Election Day is November 3rd! Make sure your voice is heard

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote
Summary

The Answer: 1 of 2

Summary The Answer: 1 of 2

Floyd Wells hears news of the Clutter murders over the radio while reclining in his jail cell. He is shocked. He never thought Dick Hickock, his former roommate, would go through with his plans. Wells, a former River Valley Farm employee, told Hickock of the Clutter fortune, and Hickock bragged that he and Perry would steal it. He waits for several weeks and then, about the time Dick and Perry are hitchhiking, Wells nervously reports this information to the authorities.

Alvin Dewey enters his home to find his wife preparing dinner. He listens to her for a while, then breaks the news, showing her mug shots of the two men. He is very excited.

Harold Nye, another KBI agent assigned to the Clutter case, visits the home of Dick Hickock's family. He doesn't mention the Clutter case, and leads Dick's parents to believe that he is interested in Dick's spree of hot checks. He learns that Dick supposedly visited Fort Scott on the weekend of the murders, and he spots a shotgun leaning against the wall.

Still hitchhiking, Dick and Perry finally get a ride with a lone man who seems fairly well-to-do. Just as Dick gives Perry the symbol to club the driver's head with a rock, the driver sees another hitchhiker and pulls over to pick him up, blissfully ignorant of almost being killed.

Nye goes to Las Vegas, where he speaks to Perry's old landlord. She is not much help, but he does find a box of memorabilia that Perry left behind.

Nye visits Barbara in San Francisco. Her children and husband are playing in the back yard, and she is expecting guests. She reports that she has not heard from Perry and would report it if she did. Later that night she settles down with a photo album and remembers how her love for Perry waned and how he always blamed her for having an education.

Now in Iowa, Dick and Perry take refuge from the rain in a barn by the highway. Dick wants to return to Kansas City, because he is sure he can pass some checks there. In the barn, they find a 1956 Chevy with the key in the ignition. They steal it.

Dewey is careful to keep Wells' confession a secret. There are a few rumors in Garden City, but none in Holcomb, where the murders have become a forbidden subject in Hartman's Cafe.

Perry is nervously sitting in a laundromat in Kansas City. Dick dropped him off and promised to return. He is late. Perry is haunted by visions of police. Finally, Dick returns, having switched the license plate on the car and passed several big checks.

Dewey is having a nightmare. He walks into a cafe and sees the killers. They leap through the plate glass window and he chases after them. He wakes up in his office. As he gets ready to leave, he gets a phone call. It is Nye, reporting that Dick Hickock has been writing checks all over Kansas City.

Commentary

With the introduction of Floyd Wells, the narration shifts back to a week after the murders. Although Dick and Perry have hinted at the existence of Wells, it was not known that they would be so likely to confess. This information could have been given a week after the murders, about the time Dick and Perry entered Mexico. But it has been withheld. This technique is similar to Capote's decision not to describe the murders except through the confessions of Dick and Perry. By withholding this information until the police learn of it, Capote puts the reader into the mind of the police. The case becomes suspenseful, even though the reader knows that Dick and Perry are the killers. One wonders whether they will be caught.

Another contribution to the gripping quality of the narrative is the way in which the reader is made sympathetic to Dick and Perry. While Perry is waiting in the laundromat, worrying about being caught by the police, one both looks forward to and dreads his eventual capture. Now, as what was a mystery becomes a manhunt, the suspense becomes less cerebral and more physical. Just as Dewey dreams of chasing the killers down the street, so does the reader imagine what the confrontation between Perry and Dick and the KBI will be like.