And then I would wonder. As I drove I in this calm green summer place I asked myself, as a prosecutor might, what made me so certain, in thought and rant anyway, that murder was thinkable. Why that? What was to bad about what they did.
It was more than the “bad blood” that occurred to me way back, when my brother was thrown out of the State Department and went work for a Defense Debarment agency that was teaching the Thai army tricks for wiping out the unduly part of the Thai peasantry – which might have been, I told the imaginary prosecutor, even worse than his present job with the CIA, though this recent job was tied to his latest and possibly most dangerous betrayal of me. But when I was in Bangkok I suspected something similar was already going on. What had he told whom about me. Why was I apparently the only American or Australian in Bangkok who had not been approached to report things seen to American intelligence. And who was that ominous little Thai man who a took boat out to my house in Thonburi because, he said, he wanted to know more about the fascinating things I was doing. Writing a paper for school, he said. Had my brother been telling false tales, or true tales he should keep to himself? Telling tales right into the present the way he had done as a child. But do you murder for what a child does?
Back to reconnoiter from Bangkok one summer I talked with an old friend about the pattern in that family I came from. It looks like bad blood, I said. I drank deeply. Those alien words “bad blood” had come from somewhere to my tongue. I wondered what this means for me. Bad blood. Peter fired from the Foreign Service, the job he seemed convinced defined him. My father out of work, unemployable in publishing, where he had done so well with happy books about eccentric families. My Uncle Nick fired form his lifetime traveling work doing something about getting or denying mortgages in Fairfield and Westchester Counties, and now unemployable too, and his wife was having a quite open affair across the street in Scarsdale, and he had sunk into classic alcoholism (like his Uncle John, according to my grandmother, and like my mother, who had come to taping small bottles underneath tables she might go near.
And now as I drove in Vermont, my father and uncle dead, and it did seem I had stopped drinking just in time, though stopping drinking had proved to be the least of it.
But you don’t murder people because they have bad blood, though that can be a factor in the actions of a betrayer, I thought. And you don’t kill them for pomposity. My mother’s take on family blood had just crisscrossed mine when she said that last time I saw her, “You know what separates us from all the rest is good genes.”
I didn’t kill my father for telling anti-Semitic jokes, or my grandfather who tried to explain anti-Semitism even while hanging on to Jewish friends, or my grandmother for saying, in reference to who was allowed to live where in the White Mountains, “It isn’t the Jews we dislike. It’s just the, you know, kikey ones.”
Yes, Peter had told someone I had to be watched, at the least, when I lived in Bangkok, and now I knew that he had so recently been on the other side in the Philippines. I knew it all along. When I was first on the Philippine project I talked of how given my brother’s position he had to know my phone was tapped, and what was being recorded, and that someone smarter than him would be like the clever policeman who makes good use of his tie to a relative in the mob. But you don’t murder someone for not being smart. Maybe.
Was it true that they were domestic war criminals? Margaret’s horrible death. The probable suicide of Paul who fucked his little sister and was in constant trouble with the law for stealing and kidnapping – the reason a judge had ordered him into the Vietnam era military in lieu of prison – and he had turned the army time into a con, never going near Vietnam but buying a Special Forces green beret uniform and sending photos of himself, masquerading as a sort of anti-Communist commando, around to any one he thought needed to see them. Not so very different from what they had done regarding the father he never met – he was adopted they always pointed out – the father had been killed in a drunk flying accident and they decided to claim the man was a hero of the battle of Britain. And don’t forget that Paul had fucked his little sister, my favorite cousin, Deirdre. And maybe this would be enough to justify murder, but I was still in the middle of the case I was building, still trying to meld memory and information and remembered observation into something that explained this sense I had of something else they had done – that it seemed I as on the verge of knowing – what they had really done and what they deserved.