A few jarring days for the Brown family ended happily Tuesday afternoon with the sudden and dramatic return of 18-year-old Brittany.
Brittany, a recent graduate of Mountain View High School, vanished Friday night after going to the Monte Carlo night club on Castro Street. There had been reports of her leaving voluntarily with a couple she met there, and family members said her cell phone was dead and her credit card had not been used.
The next four days were harrowing ones for family members, who canvassed the downtown with fliers and sent out mass e-mails asking for help in finding her. For Brittany to leave without telling anyone was "very out of character," said her mother, Victoria Brown. Normally, the two constantly communicate via text message "whether we're mad or happy," she said.
On Tuesday, Brittany was expected to show up to her job with the city's "Beyond the Bell" program, where she has worked with preschool-aged kids for two years, her mother said. Victoria waited at the community center at Rengstorff Park, but Brittany never arrived.
Later that afternoon, Brittany came home. Her return happened to be caught on film by a KRON 4 television news crew. In the footage, Brittany's father, Brian Brown, was sitting in his Mountain View home talking to a reporter when loud honking suddenly came from outside.
"Hey! She's here! I got her!" a man yelled.
Brian Brown rushed outside to see a sobbing and disoriented Brittany in a neighbor's minivan. She could barely stand, and family members rushed to her aid and helped guide her into the house.
The neighbor, Phil McNern, said he saw Brittany walking down the street near her home and took her in his vehicle the rest of the way.
As for the cause of her disappearance: "We still don't know," said police spokesperson Liz Wylie.
Wylie said police are looking into the possibility that she was kidnapped or assaulted, but so far there is no evidence of that.
"She is physically unharmed," Wylie said. She added that "There's no allegation of any crime this point." As of Wednesday, the investigation was still classified as a missing persons case rather than a criminal case.
Last Friday, Brittany told her mother she was going to meet a friend at the Monte Carlo night club on Castro Street, where she has gone before on "under 21" nights. Although she is not an actual employee at the club, she has friends who are, and occasionally stamps hands at the door, police said. According to her mother, that night she stamped hands at the door and made about $40 for it.
In an e-mail sent earlier this week, Wylie clarified that "On the night Brittany went missing, she was seen in many areas downtown and was at the Monte Carlo club hanging out in front of the business talking with bouncers. She was not hanging out inside the club."
Police have been trying to identify the man and woman Brittany reportedly was seen with before she vanished. Witnesses told police that both are in their early to mid 20s. The woman is described as short and slightly heavy-set with blond hair, and the man is described as either white or light-skinned Hispanic and between 5-foot-11 and 6-foot-3.
Wylie said Brittany had been driven home by unidentified people who were not the previously sought couple. She was dropped off close to her home, Wylie said, because she wanted to walk the rest of the way.
"Somebody drove her home, but she didn't want to be dropped off in front," Wylie said.
"Those aren't the people who drove her home. So I guess we're looking for multiple people," she said.
Since Brittany's return, the Brown family has not responded to calls or e-mails seeking comment on what happened. For now, the case remains a mystery to the police as well as the public.
"We may not ever know what really happened, but we're trying to find out," Wylie said.