The Nurse is pleased to present the final three chapters of her black comedy novel, The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. What a violent, bloody, terrifying adventure it has been. But it isn’t over… yet. She’s busy writing volume two right now. You can find out more about The Nurse and her murdering ways by clicking here.
Part 28 – Redemption?
Fuck. The Nurse and Phil have overshot Barns Ness by fucking miles thanks to the powerful currents, their own weakness, and the fact that their boat is about to fall to bits. Night is falling and the wind’s getting blowier by the minute. They turn the boat with difficulty, using the last of their strength to fight their way two hundred brutal, exhausting metres against the current to sanctuary on Bass Rock.
From a distance, Bass Rock is incredible. Close up, it’s even more extraordinary. The Nurse and Phil, high as kites on their own lunacy, crash-land their boat in the violent surf on the slab of a shore, turning to see the Inspector – in an even smaller boat with a red sail – surging in pursuit over the waves, standing straight and determined, watching them. She flips him the bird and turns to steady a wobbling Phil, helping him stagger across the slippery curved grin of rock-strewn beach towards the towering cliffs slathered with stinking seabird guano.
The tide is high and getting higher. Turning around at the foot of the cliff, panting hard, the cold wind making their eyes water, the pair observe, aghast, as the Inspector sees the remaining slice of beach disappear under the waves and is forced to turn back. His mouth makes a darkly disappointed ‘o’ in his white face as he bobs away across the boiling sea. Within a minute, he’s just a speck in the distance. Holy crap. They’ve pulled it off.
Unseen, The Inspector gives The Nurse an unwilling but well-deserved nod of respect as his boat scuds away across the water, back to Dunbar until the tide turns. Baddies one, rozzers nil. But not for long.
The lighthouse on Bass Rock is bigger than the one at Barns Ness. There’s no chance of anyone landing until the tide goes down, so they’re safe for a few hours at least. The Nurse and Phil scramble up the steep path to the lighthouse door and break it down, repositioning the remains across the doorway in such a way that it can’t be opened without falling down and giving them plenty of warning. Then they blunder their way wetly into what looks like a kitchen and Phil lights the Rayburn with driftwood stacked against the wall.
The Nurse slouches down to peer out of a slinty, salt-smeared window, watching as the immaculate gannets screech and wheel in the gale and the kittiwakes soar high, adding snowy guano of their own to the already-sticky white rock-scape.
There’s something about the birds. Their beauty and elegance. The way they stay so purely and perfectly white. The way they hover as if they’re actually balancing on top of a chunk of invisible air. It makes The Nurse want to cry. Putting a salt-roughened hand to her cheek, she feels gritty tears oozing down her face, dripping into the neck of her sea-ruined jumper. Fuck me.
The Nurse lets it all go. She laments the loss of her own purity all those years ago, when she could have turned a different corner but didn’t. She cries for lost love, for wasted opportunities, for a life barely lived, a two-dimensional affair in which death was the boss and true emotional fulfilment came a poverty-stricken second. Weeping freely now, she stumbles, blinded by tears, to a cushioned window seat and lowers herself into it, sobbing. Oh man, this is weird. What the fuck?
The faces of the dead – hundreds of the cunts, maybe more than a thousand? – march across The Nurse’s mind, and she sobs harder. What about the families? How must they feel, knowing their loved ones have been brutally killed? Or lobotomised or trepanned then left wandering? All those poor people left emotionally deranged and physically fucked up, forever frightened of what lies behind corners, afraid of the dark and scared of their own shadows. Is that a life well-lived? No, it fucking well isn’t.
She can’t imagine how horrid it must feel to wake every morning and know you have a ten pee-sized hole in your bonce and no way of closing the fucker, a nasty-looking hole that pulses like a baby’s fontanelle. Jesus-fucking-Christ, what has she done?
Empathy, never something The Nurse has had much time or inclination for, has punched her hard in the gut, and she’s reeling from it. When Phil hands her a bowl of hot soup and some crusty bread, she takes it gratefully but finds she can’t eat, her appetite is dead. Snorting the snot back up her nose every time it makes a bid for freedom, she hiccups and sobs into the still-full bowl. Then forces herself to eat and, afterwards, feels better. The sniffles and gasps slow down, she warms up and dries out, and like someone blowing up a balloon she feels herself inflate and grow, steadily getting back to normal, filling up with familiar evil.
Thank fuck for that. She thought she was losing it for a moment there. Phil looks mightily relieved and trots off to do the washing up while she makes up a couple of beds with the lighthouse’s fresh, crisp white sheets and scratchy striped blue and cream woollen blankets.
By the time The Nurse and Phil are cosied up in their beds, high up in the lighthouse tower, she is feeling fucking amazing, more than equal to the sticky task of achieving the next step.
The Nurse mulls the situation over. Things have gone slightly awry. They’re hardly in the best of positions, marooned on a 313-foot high volcanic plug that soars out of the Firth of Forth, surrounded by tricky currents and frigid waters. Worse still The Inspector knows exactly where they are, he’ll be back in no time, and their only possession is a small wooden rowing boat.
The Nurse snuggles into her feather pillow and grins sleepily. She has faced worse difficulties before. An idea will come. She just needs to take a step back and let it seep through to her conscious mind while she’s asleep.
The next morning all thoughts of redemption have fled. The Nurse is feeling mighty fine. She knows exactly what to do, how, and when. It is utter madness, but by this stage she and Phil have gone way beyond the farthest, most remote borders of sanity anyway. Fuck it.
None of us has to die
The Nurse and Phil set off from Bass Rock before dawn, having smoked one of the biggest joints they’ve ever made. Quickly getting back into the rhythm of rowing, they’re feeling grand. On top of the world. Mighty good. Fucking-A. Splendiferous. Awesome. The dog’s bollocks.
Inside their heads, they are in a kind of crazed heaven. In reality things are crap, and they look like crap. Their skin is fishy and limp, peeling off in tripe-like strips. Neither of them has any hair or eyebrows or eyelashes. Most of their teeth have fallen out, their eyes are sunken, and their breath smells like some cunt shat in their mouths.
Speeding southwards towards the lighthouse at Barns Ness, they smile at each other. They’re beautiful. Life is beautiful. As they row in a two forward, one back sort of way against the tide, sucked away from land then fighting back towards it again and again, their excitement grows. But their bodies are shutting down.
The rowing steadily becomes less earnest, more balletic, more in time, sublime, mime, mine, swine, rhyme, crime, pantomime… fuck off! The Nurse wakes up from a dangerous doze and slaps Phil hard, cutting his lip open. His eyes go wide as he brings a frozen blue hand to his mouth and wipes away rusty blood. They stare at each other blearily, then lick their salty, cracked lips and smile. Onwards and upwards, gorgeous ones. Paradise here we come.
None of us has to die, exclaims Phil completely out of the blue an hour later as the beach at Barns Ness finally comes into view through the thick, wind-tossed spray. What the fuck? The Nurse turns to Phil, who has mysteriously stopped rowing, arms hanging limp by his sides and head hanging. I said none of us has to die, he sighs. I never said we had to die, Phil, you daft cunt, she replies.
Phil ignores her, slumping farther down into the bottom of the boat. The Nurse keeps rowing, but without him they start going in ever-decreasing circles. Oh, for the sake of fuck. She prods Phil with a sharp foot, and he leaps up suddenly, yelling violently, delirious, waving his arms and making the boat rock frighteningly. M’lady, I see paradise ahoy! The castle awaits us! Our pet unicorns have been sent to fetch halva! The forces of evil cannot prevail! I will save you! Then he leaps overboard with a great cry of insane joy.
The Nurse isn’t strong or fast enough to save Phil, who is obviously doing a Titanic on her. The silly bastard. As he bobs out towards the open sea, disappearing at speed on the powerful current, his crazed expression suddenly clears. He gives The Nurse one of his old, sane-ish grins and winks at her over the waves, shouts, Go for it, woman. It has been fucking amazing. See you in the next life. Then he sinks for good, his bald head disappearing under the grimy, fast-moving water.
It’s sad, she supposes. Phil’s death almost touches The Nurse. But in reality, she’s far too mad for tears, in full loon-out mode, an utterly mental woman with a crackpot plan and not much time to achieve it.
In The Nurse’s broken mind, she is sailing at a leisurely pace towards a jewel-like tropical island, the only place on earth where everything will, at last, once more be wonderful. She sighs with pleasure, wriggles her shoulders to get rid of a few stray kinks, and rows happily onwards towards the lovely, shining vision. She sees an almighty spliff waiting with her name on it, served on a scarlet silk cushion by an unusually attractive young chap wearing suede cowboy-style chaps and no pants, bare buttocks gleaming with health. Joy ahoy!
As dusk falls, The Nurse finally staggers ashore, dumps the boat just to the north of White Sands and hobbles over the headland to the beach at Barns Ness, where she finally sinks to the ground. Too exhausted to move, she falls into an instant, dreamless sleep.
Waking up an hour later, she finds a small sliver of sanity has been restored. She is no longer manic, not flying any more, just battered by circumstances and exposure, worn to a fine, blade-like sliver of her former self. No naked-bottomed pretty boys, no bifters served on scarlet silken cushions. Just a chilly slice of deserted but dearly-familiar beach, a dark sky heavy with unexpressed rain, no food, nothing to drink and nowhere to be. Bollocks.
And Phil is gone. She unexpectedly cries a few jagged, dry sobs, then wipes her face with a filthy hand and stands with difficulty, swaying against the stiff breeze. This is no exotic tropical island. Of course it isn’t. There is no tropical island, never has been. It was a figment of their imaginations, of her and Phil being maddened by trauma and stress and near-death. It was a fun vision, mind you. While there’s no tropical paradise here in real life, or at least not on the bleak Scottish coast, there fucking well ought to be.
Beached, The Nurse examines her situation from every angle. She decides there’s only one way out. It has been fantastic. Life could not have been better, everything considered. But it is wise to know when to stop, to understand when enough is enough. You can’t fly as high as she has flown, for so long, without setting your wings well and truly on fire.
Decision made, The Nurse sits on the sand above the pebbly tideline for a while and makes peace with life, the Universe, and everything.
She rummages through the drift of seashells surrounding her and finds her favourite type, a tiny blue rayed limpet, then picks up a perfect white cowrie shell. It would be lovely to stay, collect a pocketful of sea treasures, make her way to a good hotel for a tasty meal, a hot bath, and a long sleep. But it’s too late. Way too late. She flings away the shells and stands, stretching, her entire body aching.
In The Nurse’s world, you can’t just fuck off and die without saying a proper goodbye. There’s not a lot to say goodbye to on this beach, but it’s where her happiest childhood memories were made, so it is apt enough.
Trudging over the pebbles, she bids farewell to the famously weird geology, picking up then discarding a sea-rounded chunk of purply volcanic rock studded with crystals of amethyst, a fossilised horse tooth, and a chunk of salt-darkened iron pyrites. She says a fond goodbye to the trickle of tiny orange, yellow, and brown striped shells the tide carefully picks out and lines up for small children to marvel at, then wanders over to the foot of the lighthouse and looks up until she feels dizzy, sitting down suddenly and painfully on the hard-packed, scented turf. Then she struggles upright again and makes her way to the chunk of wooden pontoon, or whatever it is, climbing on top and facing the sea for a while, bald head stinging in the salty wind.
An hour later, she’s ready. The Nurse takes off her clothes in a ceremonial manner and folds them neatly, piling them onto a flat rock at the sea’s farthest edge near the low tide line. She looks down at her once vigorous body and sighs at the blue-grey loose skin, the outlines of thin, sharp bones poking through, the scratches and the bruises, the wrinkles and the filth. Then she hooks a long, mucky fingernail up her nose and unravels a massive bogey. Might as well die with clean nostrils.
Walking towards the angry-looking waves, The Nurse still isn’t totally sure how her story is going to end. She might survive, she might not. Probably not, let’s face it. But whatever happens next, the chase stops here.
She glances briefly inland. Scans the grey horizon one last time. Walks determinedly towards the sea and onwards into it until the only bit left showing is the top of her bald head. She waves a cheeky arm above it, a skinny, living Excalibur: The Nurse salutes you. Now fuck off. When she finally disappears under the waves, the Universe heaves an enormous sigh of belated relief. Thank fuck for that.
Part 29 – Too Fucking Late
Seconds to spare
A mere five minutes later, when a dog walker arrives on the beach with his poodle, it’s all over. Only The Nurse’s neat tower of clothes is there, both her own and those she’s borrowed, with her crusty, worn-out navy court shoes perched jauntily on top.
The dog walker runs across the beach, across pointy rocks to the water’s edge, and scans the horizon in a panic, peering intently at the waves, at the boiling grey chaos. He can’t see any signs of life. As the dog dances around him, barking with excitement, he takes his mobile out of his cagoule pocket and calls 999.
The Inspector takes the 999 call, since every rozzer in the land is either still on the west coast searching for the killers or on the way back, somewhere in between there and here.
Ten minutes later, he’s racing on foot through the old Barns Ness campsite at high speed, taking great leaps down the shingle to the low tideline, where a heap of something or other is about to be floated off by the incoming water. It must be the pile of stuff reported by the dog walker. Grabbing the clothing and shoes a fraction of a second before they sail away, he splashes back up the beach and flops down on the spiny blue-grey grass, catching his breath.
By the time he is joined by Crocker and Castle half an hour later, The Inspector has sussed it. The female killer has done a Reggie Perrin on them. As far as the other one goes, the fella, there’s no sign.
Phil washes up on the coast opposite Broxburn the next day. The rozzers pick up his poor, wasted, rock-ripped body and take it to the coroner, who officially finds that the man drowned.
There’s still no sign of the female killer.
A week later, many thousands of displaced rozzers have made their way back to their respective police stations. A month after that, The Inspector reluctantly admits his errant female serial killer has gone for good. He closes the murder file permanently, polishes off the hearty hash joint he’s toking on, and heads pub-wards for a well-deserved pint. Life has returned to normal.
Part 30 – J’arrive
The oily, flat thing looks dead from a distance. It lies motionless until the sun’s faint morning rays warm it a little, then it lifts its muddy, bald head. Barely human, like one of those volcanic lava people from Pompeii, it discovers it is alive. There is more. It is fucking starving. It is incredibly thirsty. And its name is The Nurse.
The thing looks around the deserted beach, spots a sign, reads it with eyes screwed tight against the bright sun, then grins widely. Sacre bleu. Merde. Putain. Branleur. Connard. Salope. Connasse. It looks a lot like The Nurse is going to have to learn French.