TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Arch Ecker couldn't help but smile as his fingers moved nimbly over the strings of his favorite bass guitar recently.
It's a feeling he never thought he'd have again.
Arch says his emotional attachment to the instrument is strong. He calls it the first really nice bass he ever bought for himself. It saw him through his years living in Butte, Montana, playing with a band called "Venus Alley." With two or three gigs a week, he says, he spent a lot of time with it.
But one night in 1997, the band showed up for a gig and the bass was gone. Someone, somewhere had stolen it.
"It was demoralizing," he said.
Arch spread the word at local music stores and pawn shops to no avail. A few years ago, he moved to Topeka to work for the Roadrunners hockey team and had all but put the stolen bass out of his mind.
That is, until he got a call from a former client at the radio station where he worked in Butte.
Mark James owns the drum attic in Butte. About a month ago, a lady called him about a bass guitar she found cleaning a storage room at an old community building. As soon as she told him the case had a sticker with the words "Venus Alley," he know what it was.
"I said I know whose guitar it is and it's been missing for years," he said.
Mark tracked down Arch's number and gave him call, starting with small talk, then asking him to recount the story of the stolen bass. When Arch was finished, Mark told him, "Well, I think I have it."
Arch says his jaw "hit the floor." A few weeks later, the bass is back home. Arch says it was just as he left it, with his strap, buttons, strings and wireless transmitter all in place. The best, he says, was it was basically in tune.
Which means he's barely put it down in the days it's been back in his hands.
"So many times, when something bad happens, you just choke it down and live with it and accept it. You never get a happy ending," Arch said. "This time, it was an unbelievable ending to the story."
It's not known who stole the bass or how it ended up in that old community building.