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Walter Finch is an author of a series of crime novels. After a teenage fan named Kay comes to visit him, he becomes a mentor to her - all while harboring sexual feelings for her. One night, Kay comes to see him after having a fight with her boyfriend Randy, and in a moment of weakness he kisses her. When she laughs at him, he flies into a rage and slaps her. She screams, and Finch beats her to death. To hide evidence of her murder, he clips her nails, cleans the wounds he inflicted, and throws her body in a dump.
Detective Will Dormer tracks the killer at a shack in a misty forest, but as Finch tries to escape, Dormer accidentally shoots his partner due to the intense mist. Finch sees this and later phones Dormer at night, who is having serious trouble sleeping. Finch blackmails Dormer into helping him avoid suspicion from the authorities by threatening to reveal that Dormer killed his partner (as Dormer had initially blamed the incident on Finch). However, after another detective discovers the truth about Dormer, he admits what really happened and goes to take out Finch in his shack by a lake. As Finch tries to kill both detectives, Dormer arms himself with a shotgun and sneaks up on Finch during the gunfight. After a struggle, they both end up shooting each other. Dormer is mortally wounded while Finch is killed instantly, and his body falls into the water below and sinks into the darkness.