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Course Hero, "In Cold Blood Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed December 12, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

In Cold Blood | Answer (Part 1) | Summary

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Summary

The gap begins to close between what the investigators think happened and the truth. Floyd Wells, the former cellmate of Dick Hickock's, hears about the Clutter murders on the radio and immediately knows who committed the crime. Floyd feels guilty because when he worked for Herb Clutter, Clutter treated him fairly and decently. Floyd finally admits what he knows to a friend who, in turn, gets the deputy to call Floyd out of his cell. This allows Floyd to talk without being found out by the other prisoners who might have acted against him for being a snitch. The information is passed to Alvin Dewey, along with an envelope containing dossiers and "mug shots" of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock.

Harold Nye interviews Dick's employer Bob Sands and learns Dick and Perry were at Sands's body shop on November 13; less than a week later, Dick disappeared without a word. A neighbor of the Hickocks tells Nye about Dick, "If ever I met the devil! Steal? Steal the weights off a dead man's eyes!" Nye interviews Dick's parents, Eunice and Walter Hickock, telling them Dick and Perry are wanted for parole violations and passing bad checks. Walter insists Dick was a good kid until he was sent to prison for borrowing a hunting rifle. Eunice believes Perry turned her son bad. The Hickocks give Nye the "sister in Fort Scott" alibi Dick concocted to explain where he and Perry went on November 14. While at the Hickock house, Nye spots a hunting rifle he is sure had been used to kill the Clutter family. Because Nye is supposedly only looking for Dick and Perry on parole and fraud charges, he leaves the rifle with the Hickocks.

Mr. Bell gives hitchhikers Dick and Perry a ride, unaware they intend to rob and kill him. Dick uses code words to signal when Perry should smash Bell's head with a rock. Perry removes his belt to use for strangulation and holds the rock ready, but Bell spots a third hitchhiker and slows down to pick him up. Perry later calls this a "goddam miracle" for Mr. Bell.

Analysis

Here, Capote elaborates on how Floyd Wells had given Dick Hickock the information Dick uses to devise and plan the attack on the Clutter family. When Wells hears about the crime on the radio, he has conflicting emotions. He fears other inmates will kill him if he rats on Dick, and he realizes he could be charged as an accessory to the murders. The monetary reward appeals to his already shaky sense of morality, but most of all, he feels guilty for having put a man he liked and respected in mortal danger.

This is also the first time the reader learns of the alibi Dick thought up to cover where he and Perry Smith were after the murders—visiting Perry's sister in Fort Smith to collect money she was holding for him. Dick's parents completely buy the story, but Harold Nye later finds Perry's only living sister—who has never been to Fort Scott or Kansas itself—in San Francisco. Dick's immorality extends to lying to his parents.

Perry's shaky sense of morality is severely challenged by Dick during the car ride with Mr. Bell. Perry will do whatever Dick wants in order to keep his friendship, but is relieved he doesn't have to kill Bell thanks to the appearance of the third hitchhiker.

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