The best murderers have a plan. Those who don’t plan, plan to go to jail.
A devious criminal needs more than an aggressive streak and the ability to end someone’s life without remorse.
So, what do they need?
A solid to-do list.
As a mystery writer, I love to think about my character’s motives and not only has what drives them to commit terrible crimes but also the lengths they’ll go to, to conceal their actions.
And to get away with it, they need the trusty I’m gonna get away with murder list.
Before we get to the list (which I hope you’ll make a copy of, just in case) it’s important to start with the WHY. Is there ever any justification for murder?
Agatha Christie in Murder on the Orient Express suggests there is. And for any of you who haven’t read that novel, there’s a twist at the end that means justice gets served, but not in the way a typical murder mystery is resolved.
Gasp! Does the killer get away with it?
I won’t give away that spoiler, but when you finish the book, it’ll make you wonder: was that the right thing for Hercule Poirot to do? Was he behaving out of character, or did the circumstances of the murder mean the ending was correct?
Before you race off to one-click your purchase of Orient, consider your WHY for writing your own murder to-do list.
Is murder the only option? It’s a serious business. Don’t go in lightly with your to-do list and hammer without making sure you’re content to deal with the messy bits afterward (and I’m not talking about cleaning up the blood – although I have a handy hint for that below.)
Here are some tips if you want to get away with your own heinous crime (and of course, this is in jest. If any of you point the finger at me after doing the dark deed, I had nothing to do with it.)
Tip one: Get yourself an excellent alibi. This can be done in a number of ways. You can get someone to lie for you, or tell people you were somewhere else at that time and have them vouch for you.
If you want to be particularly sneaky, adjust an obvious clock in your room and make sure there’s a picture or a video camera image of you in the room at that (fake) time. Of course, your clock will show you couldn’t have been anywhere near the victim when they were killed.
The tricky thing with involving other people is they often have consciences (most annoying.) And what if they decide to use that evidence against you? You could be on the receiving end of blackmail, and then you’re back to square one and have to commit another murder.
And that’s the interesting thing with murder. The first one can lead to another. It’s not that it gets easier to kill once you’ve done it the first time, but if any of you out there have experience, let us know. But when you commit such a crime, you unfurl a web of tangled troubles. Particularly if you involve other people.
Another thing to consider, is what if your false alibi friend argues with you and you fall out? Would you trust them not to go to the police and tell them everything? Or would you find yourself stirring a poisoned cup of tea and handing it over with a saccharine smile and waiting for them to die? Oops! There goes another one.
Alibis are important to get it right, but difficult to fake.
Tip two: If you’re unfortunate enough to get caught on one of the many thousands of cameras that watch us everywhere (including the ladies changing rooms in certain stores!!) you need a hacking friend. Preferably someone in surveillance, or a corrupt police officer who can make evidence disappear. Make friends with the cyber geeks.
Again, they could fake the alibi with false timestamps on a recording, or hack into a system and make the evidence disappear. The handy thing about cyber geeks is they’re often lonely. If you have a winning smile and a saucy wink and you’re willing to exploit your feminine wiles, or your manly wiles, make friends with the clever geeks. They’ll help you out if you’re in a bind.
Tip three: Make sure you hide any blood if you have a messy crime scene. But why would you? The plastic sheeting should have been down before you went to work on your victim.
If things got messy and you got a little blood spatter on the couch, don’t believe what you see on the TV. Bleach does not get rid of blood. And that stuff gets everywhere. Having even a single drop of blood on you could be enough to convict you of the crime.
So, what do you do? How does the messy killer clear up the evidence? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the wonderful thing about modern technology. Nip in the store and buy detergent with an active oxygen cleaning system. It’s all the rage. Mix up a bowl in water, clean the entire room, yourself, and your clothes, and those bubbles will corrupt the blood to such a degree, that even if the police find what could be blood on your clothing or in the room, it’ll be so degraded the evidence will be inadmissible.
The next time you’re in the store, browsing the carving knives or wondering if you could sneak that rat poison into the bottom of your basket, also grab the active oxygen detergent. It won’t be cheap, but it could save you a life behind bars.
Tip four: If you have more evidence to dispose of, such as the carving knife or the rat poison, water is a good place to hide things. But choose somewhere tidal. Don’t throw it in a stagnant lake. Those police divers love to wade about in the freezing gray water to find the evidence you concealed.
Use the sea or a tidal river. If that doesn’t work, look down. The drains are excellent at scurrying things away to sea. Make sure the evidence is as clean as it can, toss it in, and let it float away with the effluent.
Tip five: When you’ve committed a crime, you’ll be eager to give as much information as you can to show you’re innocent. Police training shows innocent people don’t do that. They furnish them with the answers to the questions, and that’s it. They don’t add: Oh, and then I did this, or I saw that, or I went there, so it couldn’t possibly be me because….
Innocent people don’t feel the need to give extra information. It’s only the guilty who get loose-lipped.
Play it cool, be respectful to the police, and only tell them what they need to know. The more information you give, the more likely you are to trip yourself up. And when people get confused about your answers, that’s when the net will close in.
Tip six: If all else fails and they’re coming for you, make sure you have a backup plan. Even you get found out, you need somewhere to hide. I like Spain. It has a laid-back attitude to taking in criminals. In the UK, there was an infamous case known as the Great Train Robbery. In 1963, a gang stole £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train heading from Glasgow to London. Most of them snuck out of the country to Spain, where they lived the high life and only got captured when they got so sick, they wanted to come back to the UK and spend their last days with their family. It was made into a movie featuring Phil Collins. It’s worth a watch.
Is there somewhere close to you with a laid-back attitude to looking after criminals? If so, have a bag packed, make sure you’ve got your passport, and see if you can get away. If you do, I may come and interview you on a sunny beach once you’re settled. We can sip mojitos—I’ll be buying, just in case you have a bottle of something you shouldn’t tucked about your person—and I could write you into my next murder mystery. I hope you find the tips useful.
Always have a plan and you can get away with just about anything.
K.E. O’Connor is the author of the Every Witch Way series, the Witch Haven mystery series, the Crypt Witch cozy mysteries, the Lorna Shadow ghost mysteries, the Holly Holmes baking mysteries, the Zee Town paranormal cozy series, and the Old Sarum mystery series, along with other titles available if you cast the right spell. She can imagine dragons, taste cookies when they aren’t even there, and hear the crack of a witch’s broom at a hundred paces.
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K.E. O’Connor is the author of so many books she can't remember them all. Noteworthy mentions include:
Along with other titles available if you cast the right spell.
She can imagine dragons, taste cookies when they aren’t even there, and hear the crack of a witch’s broom at a hundred paces.
Visit her website for more bookish, magical fun