Toxicodendron radicans

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

36 comments

Crime Drama Fiction

TW: murder

 

RE: FOIA REQUEST

 

Our office will release evidence pertaining to Case No. AX002331 and Case No. AX002332 to Vicki Vale, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Please note as these investigations are ongoing, some information has been redacted. The requested files are attached to this email.

 

-- Officer Roger DeCarlo - GCPD Major Crimes Unit - Public Liaison

 

***

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - MARCH 19 - 11:06 PM

 

Having returned from my meeting with General Sunderland, I am elated. I have personally been awarded the research contract for PROJECT LOCUSTA.

 

I have been given a year to complete the research and present the finished products to Sunderland. Growth rates and hybridization of this magnitude would normally not be possible, especially in such an expediated timeline.

 

Luckily, I have developed my own specialized variant of Rex Tyler's Miraclo Formula. I believe it is because of my variation of the Miraclo Formula, and of course my personal brilliance and reputation for discretion, that Sunderland chose me to carry out this research.

 

PROJECT LOCUSTA will require a great deal of my time, but I should be able to pass some of my other duties onto Miss Isley. If I offer to give her credit in any published findings, I am sure she will agree to take on a larger workload.

 

***

 

From the personal research notes of Dr. Pamela Isley - MARCH 20 - 1:11 PM

 

Hyacinth

 

Hyacinthus orientalis

 

Oh, joyful Hyacinth, from the wilds of the eastern Mediterranean, now you grow in the gardens of the world. Your blossoms resemble starfish clinging to a column of sea stone. Their blue color deeper than the sky above. Your tubular leaves bridges to your central stalk, across which bees may saunter before feasting within the bosom of your blooms. Your bulbs wait patiently through the winter, stilling their irritable bite in the hard soil, until spring calls you forth and your flowers open to greet the sun.

 

GENE_SEQ_HYACINTHUS-ORIENTALIS.PDF

 

***

 

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - MARCH 26 - 9:37 AM

 

I have been tasked with developing several new toxic compounds. Sunderland has requested three distinct applications: one topical, one digestible, and one inhalable. All three are to be untraceable. The aerosol needs to be near-instantaneous while the two serums are to be time released.

 

My research is already progressing ahead of schedule. I have spliced together the genes of several poisonous plants. I have enclosed the genetic materials inside bio-degradable capsules and planted them in specimen boxes in my private laboratory. Thanks to the effects of my Miraclo Formula, the three hybrid plants have already sprouted.

 

As anticipated, Miss Isley has agreed to take on more responsibility. Up until now, her sole focus has been a fundraising project. A book that features pictures and genome diagrams of common flowering plants with the descriptions written by working botanists. Considering Miss Isley seems more comfortable talking to plants than interacting with people, it was the perfect project to keep her occupied and out of my hair. I was beginning to get annoyed at her following me around the lab and asking questions incessantly.

 

Now, Miss Isley has agreed to take on sequencing and taxonomic duties for two other major projects. It wasn't hard to convince her. She has always idolized me. Plus, she is desperate to make a name for herself and prove she is a legitimate scientist.

 

I seriously doubt she will ever amount to much, but up until now I have endeavored to teach her what I can. She does have a knack for caring for plants and a talent for research. Skills I plan to take full advantage of in the months to come.

 

***

 

Text message conversation between Pamela Isley and Harleen Quinzel - MARCH 27 - 7:57 PM

 

HQ:    

Hey Red! Drinks 2-Nite???

 

PAM

Can't tonight. Stuck at the lab.

 

HQ:    

Awww Come on. Pleeease??

 

PAM

I've just got too much work to do. Dr. W is finally giving me more responsibility.

 

HQ:    

That dude’s a woody...and I'm not making a pun about his last name, if ya know what I mean {winky face emoji}

 

PAM

Harls, I always know what you mean.

 

HQ:    

That's why I love ya!

 

HQ:    

Come on, Pam-a-Lamb, just one drink

 

PAM

It's never just "one" with you.

 

HQ:    

That's why ya love me!

 

HQ:    

Blow off Dr. Wood-Rough-on-the-eyes for one night. I miss ya, Red {heart emoji}

 

PAM

We just had lunch two days ago.

 

HQ:    

That's two days too many. Pretty please

 

PAM

I really can't, babe. I'm too busy. Maybe in a couple of weeks once things slow down.

 

HQ:    

Okay {sad face emoji}

 

***

 

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - APRIL 13 - 4:33 PM

 

The hybrids are fully developed, and I have begun the synthetization process. The projected outcomes are as follows:

 

The aerosol will mimic an asthma attack, asphyxiating the victim within a two-minute window. It will need to be completely odorless to avoid detection when deployed.

 

The topical serum will cause cardiac arrest by slowly releasing alkaloids into the victim's bloodstream. I will need to ensure that the toxin's effects initiate slowly before increasing rapidly to ensure mortality within the desired time frame.

 

The effects of the ingestible serum will be similar to food poisoning. Ribosome-inactivating proteins will cause vomiting and liver failure. Calculating the correct dosage may prove difficult.

 

For both the topical and ingestible serums I will need to achieve optimum potency and efficiency out of the smallest possible dose.

 

Soon I will need to test my serums on human subjects. Sunderland has assured me this will not be a problem. He has put me in contact with an Agent Skinner, who has agreed to provide me with as many test subjects as I require. Skinner plans to sneak them into the building in the middle of the night. The first recruits will be delivered in two days. I have set up observation rooms within my lab in which to accommodate them.

 

Miss Isley complained today about her increased workload. I was able to assuage her concerns by assuring her that her work will contribute to advances in our field. I went so far as to show her a research paper in which I used data she had compiled. It was a forgery, but she didn't know that. Her face lit up with pride.

 

That's the key to managing subordinates. Stroke their ego. False praise is still praise if the person receiving it is too imbecilic to tell the difference.

 

***

 

From the personal research notes of Dr. Pamela Isley - APRIL 15 - 10:10 AM

 

Daffodil

 

Narcissus rupicola

 

Oh, vain daffodil with your twin sunbursts so regal. Your flower a golden trumpet extending from a lion's mane. Rising from your central scape so proud, your ego has been earned. You may be right to be self-obsessed when everyone from Theophrastus to Linnaeus, from the Welsh to this lone observer, admires your beauty. Like a star in the heavens, you nourish all who venture inside your corona.

 

GENE_SEQ_NARCISSUS-RUPICOLA.PDF

 

***

 

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - MAY 4 - 7:37 PM

 

Things are progressing much faster than I dared dream. The aerosol is complete and effective within the target parameters. I still need to increase the potency of the topical serum while decreasing the total required dosage. I also need to increase the toxicity of the ingestible serum. Test subjects who imbibe the serum grow violently ill but do not perish fast enough. Unfortunately, this conclusion was brought about by an unforeseen complication.

 

One of my test subjects escaped from their observation room today. I managed to subdue the subject as he was banging on the laboratory door, but I fear Miss Isley heard the commotion. I was able to play it off as a prank and she seemed to believe it. Still, I'll need to keep an eye on Miss Isley. I've come too far to have her ruin my experiments.

 

One positive came from the subject's escape attempt, however. The ingestible serum is highly effective when injected directly into the bloodstream.

 

***

 

Text message conversation between Pamela Isley and Selina Kyle - MAY 5 - 12:57 PM

 

CAT:  

Hey girl! Ran into H last night. She says you're working yourself to the bone

 

PAM

You know how she exaggerates. I like staying busy and I love my work.

 

CAT:  

Those plants will keep growing even if you aren't standing there

 

CAT:  

Take a night off. Unwind. Blow off some steam

 

PAM

I can't. Not now anyway. It's all going to be worth it once I'm recognized as a world-renowned expert in botany. I'm doing the most important work of career.

 

CAT:  

One night isn't going to keep you from your goals, Pam. You need an outlet. What about that cute Alan Denmark guy? He's into plants too, so you'll have something to talk about when you aren't going to town on each other {winky face}

 

PAM

It's Alec Holland, and I'm not interested. Plus, he's going to Louisiana on a Fellowship Grant next week.

 

CAT:  

No reason you can't send him off with an unforgettable night...or two

 

PAM

These days, I'm more interested in Dr. W.

 

CAT:  

Ewww! {puke emoji}

 

CAT:  

Girl, I know trees are your thing, but you're barking up the wrong one

 

PAM

Not that kind of interested. He's up to something. My reputation is already too strongly tied to his. If he's being unethical, I need to expose him, but I don't have access to his private lab. Any ideas?

 

CAT:  

That's not really the type of job I like to take on. Too little payoff. You need someone who's a little more tech savvy

 

***

 

From the personal research notes of Dr. Pamela Isley - MAY 10 - 10:45 AM

 

Foxglove

 

Digitalis purpurea

 

Oh, elegant foxglove, reaching out with long purple fingers. Wrapped in elegant gloves, your flowers caress the air. Wherever you are found, whether in lush woodlands, along secluded heaths, or atop mountain slopes, you remain dignified. Larvae slip into you as easily as a foot slides into a slipper. You remain resplendent even as your blossom is transformed into a moth's womb.

 

GENE_SEQ_DIGITALIS-PURPUREA.PDF

 

***

 

Text message conversation between Pamela Isley and Noah Kuttler - MAY 10 - 6:30 PM

 

PAM

Hey, is this still Noah's number?

 

N.K:   

Hello Pam. To what do I owe the pleasure?

 

PAM

I need to ask a favor...

 

N.K:   

You need my help to keep tabs on your boss.

 

PAM

How did you know?

 

N.K:   

I know everything.

 

N.K:   

JK, your friend Selina told me I might hear from you.

 

PAM

Okay... Can you help me?

 

N.K:   

Of course! Gathering information inconspicuously is my specialty. Meet me at Kane's Steakhouse in an hour.

 

PAM

See you then.

 

N.K:   

Calc-u-Later, Plant Caretaker!

 

***

 

From the personal research notes of Dr. Pamela Isley - JUNE 3 - 1:17 PM

 

Common Lantana

 

Lantana camara

 

Oh, exuberant lantana, you exude aromas of fruit and spice. Your clustered flowers are a pink fireworks display. A crown upon the enriched bounty of the tropics. You guard your boons jealously. Your fruit defended by spikes, your leaves bitter and deadly. You offer your berries and nectar only to those who will expand your reign. Only the most delicate and agile of creatures may contribute to your spread and few can stop your proliferation.

 

GENE-SEQ_LANTANA-CAMARA.PDF

 

***

 

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - JUNE 4 - 11:04 PM

 

I am in need of more test subjects. Agent Skinner was supposed to bring more tonight, but apparently ran into trouble. He is in intensive care after being attacked by some lunatic in a bat costume.

 

To make matters worse, I believe Miss Isley is on to me. Perhaps I can kill two birds with one stone...

 

***

 

From the personal research notes of Dr. Pamela Isley - JUNE 8 - 5:55 PM

 

Venus Flytrap

 

Dionaea muscipula

 

Oh, ferocious Venus Flytrap, you stand solitary and await the approach of your prey. The prominent stamen within your flowers draw forth those who would use you for their own gain. You stand ready as the stupid insects are drawn in, your leaves gaping maws ready to consume. With one wrong move the trap is sprung. The folly of the pests brings about their own doom.

 

GENE_SEQ_DIONAEA-MUSCIPULA.PDF

 

***

 

Written description of video footage from Gotham Botanical Gardens

 

[Stored on a hidden back-up server; obtained through an anonymous source]

 

GBB_CAMERA 24_06/08_18:02:00

 

Dr. Woodrue exits his private lab. As he steps into the main laboratory, he is confronted by Dr. Isley. 

 

"I know what you've been up to, Jason. I've read your logs."

 

"Miss Isley, I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about."

 

"Don't give me that. You've been playing God and experimenting on people! Plants deserve better than to become your instruments of murder."

 

"It’s all been in the name of science, Miss Isley. Surely we can come to some sort of understanding --"

 

"Save it, doctor. I'm giving you until tomorrow to resign and turn yourself in. Otherwise, I'll hand the evidence I've gathered to the police."

 

Without warning, Woodrue lunges forward and grabs Isley. He pulls a syringe out of the pocket of his lab coat and jams the needle into her neck.

 

Woodrue steps back and watches as Isley begins to convulse. She stumbles backward clutching at her throat. As her legs give out, she blindly grabs onto a shelf. She pulls the shelf down with her as she slumps to the floor. Vials of chemicals rain down and shatter around her, soaking her with their contents.

 

Woodrue disappears from the frame. He returns wearing a protective suit and gloves. Then he drags Isley's body out of the frame. A few minutes later, the camera feed shuts off.

 

From the private log of Dr. Jason Woodrue - JUNE 9 - 12:25 AM

 

I regret what I was forced to do to Miss Isley, but I could not allow her to stand in the way of progress. I have hidden her body in a plot reserved for a new specimen of tree. It is scheduled to arrive tomorrow and will be planted over the spot where her body lies. I'm sure she would appreciate that she will nourish the tree as her body decomposes. A fitting end for a pathetic fool of a girl.

 

I erased the security footage and forged documents stating that Miss Isley is taking a sabbatical. Without evidence, there's little chance they would be able to prosecute me, even if I wasn't poised to become a member of Defense Department Intelligence. Isley was a fool not to go straight to the police. That's the problem with ethics, they get in the way of tangible results.

 

I am nearly done with my research and Sunderland is quite pleased. Not only will I receive a monetary bonus on top of my original fee but there's the potential for other projects. If all goes according to plan, by the time anyone notices that Miss Isley is missing, I will have left my current position behind.

 

Just a few more trials and all three serums will be ready for mass production. Agent Skinner has been replaced and the newest round of test subjects should arrive any moment.

 

I'm about to be a very wealthy man. My only regret is that the scientific community will never know the full extent of my brilliance.

 

***

 

Written description of video footage obtained from Gotham Botanical Gardens

 

GBB_CAMERA 24_06/09_01:07:00

 

Dr. Woodrue stands in the main laboratory. He appears to be waiting for someone to arrive. As he checks his watch and stares at the doors, the plants around him begin to shake. The plants grow, increasing in size and volume. Unbeknownst to Woodrue, a small jungle now grows from the tables behind him.

 

A naked woman steps into the frame. Her hair hangs over her shoulders, covering her breasts and obscuring her face, but she resembles Dr. Isley.

 

Seeming to sense someone behind him, Woodrue turns around. His jaw drops open as he hungrily looks the woman up and down.

 

The woman walks forward and pulls Woodrue toward her as she says, "you were right, doctor. Plants may be the best way to get rid of unwanted humans."

 

The woman kisses Woodrue and then steps out of the frame, leaving him looking bewildered. Suddenly, Woodrue vomits and his muscles begin to spasm. Blood begins to pour from his ears and his skin erupts with pustules.

 

Clutching the edge of a table for support, he manages to grab a flask. Steeling himself, Woodrue drinks the flask's contents. At first, the liquid from the flask seems to have a curative effect. Then Woodrue's body contorts as vines and branches burst from his skin.

 

Woodrue stumbles off frame. Neither he nor the woman reappear on camera.

 

***

 

Press Release from the Gotham City Police Department -

 

 The GCPD is currently investigating the disappearances of Dr. Jason Woodrue and Dr. Pamela Isley. We ask that anyone with information about the whereabouts of either individual please call the number listed below.

 

March 24, 2021 06:46

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

36 comments

Courtney C
20:47 Mar 24, 2021

It was hard for me to get into this (which isn't your fault - the writing style was a little different, and DC, Marvel -- not my thing) but the pay off at the end was worth the read. Great stuff! Even without understanding the allusions and inspiration, it was a good story.

Reply

Michael Boquet
20:52 Mar 24, 2021

Thanks so much. Yeah, I tried to make all the DC references more of a bonus (like Easter eggs) for comic book fans than a requirement for understanding the story. Glad to hear it worked pretty well

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Gerald Daniels
20:42 Apr 21, 2021

Amazing story, loved it. Brave and inspired, again. Would it be churlish of me to say that an insect needs to stimulate the inside of a Venus flytrap twice before it closes? I guess so. Couldn't think of anything else to criticise.

Reply

Michael Boquet
23:43 Apr 21, 2021

Ha ha, not churlish. I saw that fact when I looked up the latin name and to check if it had flowers.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Quinn Revelle
21:19 Mar 30, 2021

I LOVE epistolary stories and I've been into DC materials lately, so I found this and adored it immediately. Additionally, Ms. Isley is one of my faves (both her and in the DC world). I think that the more formal way of separating and tagging the content in each section contributed to the suspense of the piece fantastically. Thank you for sharing this!

Reply

Michael Boquet
22:55 Mar 30, 2021

Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed it. DC has the best villains

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amarah Friedman
20:32 Mar 27, 2021

Creepy... I did not expect the 'magical' (scientific?) twist at the end. Clever formatting, too. It was an engaging read. Perhaps throw in some hints about the full capability of the serums earlier in the story to make it more grounded? I thought they were simply malicious vehicles of quiet death until the end. I especially appreciated Dr. Isley's poetic phrasing, though-- nice touch.

Reply

Michael Boquet
21:12 Mar 27, 2021

Thanks, that's a good point. I was really up against the word count on this one but that will try to work in that addition, as it makes a lot of sense.

Reply

Amarah Friedman
21:34 Mar 27, 2021

I know how that goes. Good luck!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Holly Fister
13:17 Mar 27, 2021

What an interesting way to write a story! Your creativity amazes me!

Reply

Michael Boquet
15:48 Mar 27, 2021

Thanks for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Redd Herring
18:08 Mar 26, 2021

WELL DONE MICHAEL! I love the way you told this. You really took on some big challenges with the format, but you pulled it off. Love all the Easter eggs and the plant descriptions that foreshadow.

Reply

Michael Boquet
18:12 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks so much.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ash Jarvis
00:17 Mar 26, 2021

I loved this reimagining of Dr. Isley’s origin story. The format, plus the text messages between her and her friends, worked beautifully and drew me in even before I realized what (and who) was going on. I just noticed one typo—in the middle of the April 13th entry one of the references to Skinner (PLEASE tell me that man’s first name is Walter) isn’t redacted, and I know you wouldn’t want that sensitive information made public ;) It was really wonderful to read a dark twist on that prompt!

Reply

Michael Boquet
00:53 Mar 26, 2021

Appreciate you reading. Thanks for catching that! And no, it's Paulie Skinner

Reply

Ash Jarvis
01:18 Mar 26, 2021

Rats—I was hoping for a little X-Files cross pollination there ;)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Cassandra Durnin
19:24 Mar 25, 2021

I know I always say this, but honestly. Your writing style is just so... intriguing? I always love the different layouts and themes, as well as the submersive description. It truly amazes me how you manage to just spin off a new piece which is wildly different from any of your other ones. You're talented, I'll tell you that.

Reply

Michael Boquet
19:29 Mar 25, 2021

Thank you. This comment brightened an otherwise dull and rainy day.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rachel Loughran
13:55 Mar 25, 2021

Wildly creative take on the prompt! I don't have the DC background to grasp all of the allusions but it worked nonetheless. Cracking job!

Reply

Michael Boquet
14:15 Mar 25, 2021

Thanks so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Beth Connor
21:36 Mar 24, 2021

I'm so glad you wrote something exciting to you- it really shines. You are the king of unique storytelling formats! The fact that it was an origin story clicked when I got to the first text part- I had thought Pamela Isley sounded familiar, but HQ made it click! As odd as it sounds, the story sequence almost made me feel like I was walking through the line at a theme park. (I'm one of those obnoxious people that slows everyone down in line because I need to take in everything- I need to digest the progression.) Great job!

Reply

Michael Boquet
21:59 Mar 24, 2021

Thanks so much. That's a cool analogy. I totally get what you mean.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
21:19 Mar 24, 2021

Hello!! Will you help us get rid of downvoting? Click here to sign our petition!! :) http://chng.it/Y8pTpNJG

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ellie Yu
17:11 Mar 24, 2021

This was amazing! I know next to nothing about DC but even I ended up understanding what was happening, which definitely says something good about your storytelling. I really enjoyed the way you described the text messages/video logs. The whole thing feels so engaging and vibrant.

Reply

Michael Boquet
17:13 Mar 24, 2021

Thanks so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Daniel Hayes
15:52 Mar 24, 2021

Hi Michael, this was a masterpiece, and quite possibly my favorite story of yours...so far! As a long time DC fan, my favorite is Batman. I've been collecting comics and TPBs since I was a kid. I loved this retelling of Poison Ivy's origin. I thought it was very creative, and flawlessly written! Very, very well done my friend :)

Reply

Michael Boquet
16:50 Mar 24, 2021

Thank you! I've found myself very discouraged the last few weeks, between the arbitrary point system and the contest itself being geared more toward contemporary fiction than actual storytelling (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not the style I like to write in). So this week I just wanted to submit a story written for me, by me. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Reply

Daniel Hayes
16:54 Mar 24, 2021

I understand where your coming from Michael. I feel the same way. I try to write stories that I like to read, and thrill my imagination. So, it always surprises me when someone likes one of my stories. You should be proud of this one, it was very good!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
11:25 Mar 24, 2021

OK, this is fantastic. I love the way you use lots of different mediums to transcribe the story, and the way you really effectively capture different voices for each bit. It took me a little while to get the Poison Ivy references -- like an absolute idiot I saw "Harleen Quinzel" and was like, "oh, like in Batman"...and then still didn't get the reference until it got to Selina Kyle being called Cat and then I twigged it. (no pun intended!) I laughed out loud at the line "He is in intensive care after being attacked by some lunatic in a ba...

Reply

Michael Boquet
16:09 Mar 24, 2021

Thank you so much. Your comment made me smile.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rachel Smith
11:23 Mar 24, 2021

Omg this is brilliant! So hard to pull off a story with diary entries/text messages etc. but you did it! Loved the plant descriptions, especially the venus fly trap foreshadowing. Couldn't stop reading. Clever and suspenseful. Well done! So original.

Reply

Michael Boquet
15:42 Mar 24, 2021

Thank you. I decided I'd just have fun this week and write a story that I'd personally love to read.

Reply

Rachel Smith
17:25 Mar 24, 2021

You should do that every week.

Reply

Michael Boquet
17:36 Mar 24, 2021

Very true.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Sam Ackman
17:39 Apr 02, 2021

Very interesting style! Was well done. It’s a bit harder for me to read but not a style I frequent. Really well done!

Reply

Michael Boquet
17:50 Apr 02, 2021

Thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply