Anonymous Tip: The Conservative Episcopalian

Anonymous Tip: The Conservative Episcopalian December 2, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 439-450

We’re going to go quickly, and with a lot of summary, because I really don’t feel like typing lots of things out today. Here goes!

When sleazebag Humphrey found out the case was going to the Supreme Court, he spotted an opportunity to make even more money off of it. He called Peter, who asked for a financial report after getting over his surprise that he was finally talking to Humphrey again—he had rightly deduced that Humphrey was avoiding him. Anyway, Humphrey says he wants to throw a gala in D.C. while they’re all there for the case—a big appreciation banquet—and that he’ll give him a check for his attorney’s fees there. Peter says that’s fine, and the gala is set for the evening of the day when Peter will be giving his oral argument before the Supreme Court.

Oh but there’s one other thing. Peter wants some  money upfront for airfare and hotel bills, for himself, Gwen, and Professor French. Humphrey says that’s fine.

“I need three tickets and three rooms.”

“OK, you need one, who are the others?”

“I need one for Gwen, she’s my fiancé now.”

“Really? Congratulations.”

“And I need one for Professor Charles French from the University of Michigan. He has argued over thirty cases in the Supreme Court and has been helping me with this one for free. I really need him for the final preparations. And he’s going to sit with me in oral argument and kick me under the table if I do anything wrong.”

“OK. Another ticket from Michigan.”

“So will that be two rooms or three?”


“I thought that the two of you, now that you are engaged—”

“Mr. Humphrey, maybe you don’t remember, but I told you in our first conversation that I am a born-again Christian. It will be three rooms, thank you very much.”

“Be that way,” Humphrey said under his breath after he hung up. “Your check just got cut in half.”

Yes, Farris messed up the dialogue—Humphrey has to have said both “OK. Another ticket from Michigan” and “So will that be two rooms or three?” But the point remains—Humphrey suggests that Peter should share a room with Gwen since they’re engaged, and Peter is offended. And yet, this doesn’t make him question taking money from Heart for America, even though when they first talked Humphrey claimed to also be a born-again Christian. I suppose he really needs the money.

Anyway, Humphrey calls Cindy in and tells her to book the hotel rooms and also to contact hotels about setting up the gala. There will be something mailed out to their constituents inviting people to the gala, but only if they paid up—only donors who gave at least $100 would be allowed in the room, with higher tiers for special seating and access. When he tells Cindy to book the rooms and the flights he also tells her that she gets to go too—a fun vacation of sorts. But when she asks who will be sharing a room, based on the discrepancy between the number of tickets and the number of rooms she’s to book, she learns she’s to share with Humphrey.

As the words of protest were forming on her lips, Humphrey interrupted. “And it’s a great way to ensure those large bonuses as well as guarantee your job security, if you get my drift.”

So yeah. That happened.

Next Gwen and Peter finally make it to the travel agency about their honeymoon.

They considered the Caribbean and Cancun, but settled on the more traditional Hawaii.

Wait. I thought Peter was strapped for cash, working charity cases like Gwen’s and having to ask Humphrey to send him the money ASAP so he can have things mailed? And Gwen is too broke to afford a lawyer? I mean in theory, a lawyer married to a nurse should be able to have a honeymoon as described—but isn’t money a bit tight for these two?

There’s a whole conversation with the travel agent that I won’t bother you with, but the long and short of it is that they chose a private, less traveled area of Hawaii, away from tourist traps or city lights.

“It’ll be perfect. Can you give us prices for airline tickets, a jeep rental and two weeks at Turtle Bay?” Peter asked, turning to Gwen for her agreement.

It’s like on those TV shows where the characters are always dropping everything to fly across the country or buy a new expensive something and you have no idea where all this money is conveniently coming from. But then maybe I’m just jealous. Two weeks in Hawaii without children sounds amazing.

With that, we’re back to Humphrey, who had his wife drop him off at they airport early so she wouldn’t run into Cindy. But as some readers predicted, Cindy has other ideas. She headed to the office instead of the airport and copied scads of financial documents before the office opened. She put these materials in a mailing envelope and then “left to spend the rest of the day with her boyfriend,” who is conveniently available during a work day. But hey, whether he’s unemployed or works the night shift or is self employed is really irrelevant, he almost by definition can’t be worse than Humphrey. Good for Cindy.

Gwen and Peter fly into D.C. and meet Professor French for the first time at the airport.

He was sixty, about five foot six, white haired, with a healthy glow radiating in his face, and piercing steel-blue eyes.

Of course he has a healthy glow. Because he’s one of the good characters. How could he not. Professor French tells Peter to call him Charlie, and all of a sudden that’s what Farris is calling him too. Okay then. The trio rents a car and Charlie gives them a tour of D.C., which Gwen has never visited. When they go past the Supreme Court, Gwen asks to stop, so they park temporarily in a reserved area and walk up to the steps in front of the Supreme Court. Gwen suggests that they pause to pray. Because of course she does.

It’s at this point that we learn more about Charlie:

“My wife and I attend a conservative Episcopalian church that believes the Bible is the unchangeable word of God, not a negotiable instrument you pick and choose from.”

That’s . . . weird. It’s as though Farris wants Charlie at a mainline church, because he wants to make it clear that Charlie is older and established and well respected in his field and in the world, but he also wants Charlie to be a born-again Christian, because he’s one of the good guys, so he has to be. So we get something strange—an Episcopalian speaking evangelicalese. That’s weird.

Peter appreciated the professor’s prayer very much indeed. But it was the prayer of his bride-to-be that really touched his heart. Last May, she was crying, spiritually lost and forlorn in the back parking lot of the Spokane County Courthouse. And now, eleven months later, she was upholding him in prayer sitting in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. God was indeed a mighty God.

First, this may be the most speedy trip through the courts I’ve ever heard of; it usually takes cases years to make it up to the Supreme Court. But second, Peter, you preyed on a needy and vulnerable woman. Nice going, there. And to be perfectly honest, Gwen seemed to be fine before Peter met her. She was only crying at that moment because her scumbag lawyer lost her case and then tried to coerce her into giving him sexual favors at the exact moment her daughter was being put into foster care. Speaking of which, has scumbag lawyer been reported to the bar? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Nice going, Peter.

At about this time Humphrey is starting to panic about Cindy’s failure to show. He’s in D.C. now, and hasn’t been able to get ahold of her anywhere. Finally he checked his voicemail—last, for some reason—and found that she’d left a message: “I quit. And I’ll get even.” The weird thing here is that Cindy is never portrayed as a Christian. In fact, she’s explicitly portrayed as a not-Christian. Humphrey met her working in a bar, and she wears short skirts—that’s “not-Christian” in Farris language. And yet, she’s doing the right thing here, both in forcefully refusing Humphrey’s overtures and in—well, I guess you’ll have to wait and see what Cindy did with the financial information she copied.

Now we’re at the hotel—the Hyatt Regency—and Charlie and Peter want to talk shop.

At first, the professor was reluctant to discuss the case in great detail at risk of being rude to Gwen. But she promptly reminded him acts he was the client, and not only was she interested, but she wanted nothing more than the most efficient use of their time so they could be at their best on Thursday.

Oh ho, so Charlie’s part of Peter’s sexist old-boys’ club. Fabulous.

Anyway, it turns out that Gwen’s room is a floor below Peter’s. I initially thought this was Farris trying to point out how good, godly, and chaste Peter was—that it was not enough for Peter for them to have separate rooms if they were only a few doors away from each other—but then I remembered that Cindy booked the rooms. Maybe it’s a statement about how busy and important the hotel is, that it didn’t have two rooms next to each other available when Cindy booked them, because they were so booked up?

The next morning dawns bright and early and it turns out that they still have a full day before the case goes before the Supreme Court. That would make this Wednesday. Gwen heads out for some sight seeing, and Peter and Charlie head to the Supreme Court to watch the two cases scheduled for that morning. Then, in the afternoon, a former student of Charlie’s prepared a moot court session of seven lawyers who had argued a combined seventy-nine cases before the Supreme Court. Presumably they’re all donating their time for free, because with those resumes, I’m assuming their hourly billing is steep, and it says here that they grilled Peter for three straight hours.

Peter soon realized how impossible it would have been without the professor’s tutelage. Peter was, in every way, the least experienced person in the room, but he knew the case best, and he was willing to listen and learn.

Is that kind of like parents who refuse to listen to defer to medical experts because they “know their child best”? At least Farris is aware that Peter is not a constitutional lawyer and that he has absolutely zip experience.

When Gwen and Peter get back to the hotel they find a package waiting for them at the front desk. It’s from Cindy Walters. The instructions with it say to open it after oral arguments and before the banquet—i.e., the next afternoon. Peter gives it to Gwen because he says it’ll drive him crazy if it’s in his room, because he’ll want to peek. I was momentarily relieved that it wasn’t Gwen who was saying that—it felt just like the kind of flighty thing Farris would have her say—but then we get this:

[S]he resolved that she would take a quick peek when she got it to her room, just to make sure there would be no unpleasant surprises.

… Gwen glanced in the package, thumbed through a couple dozen pages without removing them from the package. “Just a bunch of financial reports. She’s right. Peter can read these later.”

My god Farris, stop keeping Gwen in this constrictive box! Let her character out! She’s a trained nurse, for goodness sake! I’m pretty sure the magnitude of the numbers would have jumped out at her even if she’d found financial documents totally boring!

So then Peter, Gwen, and Charlie have supper, and Peter slept very restlessly.

Can I just say how sick of the men in this book I am? Bill Walinski was a sexual predator. Gordon was veering into dangerous stalker territory. Stephen is seeing women on the side, and hiding it from his girlfriend. Humphrey is scamming everyone and was sexually harassing his assistant until she decided she’d had enough and left. Blackburn blackmailed his employees and planned to set off a bomb. Peter pursued his client and got her to fall in love with her after telling her he could never date her. Charlie assumes Gwen won’t want to hear or be able to understand talk about her own case, which feels sexist as all get-out—and he expressed no concern at all about Peter dating his client. Stan tried to push Gwen at Peter in a way that made me really uncomfortable. McGuire accepted a bribe and lied before the court. Wally Elrod took delight in calling Rita “Mrs. Coballo” even after she told him it was “Ms. Coballo.”

Christ, this list is way longer than I thought. Who is left? Aaron? Joe? I suppose neither of them has done something really egregious, but then, they both overlooked Peter pursuing Gwen, and Aaron was a-okay with a computer investigation that could have been thrown out based on the fact that he wasn’t a neutral third party. I suppose that leaves Officer Donohue and Stephen’s father, but then, we didn’t see much of either of them. Also, I’m suddenly tempted to count and compare the number of male and female characters and make a comparison. Donna, Rita, Gail, Gwen, Lynn, June, Cindy—yep, there’s definitely a deficit. I suppose we could count Lila—but then we’d probably have to count the guy who blew up his truck, too, and Judge Romer—and maybe even Judge Rose.

Okay, back on track—my point is that this book is chock full of shitty male characters. Some of these characters Farris agrees are shitty—they’re practically stereotypes—but others he thinks are a-okay. And that’s really weird to read.

Next week—on to the Supreme Court!

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