Extract: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
With first class plotting and a compelling heroine, Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner is a gripping thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten.
Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman with more regrets than belongings who spends her life doing what no one else will: searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.
A new case brings Frankie to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier.
Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own. And she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing will be her…
Read on for an extract from Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner!
Before She Disappeared
RUMBLE. SCREECH. A sudden booming announcement: “South Station, next stop!”
I jerk awake as the train lurches to a halt, blinking and looking down at my perfectly dry clothes. A dream. Nightmare. Something. Not the first or the last in my line of work. It leaves me with a film of dread as I grab my bags and follow the rest of the passengers off the train.
I’d found Lani Whitehorse three weeks ago, locked in her vehicle at the bottom of a lake. After months of intensive research on an Indian reservation where my presence was never welcomed by the locals nor wanted by the tribal police. But I’d stumbled upon the case online and been moved by her mother’s steadfast assurance that Lani would never leave her own daughter. Lani might be a screw‑ up with horrible taste in men, but she was still a mom. Why people assumed those things couldn’t go together, I’ll never know.
So I’d moved to the area, became a bartender at Lani’s former workplace, and started my own investigation. Lani’s mom hugged me the day the police finally dragged the Chevy truck out of the lake in a deluge of muck and horror. Wailing, crying relief as Lani was finally brought home. I waited around for the funeral, standing outside the small crowd of mourners, as proving yourself right almost always means proving someone else wrong and therefore rarely wins you many friends.
I did what I needed to do. Then I headed to the local library, where I booted up the computer and returned to the national chat rooms where family members, concerned neighbours, and crazy people like me compare notes on various missing persons cases. There are so many. Too many, sometimes, for local resources. So, more and more, people like me have been stepping into the vacuum.
I read. I posted a few questions. And in a matter of hours, I knew where I was headed next.
Like I said, so many missing persons cases. Too many.
Which has brought me here, to Boston, a city I’ve never visited. I have no idea where I am or what I’m doing, but that’s hardly new. Now, I follow the mass of humanity hustling across the train platform to the exit signs, all of my worldly possessions packed into a single piece of luggage rolling behind me. Once I had a house, a car, a white picket fence. But time erodes and now…
Let’s just say I’ve learned to travel light.
Out on the bright sidewalk, I stop, blink, then shutter my eyes completely. Walking straight out into downtown Boston feels like an assault on the senses. People, shrieking horns, crosswalks. The stench of diesel fuel, fried fish, harbour brine. I’ve forgotten the crushing feel of the concrete jungle, even one with a glittering waterfront.
I work on taking a deep, shuddering breath. This is my new home until I complete my mission. I exhale slowly. Then I open my eyes and square my shoulders. The last of my nightmare and travel daze falls away. I’m ready to get to it, which is good given the flood of annoyed pedestrians shoving past me.
From my worn leather messenger bag, I withdraw the file filled with papers I printed out days ago. It includes a map of Boston, articles on city demographics, and a photo of a shyly smiling girl with smooth dark skin, gorgeous brown eyes, and deep black hair cascading down in a mass of carefully groomed ringlets. Fifteen at the time of her disappearance. Sixteen now.
Meet Angelique Lovelie Badeau. Angel to her friends. LiLi to her family.
Angelique disappeared eleven months ago from Mattapan, Boston. Walked out of her school on a Friday afternoon in November and then… Poof. No sightings. No leads. No breaks in the case. For eleven whole months.
Bostonians will tell you that Mattapan is that kind of neighbourhood. Rough. Poor. Filled with hardworking souls, of course, and a rich cultural heritage thanks to having the country’s largest Haitian population outside of Florida. But also a hotbed of gang activity and violent crime. If you want to get shot or stabbed, Murderpan, as the locals call it, is the neighbourhood for it. Which is where I now plan to rent a place, find a job, and question the neighbours.
And I hope, through sheer guts, determination, and blind luck, I will find a girl the rest of the world seems to have forgotten already. I’m not a police officer.
I’m not a private investigator.
I have no special skills or training.
I’m only me. An average, middle‑aged white woman with more regrets than belongings, more sad stories than happy ones.
My name is Frankie Elkin and finding missing people — particularly minorities — is what I do. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never bothered to care, I start looking. For no money, no recognition, and most of the time, no help. Why do I do what I do?
So many of our children have vanished. Too many will never be found, often based solely on the colour of their skin. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why am I doing this, but why isn’t everyone looking?
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