A brutal double murder occurred on a frosty February night this past winter. A close friend’s brother “allegedly” decided to put a hit on his family- $10k for his soon to be ex-wife, $5k for my friend and $5k for my friend’s husband. My friend was luckily out of town on a business trip that fateful evening.  This story isn’t from a sordid Hollywood writer’s mind- it’s real life.

Fast forward six months- four defendants are on trial. One of them is my friend’s brother, whom I have known since we were teens, 30 years ago. His face has been splashed all over the news as he is “allegedly” the kingpin of this whole dirty deed. As I make my way to a seat in the courtroom, he and I lock eyes. Again, I have known this guy for 30 years. Over that time, we’d been clubbing together, attended weddings, Super Bowl parties, holiday gatherings, celebratory bbqs, everyday sitarounds- never as a couple but more like  family.

In a situation like this, does one nod acknowledgement, give a courtesy smile, spit venom, jump over the railing with the prowess of a superheroine vigilante … ? I can honestly say it was a moment that made the blood in my veins feel like ice water. For one of the first times in a decade, I was thankful that his (and my friend’s) mom was not alive. She was a remarkable woman who bravely fought cancer with the same courage and grace that she lived her life. Perhaps the reason she was taken from us at such an early age was so she would not have had to experience this present horror. How she would have ever lived through this family drama is unfathomable.

Cut back to our story- I basically did nothing. As we locked eyes, I remained expressionless until he finally looked away. For the rest of that day, I targeted my gaze away from in his direction. It was creepy enough to have three strangers who are probably responsible for the demise of two friends within rubberband shooting distance. Yet to have someone as close as a brother, sitting in bright red prisoner clothes across the room, was nothing short of surreal.

One part of me would like to go visit him at the jail and just let him talk. There is nothing he can say that could ever justify his “alleged” actions yet it might be enlightening to hear what he has to say. I would like to hear him admit it was his poor choice to abuse drugs that made this family’s life a living hell to their last breaths. I would like to hear him say that he has remorse. I would like to hear from his own lips that he finally understands the ramifications of his actions. Would hearing these thing soften the blow of what happened at all? Who knows.

The other side of me sees him as a  dead man walking. Who cares what he has to say? He has “allegedly” breached such familial protocol, that there is nothing that he could ever say or do that could ever explain his “alleged” actions. There are many months, perhaps years, left of this trial and many more potential eye locks in the future. I hope I will be able to maintain my composure as more of the gory details emerge. My priority is to be there for my friend as she so valiantly attempts to bring some semblance and comprehension to her “New Normal.”

As far as I know, they don’t give examples on how to deal with these situations in Miss Manners books. Frankly, I would have preferred to have never needed to know.