Politically incorrect detective Andreas Kaldis, promoted out of Athens to serve as police chief for Mykonos, is certain his homicide investigation days are over. Murders don't happen in Greece's tourist heaven. At least that's what he's thinking as he stares at the remains of a young woman, ritually bound and buried on a pile of human bones inside a remote mountain church.
Teamed with the nearly-retired local homicide chief, Andreas must find the killer before the world-wide media attention can destroy the Greek island's fabled reputation with rumors of a mystery that's haunted Mykonos for decades.
When another young woman disappears, political niceties no longer matter. The murder mystery quickly becomes a rescue operation, and Andreas races against a killer intent on claiming a new victim...
This high-stakes adventure introduces Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, and begins a series perfect for armchair travelers interested in pairing the idyllic views of Greece with devious mysteries.
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Murder in Mykonos
By Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2009 Jeffrey Siger
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Chapter OneAndreas Kaldis knew why his six-foot-two-inch body was crammed into a midget-sized window seat on a plane to Mykonos, and he didn't like it one bit. He'd been "promoted" from the Greek police force's number one ass-kicker in central Athens to its chief dog-and-cat protector for Athenian weekenders. At least that's how he saw it. Thirty-four-year-old hotshot homicide detectives like one thing: catching killers. For them, the worst punishment imaginable was being taken away from the action. His promotion to chief of police for one of the smallest of the Cyclades islands meant just that: being as far away from what he was born to do as Andreas could imagine.
Ninety miles and less than thirty minutes from Athens by plane, or three hours by high-speed ferry, Mykonos was approximately one and a half times the size of the island of Manhattan and had become to Athens what Andreas understood "the Hamptons" were to New Yorkers. Rich and superrich Athenians—together with thousands of wannabe celebrities from all over Europe—flocked to Mykonos on holiday. Many built mega-million-euro summer homes on the island or paid London hotel prices for far less than English five-star service.
What the locals wanted didn't matter anymore—even though most didn't know it yet. The moneyed visitors now had a say in how Mykonos would be run, and they had their complaints. For one thing, they were tired of putting up with the old ways. They also groused about too many break-ins, too many crazy, drunken drivers, and too much local political influence over police enforcement practices. The wealthy were demanding better policing, and they had the political influence to get it.
Enter Andreas Kaldis. His move to Mykonos—or rather, his departure from Athens—was exceptionally good news to certain powerful people. His aggressive investigation into a series of murders over control of the Athenian drug trade had worried them. Promoting him out of Athens—and out of the investigation—was a political masterstroke that even Andreas could appreciate. It hurt no one and made everyone happy. Everyone but Andreas.
Officially, he arrived under a mandate involving the European Union's insistence that Mykonos show more evenhanded law enforcement toward non-Greeks. Andreas took that as a political cover story for Greece's Public Order Ministry, which oversaw the police, to guard against the inevitable griping by Mykonian locals that Athens was trying to control their affairs—a perennial complaint among islanders.
Also mentioned in the official announcement of his appointment was the fact that Andreas lacked family ties to any Greek island. That made him a particularly desirable choice for police chief because no one could accuse him of favoritism toward islanders—a perennial complaint on the part of mainland Greeks. The fact that Andreas had served his obligatory service in the military at an air force installation on Mykonos was not mentioned.
Off the record, Andreas had orders to tread lightly with the locals. As a young, single man wielding considerable power on a small island, he knew that word of his every move would get around fast. As far as he was concerned, Athens wasn't a much bigger place when it came to gossip—and he liked it that way. That was how he got some of his best leads. If the warning meant to avoid fooling around with the local women, he already knew better. Any self-respecting cop would. Besides, Andreas had no intention of incurring some local family's vendetta—or of tying his future to a Mykonos clan for the rest of his days.
His morning flight was packed with early-June tourists. He fit right in, except he already had his tan—it came, along with his dark hair and gray eyes, from his parents. So did his square jaw and decent good looks. The counterbalancing bump and slightly crooked tilt to his nose—the collective work of several folks who'd ended up looking a lot worse—let you know Andreas wasn't someone to mess with.
"Looks like it's going to be a busy season," said the guy in the aisle seat next to him. He was about Andreas' size but looked twenty years older.
Andreas hated talking to people on airplanes. Something about planes made people want to tell you things they'd never dream of talking about with strangers on the ground. Maybe it was something about being up in the air, above the earth and closer to God. Or maybe it was just nerves.
"You're Greek, aren't you?" The man was speaking Greek with what sounded like a South African accent.
Andreas had to respond in order to avoid seeming rude. He nodded.
"Sure hope it's busy. Business was slow last year."
This guy isn't going to stop, thought Andreas, nodding again. He turned his head and stared out the window.
"I'm a jeweler."
Andreas knew the man was just trying to be friendly and he didn't have anything against jewelers—someday he might even need one if he found the right girl. But this cheery nosiness was just the sort of thing he dreaded about being posted to Mykonos. Everyone wanted to know everyone else's business. Andreas turned back to the fellow and, with his most practiced, tired-cop look, said, "That's nice," and returned to the window.
The man took the hint and remained silent for the rest of the flight. After they landed and were walking from the plane to the terminal, he offered Andreas his hand, which Andreas shook graciously. "Enjoy your time here among the gods," the man said with a smile. "After all, they were our first tourists."
And, no doubt, those same gods knew that they wouldn't be the last.
As Andreas waited for his bags he looked around and saw a room full of excited, good-time-ready responsibilities. How would he possibly protect and police fifty thousand locals and visitors with only sixty cops—including the additional twenty-five assigned to him for the tourist season? He shook his head and chuckled aloud. Maybe he could summon a few of those gods from Delos in a pinch.
Outside the terminal he waited for whomever had been assigned to pick him up. The breeze felt good, but after five minutes of pushing his slightly too-long hair out of his eyes and over his forehead, he picked up his briefcase and walked the hundred yards to the police station abutting the airport. It had been relocated there from the center of town a few years before—perhaps to shorten the walk for stranded chiefs. Andreas didn't mind the walkhe ran regularly to keep fit—but he did mind the lack of respect.
The two-story, thick-walled building had the traditional whitewash with blue trim found in Mykonian architecture. Police and civilian cars, SUVs, and motorcycles as well as an assortment of vehicles mangled in road accidents were parked haphazardly along the front and left side of the building. Andreas wasn't in uniform, and the first things he noticed as he walked in were the ages and abrupt attitudes of the cops who got right in his face and asked what he wanted. All but a handful of the officers under his command were fresh out of the police academy, or still in it and assigned to Mykonos for the summer as part of their training. As green as green could be.
And their community-relations skills would need serious work. What would be even trickier was that, according to their personnel files, not one of these kids was from Mykonos. Mykonians were fiercely independent; they had no desire to be cops and little respect for those who were. Tourism had made Mykonians, on a per capita basis, the richest people in Greece. The financial benefits of police work—both lawful and otherwise—held no attraction for them. Besides, many boasted ancestors who had been unrepentant pirates.
One cop asked Andreas a second time—and more aggressively—what he wanted. Andreas couldn't help himself. "Would you be kind enough to pick up my bags at the airport? I left them with the Olympic ticket agent."
The young man, who was built like a bull, looked to his friends, then back at Andreas. "Listen, wiseass, this is a police station. So get the hell out before you find out what happens when you fuck with cops." He gave an "I showed him" smirk to his buddies.
Andreas fixed his steel-gray eyes on the young cop and let a "do I have your ass now" smile spread across his face. "So nice to meet you, Officer—what does that say on your uniform?—Kouros. I'm Andreas Kaldis, your new chief of police."
Someone should have checked Kouros' shorts at that moment, but there wasn't time. He proved himself smart enough to be out the door and in a car headed to the airport before Andreas could speak another word. Kouros' friends also jumped to attention, Andreas' point clearly made.
Chalk one up for the new chief. But there was no time to enjoy his little victory. He'd deal with Kouros and the man responsible for meeting him at the airport later, in private. For the moment. There was a lot of work to do. He just hoped to get half-accustomed to the job before all hell broke loose.
* * *
By the middle of his first week Andreas knew his job was impossible. Everyone on the island did what they wanted. It was as if the police didn't exist. For now, he could only manage triage, prioritizing what could be done. The impossible situations would be left alone. The insignificant would too. He'd focus attention on what he'd been told was the most politically sensitive concern: danger to tourists. Mykonos thrived because of its tourists, and he had to protect them—if only from themselves.
By the beginning of his second week he'd set up a series of floating checkpoints for catching drunk drivers, reckless drivers, and helmetless motorcyclists. It was the sort of high-visibility, aggressive police activity that, by word of mouth, would change the behavior of far more drivers than they could ever arrest.
He also set up a special unit to back up the cops who worked undercover at the island's most notorious, late-night tourist spots keeping an eye out for pickpockets and drug dealers. If a tourist at any of those places was robbed or assaulted that unit would appear in force—and in uniform. It was a not so subtle way of sending word to the owners that they'd better take care of their patrons if they wanted their places to remain free of more intrusive police activity.
Thefts from unlocked hotel rooms and unattended bags were grudgingly accepted as an unpreventable fact of modern life. But unprovoked violence and robbery against innocent tourists enjoying the island's freewheeling party life threatened the economic heart of Mykonos. Andreas' message was clear: no such threat to its reputation would be tolerated—from anyone.
In less than two weeks, Andreas felt that he was having a positive impact on the community. The island's longtime mayor—a sturdy combination of political-machine boss and preening cock of the walk—even stopped by to compliment him. Things seemed to be working out. He thought if he made it through the summer without ruffling any feathers or stepping on any toes he just might be able to work his way back into the good graces of the folks in Athens—and get transferred the hell out of here.
He thought it might help him to stay cool if he tried a little harder to relax. Go to the beach and blow off some steam. Maybe even one of those beaches where the tourist women like to show off their lack of tan lines. He wondered if they were still as hot for Greeks in uniform as they had been when he'd served here in the air force. It was early afternoon and he was getting into the fantasy when Kouros hurried into his office—after knocking, of course.
The news was not good: an Albanian moving stone on some property way over on the other side of the island called to say he'd found a dead body.
Andreas didn't want to believe what he was hearing and his voice showed it. "A dead body, on Mykonos?"
"Yes, sir," said Kouros. He'd learned to treat his chief with respect. "He didn't say much more than that. Just the location. He was pretty frightened. I was surprised he even called. Most of them doing that sort of work are illegal and afraid of us."
Andreas paused for a moment and stared off into the middle distance, contemplating a decision. "Do you know how to get there?"
Andreas got up from his desk. "Well, let's take a ride over and see what he found."
"Uh, sir?" Kouros' voice was tentative.
In an even more uncertain tone: "Aren't we supposed to call Syros whenever there's a homicide?"
Central Police Headquarters for the Cyclades was on Syros, the political capital for the circle of islands spanning one hundred miles from Andros on the north to Santorini on the south. All homicide investigators and criminal forensic facilities were based there—less than an hour from Mykonos by police boat.
Andreas knew Kouros was right, but he'd be damned if he'd let Syros trample over a murder scene in his jurisdiction before he had a chance to look at it. So much for playing it cool. "Yeah, but let's just make sure it wasn't a dead goat he found before bothering Syros."
Kouros said nothing, simply walked with Andreas to the car, got into the driver's seat, and began driving east. Andreas liked the way the big kid knew when to keep his mouth shut.
"Sir, I understand you were with Special Homicide Investigations in Athens?"
Word got around. "Yes."
"How many murders have you seen?"
"Of goats? Or sheep?"
"Nice day, sir."
The rest of their conversation was about Kouros' family back in Athens and his roots on the Ionian island of Zákynthos. It was a pleasant chat, but one that let Kouros know there would be no personal information coming from the chief for him to share with his buddies over coffee.
The twenty-minute drive took them along the road past the air force's mountaintop "secret" radar installation—the one everyone on the island knew about. Andreas had been stationed there twelve years ago. He couldn't believe how much that part of the island had changed. Back then there was virtually nothing to see from up here but dirt roads and endless rocky, barren hillsides crisscrossed with centuries-old stone walls. Now the road was paved and elegant homes sprouted everywhere on seemingly unbuildable sites. It was amazing what people with money could do when they wanted something.
The road turned to dirt, then drifted back down the mountain to the east before heading north and up again toward the most desolate part of the island. These steep, gray-brown hillsides once were home to goat herders who could afford no better land, but even they long ago abandoned their little stone-fenced fields in favor of other places. For almost a century no one had wanted to be here. Too far out of town, too much wind, too little—if any—water.
Now, a recent island-wide ban on new construction on land without an existing foundation made an even long-abandoned, goat herder's shed valuable. Using an appropriately connected contractor to obtain—for a price—the necessary permits, you could "finish" construction and truck in all the fresh water you wanted along the new road. All you needed was the money.
Andreas remembered old mines around here down by the sea. Some sort of mineral used in oil drilling—barite, maybe. He wondered if they still operated. Abandoned mines were great for hiding bodies. On an island like this, though, there had to be hundreds of places to get rid of one—if you had time to plan—but he knew murders rarely took place where the murderer would like them to. That meant moving the body or leaving it where the killer hadn't planned. Either way left clues. Most murders were poorly thought out beyond the decision to kill—unless, of course, professionals or terrorists were involved.
Then again, this was an island, and the best place to get rid of a body was the sea. No one would ever find one tossed in the sea if you knew how to keep it from popping up. Thankfully, most killers didn't have that skill—though Andreas was pretty sure that on an island of fishermen most Mykonians would know how or have a relative who did.
Excerpted from Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey Siger. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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