"One way and another, I found myself out there in
western Kansas. Near the Colorado border. I was hunting work, and asking round, I heard maybe they could use ahand over to River Valley Farm—that's how he called his place, Mr. Clutter did. Sure enough, he put me on. I stayed there I guess a year—all that winter, anyway—and when I left it was just 'cause I was feeling kind of footy. Wanted to
move on. Not account of any quarrel with Mr. Clutter. He treated me fine, same as he treated everybody that worked for him; like, if you was a little short before payday, he'd always hand you a ten or a five. He paid good wages, and if you deserved it he was quick to give you a bonus. The fact is, I liked Mr. Clutter much as any man I ever met. The whole family. Mrs. Clutter and the four kids. When I knew them, the youngest two, the ones that got killed—Nancy and
Beverly, the other girl I don't remember her name—they
were already in high school. A nice family, real nice. I never forgot them. When I left there, it was sometime in 1949. I got married, I got divorced, the Army took me, other stuff happened, time went by, you might say, and in 1959— June, 1959, ten years since I last seen Mr. Clutter—I got
sent to Lansing. Because of breaking into this appliance
store. Electrical appliances. What I had in mind was, I
wanted to get hold of some electrical lawn mowers. Not to sell. I was going to start a lawnmower rental service. That way, see, I'd have had my own permanent little business. Course nothing come of it—'cept I drew a three-to-five. If I hadn't, then I never would have met Dick, and maybe Mr. Clutter wouldn't be in his grave. But there you are. There it is. I come to meet Dick.
"He was the first fellow I celled with. We celled together I guess a month. June and part of July. He was just finishing a three-to-five—due for parole in August. He talked a lot about what he planned to do when he got out. Said he
thought he might go to Nevada, one of them missile-base towns, buy hisself a uniform, and pass hisself off as a Air Force officer. So he could hang out a regular washline of hot paper. That was one idea he told me. (Never thought much of it myself. He was smart, I don't deny, but he didn't look the part. Like no Air Force officer.) Other times, he mentioned this friend of his. Perry. A half-Indian fellow he used to cell with. And the big deals him and Perry might pull
when they got together again. I never met him—Perry.
Never saw him. He'd already left Lansing, was out on
parole. But Dick always said if the chance of a real big
score came up, he could rely on Perry Smith to go partners. "I don't exactly recall how Mr. Clutter first got mentioned. It must have been when we were discussing jobs, different kinds of work we'd done. Dick, he was a trained car mechanic, and mostly that was the work he'd done. Only, once he'd had a job driving a hospital ambulance. He was full of brag about that. About nurses, and all what he'd done with them in the back of the ambulance. Anyway, I informed him how I'd worked a year on a considerable wheat spread
in western Kansas. For Mr. Clutter. He wanted to know if Mr. Clutter was a wealthy man. Yes, I said. Yes, he was. In fact, I said, Mr. Clutter had once told me that he got rid of ten thousand dollars in one week. I mean, said it
sometimes cost him ten thousand dollars a week to run his operation. After that, Dick never stopped asking me about the family. How many was they? What ages would the kids be now? Exactly how did you get to the house? How was it
laid out? Did Mr. Clutter keep a safe? Iwon't deny it—I told him he did. Because I seemed to remember a sort of cabinet, or safe, or something, right behind the desk in the room Mr. Clutter used as an office. Next thing I knew, Dick
was talking about killing Mr. Clutter. Said him and Perry
was gonna go out there and rob the place, and they was gonna kill all witnesses—the Clutters, and anybody else that happened to be around. He described to me a dozen times how he was gonna do it, how him and Perry was gonna tie them people up and gun them down. I told him, Dick, you'll never get by with it.' But I can't honestly say I tried to persuade him different. Because I never for a minute believed he meant to carry it out. I thought it was just talk. Like you hear plenty of in Lansing. That's about all you
do hear: what a fellow's gonna do when he gets out—the holdups and robberies and so forth. It's nothing but brag, mostly. Nobody takes it serious. That's why, when I heard what I heard on the earphones—well, I didn't hardly believe it. Still and all, it happened. Just like Dick said it would."
'Well, what are you gonna do, Floyd?' Well, he was
all for me going to the proper people. Said he didn't think I ought to live with something like that on my mind. And he said I could do it without anybody inside guessing I was the one told. Said he'd fix it. So the next day he got word to the deputy warden—told him
I wanted to be 'called out.' Told the deputy if he called me to his office on some pretext or other, maybe I could tell him who killed the Clutters. Sure enough, the deputy sent for me. I was scared, but I remembered Mr. Clutter, and how he'd never done me no harm, how at Christmas he'd give me a little purse with fifty
dollars in it. I talked to the deputy. Then I told the warden hisself. And while I was still sitting there, right there in Warden Hand's office, he picked up the telephone—"
"I hope you find him, Mr. Nye. For his own sake. We
have two sons, and he's one of them, our firstborn. We love him. But . . . Oh, I realized. I realized he wouldn't have packed up. Run off. Without a word to anybody—his daddy or his brother. Unless he was in trouble again. What makes him do it? Why?"
"Was nothing wrong with my boy, Mr. Nye," "An outstanding athlete-always on the first team at
school. Basketball! Baseball! Football! Dick was always
the star player. A pretty good student, too, with A marks in several subjects. History. Mechanical drawing. After he graduated from high school—June, 1949—he wanted to go on to college. Study to be an engineer. But we couldn't do it. Plain didn't have the money. Never have had any money. Our farm here, it's only forty-four acres—we hardly can scratch a living. I guess Dick resented it, not getting to college. The first job he had was with Santa Fe Railways, in Kansas City. Made seventy-five dollars a week. He figured
that was enough to get married on, so him and Carol got married. She wasn't but sixteen; he wasn't but nineteen hisself. I never thought nothing good would come of it. Didn't, neither."
"Him and Carol rented a good-size
house, bought a fancy car—they was in debt all the time.
Even though pretty soon Dick was making better money
driving a hospital ambulance. Later on, the Markl Buick
Company, a big outfit there in Kansas City, they hired him.
As a mechanic and car painter. But him and Carol lived too
high, kept buying stuff they couldn't nohow afford, and Dick
got to writing checks. I still think the reason he started doing
stunts such as that was connected with the smash-up.
Concussed his head in a car smash-up. After that, he
wasn't the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks. I never
knew him to do them things before. And it was along about
then he took up with this other gal. The one he divorced
Carol for, and was his second wife."
"Well, Mr. Nye, I expect you
know as much about it as we do. Why our boy was sent to
prison. Locked away seventeen months, and all he done
was borrow a hunting rifle. From the house of a neighbor
here. He had no idea to steal it, I don't give a damn what
nobody says. And that was the ruination of him. When he
came out of Lansing, he was a plain stranger to me. You
couldn't talk to him. The whole world was against Dick
Hickock—that's how he figured. Even the second wife, she
left him—filed for divorce while he was in prison. Just the
same, lately there, he seemed to be settling down. Working
for the Bob Sands Body Shop, over inOlathe. Living here
at home with us, getting to bed early, not violating his
parole any shape or fashion. I'll tell you, Mr. Nye, I've not got
long, I'm with cancer, and Dick knowed that—leastways, he
knowed I'm sickly—and not a month ago, right before he
took off, he told me, 'Dad, you've been a pretty good old
dad to me. I'm not ever gonna do nothing more to hurt you.'
He meant it, too. That boy has plenty of good inside him. If
ever you seen him on a football field, if ever you seen him
play with his children, you wouldn't doubt me. Lord, Iwish
the Lord could tell me, because I don't know what
"From August until— Well, I never saw him after the
nineteenth of November, or maybe it was the twentieth. He left without giving me any notice whatever. Just took off—I don't know where to, and neither does his dad. Surprised? Well, yes. Yes, Iwas. We were on a fairly friendly basis. Dick kind of has a way with him, you know. He can be very likable. Once in a while he used to come to our house. Fact is, a week before he left, we had some people over, a little party, and Dick brought this friend he had visiting him, a boy from Nevada—Perry Smith was his name. He could play the guitar real nice. He played the guitar and sang some songs, and him and Dick entertained everybody with a weight-lifting act. Perry Smith, he's a little fellow, not much
over five feet high, but he could just about pick up a horse. No, they didn't seem nervous, neither one. I'd say they were enjoying themselves. The exact date? Sure I remember. It was the thirteenth. Friday, the thirteenth of November."
"He seemed the same as ever. Soon as he came in, we sat down to dinner. He was mighty hungry. Started piling his plate before I'd finished the blessing. I remarked on it, said, 'Dick, you're shoveling it in as fast as you can work your elbow. Don't you mean to leave nothing for the rest of us?' Course, he's always been a big eater. Pickles. He can eat a whole tub of
pickles." "Fell fast asleep. And I guess you could say that was unusual. We'd gathered round to watch a basketball game. On the TV. Me and Dick and our other boy, David. Pretty soon Dick was snoring like a buzz saw, and I said to his brother, 'Lord, I never thought
I'd live to see the day Dick would go to sleep at a
basketball game.' Did, though. Slept straight through it.
Only woke up long enough to eat some cold supper, and right after went off to bed."
"That's his gun. Dick's. Him and David go out once in a
while. After rabbits, mostly."
"That gun cost over a hundred dollars. Dick bought it on credit, and now the store won't have it back, even though it's not hardly a month old and only been used the one time—the start of November, when him and David went to Grinnell on a pheasant shoot. He used our names to buy it—his daddy let him—so here
we are, liable for the payments, and when you think of
Walter, sick as he is, and all the things we need, all we do without . . ." "Are you sure you won't have a cup of
coffee, Mr. Nye? It's no trouble."
"Now, I'll just run through this, see if I have it
straight. Perry Smith arrived in Kansas Thursday, the twelfth of November. Your son claimed this person came here to collect a sum of money from a sister residing in Fort Scott. That Saturday the two drove to Fort Scott, where they remained overnight—I assume in the home of the sister?"
"Nevertheless, they stayed away overnight.
And during the week that followed—that is, from the
fifteenth to the twenty-first—Dick continued to see his friend Perry Smith, but otherwise, or as far as you know, he maintained a normal routine: lived at home and reported to work every day. On the twenty-first he disappeared, and so did Perry Smith. And since then you've not heard from him? He hasn't written you?"
"Until a few years ago (according to information
supplied by the Las Vegas police), it was one of the
biggest cathouses in the West. Then fire destroyed the
main building, and the remaining portion was converted into a cheap-rent rooming house." The "lobby" was unfurnished, except for a cactus plant six feet tall and a makeshift reception desk; it was also uninhabited. The detective clapped his hands. Eventually, a voice, female, but not very feminine, shouted, "I'm coming," but it was five
minutes before the woman appeared. She wore a soiled housecoat and high-heeled gold leather sandals. Curlers pinioned her thinning yellowish hair. Her face was broad, muscular, rouged, powdered. She was carrying a can of Miller High Life beer; she smelled of beer and tobacco and recently applied nail varnish. She was seventy-four years old, but in Nye's opinion, "looked younger—maybe ten minutes younger." She stared at him, his trim brown suit, his brown snapbrim hat. When he displayed his badge, she was amused; her lips parted, and Nye glimpsed two rows of fake teeth. "Uh-huh. That's what I figured," she said. "O.K. Let's hear it."
"At 9:00 A.M. the reporting agent contacted Mr. Bill
Driscoll, chief criminal investigator, Sheriff's Office,
Washoe County, Reno, Nevada. After being briefed on the circumstances of this case, Mr. Driscoll was supplied with photographs, fingerprints and warrants for Hickock and Smith. Stops were placed in the files on both these individuals as well as the automobile. At 10:30 A.M. the reporting agent contacted Sgt. Abe Feroah, Detective Division, Police Department, Reno, Nevada. Sgt. Feroah and the reporting agent checked the police files. Neither the name of Smith or Hickock was reflected in the felon registration file. A check of the pawnshop-ticket files failed to reflect any information about the missing radio. A permanent stop was placed in these files in the event the radio is pawned in Reno. The detective handling the
pawnshop detail took photographs of Smith and Hickock to each of the pawnshops in town and also made a personal check of each shop for the radio. These pawnshops made an identification of Smith as being familiar, but were unable to furnish any further information."
guy's out of a book. He calls himself the Lone Wolf. A lot of his mail comes addressed that way—the Lone Wolf. He doesn't receive many letters, no, but bales of catalogues and advertising pamphlets. You'd be surprised the number of people send away for that stuff—just to get some mail, must be. How old? I'd say sixty. Dresses Western—cowboy boots and a big ten-gallon hat. He told me he used to be with the rodeo. I've talked to him quite a bit. He's been in here almost every day the last few years. Once in a while he'd disappear, stay away a month or so—always claimed
he'd been off prospecting. One day last August a young man came here to the window. He said he was looking for his father, Tex John Smith, and did I know where he could find him. He didn't look much like his dad; the Wolf is so thin-lipped and Irish, and this boy looked almost pure Indian —hair black as boot polish, with eyes to match. But next morning in walks the Wolf and confirms it; he told me his son had just got out of the Army and that they were going to Alaska. He's an old Alaska hand. I think he once owned a
hotel there, or some kind of hunting lodge. He said he
expected to be gone about two years. Nope, never seen him since, him or his boy."
"I was his ******,". "That's all. Somebody he could
work their guts out and never have to pay them one hot
dime. No, Bobo, I'm talking. Shut up, or I'll throw you in the river. Like once when I was walking across a bridge in Japan, and a guy was standing there, I never saw him
before, I just picked him up and threw him in the river.
"Please, Bobo. Please listen. You think I like myself? Oh,
the man I could have been! But that bastard never gave me a chance. He wouldn't let me go to school. O.K. O.K. I was a bad kid. But the time came I begged to go to school. I happen to have a brilliant mind. In case you don't know. A brilliant mind and talent plus. But no education, because he didn't want me to learn anything, only how to tote and carry for him. Dumb. Ignorant. That's the way he wanted me to be. So that I could never escape him. But you, Bobo. You
went to school. You and Jimmy and Fern. Every damn one of you got an education. Everybody but me. And I hate you, all of you—Dad and everybody."
"Headquarters, United States Army, Alaska. Pvt. Perry E.
Smith, 23, first Army Korean combat veteran to return to the Anchorage, Alaska, area, is greeted by Captain Mason, Public Information Officer, upon arrival at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Smith served 15 months with the 24th Division as a combat engineer. His trip from Seattle to Anchorage was a gift from Pacific Northern Airlines. Miss Lynn Marquis, airline hostess, smiles approval at welcome. (Official U.S. Army Photo)."
"Folks come in here to buy a nickel's worth
of postage and think they can spend the next three hours and thirty-three minutes turning the Clutters inside out. Pickin' the wings off other people. Rattlesnakes, that's all they are. I don't have the time to listen. I'm in business—I'm a representative of the government of the United States. Anyway, it's morbid. Al Dewey and those hot-shot cops from Topeka and Kansas City—supposed to be sharp as turpentine. But I don't know a soul who still thinks they've
got hell's chance of catching the one done it. So I say the sane thing to do is shut up. You live until you die, and it doesn't matter how you go; dead's dead. So why carry on like a sackful of sick cats just because Herb Clutter got his throat cut? Anyway, it's morbid. Polly Stringer, from over at the schoolhouse? Polly Stringer was in here this morning. She said it's only now, after over a month, only now those kids are beginning to quiet down. Which made me think: What if they do arrest somebody? If they do, it's bound to
be somebody everybody knows. And that would fan the fire for sure, get the pot boiling just when it had started to cool off. Ask me, we've had enough excitement.''
"Like one time we sneaked up on an old lady, really old, and Tommy grabbed her handbag, but she wouldn't let go, she was a regular tiger. The harder he tugged one way, the harder she tugged the other. Then she saw me, and said, 'Help me! Help me!' and I said, 'Hell, lady, I'm helping him!—and bopped her good. Put her on the pavement. Ninety cents was all we got—I remember exactly. We went to a Chink restaurant and ate ourselves under the table." "There were seven of us. Mother, my father, the two girls, and us three boys. We lived on a farm
a good ways from town. For that reason it was the custom to do our Christmas buying in a bunch—make the trip once and do it all together. The year I'm thinking of, the morning we were supposed to go, the snow was high as today, higher, and still coming down—flakes like saucers. Looked like we were in for a snowbound Christmas with no presents under the tree. Mother and the girls were heartbroken. Then I had an idea."
He would saddle their
huskiest plow horse, ride into town, and shop for
everybody. The family agreed. All of them gave him their Christmas savings and a list of the things they wished him to buy: four yards of calico, a football, a pincushion, shotgun shells—an assortment of orders that took until nightfall to fill. Heading homeward, the purchases secure inside a tarpaulin sack, he was grateful that his father had forced him to carry a lantern, and glad, too, that the horse's harness was strung with bells, for both their jaunty racket
and the careening light of the kerosene lantern were a
comfort to him.
"The ride in, that was easy, a piece of cake. But now the
road was gone, and every landmark." Earth and air—all
was snow. The horse, up to his haunches in it, slipped
side wise. "I dropped our lamp. We were lost in the night. It was just a question of time before we fell asleep and froze. Yes, I was afraid. But I prayed. And I felt God's presence . . ." Dogs howled. He followed the noise until he saw the windows of a neighboring farmhouse. "I ought to have stopped there. But I thought of the family—imagined my mother in tears, Dad and the boys getting up a search
party, and I pushed on. So, naturally, I wasn't too happy
when finally I reached home and found the house dark.
Doors locked. Found everybody had gone to bed and plain forgot me. None of them could understand why I was so put out. Dad said, 'We were sure you'd stay the night in town. Good grief, boy! Who'd have thought you hadn't better sense than to start home in a perfect blizzard?' "
"Alvin was singing in the bath. 'The Yellow Rose of Texas.' The kids were watching TV. And I was setting the dining-room table. For a buffet. I'm from New Orleans; I love to cook and entertain, and my mother had just sent us a crate of avocados and black-eyed peas, and—oh, a heap of real nice things. So I decided: We're going to have a buffet, invite some friends
over—the Murrays, and Cliff and Dodie Hope. Alvin didn't want to, but I was determined. My goodness! The case could go on forever, and he hadn't taken hardly a minute off since it began. Well, I was setting the table, so when I heard the phone I asked one of the boys to answer it—Paul. Paul said it was for Daddy, and I said, 'You tell them he's in the bath,' but Paul said he wondered if he ought to do that, because it was Mr. Sanford calling from Topeka. Alvin's boss. Alvin took the call with just a towel around him. Made me so mad—dripping puddles everywhere. But when I went
to get a mop I saw something worse—that cat, that fool
Pete, up on the kitchen table gorging crabmeat salad. My avocado stuffing.
"The next thing was, suddenly Alvin had hold of me, he was hugging me, and I said, 'Alvin Dewey, have you lost your mind?' Fun's fun, but the man was wet as a pond, he was ruining my dress, and I was already dressed for company. Of course, when I understood why he was hugging me I hugged him right back. You can imagine what it meant to Alvin to know those men had been arrested. Out in Las Vegas. He said he had to leave for Las Vegas straightaway, and I asked him hadn't he ought to put on some clothes first, and Alvin, he was so excited, he said, Gosh, honey, I guess I've spoiled your party!' I couldn't think of a happier way of having it spoiled—not if this meant that maybe one day soon we'd be back living an ordinary life. Alvin laughed—it was just beautiful to hear him. I mean, the past two weeks had been the worst of all. Because the
week before Christmas those men turned up in Kansas
City—came and went without getting caught—and I never saw Alvin more depressed, except once when young Alvin was in the hospital, had encephalitis, we thought we might lose him. But I don't want to talk about that.
"Anyway, I made coffee for him and took it to the bedroom, where he was supposed to be getting dressed. But he wasn't. He was sitting on the edge of our bed holding his head, as if he had a headache. Hadn't put on even a sock.
So I said, 'What do you want to do, get pneumonia?' And he looked at me and said, 'Marie, listen, it's got to be these guys, has to, that's the only logical solution.' Alvin's funny. Like the first time he ran for Finney County Sheriff. Election Night, when practically every vote had been counted and it was plain as plain he'd won, he said—I could have strangled him—said over and over, 'Well, we won't know till the last return.'
"I told him, 'Now, Alvin, don't start that. Of course they did it.' He said, 'Where's our proof? We can't prove either of them ever set foot inside the Clutter house!' But that seemed to me exactly what he could prove: footprints—weren't footprints the one thing those animals left behind? Alvin said, 'Yes, and a big lot of good they are—unless those boys still happen to be wearing the boots that made them. Just footprints by themselves aren't worth a Dixie dollar.' I
said, 'All right, honey, drink your coffee and I'll help you
pack.' Sometimes you can't reason with Alvin. The way he kept on, he had me almost convinced Hickock and Smith were innocent, and if they weren't innocent they would never confess, and if they didn't confess they could never be convicted—the evidence was too circumstantial. What bothered him most, though—he was afraid that the story would leak, that the men would learn the truth before the K.B.I. could question them. As it was, they thought they'd been picked up for parole violation. Passing bad checks. And Alvin felt it was very important they keep thinking that.
He said, 'The name Clutter has to hit them like a hammer, a blow they never knew was coming.'
"Paul—I'd sent him out to the washline for some of Alvin's socks—Paul came back and stood around watching me pack. He wanted to know where Alvin was going. Alvin lifted him up in his arms. He said, 'Can you keep a secret, Pauly?' Not that he needed to ask. Both boys know they mustn't talk about Alvin's work—the bits and pieces they hear around the house. So he said, 'Pauly, you remember those two fellows we've been looking for? Well, now we know where they are, and Daddy's going to go get them and bring them here to Garden City.' But Paul begged him, Don't do that, Daddy, don't bring them here.' He was frightened—any nine-year-old might've been. Alvin kissed
him. He said. 'Now that's O.K., Pauly, we won't let them hurt anybody. They're not going to hurt anybody ever again."
"Look at me, Dick."
"When we discussed
the matter yesterday, you may recall my saying that the
Clutter murders were almost a perfect crime. The killers
made only two mistakes. The first one was they left a
witness. The second—well, I'll show you." Rising, he
retrieved from a corner a box and a briefcase, both of
which he'd brought into the room at the start of the
interview. Out of the briefcase came a large photograph.
"This," he said, leaving it on the table, "is a one-to-one
reproduction of certain footprints found near Mr. Clutter's body. And here"—he opened the box—"are the boots that made them. Your boots, Dick." "Smith," "was even more careless. We have his boots, too, and they exactly fit another set of prints. Bloody ones."
"The door was unlocked. A side door. It took us into Mr.
Clutter's office. Then we waited in the dark. Listening. But the only sound was the wind. There was quite a little wind outside. It made the trees move, and you could hear the leaves. The one window was curtained with Venetian blinds, but moonlight was coming through. I closed the blinds, and Dick turned on his flashlight. We saw the desk. The safe was supposed to be in the wall directly behind the desk, but we couldn't find it. It was a paneled wall, and there were books and framed maps, and I noticed, on a shelf, a terrific pair of binoculars. I decided I was going to take them with me when we left there."
"Well, when we couldn't find the safe, Dick doused the
flashlight and we moved in darkness out of the office and across a parlor, a living room. Dick whispered to me couldn't I walk quieter. But he was just as bad. Every step we took made a racket. We came to a hall and a door, and Dick, remembering the diagram, said it was a bedroom. He shined the flashlight and opened the door. A man said, 'Honey?' He'd been asleep, and he blinked and said, 'Is that you, honey?' Dick asked him, 'Are you Mr. Clutter?' He was wide awake now; he sat up and said, 'Who is it? What do you want?' Dick told him, very polite, like we were a couple of door-to-door salesmen, 'We want to talk to you, sir. In your office, please.' And Mr. Clutter, barefoot, just wearing pajamas, he went with us to the office and we turned on the office lights Clutter says, 'What safe?' He says he don't have any safe. I knew right then it was true. He had that kind of face. You just knew whatever he told you was pretty much the truth. But Dick shouted at him, 'Don't lie to me, you sonofabitch! I know goddam well you got a safe!' My feeling was nobody had ever spoken to Mr. Clutter like that. But he looked Dick straight in the eye and told him, being very mild about it— said, well, he was sorry but he just didn't have any safe. Dick tapped him on the chest with the knife, says, 'Show us
where that safe is or you're gonna be a good bit sorrier.' But Mr. Clutter—oh, you could see he was scared, but his voice stayed mild and steady—he went on denying he had a safe.
"Sometime along in there, I fixed the telephone. The one in the office. I ripped out the wires. And I asked Mr. Clutter if there were any other telephones in the house. He said yes, there was one in the kitchen. So I took the flashlight and went to the kitchen—it was quite a distance from the office. When I found the telephone, I removed the receiver and cut the line with a pair of pliers. Then, heading back, I heard a noise. A creaking overhead. I stopped at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor. It was dark, and I didn't dare use the flashlight. But I could tell there was someone
there. At the top of the stairs, silhouetted against a window. A figure. Then it moved away."
"For all I knew, maybe it was somebody with a gun. But
Dick wouldn't even listen to me. He was so busy playing tough boy. Bossing Mr. Clutter around. Now he'd brought him back to the bedroom. He was counting the money in Mr. Clutter's billfold. There was about thirty dollars. He threw the billfold on the bed and told him, 'You've got more money in this house than that. A rich man like you. Living on a spread like this.' Mr. Clutter said that was all the cash he
had, and explained he always did business by check. He offered to write us a check. Dick just blew up—'What kind of Mongolians do you think we are?'—and I thought Dick was ready to smash him, so I said, 'Dick. Listen to me. There's somebody awake upstairs.' Mr. Clutter told us the only people upstairs were his wife and a son and daughter. Dick wanted to know if the wife had any money, and Mr. Clutter said if she did, it would be very little, a few dollars, and he asked us—really kind of broke down—please not to
bother her, because she was an invalid, she'd been very ill for a long time. But Dick insisted on going upstairs. He made Mr. Clutter lead the way.
"At the foot of the stairs, Mr. Clutter switched on lights that lighted the hall above, and as we were going up, he said, 'I don't know why you boys want to do this. I've never done you any harm. I never saw you before.' That's when Dick told him, 'Shut up! When we want you to talk, we'll tell you.' Wasn't anybody in the upstairs hall, and all the doors were shut. Mr. Clutter pointed out the rooms where the boy and girl were supposed to be sleeping, then opened his wife's door. He lighted a lamp beside the bed and told her, 'It's all
right, sweetheart. Don't be afraid. These men, they just
want some money.' She was a thin, frail sort of woman in a long white nightgown. The minute she opened her eyes, she started to cry. She says, talking to her husband, 'Sweetheart, I don't have any money.' He was holding her hand, patting it. He said, 'Now, don't cry, honey. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's just I gave these men all the money I had, but they want some more. They believe we have a safe somewhere in the house. I told them we don't.' Dick raised his hand, like he was going to crack him across the mouth. Says, 'Didn't I tell you to shut up?' Mrs. Clutter said, 'But my
husband's telling you the God's truth. There isn't any safe.' And Dick answers back, 'I know goddam well you got a safe. And I'll find it before I leave here. Needn't worry that I won't.' Then he asked her where she kept her purse. The purse was in a bureau drawer. Dick turned it inside out. Found just some change and a dollar or two. I motioned to him to come into the hall. I wanted to discuss the situation. So we stepped outside, and I said—"
"No. We were just outside the door, where we could keep an eye on them. But we were whispering. I told Dick, 'These people are telling the truth. The one who lied is your friend Floyd Wells. There isn't any safe, so let's get the hell out of here.' But Dick was too ashamed to face it. He said he wouldn't believe it till we searched the whole house. He said the thing to do was tie them all up, then take our time looking around. You couldn't argue with him, he was so excited. The glory of having everybody at his mercy, that's what excited him. Well, there was a bathroom next door to Mrs. Clutter's room. The idea was to lock the parents in the
bathroom, and wake the kids and put them there, then bring them out one by one and tie them up in different parts of the house. And then, says Dick, after we've found the safe, we'll cut their throats. Can't shoot them, he says—that would make too much noise."
Perry frowns, rubs his knees with his manacled hands. "Let me think a minute. Because along in here things begin to get a little complicated. I remember. Yes. Yes, I took a chair out of the hall and stuck it in the bathroom. So Mrs. Clutter could sit down. Seeing she was said to be an invalid. When we locked them up, Mrs. Clutter was crying and telling us,
'Please don't hurt anybody. Please don't hurt my children.' And her husband had his arms around her, saying, like, 'Sweetheart, these fellows don't mean to hurt anybody. All they want is some money.'
"We went to the boy's room. He was awake. Lying there
like he was too scared to move. Dick told him to get up, but he didn't move, or move fast enough, so Dick punched him, pulled him out of bed, and I said, 'You don't have to hit him, Dick.' And I told the boy—he was only wearing a T-shirt—to put on his pants. He put on a pair of blue jeans, and we'd just locked him in the bathroom when the girl appeared— came out of her room. She was all dressed, like she'd been
awake some while. I mean, she had on socks and slippers, and a kimono, and her hair was wrapped in a bandanna. She was trying to smile. She said, 'Good grief, what is this? Some kind of joke?' I don't guess she thought it was much of a joke, though. Not after Dick opened the bathroom door and shoved her in . . ."
"Dick stood guard outside the bathroom door while I
reconnoitered. I frisked the girl's room, and I found a little purse-like a doll's purse. Inside it was a silver dollar. I dropped it somehow, and it rolled across the floor. Rolled under a chair. I had to get down on my knees. And just then it was like I was outside myself. Watching myself in some nutty movie. It made me sick. I was just disgusted. Dick, and all his talk about a rich man's safe, and here I am crawling on my belly to steal a child's silver dollar. One dollar. And I'm crawling on my belly to get it." "But that's what you do. You get what you can. I frisked the boy's room, too. Not a dime. But there was a little portable radio, and I decided to take it. Then I remembered the binoculars I'd seen in Mr. Clutter's office. I went downstairs to get them. I carried the binoculars and the radio out to the car. It was cold, and the wind and the cold felt good. The moon was so bright you could see for miles. And I thought, Why don't I walk off? Walk to the
highway, hitch a ride. I sure Jesus didn't want to go back in that house. And yet—How can I explain this? It was like I wasn't part of it. More as though I was reading a story. And I had to know what was going to happen. The end. So I went back upstairs. And now, let's see—uh-huh, that's when we tied them up. Mr. Clutter first. We called him out of the bathroom, and I tied his hands together. Then I marched him all the way down to the basement—" "I tied his feet, then tied his hands to his feet. I asked him
was it too tight, and he said no, but said would we please
leave his wife alone. There was no need to tie her up—she
wasn't going to holler or try to run out of the house. He said
she'd been sick for years and years, and she was just
beginning to get a little better, but an incident like this might
cause her to have a setback. I know it's nothing to laugh
over, only I couldn't help it—him talking about a 'setback.'
"Next thing, I brought the boy down. First I put him in the
room with his dad. Tied his hands to an overhead
steampipe. Then I figured that wasn't very safe. He might
somehow get loose and undo the old man, or vice versa.
So I cut him down and took him to the playroom, where
there was a comfortable-looking couch. Iroped his feet to
the foot of the couch, roped his hands, then carried the rope
up and made a loop around his neck, so if he struggled
he'd choke himself. Once, while Iwas working, I put the
knife down on this—well, it was a freshly varnished cedar
chest; the whole cellar smelled of varnish—and he asked
me not to put my knife there. The chest was a wedding
present he'd built for somebody. A sister, I believe he said.
Just as Iwas leaving, he had a coughing fit, so I stuffed a
pillow under his head. Then I turned off the lights—"
"No. The taping came later, after I'd tied both the women in
their bedrooms. Mrs. Clutter was still crying, at the same
time she was asking me about Dick. She didn't trust him,
but said she felt Iwas a decent young man. I'm sure you
are, she says, and made me promise Iwouldn't let Dick
hurt anybody. I think what she really had in mind was her
daughter. Iwas worried about that myself. I suspected Dick
was plotting something, something Iwouldn't stand for.
When I finished tying Mrs. Clutter, sure enough, I found he'd
taken the girl to her bedroom. She was in the bed, and he
was sitting on the edge of it talking to her. I stopped that; I
told him to go look for the safe while I tied her up. After he'd
gone, Iroped her feet together and tied her hands behind
her back. Then I pulled up the covers, tucked her in till just
her head showed. There was a little easy chair near the
bed, and I thought I'd rest a minute; my legs were on fire—
all that climbing and kneeling. I asked Nancy if she had a
boy friend. She said yes, she did. She was trying hard to
act casual and friendly. Ireally liked her. She was really
nice. A very pretty girl, and not spoiled or anything. She told
me quite a lot about herself. About school, and how she
was going to go to a university to study music and art.
Horses. Said next to dancing what she liked best was to
gallop a horse, so Imentioned my mother had been a
champion rodeo rider.
"And we talked about Dick; Iwas curious, see, what he'd
been saying to her. Seems she'd asked him why he did
things like this. Rob people. And, wow, did he toss her a
tearjerker—said he'd been raised an orphan in an
orphanage, and how nobody had ever loved him, and his
only relative was a sister who lived with men without
marrying them. All the time we were talking, we could hear
the lunatic roaming around below, looking for the safe.
Looking behind pictures. Tapping the walls. Tap tap tap.
Like some nutty woodpecker. When he came back, just to
be a real bastard I asked had he found it. Course he hadn't,
but he said he'd come across another purse in the kitchen.
With seven dollars."
"Right then. Started with Mrs. Clutter. Imade Dick help me —because I didn't want to leave him alone with the girl. I cut
the tape in long strips, and Dick wrapped them around Mrs.
Clutter's head like you'd wrap a mummy. He asked her,
'How come you keep on crying? Nobody's hurting you,' and
he turned off the bedside lamp and said, 'Good night, Mrs.
Clutter. Go to sleep.' Then he says to me, as we're heading
along the hail toward Nancy's room, 'I'm gonna bust that
little girl.' And I said, 'Uh-huh. But you'll have to kill me first.'
He looked like he didn't believe he'd heard right. He says,
'What do you care? Hell, you can bust her, too.' Now, that's
something I despise. Anybody that can't control themselves
sexually. Christ, I hate that kind of stuff. I told him straight,
'Leave her alone. Else you've got a buzzsaw to fight.' That
really burned him, but he realized it wasn't the time to have
a flat-out free-for-all. So he says, 'O.K., honey. If that's the
way you feel.' The end of it was we never even taped her.
We switched off the hall light and went down to the
"Did. And we never used the lights again. Except the
flashlight. Dick carried the flashlight when we went to tape
Mr. Clutter and the boy. Just before I taped him, Mr. Clutter
asked me—and these were his last words—wanted to
know how his wife was, if she was all right, and I said she
was fine, she was ready to go to sleep, and I told him it
wasn't long till morning, and how in the morning somebody
would find them, and then all of it, me and Dick and all,
would seem like something they dreamed. Iwasn't kidding
him. I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very
nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the
moment I cut his throat.
"Wait. I'm not telling it the way it was." Perry scowls. He
rubs his legs; the handcuffs rattle. "After, see, after we'd
taped them, Dick and Iwent off in a corner. To talk it over.
Remember, now, there were hard feelings between us. Just
then it made my stomach turn to think I'd ever admired him,
lapped up all that brag. I said, 'Well, Dick. Any qualms?' He
didn't answer me. I said, 'Leave them alive, and this won't
be any small rap. Ten years the very least.' He still didn't
say anything. He was holding the knife. I asked him for it,
and he gave it to me, and I said, 'All right, Dick. Here goes.'
But I didn't mean it. Imeant to call his bluff, make him argue
me out of it, make him admit he was a phony and a coward.
See, it was something between me and Dick. I knelt down
beside Mr. Clutter, and the pain of kneeling—I thought of
that goddam dollar. Silver dollar. The shame. Disgust. And
they'd told me never to come back to Kansas. But I didn't
realize what I'd done till I heard the sound. Like somebody
drowning. Screaming under water. I handed the knife to
Dick. I said, 'Finish him. You'll feel better.' Dick tried—or
pretended to. But the man had the strength of ten men—he
was half out of his ropes, his hands were free. Dick
panicked. Dick wanted to get the hell out of there. But I
wouldn't let him go. The man would have died anyway, I
know that, but I couldn't leave him like he was. I told Dick to
hold the flashlight, focus it. Then I aimed the gun. The room
just exploded. Went blue. Just blazed up. Jesus, I'll never
understand why they didn't hear the noise twenty miles
"That last shell was a bitch to locate. Dick wiggled under
the bed to get it. Then we closed Mrs. Clutter's door and
went downstairs to the office. We waited there, like we had
when we first came. Looked through the blinds to see if the
hired man was poking around, or anybody else who might
have heard the gunfire. But it was just the same—not a
sound. Just the wind—and Dick panting like wolves were
after him. Right there, in those few seconds before we ran
out to the car and drove away, that's when I decided I'd
better shoot Dick. He'd said over and over, he'd drummed
it into me: No witnesses. And I thought, He's a witness. I
don't know what stopped me. God knows I should've done
it. Shot him dead. Got in the car and kept on going till I lost
myself in Mexico.