"Bureau of Missing Persons, Sergeant Callahan speaking."

"I wish to report the disappearance of a kitchen appliance repairman."

"Come again, lady."

"My kitchen applicance man is missing. He was here one day working on my dishwasher, and said he was going back to the shop for a part, and I haven't seen him since."

"When was that."

"Ten days ago. The dishwasher is in my kitchen in a hundred parts and I'm worried sick."

"Did you call the shop to see if he was there?"

"He's never there when I call. His answering service says they haven't heard from him in over a week."

"Don't start crying, lady. Did you have a quarrel with him?"

"It wasn't really a quarrel. I thought the hose had broken, but he said the washer needed a new motor. He said he had been having a lot of trouble with this particular type of machine, and I'd be better off buying a new one. I said I'd rather he fix it, and he just muttered to himself as he took it apart."

"Do you have a name we can work on?"

"I never got his name. I found his company in the Yellow Pages, under '24 Hour Service -- Satisfaction Guaranteed.'"

"That doesn't help us much. Did he take his tool kit with him?"

"Yes, he did. Why do you ask?"

"It sounds as though he really meant business. When a repairman packs his tool kit up it usually indicates he's running away."

"But I was so good to him. I gave him an ice-cold beer and a turkey sandwich. I treated him just as if he were part of the family."

"Don't blame yourself, lady. A lot of repairmen take off before they finish the job. He's probably somewhere in town working on another dishwasher."

"But suppose he was in an accident and was hurt? I'd never forgive myself.

My husband and I can't sleep at night wondering if he's all right."

"We'd check the hospitals for you, lady. But it isn't easy without a name."

"Wait a minute. I think he did have a name. He made a telephone call when he was in the kitchen and identified himself to the other person as Jerry."

"At least that's something to go on. Could you give us a description of him?"

"He was about 5-foot-8, rather heavyset, and had grease all over his face and hands."

"We can't put out an all-points bulletin on that. You have to understand something. We get reports on maybe 50 runaway repairmen a day. They don't like to finish a job. They love to take things apart, but they don't like to put them back again. They don't even care if they get paid or not. We don't have the manpower to track them down, and even if we did we don't have the legal authority to send them back to your house to finish the work.

"All we can do, if we find your man, is try to persuade him to call you, and then it's up to you to talk him into coming home."

"So what you are saying is that I may never see him again?"

"I think you have to face reality. We haven't had too much luck in locating in missing repairmen. Once they decide to leave an unfinished job they're rarely heard from again. The only thing you and your husband can do is hope that perhaps someday he'll come back and put your dishwasher together of his own free will. If you were as kind to him as you say you were, he might turn up at your doorstep any day."

"If you hear anything, will you let me know?"

"We'll put his name on the ticker. But don't get your hopes up. He could be in California by now working on a garbage disposal unit, under another name. If a repairman doesn't want to be found, there isn't a missing persons bureau in the country that can locate him."