Anonymous Tip: Staking Out the Backyard

Anonymous Tip: Staking Out the Backyard September 18, 2015

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 120-123

Peter spent Saturday in the law library, but Gwen spent the day shopping with her mother, June, still lost without Casey.

June Mansfield was doing her best to fill the hours. But every time they saw a child, especially a little girl of four or five, Gwen would be reminded of the pain of separation.

Finally her mother took her home, and they spent the day cooking and watching movies.

Gwen appreciated her parent’s concern and the activity. All of it helped—but not enough. She was lonely and worried.

It’s now Saturday night and Gwen has been without Casey since midday Tuesday, except for seeing her on Friday morning. Gwen knows she will likely get Casey back after the hearing on Tuesday, but she misses her regardless—and that is understandable. What isn’t understandable is what comes next.

Her night had been sleepless. Her dreams were desperate. And in the middle of the night the plan became more and more dominant in her mind.

Gwen tucked her hair up in a large straw hat. Her large, dark sunglasses were next. She had placed both suitcases in the car sometime around three the night before when no on in the neighborhood could see.

At eight-thirty she pulled out of the driveway heading north. Two sealed envelopes lay on her dash. Her path down the South Hill seemed surreal, even more than the past five days had been for her.

. . .

She crossed the Spokane River and headed up Division toward Whitworth and the northern edge of town. At Francis, she turned left and wound her way through the neighborhood of Tom and Brenda MacArthur.

Props to whoever pointed out that the fact that Peter dropped Casey off first on Friday morning after the appointment with Dr. Schram meant Gwen knew where the foster family lived.

She cruised slowly past their house. There was visible activity inside the home. Two blocks away, Gwen parked in an elementary school parking lot . . .

She basically sneaks around watching the house while trying not to be obviously out of place, and then:

The adjacent yard was unfenced. She found a tree in the side yard that would be a perfect shady spot to sit. From the base of the tree, few could see her from the street and she had a good view of the MacArthur’s back yard.

This can’t end well.

She thought again of her mother and father. She knew she would not see them again for a long time—perhaps ever. She thought of her sisters and their families. But then she thought of Casey and the possibility that she would lose custody for something she did not do. As her thoughts swirled, tears welled up and she remembered her determination that she would cry no more. But the only thing that seemed to eliminate the possibility of more tears was to be reunited with her daughter at once.

This definitely can’t end well.

A sound roused her from her trance. It was the voices of three children. The MacArthurs’ twins and Casey came running and skipping out the back door to play.

Perhaps it was the moisture which soaked through. Perhaps it was simply breathing the fine northwest air which cleared her head. Perhaps it was the thought that her parents would miss their daughter as much as she would miss them. Perhaps it was the thought that her innocent daughter would become a fugitive. But whatever the reason, the would-be kidnapper got up, brushed herself off, got in her car, and drove away.

Okay, so, back on Friday morning when Gwen was sitting with Casey after their appointment with Dr. Schram, while Peter left them alone to talk to Dr. Schram for a moment, Gwen fantasized about grabbing Casey’s hand and running out the door and driving away, never to return. Several of my readers said it seemed perfectly realistic and perfectly reasonable for her to entertain such fantasies as such. But this? This was no fantasy!

Gwen packed two suitcases and wrote one letter to her parents and another to Peter, drove to the MacArthurs’ house, and staked out their backyard, waiting for Casey so that she could (presumably) grab her and run with her two blocks to the car, and then disappear, never to be seen again. Yes, Gwen changed her mind. But that she was willing to come this close to kidnapping her daughter from the foster home leaves me worried about her fitness as a parent.

Look, even if Gwen were to lose custody permanently, Casey would almost certainly be placed in Gwen’s parents’ custody. Bar that, they might be placed with Gordon’s parents, who (if I recall correctly) also live in town. Or perhaps, if Gordon were able to clean himself up and get a job, Casey would be placed with him. If for whatever reason none of these were found suitable, Casey would probably be placed in the custody of one of Gwen’s married sisters. Social services places a great deal of emphasis on keeping families together, and that often means placing children with relatives.

But honestly, the hearing going against Gwen on Tuesday wouldn’t mean she’d lose custody permanently to begin with. Even Dr. McGuire’s fraudulently negative psychological review recommended returning Casey to Gwen after parenting classes and therapy. Social services returns children to parents who bruised them all the time, generally after parenting or anger management classes, and often with some monitoring over the following months.

And you know what? Gwen’s lawyer, Peter, ought to have told her all of this. And maybe he would have, if he weren’t so busy telling her that he’ll never let them take Casey from her again—which yes, is a thing he told her. Great lawyer, that.

Anyway, Gwen drives away, freaking out.

Before she had gone six blocks, her thoughts became confused again and she knew she could not spend the day alone. We was afraid to go to her parents’ home, afraid that she might tip them off to her secret—but now aborted—plan. She wanted no one to know her intentions.

So Gwen stops at a convenience store, throws away the two letters she wrote, and calls Peter to tell him she wants to go to church with him. There’s a whole bunch of dialogue where Gwen asks for directions and Peter says it would be too hard for her to find on her own and them agreeing to meet at a MacDonalds at 10:30 so she can get in his car and he can be all manly and drive her to church.


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