HOLIDAY — It was near midnight and she ran her hands along the concrete walls of the house where her daughter vanished. "Kyla?" Teresa Ahrens said. "Kyla, are you there?"
She felt nothing. She heard nothing.
Ahrens has become obsessive since her daughter, Kyla Porter, disappeared at age 19 nearly three years ago, and last Sunday night she was compelled to go and touch the house on Blossom Lake Drive where Porter had been living with her older sister. That night was the premiere of a show on A&E about her daughter's case — Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, episode titled "The Lost Girl," where two teenagers, a boy and a girl claiming to have psychic abilities, tried to find Porter.
They were given a photo of Porter's face and asked to write down what they saw and felt.
The boy wrote:
The girl wrote:
When they went to the house, which is now vacant, the boy saw Porter slumped in a chair.
The girl's neck hurt.
"Does that mean Kyla was choked? If she was choked, did she die quickly or did she wake up?" Ahrens thought. These are the things a mother with no answers imagines.
The boy smelled alcohol and saw violence.
"It feels like she's no longer with us," he said, "like she's not even here."
The girl agreed.
The boy knew Porter had tattoos of stars on her chest.
"How did he know that?" Ahrens thought.
The girl drew the fairy tattoo on Porter's back right shoulder.
They both knew she was bi-polar.
But maybe they weren't right about Porter being dead. Ahrens chose not to believe that part. They could be wrong. That's why, after the show ended, she went back to the house to see if she could feel anything.
When she gets ideas about her daughter's case, she can't stop herself, just as she can't stop from riding her scooter around Moon Lake, where she heard Porter might have been partying that night. Ahrens rides and shouts her daughter's name as loud as she can, in case Porter is being held against her will, so she knows her mother is still looking for her. She sneaks out to do it because her husband has asked her not to go anymore, for her sanity and safety.
Even thinking about it makes Ahrens jumpy, that there might be some kind of clue out there for her to find. If there had been blood or some upturned furniture or broken glass her daughter might be here, hopefully alive, possibly dead, but she would be here and this would be over. But there were no clues when Porter vanished on Feb. 15, 2008, leaving behind her purse, wallet, driver's license and two winter jackets.
Porter had gone off on her own before, terrifying her mother, coming home, smiling, as though nothing was wrong. So Ahrens waited a few weeks before calling the Pasco County Sheriff's Office to tell them her daughter was missing.
If only there had been a broken lamp. Open swinging door. It could be different. Ahrens knows this from watching reality TV shows about cold cases and unexplained mysteries — an obsession that began after Porter disappeared.
As it was, Porter was just a troubled adult who had gone missing before and Ahrens felt like she couldn't find anyone who cared. The drum beat in her chest was unbearable — "My daughter is missing, mydaughterismissing, mydaughterismissing" — and she would scream into her pillow, so as to not scare the neighbors. She said she wrote TV stations and never got a response. She felt abandoned by the Sheriff's Office, who said the case was hampered by the delay in reporting Porter missing.
"We want to solve these cases," said agency spokesman Kevin Doll. Detectives suspect foul play in Porter's case. Doll said none of the leads from Psychic Kids have panned out yet.
Ahrens doesn't even know if she believes in psychics, but she knows she has to find her daughter and she needs media attention to do that. So she wrote to an investigator on Psychic Kids, who asked to do a story on Porter.
"I might be dancing with the devil, I don't know," Ahrens said. "But I'll do anything — anything — to find her."
She still hopes something will come from the TV show. Ahrens, 51, had time without hope, where she wouldn't get out of bed and she stopped cooking and brushing her teeth. She has three other children. Porter had a twin sister. Their birthday was Wednesday. Porter's driver's license expired.
A few weeks ago, Porter's twin — Sheresa — met a tattooed man who said he could do a reading with Celtic stones. Sheresa called her mother and told her to come get a reading, too. Theirs were the same. The man said Porter was alive in the land of her birth, which would be Tampa. He said she was being held against her will but will be found this fall due to the love of her family. Ahrens is clinging to this, the words of a man whose name she can't remember.
"It's still fall," she said.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.