He was dealing with someone cunning and dangerous.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 57

Matt slumped.

“I understand your frustration.” Van Thorsen ran his tongue around his lips. “But there is one interesting aspect. When you consider the cases as a whole.”

“What’s that?” Matt felt like he was grasping at straws.

“The most common venues to administer poison are ingestion, inhalation, and injection. You’ve got all three, now, don’t you? It’s almost as if they were orchestrated. Choreographed, if you will. As if someone wants you to know they have a choice.”

Stone leaned forward. “Assuming the same person was responsible for all three,” Stone said.

“Yes. Now, this is pure speculation, but there are toxins, that depending on how they’re processed, are versatile enough to be used in each of the ways you mentioned.”

“So one poison could be responsible for all three deaths?”

“Theoretically. Particularly with biological agents. Black locust, for example, is a source of robin, which can be processed in different ways. Rosary pea, which produces abrin, is another. And there are some non-plant substances too. Cationic detergents, perhaps, like fabric softeners. Or disinfectants. Even something like parathion, which is similar to nerve gas.”

Matt splayed his hands. “We can’t test for everything.”

“No, you can’t.”

“So what would you suggest?”

“What you’re already doing. Take it from the other end. Refine your victimlogies. Find out what they have in common. Who wants to harm them. Or had anything to gain from their death. But keep in mind who and what you’re dealing with.”

“What about trying to profile the killer?” Stone asked.

“I’m sure VICAP can help.”

“We’re interested in your take, not the Bureau’s.”

“I don’t want to tread on the FBI’s turf.”

“Okay.” Stone smiled. “Now that we’re done with the disclaimers…”

He smiled back. “You’re dealing with someone who’s cunning and highly motivated. But to the external world, they might seem reserved, even cowardly.”

Stone interrupted. “Is that why most poisoners are women?”

“Actually that’s a misconception, Detective. The majority of poisoners who’ve been discovered turn out to be men.”

“But what about those who weren’t—discovered?”

Van Thorsen aimed a finger at Stone. “Good point. We’ll never know how many women, or men, for that matter, got away with it.”

“What else?”

“Curiously, we’ve found that a lot of poisoners have an artistic bent. Actually, if you think about it, it’s not so strange. Their plans are designed in as much detail as if they were writing a script for a play. They’re methodical, they’re patient, and they’re sure they’ll get away with it.”

“So premeditation isn’t an issue.”

“Your murderer cleans up afterwards, right?” ‘

Stone nodded.

“You tell me. Anyone who takes the time to clean up afterwards has to be a pretty cool customer.”

“One more question.” Matt took off his glasses. “Do you have any statistics on solved cases? How many inconclusive deaths end up identifying the pathogen used?”

A shadow passed over Van Thorsen’s face. “It’s not good. Most of the inconclusive cases—if they ever are solved—take years. And,” he paused, “they usually require exhumations.”

Matt put his glasses back on.


Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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