Christmas Day isn’t being kind to D.C. Homicide Vice detective Hardesty. Called to a crime scene at the Georgetown University boathouse on the Potomac River, he is taken aback at seeing the face under the ice of a man he only hours earlier was partying with at an exclusive, full-service gay male brothel. Immediately thereafter identifying a body in a Mercedes in the boathouse’s parking lot as a rent-boy from the previous evening, who Hardesty has known (biblically) himself, the plot thickens as the Secret Service descends on the boathouse looking for someone else altogether. A very important and very secret personage, the owner of the Mercedes, is missing. It’s going to be a very busy Christmas week for Hardesty, not just in trying to solve a murder mystery against the opposition and possible complicity of the Russian mafia and the U.S. government itself, but also in keeping his own connection to the male brothel under wraps.
Hardesty’s eyes went to a cop who was walking quickly and with determination in their way from the boat launch area on the river.
“You the guys from Vice Homicide?” he was asking as he approached.
“Yo,” Hardesty asked, “And you are?”
“Thomas of the Fifth Precinct. Found something. You’re going to want to see this. Over by the river.”
“Where? What?” Hardesty asked as he followed the policeman over to the edge of the water. The river was iced up a good fifteen feet out. There were skid marks from a kayak that had been pushed out into the river—or Hardesty assumed it had been a kayak. There was a rack of them over against the wall of the boathouse and one of the slots was empty.
“So, someone’s gone into the river,” Glen said as he walked up beside Hardest and Patrolman Thomas.
“Yeah, but that’s not the point. Can you see him?”
“Him who . . . oh shit,” Hardesty said. Whitehall had joined in the “Oh, shit” part. They were looking down into the ice at the edge of the boat launch. A face was staring up at them from under the ice. It was a man. His eyes were bugging out and his mouth was open in a silent scream. There was a bullet hole between his eyes.
“Well, fuck,” Hardesty said, his voice disgusted.
“What the hell?” was Glen’s contribution. “Suppose it’s Curtis Whoever?”
“Afraid not. I know him,” Hardesty said. “He’s Russian. His name’s Victor. At least that’s the name I heard he goes by. I don’t know a last name. But he’s a bad ass.” What he didn’t want to say was that he’d seen the man a couple of hours ago—at Justine’s. He was one of Justine’s special clients. This was getting dicey. Glen knew about Justine’s, but he didn’t know everything there was to know about Justine’s. Hardesty’s chief, Crane, and the department certainly didn’t know about Justine’s—Hardesty hoped. Crane knew Hardesty could tap most of the male prostitutes it town—but not his relationship with their pimps and houses. How was he going to handle this, and . . . “I want to see the stiff in the car again,” he suddenly said, turning and moving back to the parking lot.