Anonymous Tip: Plot Twist!

Anonymous Tip: Plot Twist! July 8, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 327-328

Plot twist! I read this book in high school, but I did not for the life of me remember this plot twist. I’m puzzling now on what it means, exactly.

David G. Humphrey anxiously tore open the Federal Express package. . . . It was the proposed fund raising mail package which would ask the members of Heart of America to give money to help Gwen and Casey Landis. His direct mail consultants were in San Diego and they were very, very good at telling a story in a way which would enthuse the propensity of people to open their mail—always the first hurdle—read it, and then get out their checkbooks and give.

If this sounds like it’s going in a bad direction, you’d be right.

The “P.S.” was fabulous, “Gwen’s need was so urgent, I have rushed her a check for $5,000—on faith. Faith in you, the members of Heart of America. This was money we didn’t have in our budget. But our staff members have waived their salaries until we can replenish our accounts. And Gwen’s case will cost ten or twenty times this amount. She needs your help—I need your help—today.”

Oh, but it gets better.

Next he examined the outside carrier envelope that would get the donor’s attention. Gwen and Casey’s picture was the prominent feature on the envelope. Below their images, printed in red, it exclaimed: “Daughter taken by Social Worker Fraud. Help Get Her Back!”

Farris explains that Humphrey knows this wasn’t accurate anymore, but that his “direct mail gurus” thought it would be most effective, and he was fine with that. In other words, Humphrey is sketchy, very sketchy. This is interesting, given that I didn’t notice anything sketchy per se in Farris’s initial introduction of Humphrey. I mean yes, I and many of my readers felt Humphrey was sketchy, but I didn’t think Farris felt he was, given his portrayal of Humphrey as a good, upstanding Christian leader.

I think I know what is going on, though. Farris is erecting Humphrey as a foil, to show how good, honest, and upstanding Peter is by contrast. Of course, we know that Peter isn’t all this. Peter blackmailed Gwen’s former lawyer into turning over her records without the required documentation, has yet to report said former lawyer to the bar for his blatant ethics violations, and has himself acted extremely unprofessionally (and unethically) around Gwen, holding her hands, visiting her in her home, running into Casey’s room, and generally wooing her and leader her on, while he is her lawyer and she is effectively a poverty case.

But Farris doesn’t think Peter’s actions are wrong. He thinks Peter is behaving as an upstanding gentleman toward Gwen. Here we’re going to get another example of what Farris thinks skeevy behavior actually looks like.

“Cindy, can you come in here, please?” he said into the intercom.

He did want her opinion of the mail package. But even more, he wanted a chance to see her walk across the room in the red minidress she was wearing. He was not disappointed.

. . .

As she began to read, he got up from his desk and went behind her, ostensibly to read over her shoulder. After a minute or two of “reading,” he reached out and gently put his hands on her shoulders and began to lightly massage her neck.

“Please, Mr. Humphrey. It makes me nervous when you do that. I know you are just trying to make me relax, but I don’t feel right about it. What if your wife came in? I know if my boyfriend came in, he’d be furious. Please.”

Humphrey removed his hands and said nothing. He liked her looks considerably. But he wished she would be more “cooperative.”

When we’re all done cringing, let’s make a few comparisons. Humphrey calls Cindy in in part to see her walk across the room. Peter has at times made excuses to call or see Gwen because he is attracted to her. Check. Humphrey finds an excuse to touch Cindy, because he wants to touch her. Peter did the same thing when he held hands with Gwen while praying in his office, and then didn’t let go after the prayer for so long they were both aware it was inappropriate. Check. The only difference seems to be that Gwen has never resisted Peter’s advances. Unlike Cindy, she has been “cooperative.”

But I don’t think Farris sees any of this. I’m fairly certain he is presenting Humphrey as a contrast and foil for Peter. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? As long as evangelicals like Peter think that men who prey on women (or children, or what have you) will be obvious and easy to recognize, they’ll miss most of them. Women face far more danger from men like Peter than they do from men like Humphrey. Abusers don’t generally come with neon lights. They’re generally far subtler, and that makes them dangerous.

Anyway, Cindy is the one who found the story in the newspaper for them originally, and Humphrey tells her that if the fundraising attempt works out she will find the rewards “substantial.” She asks what he means and he doesn’t elaborate. Instead, he explains that they’re going to send it out to the 118,000 addresses on their list, and then, if it goes well, they’ll rent additional lists from other groups. Humphrey says he thinks they can get it out to two or three million homes altogether.

Cindy asks about the bit about waiving their salaries, and Humphrey says not to worry about it. He says he has “a little bonus in mind” for staff, but that they’ll “have to waive those until the money comes in,” so he’s technically not lying. Cindy accepts that, and the scene ends.

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