Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Indian mission pastor Father John O'Malley investigate the shadowy world of Native American artifact theft. The Drowning Man is a rock carving lining Red Cliff Canyon, which is sacred to the Arapahos. The thieves contact O'Malley through an Indian who tells him to let the tribal elders know they can buy the petroglyph back for $250,000 or see it sold to a collector.
The theft is similar to an earlier theft of a petroglyph from the canyon some seven years ago. Tribal leaders and law enforcement officers believe Travis Birdsong to be one of the thieves in that incident. He was convicted of killing his alleged partner in crime, Raymond Trueblood and is serving time for manslaughter.
Vicky becomes convinced that Birdsong is innocent and tries to prove it, nearly losing her lover and law partner Adam Lone Eagle in the process. Vicky and Adam are working to prevent a timber company from turning Red Cliff Canyon into a logging road. Adam is sure that Vicky's investigation of the seven-year-old theft and killing can only complicate their delicate negotiations.
The local FBI agent, Ted Gianelli, warns Father John that he should inform the FBI of any contact the thieves make to him and to take no action on his own. However, the pastor knows that if the thieves think any law enforcement agency is involved, they will disappear and sell the Drowning Man to a collector.
Father John demands proof from the thieves that they really have the petroglyph. He is directed to a lonely stretch of road where a pickup truck rolls past him and a package containing a picture of the petroglyph next to the same day's newspaper is tossed out. However, Gianelli is at the scene, and the thieves send Father John a warning. He's directed to a motel room where he finds the Indian who first contacted him murdered.
Meanwhile, Vicky is becoming convinced that the two thefts are related. She believes Birdsong was one of the local people used by the art theft ring to get the carving, but that he is innocent of manslaughter. However, Birdsong is afraid to talk, thinking he will be murdered if he is a threat to the art thieves.
On her way back from a visit with Birdsong in prison, Vicky is run off the road by a mysterious brown truck. She escapes with only cuts and bruises, but her Jeep is seriously damaged. Driving a different car, she sees the same truck, and this time someone fires a shogun at her, blasting the rear windows out of her borrowed car as she speeds up.
Neither Father John nor Vicky is about to let the threats of a murderous gang stop them, and both continue to pursue their cases to find the answers to the theft of both sacred carvings.
This report prepared by David Gordon