While Nikki is in the midst of giving a laid-back lecture on homicide to a summer-school class in deviant behavior, the reader is watching a murder unfold--in gut-wrenching detail. We know the victim, the mark, is a ruddy, handsome man in his early fifties. We know that an unhappy hooker, Tracy Lou Givens, thinks shes working a kiss-and-tell scam, and would just as soon not be working with her scary cousin--Henry Weed. We cant blame her. Weed is a tall, wiry man with a scarred upper lip, a cold mind, a foul mouth, and clinical expertise with a .38 special. The murder, in fact hasnt happened yet. It will--about 12 days in Nikkis future.
Second Summer Term is nearly over. Nikki cant afford to go the Bahamas. On the other hand, to get away from the temptation of Brian Raines, who is inconveniently married, she yields to a suggestion proffered by Melinda March. Melinda, an anthropologist, happens to be in contact with a paleo-anthropologist, Alex Turman, who happens to be involved in the Price Farm site archeological dig in Crescent County--two and a half hours away, in far Southwest Virginia. Nikkis a pretty good photographer. They want her to take pictures on the site. Its a way to kill time. Maybe shell meet interesting people.
She does. Alex Turman turns out to be testosterone walking--but in a nice way. Justin Hawke, an Indian, seems to know more than he tells. The renowned archeologist, Bruce McCall--in spite of having had his picture in National Geographic--turns out to be a patronizing, womanizing rogue. Unfortunately, Nikkis evaluation of McCall isnt shared by the wife of a local sheriffs deputy, Jobeth Hatfield, who has become one of the army of volunteer workers on the site. Nikki picks up the vibes, realizing that Jobeth and McCall are involved. Turman and a colleague, Annette Wisnant, have picked up more than vibes. They know McCall is having an affair with Jobeth and try to persuade Nikki to talk her out of it--for the sake of public relations, grant funding.
Nikki considers the matter over a nightcap with Alex and Annette at their B & B, the Morning Glory Inn, where Nikki also learns from Alex that two mysterious men have tried to bribe McCall to stop the dig. Driving back to her motel, Nikki stops to render assistance to a woman dressed for road-house trolling, standing beside a decrepit Bonneville with Tennessee plates. The lady declines assistance. Odd. Nikki passes Bruce McCalls Isuzu headed toward the Morning Glory a few miles further on.
Late that night, Justin Hawke pays a visit to the mobile home where Lathan and Jobeth live. Hes been at the Price Farm site, wanting to see how this place of his ancestors would feel at night, without white people around. What he finds, in fact, is the warm body of Bruce McCall. Justin suspects a frame. He guesses that the blue panties in McCalls trouser pocket will probably turn out to be Jobeth Hatfields. Hes heard the rumors about Jobeth and McCall. He also knows the dark ways of County Sheriff, Croy Arrington.
Justins suspicions are confirmed when he finds Lathan and Jobeth at home, both cars stone cold. Because Lathan is his friend, Justin decides to break his rule about getting involved in white peoples issues. He becomes Lathans grim night messenger. Lathan, shaken to his soul, trusting Lathans assessment of the situation, devastated by news of Jobeths infidelity, takes Justins advice. He takes off, headed for the east cut of Haggar Mountain, hoping to stay free while Justin looks for evidence to break the frame.
The next morning, Nikki is on the site bright and early. But Jobeth isnt. Neither is Bruce McCall. Around 9:00, in search of a place to pee, Nikki discovers the body of Bruce McCall. She has worked on crime investigations. Things just dont look right. The body looks like its been moved. She takes pictures, including two of a womans heel prints about 30 yards from the body.
Later that morning, Nikki is questioned by Croy Arr