The Stranger

Page 6


How? How had the stranger known about this charge?
No idea.
Adam had seen the charge way back when, hadn’t he? Yes, he was sure of it. He racked his brain and scraped together the flimsy remnants of a memory. He had been sitting right here, checking the Visa charges. He had asked Corinne about it. She had made light of the charges. She’d said something about decorations for the classroom. He’d wondered about the price, he thought. Seemed high. Corinne had said the school was going to reimburse her.
Novelty Funsy. That didn’t sound like anything nefarious, did it?
Adam opened up another window and Googled Novelty Funsy. Google spit back:
Showing results for Novelty Fancy
No results found for Novelty Funsy
Whoa. That was odd. Everything was on Google. Adam sat back and considered his options. Why wouldn’t there be even one hit for Novelty Funsy? The company was real. He could see it on his Visa charge. He assumed that they sold some kind of decorations or, uh, fun novelty items.
Adam chewed on his lower lip. He didn’t get it. A stranger comes up to him and tells him that his wife lied to him—elaborately, it seemed—about being pregnant. Who was he? Why would he do it?
Okay, forget those two questions for now and let’s get to the one that matters most: Is it true?
Adam wanted to simply say no and move on. Whatever their problems, whatever scars were left from eighteen years of marriage, he trusted her. Many things slipped away with time, broke down and dissolved or, more optimistically, altered and changed, but the one thing that seems to remain and grow more cohesive is the protective family bond—you are a team, you and your spouse. You are on the same side, in this together, you have each other’s backs. Your victories are hers. So are your failures.
Adam trusted Corinne with his life. And yet . . .
He had seen it a million times in his line of work. Put simply, people fool you. He and Corinne might be a cohesive unit, but they were also individuals. It would be nice to trust unconditionally and forget the stranger ever appeared—Adam was tempted to do just that—but that felt a tad too much like the proverbial sticking your head in the sand. The voice of doubt in the back of his head might one day quiet, but it would never go away.
Not until he knew for sure.
The stranger had claimed that the proof was in this seemingly harmless Visa charge. He owed it to himself and, yep, Corinne (she wouldn’t want the voice around either, would she?) to follow up, so Adam called the Visa’s toll-free number. The recorded voice made him dial in the card number, the expiration date, and the CVV code number on the back. It tried to give him the information via a machine, but eventually the recorded voice asked whether he’d like to speak to a representative. Representative. Like he was calling Congress. He said, “Yes,” and heard the phone ring through.
When the representative came on, she made him repeat the exact same information—why do they always do that?—along with the last four numbers of his social security and his address.
“What can I help you with today, Mr. Price?”
“There’s a charge on my Visa card from a company called Novelty Funsy.”
She asked him to spell funsy. Then: “Do you have the amount and date of the transaction?”
Adam gave her the information. He expected some pushback when he said the date—the charge was more than two years old—but the representative didn’t comment on that.
“What information do you need, Mr. Price?”
“I don’t recall buying anything from a company called Novelty Funsy.”
“Um,” the representative said.
“Um, some companies don’t bill under their real name. You know, to be discreet. Like when you go to a hotel and they tell you the name of the movie won’t be on your phone bill.”
She was talking about pornography or something involving sex. “That’s not the case here.”
“Well, let’s see what’s what, then.” The clacking of her keyboard came over the phone line. “Novelty Funsy is listed as an online retailer. That usually indicates that it is a company that values privacy. Does that help?”
Yes and no. “Is there any way to ask them for a detailed receipt?”
“Certainly. It may take a few hours.”
“I guess that’s okay.”
“We have an e-mail for you on file.” She read off his address. “Should we send it there?”
“That would be great.”
The representative asked whether she could assist him with any other matter. He said no, thanks. She wished him a good evening. He hung up the phone and stared at the charge screen. Novelty Funsy. Now that he thought about it, the name did sound like a discreet name for a sex shop.
It was Thomas. Adam quickly reached for the screen’s off switch like, well, one of his sons watching porn.
“Hey,” Adam said, the very essence of casual. “What’s up?”
If his son found his father’s behavior bizarre, he didn’t show it. Teens were ridiculously clueless and self-involved. Right now, Adam appreciated that. What Thomas’s father did on the Internet couldn’t be the least bit interesting to him.
“Can you give me a ride to Justin’s?”
“He has my shorts.”
“What shorts?”
“My practice shorts. For practice tomorrow.”
“Can’t you wear other shorts?”
Thomas looked at his father as though a horn had sprung out of his forehead. “Coach says we have to wear the practice shorts to practice.”
“Can’t Justin just bring them to school tomorrow?”
“He was supposed to bring them today. He forgets.”
“So what did you use today?”
“Kevin had an extra pair. His brother’s. They were too big on me.”
“Can’t you tell Justin to put them in his backpack right now?”
“I could, yeah, but he won’t do it. It’s only like four blocks. I could use the practice driving anyway.”
Thomas had gotten his learner’s permit a week ago—the parental equivalent of a stress test without using an actual EKG machine. “Okay, I’ll be down in a sec.” Adam cleared the history on the browser and headed downstairs. Jersey was hoping for another walk and gave them the pitiful “I can’t believe you’re not taking me with you” eyes as they hurried past her. Thomas grabbed the keys and got behind the wheel.