Chicago in the ’60s is not quite the haven he hoped for when p.i. Smokey Dalton, assuming the name Bill Grimshaw, moved there from Memphis to protect himself and Jimmy, a young street kid who witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and knows who really pulled the trigger. Over the past year, a wholesale murderer of blacks has left nine, possibly more, knifed to death while the cops labeled the crimes merely unfortunate muggings. When they ignore the killing of dentist Louis Foster, too, his widow seeks out Smokey/Bill, who’s gained a reputation as a defender of the black community (Smoke Filled Rooms, 2001, etc.). But Smokey’s got his own problems. At the moment, he’s working security for his sometime girlfriend, super-rich, lily-white Laura Hathaway, as she maneuvers to take over the board and revamp Sturdy Investments, her dead father’s slumlord company. He’s also fending off the Blackstone Rangers, the largest street gang in Chicago, as they menace Jimmy and his best friends. Eventually, however, Smokey—with the aid of Saul, a photographer brutalized for his biracial romance, and two cops, Johnson (black) and Sinkovich (white)—narrows the search for Foster’s killer to residents of a “transitional” neighborhood, finally zeroing in on the killer racist and documenting his culpability so thoroughly that the police must take action.
Black, white, or polka dot, everybody needs a friend like Smokey to fight bigotry from those in power, those grabbing for power, and even those seemingly powerless.