“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.