Character Spotlight: Tony Brindell.
Couple’s Therapist Anthony Brindell is a guiding light when placed among characters swathed in so much seedy darkness.
He’s a gentle man, personable and empathetic. He makes a principled living out of repairing the lives of the deeply troubled with his couple’s counseling and radio show.
Wife Sophie and his two amiable teenage daughters bolster this man’s fine family image, which is one of stability and good morality.
Counselor Tony is a man of the people and he’s worked hard at reaching out to the right ones, the common-folk.
Instead of a suit and tie seated professionally in a deep-leather chair, he welcomes his clients with an upwards-facing handshake and sits right beside them, in a seat no greater than their own.
At first glance, you’d mistake him for a biker. If it weren’t for his open-collared shirt, brown trousers and shoes, you’d swear he’d have a jacket emblazoned with club colours hanging somewhere in his wardrobe.
Although he has no visible tattoos, his close-shaven head and beard give him a tough-guy appearance.
He doesn’t own a motorcycle, at least not that we we’re aware of. He’s more likely to be camping with his girls on weekends than riding down a highway to escape them.
You wouldn’t know it right away but Tony is a Christian. He’s never said much about it during counseling sessions but he is an extremely dedicated one. His life coach is Christ himself and he models his life right after Him.
Touching the people at the community level is what he’s all about. This is how the Great Counselor did it when his feet graced this earth, so too does Tony in these modern times.
Originally, he wasn’t meant to play such a dominant role in the narrative. His only purpose was to be a vehicle in which let a reader hear one of his client’s secret confessions. As Tony listens to an evil story unfold, so do we.
It was clear that Tony was becoming something more than this by the time I’d passed the halfway mark. He too has a history. His intersects with our protagonist’s and they’re bound to each other by the time we arrive at the final page.
But the reasons behind why he came to be counsellor had to be explored. I just had to find out more about him.
What were his motivations and passions when he was younger? Why counseling? Why THIS approach to counseling?
It’d be lovely to believe a man like Tony had all these qualities in-built from the start and simply wanted to be the best person he could be while helping as many people along the way.
As you know, I don’t let my characters off that easily! (Besides, that’s a cheesy version of counselor and too perfect to be real!)
Tony wasn’t always a counsellor. His first job was a high-school teacher.
Studying to become one came with a great deal of optimism and hope. He sat in a lecture theatre and would dream about how he could fix the world through his teaching. Not only could he educate the young on a specialized subject but he’d be able to offer them good life-instructions too, something that modern education lacked.
Children need good role models in order to learn and become decent adults. He felt he had the right traits to lead them down the proper path. It’d turn them into quality young men and women, ensuring a better humanity for the future.
He graduated with distinction and was given his first placement right away… but teaching wasn’t anything like what he expected it to be.
He was handed a classroom and a bunch of kids and told to teach them. He’d been thrown into the deep end and was expected swim or sink. It was chaos and nobody appeared to care that he was drowning.
He asked for help but no assistance was forthcoming. Everyone else was too busy managing their own kinds of chaos to afford him the time.
Six weeks into the school year, he left.
The dreams of a university student were shattered. Few teachers last the distance for the very same reasons. It’s tough being an educator.
Some say he left because of something else. There was a certain girl in class who’d shown him an unusual amount of attention.
Tracey had quite a crush on her new teacher. He wasn’t that much older than her and was quite charming whenever he spoke. Her girlfriends said nothing ever happened between them but the faculty wasn’t so sure.
It was convenient he left when he did.
That’s when he found God.
He turned to mentoring teens at a local youth shelter. It didn’t pay much but it gave him a much better taste of the kind of teaching he felt he was born to do. Without a major bureaucracy dictating educational outcomes to him, he could move at his own pace, listening and guiding young adults through their difficult years with calm and compassion.
He studied to became a Pastor and, later, had his own church at the low end of town. He helped the elderly, the sick, those who were on the poverty line and anyone who else who asked for it.
He set up a youth ministry and ran vacation camps for the youngsters during school breaks. Tony was very determined. He believed the answer to fixing most of the community’s problems was to mentor young people and give them a solid start.
They needed to be taught good morals and ethics and how to be independent and strong so they could raise children to be the same. They had to find their inner Faith and God. He was there, they just had to trust Him.
It worked. Youth confidence grew and its grades went up. Families became more stable. Everyone in Church wore smiles on their faces, not just on Sundays!
Word got out that this young Pastor had been achieving fantastic results in the suburbs. A Christian radio station from the city rang him and offered him a job: Youth counseling over the airwaves.
Teen-Talk has now become one of the most popular talk-back shows in the station’s schedule. For Tony, it added a great deal of credibility to a home counseling business he’d opened only months earlier.
New clients were calling him for help and it was all because of Teen-Talk. Tony also mentioned he had a couple’s counseling service and the phone just kept on ringing.
Samantha Felding had heard his show in her car. She liked his voice. He sounded so calming and sensible. He was also a Christian man. This appealed to her most. It’s what brought her to call the station.
Sam and her husband Mitchell were having problems. It’d been that way for a while. Nothing they tried before had worked. Things weren’t getting any better.
And this is where chance and opportunity in the book’s narrative meet. The three stories merge right at Tony’s office, during his upwards-facing handshake.
The Catholic wife, a brow-beaten husband and a calmly spoken therapist work together on healing this couple’s festering wounds. Each are fostering secrets.
For four years the couple meet with their biker-looking counsellor for support and guidance in hope that the issues that’d been dogging their marriage would go away.
And then one day, Mitchell arrives unannounced at Tony’s office with a knife and a backpack. He ties Tony to a chair and forces him to listen to the truths that were never spoken during any of the couple’s sessions.
It’s a story that’s so unbelievable it’s difficult to grasp right away. It’s too abhorrent to be true. Tony wants to vomit right there on the office floor.
Just when Mitchell finishes telling his tale, he drops another bombshell.
He knows all the circumstances surrounding Tracey Logan’s rape during the six weeks Tony was her high-school teacher. He’s found one of the notes she’d passed him during class time. It’s evidence that they were meeting after school.
There’s even more.
Mitchell claims to know what’s been happening at the youth camps Tony arranges for his Church each year. The education Tony’s been giving the teenagers has gone beyond providing them with simple mentoring and leadership skills.
It sends chills down the counselor’s spine… it’s also enough to keep him silent long after Mitchell leaves his office.
So you see, our good Christian man has another side to him. No longer is he a ‘vehicle’ delivering a story but an integral part of a new and more complex one.
This gave me a different ending to the one I originally expected, one that opened up a few new doors. I can see them taking me to the books that follow SEETHINGS.