spotted either. Fuckarama.

The milk of human kindness

Right now, The Nurse and Phil are still hugging the chilly north east coast, making slow progress and currently more or less opposite Easington Colliery. They turn onto the Durham Heritage Coast Walk, starting from the car park and walking towards the bridge on their right to join the coastal path, keeping the railway line to their left.

It is a long and wearisome trek to Seaham Harbour, but they eventually make it and flop, beyond exhausted, onto the wet sand beneath the great sea cliffs. Hunger is fast becoming their default setting. The Nurse and Phil are still dropping the pounds, losing weight dangerously fast. The hippy’s jumper is already starting to bag around The Nurse’s neck as she gets skinnier. Phil’s clothes are hanging off him as well, he’s even more scarecrow-like than ever. Between them, they look as fucking rough as a badger’s ass. Maybe rougher.

Talking about badgers… the pair are relieved when, just before dusk, trekking inland a mile or two for the night, they discover a deserted badger sett and scoop out enough extra soil to widen the entrance before sliding themselves into the tunnel feet first. It’s smelly and damp, but so are they. At least they’re out of sight and away from the constant, maddening wind.

Most humans are quite nice. If we come across a fellow person who is suffering, we’re naturally disposed to lend a hand. When a dog walker wanders past at dawn the next day and spots two matted heads of hair sticking out of a badger sett, he gasps in shock. In this country, the world’s sixth-biggest economy, there should not be such a thing as homeless people. Human beings should not be forced to sleep rough like this. What is the world coming to?

He bends down gingerly, not wanting to give the sleeping people a shock, and a bleary blue eye opens and stares at him. Hello, says The Nurse. Despite contact with other humans being risky, in this case, while horizontal and vulnerable, it feels sensible to be polite rather than churlish.

In her increasingly-crazed mind, she remains a sharply-dressed, intelligent women of the world with a bright future and a fascinating past. In brutal reality she’s a ridiculously tall, thin stick insect of a person whose clothes don’t fit, and she looks like she could eat a fucking dinosaur, never mind a horse.

She shakes Phil awake, and he coughs miserably. He’s not feeling well. His throat’s sore, he’s cold all over, and he doesn’t think he can go on much longer. The dog walker assesses the situation, holds out a firm, strong, brown hand and pulls the pair to their feet, observing them with deep empathy as they adjust their clothing and she pulls at her filthy nest of hair in embarrassment, attempting to look respectable.

If The Nurse and Phil had been discovered by the Conservative Party councillor who was walking his dog along the beach at Seaham at the time, they’d have been bollocksed. Not realising they were master criminals sought by the police, assuming they were homeless, he would’ve locked them up until nightfall, then driven them out of the area and dumped them so they could make someone else’s constituency look messy.

As it is, the bloke who takes the pair in is more interested in people’s well-being than their appearance, more concerned with justice than sticking his fingers in his ears and doing a runner at the mere sight of human suffering. A man rich in common humanity, kind through and through, as decent as they come, he takes them home for a cooked breakfast.

When you’re filthy and starving, it’s hard to know which to do first; get clean, or eat food? Their rescuer understands this and makes the decision for them, motioning Phil into the main bathroom and The Nurse into an en-suite. While they scrub themselves blissfully in steaming hot bubble baths, he cooks up a storm. The dog lies happily on the kitchen rug, chewing a rubber toy.

When the pair make their way back downstairs, wet hair combed flat to their skulls and wearing the freshly-laundered borrowed clothes the man has laid out for them, they’re greeted by a perfectly-prepared full English breakfast and a huge dark brown pot full of scalding tea. Food has never tasted so good, and they dive right in.

The man watches, a faint smile on his face, then carefully rolls an absolutely massive joint and takes a huge toke. That’s the way to start the day, he says, smiling so hard his cheeks crinkle and his eyes get lost in weather-beaten folds of skin. When he hands the bifter to Phil, The Nurse feels tears welling up and hastily looks away. When the spliff comes her way, she draws a great, big lungful, and the tears begin to fall in earnest. You’re so kind. We’re so grateful. We don’t deserve it. You have no idea what we’ve done.

Shit, shit, shit. For the sake of fuck. The Nurse never cries. She doesn’t do gratitude either. She’s as hard as nails, as tough as old boots. Phil flashes her a severe warning look from beneath his brows, and, making an almighty effort, she cuts off the tears and coughs hard to hide her embarrassment and horror. The man smiles at them both beatifically, hands the joint around again, then potters off to make more tea.

The kitchen is warm and quiet. A clock ticks. The dog sighs, farts, raises an eyebrow. The man returns to the table, rolls a fresh joint, lights it and draws on it. The weed crackles as it burns. Outside, there’s a stiff breeze, grey clouds scudding past a watery sun. A leaf hits the window, and the dog looks up, startled, then grunts and lies its head back down on neatly crossed paws.

Time passes. They clean their plates, wiping them with slices of nutty brown bread. Then they set their cutlery neatly down and sigh with satisfaction. The man doesn’t talk. There’s no need. He’s just there for them. There’s no agenda. It’s a bit like spending time with a cat.

When the man pops out to the corner shop for more milk, The Nurse and Phil put their heads close together for a whispered conference. The dog, half-asleep, hears them and raises its sleepy head, then flops down again and sighs fatly, blowing out warm, meaty breath.

They need to know more about the man. Can they really trust him? Will he shop them? For all he knows they’re a couple of ordinary, everyday homeless folk, on the bones of their arses as the winter closes in. Should they go now, just fuck off and leave a polite note? Or stay and say a proper goodbye?

To be honest, it’s incredibly hard to move when you’ve found peace, safety and comfort after days of fear, hunger and exhaustion. In the end, they decide to stay put, since it would seem rude to do a runner. Even serial killers have manners.

The man, just like the hippy before him, proves a jolly good egg. Little does he know, he’s harbouring two of the world’s most prolific murderers, sought by the police from Lands End to John O’Groats. He doesn’t do social media, he lives miles from the nearest rozzer station, and all he sees when he looks at The Nurse and Phil – with the compassion that is his trademark – is a couple of fellow humans down on their luck.

The Nurse and Phil stay with him for three days and three nights, playing with the dog, staying warm, eating good, wholesome food and getting wonderfully off their faces, totally spanked from waking up to going to bed. It is heavenly.

The man doesn’t ask a single question. He simply accepts them for who they are, whatever that might be. When they graciously thank him for the last time, still horribly skinny but warmly dressed in clean clothes, with the hippy’s newly-washed contributions folded and fragrant in their rucksacks, he nods, smiles and watches from the front step, the dog, tail wagging, at his side. Heading north, they turn and wave as they reach the corner. Goodbye, Jeremy Corbyn. He waves back, ushers the dog patiently back inside, and closes the door.

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