Photo: “Sentenced to Death by the Muse” by Amy Bassin

The Paignton Poisoner

by Mark Temple

We’ve been told they’ve got a poisoner in Paignton
I’ve a statement from a chemist saying so:
‘For at least a week or more
When I open up the door,
There’s this woman with a notepad and she’s not someone I know.
She told me she’d used aconite and ricin
But that nicotine just wasn’t quite her thing.
Soon she’s planning a safari
So she wanted some curare
‘Cos she dropped her phial of phosphorus in the Bosporus last spring.
Each day she talks of toxins she is wanting
Last Monday it was morphine she desired
Tuesday morning around ten
She was in the shop again
Wanting discount off the strychnine as the date had just expired.
On Wednesday she browsed through my amatoxins.
“I haven’t much in stock,” is what I said.
So she bought some belladonna
“Some of that, he’ll be a gonna.
I'll dissolve it in his Horlicks, by the morning he’ll be dead.”
That’s what she said, as bold as brass, I’ll swear it.
Then on Thursday she’s there, knocking on my door
She bought henbane and some mandrake
“I’ll disguise it in a pancake
If he’s still alive by supper I may have to give him more.”
Snake venom was the thing she fancied Friday
“Or would I recommend some amanita?
I’ve heard poison from an adder
Will play havoc with the bladder
Or perhaps it’s more effective hidden in a margarita.”
It’s Saturday, I’m feeling quite suspicious
Today she’s buying foxgloves by the bunch
Do you think that I should hide
‘Cos she’s asked for cyanide?
I don’t want her to turn awkward if I say I’m off for lunch.
And now she’s wants a flask of prussic acid!
And I know she’s eyeing up my arsenic paste
But she also wants a gander
At my hybrid oleander
And wants to know if monkshood leaves a nasty aftertaste.’
“Mr Robinson? I thought I ought to ring you
To try and reassure you if I may
Now I’ve had the chance to look
Inside your poison book
It’s been signed by Mrs Christie; such research is just her way!”