"Hello. Is anybody there?" I called out as I knocked on the old weathered door of the isolated little ranch house. A drama was about to unfold--a real life drama that would permanently affect the lives of several people.
"This was a tough one," I thought to myself.
Earlier in the day a friendly postman gladly waved directions from the doorway of his one room U.S. Post Office. Pointing north, he described landmarks along the highway.
The property had no street number. Addresses apparently were not necessary in this neck of the woods. Two miles off the main highway, the house was located at the end of a long dirt road that weaved it's way through the surrounding hills, crossing a riverbed with enough rushing water to intimidate any car with short legs.
An occasional utility pole scarred the otherwise virgin landscape, providing evidence of civilization somewhere ahead. The poles indicated that those at the end of the line probably had electricity, but they didn't have to worry about choosing a long distance telephone carrier. There were no phone lines.
A station wagon and pick-up truck were parked nearby. Bicycles and toys scattered about in the large dirt yard declared, "Kids live here!" This was a school day though, so I wasn't surprised that there were none to be seen or heard.
A bit frustrated now, I knocked again. "Hello, is anybody here?"
Still no answer.
Water rippled across moss covered rocks in a nearby stream and narrow trails led from the yard into tree-blanketed hills surrounding the property. I checked the storage shed, horse corrals and outside bathroom facilities.
"Hello, is anyone here?" I continued to call out as I walked around the property exploring the rustic real estate.
I'd been told by the postman that Doris would probably be at the house, so I decided to wait. I thought she might be out hiking or horseback riding on one of those trails. Wherever she was, I hoped she'd be back soon.
Sitting in my rental car, I reflected on the journey about to be concluded. When it began, I never would have guessed it would lead me to a small one store town in northern New Mexico. And this house! It couldn't have been more remote!
A short time later, I was about to give up and go back to town, when I noticed a small gray dog standing on the porch. This was strange! Where was the dog earlier when I knocked on the door? Where was the dog when I surveyed the property calling out to get someone's attention?
I walked toward the house for a closer look. The scruffy little security guard stood his post, barking his head off while glancing at the screen door every few seconds. I had an eerie feeling someone was standing just inside that door.
"Hello, is anyone there?" I called again. No one answered. If Doris was home, she obviously didn't want me to know it.
I decided to drive back to town where my client, Shawna, was waiting at a small cafe. We had agreed that it would be best for me to talk to Doris alone at first. If she didn't want to meet Shawna, or if this was a bad time for any reason, we weren't going to put her on the spot or force her to do something that she might not want to do. Now we needed to discuss a change in strategy. There was still plenty of time to complete our mission.
"I want to find my mother," Shawna told me when she first called my office. "I've been trying to find her on my own for about six months, but I don't know what else to do."
I suggested she come to the office so we could discuss her case and determine how to proceed with the search.
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