There's an unpleasant surprise waiting outside Wyoming college professor Sally Alder's office on a cold blustery afternoon - a female student, Charlie Preston, recently and brutally battered. Since Charlie refuses to call the cops, tell her family, or see a doctor, Sally has no other recourse but to give the damaged girl the coat off her back, the cash in her wallet, and to wish her good luck. But two weeks after Charlie vanishes, the body of her estranged father is found, beaten to death in an alley. Now Sally is racing to find the missing girl before the police do, since she's far less convinced of Charlie's guilt than they are. And a killer may be hiding in a maze of lethal secrets and dark passions, preparing to inflict a terrible punishment on a frightened young woman...and perhaps on her overly inquisitive teacher as well.