Literature Study GuidesIn Cold BloodPersons Unknown Part 1 Summary

In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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In Cold Blood | Persons Unknown (Part 1) | Summary



The men of the community perform the "Christian task" of cleaning the blood from the Clutter house, burning all blood-soaked furniture, bedclothes, and Nancy's teddy bear. Alfred Stoecklein, the Clutters' hired man, tells authorities he and his wife couldn't have heard any gunshots for two reasons: the barn sits between the Clutter house and theirs and blocks sound; and the west-blowing wind carried all sound away from them. Andy Erhart, a college friend of Herb Clutter, can't believe Herb's life has been reduced to a burning pile of blood-soaked rubble.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) takes on the case, with investigators Alvin Dewey, Harold Nye, Roy Church, and Clarence Duntz leading the team. They toss around several theories: someone with a grudge did it, or robbery was the motive (although Bonnie's jewelry hadn't been removed from her). Dewey has a one-killer theory and a two-killer theory but keeps most of his thoughts to himself; he doesn't want any case details leaked to the press. The only clues the investigators have are footprints—the one found by the sheriff of a "Cat's Paw half sole," and others, visible in crime-scene photographs, from shoes with "diamond-patterned soles."

At a Kansas City diner, Dick Hickock polishes off his meal while Perry Smith pores over a front-page newspaper article about the Clutter murder, disbelieving the article's "no-clue stuff." Perry reminds Dick about Floyd Wells, the inmate who gave Dick wrong information about a safe at the Clutters' house. Perry tells Dick about his elaborate dream—he was picking diamonds out of trees guarded by a snake, which began to swallow him. Perry doesn't tell the disinterested Dick the dream's ending—a towering, yellow bird, a "sort of parrot," saved him. The bird first appeared in Perry's dreams when he was seven, living in an orphanage run by nuns. One night, a nun beat him with a flashlight for wetting the bed. While he slept, the bird appeared, slaughtered the nuns, and flew Perry away to "paradise."


Thanks to the two kinds of footprints from the crime scene, the investigators know there are two killers. But Alvin Dewey keeps this out of the press, feeling that if the killers learn about this, they will dispose of their shoes if they hadn't already done so. Dewey also feels that the murderers are local, and doesn't at first extend the investigation farther than the Holcomb area. It thus takes some time to catch the killers, who cross the country twice, traveling as far away from Kansas as Mexico.

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