I PEER INTO THE BACKSEAT of a blue Ford Escort left to rust in the backyard of a house called the Dustbin. Its tires are sinking into the wet earth. Inside is a rotting briefcase and a stack of yearbooks from a high school in Potlatch, Idaho. Their owner, 22-year-old Tyler Brady, has been missing for 16 days.

Brady was last seen riding home on his fixed-gear bike, a black frame and white handlebar Schwinn, on the night of February 17. A friend says the bar Tube had turned him away for being too drunk. He got home, dropped off his messenger bag, and took off on his bike. Ten days later, his cell phone was off. His bag had not moved. His housemates were scheduled to move out of their Southeast home at the end of the month and grew increasingly concerned. Unable to dig up a home phone number for his parents back in Idaho, his housemates mailed a letter to Potlatch. Then, 10 days after they last saw him, Brady's friends reported him missing. He is still gone.

The police have not ruled the case a homicide. Or a kidnapping. Or a suicide. Brady is just... missing. "We wouldn't know where to start a search and rescue," says Portland Police Bureau spokeswoman Mary Wheat.

I sit on the back porch of the Dustbin with Ben Johnson, one of Brady's good friends. Johnson just woke up. He's smoking his first cigarette of the day and I'm asking annoying questions about whether Brady ever mentioned wanting to skip town. Nope. Brady talked sometimes about hopping trains and once rode his bike from Seattle to Portland. He left his car at the house before he went up to Alaska last summer to make money on a fishing boat. But he always kept in touch.

"Even if he partied all weekend, he would get up and go to work on Monday. I never knew him to miss a day of work," Johnson had told me over the phone the day before. "He was one of my only roommates who always paid his rent on time."

The house reminds me of the one where I lived when I first moved to Portland. My housemates numbered between four and 10, depending on the night. Acquaintances camped on the back lawn, and the walls were thick with cheap art. How long would it have taken my friends to realize I wasn't just crashing on someone else's sofa?

In a social circle of young, fun-loving, bike-riding people who are always shifting houses, friends, and jobs, it's no surprise that someone could fall through the cracks for 10 days.

"We're still hoping that he turns up and is in big trouble and never lives this one down," says Johnson. He stubs out his cigarette.

The Portland Police Bureau investigated 630 missing persons cases last year. They determined the whereabouts of 99 percent of all those people. A case like Brady's, where a reliable person with no history of mental illness vanishes for over two weeks, is rare. "Could he have left voluntarily? Yes. The alternative is not very good," says Detective Mike Weinstein of the missing persons unit.

If you have any information about Tyler Brady's case, please call Detective Weinstein at 503-823-0446