Created By: JusticeReaper on December 21, 2012 Last Edited By: JusticeReaper on January 8, 2014
Troped

Kill The Creditor

Can't repay a debt? Kill the person you owe!

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A character owes a debt to someone, but is unable to pay the sum being demanded, or they can't pay it in the time allotted. Or maybe they don't want to have to Work Off the Debt, either because the debt-holder is a Jerk Ass, the debt was incurred via Blackmail, or the debt was a result of a Leonine Contract or an offer that initially couldn't be refused. So what to do?

Why, get rid of the debt by getting rid of the debt-holder, of course! After all, if you don't have anyone to owe, there'll be no debt to pay, right?

The amount of money being owed doesn't matter, though usually in fiction it's a very hefty sum. What this trope is about is the debtor rationalizing that the debt will be canceled with the lender's death, and his/her trying and/or actually succeeding to kill the lender. Also, the debts in question are often of shady or otherwise unwanted means, such as with gambling debts (though this trope is in response to any kind of financial debt to an individual).

If said lender was a Jerk Ass or worse, being killed by the debtor will turn that person into an Asshole Victim. However, this trope doesn't count if a person owes money to a financial institution, such as a bank or credit union, as those debts are generally legit (unless the lender in question is of questionable morals).

The creditor killing the debtor is an inversion. The debtor failing to kill the creditor is a subversion (including if the creditor then dies due to unrelated factors).

Note that in Real Life, this doesn't work if the debt was official and in writing (e.g. a promissory note). The executor of the dead person's estate, or the deceased person's heirs, can take legal action to collect from anyone who owed money to them.

Not the same as the Ballistic Discount, which is where a person goes into a gun-shop, asks to try a gun, and then shoots the salesperson and leaves without paying for the gun.

Examples:

Fanfic
  • In the Justice League fanfiction Flash By Northwest, which is set in a crime-thriller story inside a magical book, this turns out to be the motive for Wally West's character to kill Mari McCabe's character, albeit indirectly. According to the script, J'onn's character, an unscrupulous accountant, had loaned Wally money that was skimmed from Mari's accounts, but Wally couldn't pay the loan back; the theory is that he may have killed Mari as a way to get the loan forgiven.
  • There's a Dragon Ball fanfic called Bad Man, where a man who owes money to some criminals kidnaps Bulma so that he can blackmail Vegeta into killing the criminals for him.

Film
  • In the Mariah Carey film Glitter, Mariah's former manager hasn't received his money from her new manager and makes threats at Mariah to that effect. When he hears about this, the new manager viciously assaults the old manager. Eventually inverted when the old manager confronts the new one and shoots him dead.

Literature
  • In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov kills the old moneylender, though his motivations are more complex than just getting rid of the creditor.

Live Action TV
  • On Chicago Fire Cruz's brother owes a debt to a gang leader. The gang leader threatens to hurt or kill the brother if he does not get his money. When a building used by the gang catches fire, Cruz is one of the fire fighters sent to the scene. While searching the building, he finds the gang leader in one of the rooms. Rather than rescue him, Cruz exits the building and leaves the gang leader to die in the fire.
  • In The Unusuals one of the detectives, a born-again Christian, is being blackmailed by his old partner-in-crime for several crimes he had done back in Texas, and the detective ends up killing his former partner because he can't pay.
  • In Angel, Angel wages his soul for Gunn's (which he had sold willingly), double or nothing. Upon losing, Angel immediately incapacitates the demon creditor (the demon couldn't be killed easily), then asks the casino patrons how many of them owe this demon. The mob then proceeds to kill the demon, fulfilling this trope en masse.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Terminal" a struggling businessman shoots a woman at a social event to keep the check he wrote her from bouncing. The governor wants the death penalty, but Adam Schiff successfully argues the possibility that he was only trying to injure the victim.

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun. Once the runners have succeeded in a mission their next task is to be paid by "Mr. Johnson", the person who hired them for the run. Unfortunately, if Mr. Johnson is ruthless he may decide to kill the runners so he doesn't have to pay them. Players have been advised in official supplements to get half of the promised payment in advance in order to reduce the incentive for Mr. Johnson to betray them.

Real Life
  • King Philip IV of France did this to The Knights Templar by framing them for heresy.
  • Inverted with the Burke and Hare murders, which started with tenants who couldn't pay rent.
  • It is thought that a few pogroms against the Jews were done for this reason, as in medieval times Jews were prominent in banking or money-lending. Some unscrupulous borrowers must have thought it was easier to slay the banker than repay the loan; for example, the anti-Jewish pogrom in York, England in 1180 is thought to have been initiated by a local lord who borrowed money from Jewish lenders on behalf of an unscrupulous king who refused to pay it back.
  • This is the likely source of the German idiom jemanden übers Ohr hauen, which literally translates as, "to strike someone over the ear." It means to cheat or swindle somebody, and likely refers to a debtor killing his creditor to avoid holding up his end of the bargain, or else knocking them out to make an escape.
Community Feedback Replies: 47
  • December 21, 2012
    DracMonster
  • December 21, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Real Life
  • December 21, 2012
    Antigone3
    I like Kill The Creditor.

    I know I've seen the blackmail version in several mystery novels, but I don't have titles off the top of my head.
  • December 21, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Slightly milder, but:

    • When an undercover Princess Jasmine is unable to pay for an apple, the fruit seller tried to punish her by chopping her hand off. Only Aladdin's arrival managed to save her in time.
  • December 21, 2012
    shrinkwrapped
    Real life & Literature: and much less mild:

    August 1255: Lincoln, England: Local Jewish community accused of murder of a Christian child - who subsequently became a local saint "little Saint Hugh".

    The 9 year boy probably drowned in a cesspit whilst trying to retrieve a football... However, the Jewish householders who discovered the body felt concealment was a safer option than disclosure and dropped it down a well on the far side of the town. The house belonged to a rich Jewish moneylender and may have contained a school and a synagogue.

    On the rediscovery of the body, the blame was placed on the Jews. Hugh was known to play with Jewish children.

    Strong evidence that debtors were at the front of the hue and cry.

    The "murder" was portrayed as a ritual killing - a "blood libel".

    About 100 Jews arrested and 18 hanged at the Tower of London as a result - Richard, Duke of Cornwall had bought the right to tax Jews but Henry III had the right to the estates of Jews convicted of serious offences

    A fake well was dug at Jew's Court, Lincoln in 1910 by a new owner, who wished to capitalise on the legend... The remains of the shrine at the Cathedral and Jew's Court can be visited.

    The Prioress/Nun's Tale in the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer and the folksong "The Jew's Garden" were directly inspired by this event.
  • December 21, 2012
    Koveras
    • In Crime And Punishment, Raskolnikov kills the old moneylender, though his motivations are more complex than just getting rid of the creditor.
  • December 21, 2012
    robinjohnson
  • December 21, 2012
    reub2000
    nvm
  • December 21, 2012
    chihuahua0
    Kill The Creditor does have a nice ring to it.
  • December 21, 2012
    nielas
    • On Chicago Fire Cruz's brother owes a debt to a gang leader. The gang leader threatens to hurt or kill the brother if he does not get his money. When a building used by the gang catches fire, Cruz is one of the fire fighters sent to the scene. While searching the building, he finds the gang leader in one of the rooms. Rather than rescue him, Cruz exits the building and leaves the gang leader to die in the fire.
  • December 21, 2012
    JAF1970
    The most famous example, Burke and Hare murders, which started with tenants who couldn't pay rent.
  • December 22, 2012
    Arivne
    Fifthing Kill The Creditor.

    Note that this doesn't work if the debt was official and in writing (e.g. a promissory note). The executor of the dead person's estate or the deceased's heirs can take legal action to collect from anyone who owed money to them.
  • December 22, 2012
    DracMonster
    ^I dont see why it couldn't include that if the murder was part of some scheme to manipulate the legal system. (IE: His next of kin woudlnt be able to collect for some reason.)

    I personally preferred my Refinance With Extreme Prejudice suggestion but looks like im outvoted, oh well. :P
  • December 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In The Unusuals one of the detectives, a born-again Christian, is being blackmailed by his old partner-in-crime for several crimes he had done back in Texas, and the detective ends up killing his former partner because he can't pay.
  • December 31, 2012
    JusticeReaper
    Very well, folks, Kill The Creditor it is!
  • December 31, 2012
    Ryusui
    The Aladdin example isn't an example if you're going to call it "Kill The Creditor."
  • December 31, 2012
    billybobfred
    Yeah, that isn't even like the trope. He's going to chop off her hand because that's the penalty for stealing in Agrabah.
  • December 31, 2012
    JusticeReaper
    Duly noted. I actually forgot that that trope existed.
  • January 14, 2013
    FalconPain
    In Glitter, Mariah's former manager hasn't received his money from her new manager and makes threats at Mariah to that effect. When he hears about this, the new manager viciously assaults the old manager. This goes back to the inverted outcome later when the old manager confronts the new one and shoots him dead.
  • January 14, 2013
    Larkmarn
    In Angel, Angel wages his soul for Gunn's (which he had sold willingly), double or nothing. Upon losing, Angel immediately incapacitates the demon creditor (the demon couldn't be killed easily), then asks the casino patrons how many of them owe this demon. The mob then proceeds to kill the demon, fulfilling this trope en masse.
  • January 14, 2013
    Earnest
    The Sympathy Bankrupt Banker is a likely target.
  • January 14, 2013
    troacctid
    Supertrope to Faustian Rebellion?
  • January 16, 2013
    Astaroth
    Would Ballistic Discount be a related trope?
  • January 19, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    No, Astaroth, it is NOT a related trope. Read the description.
  • January 21, 2013
    TrustBen
    In the Law And Order episode "Terminal" a struggling businessman shoots a woman at a social event to keep the check he wrote her from bouncing. The governor wants the death penalty, but Adam Schiff successfully argues the possibility that he was only trying to injure the victim.
  • January 29, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    Trust Ben, question: In the Law and Order example, is the businessman the one who owes the victim? It doesn't seem too clear.
  • February 3, 2013
    AgProv
    Real Life: it is thought a few pogroms against the Jews were done for this reason, as in mediaeval times, Jews were prominent in banking or moneylending. Some unscrupulous borrowers must have thought it was easier to slay the banker than repay the loan... the anti-Jewish pogrom in York, England, in 1180, is thought to have been initiated by a local lord who borrowed money from Jewish lenders on behalf of an unscrupulous King who refused to pay it back.
  • March 3, 2013
    MaxWest
    Subverted in Space Balls - Lone Star and Barf owe a huge sum of money to gangster Pizza the Hutt. Later on, they learn that Pizza committed suicide by "eating" himself to death, effectively cancelling the debt. This trope is subverted because the creditor kills himself rather than getting killed by his debtors.
  • May 23, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • May 23, 2013
    Alvin
    This is close, maybe not close enough: In Literature: In the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery 'Strong Poison', the victim is killed so the murderer who is a lawyer, won't have to produce an inheritance he has embezzled.
  • May 23, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, The Terminator, goes to a gun shop for suitable weapons. It requests the AMT .45 Longslide with laser sight, the IMI Uzi 9 mm, and the Franchi SPAS 12 guage shotgun. When the shop owner asks which one it chooses, the response is "All of them." The terminator then loads the shotgun, and slays the shop owner with it.
  • June 12, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    The Terminator example doesn't really showcase the purpose of this trope, at least not in my eyes.
  • June 12, 2013
    isk2837
    There's this Dragon Ball fanfic called Bad Man, where a man who owes money to some criminals kidnaps Bulma so that he can blackmail Vegeta into killing the criminals for him.
  • June 15, 2013
    AgProv
    It is rumoured that this has happened to more than one loan shark offering money to desperate people at very high rates of interest and threatening violence if the debtor could not repay. Sometimes this is done by rival loan sharks wanting to dispose of unwelcome competition. But local rumour in pne part of Manchester suggests the mysterious death of the loan shark - and the firebomb that took out his home and coincidentally destroyed his records of who owed what - were brought about by desperate customers living under threat who were just pushed that little bit too far.
  • June 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    @JusticeReaper: Agreed, that The Terminator example is more of a case of Ballistic Discount (though that is probably a subtrope of a sort).

    EDIT: Nevermind, that was actually already listed in the description.
  • September 2, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    @ Alvin I think it would fit. The killer was the trustee of an elderly relative's estate, which was destined to go partly to him and partly to another of the lady's relatives (also his cousin). The killer gambled the fifty thousand pounds (a huge amount of money then) on a stock that crashed, an amount equal to the bequest the old lady left the cousin under the terms of her will. He killed his cousin to avoid having to repay her trust fund or his cousin.
  • September 3, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    @ 69BookWorM69: I think that example needs a better description that would help me understand how it fits into this trope-idea.

    @ randomsurfer: I see you put "Not A Subversion" under the Spaceballs example that was offered up. Why is that?
  • September 3, 2013
    Earnest
    ^In the Spaceballs example the context is that Pizza the Hutt was trapped in his limo (I think) and was forced to self-cannibalism by extreme hunger. At no point does Lonestar try to kill him.

    This trope could be subverted if Lonestar had tried to kill Pizza the Hutt only for him to end up dying of unrelated causes. Having Pizza die of unrelated causes, without Lonestar even considering killing the guy, is just an unrelated plot element rather than this trope.

    For example if there is a butler and his boss dies due to foul play while out hiking with friends, you can't say it's a subversion of The Butler Did It. The trope has to be played up as existing in the story and then bait-and-switched out without actually happening.
  • September 3, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^Exactly. A trope has to be set up (in this case, Lone Starr would try to kill Pizza the Hutt) but it doesn't pay off (in this case, Pizza survives) then it's a subversion. But Lone Starr doesn't do anything to try to kill Pizza in this case; therefore it isn't a subversion, it's just a happy (for Lone Starr) coincidence.
  • September 3, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Gary and Dean are two bungling small-time criminals who break into a house on crime boss Harry's orders. After they sell their loot, including two rare and extremely valuable shotguns, Harry is enraged becasue those two guns were the one he was really after. He orders them to bring them to him or be killed. After it becomes apparent to them that they won't see the guns ever again (because their fixer vanished without a trace), they plan to murder Harry instead.
  • September 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz?
  • September 14, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    DAN 004: Soon. :-)

    Chernoskill: I'm not entirely sure this example fits the description. Can anyone else assist?
  • September 14, 2013
    RedBuster
    In The Legend Of Zelda Links Awakening if you theft some item and back to the store, the owner kill you.
  • November 22, 2013
    JusticeReaper
    Red Buster: Not an example. Read the description.

    And don't worry, folks, I will launch this very, very soon.

    EDIT: Five hats! Soon to launch!
  • December 22, 2013
    somerandomdude
    One more Real Life example:

    This is the likely source of the German idiom jemanden übers Ohr hauen, which literally translates as, "to strike someone over the ear." It means to cheat or swindle somebody, and probably refers to a debtor killing his creditor to avoid holding up his end of the bargain, or else knocking them out to make an escape.
  • December 23, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz?
  • December 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Shadowrun. Once the runners have succeeded in a mission their next task is to be paid by "Mr. Johnson", the person who hired them for the run. Unfortunately, if Mr. Johnson is ruthless he may decide to kill the runners so he doesn't have to pay them. Players have been advised in official supplements to get half of the promised payment in advance in order to reduce the incentive for Mr. Johnson to betray them.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=zuonpn68474w9zw9wsnlv652&trope=KillTheCreditor