Three years ago this week, thirteen-year-old Myron Traylor had just finished his paper route and left his South Phoenix home with his mother, Debbie, to visit his grandparents.
About a half-mile separated the two homes in South Phoenix. Myron and his mother traveled on foot because Debbie did not have a car.
At his grandparents', Myron planned to call his younger brother Charles, who was staying with an uncle in California for the summer. Debbie's home near 16th Street and Nancy Lane did not have a telephone.
It was around 6 p.m., just before Myron's classes started at the Vacation Bible School at Southminster Presbyterian Church on 19th Street near Broadway. A member of the church choir and youth group, Myron was not known to do drugs, nor was he in a gang. He wasn't apt to stay out late, and he rarely went anywhere without first telling his family.
That day, Myron wore a red-and-white-striped shirt, white shorts with blue print and white tennis shoes. His delicate, almost baby-like features were offset only by a half-inch scar on the right side of his face, a wound from a bicycle spill. He often wore a brown pair of reading glasses that matched his brown eyes, but he didn't have them on that evening.
Myron carried a plastic bag with about a change of clothes worth of laundry to wash at his grandparents' house.
As Debbie and Myron walked north in the 102-degree heat, Myron got thirsty. It was cloudy and muggy. He told his mom that he wanted something to drink.
Myron headed toward OK Fish & Chips, nearby on 16th Street north of Southern. Debbie told Myron to catch up as she headed across a parking lot toward a vacant field just east of her parents' house.
No one sat at the small picnic table outside of OK when Myron arrived. No one waited in line outside the iron-gated take-out window. Myron walked through an archway into a shaded corner and politely asked employee Lena Watt for a wild-cherry drink. He stood to the side of the window and gulped it down.
"You must be thirsty," remarked Watt, who knew him from the neighborhood.
Myron ordered another. Beverage in hand, Myron began to walk in the direction of his grandparents' house, passing the OK Barber Stylist Salon a few doors north. Watt said goodbye to Myron, and he wiggled a finger at her in response. Within a few seconds, he had vanished from her sight, and she went back to work.
Lena Watt was the last person known to have spoken with Myron Traylor.
Did he run away? Was he abducted? Did he get lost? Was he killed?
The mysteries revolving around July 27, 1988, remain, long after the daily searches stopped, long after Myron's picture came down from countless store windows and long after media coverage waned.
The flood of rumors and leads that circulated in the initial weeks and months after Myron vanished--several times as many as in typical missing-persons cases--is now a trickle, although some stories still persist.
Detectives with the Phoenix Police Department insist they are still in active pursuit.
"We'll keep searching until he is found," says Detective Ron Jones, who worked the case for a year and a half before it was transferred to Detective Fred McElvain last January.
Myron's grandmother Ruthie Traylor praises the initial investigation, but says she has yet to hear from McElvain.
"At first it seemed like the police were really looking for him," she says, "but now it seems like they dropped it. I don't know." McElvain says he can't remember the last time he contacted the family. The reason is quite simple: There isn't anything to say. Friends and relatives change their minds, seemingly daily. Some members of Ruthie Traylor's sizable clan of children and grandchildren accept that they'll never see Myron again; others are just as convinced he'll return.
As for Ruthie Traylor herself, she takes solace from television programs such as Unsolved Mysteries, which tell stories of long-lost relatives coming home after decades of being gone. Such shows, believe them or not, shine hope on a bleak screen.
As time passes, the police pursue just about any tip, no matter how unlikely. In the case of Myron Traylor, anonymous tipsters not only have called police; they've also tried their tales out on reporters.
One such tipster contends that a drug dealer in South Phoenix abducted, molested and murdered Myron and buried his body in the backyard of a crack house. Another story circulating on the streets places Myron as a drug dealer in Los Angeles who's vowing to return to Phoenix to seek revenge on his mother for having "given him away." There's no evidence that Debbie Traylor was responsible for her son's disappearance.