by Gabriella Herkert
There are so many cool ways to knock people off. You have to have a natural bent toward the dark side, of course, but the methodology appeals to the airier, more creative brain cells. Since I didn’t want to get famous under the heading stupid criminals, I knew I’d have to carefully resolve forensic issues behind whatever technique I chose. Poisoning appealed to me.
I wanted the proper research tools so I went online. I am nothing if not thorough. What I needed was the bible of poisons. I logged onto my library’s computer database. After a few searches, I found it. Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons. Twelve hundred and seventy-five pages of insidious plants, potions and naturally occurring murder weapons. Sixth edition. I’d started with the library, even though I knew the computer records would make it possible to trace. After all, I’m a would-be felon on a budget.
There were ten copies of the book available according to the database. All of them were checked out. There were six people on a waiting list. Okay, so maybe I’m a cynic, but how many graduate students in toxicology don’t actually buy the seminal textbook in their field? Who does that leave in search of this book? Well, writers like me of course. My intentions were honorable. I was only going to kill fictional characters. Probably. Definitely. But how many writers working on death by poisoning could possibly live in my neighborhood? It’s not like Renton, Washington is the Algonquin and the locals are part of Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle. Who did that leave? Jeez! My neighbors seemed like such nice, normal people. If there were a sudden poisoning crime wave, the police could interview me. I would say what everyone says. I didn’t notice anything. They were always quiet and polite. So and so was such a pleasant serial killer. Some observer I am. Needless to say, I’ve given up chatting with strangers in the line at the grocery store. No sense taking chances.
Since I was going to have to wait for the bible of poisons, I decided I’d look at some of the other available titles on the subject. A search for poison brought up one hundred and forty-five titles. That’s it. No more fast food drive-ins for me. There’s even a book specifically designed for writers using poison as a plot device. I imagine this makes explaining to the police a little easier. No, officer, I didn’t kill my lying, cheating, worthless husband with cyanide. I was just researching my next novel and he happened to love almonds. It could work.
Scarier still was the number of books on poisoning geared toward a juvenile audience. Yeesh. Just what the world needs. Teenagers with their own guides to poisonous plants. I anticipate a sharp increase in the number of younger siblings snacking on poinsettias this Christmas. Things were more straight-forward when I was a kid. We limited ourselves to bashing each other when no one was looking.
When I realized I’d have to wait for the perfect poison information, I went to one of the big online booksellers. I repeated my poison search and came up with thirty-eight titles. It’s nice to know that the library provides a wider range of murder modes at no cost to the public. On the other hand, ordering online would enable me to have the tome in my hands within forty-eight hours, twenty-four if I put a rush order in. Am I the only one alarmed by this? Shouldn’t there be a cooling off period? As a legal question, do the police have probable cause to check the health of your relatives if you felt compelled to pay an extra twelve ninety-five for overnight delivery of a list of commonly available poisons? And what’s the deal with used book sales? I suppose it makes sense. Once you’re done, unless your victim has a twin you can’t stand to look at, you probably don’t need the book for future reference. You certainly don’t want it sitting on your bookshelf when the search warrant arrives. And recycling is good for the environment. Bonus points.
Once I had a handle on the types and methods of poisons, I picked my first victim. He was the ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine who didn’t treat her very well. I never liked him. He lived out of state so I chose the skin absorption method thinking that I wouldn’t need to fly down to visit him to get the job done. No way was this creep worth frequent flier miles. Another friend of mine, a real prankster, had this stuff that reacted to human skin and turned it temporarily blue. He used it at fraternity parties. I figured it would make a wonderful metaphorical poison. We sent the scumball boyfriend a letter with the stuff coating the outside of the envelope. I figured we’d never know if we were successful and would have to take pleasure in the knowledge that he could never darken our doors again. Unfortunately, after I “killed” him, she took him back. He mentioned spending two days with the hands of a Smurf. It was cold comfort.
My second victim was a close friend. I picked him because he said I couldn’t get away with killing him. Never challenge a woman with her own handbook to local poisons. Death cap mushrooms became his future. He loves to hike and is forever going into the wilds without telling anyone. The foolish man has a hide-a-key known by every householder in a seven block radius and keeps his camping gear in plain sight in his basement. Anyone taking that many risks around a known method writer assumes the risk of imminent demise and should not be pitied. It was simple to slip in when he wasn’t home and add my homemade mushroom pictures to his soup mix. I even used my crayolas to make the cardboard cutouts exact color of death-cap mushrooms. Unfortunately, he seems to be boycotting soup. Either that or he knows I killed him and is too embarrassed to talk about it. Hopefully, with the onset of winter, his next trip will be his last.
It wasn’t until I was deeply entrenched in the science of poisoning that I came across the statistic. Nearly eighty percent of all intentional poisonings are committed by women. The psychological explanation is that women are less physically violent than men and prefer the distant means of elimination. Personally, I just think we want to skip the clean up phase. In any event, this disturbing discovery ended my poisoning phase. You can say a lot of bad things about me but no one is going to be able to say I poison like a girl.