It begins with ashocking, unsolved murder: a young mather named Linda Balfour is butchered in asmall town in southern Illinois, and no one can turn southern Illinois, and no one can turn up a single lead. But then, months later, a tiny crack opens up in the case. By a stroke of pure chance, an investigatior in the Chicago D.A.'s office discovers that linda Balfour died with a coded inscription printed in blood on the back of her head. It is the exact combination of letters and numbers that was found on the head of Bishop Rushman, the beloved Chicago clergy man who had been slashed and dismembered years before by an angelic-looking altar boy named Aaron Stampler. The same Aaaron Stampler whom Vail saved from the electric chair.