Glenn Jackson is thirteen and has moved with his father from Burnley to Torbeck in the Lake District. His mum has not come with them and Glenn's father is avoiding Glenn's questions. From the moment Glenn meets Laura, quiet and overshadowed by her vindictive adoptive sister, he is bewitched. Harlequin is a seven-foot eighteen-year-old living rough in an abandoned shack, disguising himself behind clown's make-up and an old felt hat and hiding in terror whenever the fighter jets have practice runs over Torbeck. When Harlequin rescues Glenn from falling into the old slate mine, the two form an unusual friendship and Glenn comes closer to discovering the secret that Harlequin is running away from.