Chapter 1: Don't Get Upset
I was sitting in the cab of my Toyota Tundra letting the engine run. Thirty below on a dark mid-November afternoon in Fairbanks, Alaska, you needed to let your vehicle warm up. I had only been in the doctor's office for about an hour, but it was long enough that a ten minute engine warm up was necessary. It also gave me time to gather my thoughts before I headed home.
I turned on the cab light and picked up the papers the nurse had given me as I was leaving the office. The important page was on top: Notice of Venereal Disease Infection in large letters and right under it was my name, Carl Stevens. Two types of VD, recently contracted, probably in the past 4 or 5 weeks. And at the bottom of the page, a list of all my sexual partners over the past 6 months and only one name: my wife Annie.
I had my annual physical on Tuesday, and I was complemented by the Doctor: excellent health for a 57 year old. Then his office had called Wednesday and asked me to come back in. Something came back in the lab tests, and they wanted to talk to me in person.
Alaska has one of the highest VD rates in the nation, and the medical community was very aggressive in their VD treatments and in identifying infected sexual partners. The doctor made me promise to bring Annie in for an exam on Monday, as his office was closed on Fridays in the winter. If she didn't come in on Monday morning, the doctor would report her to the state health Department, and a Health Officer would visit our house that afternoon.
I work as a managing engineer for the state transportation department. My engineers design roads and airports for northern Alaska. It is interesting work. When my engineers encounter problems they follow the three "don'ts" and three "dos" that I established: Don't get upset; Don't feel sorry for yourself; Don't make assumptions; Do investigate the facts; Do formulate a plan; Do execute the plan.
Now I was going to follow my own process. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and went to the logical, rational place in my mind that my inner engineer knew so well.
Emotions temporarily contained. I chose not to get upset.
I smiled. My inner engineer always enjoys a challenge.
I put the medical papers in my briefcase, turned off the cab light and headed to the Safeway pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions the doctor had sent over. I texted Annie's cell phone to see if she wanted me to pick up anything else at the store. No response from her by the time I checked out at the store, so I left.
Chapter 2: Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself
Leaving Safeway, I headed out onto the Parks Highway. We lived in a small, well-insulated 2-bedroom house near Ester, about 7 miles south of Fairbanks. It was a little isolated, but it had a great view of the Brooks Range.
I parked in the heated garage next to Annie's SUV and went into the house. As I opened the house door, I was greeted with the aroma of baked salmon. Annie was a great cook, and our freezer had an ample stock of Alaskan fish and game, enough to last the long winter. I shed my coat and boots and entered the kitchen.
"Hi, Carl!" Annie said with enthusiasm as she gave me a quick kiss. "Salmon for dinner tonight!"
"Hi, Annie, it smells delicious. When do we eat?"
"Your timing is great. We eat in ten minutes, so go wash up and change your clothes."
"I had to stop by Safeway on the way home, and I texted to see if you needed anything," I stated.
"I put my cell phone on the charger in the office," she explained as she removed the salmon from the oven. "I guess I didn't hear your message."
I nodded in acknowledgement and left the kitchen to clean up and change clothes.
Over dinner we talked about our day. Annie asked about the second doctor visit.
"Well, the lab tests came back showing that I had a urinary tract infection," I lied. "I have to take antibiotics for 3 to 6 weeks, and no sexual contact at all during that time. I will have to go in and be tested several more times to be sure the infection is gone.
"And you have to be tested, too, Annie."
"The doctor said that this infection can easily be transmitted between us, so it is highly likely you are infected, as well. I made an appointment for nine Monday morning. I can go with you."
"Damn!" she yelled. "I don't like doctors, and I don't like taking drugs!" She paused. "And I don't like missing love making. 3 to 6 weeks. That sucks!"
Up until six weeks ago Annie and I had a great sex life for a couple in their late 50s. We usually made love 2 or 3 times a week, with plenty of spontaneous kissing and making out whenever we were home together. Since Annie returned six weeks ago from a trip to see her mother we had only made love occasionally.
Annie was 59, and we had been married 22 years. We were deeply in love. Earlier in our history, we both had cheating spouses: she in California and me in Anchorage. We both came to Fairbanks to start over again. Our courtship was long, almost 2 years, but we had trust and betrayal issues to work through. We vowed never, never to cheat on each other. That vow became the foundation of our relationship and our marriage. And we trusted each other completely.
Chapter 3: Don't Make Assumptions
After dinner, I helped Annie in the kitchen, washing and cleaning up. Afterwards she asked me to join her in the living room to cuddle and watch television.
"Go ahead," I offered. "I need to check home email. I'll join you in a half hour or so, okay?"
"Sure thing," Annie responded.
I went to our home office and logged in to my home email account. I found the last 3 months cell phone statements for both our cell phones. We had a family plan with shared minutes. The cell phone bill was set up as an auto-pay, and the statements were emailed to me. I rarely did anything more than glance at the statement before moving it to an archive folder.
Annie had returned from a four-week trip to the San Francisco Bay area about six weeks ago. Her 89 year-old mother resided in an assisted living complex in San Jose, and Annie was committed to seeing her mother every year. She also had several old friends in the area that she saw during her trips. In previous years she had taken two-week trips, but this year she announced that she needed to spend more time, as her mother may not have much time left.
Engineers love numbers, patterns and puzzles. I transferred the cell phone call records to a spreadsheet and began looking for regular patterns. It was easy. Annie called or received a call from a Bay Area telephone number between 10:00 to 10:30 am each Monday, Wednesday and Friday when I was at work. Sometimes the calls were short, a minute or two; other calls lasted 20 to 25 minutes. She also often called a number with the same area code on the weekends at the time when I was usually working out in the gym at the Alaska Club.
The weekend number was easy to find on the internet: the home phone for Bill and Carol Pike. Bill and Carol had been Annie's close friends for over 30 years. They had helped her when her first marriage collapsed, letting Annie stay in a room over their garage for 6 months while she put her life back together before her move to Fairbanks.
I ran into a blank wall with the weekday number on the internet, so I called it on Annie's cell phone. The number rang five times, then went to voice mail:
"Hi, this is Bill Pike. I'm out of the office right now, so please leave a number and I will respond to your call when I return." I hung up.
I saved the spreadsheet, closed the programs and shut down the computer. Then I joined Annie in the living room watching television. My emotions were churning and angry, demanding to ask Annie questions, but my rational mind said, "Not yet. Be patient. We need more facts."
Chapter 4: Investigate the Facts, Part 1
It was a normal Friday morning in most respects. I arose early, and Annie slept-in. Annie had taken an early retirement from the Fairbanks School District at the end of the last school year, and she had settled easily into home life. "I spent over 20 years getting up early every school day," she announced upon retirement. "I'm sleeping in from now on!"
I loved Annie, but I enjoyed quiet, peaceful mornings to myself. I went through my usual rituals preparing for work, with one exception. I removed our tiny digital video camera from the home office, set the timer for one-hour record beginning at 9:45 am that morning, and placed it on a bookshelf pointing at Annie's favorite chair in the living room. I placed the camera between two books, rendering it almost invisible. Annie always sat in her large, leather chair when she read or talked on the phone.
It was a usual Friday in the office, nothing special. The outside temperature had warmed up to a balmy 20 below zero. I asked my boss for Monday off to take care of medical and personal issues. No problem, he said, we aren't really busy this time of year.
I texted Annie about 9:30, "Coming into town today?"
"No," she responded. "Have a headache."
Annie had been having a lot of headaches lately.
"OK," I texted back. "Will text you before I leave for home."
The rest of the work day went quickly, but I did have to reschedule two Monday meetings for later in the week so I could go with Annie to her doctor's appointment.
"Leaving now," I texted as I was leaving the office at the end of the day. "Store?"
"No," she responded. "We are good. Moose steaks for dinner!"
When I arrived at home, I retrieved the video recorder while Annie was finishing the dinner preparation. I put it in my briefcase, and placed my briefcase in the home office. Dinner was delicious. I loved Annie's cooking. We watched television together after dinner until bedtime. As we were walking back to the bedroom, I told Annie that I needed to check my email.
"Well, okay," she said sleepily. "It's not like we can DO anything tonight. Don't stay up too late."
"I won't," I responded. "I'll close the office door, so I won't disturb you."
I turned on the computer, downloaded the one hour video file from the camera to a video editing program. Her phone call had been captured. I removed the excess footage to a compact 18 minutes. I enhanced the video -- it wasn't very good, but the sound quality was great. The file was saved to the computer hard drive, to my flash drive and to my smart phone. Then I watched and listened to the entire conversation with headphones. The most interesting part occurred about 5 minutes into the conversation:
"Talk dirty to you? I'd love to! Your 8-inch cock is heavenly. You're the only man who has ever satisfied me. Your cock fills me up and sends me into ecstasy. I have never come so many times with another man. Billie-Boy you are the only cock for me! My husband is a wimp compared to you!"
"Yes, you do stretch me out like no other. I was so sore when I came back to Fairbanks."
"My husband? I just told him I had a vaginal infection. I wouldn't let him fuck me until I had been back a week. He is so gullible!"
"What? No, he had no clue! He trusts me completely! I could fuck you right in front of him and tell him nothing was going on, and he'd believe me! Ha, ha, ha!"
"That three weeks we spent together was the best vacation I have ever had. Fucking every day! Much better than the one week affairs we had in previous years. I can't wait another year to see you again!"
"When? Well, when will Carol go on another extended business trip? Let me know, and I'll tell Carl that I need to see my mother again. Now that I'm retired we need to do this every three or four months. I can't go much longer without your cock inside me."
"Ah, don't worry. Carol is probably fucking someone on her business trips. The only one who isn't getting any is clueless Carl!"
"Yeah, Clueless Carl, that's our new name for him!
Annie then laughed for a minute or two.
The last half of the video, Annie didn't talk much. She was listening and using her fingers and a vibrator to pleasure herself.
Now isn't that an interesting video, I thought to myself. That person looks like Annie, but I had never heard Annie talk like that before. Her voice even sounded different. As my rational mind considered what I saw, my emotions were seething. Rage was building inside of me, but my inner engineer held firm. "We need more facts," it said.
Before I went to bed I set the video camera up in the same location with the timer set for the time I usually visited the gym on Saturday. Annie was already asleep as I slipped into bed. Given what had transpired during the evening, I slept soundly until morning.
Chapter 5: Investigate the Facts, Part 2
It was cold Saturday morning. Minus 35 by the outside thermometer. I drank a protein shake, packed my gym clothes, and looked in on Annie.
"Hey! I'm leaving for the gym now. See you in about 3 hours, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," she responded sleepily.
"How about we see a movie and go to an early dinner in town this afternoon?" I asked
"No. Sorry. I'm scheduled to volunteer at the animal shelter this afternoon."
"I thought you only worked there on Tuesdays and Thursdays." I stated.
"One of the weekend volunteers is on vacation, so they asked me to cover for her," Annie explained.
"Okay. See you later, then."
I spent an extra half hour working out at the gym that morning. I pushed myself. It felt good to work through some of the anger and rage I had been temporarily repressing. I realized how much tension I had been holding in my body. The hot shower felt good too.
After the work out, I texted Annie that I needed to run errands. After two hours of shopping around town, I stopped into Brewster's, a local pub, for lunch. While I was eating Annie texted me that she was leaving the house for the animal shelter. I left Brewster's and drove home.
Once home, I retrieved the video camera and repeated the process I used last night. I found the telephone call: it was short, only 5 or 6 minutes. I saved the edited video file to the hard drive, my flash drive and my cell phone. Then I listened to Annie's side of the telephone call:
"Hi lover. So good to hear your voice. I dreamt about you all last night. I woke up wet and horny!"
"So when is Carol's next trip?"
"Okay. So she leaves the day after Christmas and will be gone for two and a half weeks? That's perfect! My birthday is January third. I'll tell Clueless Carl that I want to spend my birthday with my mother. We can fuck each other for two solid weeks!"
"No, I'm not getting any right now. Clueless Carl has a urinary tract infection. No sex for three to six weeks, and I have to go in on Monday to get checked myself! What a pain! Not that I'm really interested in him anymore after being with you for three weeks. We only have sex every week or so, just to take the edge off my horniness. He wants more, but so what? How about you?"
"So Carol is fucking your brains out? Good for her. Do you think she is cheating on you?"
"Ha, ha! Maybe she is trying to make it up to you! Hey, don't wear that cock out! I want plenty of action when I come down for my birthday. I want something special for my birthday: I want you to fuck me three times that day!"
"Oh, Carol's back? Okay, talk with you tomorrow afternoon. Call when you can. Love you!"
I shut down the computer, then, replaced the video camera on the bookcase with the timer set for tomorrow afternoon. Afterwards I sat in my overstuffed living room chair. I just sat for a while, not thinking, allowing my feelings to come to the surface. I just sat there.
Suddenly, the rage, betrayal and anger roared over me! I screamed and screamed! My stomach churned and boiled over. I barely made it to the bathroom and completely heaved my lunch into the toilet. I sat there, hugging the toilet, crying for a long time.
Chapter 6: Investigate the Facts, Part 3
When the emotions subsided, my inner engineer took over. I got up, cleaned up, put on a happy face, and checked the time. My stomach still hurt. Annie would be home in about an hour.
One more fact to check. I called Annie's mother, Judy.
"Hi Judy! This is Carl," I said loudly. Judy was a little hard of hearing, and she hated wearing her hearing aids.
"Are you still playing bridge? Good for you!
"Did you enjoy Annie's visit a few months ago?
"Oh, I'm sorry. So you only saw her for four days? Well, you certainly need more time with her! We aren't getting any younger, you know?
"Well, I have an idea to discuss with you. Why don't Annie and I come down around the first of the year for two weeks or so, so the three of us can spend her birthday together? It would be my birthday present to her. Maybe we three can drive down to San Diego and spend a few days there. I know how much you like San Diego!
"Do you like that idea? You do? Great! And you aren't busy with a bridge tournament during that time? Good! I'll talk with Annie tonight about the trip.
"Where is she now? Oh, she is helping out at the animal shelter. It will be good to see you, Judy. It has been too long! Take care. Love you!"
I hung up the telephone. I poured myself a large glass of red wine, and sat in the living room sipping it until Annie came home.
Chapter 7: Formulate a Plan, Part 1
Annie had made a caribou meat stew in the crock pot before she left for the animal shelter. It was ready just as she returned home. A quick hello, then she made fresh corn bread to go with the stew. We sat down at the dinner table and ate our meal in silence. When I finished, I spoke:
"You seem unusually quiet. Did everything go okay at the shelter this afternoon?"
"Yeah, just the usual: walking the dogs. Too cold to stay out too long," she responded. "I had another headache, too."
"Something odd did happen, though," she offered.
"Betty, the shelter manager, talked to me about something she believed that I said and did on Thursday," Annie began.
"So? Was there a problem?"
"Well, the problem is that I don't remember saying or doing the things she said I did. We got into an argument about it," Annie reported. "I was feeling rather frustrated."
I waited for her to continue.
"What's really strange is that I don't really remember much about what went on last Thursday. I mean, I know what I did, where I went, and all that. It's just I can't remember any details, like who I saw and what I said. It's really odd. I don't like feeling this way."
Annie looked lost, staring blankly at her empty stew bowl.
"Say, why don't I clean up the dishes?" I offered. "Go to the living room, and I'll bring you a glass of wine. When I finish in the kitchen, I'll come in and we can talk, okay?"
She nodded and left for her special chair in the living room.
After the kitchen was cleaned, I poured myself a glass of wine and joined Annie in the living room. She looked a little better.
"I talked with your mom today," I started as I sat down.
"I called her to discuss an idea I had," I said as I watched Annie closely. She looked at me expectantly, wanting to hear more.
"Well, I thought I could take a couple of weeks off right after the holidays, and we could go down and spend your birthday with your mom. We could also drive to San Diego for a few days, maybe go to the zoo. Your mom liked the idea."
Annie visibly brightened.
"Oh, Carl, that's a wonderful idea. I'd love to go!" Annie exclaimed.
"It would be my birthday present to you."
Annie began to cry. She got up, came over and gave me a big, long hug.
We sat together and watched TV until bed time. She held my hand as we walked down the hall to the bedroom.
Chapter 8: Formulate a Plan, Part 2
It was a normal Sunday morning. Well, if you consider 32 below a normal temperature. Both of us up by 7, church service at 9, and Sunday brunch at the Pump House. After brunch, we did our weekly shop at Safeway, then, home. Everything seemed so normal.