Part I : Eric.
After his wife's funeral Eric Adler, a successful architect, gradually he falls apart. He nearly assaults a client and leaves his business partners stupefied when he chases after a woman whom he believes to be his wife, in the middle of a discussion. He ends up in a sweatshop and is beaten up.
When Eric emerges from the building, Mickey Crebb and Debbie McTollliver, two detectives from Sun Slope CID who are keeping the place under surveillance, are keen to find out who he is.
One of his business partners has a cottage by the sea, and they urge Eric to go there and get his act together. During his stay, Jacky, his deceased wife, comes to haunt him. She pleads with him to let bygones be bygones, but he accuses her of having an affair with Carlos, a close friend of his. Everybody needs a story, he tells Jacky, and the account of his revenge is the one that he aims to make his.
During his stay at the seaside, Eric also makes the acquaintance of his next-door neighbour, a woman called Grace. He gradually comes to realize that she is Carlos's ex-wife. They get drunk and end up in bed together. The following morning, Eric announces his return to London.
Back at his flat, he begins to pen down the story he's vowed to write. The following Saturday, however, Carlos invites him to a club called Boltzmann's for drinks.
On his way there, Eric is arrested by Mickey Crebb. Mickey tries to draw him out. He confronts him with a photograph of a dead young man, whom Eric identifies as a terrorist he saw on TV. When Debbie arrives, she releases Eric without a further explanation.
Part II: Mickey.
Carlos is at the Sadi Ballroom celebrating the forthcoming royal wedding. He has a flashback of a meeting with Jacky in a hotel room. She announces she is going to divorce Eric.
Mickey and Debbie celebrate at their local pub. He gets into a fight and Debbie drags him away. She drives over to the Sadi Ballroom. Debbie is working on a secret case, and Mickey is keen to find out about it. Drunk and sleepy, Mickey crashes Debbie's car and is taken to hospital.
Discharged, Mickey arranges for Debbie's files to be stolen. He concludes that the case is nothing but a loose set of conjectures concerning a single, unnamed, suspect. He revisits the file, and attempts to draw up a mathematical model. The result is a butterfly-shaped graph.
Mickey has been up all night, drawing butterflies. Before they take the case to court, the butterfly will have to provide the 'spoof of proof'.
Part 3: Grace.
Grace meets with Carlos at her cottage. He's been supporting her financially. She has applied for a job in order to regain her independence. She wants to hang on to the cottage where she lives but Carlos refuses. She consults with her lawyer, who is secretly in team with her ex-husband. The lawyer, Frank, disappears in the wake of their meeting.
Eric receives a phone call from Carlos. Carlos has to go away on a business trip and he wants Eric to give his keys to Florence, his daughter. She's been working abroad and she's decided to come home.
Mickey has forced Debbie into collaboration on her 'secret' case. She wants to drive up to the seaside. Grace, she is convinced, is the link between her lawyer's disappearance and her main suspect. When they arrive at the seaside, Grace's cottage is on fire.
Eric is so shocked by Grace's death that he falls into a stupor. The director and the editor watch him with dismay, and the latter decides to pay Eric a visit. He urges him to get on with the story.
Part 4: John.
Florence talks to her dad on the phone. Flo is smuggling illegal immigrants into the UK. She has fallen in love with one of them, and she's pregnant. They've arranged for her boyfriend, John Smith, to get into the country.
Talking to her mother, Flo realises that her father has broken his promise to keep their renewed acquaintance a secret. Grace warns her daughter to stay away from Carlos.
Meanwhile, John's crossing isn't going at all well. John is suspicious. He had a quarrel with Florence and he ran off, staying away for two whole days. When he came back, she accused him of doing so purely out of self-interest.
In England, three men take John with them: an older man called Gary, a hired killer who's in charge, and two younger thugs, who go by the names of Colin and Trevor. John overhears Trevor saying they want to 'get rid of him'.
Part 5: Gary.
Learning about the pregnancy of John's girlfriend, Gary decides to inform his patron and ask for new instructions. While he is waiting, he goes into a reverie and dreams he is being arrested.
Debbie, the arresting officer, wants to know about Grace's lawyer. She asks Gary about the black young man who was murdered. During the interrogation, Gary sees Carlos, who is in custody. Later, Debbie will intimate to Gary that he has committed suicide in his cell.
Gary's patron tells him to go ahead with the contract.
Eris goes out to the supermarket and he has a confrontation with Jacky. Back at his flat, Florence is waiting for him in the hallway. She's come to pick up the keys to her father's flat. Eric panics because she is in mourning. Seeing as John isn't dead yet, he fears he has lost control of his story. He tells Florence to return the following day.
The editor pays Eric a second visit and urges Eric to pull the trigger on John, but the latter denies responsibility. The editor pressures him. Finally, Eric gives in and resumes his writing.
Gary shoots John. Just as he is about to leave the murder scene, he receives another phone call.
Florence returns to collect the keys. She asks Eric whether he's seen John (She'd given him Eric's address). Florence tells Eric she's staying with Grace. The impossibility of her statement makes Eric reel. As soon as Florence has gone, he rushes to the coast to verify.
Part 6: Debbie.
Debbie and Mickey arrive on the scene of the fire and establish it was arson. Driving back to London, Debiie spots Eric's car at a service station. The two detectives decide to tail him.
Eric was at the scene of the fire when it started. He's met Gary on the beach. He flees the scene when he recognizes Debbie.
As they follow him, Debbie explains that, after his appearance at the sweatshop, she opened an enquiry. Almost simultaneously she was asked to look into Jacky's death. Turning up in two different cases on one single day, Eric became a suspect.
Eric goes looking for Carlos, with the two detectives in tail. Alicia, Carlos's girlfriend, reveals to him that he was arrested and that he has hung himself in his cell. She suggests that Florence tipped off the police.
The director and editor watch Eric as he raves about. When the director absents himself, the editor goes to see Eric. Carlos is dead, Eric says, it's all over. The editor contradicts him: the story was never about Carlos.
Later that night, Eric wakes up, and finds two people standing next to his bed. Debbie and Mickey take him with them to an abandoned sand quarry. They wait in a cave until the first light. Mickey cuts Eric's throat.
Eric doesn't die, however. When he comes to, Jacky is with him and she bandages his throat. She leaves him and a man, presumably Carlos, is waiting for her. As the two of the drive off together, Eric shouts after her that they have all atoned for their sins, and that they have been forgi