The Night Falconer (Frank Pavlicek Series #4)

The Night Falconer (Frank Pavlicek Series #4)

by Andy Straka
The Night Falconer (Frank Pavlicek Series #4)

The Night Falconer (Frank Pavlicek Series #4)

by Andy Straka


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"These events, it was said, were often precipitated by the distant screaming of a hawk or the hooting of an owl."

An odd situation turns deadly serious for private investigator and falconer Frank Pavlicek when a prominent resident of a renovated Manhattan apartment building accuses the building's eccentric developer, with whom she and other apartment owners are embroiled in a lawsuit, of hiring someone with a bird of prey to hunt down their pets. The pets are definitely missing. The accuser claims to have found incriminating evidence while witnesses have spotted a specter-like figure prowling Central Park at night carrying a giant owl. Returning to some of his former NYPD haunts to investigate with the help of his daughter and partner Nicole, sidekick Jake Toronto, and tough-nosed New York PI Darla Barnes, Frank soon discovers more is at stake than any of them imagine. Chasing what appears to be a mysterious falconer, they stumble upon an anonymous, half-dead child.

"Fast-paced, twisty, and complex." -- BOOKLIST

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780989146517
Publisher: Cedar Creek Publishing
Publication date: 03/23/2013
Series: Frank Pavlicek Series , #4
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

Winner of the Shamus Award, Finalist for the Anthony and the Agatha

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 Night Falconer

A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

By Andy Straka

Brash Books, LLC

Copyright © 2010 Andy Straka
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941298-79-4


The war between birds and cats began when Dr. Korva Lonigan, a respected physician and animal rights activist, discovered a feather from a great horned owl with what she took to be the remains of her missing tabby Groucho along the curb in front of her apartment building on Central Park West.

I'm not making this up.

I never expected to become involved in a war between species. Or between their human campaign managers, at any rate. I never expected to return to New York City either, except as a tourist. And if I had known that steamy Virginia afternoon about the depths of survival and the spun-off fragments of a real war we would end up unearthing, I might never have answered the cell phone I'd stupidly left tucked in my shorts pocket while balancing two pounds of fidgety Harris' hawk on the back of my left hand.

I fished out the offending instrument with my free, ungloved mitt. New York City area code on the display. Maybe it was Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk, calling to be rescued from his unwanted celebrity status in Central Park. No such luck.

"Guess who," a female voice said.

My brain shifted into high speed reverse, flashing back nearly a decade and a half to a New York courtroom and a dark blue transit cop's uniform. The composed, coffee colored face of a character witness standing in for Jake Toronto and me, her arms crossed as she stared down the plaintiff's attorney in the thousand dollar suit who had helped engineer the wrongful death lawsuit against us.

"Darla Barnes," I said.

"Very good, Franco. I see you haven't lost your edge."

"I also have caller ID."

"Strange world these days, isn't it?" she said. "No such thing as privacy anymore. Just bought a new cell phone. Gotta remember to get this number blocked."

Darla Barnes was the only person in the world who had ever and would ever call me Franco. She'd earned that right one misty spring night in the Bronx when I was a newly minted NYPD detective and she, a mere transit rookie, had been instrumental in preventing me from being put under the knife by an overzealous group of bikers at a dumpy watering hole near Yankee Stadium. For reasons different than my own, she'd been working the PI beat almost as long I had.

"It's been a while," I said.

"Yes it has. How's that little girl of yours?"

"Not so little anymore. She graduated from college a couple of months ago and is in the process of making the biggest mistake of her life."

"What's that?"

"Working for her old man."

Darla chuckled. "Pee-eyeing with you, you mean."

"You got it. How's your family doing?"

"Not as aged as yours of course, on account of my youthful grace and vigor. But my youngest, Sweetness, is the cutest little thing you could imagine and my ten year old, Marcos, is at the top his class in school."

"Great to hear it."

"Am I catching you at a bad time? You busy?"

"Not really. Nicky's got some programmer running a security audit on our network, so we're out of business for the afternoon. I'm just out here messing around with one of my birds."

It was late on a Friday, Fourth of July weekend. For the third day in a row, the mercury in Charlottesville had topped ninety-five degrees. We already seemed to be stuck in that interminable summer pattern of heat building through the day, followed by the break, somewhere in the afternoon, of a thunder-clapping downpour. Today's edition of cloudburst was running a little on the late side, however. The sun still did its thing. Inside my hawk's enclosure the air was as thick as oatmeal. My T-shirt felt like it had been super-glued to my back. Bits of fluffy down, cream and black, drifted through the chain link fence while Torch's talons danced nervously around my gloved fist.

"You mean to tell me you're flying one of your falcons right this second?"

"Not exactly. But I am holding onto a hawk in my other hand as we speak."


"What do you mean?"

"You'll see ... Got a job for you, Franco, if you're interested."

"Okay," I said.

In fact, it was very okay. Eagle Eye Investigations was sometimes flush with cash, sometimes not. Since our contract with a Northern Virginia security firm for post 9/11 background checks on federal hires had expired a couple of months before, 'not' was beginning to creep more into the equation.

"The client's name is Dr. Korva Lonigan. I'm calling you from her apartment in Manhattan."

"All right." The doctor was most likely having a problem with a piece of property or something she owned down here in central Virginia. Or maybe the issue involved a relative or an ex-husband, or an accident that had occurred in the area.

"I should warn you, though, Frank. This deal's probably a little different from the kind of work you're used to."

"How so?"

The last time I'd had work like that, six months before, I'd almost drowned at the bottom of a river while trying to figure out how to avoid getting blown to bits.

Darla was silent on the other end of the line for a moment. I adjusted my grip on the jesses and eyed Torch, who was now staring at me warily. Harris' hawks are native to the Southwest. Unlike me, my bird seemed to be doing just fine with the heat. He probably wouldn't even have minded had God decided to crank up the temperature another twenty degrees. There was no hunting for him this time of year, at least while he was in my care. He was too busy molting. All he basically had to do right now was sail around inside his enclosure to keep himself in some semblance of flying condition, eat, defecate, and make new feathers. Call it a wild hawk day spa. With the exception of deigning to interact with me for regular feeding and the occasional weigh-in, of course.

I decided I better tie him back on his ring leash. Torch squawked while I secured the line with a one hand knot and cast him off to fly up the wire onto his perch again.

"You still there, Frank?" Darla must have wondered if I was experiencing a medical emergency.

"Yeah, sorry, I'm listening." I backed away to lean against the fence, turning my head again into the phone.

"You want to know how this is different so let me ask you a question. Since you're so into birds and everything, people ever come to you with other animal issues?"

"I've dealt with a few animals who call themselves humans, if that's what you mean."

"I know that. But I'm talking about real live animals here. Criminal actions involving pets. Neglect, abuse, mutilation, killings — that sort of thing."

"Oh, no, can't say that I have. If I ever did, I'd refer it out to the SPCA, or if it were a wild animal, to Virginia DGIF or the feds at Fish and Wildlife."

"I see."

"Unless there was something more than just an animal problem going on of course."

"Of course."

"What, does this Dr. Lonigan have some kind of problem like that?"

"Possibly," she said. "Not exactly...."

I waited, but she said nothing more, so I added: "A lot of times, you know, when you see animal abuse, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Intentionally inflicting harm on a domestic creature can be indicative of a whole host of issues."

"You mean like serial killers."

"That's one possibility."

"Okay, but look, hey, I don't think we're dealing with that kind of an issue here."

"Good. Because I'm out of the serial killer business."

She lowered her voice a little as if she were cupping her hand around the receiver. "This Dr. Lonigan comes from some very serious money. Prestigious job at Columbia. Hoity new place on Central Park West. You get the picture?"

"What kind of doctor is she?"

"Pediatric oncologist."

"Must not be easy work," I said.

"I'm sure it isn't."

"She married?"




"You said she's having some kind of problem with an animal though."

"Yeah. Hear me out, Franco. I don't want you to think I'm wasting your time here."

"It's all right," I said. "Spill it."

She breathed out a sigh, every bit as audible through our digital connection as if she'd been standing on the other side of the chain link across from me. "Dr. Lonigan wants ... well. She wants me to hire you to help me find out what's happened to her missing cat.

Neither one of us spoke while I considered the possibility that a minor earthquake had just struck central Virginia, rendering some kind of momentary breach in the space-time continuum.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Did you say find her missing cat?"


"As in feline, alley cat, pet god or goddess?"

"You got it."

This was not exactly what I'd envisioned when Darla had mentioned a job. But presuming the missing kitty was still somewhere in New York State, at least I had an easy out.

Darla and I may both have been former NYPD and known New York, but in my case that had been so long ago Rudy Giuliani was still working as a U.S. Attorney. And as Darla must have very well known, I was only licensed to take on cases that initiated in the veritable Commonwealth of Virginia, or in neighboring states maintaining a reciprocal agreement with the Department of Criminal Justice Services in Richmond. New York was most definitely not on the list. Heck, for that matter, neither was Washington, D.C.

"Darla, you know I just can't —"

"Hang on a minute. This is my case. You'll be working with me as a consultant."

I thought about that for a moment. Consultant did have a nice ring to it.

"And the client's authorized me to offer you double your usual rate, plus expenses," she said. "She's even got a vacant furnished apartment in her building for you to stay in and I can have a plane ticket waiting for at the airport fi rst thing in the morning."

"What, no corporate jet?"

"Hey, I've seen people do a lot worse with their money, haven't you? And besides, there's a lot more to this than just a missing cat.

"Such as?"

"This woman is no flake. She thinks someone may have purposely killed her cat."

"Well, I'm ... I'm sorry to hear that."

There is something particularly tragic about a dead domesticated animal. Death in the wild happens every second of every day — just look at my buddy Torch here, who knew without question what it was to have to kill in order to survive. But death actively brought inside the protective bubble of your home was another matter altogether. Still, I was having a hard time seeing myself as the next Ace Ventura.

Darla said nothing.

"I agree it's tragic, Darla. I just don't know if it's my kind of case."

"You said yourself if someone did this kind of thing to an animal it could be indicative of much bigger problems."

"Yes, I know, but —"

"It's the only pet the woman has ever owned."

"What kind of cat are we talking about?"

"Angora. Named Groucho."


"But she's already hired you. Why does she need me?"

"Okay, here's what's been going on... At least two cats, one hamster, one guinea pig, and one puppy are now missing from her apartment building on Central Park West. The tenants have discovered what they think are fur remains for two of them, both of which were accompanied by the feathers."

"Feathers? What feathers?"

"Feathers from the tail of a great horned owl. Dr. Lonigan's had it verified by an ornithologist."

I was beginning to see where this was going. "Are you trying to tell me this group of people believes a wild great horned owl has somehow managed to take their pets from their building in the middle of New York City?"

"No, of course not. It's a newly renovated historic property, by the way. Grayland Tower. Did you see the pictures last month in the New York Times Magazine?"

"Sorry, no."

"Anyway, that's not the point. The issue here is the developer of the building. His name is Dominick Watisi."

"What about him?"

"Dr. Lonigan and some of the other apartment owners have been complaining for months about cost overruns with the construction and some other issues. Watisi refuses to even discuss the matter. The dispute escalated a few weeks ago when the tenants filed a lawsuit."


"Now it's made the tabloids, and Watisi isn't happy, you see? His company has another project on hold pending an upcoming bond referendum. There have been a couple of nasty public exchanges between Watisi and the tenants."

"You're saying Dr. Lonigan thinks this Watisi character had her Groucho whacked?"

"Looks that way. She's convinced he's hired a hit man who somehow got hold of an owl. They think this guy gets the pets out of the building, either at night or while people are away at work during the day, has the owl dismember them under the cover of darkness, and attempts to make the killings look like natural occurrences."

"Sounds pretty far-fetched if you ask me."

"C'mon, Frank. You've been around long enough to know that stranger things have happened."

"Maybe. But not very often. Big birds of prey have been known to kill cats once in a while. But it happens pretty rarely, and do you know how difficult it would be for even an experienced falconer, assuming he or she did have an owl, to purposely hunt with that bird in the middle of a city?"

"What about in Central Park in the middle of the night?"

"Anywhere, especially after dark. The whole thing sounds like the figment of someone's overworked imagination, if you ask me.

"Overworked or not, we're talking about burglary, murder, and cruelty to animals here."

"Does this Dr. Lonigan know I used to work in New York?" "Yes, and she knows a little bit of your history."

"Then she must know some people up there may still think I'm damaged goods."

"She says she doesn't care about any of that."

"I assume someone's already tried contacting Humane Law Enforcement at the ASPCA?"

"Of course. They came out and investigated. Lonigan says they're concerned about the missing pets, naturally, but they refuse to take the idea about Watisi seriously. She even claims it wouldn't surprise her if Watisi's got some of the officials in his pocket."

"I doubt that. All these missing pets belong to people who are party to the lawsuit?"

"Almost. Four out of the five."

"Where did she come up with the falconry angle on the owl? I mean, besides there being the feathers and all."

"This is where it gets really interesting."

"I can hardly wait."

"They've had at least two confirmed sightings so far."


"One of the tenants in the building says he saw someone across the street in the park late at night from his balcony. Claims it looked like a small man swinging a rope over his head and a large shape swooping down at him from the shadows. Doesn't that sound like a falconer to you, Franco?"

"With a lure ... maybe. Not exactly a prime witness though. In the dark, from that distance. He credible?"

"He swears that's what he saw ... not only that, a security guard from the building now says she saw something too. She can't say whether it was a man or a woman, but the person was running away, wearing a long glove and carrying something big and gray and brown like an owl on it."

"Might just be some yahoo who happened to get hold of a bird."

"I need to let Dr. Lonigan know. Are you interested in consulting on this case, or not?"

"Maybe. Who'll be doing most of the legwork?"

"You, I'm afraid. It's still my case, but I've got a few other things on my plate at the moment."

"So you're turfing this one to me, huh?"

"If it helps, think of yourself as the outside expert."


"So should I tell Dr. Lonigan you're good to go then?"

I'd done worse to pay the rent. From the information given, I didn't believe the theory about the owl; but the sightings of what looked like a falconer, if credible, sounded intriguing. Some kind of nut case maybe, one who'd gotten a little training in how to handle a raptor, a licensed rehabber or falconer or someone who had worked with one.

"Okay," I said. "I'll do it."

"Righteous ..." I could almost hear Darla beaming through the phone.

"But you'll need to throw in an extra set of plane tickets."

"What for?"

"For Nicky. She's a falconer herself and she may actually have a better feel for dealing with this type of situation than I do. It won't increase the fee."

Darla cleared her throat. "I'll check with Dr. Lonigan. I don't think that will be any problem. But I also need to warn you about a couple of other things. First, in addition to being a physician, Dr. Lonigan has been a longtime animal rights activist."

"Oookay ... You might have sprung that little ditty on me sooner."

"I know, I know. But listen, the other thing she wants me to tell you ... you're probably aware of the friction between some bird watchers and cat owners over cats running loose killing songbirds?"

"Some. I suppose."


Excerpted from A Night Falconer by Andy Straka. Copyright © 2010 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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