TSoA: Chapter 6: Re-Introducing Agent Baines
As I linked in the last installment, Agent Hank Baines was the Nice FBI Guy from Babylon Rising. Despite his manners and deferential behavior at every turn, Murphy responded with the “righteous” anger and pointless bombasity that we have come to know and love.
Now, Agent Baines has purposefully sought Murphy out, for reasons currently unknown. So it makes sense that Murphy would take out his frustrations on an innocent man who was only trying to do his best.
It’s the Christian thing to do, right?
“…you’ve come to apologize on behalf of the FBI? After all this time? How nice.”
And Baines actually does apologize (not that he has anything to apologize for), and tells Murphy that he wanted to see him for “personal” reasons.
Alone, and on the wooded path surrounding the lovely Preston University.
DO I SMELL ROMANCE IN THE AIR???
No, instead, Murphy “take[s] pity on him,” and actually acknowledges that nothing that happened was Baines’ fault. Wow, big man, eh?
Then we get some explanation of why in the world Hank Baines would seek Murphy out for “personal” reasons: Baines has a daughter named Tiffany. This is the girl whom Murphy and Bob Wagoner have decreed shall be mentored by Shari (who still doesn’t know that this has been decided for her). Anyway, Baines is at the end of his rope with Tiffany…so he decided to call Michael Murphy.
Because a widowed, childfree Biblical archeologist is always the first person you should call when your teenager rebels!
Please note: I am not saying for a moment that the childfree cannot have valid and worthwhile views on parenting. I don’t have any kids, and I have opinions on parenting. We were all kids at one point, so we all are capable of giving advice on the trials and tribulations of being raised/growing up.
But that still doesn’t explain why Baines would seek out Murphy. He mentions that even though Murphy went through “all that stuff” six months ago, he “seemed to have an inner stability.” Now, we know from reading Babylon Rising that this is far from the truth, that Murphy was in fact prone to flying off the handle at the slightest provocation and was utterly unwilling to listen to any ideas other than his own.
But even were this not the case, even if Murphy had been a model of stability, why would Baines want to talk about raising his kid with a man he barely knows, the former subject of a FBI investigation, when he could have talked to a friend or a counselor or even the PASTOR OF THE CHURCH HIS DAUGHTER ATTENDS?
Most of the answer is that Murphy is the center of the universe, and so who wouldn’t want to open up to him about any and all problems in life? But this also has to do, I think, with a common feature of LaJenkinsian characters: their utter lack of friends. The best examples of this phenomenon are Rayford Steele and Buck Williams in the Left Behind series, neither of whom have anyone they care about (outside of immediate family, and kinda not even then) affected by the Rapture. Paul Stepola of the Underground Zealot series has no friends at all until Stuart “Straight” Rathe befriends him, and Straight only befriends Paul to convert him and recruit him to the zealots’ cause. (Straight even lampshades Paul’s friendlessness!) Joshua Jordan of The End series could be argued to have friends, but these are less friends and more his co-conspirators in a campaign to run a shadow government of the United States, so I’m not sure if that really counts.
And finally, Michael Murphy himself could be argued to be “friends” with Levi Abrams, but as I pointed out in the first book, this is less a friendship and more a contract wherein Murphy lets Levi punch him whenever he wants, and Levi in turn smooths the way for Murphy to quasi-legally enter other countries to hunt for treasure.
So, since Hank Baines, like any good LaJenkinsian character, has no friends, I guess it almost sorta kinda makes sense that he would call on Murphy, if you squint at it.
Right away, Murphy proves his sensitivity:
“So Tiffany’s the problem?”
Yep, that’s my kid, THE PROBLEM.
Actually, she is:
Baines nodded wearily. “I’ll say. The last straw was when she got arrested with some of her friends. [AN: Well, at least Tiffany has friends!] They were riding in a car, drinking beer and tossing the empty cans at people on the sidewalk. For someone like me, who spends his time trying to catch criminals, trying to keep the streets safe for people like Tiffany and her friends…”
Baines: …I wish I had some friends…
“…it’s tough to deal with.”
Um, okay, Baines, but I kinda think that underage drinking, drinking and driving, and assaulting pedestrians would bother just about anyone, not just law enforcement.
And Tiffany could have been hurt! I would think that would be the main concern of any good parent (not the only concern, but the main one). She was in a car with people who had been drinking and were obviously not paying attention to the road. She could have been hurt or they could have hurt someone else. She could be dead or seriously injured right now, Agent Baines. How about concentrating on that instead of on how this insults your career?
Murphy actually asks a decent question:
“When did you first think there was a problem?”
To which Baines gives an appropriately stupid answer:
“…it started with her room. She wouldn’t clean it up, it was always such a mess.”
Basically, Baines’ complaints about Tiffany center around Typical Teenager stuff (“…loud, excitable, argumentative, always changing her mind…”), and Murphy eventually zeroes in on the fact that Tiffany is the creative, artistic type, and Baines both is not, and has no use for such people:
“I like to deal with facts, logic. Everything in its right place. Details. Structure. Artistic people seem so messy and undisciplined to me. And they let their emotions take over.”
And so, Murphy the Parenting Counselor makes his diagnosis: Baines and Tiffany are different people, so they clash! And that completely explains why she went drinking and driving with her friends!
Not only does this completely ignore Tiffany’s relationship with her mother, but I need look no further afield than my own experience to dispute that. As a teenager, I clashed much more with my father than with my mother. And my father and I have very similar personalities: organized, driven, down-to-earth. I didn’t clash with my artistic, free-spirited mother much at all, certainly not in my mid- to late-teens, Tiffany’s age.
Baines rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “So what should I do? Is there some self-help book that’s going to tell me how to act around my daughter?”
Wait for it…
Murphy smiled. “There’s only one book that’s guaranteed to help—whatever the problem. And that’s the Bible.”
“The Bible has stuff about parenting?”
Jesus? Who’s that?
“Sure. In the Book of Colossians, Chapter Three, it says, Fathers, don’t aggravate your children. If you do they will become discouraged and quit trying.”
That’s true. Colossians 3:21 basically does say that.
Of course, Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
So perhaps advice should be taken based on how good it is, rather than the fact that it was written in an old book.
“…why not pick up the Bible and see what else you can find that’s relevant to your life? It’s never too late to start reading the Good Book.”
Murphy: For example, Proverbs 22: 15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” And Proverbs 23:13-14 says, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a road, and deliver his soul from Hell.” Hank, have you considered beating the ever-loving crap out of Tiffany? It’s never too late to take a lesson from the Good Book, after all.
On that note, Hank thanks Murphy for his AMAZING ADVICE and heads on his way. Murphy watches Baines’ retreating form, no doubt sighing for the romantic tryst that might have been:
Nothing like focusing on someone else’s problems to get your own in persepctive, he thought.
Yeah, my wife may have been brutally murdered and her killer may still be at large, and the Dean may have it in for me, but at least I don’t have some bratty teenager to raise…SCORE!