Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SOPHIE'S QUESTION

In my series, my 50-year-old protagonist uses bondage gear, among other things, to subdue and punish bad guys (men who abuse their wives and girlfriends) . She is always on the lookout for techniques for delivering the greatest amount of pain while leaving the smallest possible amount of lasting evidence. What do you suggest?

Wow, that’s harsh, dude.

I’m not sure from your question whether she wants to leave these guys alive but without a way to verify their accusations, if any, or if she kills them but wants their deaths to appear natural or accidental or, at least, not personal.

How to cause the greatest amount of pain is precisely the sort of subject I try never to think about when I’m writing. The whole torture idea…nope, just can’t go there. And since most of the people I see are already dead and I can’t ask them if that hurt, well, I’m stuck with the same resources as you are. I’ve heard that things like soap or oranges in a sock will leave plenty of bruising, but under the skin where it won’t be noticed. But remember that if you kill him, the bruising might show up at the autopsy. You would want to keep it to the limbs, which won’t be opened up like the torso.

You could take a page from the manual of organized authorities—more things I don’t like to think about. I’ve heard police in southern climes often use pepper spray directed into the nostrils, and then there’s the current and controversial waterboarding—both non-fatal but completely miserable. Though I would think the pepper spray might leave burns in the sinuses that could be detected by a doctor.

Waterboarding, covering their nose and mouth with duct tape or near-drowning might all leave some signs of suffocation, such as petecchia in the eyes or indentations on the inside of the lips. Those would clear up in a living victim and might be explained at autopsy by other circumstances. If you finish him off by sending the car off a cliff but he shows signs of asphyxia, that might raise some eyebrows at the M.E.’s office. It would be best to coordinate the signs of the torture with the signs of the death.

It would take some calibration and some equipment, but electric shock too weak to burn could still be quite miserable, without leaving any sign so far as I know. Same with extreme cold, extreme heat, dehydration short of causing actual damage. You could drug him and leave him in the sun long enough to get a very bad case of sunburn. He’ll be miserable and the people treating him will believe he simply drank too many beers while poolside. He may wonder how he came to be sunbathing in the middle of Death Valley, but since he won’t remember getting there your character should be in the clear. Rohypnol works on both genders, people.


There’s always infection with some horrid disease—rabies, tetanus, meningitis, preferably when he is cut off from medical care. This would have the advantage of appearing completely natural to everyone. Unfortunately it would also appear natural to him.

And it’s no fun if he doesn’t know he’s being punished.


Lisa Black spent the happiest five years of her life in a morgue. Strange, perhaps, but true. In her job as a forensic scientist she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s as a latent print examiner and CSI working with fingerprints and crime scenes. She has been published in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan.

8 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

Lisa, thank you so much! You gave me some new directions to try. My character does a lot of threatening and rarely has to follow through, but for the truly unrepentent it's good to have an arsenal of possibilities.

♥Jen♥ said...

Oh Sophie, I can totally see Stella doing the pepper spray thing...or the sunburn. I like that one!

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Is loss of control much harder on the bad boys that Stella confronts than physical pain?

If you believe abusers are often abuse survivors, their tolerance for pain can be quite high.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I picture Lisa sitting at home with the door locked, vowing never to cone back to THIS blog of crazies. :)

Great question, Soph! And great answers, Lisa. Although my favorite quote of the week is still "like tennis balls out of a wet sock."

Kelli Stanley said...

Lisa, I hope we're not scaring you too much ... between Rebecca's sperm question, Sophie's torture and my question tomorrow, I'm afraid Beck you'll think we really *are* Criminal Minds! ;)

Soph, how about sleep deprivation? I'm always a big fan of mental torture, myself ...

xoxo

Kelli

Shane Gericke said...

Sophie and Rebecca at the same table? I'm skeered ... very skeered ...

Another approach, as Kel suggests: Sleep deprivation. It's incredibly painful and nauseating, and you can keep people awake with doses of cold water and very loud music. Not a mark on them. 24 hours without sleep, you are so disoriented that you're the equivalent of driving drunk. Go a week and you'll beg for death. That's why the CIA likes it so much.

Lisa Black said...

No, really, I'm enjoying my week with you. I just hope I never get any of you mad at me....

Actually the grossest thing so far has been Shane's nickname for Freshen Up gum. Definintely never touching a piece of that again!!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Sometimes I forget what kind of impression we might make on people who don't know us :) At back to school night last night I tried hard to just look like every other nice suburban mom - and kept my durn mouth shut tight.