In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood is a non-fiction book by American author Truman Capote, first published in 1966; it details the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.
… "The sheriff arrived; it was nine thirty-five - I looked at my watch. Mr. Ewalt waved at him to follow our car, and we drove out to the Clutters'. I'd never been there before, only seen it from a distance. Of course, I knew the family. Kenyon was in my sophomore English class, and I'd directed Nancy in the 'Tom Sawyer' play. But they were such exceptional, humble kids you wouldn't have known they were rich or lived in such a big house - and the trees, the lawn, everything so tended and cared for. After we got there, and the sheriff had heard Mr. Ewalt's story, he radioed his office and told them to send reinforcements, and an ambulance. Said, 'There's been some kind of accident.' Then we went in the house, the three of us. Went through the kitchen and saw a lady's purse lying on the floor, and the phone where the wires had been cut. The sheriff was wearing a hip pistol, and when we started up the stairs, going to Nancy's room, I noticed he kept his hand on it, ready to draw.
"Well, it was pretty bad. That wonderful girl - but you would never have known her. She'd been shot in the back of the head with a shotgun held maybe two inches away. She was lying on her side, facing the wall, and the wall was covered with blood. The bedcovers were drawn up to her shoulders. Sheriff Robinson, he pulled them back, and we saw that she was wearing a bathrobe, pajamas, socks, and slippers - like, whenever it happened, she hadn't gone to bed yet. Her hands were tied behind her, and her ankles were roped together with the kind of cord you see on Venetian blinds. Sheriff said, 'Is this Nancy Clutter?' - he'd never seen the child before. And I said, 'Yes. Yes, that's Nancy.'
Perry Smith, one of the

"We stepped back into the hall, and looked around. All the other doors were closed. We opened one, and that turned out to be the bathroom. Something about it seemed wrong. I decided it was because of the chair - a sort of dining-room chair, that looked out of place in a bathroom. The next door - we all agreed it must be Kenyon's room. A lot of boy-stuff scattered around. And I recognized Kenyon's glasses - saw them on a bookshelf beside the bed. But the bed was empty, though it looked as if it had been slept in. So we walked to the end of the hall, the last door, in there, on her bed, that's where we found Mrs. Clutter. She'd been tied, too. But differently - with her hands in front of her, in that she looked as though she were praying - and in one hand she was holding, gripping, a handkerchief. Or was it Kleenex? The cord around her wrists ran down to her ankles, which were bound together, and then ran on down to the bottom of the bed, where it was tied to the footboard - a very complicated, artful piece of work. Think how long it took to do! And her lying there, scared out of her wits. Well, she was wearing some jewelry, two rings - which is one of the reasons why I've always discounted robbery as a motive - and a robe, and a white nightgown, and white socks. Her mouth had been taped with adhesive, but she'd been shot point-blank in the side of the head, and the blast - the impact - had ripped the tape loose. Her eyes were open. Wide open. As though she were still looking at the killer. Because she must have had to watch him do it - aim the gun. Nobody said anything. We were too stunned. I remember the sheriff searched around to see if he could find the discharged cartridge. But whoever had done it was much too smart and cool to have left behind any clues like that.
"Naturally, we were wondering where was Mr. Clutter? And Kenyon? Sheriff said, 'Let's try downstairs. ' The first place we tried was the master bedroom - the room where Mr. Clutter slept. The bedcovers were drawn back, and lying there, toward the foot of the bed, was a billfold with a mess of cards spilling out of it, like somebody had shuffled through them hunting something particular - a note, an I. O. U., who knows? The fact that there wasn't any money in it didn't signify one way or the other. It was Mr. Clutter's billfold, and he never did carry cash. Even I knew that, and I'd only been in Holcomb a little more than two months. Another thing I knew was that neither Mr. Clutter nor Kenyon could see a darn without his glasses. And there were Mr. Clutter's glasses sitting on a bureau. So I figured, wherever they were, they weren't there of their own accord. We looked all over, and everything was just as it should be - no sign of a struggle, nothing disturbed. Except the office, where the telephone was off the hook, and the wires cut, same as in the kitchen. Sheriff Robinson, he found some shotguns in a closet, and sniffed them to see if they had been fired recently. Said they hadn't, and - I never saw a more bewildered man - said, 'Where the devil can Herb be?' About then we heard footsteps. Coming up the stairs from the basement. 'Who's that?' said the sheriff, like he was ready to shoot. And a voice said, 'It's me. Wendle.' Turned out to be Wendle Meier, the undersheriff. Seems he had come to the house and hadn't seen us, so he'd gone investigating down in the basement. The sheriff told him - and it was sort of pitiful: 'Wendle, I don't know what to make of it. There's two bodies upstairs. "Well,' he said, Wendle did, 'there's another one down here.' So we followed him down to the basement. Or playroom, I guess you'd call it. It wasn't dark - there were windows that let in plenty of light. Kenyon was over in a corner, lying on a couch. He was gagged with adhesive tape and bound hand and foot, like the mother - the same intricate process of the cord leading from the hands to the feet, and finally tied to an arm of the couch. Somehow he haunts me the most, Kenyon does. I think it's because he was the most recognizable, the one that looked the most like himself - even though he'd been shot in the face, directly, head-on. He was wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, and he was barefoot - as though he'd dressed in a hurry, just put on the first thing that came to hand. His head was supported by a couple of pillows, like they'd been stuffed under him to make an easier target… (Excerpt from In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote)

Replaced vocabulary

unassuming  propped


I.O.U. an informal document acknowledging a debt

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