Private investigator Ian visits his friend unannounced, only to discover the man lying in bed, not asleep but dead. Ian resolves to find out how his friend died and, if he was murdered, to bring the killer to justice.
But the details of the case are bizarre: the door of the condo unit is locked and the only other occupant is a bodybuilder, Horst, found sitting on the living room couch, half asleep or drugged. Ian calls 911 and the cops, when video footage showing no one entered or left the condo around the time of death, fixate on Horst as the most likely suspect.
Ian is convinced Horst is innocent and offers his services to help the police solve the mystery of his friend’s death. But the situation is complicated, not only by the self-contradictory nature of the physical evidence, but by the fact that Ian increasingly finds himself drawn to Horst. Worse, the lead police detective shows increasing signs of interest in Ian himself.
Love and death become strangely intertwined, their resolution not easily discovered. Is Horst as innocent as Ian believes? Can Ian help solve the locked-room mystery?
It was maybe twenty minutes later that we took the document and a tape measure and went into Quentin's bedroom.
On the wall opposite the door into the room there was, left to right: a chest of drawers, a large mirror, a wardrobe -- odd since there was a walk-in closet opposite the window -- and then another chest of drawers.
I unrolled the document. It was a diagram of the condo, showing all the rooms, electrical outlets, plumbing -- everything. And for each room dimensions were given for each built-in feature, such as doors and windows.
I examined what was written for Quentin's bedroom. Horst took the end of the tape measure and went to the left-hand end of the wall we were considering. Murmuring, "four feet, two inches," I pulled the tape to the right until I had the distance indicated from the left-hand corner.
It was just inside the left-hand frame of the wall mirror.
"Aha," I murmured.
Horst let go the tape and joined me in front of the mirror. I squatted down. The mirror's bottom was a foot from the floor, six inches above the top of the lower molding. I ran my finger along this, from behind the chest of drawers on the left to as far as I could reach behind the wardrobe. Then I looked up at Horst.
"There's no break. It's continuous."
I stood up, and examined the mirror. Grasping it on either side -- it was about three feet wide and five feet high -- attempted to lift it.
Nothing happened. I tried a bit harder, and felt only a slight give. So I gave up and letting go, stepped back.
"Okay," I murmured. "Something --"
Horst had moved forward and was running his hand along the left side of the mirror frame.
He shook his head, then paused, and -- click! The left-hand side of the mirror swung forward, like a bathroom mirror on a medicine cabinet. He pulled it wide, and exposed --
It was just wall, unbroken, and unmarked. The pale blue wall was unblemished, though it was just slightly darker within the rectangle where the mirror rested -- no doubt due to the slight fading of the exposed wall surface.
Horst looked at me, and I looked at him. We both laughed.
After staring at the spot, I stepped forward and began running my fingers over the surface of the wall. At last, I stopped. I had found -- something. I stepped closer still and examined the wall where my fingers were. There was a slight, ever so slight, irregularity, which ran in a vertical line an inch to the right of were the unfaded wall color began.
I ran my fingers along this, and gradually felt out what was clearly a rectangle, smaller than the mirror, of slight discontinuity. Convinced that this rectangle must in some way be movable, I hesitantly pressed into it, near its left side.
There came another click, and the rectangle of wall swung open just as the mirror had. Taking hold of this, I pulled it wide open -- and found myself looking through the rectangle at what appeared to be an ordinary room.
Horst and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. Then I gestured for Horst to be the first to enter. He hesitated, but then stepped through -- the bottom of the opening being just over a foot above the floor, something like the doors in submarines. I followed.
It was clearly a study -- Quentin's inner sanctum!