There's been a lynching in Pompan, New Jersey, two months before Donald "Cage" Gambell returns to his hometown as the first black member of the police force. While life near his father and sister is familiar in both its comforts and confusions, Pompan has changed in ways he finds difficult to grasp. It has become a place where, in 1999, a white man can get lynched, where one crime can lead to another.
He learns the routines of police work -- the traffic stops and domestic quarrels, the bullying and the bragging -- from his partner Frank Butras, who freely shares his views of small town policing and of black-white relations, but refuses to discuss the murder which has left Pompan shaken. On New Year's eve, Cage and Butras answer a call that ignites their petty conflicts into a shocking explosion of rage and violence.
From his hospital bed, Cage relives the long hours in a squad car and the rapid-fire events of the final night. Haunted by the deadly business, he tries to make sense of his anger and responsibility, and sees himself and his hometown as never before.