Our narrator, Jason Dessen, is cooking dinner with his wife while his teenage son draws at the kitchen table. It's Thursday, which is their weekly family night.
It's also apparently "the end of everything," according to Jason (1.10). Ooh—ominous.
Anyway, Jason chats with his wife, Daniela, about a former artist friend of hers who's putting on a big show in New York. Daniela used to be an artist, but she gave it up to start their family.
Jason is dealing with a similar thing, as his old buddy Ryan Holder recently won a Pavia Prize for his work in neuroscience. Jason was once a scientist, too, but he quit to start his family, and he now teaches at a community college.
Ryan's having a party tonight to celebrate his victory. Jason is hesitant to go, but Daniela pushes him to make an appearance—as long as he brings back ice cream on his way home. Clever girl.
So Jason goes to the party, which is at a nearby bar called the Village Tap. Jason lives in Logan Square, a small neighborhood in Chicago.
Ryan is surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers. As soon as Jason arrives, Ryan pulls him aside and tells him how exceptionally smart former-scientist Jason is—smarter even than himself.
Strangely, this compliment just infuriates Jason, leading him to storm out of the bar. All righty, then. He picks up the ice cream and heads home.
As he strolls, locked in thought, Jason hears footsteps behind him. He turns around and is confronted by a man wielding a gun and wearing a white "geisha mask" (1.189). A what?
The man tells Jason to get into the driver's seat of an SUV. And if he doesn't? He's going to kill him.
Jason gets in the car, and the kidnapper enters an address into the GPS system.
Jason sneaks his phone out of his pocket and tries to shoot a text to Daniela, but the kidnapper stops him from sending it.
Finally, the men arrive at their destination—a creepy-looking power plant on the South Side. Jason gets the tar beaten out of him when he tries to resist.
The kidnapper takes Jason inside an abandoned building. Jason tries to fight back again but gets smacked down hard—again.
The kidnapper then injects something into Jason's neck. That's weird.
The two men sit at a table together. It's clear that the kidnapper isn't planning on killing Jason at this point.
Whatever was in the needle is finally taking hold of Jason. As he falls unconscious, he sees the kidnapper inject something into his own arm as well.