An introspective novel, told in the first person, which explores the territory of delusion when an Italian Lieutenant sets out to have an aching tooth cared for on his four days leave. A short cut through the African wilderness leads him to a native girl in whom he finds all the secrets of her country, and when he accidentally shoots, her, and later kills her to speed her dying, it is not only a spiritual haunting but a physical that besets him. He begins to believe that he has contracted leprosy from her so that he not only has to flee the moral guilt but the possible stigma of his uncleanness. AWOL, evading chances of being found out, frustratedly wandering, never completing associations with any of the military he meets, depending on whores, natives for safety, he returns to the scene of his crime, confronted by the girl's father and is at last saved by him. A crime and punishment theme set against hostile shadows where the visible and invisible signs of evil take on a Dali-esque atmosphere.