Finally I heard his truck at four A.M. and with tears in my eyes, I raced down the stairs and hugged him, and begged him profusely to forgive me. He pushed past me and that’s when he said he nearly froze to death. So no, I was sure he wouldn’t kill himself. He didn’t even like being cold…
CONTINUED…..PART V OF VI
Over the next seven months that Chad was missing, the Sheriff on our case would become one of my closest friends. Jeff and I worked together daily, brainstorming and always trying to figure out new places, leads, and ways. He was by my side and gratefully I leaned on him for hope and strength. I knew that he had seen some horrible things during his previous job, under cover in a rock band. After awhile, I respectfully asked him not to share those experiences with me anymore.
Finding Chad was challenging since he was nineteen and the privacy act would not allow hospitals, rehabs, or even homeless shelters to tell us if he was or wasn’t there. The ironic thing was, while his brother had no problem travelling all over the world alone, Chad was not the kind of kid to take off on his own. He must have been petrified; who wouldn’t be if someone threatened to kill you. I had no idea where he would go; and I knew he didn’t have any money.
In my lone hours I wrote. It was the salve for my soul, my sanity. I kept a log entitled “Finding Chad.” I knew someday I would, but I never dreamt it would turn out the way it did. I also started writing a fiction story called, “Turning Left at Exit 140.” I could only hope that even the smallest part would become reality. I knew it was a fantasy, at best. Ironically, we would find out later that Chad didn’t turn right.. or left… at exit 140, the exit for our home town. He headed straight into the back country; a place so untraveled that he was sure no one would ever find him. Or, as oftentimes speculated, maybe someone else took him there.
At Thanksgiving after a big ordeal, I finally convinced the telephone company to give me access to Chad’s voice mail. Once I did that, he would not be able to receive any more messages. I hated to cut off that lifeline but I had to see who was calling him and what they were saying. The kid who turned Chad onto Crack had left several messages. They were of the variety of, “Dude, where are you? Can you pick me up? Can I borrow your truck? Call me.” He never gave up on his self serving needs until voice mail was completely full. Chad’s real friends left several messages, of course; and I even had to endure listening to the desperation and pleas of my own tearful voice. But it was his step sister’s message that really c0ncerned me. She seemed to know something I didn’t and she seemed terrified or was it just overly dramatic? She pleaded with him, “Chad, if you will just call me and tell me you’re okay, I promise I won’t tell anyone where you are. Call me! Please!” There were no more messages and clearly no one had heard from him since he left. My heart sank.
I stuck my head further in the sand. I figured Chad needed to run and he was either high on drugs somewhere else or homeless. I harassed homeless shelters in Denver and sometimes I could even convince a compassionate soul to give me information even though legally he shouldn’t have. In my fantasy, Chad had found a job and was lying low to escape the drug dealers. In retrospect it seems so odd that there were always leads, some kid from out of town who said he saw the kid in the poster. People who saw his truck somewhere. A psychic who saw him living in his truck. Most of the time, except in the dark of night, I had hope. I couldn’t bear not to.
A friend lined up a private detective for us and I was waiting to meet with him. In the meantime I had checked in with a few rehabs to get a better picture of what they could offer so that we could be ready when Chad came home. With the exception of a couple, I was not impressed with their statistics. Every business knows how to manipulate statistics. Rehabs always have a fall back excuse that goes like this, “he just wasn’t ready or he didn’t hit his bottom yet.” The institution never fails, the patient does.
While this may be true, it seems unrealistic to expect addiction to go away in a month by sitting around in a support group talking about it. I was searching for more than a ‘cold turkey/white knuckle’ approach. And what about long term behavior issues developed by years of dysfunction. How would that be addressed? What could be done to help mend the pre-existing as well as post drug chemistry imbalances? Niacin/Niacinmide and a few vitamins? Not even close! And, then there is the real test. What happens when a ‘recovered’ user returns home to memories and places once frequented? He drives by a place where he had partied causing hardwired neuro-pathways to light up like a Christmas tree… calling out his name. What happens when things are all going wrong and he just wants to say “Fuck it” to the world? Just this one more time!
My amazing psychologist told me about a kidnapper option. These kidnappers had some good successes if they could just find the person, extract him from his environment; and then somehow manage the justice system so that a user was unable to get out of jail for several months, their price, $50,000. Time was on your side if it was long enough for the recovering addict to be able to reason with a jonsing body that previously thought it would die without it’s drug. I remembered the words of a neighbor who had travelled a similar path. He said, “You have to get him away from the drug for at least three months. Rent a cabin way out in the mountains somewhere.” I was desperate and would have done anything just to know he was safe. Anything!
Over the months, slowly it began to leak out from more than one source there was a primary drug ring from Romania that had been operating in this valley for years, at least ten at that time, maybe more. Even the Sheriff’s office knew about it. I was appalled. These were the dirty little secrets of a resort town that didn’t want this, or information about drug usage, in our valley to leak out. These drug traffickers had a couple of store front restaurants to cover their operation. I wondered how this could be possible. I never received a good explanation from the Sheriff’s office other than they tried to deport them from time to time but they never seemed to get the ring leaders.
Ironically one of Brandon and Chad’s friends who had troubles with alcohol ended up being jailed long term after several DUI’s. Our friend was our inside connection and with seniority was able to give us some feedback from users that frequented the facility. He would remain in our local jail as drug dealers came and went like it was a revolving door. It was a rough crowd and all but one white guy seemed to be from Mexico and/or Romania. One night a guy came in with a slit throat. That’s when I began to believe that these dealers were not just bluffing. They were serious. Chad’s friend was released from his long jail sentence the day Chad’s body was discovered. It’s impossible to believe that the timing was some random coincidence.
Another extreme synchronicity occurred when I was asked to handle the real estate purchase of the community drug lord. By now I knew him by name even though the Real Estate Broker involved had no idea who he “really” was. He was paying all cash, naturally, for a piece of land and had not retained legal representation. He was about to miss a deadline in his contract and his large earnest money deposit would have been at risk. Every cell in my body screamed, “let him lose it. He deserves it!” But at the last minute, a small inner voice convinced me that I couldn’t do that professionally. I later wonder if this was the voice of intuition. Because I had saved him around $50,000, and he knew it, I got the idea later that I needed to go and confront him about the whereabouts of my son.
I gathered my courage as I walked up the steps to his establishment with Chad’s Missing Poster in hand. I had been just a voice on the end of a phone line; so I introduced myself. I held the poster in front of his face and said, “I helped you now I need your help. Help me find my son.” He quickly read the words and saw my son’s face. “Please talk to your guys and tell me what they know.” He didn’t even try to act like he had no idea what I was talking about. We had transcended that conversation with a glance.
I couldn’t believe my ears when he said this, “Crack is a bad drug.” He put his hand on the back of his son’s head who was about three years old and hanging onto his daddy’s leg. “I stopped doing that drug when he was born.” I wanted to slap him….scream at him…”and, what about our kids?” By an act of God, I was able to control my impulse. “This is not the time, Jan”, I told myself. I needed his help to find Chad. He said he would ask around. Counting the hours, a couple of days later I stopped by again. He said, “they said he just went crazy. They don’t know where he went.” ….Could I believe him?
I thought he’d come home for Thanksgiving but when he didn’t, I knew without a doubt nothing would keep him from coming home for Christmas. My hopes soared with each passing day. Brandon and I had been Christmas shopping and had some great gifts under the tree that I knew Chad would love. As the afternoon turned to dusk, I remember being on pins and needles with every little sound, expecting to hear his truck drive up. It was loud, just the way he liked it. I played the entire fantasy out in my mind of seeing him walk to the door and peer in through the glass. I could see that crooked grin of his. The door opening. And everything would be right with the world again. No problem would be too big for us to figure out if we just had one more chance, more time.
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.
Christmas 2003, Chad’s last Christmas