So, everyone is in Seattle now, and it’s time for the hearing!
The trip over had been uneventful, except he [Peter] felt June and Stan asked a stream of questions that seemed more like an interview of a potential son-in-law than questions posted to a lawyer.
Is it normal for people to carpool with their lawyers? Google maps is telling me that it’s a four-hour drive. Also? Peter really brought this on himself.
Anyway, Peter is not in good shape mentally. He’s worried about the case, intimidated by Seattle’s skyscrapers, and dreading telling Gwen that he’s breaking up with her before their first actual date. He goes for an early-morning run to try to clear his mind and then heads to the hotel restaurant to meet Stan, June, and Gwen. He wears a blue pin-striped suit with a yellow tie.
He walked out of his room, punched the elevator button, and waited. The door opened, revealing Gail Willet, Matt Bartholomew, Donna Corliss, and Rita Coballo, all looking terrible uncomfortable as Peter entered the elevator.
“Good morning, everyone,” Peter said politely.
“Morning,” Bartholomew said. The women all stared silently at the lights of the passing floors as they descended.
Am I the only one who feels like this is really out of character for Gail?
Peter stepped aside to let the women get out first. Coballo stifled her thought to castigate Peter for his sexist manners.
Wait, how big is this elevator? I mean, Peter got in last. The last one in is supposed to be the first one out. If you get in last and then move aside inside the elevator to let the others out instead of just getting out, you’re being a jerk. I mean seriously? Chivalry is now about inconveniencing people?
Oh and when Peter gets to the restaurant Gwen of course remembers that Peter was wearing that suit the day they met.
“I have called Lynn to check on Casey a few minutes ago. They have called the church prayer chain to pray for you this morning,” Gwen said.
Farris finally remembered he couldn’t just leave Casey home alone for a few days! And of course she’s with Lynn, because of course she is. Did Gwen even have friends before she met Lynn? Honest question.
The foursome ordered breakfast and chatted carefully.
This is the second time Farris has used the term “foursome” in as many pages.
Anyway, Peter finishes eating and goes up to his room for his briefcase, returning five minutes later. As they head out, Gwen stops, gasps, and points.
The car was unmistakable with its dents and rusted paint spots. It was Gordon Landis turning into a parking garage on the opposite corner, to the south of the hotel.
Peter says that the hearings are “unfortunately” open to the public and that “for some reason” Gordon has been able to find out when the hearings occur every time. I wonder—if Peter took at that restraining order for Gwen as he suggested (has he?), wouldn’t that prevent Gordon from coming to the hearing? Or would this kind of thing be exempt? Also, while Gordon has clearly proven himself dangerous, let’s not forget that way back at the beginning of the book Gwen didn’t tell Gordon that his daughter was in foster care and that the social workers forgot to notify him (or even ask about the existence of a father). For all that Farris beliefs in parental rights, he appears to be very selective.
Anyway, they head in and find the appropriate room. They learn, in the process, which justices are on the panel of three that will be hearing the appeal—Judges Lasalle, Thorpe, and Boyle. And yes, Farris gives a paragraph-long biography for each. Lasalle was a corporate lawyer and Republican appointed to the bench by Bush I. Thorpe was a former juvenile judge and a woman, and clearly a “dangerous choice” despite also being a Bush I appointee. Boyle was a “philosophical liberal” appointed to the bench by Carter—a potential swing vote, apparently.
Peter’s not happy with the judges they drew, but decides not to let the others know this. They pace and wait and then it’s their turn. They prepare to enter, but first:
The foursome joined hands and Peter led them in prayer.
Really. Farris uses that word, again.
Farris spends a page describing the room and the seating arrangements. Then the judges enter. A lot of what follows is rehashing, but I do want to hit on a few points.
Thorpe asks Gail why Donna and Rita didn’t ask the juvenile judge for a court order to search Gwen’s house, on the basis of noncooperation. She said the judge probably would have granted it. Gail says she agrees that the judge would have, but that Peter would still take issue with this, because Peter disagrees with the standard of evidence and procedure used in child abuse investigations across the board.
“Child abuse investigations are not criminal investigations. Child abuse investigations are not merely conducted to find out who did what to whom; they are court-supervised inquiries designed, like the juvenile courts themselves, for the ongoing protection of children.”
Gail correctly gets at what we know is Farris’s position. My problem with this logic is that children are not possessions, and that homes belong to children, too. Parents should not be able to keep children from speaking with a social worker. Parents are responsible for children’s care, but they do not own their children. What that conversation should look like—how it should take place, whether the parent or a representative should be present, etc.—is up for discussion. But children are not possessions protected under the fourth amendment. To what extent should a parent be able to deny a social worker access to a child and the child’s home?
Anyway, Boyle asks how the court is to supervise a search that takes place before legal charges are filed, and the legal argument moves on. Peter concludes that Boyle is on his side. When Peter stands to speak, Thrope immediately jumps on him, asking whether he is “seriously” asking them to overturn the Supreme Court in Briscoe v. LaHue. The answer is yes, but the import we are to take away form this is that Thorpe is definitely not on Peter’s side. Peter says there should be an exemption to Briscoe because the allegations of tampering aren’t just allegations, they are proven.Peter also reiterates his position about search warrants. Thorpe pushes him on this, suggesting an exemption for social workers, but Peter states that it has been “settled for two hundred years” that “all government officials need search warrants to conduct non-consensual investigations in a person’s private home.” Thorpe points to Wyman, but Peter responds that that case was only decided as it was because the family took state money—in other words, searches of welfare recipients’ homes can take place without a warrant. This again feels very selective on Farris’s part.
But I told you I wasn’t going to get into the details here, because it really is a rehashing of what we’ve already heard. When it’s Gail’s turn for her final time, Boyle jumps on her immediately. Boyle suggests that social workers are more like police officers, not judges. Gail disagrees, and then her time is up. And then we get this:
“I would like to say to both counsel that this case has been briefed and argued at the highest level. We commend you all.”
This constant congratulation is getting tedious.
I could stop here, but we haven’t gotten to anything really interesting yet, so I’m going to soldier on through the end of the chapter. What comes next is predictable. Gwen gushes over Peter, and Stan wants to know how he thinks things went. Peter says it all depends on the third judge, Lasalle, who didn’t ask a single question. Peter says they won’t have the decision for one to six months. They decide to check out of the hotel, have “a nice lunch down overlooking the Sound” and then drive home.
They weren’t expecting Gordon.
When they exited the building, Gordon Landis appeared from nowhere.
“Here’s the happy family,” he said sarcastically. “Only one problem: they’re forgetting the child’s father.”
“Gordon, you—” Gwen said.
“Gwen, let me handle this,” Stan interrupted, putting his hand on her arm. “Gordon, you have been a nuisance to my daughter one to many times. We have always had a cordial relationship until now, despite the divorce, but you are starting to go over a line that is going to destroy all that.”
“Well, it is his fault,” Gordon said, pointing at Peter. “He’s wormed his way into Gwen’s life. He’s more than a lawyer. They’re all scumbags. But he’s worse. He’s taking advantage of my family and making moves on my wife.”
Peter’s face turned bright red.
Stan tells Peter to go back to the hotel separately, saying he’ll handle Gordon. He tells Gwen and June to wait inside the courthouse. The difficult thing here is that while Gordon is absolutely in the wrong—and scary, and dangerous—he’s absolutely right that what Peter has been doing is inappropriate. He also has reason to feel left out—no one even told him when Gwen was taken into foster care. But none of that makes his stalking and harassing at all okay.
So, Stan tries to work things out. They arrange that Gordon will pick Casey up from Stan and June’s house when he comes from visitation, and that if he has any concerns he will call Stan and June, not Gwen. But just when Stan thought they were finished, Gordon had one more demand.
“I want an understanding with you, Gwen, that Mr. Lawyer dude won’t be spending the night in the home with my daughter.”
I’d thought Gwen and June were waiting inside? Apparently not. Anyway, Gwen reiterates that “Peter and I have no romantic relationship at this point” and that it is “none of your business” and that even if they do have a relationship at some point they will “follow the highest moral standards” so Peter won’t be spending the night anyway. Stan demands that Gordon leave.
And then June speaks.
“I, for one, would love to have Peter Barron as a son-in-law. He would be a prince compared to you.”
Smooth, June, real smooth.
Stan shushes her and Gordon walks away, “June Mansfield’s words burning in his ears.” Oh boy oh boy I just realized what’s coming next. Gordon is very very very upset. He gets in his car and heads to Interstate 90 to go back to Spokane.
As he crossed the floating bridge over Lake Washington, eh turned the radio on to try to drown the words out of his head. June’s voice seemed louder and louder. He tried to scream them away, but the words “Peter Barron as a son-in-law” kept on torturing his mind.
Finally, he pulls off the highway and finds a tavern. He drinks two pitchers of beer and then staggers to the door and heads out to his car. Yep, you can see where this is going. He weaves as he heads back to the highway, but Interstate 90 was a large enough highway that he “felt invincible.”
The effects of the alcohol were becoming more pronounced by the minute. He swerved slightly as he passed the first of the three ski areas around Snoqualmie Summit. His head began to spin as he passed the second. The road was slightly wet, but only from occasional drizzle dropping from the grey October clouds. It would be at least a month before any snow would fall at this elevation.
He tries rolling down his window. It doesn’t help. And then there’s a truck.
Gordon turned the steering wheel sharply to go around the truck. He crossed completely over the left lane, his tires veering slightly off the pavement. Gordon tried to break, but his foot could not find the pedal. he swung sharply—much too sharply—back to the right just as the road took a gentle left-hand curve. Gordon’s 1987 Toyota went off the right-hand side of the road, rolled over once on the embankment, and plunged into the chilly October waters of Lake Snoqualmie. He passed out as his car rolled and never regained consciousness.
So yeah. That happened.