In 1939 in the small, rural community of Augusta Falls, Georgia, twelve-year-old Joseph Vaughan learns of the brutal assault and murder of a young girl.
It is the first in a series of killings that will plague the community over the next decade.
Determined to protect the town from the evil in their midst, Joseph and his friends form "the Guardians" to watch over the community.
But the murderer evades them, and they watch helplessly as one child after another is taken.
Ten years after the first killing, one of Joseph's neighbors is found hanging from a rope, surrounded by belongings of the dead girls; the killings cease, and the nightmare appears to be over.
Nevertheless, a shadow of fear follows Joseph for the rest of his life.
He sets out to start a new life in New York, but the past won't stay buried, and, fifty years later, Joseph must confront the nightmare that has overshadowed his entire life.