|That Wednesday evening, at the end of the first proper day of the trial, reporters and townsfolk alike meandered out of the courthouse. Overhead a cloudless, featureless sky, in momentary limbo between day and night, peered silently and unnoticed over the crowd. Many of these observers remained cynical over the trustworthiness of this ‘mystery man’, Floyd Wells, who had finished testifying just minutes before. His overall appearance at the trial created a mixture of reactions. His attire consisted of a smart, dark blue suit, together with a clean-shaven face, which made for an air of respectability. To some onlookers however, the transparency was evident. Wells had the look of a man out of his depth, not used to so much positive and eager attention.
Afterwards, outside, conversations were directed toward the subject of this first and final witness of Smith and Hickock’s trial. ‘Yeah sure, that guy did a real nice thing, a real brave thing even, out of the goodness of his heart of course!’
‘You’re right, getting parole and a whole lot of money had nothing to do with it!’ Was one such conversation between two lowly reporters sent from respective newspapers a long way out from remote Garden City, where their severely edited reports would be condemned to mid paper mediocrity.
A Garden City resident, a Mrs Taylor, was less emphatic in her reflections. She was an elderly churchgoer, who was obviously troubled by the trial stating she ‘didn’t know what to believe anymore’ and ‘what was the point of letting one criminal condemn two others? I’d like to think the best of that man and his intentions, like I do everyone else…but I just don’t know.’
‘This country’s going down the tubes, if you ask me, no community’s safe from all these hooligans.’ Her husband, Mr Taylor, who had not attended the trial, but had come to take her home because ‘I wouldn’t let my Ann walk on these streets alone at night anymore’, had his own take on the motive behind the Clutter murders and of Wells. ‘They think we’re a soft touch jus’ because we’re religious and believe in the Lord. Think we won’t judge them too hard, will forgive them.’
The sky had now dimmed and darkened, and with this, the crowd had dispersed toward buzzing streetlights and glowing homes.
One person who was warned not to rely on the ‘religious capacity’ of the local people and especially of the juror’s was Wells himself. This was directed from Logan Green at their pre trial rehearsal some few days before the trial itself. Having been removed form Kansas State Penitentiary for his own safety due to his appearance at the forthcoming trial, the rehearsal took place in a small jail in an adjacent county. Religion was not a controlling force in Wells’ life however, and he had an indifferent attitude toward it. ‘Never really thought much of God and all that stuff. He never done much for me, and, from what I see, never did much for the Clutters neither when they needed help most.’
Logan Green, the lawyer for the prosecution, was confident that his performance at the trial would be enough to win the jury over. However, for Floyd Wells he felt ‘a rehearsal or two is definitely needed at this time. He needs some sprucing up, a decent suit, we’ll get him cleaned up, so long as it has the right effect. We want those juror’s to think he’s from a good background and not just some drifter who decided on a career move into thieving.’ Indeed a decent suit was purchased, at the expense of the State of Kansas and Green went through the testimony extensively with Wells. Green was particularly keen in making sure Wells’ testimony mentioned and established premeditation of the murders. Wells on the other hand, thought otherwise.
‘You know, it really never crossed my mind that he would go ahead with it. I didn’t think we were much different. He’d been a mechanic like me, and we’d both been married and divorced. I always thought those murderers were supposed to be crazy, but well, Dick seemed real normal to me. Maybe he was just desperate.’
Of course, Green was quick to point out to Wells that he was a witness for the prosecution. ‘We don’t need to show any sympathy toward either one of them. We need to make them out to be the most immoral, inhumane people on the planet. Just remember the reward and your parole, and you’ll do fine.’ Wells however, did the opposite of just fine after gaining his reward and parole. He is at this time, serving a thirty-year sentence for armed robbery.
Some members of the Holcombe community, namely the regulars at Hartman’s Café had already judged this ‘Wells character.’ A small bird perched on the windowsill, pecked for crumbs in the light snow. Instead of joining in with its counterparts gliding in the early evening sky, the tiny bird hopped along the sill, unable to take flight.
It was difficult to see in and make out the people with only their blurred outlines visible. The windows had steamed up through the heat of the bodies packed into the tiny café. ‘They’re all the same these varmints; you can’t trust anyone of them.’ This was the distinctively brash voice of Postmistress Clare, who had dropped in to give her own, loudly voiced opinions. ‘They don’t know how to act like us proper good folk, oh no, these criminals only know how to lie and cheat and hurt. None of them deserve anything from us.’
‘But surely that depends on the person. Well, I can see how someone who’s always been down on their luck, with nothing to show for their life, could turn to thieving. But killing four people, well, nothing can force you into doing something like that.’ Was one such opinion from a young farmers’ wife, who was being unusually vocal, but still remained passive even whilst challenging the formidable Myrtle Clare.
‘I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks thieving will solve their problems, doesn’t understand the notion of an honest day’s work. Why, all of us here don’t have much between us, but we all still manage to make do.’ Was Myrtle Clare’s answer. Another voice from an elderly woman chipped in.
‘Who knows about these young people. These days all they’re interested in is money and more money. No idea how they’re gonna get it, but they’re damn sure that they want it’
The small bird was still there on the café windowsill. Grounded by an injured wing, it was incapable of the freedom of flight. It tentatively dropped to the pavement, where it hopped across the road, stopping every now and again, inspecting minuscule spots on the floor. As it reached the other side, it continued into the ever-increasing darkness.