forensicsThere’s an oft quoted statistic that says the odds of solving a  Missing Person case decrease by 50{2bc7e4e23428b05b0f692f1ddf5d723165e7c1faee94cc402238e96593bfbeaa} if a solid lead isn’t found within the first 48 hours after the person has gone missing.  Making the most of that time is crucial.  Family and friends need to know they can report a missing adult to the police immediately.


If an adult is suspected to be missing some of the suggested first steps are to check his/her neighborhood and other places the person might usually be, including family and friends’ houses and the area around the person’s home. It’s important to connect with neighbors, friends and relatives. Then get to the police.


Photo: jim.henderson

Photo: jim.henderson

Ways to help the police get started quickly include sharing any reasons and suspicions that may indicate the person has not willingly decided to leave. Be honest about any activities, legal and otherwise, in which he/she has been involved that might precipitate a disappearance.


Also, whoever is reporting the missing person should be as prepared as possible to give information such as what clothes the person is wearing, accessories, and a physical description that includes tattoos and scars. Provide photos.


Mary Burton THE SHARK cover image hi res 4-28-16Once reported, produce and distribute flyers with a picture and other pertinent information including where the person was last seen.


Is the person elderly? In need of medication or medical attention?  Mentally impaired? Has no history of disappearing for periods of time? All of these things ratchet up the urgency.


High risk missing persons include those known to be abducted or for whom abduction is suspected, and those missing under dangerous circumstances.


That’s what Virginia state trooper Riley Tatum and former FBI agent Clay Bowman are dealing with in this excerpt from The Shark, the first of my The Forgotten Files novels.


“I can help you, Sandy.”


“Don’t worry about me,” she said, sliding from the booth. “Just find Cassie. She has a chance to get out.”


Riley slid to the edge of the booth, pulled another business card from her back pocket, and pressed it into Sandy’s hand. “Just in case.”


“I have your number.”


“Then give it to another girl who needs help.”


“You lived on the streets, didn’t you?”


Riley dug a twenty out of her pocket, set it on the table, and placed her untouched coffee cup on top of it. “What makes you say that?”


“A vibe. Like you get what it’s like. No judgment in your eyes.”


“I been a cop for eight years. I’ve seen my share.”


“A lot of cops see.” She texted a message on her cell phone. “Few understand.”


“Lucky, I guess.”


“See you around, Lucky.”


Riley watched the girl push through the front door and cross the lot outside. She moved toward a dark truck, spoke to the driver, and climbed inside the cab.


Never in Riley’s career had she wanted to see two people behind bars or dead more than she did Darla and Jax. Jo-Jo might not ever testify against Jax, but he’d broken enough laws, including evading the police and possession of drugs in his car, to get him some time in prison. A prison sentence would give her the time to build a human trafficking case against him.


Outside, she walked toward the parking lot, watching as Bowman stepped away from his vehicle. He wore a dark sports coat over his white shirt and dark pants, but when a flap of wind caught the edges of the jacket she glimpsed the weapon at his side.


“What did she say?” he asked.


“There’s a motel about twenty miles east of here.”


“You want to check it out?”


“I do. If we don’t find Cassie, I’ll call Sharp.”


“Let’s go.”


The first forty-eight hours in a missing persons case were the most critical. Didn’t seem like a case could go cold so fast, but the best leads vanished with the ticking clock. She didn’t want to rely on Bowman, but she wanted to stack the odds in her favor. She didn’t want to lose this hand. “Okay.”


“I’ll be right behind you. If we get separated, wait for me.”