6
$\begingroup$

Trying to come up with a poison that could be applied during a massage by a person wearing gloves. Ideally the effects are mild and slow acting enough it takes a number of sessions to kill the person. Ideally not too suspicious, begging for an autopsy. Could also be that the victim has a pre-existing medical condition (heart/kidney?) that is tipped over the edge with the addition of some chemical? My preliminary research turned up: arsenic (a bit too obvious), cyanide (ditto), thallium (promising!), Oleander (seems too old-time for my setting), ethylene glycol (maybe, tho the link to anti-freeze is kind of narratively blah). Since many people who receive deep tissue massages experience mild nausea and other mild ill effects, the immediate side effects could plausibly include these.

UPDATE: The dimethylmercury is appealing: I like the pace of it as well as the obscurity. Did some research, and it does seem like safety precautions - thick gloves, masking (so as not to kill my protagonist...) might draw some attention, so contemplating: having the masseuse suggest an acupuncture treatment to her patient. This would allow for needles dipped in the mercury, avoiding direct handling of the mercury. There's also a technique called moxibustion, which involves the burning of mugwort clumps on the protruding ends of the needle after it's inserted, so possibly our masseuse could claim a smoke allergy, necessitating the temporary use of a mask?

$\endgroup$
10
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ what have you searched and found on your own? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Feb 4 at 18:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I can think of some possible answers but you really should have a look for yourself, if you want it to be massaged in you're looking for fat solubility and skin adsorption, have a look at the effects listed and see what fits your purposes. $\endgroup$ – Ash Feb 4 at 18:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was able to find a few, more obvious than I'd like: arsenic, cyanide, thallium (promising!), Oleander, ethylene glycol, and stumbled into this amazing forum as I was searching! thanks to all the folks who are answering, super helpful $\endgroup$ – p.s Feb 4 at 20:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi @p.s , Could you edit your question to reflect your research, what you found. Maybe there'll be the perfect answer if you tell us what you've looked at and rejected (tell us about the reasons they weren't right) and we can suggest some alternatives. BTW, this is the sort of question that ends-up with people being on watch lists, so join the club. Welcome to worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Feb 4 at 20:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ hi @Tantalus'touch, have done so, thanks $\endgroup$ – p.s Feb 4 at 21:06
12
$\begingroup$

Time period would be an issue (you wouldn't have it available in medieval times or something), but if you want a truly ghastly death:

Dimethylmercury

This stuff is truly horrific. Even a little bit making skin contact is a death sentence, but not an immediate one. The masseuse would have to be very careful. A few drops will result in death by heavy metal poisoning about a year later.

(Also, normal latex gloves would not cut it. The incidences of dimethyl mercury poisoning have generally been through latex gloves.)

It would also be very difficult to trace back, given the length of time that the poisoning takes to run its course.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "(Also, normal latex gloves would not cut it. The incidences of dimethyl mercury poisoning have generally been through latex gloves.)" this is the main problem. Customer/victim would become very suspicious when their masseur is wearing a respirator and the equivalent of heavy welding gloves. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 4 at 18:48
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Well, as with the two people who smeared VX on a relative of Kim Jong-Un's, you don't have to be that protective of your delivery person. Just tell them to take some precautions. If they're fine, they're fine. If they're not... well, one fewer person to pay. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Feb 4 at 19:17
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "Hire an assassin to kill a target, then kill the assassin to cover your tracks" is a well-worn trope. Tricking your assassin into disposing of themselves is just more efficient. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Feb 4 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @jdunlop Then again, you'd need to wait about a year to know if they screwed up and you can keep your money and secrecy. And holding a payment to assassin for entire year does not sound like a very good idea. $\endgroup$ – val is still with Monica Feb 5 at 5:27
7
$\begingroup$

I have an idea that delivers the effect through a different mechanism.

Caesium-137

This is used in medicine for radiotherapy. It's a source of both beta and gamma radiation. Have it under the massage bed, encased in a lead container with an opening towards the head of the patient (or some other bodily part that you won't be massaging. You just need to dose the radiation so that the victim gets an effect within the time span you wish. In the Goiânia accident of 1987, some people exposed to caesium-137 died in about a month:

On September 21, at the scrapyard, one of Ferreira's friends (given as EF1 in the IAEA report) succeeded in freeing several rice-sized grains of the glowing material from the capsule using a screwdriver. Ferreira began to share some of them with various friends and family members. That same day, his wife, 37-year-old Gabriela Maria Ferreira, began to fall ill. On September 25, 1987, Devair Ferreira sold the scrap metal to a second scrapyard.

(...)

Gabriela Maria Ferreira, aged 37 (5.7 Gy), wife of scrapyard owner Devair Ferreira, became sick about three days after coming into contact with the substance. Her condition worsened, and she developed hair loss and internal bleeding, especially of the limbs, eyes, and digestive tract. She suffered mental confusion, diarrhea, and acute renal insufficiency before also dying on October 23, 1987, the same day as her niece, of "septicemia and generalized infection",[13][15] about a month after exposure.

At the time no one in Brazil knew what the f... was happening. It took an international team of doctors to explain. And if such thing happened today through a "massage attack", I doubt people would be quick to pull a geiger counter - doctors might just write things off as some quickly progressing cancer unless they happen to have studied Chernobyl in medical detail.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ Radiation poisoning shows its first symptoms rather soon (a small number of days, or even hours for a massive dose). Plus the symptoms are quite well known nowadays, so it does not fit very well with the "stealth" requirement. Even in 1987, it was a scandal that that case went un-diagnosed for so long, the doctors were facepalming like crazy once the truth came out. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 4 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ points for creativity, but Cs137 will also be an absolute pain to get. The NRC licenses radiation sources and is quite picky about tracking them. Even the sources used in nuclear medicine are classed as reportable sources, I'm pretty sure. $\endgroup$ – Sol Feb 4 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ Caesium is chemically volatile enough that you risk blowing up the target and the room they're in. Containing any reasonably stable Caesium salt is also a stone bitch due to their solubility so secondary contamination is virtually guaranteed and once you have hot site anyone on that site more regularly than the target is going to go down before the target alerting officials to the situation, the Gamma from the Barium-137 means that there isn't really a safe exposure window where target gets dosed and not the poisoner. $\endgroup$ – Ash Feb 4 at 20:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ash the Goiânia incident seems to show otherwise; Caesium-137 was stable as dust the whole time. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Feb 4 at 21:31
4
$\begingroup$

Dimethyl mercury. What you want is dimethyl mercury. Dimethyl mercury is extremely poisonous, can penetrate almost anything (indeed, it even penetrates most lab safety gear that isn't specifically designed to shield for it), is slow acting, and is very hard to detect if you aren't intentionally looking for it.

As an example, there was a recent controversy in research academia where a researcher died 10 months after she spilled a few drops of dimethyl mercury on her gloves. The dimethyl mercury went through the gloves and poisoned her, resulting in her body having 80 times the standard threshold for mercury. The only reason anyone even thought to test her for mercury poisoning is that the researcher knew she had been exposed to it in the lab accident and asked to be tested for mercury. In the safety presentations we have to sit through at my institution, it was said that if people hadn't specifically been looking for mercury poisoning, no one would have even known what killed her.

You could in theory get away with only using heavy-duty gloves to poison someone with dimethyl mercury, but at the same time that would be exposing the poisoner to a lot of danger if they accidentally spilled some. Poisons absorbed through the skin can be as easily absorbed by the poisoner as the target.

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As covered in my answer, you're not talking about mercury, you're talking about dimethyl mercury. You can (indeed, my science teacher did) handle metallic mercury with your bare hands with minimal risk. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Feb 4 at 18:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ metallic mercury is more dangerous mechanically, than chemically. As in, if you drink it, it is somewhat likely to tear your intestines. Nothing in a human's gut will absorb the stuff. But make an organic compound out of it, and.. bad things happen. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 4 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ this is wrong, i could stick my foot in mercury and be just fine(Video from cody's lab) $\endgroup$ – Topcode Feb 4 at 19:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jdunlop You are right, corrected to clarify that I mean dimethyl mercury and not organic mercury $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 4 at 20:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ To be clear, organic mercury of any stripe is dangerous, dimethyl is just the most dangerous of the various organic mercury compounds. Mercury salts and metallic mercury are the less dangerous varieties. Removed my downvote. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Feb 4 at 22:00
3
$\begingroup$

Rabies.

New Aspects of Rabies with Emphasis on Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Prevention of the Disease in the United States

Most striking in the investigation of these cases is the absence of a clear history of animal bite exposure. Only 2 of the 13 case histories include an account of a bite by a bat, and in one of these cases, the parents of the 5-year-old child who reported the bite could find no evidence of a bite wound and the bat could not be found. In six other cases, contact with a bat was reported by the patient, family, or acquaintances, but in no case was a bite recognized or a bite wound evident. In two of these cases, a rabies-positive bat was later found in the home or office of the patient...

Rabies acquired from bats is scary in that the bat apparently does not need to bite you. Handling the bat is enough. I therefore assert that a vigorous massage with rabies-virus doped gloves would also be enough. Rabies is a weird disease early on and in a person with no history of snuggling with Old Yeller, rabies would certainly not be recognized until late in the disease. I do think someone who died of something as weird as rabies would get an autopsy but if rabies has ever been used as a murder weapon I have not heard of it. People would check the victim's house for bats.

Also I like this because if @p.s is actually a masseuse with a grudge, my idea will not be used to kill a client. Unless @p.s has access to copious Old Yeller slobber.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Bat rabies does still generally require a bite for transmission; the issue is that bat bites are frequently so small as to be undetectable, or, even if detectable, not recognisable as mammal bites rather than insect bites. $\endgroup$ – Vikki - formerly Sean Feb 5 at 5:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.