A Killing Sky: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

A Killing Sky: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

by Andy Straka
A Killing Sky: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

A Killing Sky: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

by Andy Straka

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Overview

The Anthony Award-nominated second novel in the Frank Pavlicek series.

Ex-cop and avid falconer Frank Pavlicek is hired by the daughter of a philandering Virginia Congressman to find her missing twin sister. Is her disappearance related to her disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend? Or is it somehow connected to her ambitious father's re-election campaign, a tawdry sex scandal, and a hit-and-run accident that happened twenty years ago? Pavlicek's investigation unearths long-buried secrets that someone would like to keep six feet under...along with the PI's corpse.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941298732
Publisher: Cutting Edge Publishing
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Series: Frank Pavlicek Series , #2
Pages: 254
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Andy Straka is the author of the widely acclaimed, bestselling Frank Pavlicek PI series and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of "ten rising stars" in crime fiction. Straka is a native of upstate New York, a licensed falconer, and a long-time resident of Virginia, where he is co-founder of the popular Crime Wave at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book.

Read an Excerpt

A Killing Sky

A Frank Pavlicek Mystery


By Andy Straka

Brash Books, LLC

Copyright © 2012 Andy Straka
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941298-73-2


CHAPTER 1

Old age, they say, comes at a bad time.

It had certainly come at a bad time for George and Norma Paitley. A copy of an almost twenty-year-old Washington Post article, complete with photos of the elderly couple's Buick, pancaked almost beyond recognition, lay front and center on my desk. According to the story, an eyewitness to the aftermath of the early-morning accident on Connecticut Avenue had reported seeing what looked like a city garbage truck speeding away from the scene. A check of the city's fleet, however, revealed no damage to any of its vehicles. In fact, the day of the accident had been a federal holiday, and none of the official trucks were working. Another photocopy, this one of a follow-up piece several weeks later, indicated that the police still had no solid leads about the identity of the truck or its driver.

The plain manila envelope containing the two articles had arrived at my office in Charlottesville, Virginia, via courier. No note or explanation of any kind. No return address or information about who the sender might have been, either. I was trying to figure out if someone had mixed me up with someone else when the phone rang.

"Okay," I said a few seconds later, "so you say you're Cassidy Drummond."

"Not only say it, Mr. Pavlicek. I am."

The call was a prank, of course. Had to be.

The voice on the phone sounded confident, if a tad weary. During TV coverage of the sex scandal that had nearly ended her father's political career, the real Cassidy Drummond had sounded younger, more unsure of herself. I remembered juxtaposed images of her and her sister in matching school uniforms, some Richmond news producer's quixotic idea of evoking pathos. My Caller ID screen read NUMBER BLOCKED.

"Jake Toronto put you up to this?" This was just the kind of stunt my ex-homicide partner might dream up.

"Who?"

"Never mind."

"Did you get the articles I sent over?" she asked.

I looked down at the clippings. "Oh, they came from you, huh?"

And just when the reading was beginning to get interesting.

"Yes. Or I should say from my sister, Cartwright. I found them in her suitcase."

"I see. ... Nice touch. You're not one of Nicky's friends, are you?" I said.

"Nicky?"

"My daughter. I thought you might be one of her friends."

"I'm sorry. I don't know her."

The radiator in the corner moaned. Its rust-speckled pipes might have served as savior to my dilapidated potted plants, Filbert and Flaubert, but the heat in the old renovated warehouse had been overperforming so regularly of late I was giving serious thought to the idea of adding orchids to my collection. With the office windows thrown wide open, the only evidence of the raw March morning outside came from the faint din of traffic on Water Street below.

"Didn't I see a blurb in the paper the other day that said the congressman's daughters were still overseas?"

"In Japan," she said. "Yes, we were there for a couple of months. A foreign study project in Kyoto. But we flew back into Dulles yesterday. We're both still enrolled at the university, and midterms are coming up. Be careful about the newspapers, Mr. Pavlicek. They're always late and often inaccurate."

"Maybe you should've thought of that before you sent me these articles."

She was silent for a moment. Then she said, "I wanted to give you someplace to start."

Start? At this point, as any private investigator worth his lack of fear or tarnish will tell you, I should have hung up the phone. The world is filled with enough real problems. Why waste an ear on tabloid-bred charlatans bent on some thrill? But the articles in front of me looked real enough. Being the curious and maybe sometimes slightly sadistic sort, I leaned back in my creaky swivel-tilter and decided to wait her out. The half-finished report on my computer screen for the attorney who needed a witness to bolster his client's claim for negligence against a half-blind librarian who had U-turned her minivan through the client's storefront window had long since ceased to stir my imagination anyway. Plus, how often do you get to speak intimately with celebrity, even the counterfeit brand?

"You still there?" my faux-famous caller asked.

"Yup."

"You sound as if you still don't believe I am who I say I am."

"I don't. You and your sister really as identical as you look on TV?"

"Pretty much." Annoyance in her voice.

"Where are you two planning to live now that you're back in C-ville?"

"Can we get back to why I sent you the articles?"

"Just trying to establish the extent of your credibility."

"My credibility? What about your credibility?"

"You called me, remember?"

"I was given your name by Marcia D'Angelo."

"Marcia?" A referral from my girlfriend was not one to be taken lightly.

"She's an old friend of my family. She said you know her."

"I know her, all right." I'd even harbored thoughts, for going on two years now, of knowing her in the biblical sense. Marcia was a woman with strong beliefs, however, and I respected that. We weren't exactly talking marriage, although popping the question had been crossing my mind of late. Funny, though — she'd never mentioned any friendship with the Drummonds. Then again, we didn't talk much about politics. It was not always an area of agreement between us.

"She was a volunteer for one of my father's campaigns a long time ago, you know."

"Wonderful."

She went on. "Wright and I are supposed to be moving into an apartment on Gordon Avenue after the first of the month. Right now we're staying at the house our father rents out in Ivy. He's just about to leave on a trade mission to Greece."

I didn't know about Greece, but she had the local spot right. Congressman Drummond had recently made the move to Albemarle County, following his divorce from the twins' mother. The man had been acquitted of sexual harassment, though he'd admitted a long-standing affair with a staff member. Now he and his family were "healed," as Tor Drummond put it, at least enough for him to be running for reelection.

Most often, celebrities move quietly to the Charlottesville area, hoping to gain a modicum of anonymity among the horse-dotted hills. They drive their clay-splattered SUVs or pickups between town and their farms like any other rural Virginian. But Tor Drummond, from a line of patriarchs who had made their fortunes processing tobacco, was an exception. He drove a banana-yellow Hummer, wore a ten-gallon Stetson, and despite the furor over his latest extramarital exploits, seemed to have little interest in voluntary obscurity.

"I would've thought you'd want to avoid your father's place," I said, finally reaching for the recorder on my desk and a new cassette. "You mind if I record the rest of our little chat?"

"No," she said.

According to law in the enlightened Commonwealth of Virginia I wasn't required to ask her the question, but since we were talking celebrity and politics here ... well, I'll say no more.

"And as far as my avoiding the house," she said, "my sister and I are students here and I don't see why I should."

"Not taking sides between Mom and Dad?"

"Of course not. We've all agreed to put what's happened behind us. Besides, Mom's been really busy lately."

"Uh-huh."

If I remembered right, the twin's mother, Karen, was a respected and — if you believed the papers — blameless pediatrician from Richmond. Doctor and Congressman Drummond had married when both were medical residents. Our intrepid congressional representative was a physician too, at least by title, although he hadn't actually practiced medicine for years.

"So will you help me?"

I still had little idea what she was talking about, but something in her tone suddenly told me she was legit. Why was I not surprised? Why did it feel like this call was going to lead to something much bigger than a couple of old newspaper articles about an unsolved hit-and-run? Something about Marcia?

I stared at Fauntleroy, the eagle owl that presided in taxidermic splendor over the corner of my office opposite the plants, a gift from an old man who saw into the soul of birds. The owl stared back.

"All right, Miss Drummond. I'll bite — you say you found these newspaper clippings in your sister's suitcase?"

"Yes."

"Why were you going through her bags?"

"Well" — she hesitated — "that's where it begins to get complicated."

"Complicated."

"Yes."

"You and your sister are close?"

"Of course."

"She in some kind of trouble?"

"Yes. I mean, she might be."

"Have you asked her why she was carrying these articles around?"

"No — I can't."

I picked up a stray marble that had been rolling around among the papers on my desk and turned it over in my hand while I waited for her explanation. It was blue, with swirls of white and gray that made it resemble the planet Neptune.

"My sister has disappeared," she finally said.

"Your sister's missing?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm sorry Marcia gave you my name, then. If what you say is true, you and your parents need to be talking to the police, not to me."

"But this just happened. My parents don't know anything about it."

"I see. And you don't want them to."

"No. Not yet, at least."

I thought about all that. "How long has your sister been missing?"

"Since late last night. Mom and Dad were both there to meet us at the airport, and we all went out to dinner after. Then Wright and I drove back down here to Charlottesville with my dad. Mom went home to Richmond."

How new millennium — divorced parents both there to meet the kids. I wondered if Drummond's campaign manager had brought along a photographer to document how healed they all were.

"Okay. Then what?"

"The flight was like, fourteen hours or something. I was exhausted. Wright was tired too, but she said she was going to drive into town to meet her boyfriend."

"What time was this?"

"Almost midnight."

What we do for love.

"Your sister must really be into this guy. How come he wasn't at the airport too?"

"It's not like that, Mr. Pavlicek. I mean, it was ... but she was planning to break up with him."

"Is that why she went to meet him?"

"Yes, that's what she said. I think she just wanted to get it over with."

"Did your father know she was going out?"

"No. She made me promise not to tell him."

"Okay. Then what?"

"Then nothing. She never came back. She's not in her room this morning, and the rental car we were using is missing. I've tried calling her cell phone and everything."

"Maybe she and the boyfriend made up," I suggested.

"No. Wright would've called me."

"Isn't your father curious about your sister being gone?"

"I told him she's with Jed — that's her boyfriend. Anyway, Dad's pretty preoccupied right now with his trip and all. Besides, he and Cartwright haven't exactly been getting along lately."

This smacked of trouble. Being the father of a teen myself, I heard alarm bells sounding.

"Let me level with you," I said. "There could be any number of innocent explanations for your sister's behavior. The police won't even become involved until after twenty-four hours have gone by. I sympathize, but I'm sorry. I don't really see how I can help at this point. If your sister hasn't shown up by midnight, you need the police. And if I were you, I'd be sharing what you've just told me with your mom and dad."

"Please, Mr. Pavlicek. I can't wait until midnight. I just know something's happened. Jed's capable of almost anything."

"The boyfriend? What do you mean?"

"He's gotten real possessive. When we were in

Kyoto he would send her these crazy E-mails. Sometimes three or four a day."

I glanced again at the picture of the crushed automobile. "He the one who sent your sister these articles?" "Maybe — I don't know."

"Have you tried reaching him this morning?"

"Yes. He was just headed to class, then swim practice. He's on the team, you know. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. Said he didn't even know Wright was back. He thinks I'm making up a story so she doesn't have to see him.

"I just want to make sure my sister's okay, Mr. Pavlicek, and I don't want my parents or the police or anybody else — especially Jed — to find out about this."

Confidentiality, under the right circumstances, was something I could handle, but were these the right circumstances?

"How come all the secrecy when it comes to your parents?" I asked.

"I'm sorry. I'd rather not discuss any more of this over the phone. Is there someplace we could meet?"

I picked up a number two pencil and started drumming it on the copies of the articles on my desk. Maybe I'd had crazier calls. I just couldn't remember one. Most likely Cartwright Drummond had gotten cold feet about the boyfriend. Maybe she'd been too embarrassed to admit this to her sister and gone to spend the night somewhere else. Then again, why would she be carrying around these old newspaper clippings? One of the high-tech spy catalogs I get sells a little device you can hook to your phone and, its makers claim, use to determine whether or not the party on the other end is telling the truth. Not for the first time I wished I'd had such a gizmo. Trouble was, like everybody else, I feared being replaced by a machine.

A road grader, or something that sounded very much like it, roared by outside. I haphazardly flipped through my appointment book. Wouldn't you know? No pressing crimes, no other damsels in emergent distress. Nothing but an arrangement to spend an hour or two hunting that afternoon with my daughter, Nicole — we'd be flying Armistead, my red-tailed hawk. We were nearing the end of the season, the wind was down today, and I didn't want to miss the chance.

"I could meet you at a restaurant down here on the mall," I said. "The Nook? Say in about an hour?"

"Okay. I'll be there. But —"

"But what?"

"You haven't mentioned anything about money."

"Is it a problem?"

"I can offer you five thousand dollars."

"Whoa. Hold on now. I charge seventy-five bucks an hour, plus expenses."

"All right."

Fauntleroy was-still staring, but Filbert and Flaubert seemed to have perked up a bit at the mention of money.

"If this is a hoax, tell Toronto, or whoever put you up to it, that I said you are very good."

"I promise, Mr. Pavlicek," she said. "No hoax."

CHAPTER 2

"She's for real," Marcia D'Angelo said. Her soft Southern drawl oozed conspiracy. "She called here a couple of hours ago."

Thw-aack. A Granny Smith apple, the target of her knife, split in two. She stood in bare feet at the butcher-block table in her kitchen, dressed in a flannel shirt over cutoffs that nicely displayed her shapely legs. The heat was turned up high. The public schools might have been out on spring break, but my girlfriend's idea of fun — while a number of her students and fellow teachers were reclining down in Tropicanaville — was to stay home and clean out all her closets and drawers. To think, if only I could have talked her into joining the crowd in Florida, instead of chasing down lost celebrity children, I could have been snuggling right there beside her, rum swizzle in hand, warm sand between our toes.

"I was afraid that's what you'd say," I said. "What did she tell you?"

"She said she was worried about the way her sister has been acting lately and that she'd found an item she wanted someone to check into, an old newspaper article or something. Didn't want me to tell her mother and especially not her father. So I thought about it and sent her to you."

Not exactly the spin I'd been given, but I let it pass. "Why me?"

"She wanted someone she could trust. And it's the kind of thing you do for a living, isn't it? She made it sound like she and Cartwright were having a disagreement. Seemed like she was just after information."

"That's all she told you?"

"That's all. Why? Is there something more?"

I avoided her gaze. "You know this family well, then?"

"Of course. I've known them for years. Karen and I met at the office when I worked on Drummond's first campaign. We really clicked and have kept in touch ever since. She and the girls are good people."

"Tor Drummond parades around like he's the next Bill Clinton. How come you never mentioned them before?"

She shrugged. "I guess I just didn't think you'd be interested."

"You worked for Drummond's campaign?" She snickered, tossing her hair. She was wearing it in a semishag cut, a look I favored. "Were you on staff?"

"That was a long time ago. And I was a volunteer. There's a difference. Believe me."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Killing Sky by Andy Straka. Copyright © 2012 Andy Straka. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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