Ralph finds a wallet while walking in Greenwich Village and it turns his life upside down. Ralph is a bit odd even though he fancies himself a model citizen. He finds a wallet and returns it, but the gesture opens a can of worms. Once Ralph gets home he opens it to find crisp new twenties, two-hundred sixty dollars, three addresses, credit cards and identification for (Jack) John Mayes Sutherland. Apparently, Sutherland worked as a journalist for the French film festival.
Ralph phones Mr. Sutherland dialing one of the phone numbers inside the wallet. The man who answers is ecstatic over his good luck. His wallet has been found and more importantly he will be reunited with the picture of his wife Natalia the mother of his four-year-old daughter Amelia.
Ralph a middle aged man of works as a security guard and his best friend is his dog “God”. He has met Elise a young twenty year old new to the city whom he feels an unsolicited obligation to protect. Elise works as a waitress in a cafe both Jack and Ralph frequent. She's heard about the wallet story from Ralph when Jack comes in and grabs a seat at the counter. Not shy, she tells Jack that Ralph is a little off and may be following her.
As Jack sketches a picture of Elise's eyes on a piece of paper she takes notice and volunteers to sit for a sketching at no charge. She visits him and Ralph sees her coming out of Jack's building and leaves Jack a seething handwritten letter alerting him to his concerns over Elise. She's young, impressionable, and new to the city. He feels it looks bad for married man to be entertaining her in his home, he might get set up and robbed by some of the young thugs Elise parties with.
Jack is a bit outdone and believes Ralph is overstepping his boundaries.
Ralph learns that his mother has died of a heart attack from her friend and neighbor Mable Haskins. She asks him to come home as immediately even though, he doesn't want to attend the funeral. He'd recently written his mother a letter letting her know that he'd gotten a raise on his job and that things were looking up. He gets to New Hampshire six hours too late missing the service and burial. His mother's funeral puts him eleven-hundred dollars in the rear. He keeps one ring and gives the rest away to Mrs. Haskins. He wants none of his dead father's jewelry.
Ralph stopped loving his mother after his father died. She had a hard time adjusting and while she took care of him she became cold. Church was something she forced him to do and as soon as he was of age he became an atheist even though he named his dog “God”.
When Ralph returns to New York the garage is robbed at gunpoint. In his mind he gives the police a description of apes (two of the robbers were black), he has a blatant confusion over homosexuality and AIDS thinking if you are gay you have AIDS. Promiscuity is something he can't understand which takes him right back to his thoughts before leaving to bury his mother. Sutherland and Elsie are bad people that he thought had were good upon meeting them. He hasn't received to his letter to Sutherland and it is driving him crazy. If he isn't guilty, Ralph can't imagine why he won't respond.
He has been to the coffee shop twice since delivering the letter. Elsie told him to leave her alone. He finds it all very perplexing, especially since he is only concerned for her well being.
Jack and Natalia stop in at a club frequented by twenty-somethings. A girl with a big red Afro catches her eye. She tells Jack that the girl is a great dancer. When the girl and a Latino guy stop dancing and head off the dance floor she pulls off her wig. It's Elsie. Jack hasn't mentioned his work relationship with the young woman, or the fact that he's invited her into their apartment for sketches. Secretly he hopes she won't stop by their table.
Jack runs into Elsie in front of her building and she asks him to come up and take a peek. She's been to his house so what's the big deal? She tells him that Ralph won't stop coming by the coffee shop and is continuing to harass her. She asks Jack to speak to him. She explains that while she and her roomie have male friends that come over, the two women are lovers. Her girlfriend is not into guys at all. Jack recalls the letter and Ralph's thoughts that Elise may be headed for sex for pay.
Jack sees Ralph and asks for a word. He ends up accompanying Ralph to his apartment where lectures Jack on Elise and fills him in on the crude language of the young men she hangs out with. Jack determines that Ralph has a bit of a crush on Elise and cautions him about getting her fired. He doesn't tell him that she is threatening to go to the police if Ralph doesn't stop bothering her.
When Elise phones Jack to thank him for speaking to Ralph, Elise is right there. He can't play it off and tells a half-truth. He met her at the coffee shop, leaving out that she's been to the apartment. Ralph is tripping hard he does abate his coffee shop visits, but is now hanging outside of Elise's apartment in efforts to keep her safe.
Natalia speaks Elsie when she calls later that evening after Jack has an opportunity to ask Natalia's opinion over the situation. She suggests that Elsie and her friends put a scare into Ralph if he shows up in front of her building again. He does. She and her friends harass him.
Natalia and Elsie decide to meet in person since they are all connected at this point. The two women start a friendship. Natalia is well traveled and beautiful and Elsie is intrigued with her. They flirt with each other and Jack thinks that if they have a tryst that he may be invited. They hang out together with Natalia's best friend who happens to be a gay man, frequenting gay night spots. .
When Elsie is killed, after being hit in the head with a brick, both Natalia and Jack wonder if Ralph could be the murderer. He had after all continued to follow up on her whereabouts after she quit her waitress job at the coffee shop.
Ralph thinks the same thing about Jack. He and his wife were playing a sick game with Elise and the other homosexuals they were hanging out with.
The murderer was Fran Dillon a drug dealing acquaintance Elise met through friends. Once she was introduced to the arts crowd through Natalia and her tight circle of gay friends she had enjoyed a two month rise to fame as a model. Fran was jealous of the attention the pretty and outspoken Elsie received.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the twist and turns of this story. Ralph was nuts and didn't know it.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Elsie and her friends threatened Ralph for stalking her.
Opinion about the main character:
I did not find Ralph likeable he thought he was smart and he simply wasn't.