A drive-by killing puts Drum on the scent of a Washington sex scandal.
When Chester Drum first took a crack at detective work, PI Gil Sprayregan offered to split a case with him, giving the rookie half the fee and more credit than he deserved. Years later, Drum is established and Gil is at the tail end of a long, slow fall,
drinking heavily and considering blackmail to make ends meet. When he gets in over his head, Sprayregan's wife begs Drum to help. But her husband has already taken the first step on the road to oblivion.
Drum takes a dinghy out to Sprayregan's Chesapeake hideout. When they return, a car full of gangsters kills Sprayregan and puts Drum in the hospital. Drum doesn't mourn the man who gave him his first break, but to the new widow, he owes a debt. No matter how well connected they are, he will break the men who gunned down Gil Sprayregan.