Help me, FOR PURPOSES OF WRITING FICTION, figure out how to kill a guy
January 31, 2014 4:54 PM   Subscribe

So, our hero lives next door to an evil guy who is at present blind/infirm. She has an opportunity to kill him and make it look like an accident. What are some handy means of death for purposes of FICTION

The protagonist is an able-bodied woman.
The infirm evil guy is big but disabled because of a stroke and an injury in prison that left him mostly blind.
I want the protagonist, who is not a forensic expert or expertise in any medical field, to see X situation when she is in the apartment with the infirm guy, and think, "hmm I could murder him and get away with it"

Any ideas about what a situation could be? I mean, the only thing that comes to mind is a hoarding situation where the protagonist drops a weirdly balanced heavy thing on him.


Thanks everybody!
posted by angrycat to Writing & Language (47 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe he has an exotic hobby, that means he has something unusual in the house? Poisonous snakes or spiders as pets? Poison mushrooms? Chemicals for a hobby (photography) or something that could cause a spark (model train?) next to something flammable?
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2014

If you wanted to get super evil about it, she could see or hear that he's fallen (maybe she's visiting and he falls) and she just... doesn't help him? I'm thinking in general about exploiting situations that are known to kill the elderly etc. unless someone helps them.
posted by MadamM at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Starting a fire was my first thought as well. Since she lives so close, she doesn't have to worry about letting it get out of hand, as she can "rush over" to put it out once she "smells smoke."
posted by Rock Steady at 5:04 PM on January 31, 2014

The classic Law & Order solution for this is that there's a handy sculpture nearby, sized perfectly for use as a bludgeoning weapon. Perhaps it dropped off the mantlepiece...

Even better if it could have some thematic significance.
posted by Sara C. at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2014

I always remember the line from the original Secret Life of Walter Mitty film: "An icicle, inserted in the brain, will melt and leave no trace." It probably wouldn't work in real FICTION life.
posted by janey47 at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Easy, blow out the pilot light on his gas furnace or stove, and turn the gas dial all the way up. He'll never know the light is out, and if he's sleeping or has a cold, he may not even notice the gas smell. Especially good if he lives tightly cooped up in a place where all the nooks and crannies are sealed with rags and crap.
posted by Ouisch at 5:06 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lots of people have trouble speaking and swallowing after a stroke because their throat muscles paralyze. She could force him to choke on some food (the what and how is up to you) and it could be assumed later that he choked on his own because his throat doesn't work right.
posted by phunniemee at 5:07 PM on January 31, 2014

Carbon monoxide poisoning (maybe she removes the battery from the detector before doing whatever to cause the leak).
posted by melissasaurus at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2014

Beaten to death with a massive ice block. The ice would melt, and nobody would know what the fuck.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:20 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Toxic bug spray. That's what killed Swedish writer Dan Andersson (which I found in Wikipedia's list of unusual deaths, which you might find helpful). Have your protagonist leave behind the spray package. When people find your villain, they'll assume he was supposed to leave the house for a certain period of time and came back too soon.
posted by John Cohen at 5:28 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

if he's disabled from the stroke can't she just smother him with a pillow? and then fluff it up and leave it on the bed, no problem?
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:32 PM on January 31, 2014

Your use of all-caps in this question has had me in the giggle fits for the past five minutes. (As has janey47's phrase "real FICTION life.") Thank you both.

Given how much joy this question has given me, I feel like I should contribute somehow, but I'm having trouble coming up with anything good. I feel like a swap of something might work, but I'm flailing on what. Like, put something in the bathroom cabinet on the kitchen shelf? It would probably have to be an ingredient (vegetable oil, maybe?) since the taste of, say, Pinesol would be immediately recognizable.

If she saw a screw loose in one of those stairlifts, maybe she could undo it all the way? Seems like it wouldn't be a guaranteed murder, but could cause some serious injury.

She could put some matches in the microwave, or anything else flammable. Especially if it's established he eats mostly, idk, microwave popcorn or something, and lives in a cluttered kitchen. The matches would ignite, the bag would go, and then suddenly the whole place would be in flames. The matches could have gotten there by accident, and so if even if there was some question about what happened, she would be long gone.

If he has one of those prescription med boxes, she could fuck with them so that he ends up taking an overdose, or taking tylenol instead of whatever prescription he needs to not die.

I'm going to keep thinking about this. I'm in a bad mood and I'm really enjoying FICTIONALLY killing this guy.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Choke him with a jawbreaker? It worked on "Jawbreakers."
posted by dubious_dude at 5:40 PM on January 31, 2014

Any of the standard tragic elderly person deaths could be engineered easily enough: a fall (especially staged in the bathroom), fiddling with his meds to engineer an overdose or bad interaction (might require your hero to do a bit of googling), choking on food, gas leak (your hero should take care to not leave any prints).

I'm a fan of the med mix up, particularly since the victim is blind. It'd be easy enough to interfere with the meds such that he wouldn't notice anything is off, and you'd be pretty much guaranteed no follow up from the police. They'd assume tragic accident or natural causes. Any of the other options might leave telltale physical evidence, and getting him to choke on food requires too many unknown factors.

Plus, your hero could even call it in to the cops suspicion-free: "My neighbor is elderly and disabled, and I haven't heard from him in a few days and he won't answer his door, can you check up on him? I'm concerned."
posted by yasaman at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

After a bit more research, I think you should definitely do a switch - move something from a closet into the fridge, or onto the pantry shelves. Couldn't be simpler, and it happens all the time.

Read this article.

Some kind of oil into the fridge, easy to mistake for apple juice. Maybe he's storing the cleaning solution in the closet, in an old juice container. She just puts it back in the fridge. I've seen people do similar things with old water bottles - since he's blind, the liquid doesn't even have to be clear. Weed killer, pipe cleaning solution, wiper fluid - all of these are toxic enough to kill people after just a swallow, especially if the guy is already disabled and in bad health.

posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2014

Insulin above the hairline.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like a swap of something might work, but I'm flailing on what. Like, put something in the bathroom cabinet on the kitchen shelf? It would probably have to be an ingredient (vegetable oil, maybe?) since the taste of, say, Pinesol would be immediately recognizable.

That's another classic Law & Order scenario. I remember an episode of Criminal Intent where someone poisoned the victim's asthma inhaler without them noticing.

Seriously, watch a ton of homicide oriented police procedurals and you'll be able to come up with a list of interesting ways to off somebody. Not all of them are entirely feasible (I think there was also a Criminal Intent episode where somebody made murderous zombies with Japanese puffer fish poison), but they're certainly interesting enough.
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on January 31, 2014

Oh, and there's always air bubble in the blood! Particularly plausible if he already takes an injectable medication, then you don't have to worry about the injection site being seen. According to Wikipedia, "Human case reports suggest that injecting more than 100 mL of air into the venous system at rates greater than 100 mL/s can be fatal."
posted by yasaman at 5:59 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

melissasaurus: "Carbon monoxide poisoning (maybe she removes the battery from the detector before doing whatever to cause the leak)."

Easy way to get a buildup of carbon monoxide in the winter: block the chimney for the furnace/boiler. A few bricks from the top can break off due to weather-weakened mortar and just fall right in. (Access to his roof is trivial if they're in rowhouses, she just walks over from her own roof.)

This idea for a FICTIONAL murder plot brought to you by my real-life house.
posted by desuetude at 6:04 PM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Given his health problems, he might be taking various medications. Given his near blindness, he might have some system for making sure that he takes the right amounts of the right pills at the right times. Perhaps she is there when he is taking his medications and he jokes/chats about his careful little pill ritual. She could later excuse herself to wherever he keeps the pills (make tea in kitchen / go to bathroom) and sabotage the system in a fatal way. No outside party would have any way to know what went wrong.
posted by madmethods at 6:06 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Undetectable poison in a drip bag? Tasteless, odorless poison in coffee or tea? Given his infirmity, an autopsy would be unlikely if it looked like natural causes.

Or maybe she could diddle with an electric socket somehow and then leave a puddle of water on the floor or in a counter.

Or drug him then drown him in a tub?

OR switch his seeing-eye dog with a vicious rabid attack dog?!? Then change them back before the cops come!?
posted by mibo at 6:16 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out the apartment before time, do some math, then close the windows and feed in an appropriate amount of Helium. If the apartment isn't too drafty, the target should suffocate in a relatively short amount of time. Vent the apartment later with a wrist rocket if need be.

Most importantly they'll die quietly, if maybe a tad squeakily.
posted by Sphinx at 6:20 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Read Raymond Chandler's article, The Simple Art of Murder.

Chandler's piece won't hand you your plot but it will prevent you from committing the usual missteps often seen in crime fiction.
It's a classic - written over 60 years ago - and still worth its weight.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:21 PM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some kind of oil into the fridge, easy to mistake for apple juice. Maybe he's storing the cleaning solution in the closet, in an old juice container. She just puts it back in the fridge.

Readers might find this a little derivative of the movie Heathers.
posted by John Cohen at 6:22 PM on January 31, 2014

Doctor his liquor with methanol.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:24 PM on January 31, 2014

Dang, no medical knowledge? Assuming his stroke was ischemic rather than hemorrhagic, he may be on warfarin, a blood-thinning drug, and she could've added that to his beer, and it might be assumed an accidental overdose. Too bad she's not on it herself, or hasn't had a relative on it, so she'd have read the warning label at some point in her life.

Could she steal his medications, making it more likely that he'll suffer another stroke? She comes back later, with some kind of substitution, hoping that he won't notice?

Could she grab a bag of organophosphate ant poison from the garden shed, dose him with it, drop the bag next to him, then attract ants by leaving a line of sugar inside his house? (Um, see, in this far-fetched scenario, the police think he was trying to kill the ants but was clumsy with the poison.)
posted by mittens at 6:25 PM on January 31, 2014

In A Happy Death by Camus he has his protagonist murder a man (who is wheelchair bound and dying, but very slowly) for his money by having him write a suicide note and he shoots him, making it look like the infirm man killed himself.
posted by addelburgh at 7:09 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, or what about pushing him down some stairs?

Or leaving take-out food boxes on the stove and setting a burner on low?
posted by mibo at 7:51 PM on January 31, 2014

Do you ACTUALLY need her to get away with it, or just think she's gotten away with it until someone figures it out? A lot of these won't fly if someone does an autopsy or the police pay some attention.

If he's in a wheelchair, push him down the stairs. It's a crime that requires no premeditation or obscure medical knowledge. And it's way more believable.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:31 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest "push him down the stairs" but it recently had been mentioned.

I don't get the "hit/stab him with ice" thing. The notion is ridiculous. Hitting him with ice that melts is exactly as effective as hitting him with a baseball bat and then throwing the bat in the ocean.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:38 PM on January 31, 2014

I like a lot of these but have to call this one out:
injecting more than 100 mL of air into the venous system at rates greater than 100 mL/s can be fatal

100 mL/sec isn't a tiny bubble— it's about a third of a beverage can, or a whole syringe full of air in a second. Not so easy.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:33 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I suggest that she's feeling sympathetic due to his disability, so she bakes brownies or snickerdoodles, and takes them to him as a peace offering. But as you said, he's evil, so, as he's scarfing down the goodies, he cruelly and gleefully admits to something awful he did to your protagonist or someone she cares about, and while snorting with laughter, chokes on the goodies. She pauses . . . she can save him, or she can walk away.
posted by kbar1 at 9:47 PM on January 31, 2014

Since it's an apartment and she's the protagonist, that probably rules out fire or gas or anything that could harm the neighbors. Unless it's something impulsive she didn't think through very much and you want unintended collateral damage to weigh on her.

She could make it look less like an accident, more like someone else's dirty work due to bad blood from his prison days, if that's in his backstory. Or make that actually happen with her giving an anonymous tip about his whereabouts to whoever wants to bump him off, if she becomes aware of the situation.

Is it a slummy apartment that's not up to code? Maybe she notices he's got a radio in the bathroom, and she makes it fall in the bath/shower. Slummy old apartment, no GFCI outlets to trip.

Maybe she sees a tube of oral benzocaine gel for toothache and swaps it with his toothpaste tube - hello methemoglobinemia. Especially if he already needs supplementary oxygen and she swaps his tank for an empty. Or swap a tube of oral benzo gel with a medicinal topical cream he uses, he'd absorb a ton when it's applied over a wide area. I mean, you'd have to fudge the "no medical knowledge" a bit but it's one of those things a person could learn the hard way by accident as a child messing around in the medicine cabinet and having a big scary hospital adventure.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:17 PM on January 31, 2014

Or maybe she can set it up so he knocks over some cleaning supplies in an enclosed area (tiny little apartment bathroom or something) and the bleach and ammonia are uncapped and mix in large quantities.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:19 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am sort of thinking that either he chokes (his swallowing impaired by the stroke) and she doesn't go to get help, or rather, she has the choice to let him choke to death.

I love all of these though, and the choking thing might feel somewhat derivative of Breaking Bad, so any and all suggestions are most welcome. Thank you again.
posted by angrycat at 10:24 PM on January 31, 2014

Release some poisonous snakes into his room when he's asleep!
posted by spinifex23 at 10:24 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe he uses e-cigs and she dumps a good 30ml bottle of e-liquid into something he'll eat or drink. Nicotine poisoning is some nasty, nasty stuff, there's not a whole heck of a lot a hospital can do except manage the seizures, cardiovascular and respiratory problems and hope for the best.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:40 PM on January 31, 2014

Or heck, if he's got some nasty old coffee can of cigarette butts stewing in gross brown rainwater on the porch, that liquid would do it.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:42 PM on January 31, 2014

Huh, so from the way you ask the question, it sounds like it's less something that she's really actively looking for when she visits the apartment, and more just an opportunity that presents itself in the course of an unrelated visit and makes her think gosh, it would be so easy...?

If he's relatively new to being blind/disabled, it could be something as simple as moving something important from where he expects to find it. Poor thing couldn't get to his oxygen tank/emergency call button/etc. in time. Is the story set somewhere with extreme summer or winter weather? Pull the plug on his fan or heater, but leave it sort of hanging loosely in or by the socket, to make it look like it just came unplugged by accident, or swap the fuse in the thermostat for a broken one, or move the heater next to the curtains. Loosen the screws on the safety rails in the bathroom.
posted by kagredon at 12:20 AM on February 1, 2014

Sphinx: "Check out the apartment before time, do some math, then close the windows and feed in an appropriate amount of Helium."

Nitrogen is cheaper and won't reveal itself with tell tale squeekyness. Don't know if it would be revealed on an autopsy though.
posted by Mitheral at 1:39 AM on February 1, 2014

Is he able to shower on his own, without assistance?

Does he have hair?

She could spill conditioner in the tub. He slips on it and hits his head. If he's the sort to turn on the shower before getting in the tub, he lies there in the running water unconscious and possibly drowns, especially if something is blocking the drain.

She's visiting him, he says something deplorable, she retires to the bathroom to regain composure, and on a whim dumps the conditioner in the tub. It allows her to act without fully committing to murder - there's a decent chance he won't hit his head hard enough, or that he will revive after a while. She creates an opportunity for fate.
posted by bunderful at 7:05 AM on February 1, 2014

He's chilly. At his request, she finds a scarf and wraps it around his neck. Then sees a nail protruding from a cabinet and catches the end of the scarf on it.
posted by bunderful at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2014

I'm not sure whether the mostly blind are inclined to have bird feeders, but maybe he could be leaning out of his upper-storey window to add seed to a feeder and she'd be tempted to push him out? Maybe he'd be leaning out that same window to pull his cat back in?
posted by mr. digits at 7:29 AM on February 1, 2014

Also, as he's a large fellow one wonders about the prospects for an insulin overdose.
posted by mr. digits at 7:32 AM on February 1, 2014

Finally, speaking of convenient circumstances, with this fellow being a malign ex-con it isn't hard to imagine that a third party could arrive at the apartment with ill intent. The protagonist could perceive the score and withdraw.
posted by mr. digits at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2014

Riffing off mr. digits, she could also casually mention to one of his enemies where he lives and perhaps that he's not really in a position to defend himself.
posted by bunderful at 1:22 PM on February 1, 2014

Richard Kuklinski, also known as "The Ice Man" was a hit man. "His favorite weapon, he said, was cyanide solution administered with a nasal-spray bottle in the victim's face." He said it just looks like a heart attack.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:45 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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