Julia Gateswood hires reluctant PI, Mike Angel, to find her missing sister, but Julia's social position and the sordid past of the sister make this anything but a simple case. Julia's a mysterious ex-beauty queen, who married for ambition to congressman Henry Gateswood, a charismatic ex-professor running for a vacated US Senate seat from Illinois in 1962. When Julia's sister Gail, a loose woman with past shady connections, disappears, Julia calls on private eye Mike Angel.
Amidst racial divisions in 1964 Chicago, Mike receives an anonymous note with a 1934 $10,000 Federal Reserve Note and a cryptic message that the bill is payment for unspecified future trouble. Tracking down the sender spins into a 40-year-old kidnapping case involving four US Army officers in World War I, stolen gold with connections to the French Bonnot gang (the first to use autos in bank robberies), a Babylonian sex goddess cult, and trouble from Henry Ford's grandson.