I will never forget standing and watching from the big picture glass window by the front door. The rising moon hung over the mountains like a great beacon, a ray of hope. Its existence contrasted the darkness of night that lay cold against the glass. Points of light in an expansive black sky twinkled through the atmosphere from stars that probably no longer existed. I shivered. “Are you out there, Chad? I can’t feel you.” I began to lose faith. The night was so cold and crisp. I couldn’t bear to think of him freezing in his truck somewhere. Tears slipped down my cheeks and I had never felt so alone or helpless. In those moments, the cold hard reality hit me once more, just as it had when I listened to Chad’s message the morning after he disappeared, “Mom, ….I love you…..I’m soooo sorry.” He’s not coming home. My heart shattered. I was terrified and I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach.
CONTINUED…..PART VI OF VI
On June 8th, 2005, I was being taken to meet a young teenage girl by a friend of a friend who had been told that Chad had called this girl a few times. About two hours prior to the time we had scheduled, the phone rang and it was Jeff, my Sheriff friend. “Are you in the office?” “Yes”, I said, thinking he was smart enough to know he had dialed the office. “I’m coming over. I’ll be there in a few moments.” Knowing that he never came up valley, I became instantly suspicious. “Jeff, you’re scaring me. What’s up?” He said, “Don’t be scared. I’ll see you in a couple of minutes.” The phone clicked and the silence was deafening.
I told my assistant what was going on and quickly went outside to watch for him as he drove into the parking lot. I stood at the top of the stairs and once more my mind rushed in to reassure me. With trepidation, I began to think, “Is it possible he’ll have Chad with him?” I knew nothing would mean more to him. I even began to visualize him driving up with my son in the front seat with a big grin on his face. Or maybe he wouldn’t be happy but I didn’t care. My heart raced. I held onto the rail to steady myself and surveyed the parking lot.
I had not seen him pull in. How was that possible? But there he was, suddenly walking towards me. He was walking between the cars and someone was with him. But, no…that was not Chad. He was too short and stocky. Who did he bring? Why would he bring someone? I started down the short flight of stairs and stopped cold in my steps when I saw Jeff as he got closer. There were tears running down his face. I was in complete disbelief. Sherriff’s have seen everything. The realization came in a flash and I died a thousand deaths on the spot. That’s when my soul must have escaped my body.
Whenever I remember that day, I see her below me in her blue jean skirt and red and white top kneeling on her bare knees in the parking lot. Her back was to me and she was grasping, clawing at the Sheriff’s hands. He hung his head, holding her hands. His lips were moving as he told her what happened. She cried out and begged him.
The final blood curdling screams brought employees everywhere running from the buildings. He pulled her to her feet and half drug her to the side of the parking lot, and held her in his arms. The world stopped and people stood frozen in silence.
I’m not sure when my soul felt safe to return or if it ever entirely did return. I felt soulless, lifeless, for a very long time. My nerves were raw and every day I got up, propped up by friends, and went through the motions that they set up for me. Mostly I just counted the hours until I could take an Ambien and slip away from reality once more.
Epilogue to follow