Study Guide

In Cold Blood Chapter 2

By Truman Capote

Chapter 2

Persons Unknown

  • The murder case now has the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's finest assigned to it: Alvin Adams Dewey and special agents Harold "Brother" Nye, Roy "Old Man" Church (he's nearly 50) and Clarence "Curly" Duntz (who's almost bald, of course).
  • Alvin Dewey is very experienced in these kinds of cases and was a friend of the Clutters.
  • This makes it personal to him, and he vows to solve the case if it takes the rest of his life.
  • The case is making headlines all over the country, and lots of out-of-town reporters are arriving.
  • At his first press conference, Dewey refuses to speculate about the identity of the killer or killers.
  • He holes up in his office looking at evidence from the crime scene, including photos of the murdered Clutters. He reads through some of Nancy's diary.
  • They give main suspect Bobby Rupp a lie detector test even though no one thinks he had anything to do with it.
  • All the possibilities have to be considered—a love triangle, a business deal gone bad, a dispute over a neighbor's dog.
  • Robbery doesn't seem to be the motive, since the family's valuables were all in the house.
  • Neighbors are now afraid to trust each other. House lights are kept on all night.
  • Meanwhile, Perry is annoying Dick nearly to death in Kansas City by endlessly reading newspaper accounts of the murders.
  • Perry suspects the investigators have clues, despite what the papers say. He says he has good instincts about it.
  • Dick disagrees; it was a perfect score.
  • Just to needle him, Perry brings up a name: Floyd. This infuriates Dick, as Perry expected it would. Dick says it would be worth it to go back to jail just to kill Floyd.
  • Perry says, "I'm not saying he would" (2.49).
  • Perry tells Dick about a recurring dream he has about a yellow parrot that exists only to sweep him away from dangers.
  • But Dick only has "normal" dreams—about blondes.
  • Susan Kidwell reminisces about her friendship with Nancy Clutter and how she and Bobby were friends for a while—and that he wasn't bitter about being the chief suspect for the murders.
  • Susan, Bobby, and Bobby's kid brother were allowed to view the bodies of the Clutter family before the funeral, and Susan wished they hadn't.
  • The head of each body was covered in a huge ball of cotton fabric, to hide the fact that there wasn't much left of their heads or faces.
  • Perry reads the latest account of the murder in the newspaper, while we wonder whether it makes sense to give publicity to criminals.
  • He's impressed that over a thousand people attended the funeral.
  • He muses on what a genius Dick really is.
  • Dick's gotten them a stake, enough to get the two of them to Mexico, by posing in several stores as the talkative friend of the groom to Perry's glum, silent groom. Together they've written bad checks for a slew of new, easily sellable, stolen goods.
  • This gets Perry thinking about what kind of woman he'd want to marry, if he ever did. He remembers a nurse he fooled around with while recuperating from his motorcycle accident.
  • In an uncharacteristic moment of guilt, Dick realizes that his parents will be on the hook for the bad checks he's written.
  • In an equally uncharacteristic moment of kindness, Perry vows to cover the checks once they've made their money in Mexico.
  • Dick doesn't seem to understand—has he been only pretending to go along with Perry's plans for Mexico?
  • Officer Dewey's home phone, back in the day when your only choice was a land line, has started to ring in the middle of the night with false confessions to the Clutter murders.
  • And yeah, back in the day special agents apparently had their home phone numbers listed.
  • This night, having been awakened by another crank caller, Dewey's wife asks if their lives will ever be normal again. Dewey starts to answer her, but the phone rings again.
  • The investigators have revisited robbery as the motive for the killing, because they found Kenyon's radio missing. Plus, they found Nancy's gold watch hidden in a shoe, as if she thought there were robbers in the house.
  • Dewey's still obsessing about the mattress box and pillows found under Kenyon and Mr. Clutter.
  • Meanwhile, the black Chevrolet leaves Kansas on November 21, with Perry's sentimental belongings filling up the car.
  • They cross the border into Oklahoma at midnight. Finally, Perry relaxes.
  • He has no regrets about leaving Kansas, since he's leaving nobody.
  • Dick, on the other hand, is leaving two parents, three sons, and a brother—people he could never hope to see again in this life.
  • Back in Holcomb, the news is that Beverly Clutter, one of the Clutter's two surviving daughters, surprises everyone by moving her wedding up to a date when most of the Clutter family is in Kansas—three days after the funeral.
  • With the wedding over, the Clutters disperse. Bonnie's brother, Howard Fox, writes a letter to the local paper asking the citizens to forgive the killers. He sees no point in having them hang.
  • Perry and Dick park on a promontory to picnic.
  • Something's wrong with them, to have done with they did, Perry suggests. Ya think?
  • Dick's annoyed, because he considers himself normal, especially compared to Perry, who, Dick has found out, cries in his sleep for his dad, wets his bed, and sucks his thumb.
  • Dick wonders silently, like Perry, if the two of them are truly going to get away with the multiple murders.
  • Perry reflects on that night at the Clutters'. Sights and sounds come back to him in a weird, disjointed way.
  • He can't help but think there's something wrong with him, especially since he had such a miserable childhood.
  • With his mother being a drunk who strangled on her own vomit, two of his siblings killing themselves, who wouldn't be messed up?
  • Once again Dick insists that he, himself, is normal.
  • Then he guns the motor to drive over an old dog and keeps driving.
  • (Brief interlude where the reader thinks, "NORMAL?????")
  • To prove what a tough guy he is, Perry once again tells Dick the story of how he killed the African-American transient, Mr. King.
  • This story isn't true, but Perry wants Dick's approval.
  • Dick believed this story the first time he heard it, in prison, but he's starting to not believe it now.
  • Many people around Holcomb are scared to death after the Clutter murders and are leaving the area.
  • Mrs. Ashida and family are one of the bunch, which really disappoints the other locals.
  • But Mrs. Ashida can't forget her last, ironically encouraging words to Herb Clutter about his being able to talk his way out of anything.
  • But the murderers aren't in Kansas anymore. They've reached Mexico.
  • Perry, Dick, a young Mexican man, and Otto, a rich German, are on a small fishing boat in Acapulco while Perry sings.
  • Dick had picked up Otto, who enjoyed Dick's jokes.
  • But Dick and Perry are out of money, and the plan is to go back to Mexico City and sell the car, after which Dick will get a job in a garage so they can stay afloat.
  • Yeah, right—Perry knows that any money Dick makes will be immediately blown on alcohol and women.
  • While Dick nurses a migraine and Otto sketches Perry in a notebook that contains many "nude studies" of Dick, Perry hooks a ten-foot sailfish.
  • The photograph taken of him next to the fish shows an expression so beatific that it seems as though "a tall yellow bird had hauled him to heaven" (2.150).
  • Back on the Clutter farm, on a December afternoon, Paul Helm is pruning and feeling blue about his job and the world in general.
  • Herb Clutter had said to him that he hoped there would always be a Clutter on the land, and a Helm, too, but now it looks as though the place will be sold.
  • As he's looking up at the empty windows, he sees a hand lift up behind Bonnie Clutter's window and then fall again.
  • He phones Sheriff Robinson, who alerts Agent Dewey and his men. They rush over and confront an armed stranger who's emerged from the house.
  • The agents remove the stranger's gun and start asking him questions.
  • Who is this guy? The man's name is Jonathan Daniel Adrian.
  • He's a transient, and was on his way to New Mexico when he got curious about the Clutter murder scene.
  • Inside his car, police find a .12 gauge shotgun and a hunting knife, and Adrian instantly becomes a suspect.
  • Meanwhile, back in Mexico City, Perry and Dick are out of money; the $200 they got for Dick's car is gone, and hotel rent is due by 2pm.
  • Mexican garage worker wages are too low for Dick's taste, and he decides to go back to the U.S., destroying Perry's dream of finding buried treasure.
  • Perry thinks everything will be OK if the pair sticks together; apparently he hasn't read this book.
  • Hitchhiking back to the U.S., they'll have to travel light, which means that Perry will have to jettison most of his beloved belongings. He's already upset that his guitar had been stolen during their last night in Acapulco.
  • Going through his stuff, deciding what to keep, he reads two letters from his family, one from his father and one from his sister, both of which fill him with love and rage.
  • Get ready for a long detour into Perry's early life.
  • His father's letter had been written to the Kansas Parole Board on Perry's behalf. It tells about their itinerant life, Perry's mother's alcoholism, and their poverty and homelessness.
  • He vouches for Perry's stint in the Merchant Marine and the fact that Perry doesn't like drunks.
  • He describes Perry as sensitive. His feelings are easily hurt and he can get real mean if he feels mistreated.
  • He's convinced Perry regrets his past mistakes and will be a changed man if he's paroled.
  • Evidently, Perry's father hasn't read this book, either.
  • The letter brings back a flood of memories for Perry about his early days when he traveled with his parents' rodeo act.
  • By the time he was six, his mother was a drunk and left for San Francisco, taking Perry and the other kids with her.
  • Perry ran away a lot looking for his father. His mother sent him to live in an orphanage, where he was physically abused by one of the nurses, who hated him because he was half Indian.
  • His father came back, and they lived together near Reno, and Perry went to school for a while.
  • Then his father built a trailer, and they moved around the country for the next six years, ending up in Alaska. Perry was cold and miserable.
  • At sixteen, after a big fight with his father, he went to Seattle, joined the Merchant Marine, and sailed to Hawaii.
  • He liked being a sailor except for when he was sexually propositioned by other sailors on the ship.
  • He left the Merchant Marine to join the army, and when he finished his service, he reconciled with his father. It was on his way to Alaska, where his father had settled, that he had the motorcycle accident.
  • He spent a year in the hospital and rehab, then lived with an Indian logger for the rest of the year.
  • Finally, he made it to Alaska, where his father planned to build a hunting lodge for tourists.
  • The lodge was a total failure, and his father blamed Perry, which sent Perry back on the road.
  • His wanderings took him to Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Texas, working at odd jobs along the way.
  • In July 1955, he was picked up hitchhiking near Phillipsburg, Kansas, by Dick Hickock, who suggested they break into a building and steal office equipment.
  • A few days later, they got stopped for running a red light. The traffic cop noticed all the stolen goods in the car and they landed in the town jail.
  • They busted out of the jail and eventually went their separate ways. Perry ended up in New York City.
  • One day, he was awakened by two FBI agents who extradited him back to Phillipsburg. He was given 5-10 years in the Kansas State Penitentiary.
  • End of flashback.
  • Oh wait. There were two letters—the other one was from his sister Barbara.
  • This letter consisted of reflections on their crazy family and an attempt to make Perry see the error of his ways and take responsibility for his behavior rather than blaming everyone else.
  • Barbara accused him of not being a man because he disrespected their father and ended up in prison.
  • Perry hates his sister for what she said, and once told Dick that he wished his sister had been in the Clutter home that evening in November.
  • The only reason he keeps the letter is because his prison mentor, Willie-Jay, wrote him a long analysis of the letter and of Perry's character.
  • (We can see that the Capote is very interested in Perry—this has gone on for 22 pages so far.)
  • Perry finishes going through his treasured belongings and papers—his Bronze Star from the Korean War, the high school diploma he earned in prison, photographs of himself, his diary, and a personal dictionary filled with words "worth memorizing" (2.208).
  • All the while Perry's been shuffling through his sentimental stuff, Dick has been having sex with a woman in the same hotel room.
  • Perry tells them to hurry up and finish—it's check-out time.
  • Back in Holcomb, everyone's worried about Agent Dewey.
  • He's obsessing constantly about the Clutter case. Some townspeople are harassing him for not finding the killer.
  • Agent Dewey goes back to the Clutter house.
  • Talk about not having a clue.
  • He isn't sure what he's searching for, but he's convinced that the family knew the killer very well, and that the motive was revenge and hatred for Herb Clutter.
  • His wife Marie had a dream about Bonnie Clutter: Marie saw Bonnie again, and Bonnie looked beautiful.
  • Marie told Bonnie how glad she was to see her again, and Bonnie's response was "To be murdered. No. No. There's nothing worse than that. Nothing. Nothing" (2.189).
  • After checking out of the hotel, Perry and Dick are on Route 66 (ask your parents).
  • Dick's trying to thumb a ride, trying to look charming and not too much like an iguana, while Perry's sitting on a straw suitcase.
  • Their belongings bulge from every pocket; they're still trying to find some nice stranger to strangle and steal his or her car.
  • A car slows down, then, seeing the two men up close, speeds by.
  • Dick laughs and yells out what a lucky guy he is.
  • Perry whips out his harmonica and starts to play their "marching music," The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
  • Singing loudly, the two head down Route 66 toward their next score.