Today’s installment begins as follows:
Sally had never seen the tall, blond, bleary-eyed man standing at her reception desk before.
“I’d like to see Peter Barron, please,” he said.
“May I tell him whose calling?”
“I’m sorry, Gordon. May I ask your last name? We don’t seem to have you on the appointment calendar right now.”
“Just tell him Gordon is here. He’ll know.”
If you read the above carefully, you’ll see more evidence that this book didn’t have an editor. That aside, I think we can all tell that this section is off to an ominous start.
Sally got up, walked around to the reception desk, went slowly behind the stranger, and slipped into Peter’s office. She didn’t see the bulge in the left pocket of his rumpled slacks as she passed by.
A very ominous start.
Anyway, Sally tells Peter that some man named Gordon is here. She says she has a strange feeling about him. Peter guesses who he is immediately, of course—“It sounds like Gordon Landis—Gwen’s ex-husband”—and says he’ll see him. He asks if he appears to be drunk, and Sally says no, and Peter says it should be okay, then.
Sally shows Gordon in, and then hovers, not wanting to leave the doorway. Peter sends her to get Gordon some coffee, and when she gets back with the coffee she closes the door and leaves the two alone “as was her normal practice.” And then their conversation commences.
“What brings you here for a visit today Gordon? I’m surprised to see you, but not too surprised.”
“You shouldn’t be surprised—the way you’ve been acting lately.”
“Pardon me?” Peter said.
“The way you’ve been acting. I mean there you are on page one, with your arm around my wife. If you are doing that in public, in front of the cameras, what are you doing in private?”
Oh boy. Are there any men in this book who don’t feel entitled to ownership of Gwen? I mean for serious.
Peter signed heavily. “Oh, so that’s it.” He wished he could simply assure Gordon that he had the wrong idea totally and send him on his way, but he knew that such a story would fall short of the whole truth. On the other hand, Gordon’s apparently conclusions were vastly different from the reality of his relationship with Gwen.
First, that’s a guilty conscious you hear speaking there, Peter. You’re Gwen’s lawyer. You should be able to tell Gordon he has the wrong idea entirely and send him on his way.
Second, though, note how Peter differentiates between his relationship with Gwen and what Gordon thinks is actually going on. Peter presumably figures that since he’s not having sex with Gwen, things are completely different, but what he doesn’t realize is that an open, honest, equal relationship with Gwen in which the two are having consensual sex would be arguably more ethical than the mind games, twisted seduction, and power tripping he’s been playing with Gwen.
“Yeah, that’s it, bub. I want to know what is going on between you and my wife.”
“I hate to be technical with you, but she is your ex-wife. Right?”
“Not in my heart she isn’t. I’m trying to win her back.”
Peter’s theology hit him squarely in the face. According to Peter’s long-held view of Scripture, Gordon had the lessens of the right point.
Oh look! This is how evangelicals use Christianity to buttress and support abusive husbands! And not just husbands, exes! Your got divorced and your ex is erratic, threatening, and possibly dangerous, and he says you’re still his wife? Well guess what! You are! And if he wants you back, it’s your Christian duty to go back to him! I can’t even with how disgusted I am right now.
Look, Peter’s actions with Gwen are completely inappropriate given his position as her lawyer and, well, how he’s carried out the whole thing. But any halfway-decent man would respond to Gordon’s claim above by informing Gordon that no, Gwen is not his wife, Gwen has chosen to divorce him and he needs to abide by that claim. As Gwen’s lawyer, Peter should also tell Gordon that if Gordon keeps doing creepy things like threatening men he thinks Gwen might be seeing, he (Peter) is going to advise Gwen to take out a restraining order.
But what makes all this complicated is that if Gordon were a halfway-decent person himself, and not obsessing creepily (and dangerously) over his ex, he should be justifiably worried about Peter’s unethical involvement with Gwen, not because Gwen is still his—she isn’t—but because Peter is acting unethically and preying on Gwen. But because every single man in this entire book is a creep, there’s no one to actually stand up for Gwen and tell off the other creeps. And that is maddening. If this is the world Farris lives in, I don’t want it for second.
As Peter prepares to answer, Gordon pats his pocket, where Farris tells us he has a knife. He’s ready to use it, Farris says, but is waiting for Peter’s confession first. Here is how Peter responds:
“The reality is, Gordon, that this morning and every morning for the last several weeks, I have been praying that you would be reconciled with Gwen. Specifically, I have bene praying you would make the changes in your life that would allow Gwen to love you again. Right now, it seems it’s not possible for you to win her back, But if you would change, maybe it could happen.”
Gordon is shocked. Peter says he’s completely serious and explains that he’s “a born-again Christian.”
“That means I have asked Jesus to come into my life and forgive my sins. And I do my best to live my life according to the principles of His Word, the Bible.”
“One of those principles,” Peter continued, “is that it is God’s best for families to be reconciled. God hates divorce, the Bible says. And I believe that God’s best for you and for Gwen, and especially for Casey, would be for you to change so that your family can be made whole again.”
OMG. Yeah Farris, that’s a great idea—have Peter feed Gordon’s delusion that Gwen belongs to him, and his creepy stalker fantasies, that’s awesome. Great idea. Except not. This is like “how to enable abusers 101.” I’m frankly shocked that Gwen divorced Gordon only over his inability to get a job, and not over his increasingly apparent creepy possessiveness. Except no I’m not, because Farris doesn’t see Gordon’s possessiveness as wrong or a problem. WTF.
Gordon says he doesn’t believe Peter.
“You have got the hots for Gwen and don’t try to pretend you don’t.”
And then, creepily, Peter admits that’s partly true.
“There is no question about my admiring Gwen greatly. And if she were free to marry, I would definitely be interested in her. . . . But I can assure you there is absolutely no romantic and certainly no physical relationship going on between the two of us.”
Wait wait wait. What about all those moments of romantic and sexual tension, and the times he’s held her hands in a way they both recognized was inappropriate? How about the fact that he asked Gwen to wait for him for three months while he decides if he can change his religious views on divorce? Nothing to see there, folks! I mean honestly, given that Gwen is currently waiting for him, she’s actually not open to go back to Gordon—she told Peter as much, and he freaking asked that much! This is a whole lot of disingenuous BS going on right here.
Peter tells Gordon that Gwen has accepted Jesus as a savior, and that it has changed her life. That seems like an awfully private thing for him to tell Gordon, without checking with Gwen first.
“Would you like me to show you how you can become a Christian, Gordon? There are some basic principles from God’s Word I could share with you in a couple of minutes.”
This is starting to read like a horror story. I can almost imagine the creepy dim lighting and the robotic way in which these words were intoned, the result of their apparent frequent use.
Peter stood to take a Bible from a bookshelf in his office, but Gordon had had enough.
“I didn’t come here to hear Bible talk. I came here to tell you to keep your hands off my wife.”
“I can assure—”
“Shut up,” Gordon hissed. “I don’t want to hear anymore.” Peter’s answers had thrown him off. He did not know how to respond. His plan swirled in his head, and the confusion was growing.
“Listen buster, I don’t want to hear anymore of your God junk. I just want you to keep your filthy hands off my wife.
“OK, no problem, Gordon. I have and I will.”
“You’re a nut. A freakin’ nut.” He spun on his heel, lunged for the door—and half-ran, half-staggered out of the office and slammed the outer door with vengeance.”
And I ask, once again—why are there no good men in this book? For serious? Why are they all creeps and pervs? Both of the men in this passage are guilty of behaving shamefully toward Gwen, and as a result of that, neither of them can call the other out for their behavior. Instead, they feed on each other, engaged in some sort of grotesque dance in a contest of ownership over Gwen. This book stopped being about CPS malpractice a long time ago, and became something much, much darker entirely.
We all know what Peter should do next—phone Gwen immediately, tell her what happened, and suggest that she take out a restraining order. Peter may not have known Gordon brought a knife with him, but it should be patiently obvious from this interaction that Gordon is dangerous. But given that Peter still hasn’t reported Bill Walinski to the bar for his actions, I’m not putting my money on him doing what he should here, either. When it comes down to it, Peter doesn’t appear to care a damn about Gwen’s safety.