MILWAUKEE – Banking executive Keith Gores was so devoted to his work that he never simply arrived on time.
"He taught me right away there's only one way to attend a meeting and that's five minutes early," said George Mort, Gores' colleague for 27 years. "This was a guy that was very punctual."
That's why colleagues and friends knew immediately that something was wrong when Gores, 56, failed to show up for a morning meeting on March 22 after making every other one for 33 years.
Two weeks later, his wife, Sara Gores, refuses to give up hope despite extensive but fruitless searches by police, friends and family. She is convinced her husband of 11 years is alive, perhaps wandering the streets in a state of confusion or amnesia that she thinks gradually developed after Keith hit his head a month earlier.
Sara said the signs were clear in retrospect. Her husband had blurred vision that Thursday morning and lounged on the couch apparently thinking it was Saturday.
After she reminded him it was a work day, he hastily dressed and left their suburban home for Marshall & Ilsley Bank in downtown Milwaukee where he was a senior vice president. He never arrived.
Several people reported seeing him later that day in an uncharacteristically confused state.
One person at a hotel near the bank told investigators Gores requested directions to an athletic club where he'd been a member for some 20 years — even though he was only three blocks away.
A former co-worker also greeted Keith that morning, but Keith looked right through him as though he didn't recognize his friend, Sara said.
Police said one witness reported seeing someone matching Keith's description walking along a bike path near a local marina on the same day. But there have been no reported sightings after that.
Sara, 40, blames her husband's disappearance on a head injury he suffered on Feb. 23, when he slipped on ice while walking the family dog.
Keith told her he saw stars when his head hit the asphalt and he didn't remember whether he lost consciousness. He never sought medical attention because he had only a minor cut.
Now Sara thinks the fall produced a slow bleed in her husband's brain that gradually led to a more severe state of disorientation and perhaps amnesia.
Her theory is plausible, said Erik S. Lande, a neuropsychologist in private practice in Oxnard, Calif. Even if there were no initial symptoms of impairment, gradual bleeding could produce problems that would require medical attention.
"If there is a bleed, it could stop by itself. But if it's bringing about that level of confusion and disorientation, it's just as likely to keep bleeding until it becomes life-threatening," Lande said. "There's still room for optimism, but after this much time, only to a lesser extent."
Authorities are handling the disappearance as a missing-person investigation and have no reason to believe a crime was committed, St. Francis Police Chief Brian Kaebisch said.
"By no means is anyone giving up hope. It's too early for that," Kaebisch said. "But we're at a point where we're following up on every bit of information that's coming in."
There has been no activity on Keith's credit cards and he didn't have his cell phone on him, Kaebisch said.
Officers found his blue Audi within hours, parked and locked at the McKinley Marina, where the Gores spent nearly every summer day. The Gores own a boat but it's still locked in storage.
The U.S. Coast Guard scoured the waters, and investigators performed at least four extensive searches of surrounding areas in the past two weeks but found nothing.
Search dogs picked up Gores' scent near the marina, which ruled out speculation the car might have been stolen and left by a thief, police Capt. Tom Dietrich said.
Keith, who was wearing a blue suit with his initials on the coat's interior, isn't a strong swimmer, Sara said.
M&I Bank has, with Sara's permission, taken out ads in newspapers in Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay and Chicago, as well as Denver where the couple has a second home. The ads include Keith's photo and a plea to call police with information.
Sara acknowledged that hope is fading with each passing day but says she's grateful to bank officials who have been supportive and active in helping her search.
"I'm a little frustrated," she said. "You try to have patience, but it's really, really hard."