This arti­cle is part 8 of 8 in the series The Hague Massage

“Andrew?  Michael here.  My work’s com­plet­ed here.  I’m still in The Hague.  Had to stay around to assure the results, but every­thing has worked out okay.  I’ll be dri­ving to Paris tomor­row and leav­ing Orly tomor­row night with stops in London and Chicago.  Would you like to meet to go over the details and, if so, where?”

“How long will you be in Chicago?” came the ques­tion from the oth­er end.

“My lay­over is about three hours, but I could arrange to stay overnight if necessary.”

“No, no.  That won’t be nec­es­sary.  I’m not far from Chicago and I could meet your flight at the air­port and go over things there.  That way you won’t be delayed get­ting home.”

“Sounds fine,” I respond­ed.  “My flight num­ber from London is 3171.”

“Right.  I’ll check the arrival time and gate num­ber and meet you when you land.  I’m sure we can use the exec­u­tive lounge to com­plete our business.”

“Okay.  I’ll see you day after tomorrow.”

With the major­i­ty of my pack­ing com­plete except for the things that always go into the bag at the last minute, I head­ed out into the late after­noon sun to find the restau­rant Lieverd and my last evening of fine Dutch dining.

The dis­tance from The Hague to Paris is about two-hun­dred and forty miles so I knew that a morn­ing depar­ture would give me plen­ty of time to reach Orly air­port, return my rental car, get through secu­ri­ty and find some­thing to eat before board­ing for the flight back to the States.  I also had to find a FedEx office and ship my unopened pack­age back home.

It’s amaz­ing that vir­tu­al­ly no flight any­where ever leaves the ground on time, but they almost always arrive very close to being on time, unless heavy weath­er is involved.  So it was with flight 3171, land­ing at O’Hare about 10 min­utes ahead of sched­ule.  True to his word, Marsden was wait­ing as we pas­sen­gers exit­ed the ramp.

“Michael,” he waved.  “How was the flight?”

“Long, bor­ing, and uncom­fort­able,” I replied.  “Flying is def­i­nite­ly not my favorite thing.”

“I know what you mean.  I’ve tipped a porter to col­lect your bag and hold it for you so we can go to the lounge and you can fill me in over a drink.”

“A vod­ka Collins would taste pret­ty good right now,” I volunteered.

The lounge was light­ly pop­u­lat­ed and we found a qui­et cor­ner well away from the few oth­ers there.

Between a vod­ka Collins and a sher­ry, I filled Marsden in on how the com­mis­sion had been completed.

“I guess you’ve con­firmed Stenolic’s death,” I inquired.

“Yes.  It was a rather small arti­cle in the New York Times.  Said he died of a heart attack.”

“Accurate, but not com­plete,” I said, sip­ping the Collins.

“When the infor­ma­tion you pro­vid­ed not­ed that Stenolic was using nico­tine patch­es to stop smok­ing and that he was get­ting dai­ly mas­sages at the prison, I was able to cou­ple those two activ­i­ties into a lethal combination.

“Nicotine patch­es typ­i­cal­ly con­tain high dos­es of nico­tine, much more than what one gets from smok­ing.  Nicotine is what is called a parasym­pa­th­omimet­ic alka­loid and it’s found in night­shade, which can be a dead­ly plant.  In heavy dos­es, nico­tine can also be dead­ly, stim­u­lat­ing res­pi­ra­to­ry arrest.  Nicotine has also been used as an insec­ti­cide.  Since Stenolic was already receiv­ing high dos­es of the stuff, all I need­ed to do was to ele­vate those dos­es to the right — and lethal — lev­el.  Your infor­ma­tion gave me the name of Stenolic’s masseur and where he worked.  I made it a point to get a mas­sage there and dis­cov­ered that the masseur used a cream dur­ing his mas­sage ses­sions and that Stenolic not only liked the stuff, he insist­ed on it.

“After my mas­sage, and when the masseur had left the room, I dumped a large amount of con­cen­trat­ed nico­tine liq­uid into his jar of cream which I knew he would be using on Stenolic the next day.  Combining the dosage from the patch­es with the nico­tine which Stenolic absorbed through his skin dur­ing the mas­sage amount­ed to enough to ini­ti­ate a res­pi­ra­to­ry arrest.  It’s called per­cu­ta­neous absorption.”

“What about the masseur?  Wouldn’t he get a high dosage as well?” Marsden asked.

“Yeah, but he always wash­es his hands after the mas­sage so he was­n’t exposed to it for a very long time, and he was only absorb­ing it through his hands, not his whole body.  The most he was like­ly to suf­fer was a severe headache.  If he uses the same cream on oth­er clients, they may get sick with nau­sea and some vom­it­ing for a while, but he’ll even­tu­al­ly run out of the cream and that will be the end of it.”

“Well, it’s cer­tain­ly a unique way to get the job done, but the result is what mat­ters, not the method.  What about the nico­tine.  I don’t imag­ine that you can just pick that up at the cor­ner drugstore.”

“Right.  Since I own a farm with a small tobac­co base, I have some con­tacts in the Department of Agriculture Science at the University.  They pro­duce this stuff reg­u­lar­ly for their own research and I told a friend of mine that I need­ed a sam­ple to do some of my own exper­i­men­ta­tion.  He sup­plied me a healthy dose for $150.  I put it in an emp­ty pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion bot­tle which still had the label on it and put it in my lug­gage.  Anyone exam­in­ing the lug­gage would only see some liq­uid med­ica­tion with my name on it so it would­n’t raise any suspicions.”

“Thanks a lot, Michael.  We’ve made the agreed deposits in your bank accounts.  I guess you need to get on to catch your flight back to Lexington, so I’ll just say good­bye… and well done.”

“Thanks, Andrew.  It’s good to be home.”

It was dark when I pulled the Lexus into the dri­ve­way and extract­ed my bag from the trunk, walk­ing weari­ly to the house where I would grab a quick snack and an Ale‑8 before drop­ping onto an invit­ing bed.

I guessed my FedEx pack­age would arrive tomorrow.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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