Anonymous Tip: The Damsel in Distress

Anonymous Tip: The Damsel in Distress August 12, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 341-349

Before we get into the meat of this section—a Peter/Gordon confrontation—there’s a bit about progress in the legal proceedings.

On Monday, September 25, there was an exchange of briefs. Both Barron and Willet had sent their original briefs, plus ten copies, off to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco by overnight delivery the previous Friday.

Yes, Farris really did call Peter by his last name there.

Anyway, this bit basically consists of Farris going on for a solid page about how impressed Peter was by Gail’s brief and how impressed Gail was by Peter’s brief.

First we get this:

Peter thumbed through Willet’s fifty-age effort. It was clearly a polished piece of work . . . Peter knew that he had his work cut out for him to answer her arguments.

And then we get:

Willet was surprised by the quality of Peter’s brief—both at his faithful adherence to the court rules for the format of appellate briefs as well as at the substance of his arguments.

Like, we get it, Farris. They’re both first-rate lawyers who are putting their best work into this case and doing really competent work. Peter and Gail have a mutual respect for the quality of each other’s work. How many times does Farris have to tell us this? And is it designed to ensure that we know that Peter is going up against the best of the best here, not just skating through?

Anyway. Next we move to Gwen. Her phone rings at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday the 27th. Farris tells us she assumes it’s Peter calling about the brief “he was supposed to have received the day before. And indeed we know he did receive the brief, on Monday the 25th. Time runs weirdly in Farrisland. Regardless, it is not in fact Peter, it is Gordon, and that is a bit of a problem because Gwen answered the phone with “Peter? Is that you?” This does not make Gordon happy.

“So you were expecting a call from that boyfriend of yours, were you?”

“He’s my lawyer—not my boyfriend. But it’s none of your business if he was.”

“It is always my business, Gwen. I still want to come back and be a family with you and Casey.”

“You just want my income. You never did want me or Casey.”

“That’s a lie and you know it.”

“Well, you never wanted us badly enough to get a job and support your family.”

Gwen tells Gordon to leave her alone and hangs up on him. But of course, he does not lead her alone. The next night, coming home from work, she thinks she’s being followed. Second guessing herself, she assumes its nothing, and arrives home without a problem. Her father was there, having  put Casey to bed; he leaves when Gwen gets home. But Gordon had been following Gwen, and had pulled off to watch until Stan’s car went by, so he would know when Gwen was alone.

Gordon finished the open bottle of beer in his car and walked to Gwen’s door. Gwen didn’t recognize the knock, so she peeked through the window to see who was there before opening the door. Seeing Gordon, she immediately dead bolted the door.

“Gordon, what do you want?” she yelled through the door.

“I’m just checkin’ to see if that boyfriend of yours is coming to spend the night. I don’t want him hanging ’round my daughter.”

Gordon refuses to leave. Gwen calls her parents’ house, but no one picks up. Next she calls 911.

“My ex-husband is sitting on my doorstep and says he is going to stay there all night.”

“Is he threatening to break in?”

“No,” Gwen said, “he’s just there to annoy me all night long. I can’t go to sleep, I’ll be afraid as long as he’s out there.”

“Is he armed?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, ma’am, we’ll send someone out, but this is not a true emergency. it may take forty-five minutes to an hour to get an officer to come out.”

Gwen’s not okay waiting that long. She’s scared. She calls Peter, who is still at his office, working on his reply to Gail’s brief. Farris tells us she just wants to hear Peter’s voice, to have him on the phone until the police arrive, but when Peter finds out what’s going on he says he’s coming there to confront Gordon.

“I don’t know, Peter. You showing up is sure to anger him.”

“Don’t worry about that. I just want to make sure that you and Casey are safe.”

“But I really want to keep you on the phone until the police arrive. I’m scared, Peter.”

“Look, Gwen. I’ll call you from my car phone in less than two minutes and I’ll keep you on the line until I pull up on front of your house.”

“Okay, I guess.”

Oh good god. Gwen doesn’t know how to actually say “no” to Peter. Instead she does what many women do and tries to find ways to bring him around to her position without ever being direct. Peter, for his part, doesn’t know how to actually hear or accept Gwen saying “no” to him. Once he’d decided he was coming to her house, Gwen had absolutely no say in the matter. Peter’s the man, of course—with the protector instinct that comes with that—so he surely knows better anyway. SMH.

When Peter shows up things turn violent. Surprise surprise!

“I ain’t going’ nowhere, lover boy. You gonna make me?”

Gordon closed the gap between the two men and half-shoved, half-hit Peter right in the stomach. Peter tensed just before the impact; Gordon felt like his hand had struck a brick wall.

Peter grabbed Gordon’s arm and held on. “Let’s go, Gordon,” Peter said calmly.

Gordon jerked wildly, attempting, but failing, to get away. He swung wildly with his free left arm, but Peter ducked without difficulty. Peter quickly adjusted his hold on Gordon’s right arm, jamming one forearm behind his back and holding the other arm in a half-nelson and applied just enough pressure to let Gordon know he had only painful alternatives.

“All right, Gordon—move.”

Peter force-marches Gordon to his car, puts him in the driver’s seat, and slams the door. Not having any alternative, apparently, Gordon starts his engine and drives away. Gordon apparently doesn’t think about the fact that he now has physical superiority and could run Peter over. If I were Peter, that’s something I would have worried about, but I don’t think Farris thought of that. Instead, Gordon just drives away, shooting out of his window:

“This ain’t over, lover boy. It’s just round one.”

With Gordon gone, Gwen let Peter in and threw herself in his arms.

“Peter, oh Peter, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Gwen’s helplessness is turning Peter on, and quickly, but his study of the Bible hasn’t changed his position on marrying divorced women, so he extricates himself and sits on a couch several feet away from her.

“What am I going to do about him?” Gwen asked.

“I don’t know for sure. But Gordon is really asking for it.”

“I was really proud of the way you handled him. You made him get into the car without getting into a real fight. I think he was afraid of you.”

Peter blushed. “I think e should ask the police to have a talk with him. If that doesn’t work, I can file a restraining order against him. Then if he shows up on your property again, the police will have the authority to arrest him immediately. They won’t give you the same run-around again.”

Finally someone mentions a restraining order. Finally.

Peter and Gwen briefly discuss the case and the briefs. Peter says the oral arguments are scheduled for October 26. Gwen mentions that since Peter said he’d give her an answer on his position on marrying divorced women by the end of October. Peter says he’s still confused about that and hasn’t been able to come to a conclusion. And then the cops show up.

Gwen lets the officer in and explains that she was so scared she called her lawyer. We learn that “Peter’s name was generally known among the Spokane police force,” which seems odd given how large Spokane is, and the officer greets Peter with familiarity. When he asks whether there’s any more trouble right now, Peter explains about Gordon and about what happened and—you guessed it—does literally all the rest of the talking. Gwen doesn’t say a thing. Once the officer leaves, Peter says he should go, and opens the door. Gwen steps close to him.

“Peter, I don’t think I have ever said to this to you. And I probably shouldn’t say it right now. But tonight has shaken me up. Peter, I don’t know what I”ll do if you tell me things are over between us. I want you to love me and protect me forever.”

She was so close and trembled in anticipation. Peter leaned over and kissed her ever so gently on the cheek. “Something’s going to happen tow work all this out. I can’t stand it either. Believe me.”

He tried to get out the door quickly to keep her from noticing. But she saw the glimpse of the tears flowing down his cheeks.

“Good night, Peter,” was all she said.

This relationship really is revealing so much about Farris’s worldview. Earlier, when asked to explain what attracts him to Gwen, Peter mentioned her vulnerability and helplessness. This would be a very different book if Gwen were to respond to all of this by being assertive and standing up for herself, rather than by leaning on Peter every step of the way. She’s playing the damsel in distress, and Peter is eating it up.

In Farris’s worldview, men are to be the protectors and providers and women are to be the nurturers and keepers of the home. You almost couldn’t get a more perfect example of that dichotomy than what we find in Peter and Gwen. Gwen is a nurse, which is generally thought of as a nurturing profession. She’s her family’s breadwinner, but she doesn’t want to be—in her phone conversation with Gordon, she cited his failure to get a job and “support your family” as her reason for breaking things off with him. Peter, for his part, is the consummate protector. He is attracted by Gwen’s helplessness and wants to take care of her. That sounds like a great basis for a relationship.

Once again, I’m left shaking my head.

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