We had nothing to go on except that perhaps Brady had gone to Arkansas. No word from their Uncle Larry either.
For all intents and purposes, Brady and disappeared. His phone was no longer in service and e-mails returned undeliverable. Jackson and I were nervous wrecks by this time.
Any doubts I had about my feelings for Brady were erased. I was sick with worry that was tinged some threads of anger and understanding. Today’s digital age meant that you had a pressure to be connected all the time and you couldn’t ‘get away’ like you could when I was growing up.
Two more weeks had passed and the constant barrage of ads for Valentine’s Day were starting to get to me. Brady was gone and I felt more alone now than I had when I was single. When you are single and busy with work and projects, you don’t have time to think about the fact you are alone. If you do have that wandering thought of love or meeting someone, something else will take your mind away from it. Now, now I felt lonely.
My mind could rationalize Brady’s leaving by telling me that he was just off on a long road trip, finding himself, or a litany of other plausible things.
My heart…it couldn’t. It felt an ache that I couldn’t explain, that my mind couldn’t understand, and that everyone could see.
Aaron, Andy, and Jackson were always dropping by the house. Jackson spending most of his time on the farm since he had double the work on top of his father’s rapid deterioration since Brady’s disappearance.
Aaron and Andy checked on me every chance they could. They seemed to have no end of reasons … or excuses to have to stop by my place. While I appreciated their concern, there was only one person who could snap me out of this funk. I needed Brady to come home, safe and sound. I knew I’d be angry at him when he finally did come home but you know what, that fucker deserves it!
The fourth of February brought good and bad news. Larry Larson had heard from Brady. He was alive and well but had not answered any questions about where he was or what he was doing. Jake had told him to call Jackson or his dad as soon as he could but so far, we’d heard nothing.
I was relieved to know that Brady was okay and had made contact with someone. Larry didn’t have caller ID or anything like it, so we didn’t have a return number. Though, he had said it was mostly likely a pay phone in a truck stop or something with all the noise in the background.
It was just afternoon when the other shoe dropped. I’d just cut up some salami, summer sausage, and cheese slices for a light lunch when my phone rang. My appetite disappeared after the first little sandwich.
I picked up the phone and heard Jackson sobbing, “Dad’s gone. He’d gone out to the barn this morning with me. He left after about an hour or so, said he was tired and was going to lay down.” a huge sob and a snotty sniff blared down the line, “I came home….and he was gone. Looked like he was sound asleep in his chair, just like he always napped.”
I heard sirens approaching in the distance.
“Mr. Ramhart, I need to go. The police are here. If you hear from Brady, please tell him about Dad. Please.” Jackson’s pleading voice implored then a click.
I sent Aaron a text and told him Jackson would need a couple of weeks off and why. As I expected, Aaron was at my dining room table about 5 minutes later.
Aaron and I talked about Mr. Larson’s passing, peaceful as it was but we both agreed that Brady’s disappearance likely accelerated. Brady was going to find out the hard way that Jakob Mathias Larson, aged 67, had passed away.
Jackson was left all alone now. He would have to manage the livestock, see to his father’s final affairs, and perhaps have to move out of the farm or even be forced to sell it off. No one knew anything of the financials of the farm. Brady knew them but…yeah, he’s still gone.
I asked Aaron to wait a few days, but to offer to help Jackson manage the farm while the final affairs were wrapped up and asked Aaron to let me have some space as well. It was one more thing that was weighing on me and I needed to get my head together before the busy season started.
I munched a bit of the salami but it was a mechanical eating. Sustenance but no enjoyment. I couldn’t enjoy much of anything right now. Knowing the area, I knew that there would be farmers and families lined up to help Jackson with the farm and making sure that he was taken care of in his time of loss. It was cold comfort to me. I was now worried about both Larson brothers.
I hadn’t even realized that I’d walked into the living room and sat down on my couch. I was engrossed in my own mind and what I could do to help the Larsons but also working on what I needed to do for our town to take off. I looked out at the cold grey sky with snowflakes lazily floating down.
An appropriate day for someone to pass I guess.
My meditation was broken by the phone ringing; As the second ring started, I thought about letting it just go to voice mail but something told me to answer it.
I sprinted across the living room and grabbed the cordless phone off the wall.
“Hello?” I asked blankly.
“Yes, may I speak with Kevan Ramhart.” a detached female voice asked.
“This is. May I ask who is calling?”
“I’m with the Atoka, Oklahoma Sheriff’s Department.”