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mreilly19
01-17-2018, 06:09 PM
Hi folks,

I am writing a crime story where a rich man receives a visit from a former childhood friend on the night of a dinner party at his home.

Turns out the friend isn't there to crash the party; he's a thief intending to force the wealthy guests at gunpoint to transfer the contents of their bank accounts to his overseas account.

Hostage situation ensues.

The protagonist eventually remembers his 'friend' having a severe allergic episode to some kind of food product which he couldn't taste or smell and rapidly became incapacitated by. Of course you see where this is going and he decides to try to slip the product to his friend somehow.

My question is, do you know of an allergen which might fit the bill? I initially considered a nut product but figured the brilliant thief would be well aware of his allergy and has spent decades avoiding said allergen. Maybe ground up nuts or a nut powder?

Thanks for any advice!

Maggie Maxwell
01-17-2018, 06:21 PM
Hi folks,

I am writing a crime story where a rich man receives a visit from a former childhood friend on the night of a dinner party at his home.

Turns out the friend isn't there to crash the party; he's a thief intending to force the wealthy guests at gunpoint to transfer the contents of their bank accounts to his overseas account.

Hostage situation ensues.

The protagonist eventually remembers his 'friend' having a severe allergic episode to some kind of food product which he couldn't taste or smell and rapidly became incapacitated by. Of course you see where this is going and he decides to try to slip the product to his friend somehow.

My question is, do you know of an allergen which might fit the bill? I initially considered a nut product but figured the brilliant thief would be well aware of his allergy and has spent decades avoiding said allergen. Maybe ground up nuts or a nut powder?

Thanks for any advice!

Maybe a milk allergy? Cooked in something, it could be difficult to detect.

cornflake
01-17-2018, 06:59 PM
Soy?

blacbird
01-17-2018, 09:03 PM
It would be pretty easy to hide something like peanut oil or a similar extract within another food product, especially a strongly-flavored one. Peanut allergies can result in fatal anaphylactic shock response (I have a close friend who must avoid all nut products for this reason). And it wouldn't take very muych of the allergen to affect a vulnerable person. It is the reason a lot of food stores and restaurants have warning signs on products that contain nuts or nut oils.

caw

Icarus_Burned
01-17-2018, 10:07 PM
peanut allergies can be severe enough that airbourne traces can have catastrophic effects i,e getting peanut dust into an A/C system as can contact with someone who has eaten them even hours before.

Personally i am fairly allergic to Lavender and Jasmine (odd enough) and even when i cant smell them directly i get a reaction....laundy powder is particularly good at bringing it on, even if the clothes have been left quite a while.

taraesque
01-17-2018, 10:26 PM
Milk is a good one since it comes in powder form that makes it easier to transport or mix into something. Peanut Oil is also good, because it doesn't have a taste if its pure enough.
Strawberries is another one that lots of people are allergic too, and they make those freeze dried strawberries as well.

neandermagnon
01-17-2018, 10:37 PM
One of my daughters has an anaphylaxis level allergy to peas (amongst not quite so severe allergies to several other foods).

Bear in mind that people with severe allergies like this can taste minute quantities of what they're allergic to, i.e. at levels that no-one else would taste. AFAIK it's a result of the allergic reaction starting in the mouth as soon as a trace of the food gets in there rather than actual tasting as such, but it amounts to the same thing, i.e. detecting the food in minute quantities right away.

This is not just going by my daughter (who's 7 and not that good at explaining stuff like that) but also adults I've talked to who have anaphylaxis, and have reported that they can taste the allergen in the food, even just a trace of it, but at that point it's too late to stop the allergic reaction. So trying to disguise the taste is not really relevant - though your MC might not know that, and the bad guy can realise right away what the MC's done and hurt him badly before the anaphylaxis gets to a level that incapacitates him. (Or, if he's not so bad, he'll use his epipen and call an ambulance for himself or ask someone to call an ambulance, which might be what you need for your plot. You can't do stuff after injecting yourself with the epipen. You have to lie down and wait for the ambulance.)

Note: this tasting thing may not apply to everyone who suffers from anaphylaxis

Also, if it's the good guys doing this to incapacitate the bad guy, giving someone an allergen when you know they have anaphylaxis is attempted murder. Or murder if they die from it, which is a distinct possibility. There's a danger your protags are going to come of looking more evil that the bad guy.

If the allergy is less severe, it won't cause swelling/restriction of airways or a drastic drop in blood pressure (associated with anaphyalxis) but can still cause some quite debilitating symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea and hives (vomiting and hives shortly after ingesting it, diarrhoea tends to be more of a delayed reaction when the allergen gets to the gut) - bear in mind that antihistamines can quickly stop such a reaction - usually they work within about 5 mins. If the character has moderate or severe allergies then it's likely they'll carry medications with them.

Another thing, I'd find it a bit too convenient (in a deus ex machina kind of a way) if it just so happens that the bad guy has anaphylaxis and a reason for not carrying epipens/medication and also is stupid enough to eat food that's been prepared by someone who has a reason to want to try to incapacitate them. Having anaphylaxis makes you extremely careful about what you eat, double checking ingredients and avoiding sources of food that you can't be sure about. There are other ways to sneakily incapacitate someone. Slipping someone some medication - maybe one of the guests is a bit nosy and checked out the medicine cabinet when they went to the bathroom, then remembers seeing sleeping pills, opiate painkillers or something like that - is a possibility that doesn't require the antagonist to just so happen to have a severe allergy.

Going back to your original question - you can be allergic to anything. I had never heard of pea allergy when my daughter had her severe allergic reaction. Thankfully NHS 111 (non-emergency NHS number) knew what was going on and sent an ambulance. Some allergies are more common than others, and some that more commonly cause anaphylaxis than others. So you can choose whatever food you want, near enough. I once read a magazine article about a guy who was allergic to water (skin allergy, i.e. breaking out in hives if his skin got wet, I'm assuming he could still drink water otherwise he'd be dead.)

cbenoi1
01-18-2018, 02:15 AM
Lemon pulp / juice.

Not something everybody has in their fridge, but still a common component of many cleaning products *cough* *Pledge* *cough*. So the thief might have scanned the fridge, took out all the lemons from the bar, but wasn't aware about the maid's secret closet.

-cb

mreilly19
01-18-2018, 05:55 AM
One of my daughters has an anaphylaxis level allergy to peas (amongst not quite so severe allergies to several other foods).
(Or, if he's not so bad, he'll use his epipen and call an ambulance for himself or ask someone to call an ambulance, which might be what you need for your plot. You can't do stuff after injecting yourself with the epipen. You have to lie down and wait for the ambulance.)

I love this idea. I've always dealt with "decent" bad guys and have already written dialogue in my head on this guy and how he's not out to ruin anyone's evening and in fact just plans to take one million each from nine millionaires present who have 30+ million each in the bank. "Wetting my whistle" is how he puts it.

I think I would have him keel over, ask for an ambulance and have the protagonist call him one. Then they agree together that bad guy doesn't press charges since good guy saved his life. Maybe even work in some kind of reconciliation based on respect; e.g. bad guy was semi-decent and good guy didn't hesitate to save him. I like that stuff better than "I will watch you die in mortal pain."

- - - Updated - - -

Thanks for all the great ideas, folks! I can really use this stuff!

cornflake
01-18-2018, 06:01 AM
Seconding the 'you can be allergic to anything' and 'allergies differ' things.

Knew a guy who was anaphylactic to a list of stuff a freaking mile long... peanuts, tree nuts, spices, seafoods, milk, etc., on and on, and once did have an airborne peanut reaction (he had no idea there had been peanuts in the [closed] room before he entered it). Also have known people with milk and chocolate allergies who get reactions such that sometimes they have it anyway because meh (which you're not supposed to as reactions can blow up unexpectedly too).

Lots of people have oral allergy syndrome with certain fruits, where they get tingly lips and such from eating them. Some people eat a mango and need medical attn. Humans are weird. You can also have an allergy at some point and then it disappears.

Hence he could have developed it late, and thus be less experienced at checking everything/knowing what to look for, and, as blackbird wisely notes, if it's peanuts or something it's probably easy to stick some peanut oil in something -- or even rub peanut butter on something then wipe most of it off. People with severe peanut allergies can have dire reactions to that (parents of kids with peanut allergies often have Clorox or whatever wipes in hand anyplace they go because kids are often pb sticky and touch shit, especially kid places like amusement parks, grocery stores, etc.)

hester
01-19-2018, 02:01 AM
Everyone on the thread's offered excellent insights (like cornflake says, humans are weird, especially where allergies are concerned :)).

I have a ton of allergies (nuts, tree fruits, etc.) Like neander says, even a minute trace of an allergen in something I'm eating will make itself known right away. I don't have a full-blown anaphylactic reaction, but I'll get an all-over skin rash, hives, stomach upset/vomiting, and some facial swelling without the breathing difficulties. The thing is, a lot of common allergens have lesser-known "relatives" that might cause a severe reaction, but the recipient might not know of the relationship (ie, for some reason I'm very allergic to bananas and avocadoes, and I'm assuming they share some biological/genetic similarity with my primary allergens). Maybe have your MC do research on something the villain doesn't realize would trigger a reaction?

Alsikepike
01-19-2018, 06:57 AM
Maybe peanut flour? It’s fine enough to be easily inhaled, and a sudden concentrated dose of an allergen can incapacitate someone very quickly when it enters through the lungs. A good friend of mine is only mildly allergic to corn, and one time we were raiding my pantry for snacks when a container of cornstarch got knocked over and broke open over his head. He was down before he even made it out of the room. Plus, a master thief is unlikely to eat or drink anything in a hostage situation, as eating requires at least one hand and lets his guard down. If a hostage thinks they’re going to die, they’ll use the opportunity to their advantage without even thinking. It also doesn’t require any forethought on the protagonist’s part. They could get attacked and a container peanut flour could get knocked over in the scuffle, or the protagonist grabs it and break it open in a spur of the moment decision.

Hopefully that helps.

MAS
01-19-2018, 09:38 AM
Bees? And if a bee got into the room and he's allergic, it could provide a required distraction.

L M Ashton
01-19-2018, 09:51 AM
Further enforcing of the you can be allergic to anything thing.

I have 60+ allergies. They don't all affect me in the same way - some cause itchiness and tightening of the throat (hazelnuts and crab), others with stomach cramping and diarrhea (fluoride anything, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, chillies, and dozens upon dozens of other things), others with eczema (certain types of mackerel, sunflower seeds, hard water), and so on.

I can tell you from personal experience that if I don't know what's in that food item, I am not touching it. If I'm in a situation like you described, there is *no way* I would eat anything prepared by people who are my enemies or even possible enemies. Something that is packaged where I can verify the contents of the package, maybe. But if I think I'm going to be there long enough to need to eat, I'm packing my own food with me.

Your best bet in that case would be to go with something airborne. Peanut dust can do that for those with severe peanut allergies.

OTOH, anaphylaxis has been redefined in more recent years to include multiple organ failure. It's no longer just throat closing/can't breathe, but can include my reactions to spices - stomach cramping, diarrhea, dehydration, loss of consciousness, shock which can rapidly enough proceed to death. If you wanted to kill me, slip some cloves into my food - a teeny tiny pinch would do it. A mere quarter teaspoon of biryani would do it. It might take a few hours before I'd be dead, but I'd be incapacitated within twenty minutes to a half hour.

And reinforcing that human being can be weird thing - antihistamines tend to not work on me. They don't work for everyone.

Girlsgottawrite
01-21-2018, 07:58 PM
I friend of mine is allergic to sesame. It causes full-on anaphylactic shock for him and is very hard to avoid since it isn't so common and the oil is used in a lot of cooking.

Debbie V
02-01-2018, 11:23 PM
I have lots of allergies also, but none severe. I can't stand outside a Thai restaurant without getting a sore throat because they cook in peanut oil. It permeates the air. I think an airborne attack is more realistic here. But I also think someone with severe allergies would be very careful. And yes to the epipen. That's life saving.

cmhbob
02-01-2018, 11:34 PM
Recent news story (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/01/26/3-teens-charged-with-knowingly-exposing-allergic-classmate-to-pineapple-she-was-hospitalized/?utm_term=.a4475f0a556c): girl had anaphylactic allergy to pineapples. Bullies got their hands wet with pineapple juice, then high-fived her.

Twick
02-02-2018, 06:32 PM
How about mustard? Mustard itself is detectable by taste, but it's often found in mixtures where it's pretty indetectable. Here's a list of some of the foods to be suspicious of if you're allergic to mustard:

CondimentsSalad Dressings (vinaigrettes and crudités)
Spices, flavouring or seasoning
Sauces:

Barbecue
Curry
Cumberland
Ketchup, tomato sauces
Béarnaises
Mayonnaises
Pesto
Vinaigrettes
Gravies, Marinades


Curries, Chutneys
Pickles and other pickled products
Vegetables with vinegar
Dehydrated soups
Processed Meat (sausages, salami etc.) including hamburgers/steakettes, some fast food products
Potato salad

Have the protagonist offer him some of his special satay appetizers, that have just a hint of mustard beneath the other spices.

nicolane
02-02-2018, 06:39 PM
Perhaps penecillin would work in this scenario?

lonestarlibrarian
02-02-2018, 06:50 PM
Towards the end of his life, my grandfather developed an allergy to pepper. The effect for him was pretty much "have pepper in your food, and then drown in mucus for the next three days". It wasn't until my parents took him back in from the assisted living facility and had 100% control over his diet that they were able to figure out what was triggering it--- because it wasn't just food. For example, she'd give him V8 juice, and it would trigger an episode.

I have an allergy to pistachios. They shut down my lungs, and I can only breathe from the tops of my lungs. Almonds have a somewhat similar effect on me, but much less so--- I need to eat a ton of almonds to start getting into that territory, whereas just a trace amount of pistachios will put me in a bad situation. I remember I ate a Filet-o-fish from McDonalds, and it triggered my pistachio allergy. Normally, the fish sandwich is perfectly safe, but I think that one must have been contaminated with pistachios somehow. I can only guess-- maybe the food worker was eating a pistachio snack, and had residue on their hands while they made my sandwich? Who knows.

Strawberries will kill my cousin.

I have another relative who's allergic to uncooked/unprocessed fruits in the rose family. She can eat stewed apples, for example, but not raw apples. She has a terrific fruit salad that uses peaches and strawberries that are marinated in liquor, which she can eat with no problem, but not raw peaches or strawberries. She can eat cherry pie, but not raw cherries. etc.

Twick
02-02-2018, 06:54 PM
Another thought on mustard or oils - you don't have to have the thief eat it. The protagonist just has to maybe smear a little on something that the thief will handle.