I’ve had sleeping problems my whole life. The funny thing about going to a doctor for sleeping pills is you can tell them you’ve had sleeping problems your whole life and all they’ll do is hand you a pamphlet. It has advice on it like: Don’t get in bed unless you’re going to sleep. Don’t drink too much caffeine or alcohol. Exercise frequently, but don’t do it too late. Advice like this feels like being told to spit on a house fire.
When I was 20, I lived in an apartment with my boyfriend. He woke every morning at five so he could be at work by six. There was a big aquarium in our bedroom, and the apartment was poorly ventilated, so it was always humid and hot. Consequentially, after he went to bed I went into the living room, where I left both of the big windows open. I liked to drink, and I liked to watch TV. Court TV – that was my favorite channel. The sofa was right next to the window.
Court TV played shows like Cold Case Files and Forensic Files in a seemingly endless loop. So I sat there, watching things about bodies and death and violence. I’d smoke cigarettes on the steps outside our door during the commercial breaks, and I’d hear things in the bushes and on the street and think about all the sketchy-looking people who roamed the neighborhood. I’d go back inside, and think about how the window was right next to my head, and how a knife could cut through the screen so easily, and how my boyfriend slept as soundly as a rock. I’d become drunk and I’d become afraid, and shortly after, I’d fall asleep. No struggle, no turning of gears – the sleep on the couch, in front of the murder shows, came soft and easy. I still woke up after a few hours, but at least now I could get to sleep.
Court TV became Tru TV and started playing shows about traffic cops. I stopped paying for cable, and bought DVDs about serial killers instead. Netflix started streaming their shows, iPads were invented, and every episode of Dateline got uploaded to YouTube. And eventually, my doctor prescribed me Seroquel.
It takes me an hour or less to fall asleep these days, because that’s how long it takes for the Seroquel to kick in, but I still watch murder shows every night. Somehow along the way, stories detailing the worst kind of deaths have become soothing. I’m not sure what this says about me, but I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that the voices narrating these shows are usually soft and therefore soothing, and that you always know how the story will end so there’s no need to stay awake til it’s over.
Something happens, though, if you spend ten years of your life falling asleep to murder shows: you learn all the ways a person can get caught. From these years of extensive, accidental research, I’ve compiled a list of things you should know if you ever need to kill someone.
1. Keep in mind that extreme heat speeds up the rate of decomposition. Keep in mind that extreme cold slows it down. Therefore: commit your murders in the summer.
2. Don’t kill anyone you’re involved with romantically. You’ll be the first person the cops want to talk to. If you must kill someone you’re sleeping with, make sure they’re sleeping with a lot of other people too, and that one of them has a worse criminal record than yours.
3. Don’t bring your cell phone. This seems pretty basic but apparently a lot of people still get caught from this. Don’t bring your cell phone when you’re stalking them, or when you drive two hours away to dump their body in the desert/river/forest, either. If you must bring a cell phone, act like a criminal who actually knows what they’re doing and buy a pay-as-you-go. Buy it at a busy store, and pay for it in cash.
4. In fact, buy all things related to your murder with cash. Duct tape, plastic bags, rope – all this shit will get you caught. Throw the receipts away immediately, in a public trash can in front of the store. And you probably shouldn’t purchase the duct tape at the same time as the rope, the saw at the same time as the industrial-sized trash can.
5. If the process of your murder involves a struggle with the victim, make sure to clean their fingernails afterward. They might have tiny pieces of your skin underneath from when they tried to fight for their life.
6. Dump the body in a separate place than the murder scene. This way, the police will have to survey two spots before they can put the pieces of the murder together.
7. Cut off your victim’s head and hands. Place these parts in a different area than the rest of the body.
8. If you’re throwing a body (or parts of a body) into a lake, don’t put it in plastic bags. Plastic bags get filled with the gas that is emitted when a body decays, and then the bags will float. Plastic bags will also prevent water from getting to the body. You want water to get to the body. This speeds up the rate of decomposition and also washes away trace evidence.
9. If you must use plastic bags, use one from a major chain grocery store, and not the little corner shop with the weird bags that say THANK YOU in a heart shape that are only used at five stores total in your city.
10. Arson is useful for eliminating evidence. Your fire might not get as far as you want it to, and the police will almost always recognize that it wasn’t of an accidental nature, but it will make it difficult for the crime scene to remain untainted. Keep in mind: Set fire to clothes and curtains because they burn more quickly than furniture.
11. It takes a lot longer to burn up a car than you’d think. Just drive it into a lake instead.
12. If you’re trying to stage a botched burglary, remember to a) actually take the valuables, and b) don’t leave all the drawers pulled out at the same length, because you can’t rummage through a bottom drawer if the top drawer is pulled out on top of it.
13. Don’t keep your victim’s jewelry, undergarments, hair, etc. as souvenirs. If you absolutely must do this, don’t display your souvenirs in photographs, and don’t leave all the souvenirs from all your murder victims in the same shoebox in your closet.
14. If you fail a lie detector test, realize this isn’t proof of you being guilty. Insist to the police that you must have failed it because you were nervous. Never deviate from this story.
15. Never read anything having to do with poison (if you’re using poison), the making of bombs (if you’re making a bomb), a how-to on dead body disposal, or a list of tips that’ll help you get away with murder. If you get caught with things like these, they’re almost as good as a fingerprint. Don’t think that you can delete the file or clear your browser history either, because you can’t. Once you search or save it, it can always be found, thanks to computer forensics.
16. And absolutely do not ever, ever write a list of tips on how to get away with murder.