Staff writer Leonard Reed recently came back from lunch inspired by a missing person poster that he had spotted on a Ventura eatery's bulletin board.
Reed had to know more about Taylor Kramer, 42, a Thousand Oaks businessman and former bassist for Iron Butterfly who vanished Feb. 12, leaving his wife and two young children coping with uncertainty and grief.
Reed talked with Kramer's family members, business associates and close friends, all of whom painted a portrait of a loving family man and multidimensional talent. Reed's Centerpiece explores the mystery of why such a man would presumably drop out of society.
"Kramer's disappearance baffled from the outset," Reed said. "It's only more baffling now that his life is laid bare.
"He had, by all accounts, just about everything going for him: a radiant wife and two healthy children, a sense of destiny about what his own considerable intelligence might bring to the human race, an unrelentingly upbeat personality. He gave his time to the Redwood School in Thousand Oaks; he coached his son's hockey team. If it is possible to get through life without enemies, Kramer was blazing a bright path.
"But his business problems plagued him deeply. There is no telling, at this point, just how much weight he carried on his shoulders as TMM, his Thousand Oaks firm, started pulling itself out of bankruptcy this year and established position to launch new initiatives in the unforgiving high-tech marketplace.
"This is the mystery he carried with him when he vanished."
Reed spoke to police and private investigators. "That there would be no trace of him or his vehicle has confounded investigators on all fronts," Reed said. "It has led some to feel that Kramer not only 'checked out' mentally and became a homeless person but perhaps has found safe haven--a home in Southern California in which he gets meals, care, peace. Reticent others, of course, still hold out the possibility of foul play--but there is no evidence anywhere of that."
Reed feels that he got to know Kramer--and likes him very much.
"For me," Reed said, "the compelling and touching part of working on this story has been to discover, piece by piece from childhood to manhood, what a much-loved and genuine fellow Taylor Kramer has always been. It only makes his disappearance that much more important for his community--and unspeakably painful for his family."
Taylor Kramer, won't you please come home.