Derek Strange is a rookie cop, the job he's dreamed of since he was a boy. His brother, Dennis, has not been as fortunate; home from the service with a disability pension and zero prospects, he is man with good intentions but bad habits. Derek has always looked out for Dennis, but no amount of brotherly love can save him from the dangerous world of Alvin Jones, a local bottom-feeder, hustler, and stone killer who draws him into his web of violence.
While the rookie cop navigates the rocky terrain of a city in turmoil, a family in crisis, and his love for a woman he has driven away, Frank Vaughn, a cop at the opposite end of his career, investigates the vicious hit and run of a young black man. Vaughn's personal life is a shambles, but he's good police; he pursues the killers with sharklike intent. Meanwhile, in Memphis, a prophet is murdered, igniting a volcanic chain of events that will leave the nation's capital burned, divided, and decimated, forever changing the lives of its working-class inhabitants.
DEREK STRANGE GOT down in a three-point stance. He breathed evenly, as his father had instructed him to do, and took in the pleasant smell of April. Magnolias, dogwoods, and cherry trees were in bloom around the city. The scent of their flowers, and the heavy fragrance of a nearby lilac bush growing against a residential fence, filled the air.
"You keep your back straight," said Derek, "like you're gonna set a dinner up on it. You ain't want your butt up in the air, either. That way you're ready. You just blow right out, like, and hit the holes. Bust on through."
Derek and his Saturday companion, Billy Georgelakos, were in an alley that ran behind the Three-Star Diner on a single-number block of Kennedy Street, at the eastern edge of Northwest D.C. Both were twelve years old.
"Like your man," said Billy, sitting on a milk crate, an Our Army at War comic book rolled tightly in his meaty hand.
"Yeah," said Derek. "Here go Jim Brown right here." ...
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