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Miriam first meets Gershon, an acquaintance of her late-father, in THE DEADLIEST HATE. He was hardly the potbellied businessman she expected. Instead he was something of a dandy:

He had the stature and loose-limbed grace of an athlete, broad-shouldered and trim except for a ruffle of skin that draped his jowls and a dewlap under his chin. He sat down beside me arranging his limbs easily. Then he smoothed out the soft folds in his deep blue, silk tunic, which he wore just below the knees in front and to the mid-calf in back. When he rested his verbena-scented hands in his lap, I noticed his sheepskin girdle which, like his sandals, was studded with garnets. To complete the ensemble, a gold brooch, set with an amethyst like his seal ring, was positioned on his shoulder to fasten a Greek-style cloak.

Miriam recognizes the expensive and rare essential oil of verbena. The entire plant, a deciduous, perennial, and slender shrub, smells strongly of lemon. Its flowers are tubular, purple, and grow in terminal clusters. Its leaves, long, pale green, and pointed, are steam distilled along with the stalk for the oil, which is a yellowish-green liquid.

Gershon is going to need that verbena two books later in THE DEADLIEST FEVER. Aside from the oil being a good antiseptic and bactericide, the fragrance when diffused throughout his home could lift his spirits and stimulate his appetite. It will take you and Miriam some hard work to get to the bottom of his troubles.

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