Matthew FitzSimmons is the author of the bestselling first novel in the Gibson Vaughn series, The Short Drop. Born in Illinois and raised in London, England, he now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theatre at a private high school for over a decade. Poisonfeather is the sequel to The Short Drop, and we are delighted to present a synopsis and an extract. It is now available in several formats.
Jailed billionaire Charles Merrick hints publicly that he has stashed a fortune in an offshore cache, and a school of sharks converges upon his release from federal prison. The promise of billions has drawn a horde of ruthless treasure hunters, including an edgy ex-con, a female bartender with a mysterious history, a Chinese spy with a passion for fly-fishing, and a veritable army of hardened mercenaries. To stay ahead of the sharks and win justice for his mentor, Gibson will need all his formidable skills. But at the end of the road, he’ll still have to face “Poisonfeather”—a geopolitical secret that just might get Gibson killed…or worse.
It had been a hard couple of years, and he’d had to scrounge for work. It had cost him his marriage and very nearly the dream house that he’d intended for his family. Bought at the height of the market before the financial collapse, the house had teetered on the edge of foreclosure for several years. It was Gibson’s nightmare, losing that house. He might not ever live there again, but nothing mattered more to him than his daughter growing up there. It was safe. Good schools. Pretty backyard with a canopy of elm trees. Gibson smiled. It was finally within reach. With Lombard no longer in the picture and a job with Spectrum Protection on the table, he could, for the first time since he’d left the Marines, envision a future in which Ellie’s childhood at 53 Mulberry Court was secure.
Maybe that explained how badly things went from there.
The polygraph was going smoothly in hour three. Gibson was starting to anticipate the break for lunch at noon. Ms. Gabir’s questions flowed steadily, punctuated by his staccato yeses and nos. His readings fed into a laptop, and she paused periodically to type a note, but otherwise they were making good progress until the knock at the door. Amanda Gabir excused herself and stepped out into the hall. When she returned, Gibson saw a pair of security guards behind her.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. The polygraph has been terminated.”
“What? By who?”
She didn’t answer but set to unstrapping him.
“By who?” he said, voice rising.
One of the security guards stepped into the room. “Sir, please lower your voice.”
He took that as an invitation to yell. “Who?”
“At the request of Spectrum Protection,” Amanda Gabir said. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why. Please don’t ask me any more questions.”
Unwilling to sit still and be unstrapped like a child on a fairground ride, Gibson ripped the blood pressure cuff off and threw it to the ground.
“Easy there, friend,” the guard said. Gibson chose not to be easy, and by the time he was hustled out the back into a service corridor, they weren’t friends anymore either.
“Get the hell off me,” he shouted to the empty corridor as the door slammed shut.
Traffic was a typical Northern Virginia quagmire. It took forty-five minutes to drive the fifteen miles to Nick Finelli’s offices at Spectrum Protection. Security was there waiting for him. Five of them. Solid men in matching blazers. They saw him coming and formed a wall; Gibson didn’t even get through the front door. He made his scene, and they let him rage for a while. He mistook their restraint for timidity and made a lunge for the door. They threw him to the ground and threatened to call the police.
“Go on home,” the oldest of the five said. “You had a bad day. You want to top it off with a night in jail?”
Gibson dusted himself off and thought about whether or not he did. He knew he wasn’t thinking straight, but he was in one of those states of mind in which knowing better wasn’t the same as doing better.
“What’s it going to be, friend?” the guard asked.
That made Gibson laugh. “I’m everybody’s friend today.”
“I’m trying, but you need to go home. There’s nothing in there for you.”
That was becoming abundantly clear. Gibson walked back to the street and turned around to stare at the building. Was Nick Finelli staring down at him? Did he feel like a big man hiding up in his office? How many times had Gibson covered his ass? Debugged his elementary-school coding? He tried Nick’s number. It rang until it went to voice mail. Gibson hung up and dialed again. The fourth time, the phone rang once and a prerecorded message told him that the number he was dialing was unavailable. Nick had blocked his number rather than give him an explanation. So that was how it was going to be.
They’d see about that.