Thirty years ago, when they were all brash law school graduates, John Stoughton-Melville exchanged with his four best friends a promise that they'd each respond to an urgent appeal from any of the others, no questions asked--and sealed the compact with a gift of distinctive gold rings to each of the others. One of John's old friends was promptly killed in an auto accident; another went on to a successful legal career; another became his wife and partner in any number of high-profile charitable boards; and the fourth, Ellis Portal, ascended to the bench before being jailed for assault and leaving his judgeship for a life among Toronto's homeless. Now Ellis has found one of the rings, a mate to his own, on a severed hand that's turned up in a patch of land he gardens--a hand that, unlike any of the original five hands that sported those rings, is black. Unable to go to the police, Ellis goes instead to his friend Queenie on the streets downtown--and in no time he's gotten a whiff of much bigger trouble: the disappearance of several pregnant girls from the Second Chance hostel, whose board is graced by the presence of Supreme Court nominee John Stoughton-Melville and his fetching wife. Don't forget about those law-school promises; it's a cinch that John hasn't. An offbeat and engaging hero (whose adventures the day he's dressed in his last good suit are worth the price of admission) presents his story with lacerating self-insight in Aubert's lyrical, powerful first novel.