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The past Wednesday, returning from two weeks of treatment at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, her customary place of retirement, Mrs.
Clutter had brought scarcely credible tidings to tell her husband; with joy she informed him that the source of her misery, so medical opinion had at last decreed, was not in her head hut in her spine—it was a matter of misplaced vertebrae.
But then, in the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal Holcomb noises—on the keening hysteria of coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles.
At the time, not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them—four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.
Not that the truth concerning “poor Bonnie’s afflictions” was in the least a secret; everyone knew she had been an on-and-off psychiatric patient the last half-dozen years.
Yet even upon this shadowed terrain sunlight had very lately sparkled.
Clutter, and one sister, who was a year older—the town darling, Nancy. Clutter had just one serious cause for disquiet—his wife’s health.
She was “nervous,” she suffered “little spells”—such were the sheltering expressions used by those close to her.
The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes.The depot itself, with its peeling sulphur-colored paint, is equally melancholy; the Chief, the Super-Chief, the El Capitan go by every day, but these celebrated expresses never pause there. Up on the highway, there are two filling stations, one of which doubles as a meagrely supplied grocery store, while the other does extra duty as a café—Hartman’s Café, where Mrs.Hartman, the proprietress, dispenses sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks, and 3.2 beer.He was not as rich as the richest man in Holcomb—Mr. He was, however, the community’s most widely known citizen, prominent both there and in Garden City, the close-by county seat, where he had headed the building committee for the newly completed First Methodist Church, an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar edifice.
He was currently chairman of the board of the Garden City Co-Op Equity Exchange, and his name was everywhere respectfully recognized among Midwestern agriculturists, as it was in certain Washington offices, where he had been a member of the Federal Farm Credit Board during the early years of the Eisenhower administration.Farm ranchers, most of them, they are outdoor folk of very varied stock—German, Irish, Norwegian, Mexican, Japanese.