Chapter One

 

She would poison Dr. Band. She knew which mushroom to use.

                 Edna’s hands trembled as she lifted the latch on the door to her cabin. She ached for a cup of chamomile tea.

            She would collect the mushrooms after the tea.

            Edna crossed her narrow living room, navigating carefully at the edge of the rug. At her age, she didn’t need a fall.

            She allowed herself a grim smile. She could use an invading species to do the deed. A landscaper had dumped a load of bark chips near a school bus stop and that action had introduced Amanita phalloides to her neighborhood. Even if the deadly species happened to be growing in a mixture of edible fungi, as mushrooms often do, the death cap would stand out to her. Eighty years of mushroom hunting was good for something. She knew her fungi.

            Edna made it to the kitchen where she rested her hands at the deep enamel sink. The geraniums on the windowsill needed watering. Edna blinked back tears. She had bigger challenges now. Her hands continued to tremble as she filled the teakettle.

            A death cap mushroom signaled its presence with a bright white stem erupting from an egg-shaped sac. There was the white ring on the stalk, the white spores, the unattached white gills, and the elegant profile that all said Amanita phalloides just as clearly as a nametag.

            For handsome looks, she liked the spring season destroying angel, Amanita ocreata, with its dazzling white cap.

            Edna sighed. Death caps and destroying angels were too dramatic. With her expertise there was no need for a poisoning cliché.

            She would choose a small brown mushroom, Galerina marginata. It contained the same amatoxins as the Amanitas, but lacked a dramatic appearance.

            As the flames from the propane burner licked the bottom of the teakettle, Edna’s nerves steadied. She should think this through.

            Amatoxins were not affected by heat. Cooked or raw, they poisoned. Surely a brownie would be better than a salad. Who gave a gift salad?

            Her mind skittered through the details of cooking up a pan of brownies with minutely diced Galerinas. It would be a four phase poisoning. First there would be a latent span of quiet hours. The arrival of the second phase would be signaled by stomach pain and diarrhea. This would pass as the third phase unfolded as a quiet rebound day. The horrible Dr. Band would feel much better. It would be the following day when the gruesome fourth phase started. That was when the kidneys and liver would fail.

            She should frost the brownies. That was always a special touch.

            Edna lifted the squealing kettle off the flames and poured the boiling water over a teabag. She made her mind take a step back from such destructive thoughts. Mushrooms were her life.

            There was also the reality that a locally experienced ER doctor might read blood tests shrewdly and provide the correct supportive treatment. If poisoning were suspected, then leftover brownies might be tested.

            She sighed. Poisoning by mushroom wasn’t fast enough.