Twenty two years, give or take. That is the last time I had seen my brother.
He moved out west when I was 10 or so and although my parents said they talked to him once in a while, I didn't believe them. There were no phone calls, no letters and then, as I got older I stopped asking about him altogether.
He quit high school at 17, then got ticked off a few years later after he lost his job as a mechanic. He said he knew someone who knew someone in Montana and he was "going there to find some work and get some fresh air."
He would still be there, undisturbed by his family, I suppose, except for the funeral and my odd sense of duty. When our Dad died I took it upon myself to go and find him.
I put together a rough map based on Google and the last phone number my mother had (she finally admitted it had been more than ten years). I flew into Bozeman and headed south, in the general direction of the small town where he might be.
My first three stops around town took me to a gas station, a diner and
fish-tackle store. No one recognized the photo (scanned year book picture, as if that would really be help, but they always do this on Cop Shows, so what the hell).
There was a small bar next to the hotel and I was drinking a beer there when I met a local deputy. He was drinking Jack and Coke and I when I glanced his way, he said he was off duty. He was a big guy, with hands the size of a baseball glove, so I wasn't going to argue the point.
He knew I wasn't from town so we talked for a while about my search. He agreed to help me and asked me to come by the police station the next day to see if he had found anything. Three free drinks probably didn't hurt the process.
In the morning I talked to the deputy, got an address and a firm handshake. I'm pretty sure he cracked every knuckle, and enjoyed doing so.
By noon I was headed west of a town on a one lane road, that became gravel, then drifted into just dirt. At the end of all that was a pole barn, half a dozen cars in disrepair, and a trailer.
"You got his cheekbones," That's what she said when she cracked open the screendoor. The middle aged woman who appeared was thin, tall with a collection of tattoos to rival a pro wrestler. Not beautiful, but not bad to look at either.
She invited me in, and told me she was expecting me, small town news spreading fast, the way it does.
"He's out on business, but should be back soon."
I nodded, then laughed, noticing the poster on the wall- a '74 Dodge Challenger. Navy blue. Mike's first car,