Actaea Pachypoda

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A mile or so into the woods by my house is a trail. It's about six miles long and hardly used; some parts are nearly impassable because of the overgrowth. I love to run on this trail for precisely this reason, as I can be truly alone, and the occasional narrowing path or branch that requires hurdling is more diversion than detriment.

I recently saw the first individuals other than myself on the trail. About three miles into my run, I saw an old couple walking together. They smiled warmly at me and waved. I was shocked to see other people here; I had thought I was the only one who knew about this place, but I nonetheless stopped and chatted with them. I figured they might be the landowners taking a rare stroll, and it would hardly be tactful to disregard them, as I was a trespasser.

Soon, we parted ways - I continued running one way, they continued their slow march in the other, hand in hand, a picturesque couple even in their advanced age. Eventually, I came to a stop at the end of the trail and turned back. After a while, I thought I saw someone lying on the ground in the distance - I accelerated when I realized one of them might have fallen and hurt themselves. As I got closer and closer, I realized that both were lying face down. Luckily, I had brought my cell phone and I called the ambulance, but by the time they arrived, both were dead.

I was shocked. I had seen them smile at me just an hour before and now they were dead.

Unfortunately for me, the tests indicated they had been poisoned. I was arrested because I was the only person within miles of the bodies. I was the main suspect.

Actaea Pachypoda

After isolating the poison in the lab, it was determined that it was from an extremely toxic berry called Actaea Pachypoda. This exact type of berry plant was later found during the forensic investigation of the trail. The fingerprints of the couple were on the plant.

I was released. The case was closed - they had died due to accidental ingestion of poisonous berries.

I watched the local evening news that night. The deaths were the main story. It was a beautiful segment about their love and how misfortune tragically ended their lives. It turns out they had both been diagnosed with cancer within the last two months. This was followed by an educational segment detailing the dangers of eating unknown plants such as the Actaea Pachypoda.

I watched the news the next night, also. It turns out Actaea Pachypoda isn't native to our area. The police found a bag full of the seeds in the old couple's home.