By the middle of 1976, it had become obvious to me in a thousand ways
that my efforts to unravel the central mystery of my own life
had attracted more than ample attention from someone.
I could no longer afford the luxury of not thinking about Slim's brother-in-law and equally bizarre matters -- as much as I would rather have been contemplating absolutely any other subject instead.
As a result I have permitted my mind to wander to the opposite extreme, that of endeavoring to remember everything about that unusual man, no matter how repulsive or insignificant, of allowing him to become the major focus of my thoughts -- an individual I once found so boring and tedious that I actually wondered if he might not be prematurely senile.
Now and again I have received help from the mysterious forces that surround me in order to keep tabs on my actions. A key phrase mentioned by a stranger passing me on the street will trigger additional recollections about a conversation recorded incompletely in past notes -- and I have been scribbling a constant stream of notes every day for years.
Sometimes I will discuss the case with a comparative stranger who, without admitting to inside knowledge, will ask a question so pointed as to appear quite well informed. Many is the time such a question renewed memory of another long-forgotten chat with Brother-in-law.
During the first visit to his new house, Gary asked me what seemed like an academic question: "Kerry, if one man saves the life of another man, would you agree with the notion that the first man then has the right to do whatever he wants with the life of the man he has saved?"
"I don't know," I shrugged, "but I read where the Chinese believe that if you save another man's life, then from that day forward you are to blame for any crimes he commits."
At the beginning of the next visit, he said: "I'm interested in further discussing your opinion of this matter about one man saving the life of another man, Kerry. Now tell me: What would you say? Does the man who saves the life have the right to do whatever he wants with the life he has saved? Or not?"
I could not begin to imagine what possible difference my answer would make. "Yeah, I guess so," I finally said.
One of the first chats with Brother-in-law at his house centered around his projected book, Hitler Was A Good Guy, a name I loved for its shock value, but which Gary took pains to remind me was "only a working title."
"The secret to Hitler's power was that he had no power," he explained. "He was instead surrounded by powerful men -- men with branches of the military, labor unions, police bureaus, organized criminal gangs at their commands. But he himself had no such direct base of power. He was a great orator who had written a book, but he possessed no direct access to a single organization. The Nazi Party was an alliance of the organizations under the men around him. Hitler was their compromise candidate because they could trust him when they could not trust one another, and they trusted him only because he had no power of his own. And that's why he was powerful. Many of the others held views much more extreme than his, but they didn't trust one another directly so they couldn't do anything about them."
A nonchalantly pedantic attitude dominated his mercurial personality as he spoke.
"I'm going to write a fictionalized chapter -- a projection of what would have happened -- if Martin Bormann had pulled a coup and taken over in Hitler's place, another chapter about what would have happened with Himmler in Hitler's shoes, and another one about Rosenberg. Now he was a beauty -- he used to have anyone with the name 'Rosenberg' executed as soon as his troops took over a town. He was also the one who formulated the precepts of the Nazi religion, which has certain features to recommend it, incidentally."
I sat there not knowing how to react. I just didn't know how to take this guy.
"Hess was a stupid one. Literally of below average I.Q., he's the guy who parachuted into England to try to get the British to join the Germans -- as Hitler, because of his racial theories, at first thought they would. Hess made that move on the advice of his astrologer. All the English did was put him in prison. He's rotting there to this day," he smirked. "Very unfair of them."
A mixture of horror and intellectual fascination left me in a state resembling paralysis.
"And when Himmler found out why Hess did it, he rounded up all the astrologers and killed them -- including Hitler's astrologer -- and Hitler got pissed off about that. God, was he ever pissed! Heh-heh."
That seemed to Brother-in-law a great source of amusement and he was to tell the same story many times; he seemed to find the follies of the Nazis as funny as he found their attainments admirable, which was disarming.
Later in the conversations he asked me once if I thought Rudolf Hess ought to be released from prison. I agreed that there was no purpose in keeping him jailed.
Over and over he was to remind me that there were many similarities between Nazi and Communist ideology, and that people attracted to one could frequently be recruited away to the other.
In my research, I found the diary of Paul Joseph Goebbels to be the most useful source of the types of quotations Brother-in-law said he wanted for his book -- things that sounded worse than what Hitler had said.
He'd also told me to be sure to include anything any of them said against the Catholic Church, and these alleged writings of the Nazi Propaganda Minister were sufficiently anti-Catholic for that purpose.
In my own handwriting at the top of each folded-over page of letter-size paper, I dutifully wrote, "Hitler Was A Good Guy." Again in my own handwriting, I then proceeded to quote without comment all the most atrocious statements I was able to find by Goebbels and the other important Nazis. Unsuspectingly, I then turned these notes over to Brother-in-law. As I recall, he gave me ten dollars for my efforts.
Since in those days I was given to beginning writing projects with great optimism and enthusiasm and then abandoning them in favor of either a new inspiration or a more certain means of relating to the American economy, it did not strike me peculiar that Brother-in-law soon dropped further mention of his proposed magnum opus. For he seemed, if anything, even less reliable than me -- what with his paranoid theories, his split personality, and his incessant repetitions.
Once or twice in our conversations he dropped a hint that he was actually "more like a mad scientist" than a Nazi or gangster, and he carefully planted the idea with me that his real name might be Tom Miethe.
Since then I was led to believe that his true identity was that of a Canadian associated with the Permindex Corporation named Louis Mortimer Bloomfield. Yet the most credible suggestion -- one made by an individual named Joel Thornton -- is that I was in fact talking to the Watergate burglar, E. Howard Hunt; my memory of Brother-in-law closely resembles a 1959 photo of Hunt to be found in his autobiography, Undercover.
Naturally I remain uncertain of his true identity. Strategies in the intelligence community are deep. Power is kept by carrying deception several steps beyond what any sane person might be inclined to suspect. Whoever he was, it is clear in retrospect that he employed all the professional techniques for covering his tracks.
Among the first and oddest things Brother-in-law was to bring up in our talks at his house were instances of freak radio reception. A woman had picked up a radio broadcast through her hair curlers. Every now and then, someone discovered their tooth fillings were sensitive to radio waves.
"Things like that actually happen," he said, "although rarely."
"Yes," I answered. "I think maybe once or twice it happened to me. A few months ago, when I was living across from Lafayette Square in a little room over Fred's Inn, I seemed to hear radio programs as I was drifting into sleep during my afternoon naps -- with station breaks, news, commercials, weather reports and music. When I woke up afterwards, though, I couldn't remember the call letters of the station."
Brother-in-law laughed and nodded -- as if to indicate that, yes, he knew about that.
Since I had not discussed it with anyone, I dismissed his response as simply inappropriate. From such an unusual man I did not expect entirely comprehensible behavior at all times.
I neglected to add that I had also experienced audio hallucinations of a different nature when going to sleep at nights sometimes when I was in the Marines -- during the interval I was serving with Lee Harvey Oswald in Marine Air Control Squadron Nine. I had written them off as a peculiar category of dreams. Nor did I tend to think that my radio program dreams experienced more recently had other than psychological causes.
I gathered early on that Brother-in-law had a perchant for the exceptionally bizarre, and that his mind tended to wander from one weird variety of trivia to another without the benefit of a healthy skepticism.
Sometimes I considered the possibility that the whole works was the creation of a secret society consisting of bald-headed conspirators -- for I have heard it second-hand that all the names Brother-in-law used were those of balding men -- a Fraternal Order of Bald Eagles, if you will, bent on no less sinister a project than the destruction of civilization.
Rich people like the Rockefellers, Gary took pains to remind me, pressure the government to make laws designed to make business difficult or impossible for their competitors.
I would acknowledge this, but was always quick to add that such examples of Private Law, so to speak, were not what was defined as pure laissez-faire, and I thereby dismissed the actual as inconsequential because it was not an aspect of our economic system Ayn Rand deemed worth defending.
In these early conversations at his house, Brother-in-law spoke to me frequently of Jesuits. What he said was easy to dismiss as typical Ku Klux Klan anti-Catholicism.
That the Jesuits deliberately persecute people in order to "test" their adherence to Christian virtues, from which they themselves seem exempt, was something upon which he insisted. He added that one Jesuit ruse was to tempt their victims into blasphemy -- into calling themselves Christ -- and then to slay them.
In my mind's eye, that conjured up images of black-robed priests attacking unarmed victims with swords or daggers, and that seemed most improbable -- but I held back from expressing doubt.
Sometimes when I appeared especially shocked by something Brother-in-law said, he would remind me that in the Vatican there is a Devil's Advocate whose job it is to present the arguments of Satan to the Pope, so the Pope can refute them. Then he would add that he himself was something of a Devil's advocate, in that he didn't adhere to all the ideas he was expressing.
Building secret societies that would employ some of the techniques of the Jesuits was an idea mentioned, perhaps conveyed from some other conspirator's discussions of plans in the manner of such an advocate, as Brother-in-law also warned, or promised, "The day will come when you will find yourself surrounded by Devil's advocates; if you answer all their arguments, you will become philosopher-king."