(This short story is based off of true life events. I was writing new songs today for my album and realized just how much I needed to show the other part of my heart, which is with missing persons.)
Imagine yourself for a moment being able to help those who have no voice. People who have gone missing but have no way to communicate where they are. For 11 years my life was dedicated to helping those who had no voice. The pain of watching families and loved ones searching tirelessly for the one they loved was the “love drug” that kept me going night and day.
It would be in the fall of 2002 when a newspaper writer from Eureka Springs, AR would contact me asking me to help with the location of a missing male named Tony. I was told that Tony had been on a weekend vacation down to Eureka Springs with his partner Joey. No one had any idea where he had vanished to the day he left to make a quick stop at the near-by McDonalds. The one thing that everyone was most concerned about was that Tony had AIDS and it had been some days since he had last had his medication. They knew that if he was left out in the elements he would not survive due to the progression of his disease.
After gathering all the information that was necessary I purchased a ticket on the next flight out of Indiana to Eureka Springs. I had decided to stay at the same motel where Joey and Tony had stayed so I could somehow trace the footsteps he took. Since I was going to be unfamiliar with the area I decided to contact a friend named Marcie to join me. She knew the area of this small town well and was more than willing to help. Our hearts poured out for Joey and the lonely search he was on. Since this town only had a couple of detectives and officers there would be no way of getting law enforcement help unless something was found by us. Another factor that was hampering our search was that Joey and Tony were in a gay relationship, both being sick from the HIV virus. It is hard enough to get law enforcement to help with looking for any type of missing male but this case would be tougher because they were gay.
I finally arrived in the friendly-little town of Eureka Springs. Everyone I came across had such a loving charm about them. The town is nestled within the Ozark Mountains with many hidden valleys and Victorian style homes lining the main two lane road. Looking up at all the tree tops and watching the sun dance in between the branches of the trees made me feel as though I was traveling through some type of mystical city. There were signs everywhere pointing you in the direction of where to purchase gems and crystals from the mines near-by.
It was finally time to start searching for Tony and looking for clues as to where or what happen to him. Joey was able to come and join us for a small walk in the area I felt needed to be searched. Joey told me how Tony only had a backpack on him, but that he typically took it where ever he went to keep his money and necessities within. There was a steep ravine across the street from the motel and as we walked the two blocks over to the area I began explaining to everyone that I felt we needed to walk this area just to clear out one section off our list. As we began our climb down the hill of the ravine Joey pointed out to me that he noticed some clothing over to the right side of the hill we had just come down. We began approaching closer to a tree that was growing out the side and there hanging from the limbs was a shirt, shorts and some underwear. I kept thinking within me that if this was Tony’s belongings this seemed very quick to be finding something. Joey began to scream out that these were indeed Tony’s clothes. His eyes were filling with tears and thinking the worst about what could have happen. He wanted to think of his disappearance in a “positive” way that possibly Tony had met someone else and rode off in their vehicle to start a new life somewhere else.
As Joey reached for the clothing I explained to him that he should not touch anything because the police would need to be called out if this was truly Tony’s stuff. We all began to sift around more to look for any other evidence. Reminding everyone once again that IF anything horrid had happen to Tony that we need to stay close to this area because this was typically where we might find a person who didn’t make it out alive.
The next day after the police had finished collecting all of what Joey believed was Tony’s belongings and backpack, Marcie and I made our way down another side of the ravine where I believed more evidence of Tony might be found. Behind the McDonald’s where Tony was last seen using a phone was another large cliff that took you into a deeper part of the ravine. This time Marcie and I had to make our way down a steep 75 foot drop. With no way to be ladylike, we stumbled our way in. It led us into a short branch of the ravine where we would make our way out into the wider portion of the valley. My heart raced at the thought of how we had found what possibly were belongings he was carrying the day before and now if my research was correct we might be finding his body. I pointed to Marcie to head in the direction of a natural spring that I could hear trickling off in the distance. If I was correct, then Tony could be found within the rocks that lay in the bed of the spring.
It had been several months since Tony was seen last so I knew that what we would be looking for were possible remains of what was once a human body. Every rock seemed like another piece, but unfortunately after a whole day of searching we had to call in for help.
The evening before when we were giving our information to the police, one of the female officers offered to take a walk where ever I felt there needed to be a search done. She said she would take her dog as an extra set of eyes. It would be this offer that would be our saving grace. Within a couple of days Tony’s remains were found within the rocks that were nestled like a bed for the natural spring to run over.
Tony had no voice. He had no way to communicate to us that the man he loved and trusted had taken his life. Yes, it was obvious from the first day that Joey knew something more when he was able to walk with us easily down to the area where Tony’s belongings were. The coroner could never label a cause of death. Therefore, Joey would never get charged with the crime. The police knew it was him who had caused this unnecessary death because of a past record of an old woman he called “grandma” who lost all her social security to him and then mysteriously died. Tony had just received his first social security check and was not able to even sign his name on the back when he came up missing. But somehow that check and several checks after that were cashed with Tony’s name upon them.
It would be another several months of working with police to get Joey to give a confession through me. Joey did not trust anyone except for me. Every phone call that took place after the day that Tony was discovered was recorded with Joey playing the innocent victim and I playing dumb/naïve me to what had really happen. My stomach was always tied in knots whenever he would call to shed his tears about this “love of his life” that had now been discovered dead of undetermined causes.
I used to walk around in life with rose-colored glasses, always wanting to see the world not as it really was but as a world where you could still help someone and not have to worry about them ever doing something wrong to you or another. The time, energy, and money that I spent seemed like a total waste (excluding the fact that Tony had been found). My belief was, if I was kind and trusting of others then I was sure to get the same back. I did get that back from Joey, but with wolf’s clothing upon the sheep’s skin. Did this make my heart go cold? It would be many more years of time, energy and money on missing persons cases before I would completely shatter my rose-colored glasses.