Many a Slip
Jenny Diski · Cyanide
Moving on from arsenic, we come to cyanide. Is that a kind of maturity? Like going from cheesy triangles to morbiers? What I know about cyanide comes from Agatha Christie or somesuch and is, in totality: smells like bitter almonds. So, you think, why would anyone drink it in their coffee without first wondering if their nearest and dearest were trying to kill them. Answer: because almost certainly Starbucks has an almond syrup latte that has breathed new life into the wife-poisoning industry. Then again people are always knocking back cyanide in their champagne in Christie without complaint, until their hand flies to their throat, their face contorts into a hideous mask and they fall writhing and then lifeless to the ground. Miss Marple and M. Poirot only have to bend their heads down to the lips of the corpse to get a whiff of almonds and know exactly how, why and who done the deed. I suggest you just say no if your beverage smells of bitter almonds.
I assume there's a Starbucks or Coffees 'R' Us in Center Moriches, NY, because Mrs Steeves (thank you, Alex Abramovich, for passing the story on) downed a cup of cyanide-laced coffee made for her by Mr Steeves, and died. So far, so conventional, though sad, you'd think. But the murder of Mrs Steeves was an afterthought. Her husband had actually acquired the poison for himself, in order to commit suicide, and then bottled it (not the cyanide, I mean he got cold feet – not a symptom, I mean he couldn't go through with it). So what do you do with a not-easily-come-by vial of cyanide that you no longer want?
It could be that he had ecological objections to tipping it down the lavatory or burying it in the garden. Or it might be a case of thrift: waste not want not drilled in from childhood. Anyway, he decided to kill his wife with it. Perhaps his home life was what made him want to kill himself in the first place and he suddenly realised that he could sort it out not by leaving this earth himself but by sending his missus on her way instead. Sometimes suicide is, as they say, a cry for help, and in this case it was answered by the suicidee. Coffee, dear?