Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a wealthy, successful businessman recently honored by the Portland, Oregon, Chamber of Commerce as "Man of the Year". However, Brooks lives a secret life as a serial killer, known as the "Thumbprint Killer". Brooks has abstained from murder for the past two years by attending 12-step program for addicts, to try and cope with his "killing addiction". He feels the compulsion to kill rising again, however, as his id, ego and superego, Marshall (William Hurt), becomes more insistent. Brooks/Marshall gives in to his addiction and kills a young couple while they are having sex in their house and, as part of his psychopathology, leaves each of the victims' bloody thumbprints on a lampshade. Brooks/Marshall follows his meticulous modus operandi, including fastidious preparation, cleaning up the crime scene, even locking the doors before departing, and burning the clothes he was wearing during the killings. Brooks/Marshall then realizes that the couple's curtains were open, facing an apartment building.