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In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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In Cold Blood | Answer (Part 2) | Summary



Harold Nye travels to Las Vegas to circulate Perry Smith's photo in pawnshops and to question the landlady of the rooming house where he had stayed. She shows Nye a cardboard box tied with cord Perry asked her to keep for him until he returned. Nye finds it filled with junk, nothing that provides any evidence about the crime. From a post office clerk, Nye learns neither Perry nor his father, Tex John Smith—who now lives near Circle City, Alaska—have been in town for years. Nye also interviews Barbara Johnson, Perry's sister, who admits she is afraid of Perry and asks Nye not to tell Perry where she lives. The last time she'd seen Perry was 1955, in Denver; in talking about how his father abused him, Perry became furious and threatened Barbara when she tried to interrupt. Having lost her other siblings to drink and suicide, Barbara, the only Smith who has escaped the family curse, wants to remain distanced from Perry.

Perry and Dick Hickock, meanwhile, are in Iowa, starving and stuck in a rainstorm. They head to a barn for shelter. Perry feels they ought to stay far away from Kansas City, but Dick says it's the best place for him to "hang paper." He also thinks no one there will associate them with the murder of the Clutters. In the barn, Dick spots a black-and-white Chevrolet with the key in the ignition—a stroke of luck.


In this section, Capote shows how Harold Nye begins to construct a case against Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, first breaking Dick's alibi for the weekend trip to Fort Scott after the murders. Nye finds Perry's only living sister in San Francisco and learns she's never been to Fort Scott. To ensure Perry's and Dick's relatives he interviews won't tip off the criminals, Nye states he's seeking Dick and Perry only for parole violations and passing bad checks. But it becomes increasingly clear none of the relatives will step forward to protect either Perry or Dick.

Dick is confident about getting away with writing bad checks in Kansas City and remains convinced he and Perry are somehow immune to any association with the Clutter case. But Perry is terrified Dick is wrong, and tension builds as investigators move in on the two killers. Dick worsens their situation by stealing the car in the barn.

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