HARVARD — The last time Matthew Marr saw his son, the 22-year-old — full of energy — bounded out of the car at the train station in Littleton. Zachary was headed for a big night in Boston. His cousins awaited. So did dinner and drinks and dancing.
When the young man texted his dad to notify him he was safely aboard, Matt Marr reached for his cellphone.
“Glad you’re on. Be safe. I love you,’’ the father told his son.
“I love you, too,’’ the son replied. And then the train left the station.
That was about 5:30 p.m. on Friday. And now Matt Marr wonders if those are the last words he’ll hear from the little kid he coached in soccer, the young man who had just celebrated his birthday, who was building a career, and reaching for an education that once seemed beyond his grasp.
“He’s a smart kid and a quick learner,’’ Matt Marr told me Tuesday as we sat in the den of his home in Harvard. “He’s a determined kid, and he was going to show people just what he could do.’’
All of that is on hold now as Boston police detectives and local police here try to piece together what happened to Zachary Marr after he stepped into the frigid early-morning air outside a tavern near Faneuil Hall. It was 1:50 a.m. Saturday. Time for a quick cigarette. So quick that he left his coat inside.
In a surveillance video, he is seen outside the bar. And then, nothing.
“They were having a great time,’’ Matt Marr said. “There were some Snapchats, saying we ought to do this again. This is great. They were out on the dance floor, celebrating his birthday in the big city. Why would he ditch his cousins after that?’’
Those cousins called his cellphone four times, reaching nothing but voicemail.
“Maybe he got jumped,’’ his father said. “Maybe they took his cellphone.’’ Maybe.
When I talked to Marr on Tuesday, he had just returned from the local bank, open for the first time since the holiday weekend. The news was cryptic but, Marr chose to believe, hopeful. He said he was told that there has been some activity on his son’s account since his disappearance.
“There were some transactions made,’’ he said. “But they couldn’t release any information.’’ Within hours, that report was deemed misleading. In fact, the last transaction was the train ticket purchase.
As friends and family blanket Boston with fliers with Zachary Marr’s photo, his father knows where he wants this story to end. And where he doesn’t.
“It’s a good, loving family, and all of a sudden it’s like day and night,’’ he said. “If the outcome is having to go to a funeral, we’re all going to be devastated. I don’t want anybody to blame themselves for what happened.’’
Zachary was very close to his paternal grandmother, who died last month after battling breast cancer for 16 years. The family had planned to clean out her apartment on Saturday, but instead focused on an intensive search.
“He called me (recently) to say he was down at his grandma’s house, just sitting there,’’ Matt Marr said, noting the death hit his son hard. “We were by my mother’s side 24/7 because that’s what families do.’’
On Tuesday, Matt Marr spent time fielding calls, blinking back tears, and accepting warm hugs from neighbors who carried concern and best wishes.
“That’s life in a small town for you,’’ he said. “Parents will do whatever it takes to find their child. No matter what age.’’
So he and a platoon of family and friends scour websites, paste posters.
While he waits for the phone to ring, he’s got this message for his son: “There’s a lot of love and support for you. Please just come home. Be safe. Get inside from the cold. Just give me a hug.’’
A simple, poignant plea from a father who put his son on a train to North Station, believing it was carrying him toward the celebration of one of life’s bright milestones.