Fire trucks respond to an alarm and arrive at the Regal Motel. As the firemen and police secure the area, a woman--Ann Calhoun--runs up and stares in shock as the EMTs take out a body. She removes the cover and screams in horror when she sees who the dead man is: her husband, Kevin.
Jim and Beth are leaving Jim's trailer, and Jim points out that the last time they worked together, he didn't make any money. Beth insists that her client Ann Calhoun needs him and all she has is a piece of property in Arizona. Jim would rather go fishing and heads down to the beach, and Beth says that she's donating her services and figured that Jim would as well. He says that he doesn't take charity cases, and isn't impressed when she asks him to do it for her. Beth asks him to at least meet with Ann and hear her side of the story, and Jim refuses.
Later, Beth and Jim meet with Ann in jail. When Jim says that he didn't say anything about helping, Ann breaks into tears. Later, Jim meets with Becker. he says that the Calhoun case is closed and it's off his desk. Becker points out that they have witnesses at the motel who heard Ann and Kevin arguing, and he told her to go back to Arizona while he stayed in LA. The fire broke out just after Ann left the apartment, and Kevin was smothered before the fire. Jim points out that they went to a big party in Belair, but Becker has already checked out the partygoers and they all say that Kevin crashed the party and they don't know him. When Jim warns that Becker doesn't have a case, Becker figures that Beth conned Jim into working for nothing, and if they reopen the case then Jim is off the hook.
Later, Jim and Beth have lunch at a dockside cafe and Jim says that they may have a deal. If Beth pays his expenses and if he proves Ann is innocent then she pays him $200 a day. She gives in and Jim tells her to find out everything Ann knows about Kevin.
Jim drives to Parker, Arizona and goes to the city hall. That night he drives to the Calhoun property while a man watches him from the shadows and gets Jim's license plate. The next day, the man and two of his friends leave the DMV just ahead of Jim, who drives out of town. A semi driver pulls up next to Jim and forces his car off the road into the desert. The driver swings around and Jim manages to get his car out of the sand and heads back onto the highway. The semi slams into Jim's car from behind, and they both come to another card heading uphill. Jim pulls around it and the driver passes on the other lane, and then slams into Jim's car again. They come to a bridge and the semi driver is forced to stop because the bridge is just too narrow for his cab.
Continuing along, Jim stops at Farber's Garage and asks the owner for a dime. Once he gets it, Jim calls the highway patrol to report the incident. The highway patrolman checking the incident, Henderson, says that they found the rig and it was stolen from a cafe three hours ago. None of them are licensed to drive a rig that big, and the man they hired to drive it didn't bother to protect any fingerprints. Henderson says that it was probably some kid who lifted it for fun.
Jim takes a plane back to LA. When he enters his trailer, he finds Rocky holding a gun on him. Rocky is holding a gun and says that he's just keeping an eye on the place. He wants Jim to get steady work as a truck driver, and Jim explains that a semi driver tried to kill him. Rocky figures that the driver didn't want Jim dead, just scared.
The next day, Jim gives Beth his expense report. They drive into town... unaware that someone has cut the brake lines. As they head downhill, Jim tries to brake and gets no response. He crashes into a construction site and a barrier stops the car. Jim confirms that someone sabotaged his car, and Beth said that no one knew Jim was going to Arizona or is working for her... except Kevin's killer.
At the station, Jim and Beth meet with Ann. He tells her that there's no record of Kevin existing. There's no record of him prior to his marriage to Ann in Flagstaff two years ago. Ann says that they meet by accident and Kevin was a poet who claimed he was traveling the country. She says that Kevin was drunk when he threatened to leave her on the day he was murdered, and insists that nothing happened in the 15 minutes between when Kevin went into his bedroom and the motel room burst into flame. Ann insists that she just went out for a walk, and Jim asks about the party. Ann says that Kevin was invited and was openly there, and called her from the party to join him. Kevin never said who invited him, and they left immediately after she got there. When she picked him up, they argued in the cab about how he didn't want to go back to Arizona. Jim shows Ann a photo of a couple, Clyde Russell and Elizabeth Gorman. They were the party hosts, and Ann never met them or saw Kevin talk to them. Jim says that they said that Kevin and Ann crashed the party.
As they leave, Beth objects to Jim's accusations. He warns that they are the only two above suspicion, checks the car for any more sabotage, and drives off with Beth. Jim says that Clyde and Elizabeth are new in town, and are somehow connected to the currently popular movie The Dark and Bloody Ground. Beth remembers that someone named Gorman wrote the book the movie was based on. Jim wants to tell Becker what he's found out because they're sitting on evidence, but Beth insists that they don't. She points out that Jim is acting as her agent and information he finds is privileged. Beth wants Jim to confront Clyde and Elizabeth, and warns that she'll stop paying him as soon as he goes to Becker. Jim pulls over to call an attorney for legal advice.
Later at the race track, the semi driver--Eliot Malcolm--is watching a time trial. Jim is watching Eliot as he meets with Clyde and Elizabeth. The PI then joins them and talks like they've met. He claims that they were at the party and read about Kevin's death. Eliot says that they didn't know him, and Elizabeth says that Eliot is her fiancé. When she says that Jim was at the party, Eliot insists that he wasn't, and Jim claims that he crashed the party. When Eliot says that he made sure no party crashers got in, Jim points out that he just admitted that Kevin didn't crash the party. Once Jim leaves, Eliot dismisses Jim as a lawyer. Clyde points out that Eliot just contradicted their statement to the police.
Down at the stables, Jim meets Beth and she says that Eliot puts parties together. She figures that no one would marry Eliot because he's new money and Elizabeth is old money.
That night, Jim is in bed reading The Dark and Bloody Ground by Steven Gorman. Beth arrives and says that Clyde killed Kevin. She explains that she's been looking into Clyde's background and found that he was into copyright. According to copyright law, a company can buy the rights to a book but when renewal time comes up, the company doesn't own it. The rights go to the widow: Elizabeth. They were halfway through the picture when Elizabeth's husband died. Clyde moved in and made a deal with her, and hit the production company for 25%. Clyde calls and confirms that Jim is a PI, and says that they have to talk about Kevin. He invites Jim to the old Blackford place in Belair and tells him to come to the pool house. Once Jim hangs up, Beth tells him that Clyde resigned from the bar and no one does that unless they have something shady to hide. She doesn't know why Kevin was murdered when he only made $20 a year, and Jim says that they can ask Clyde.
Jim and Beth go to the Blackford place and arrive at the pool... and find Jim dead, floating in the water. They head in to find a phone, and Eliot shoots at them from the shadows and then runs off. Jim chases after Jim but Eliot gets into his car and takes off. The PI drives after him and Eliot finally crashes avoiding an oncoming car.
Back at the Blackford place, the police have arrived in response to Beth's call. Jim tells her that Eliot is the killer but he hasn't confessed. They then head to the Gorman place to beat the police there. Elizabeth answers the door, expecting Eliot, and finds Jim. Jim shoves his way in and says that the police should be there shortly and Eliot is in the prison ward. Elizabeth doesn't believe that Eliot murdered Clyde, and Eliot killed the man to protect his investment. Eliot is talking and will implicate her in the death of her husband Steven. Elizabeth orders Jim out, and Jim shows her Eliot's wristwatch from the crash... with an inscription from Elizabeth. Steven was killed in a boating accident but his body was never found, and Jim says that Steven survived... and showed up as Kevin to get his share of the movie rights. Elizabeth killed him to protect her interests.
Elizabeth says that she thought Steven was dead, and then he showed up on the day of the party with a new name and a new wife. She says that Steven faked the boating accident because he didn't have the courage to ask her for a divorce, and he put her through hell. As the police pull up outside, Elizabeth admits that she killed Kevin.
Later, Jim presents his bill to Beth. She says that Ann is back in Parker, and quibbles about the expenses. She says that his negligence got him endangered because he didn't have a lock on his hood, and Jim says that he doesn't want to talk about it. Beth insists that she'll play for Jim's expenses and services... as soon as Ann pays her. She warns that Ann doesn't have much, and Jim suggests that they forget it if Beth retains her on the Elizabeth Gorman case that he referred to Beth. Beth says that she doesn't need Jim and Elizabeth will be out in six months, but they could use Jim's help on another charity case. Jim walks off before she can finish.