L’ Esprit D’Escalier: Part Twenty, The Plan.

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

The caterpillar fungus is grown in a remote region of the Himalayas, inside the bodies of host caterpillars.

The following days saw Abdulaye make frequent visits to Lucien’s apartment bearing packages of varying sizes. Each one held deadly contents. Lucien carefully labelled each packet and stored them in the fridge, away from the usual items of foodstuff. One couldn’t be too careful. Meanwhile he began to develop a plan. He had decided that he would consume the mushroom mixture with the trio, so that they wouldn’t suspect anything. This method would require the right combination of lethalness and time to take effect. There was no antidote to the toxin and the only treatment was a long process of intravenous drip. He could delay the process in his own case by ingesting charcoal which would absorb some of the poison, enough to get him across Paris before the symptoms made it impossible to begin the detoxification.

Then there was the alibi to sort out. He had to eradicate every trace of his presence that evening, while attracting attention to himself elsewhere. This, he decided, he would do with the help of his neighbour, the recently widowed Caissho Warasme. She had often talked about her saviour, a school secretary who lived in Morlaix, Brittany. Christine and her husband André had attended Cheik’s funeral and were introduced to Lucien. The doctor had been offered one of the Gites that surrounded the couple’s mansion, at a discount, any time he liked. He would take them up on that offer at the same time as the dinner. All he had to do was coordinate it all – no mean feat.

When the big Malian had completed deliveries, Lucien paid him handsomely and was assured of his silence. However, he also had an insurance policy, which he hoped he wouldn’t have to use on Abs.

His research had come up with two mushrooms out of the collection that had the right properties he needed. He would perform trials on both, using himself as a guinea pig. Starting with a minute dose, and following his research, he would come up with the optimum quantity of mushroom to serve his purpose, and to serve his fellow diners.

The doctor assembled the detox equipment in his bedroom and set it up over his bed. He would need instant access to the drip, immediately on his return. He then emailed Christine and purchased a first class open return to Morlaix. There, his deadly experiments would begin. Two weeks until the dinner. Marielle had already called him twice. She wasn’t happy about the starter, two mushroom entrées in successive months. However, when Lucien informed her that it involved the most expensive fungus in the world, she relented.

The caterpillar fungus is grown in a remote region of the Himalayas, inside the bodies of host caterpillars. It grows inside them, eating the host from the inside out. The unfortunate creatures are then harvested and the combination is served as a whole. The miraculous medicinal properties of the fungus are widely known in the medical world and, as such, are highly collectable. One kilo of the delicacy can set one back twenty thousand Euros. Lucien forked out yet more of his retirement fund to acquire half a kilo of the dead worms.

He then appointed a locum for a month and informed his patients and neighbours of his break. He took the Metro to Montparnasse station, with the lethal fungus in his luggage. There, he boarded the train to Brittany, engaging with as many people as possible in the process. On the journey across northern France, he thought about his three friends and how it never used to be like this.


The exclusive quartet were inseparable, the envy of the whole establishment. They were the top performing students in their year, for four consecutive years. There was the beautiful painter, who was already selling works for five figure sums, as well as appearing in Vogue magazine. Then there was the handsome young sculptor, whom everyone thought to be the future husband of the exquisite artist.. The clever wordsmith, Valéry, who attained the.highest score on the French Literature course, in living memory. Then there was Lucien.

So, this complex mix of four prodegies, like it’s literal equivalent, bound the foursome together in its sticky inescapable threads. Love rotted on the vine and became hatred, most of which was directed in Lucien’s direction. The two extra years of study, separated him temporarily from the other three. During this time, their stars rose in the sky. Their bitterness was proportional to their growing wealth and fame. When, on graduation, Lucien turned down a position at a prominent Parisian clinic, on Marielle’s recommendation, she lost it with him. Her fiery temper was further fanned when he took up a GP’s position in one of the poorest districts of the capital.


The train announcement heralded Morlaix and Lucien gazed out of the window to see the beautiful Breton port town below. The train crossed the famous Morlaix viaduct which stretched between the steep sides of the valley in which the town is located. Despite being several kilometres from the sea, the place has a maritime feel to it , thanks to the tidal river which passes through.

Lucien was greeted by André Plaurit, an ancient Hippy with snow white shoulder length hair, roughly scragged into a ponytail. His matching beard hung several centimetres from his chin and was stained yellow around one side of his mouth, from which poked the tiniest of cigarettes. His clothes were well worn, sixties, but clean. As he grabbed the cases from Lucien, he noticed the rough calloused hands of a grafter. André greeted the doctor with a string of Breton words which went straight over his head. Reverting to French, the ageing rocker repeated his greeting.

“Good afternoon doctor Lucien. Welcome to Finistèrre, the most beautiful place NOT in France!” He laughed loudly, putting a case on the platform and grabbing the doctor’s hand with a leathery mitt. His grip was firm, powerful and reassuringly genuine. Lucien was falling in love with this strange country within a country.


  1. Kenneth Childs

    As always wonderfully imaginative, descriptive and intriguing.

    • Brian Forster

      Thanks Ken. As usual, I’m enjoying immersing myself in Lucien’s world.


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