Frank Calder - ex-soldier and sacked police hostage negotiator - is just eking out a living as a mediator when he's approached by Pat Carson, patriarch of the dynastic Carson family. Pat wants him to deliver ransom money to kidnappers who've abducted his great-granddaughter. Frank urges Pat to call in the law, but he refuses, since police bungling nearly cost the life of another Carson child kidnapped years before. So a reluctant Frank begins to deal with the kidnappers, and quickly becomes convinced both Carson kidnappings were motivated by something other than money. Over several feverish days, Frank searches for suspects in the web of Carson businesses, deals, marriages, indiscretions and rivalries. And all the while he knows that if his instincts are wrong, the girl will surely die.