Killing Him Softly With My Words

I just love this little piece from Frances de Plino on the eve of the release of her latest D.I. Paulo Storey novel, Call It Pretending. You can order it now. Welcome once again, Frances – and sit back and enjoy, everyone.

Have you ever wondered how crime writers come up with their plots and methods for murder? In my case, I usually let my overactive imagination dwell on ways of killing people and then incorporate the method into a plot.  That wouldn’t be so bad if I kept the gruesome details to myself until they appeared in a future novel, but I tend to share my ideas with my sorely tried, dearly beloved husband, often at totally inappropriate moments.

Take the scenario for the latest in my D.I. Paolo Storey crime series, Call It Pretending. I was sitting next to him in a hospital waiting room when I asked: “Do you think it’s possible to inject someone with embalming fluid?”

We’ve been married for so long now, you’d think he would no longer feel threatened when I ask such questions, but I swear he’s developing a nervous tic in one eye. Unable or unwilling to answer, he tried to change the subject to less lethal matters, like his upcoming appointment with the doctor, but my mind was now firmly fixed on how to get the fluid into a living person.

We went in to see Derek’s specialist and I was dying (no pun intended) to ask about the technical issues attached to my ghoulish plan, such as how easy was it to obtain formaldehyde and so on. We live in Spain and, unfortunately for me, but lucky for the doctor, my Spanish is nowhere near up to the task.

Not one to let things lie, by the time Derek and I arrived home, I’d perfected my murderous plan – all I needed now was to find out what happened to the body as the fluid went in and how long it would take someone to die. You might think that such information would be difficult to come by, or that the only way to find out would be to commit the dreadful deed, but you’d be wrong.

I belong to the wonderful Crime Writers Association. A few months back they sent the members a link to a website where various professionals in the world of crime (the good guys, not the bad ones) answer questions from people like me who want to get their facts straight.

I sent off my query: Is it possible to kill someone with embalming fluid?

Later that day I received an email from a doctor: Embalmers use the femoral artery in the groin. That would not be feasible in someone still alive. Simply sticking it into a muscle wouldn’t work. Rats! Back to the murder board.

I needed to knock off several victims and wanted a fool proof way of going about it. As Derek had been prescribed a blood thinner at the hospital, my mind switched to that. “I’ve got it,” I said to the love of my life. “I can probably kill people with warfarin.”

His face took on a haunted look, but he really needs to be less sensitive. It’s not as if I’m going to practise on him.

Email to Dr Death: I’m sorry to trouble you again, but would it be possible to kill someone with warfarin? If yes, how much would be needed and how would it have to be administered?

His reply: Getting it would be difficult. Administering it orally would be challenging because it has to be swallowed. Just as I was about to give up and resort to the tried and true methods of stabbing or strangling my victims, another email pinged into the inbox. Dr Death had given my query some thought and came back with exactly what I needed. The easiest injectable drug for a murderer would be Insulin. As a natural substance it is also difficult to spot – unless the forensic pathologist is specifically looking for it in overdose. You can buy it on the internet.

After a bit of research I discovered my murderer could stock up on the medication and syringes without any difficulty at all. Problem solved – I was overjoyed. So much so that I rushed through to find Derek and tell him all about my new friend and his advice. Funnily enough, the more I told Derek about how easy it was to get away with murder, the more concerned he looked. Surely he couldn’t think I’ve got murderous intentions towards him?

I told him he had no need to worry. “If I ever set out to kill you there’s no way I’d tell you in advance about the method I intend to use.” For some reason that didn’t put his mind at rest. The poor man now seems to have a twitch to go with the nervous tic!


* A shorter version of this post first appeared in Writing Magazine, earlier this year.

Lorraine Mace, Frances di Plino

Frances di Plino is the pen name for Lorraine Mace, humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a short story competition judge for Writers’ Forum. A former tutor for the Writers Bureau, she is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Her debut children’s novel is due for release in April 2014. Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the D.I. Paolo Storey crime series: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes and Call It Pretending.

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