He calls himself Tarot. His first victim was a mother, killed while her daughter slept in the next room. His second was a truck-stop waitress, murdered - like the first woman - while she slept. After each one, he sent letters to the newspapers, boasting of his crimes and promising more to come. The third victim will die soon, he tells them. But first, she must be warned.
Alan Bernhardt is just starting rehearsal when his pager goes off. No one in the small San Francisco theater minds - they know that to make it on the stage, you have to be prepared to do all sorts of odd jobs off of it. But this director’s job is odder than most. He works for Herbert Dancer, head of a boutique private investigation service. A corporate secretary has vanished with a sheaf of valuable documents, and it will take an off-Broadway sensibility to bring her home.
Tony Frazer takes a wide berth when he sees the homeless man. A millionaire playboy, he does not consort with street people, and is in the process of skirting the derelict, eyes averted, when the stranger calls his name. The king of the society pages turns just in time to be struck by three silenced bullets, slumping to his knees and dying there in the gutter.
A pair of murders leaves Hastings torn between following his orders and listening to his gut. After nearly a decade as a San Francisco cop, Frank Hastings is becoming something of a stranger to kindness. He feels perfectly at home in the Draper household - a rundown Victorian not far from the streets on which he grew up - where a social worker has been beaten to death by a man hiding in the bushes.
Senate majority leader Donald Ryan is a kingmaker, with the power to make or break presidencies, and the ability to reshape the country with a flick of his pen. He is also a very sick man, recovering from a heart attack that must be kept secret at all costs. But when a series of death threats jeopardizes his planned return to public life, the FBI calls in San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Hastings to find the would-be assassin.
For the past few weeks, Lieutenant Frank Hastings's girlfriend has sensed that she was being watched. They are on their way home from a too-chic party when Hastings spots something moving in the bushes - a shadowy figure who appears to have a gun. He should call for backup; he should stay in the car. But to protect Ann, this detective is willing to risk everything. After a chase, Hastings apprehends the lurker, but what he thought was a gun turns out to be a shotgun mike. Is someone recording Ann?
For homicide lieutenant Frank Hastings, the day starts with an assassination attempt. During a rally in San Francisco's Civic Center, someone takes a potshot at the governor, sending the whole of downtown into chaos. Once he has taken control of the scene, Hastings chases down the gunman - a Mexican immigrant with a political bent - and captures him after a tense standoff. Miraculously, no one is killed. But Hastings's long day is just getting started.
It's the finest performance of Rebecca Carlton's career. The show is dedicated to her father, and the most famous woman in rock does everything she can to honor him. She gives the crowd at San Francisco's Cow Palace arena four encores before finally retiring backstage. The applause is still thundering through the stadium when Rebecca Carlton is shot dead.
It was just after he made lieutenant that Frank Hastings told Charlie Quade to resign. They had known each other at the academy, and Quade was a rotten cop from day one. Dogged by rumors of corruption, Quade left without protest, eking out a living doing security work. When Hastings hears Quade has been shot dead, he doesn't blink. The only surprise is the place the ex-cop died.
The killer is long gone from the crime scene when he realizes his mistake. It went perfectly, right until the end. He lured Lisa to the oceanfront park, entered her car on the passenger side, shot her twice, and escaped without being stained by her blood. He took the gun with him, as planned - but he forgot her purse, the crucial detail meant to make the crime look like a robbery. It was a simple mistake, but it could cost him everything.
Brice Hanchett is a brilliant surgeon, and those who work alongside the man consider him either godlike or devilish. After years of success, he has begun to believe his own legend, and soon goes too far - toying not just with life and death, but with the heart of every woman he meets. He has a wife and a mistress, as well as the attention of all the nurses in the hospital.
Charles Hardaway climbs the hill to his house, immediately missing the bright lights and conversation of the bar and dreading the return to his lover, who is slowly dying of AIDS. But Hardaway's self-pity is interrupted by a pipe-wielding stranger, who crushes his skull before slipping away. It's nighttime in the Castro, and another gay man has been sent to his grave.
When Frank Hastings knew Meredith Powell, she was a gawky 10-year-old without a care in the world. More than two decades later, she has grown into a stunning beauty - but the gleam in her eye is gone. Over lunch, Meredith confesses that she lives in terror of her emotionally abusive boyfriend, a possessive, rage-filled man named Charles. Hastings, a homicide lieutenant with the San Francisco police department, offers to help her escape.
After years of turning tricks and shooting junk, Amy has reached the end of the line. Heroin has wrecked her body, and her pimp is contemplating cutting her loose when she takes a client to the Bayside Hotel. The john asks her to turn around and undress, and as she slips out of her clothes for the thousandth time, he places his hands around her neck and starts to squeeze.
Lieutenant Frank Hastings checks his gun at airport security, so he can meet his son the moment the boy gets off the plane in San Francisco. After a year apart, he finds Darrell to be as moody and withdrawn as any other teenager, and prays that a fishing trip will bring them closer together. He is unaware that he and Darrell are about to experience the sort of bonding that only terror can provide.
By the time Haney and the woman get to her apartment, they are so drunk they can hardly get through the door. They undress and begin to fool around, but before they make it to the bedroom, they have an argument. Haney is about to leave when the woman starts to laugh at him. He spins around and slugs her as hard as he can. His head is beginning to clear by the time he makes it home. He's just sober enough to notice the glint of a dagger before it's buried in his gut.
It starts as an everyday fender bender: Two cars collide in heavy evening traffic. But when the police arrive to take statements, the occupants of one car take off running. They leave another man behind, slumped in the backseat, dead of a single stab wound to the chest. Lieutenant Frank Hastings abandons a family dinner to take charge of the scene, which rapidly devolves into chaos. The police corner one of the runners in an abandoned building, capturing him after a standoff.
The doctor comes through his front door as he always does, a bundle of mail in hand. He's about to walk up the stairs when the bullet passes through his back, puncturing his heart and leaving him dead in his front hall. By the time Lieutenant Frank Hastings arrives, rigor mortis has set in, and the doctor's body rolls easily away from the wall. Pinned beneath him is a note that begins, "Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief...." Pay $100,000, writes "the Masked Man", or a lawyer will be the next to die.
In the underworld of San Francisco, a broken cop searches for his daughter. Seven years ago, Frank Hastings quit on his family. After a half-baked pro football career, he had fallen in love with the bottle and needed to go west. In San Francisco, he got sober, and now he's one of the toughest police officers around, in a city whose counterculture does not make life easy for the men in blue.
Searching for a missing society matron, Hastings finds danger amid the upper crust. In a glamorous part of San Francisco, a maid has been strangled to death. Frank Hastings stands over the body, knowing it will be a long day. But before finishing with the crime scene, he gets another call - an officer has been shot, and Hastings must lead the tactical squad. By lunchtime, the boy who shot the officer is dead, and Hastings is hungry for an easy assignment. When he gets it, he'll soon wish he were back in the line of fire.