Detective Superintendent Colin Harpur (Halo Parade, The Lolita Man, etc.) is again enmeshed in departmental politics: this time out, he discovers that if he wants to protect one of his snitches- -as well as a just-retired on-the-take pal from the force--he may have to endanger the life of gangster ``Tenderness'' Mellick's slow-witted young son, who was kidnapped by rival gang members. Harpur is soon stitching together a bogus story about corruptly rich Scott's undercover work that demanded he accept payoffs, while also trying to track down Mellick's son and prevent Mellick himself from pulling off a robbery to get the ransom money. Meanwhile, gang members are tossed from cars, buried in barns, and the few who are left have it in for the cops. Using information from his snitch and from Scott, and deftly planting evidence, Harpur saves a few reputations while continuing to sully his own--but it'll be up to young Mellick to rescue himself. Morals that would make a civil libertarian wince, but nonetheless a believable portrait of a longtime cop who thinks some crimes need to be punished more than others. Plus: a clever, if gloomy, spin on protecting one's mates.