Part 3, Chapters 1–4 Summary

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Floyd Wells lies in the Kansas State Penitentiary, where he is serving three to five years for robbery. He listens to the radio and is shocked when he hears about the murder of the Clutter family two days previously. Not only does he know the Clutter family, but he knows who killed them. Wells had worked for Herb Clutter eleven years before as a farm hand for about a year. At the end of that time, Wells moved on, but not because of any trouble with Mr. Clutter. In fact, he liked the entire Clutter family, thinking them one of the nicest families he had ever met. In Lansing prison, Wells met Dick Hickock, sharing the same cell with him for about a month. He told Dick about his past, and Dick seemed especially interested in his time working for the rich wheat farmer in western Kansas. Eventually, Dick proclaimed that he was going to kill Herb Clutter, leaving no witnesses behind, and take whatever money he found. After Wells hears about the murder, he debates what he should do. He is fearful of the other prisoners, sure that he would be killed for turning “stool pigeon.” Eventually, Wells confides in a fellow prisoner, who arranges for Dick to talk to someone in authority. When Wells tells the warden that he knows Dick and Perry are the murderers, the warden immediately calls Logan Sanford of the KBI, who sends information about the two ex-convicts to Alvin Dewey.

When Dewey receives the envelope containing the details about Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, he is overjoyed that at last he has a lead. He shows Marie, his wife, who comments on the soft eyes of Perry. As for Dick, however, she is shaken of thinking of his “mean” eyes coming toward her. Harold Nye, another KBI agent, interviews Dick’s parents. Mr. Hickock says that Dick was a good boy but began to act differently following his accident. He blames his association with Perry Smith as the cause of his problems. Following the information about Dick’s passing of bad checks, Nye discovers the shopping spree that Dick and Perry had gone on prior to leaving for Mexico. It is determined that Dick was the main instigator, while Perry was the silent companion. Nye comes up with a timeline of Dick and Perry’s movements, and determines that the two could have easily driven to Holcomb and back within the twenty-four hours in which they had claimed to have gone to Fort Scott to see Perry’s sister.

Dick and Perry have hitchhiked from California to Nebraska. They catch a ride with Mr. Bell, who is willing to drive them to Omaha. Dick’s plan was to distract Mr. Bell while Perry bludgeoned him with a rock, but this scenario does not work out when Mr. Bell picks up another hitchhiker, which Perry calls a miracle.

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