What is the plot summary of "Killings"?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Killings," a short story by Andre Dubus, opens with the funeral of Frank Fowler, the twenty-one-year-old son of Matt and Ruth Fowler. Frank has been murdered by his girlfriend's soon-to-be ex-husband, Richard Strout, a twenty-six-year-old bartender with a temper.

Richard is released on bail despite his crime, and Matt and Ruth find it unbearable that they have to see him around town. There are even rumors that Richard has a new girlfriend. 

Matt spends time with his friend Willis, who also hates Richard. The two men discuss other murders that have happened in the area and which have resulted in the suspects not serving any time. Willis discloses that he is always armed with a gun. 

We then receive more details about the relationship between Frank and Mary Ann (the girlfriend). They had met while Frank was working as a lifeguard at the beach, and their relationship was marked by trouble. While Frank was a graduate student in economics, Mary Ann was a mother of two children in the middle of a divorce. Frank had previously been attacked by Richard. When Richard finally murdered Frank, he did so in front of his sons, shooting Frank in the chest and face. 

All of this, of course, is tremendously difficult to accept for Matt, who always wanted to protect his children. Matt and Willis form a plan to kidnap and murder Richard. They have a nightcap together and then force Richard into Matt's car with a gun pointed at his head, forcing him to drive. They arrive at Richard's home, where Matt tells him that they are taking him to California, where a job is waiting for him. Richard packs his things while explaining his reasoning for murdering Frank.

In the car once again, Matt orders Richard to drive north, and they end up in a wooded area of New Hampshire. There, Richard attempts to flee, and Matt shoots him. Willis and Matt bury Richard's body in an already dug hole, throw the gun in the lake, drive Richard's car back to Boston, and throw the keys into the Merrimack River.

Once home, Ruth asks Matt if he "did it," and he tells her all the steps he took to kill Richard. The story ends with Ruth holding and comforting Matt. 

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story "Killings," Matt and Ruth's son—Frank—has been murdered by Richard.

Frank was twenty-one and dating Richard's soon-to-be ex-wife. Richard is known for having a terrible temper.  One night Richard confronts Frank as he is leaving Mary Ann (Richard's wife), and shoots him twice not only in front of Mary Ann, but in front of their two sons.

Richard is released on bail.  Matt and Ruth struggle deeply with their loss, and with the fact that their son's murderer is allowed to freely roam around town.

Willis is a friend of Matt's, who owns several restaurants in town.  When Matt and Willis get together, they agree that they cannot tolerate what Richard has done, that there are people who commit murder and get away with it, and they agree that together they will shoot Richard and bury his body where no one will find it.

The men carry out their plan, pretending they are helping Richard to leave town in order to start over, however, they drive over the border into New Hampshire, even while Richard tries to rationalize his reasons for killing Frank.  They stop in a wooded area, and when Richard tries to run, Matt shoots him twice, killing him.  They then bury the body and return home.

When Matt goes into the house, his wife is awake.  Ruth asks him, point blank, if the did it.  Matt describes the evening, and they agree that they can never tell their other children.  The story ends as Ruth tries to comfort Matt.