The police have just surrounded the hereditary mansion of Gladwynne Biddleton. He has just shot and wounded his security chief, Dominic Kittredge, and killed Dominic's wife, Theresa. As he watches the siege unfold on TV, historical visions besiege Gladwynne's mind. By turns he is a B-17 bombardier; an SS officer tasked with burning the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun; a fugitive pursued by the celebrated Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal; and a co-conspirator in the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg.
Between the television coverage and the pageant in his head, Gladwynne becomes dissociated from what has just actually happened. Fixation on his immediate physical needs and with life in the mansion tend to conceal the enormity of his crime from him. He descends into a narrowing and harrowing spiral of isolation.
Why did he shoot his closest confidant, Dominic? We don't quite know. But in Dominic's thirty year diary of serving Gladwynne we begin to find clues. In this chronicle, Dominic recounts the "golden age" of their association, a time when the two men devised a mock nation with Gladwynne as its center. With Dominic's encouragement, Gladwynne came gradually to conceive of his own physical person as a sovereign state, competing diplomatically with other world states, persistently resisting their efforts to deprive him of his sovereignty. Between the hostile international powers out to get him and the police now at his door, will Gladwynne's confusion become total?