Psychiatrist Mark LeBonge, driven by a strong sense of justice, arrives at the group home for convicted teenage sexual abusers, where his sister has worked the night shift… and finds her murdered. When police Lieutenant Art Krantz, primary on the case, ignores Mark's suspicions about one of the boys in the half-way house, Mark enlists his sister's roommate, Karen Mitchell, to help him identify the murderer.
Mark learns from Karen that Art Krantz and his sister had an affair several years ago, which she broke off because Krantz was married. To complicate matters, Mark also comes to believe the boy he suspects of the murder, is possibly innocent of the crime he was convicted for.
The complex twists and turns bring Mark and Krantz into conflict and put Karen in danger as they attempt unravel crimes and conspiracy starting at a group home and ending in high level politics.
"Why'd you have to park there, Mark?" an irritable voice greeted him.
He glanced up. His sister's partner, Ron Philips, was climbing out of his old Honda Civic parked at the curb. Ron had worked the day shift with Hollie for the last four months. He looked his usual unkempt self in blue jeans, an old sweater with a hole in one elbow, and a day's growth of beard.
"Good morning to you, too, Ron." Mark shot him an insincere smile. "You're on time for a change."
He didn't care for Ron's lackadaisical attitude, particularly in a counselor for such disturbed youths as these teenage sexual offenders. Granted, the job didn't pay much, but the counselors were role models to these kids. They should at least take the position seriously for the short time they worked there.
"What the..." Ron swore as he stepped in a puddle by his car. He kicked at the rain water, splashing it onto his jeans.
"Watch your language." Mark frowned at Ron as the younger man walked up the driveway cursing.
Ron glared at him, his hands dug into his pockets, and ignored the comment. "Your car is in my parking spot. You made me get my shoes muddy, and I'll have to take the time to move my car later."
"Bummer." Like I really care. The two of them walked up the path to the house together. "Anyway, I'm not staying. As soon as Hollie's done, we're going to breakfast. You can move your car as soon as we leave."
"Hollie?" Ron stopped short. His eyebrows shot up, then collapsed into a puzzled frown. "She's supposed to work with me today. I thought she just got here." He gestured toward her car.
Mark shook his head. "She pulled an emergency shift last night. I'm surprised you didn't know. Something about the night man being sick."
Ron pulled out his keys, inserted one into the lock, and turned it. "Damn, she'll be in a charming mood." The dead bolt clicked. "Or am I alone with these brats today?" He turned the knob, but the door didn't open. "Hey, what's going on?"
"It must have been unlocked already, and you locked it."
At that moment, a twitch of anxiety rippled through Mark. A vague sense of unease settled over him like a black cloud. It wasn't like his sister to leave the door unlocked. She was meticulous about procedure, a residual habit from her three years as a Los Angeles City cop.
Ron turned the key in the opposite direction. Again, the dead bolt clicked, and this time the door opened. Ron stepped into the unlit entry hall.
Mark followed, his sense of unease building. The heavy air reeked with a strange metallic odor, hovering like a recent malignant presence. A shiver skittered up his spine. Something was wrong.
On the threshold, Ron paused and frowned at him, his face reflecting the premonition he felt. "Do you smell something?"
"Hollie!" Mark called.
A few paces ahead of him, Ron hurried through the living room to the kitchen, the preferred spot for the counselors on the night watch, and skidded to a stop. "Holy shit!"
"Oh, my God!"
Hollie's body lay on the floor, butchered in a waste of dark blood, her head twisted at an odd angle. Blood everywhere. A desperate coldness flooded Mark's body. His heart pounded against his ribcage, and his own blood drummed in his ears. Blood seemed to splash in bright globules against the retinas of his eyes.