Dick and Perry sit under an umbrella at a beach in Miami. It is Christmastime. Dick goes for a walk and tries to befriend a young girl. Noticing this is enough to disgust Perry and interrupt his contemplation of suicide.
On Christmas morning, Bobby Rupp remembers how he would always brave the snows to walk over to the Clutter house and give Nancy her present. Bobby goes out running mindlessly and ends up in Mr. Clutter's prize orchard, where the fruit is rotting in the Indian summer.
Dick and Perry, having run out of money, are returning to the West, looking for work. In Texas, they pick up a young boy and his decrepit grandfather. Dick is scared the grandfather will die in the car, but is mollified by the boy's ability to spot empty bottles along the roadside--which they pick up and cash in at a roadside restaurant.
On December 30, Alvin Dewey is called out of the shower to answer a phone call. As his wife wonders why he is dripping water everywhere, he suddenly hugs her. He has not taken a minute off from the case since it began in mid-November.
A police officer in Las Vegas spots the killers' license plate, just after Perry picks up the memorabilia he mailed from Mexico City to his old hotel.
In the Las Vegas police station, the four KBI agents--Dewey, Nye, Clarence Duntz, and Roy Church--are preparing to question Dick and Perry. Nye has the flu. The prisoners believe they are being questioned for passing hot checks.
Nye and Church question Dick, who is cocky and reminds them that he has been questioned before. They lead up to the hot check spree in Olathe, and Dick tells them that they went to Fort Scott, failed to find Perry's sister, and spent the night with two prostitutes. Dick takes pride in recounting the exact addresses of every place the pair stayed in their cross-country travels. Finally, Nye comes to the point, and accuses Dick of the murders. He denies them but is visibly shaken.
Meanwhile, Dewey and Duntz question Perry. They repeat the process used with Dick, with the same result. Perry is very upset, and afterward lies troubled in his cold cell, as does Dick. The next day, Dick breaks. The two officers show him photographs of the footprints from the scene of the crime, which match Dick's boots. Dick blames the actual killing on Perry.
Back at Hartman's Cafe, news comes over the radio that two suspects have been arrested. People are shocked and skeptical.
The suspects are taken in two different cars on the long drive to Garden City, Kansas. Perry does not confess until Dewey tells him the story about killing a black man--something that only Dick would know, it proves that Dick has confessed. He gives a full confession. Dick had thought that Clutter had a large safe. When they didn't find it, Perry wanted to leave. But Dick wanted to look around more. They wake and tie up the entire family. The process takes hours. Perry is frantic. Dick wants to rape Nancy, but Perry threatens to kill him if he does. Finally, Perry shoots the two downstairs and then Dick shoots the two upstairs.
When the police cars arrive in Garden City, a large, stunned crowd watches the criminals walk from the cars to the jail.
The chapter in which Perry confesses is very long and detailed. In some ways, it is the climax of the novel. It is told in the present tense, while the rest of the book is recounted in the past tense. This temporal shift highlights the significance of the chapter. The beginning of the next chapter is in the present tense; it simply describes how cats constantly prowl the main street in Garden City.
The confession is a climax insofar as it represents the end of the mystery and chase that occupies the police for most of the novel. Throughout, it is clear to the reader that Dick and Perry killed the Clutter family, but the details are unclear. Now they are revealed. The motive is also revealed: They were hoping to find a safe full of money. It is a robbery gone wrong. Later, Perry will change his story somewhat, admitting that it was he who actually killed each of the Clutters. But, for the most part, all the mysteries are solved, and all that remains is the slow and inevitable approach of the execution.