When Tommy Biscaine, loan shark for the Pavalon crime family, is viciously murdered, the formula for a powerful new drug vanishes. It is the secret formula for Crystal Blue, a drug designed to ease the suffering of terminally ill patients. In reality, Crystal Blue will tighten the Pavalon family's death grip over the hollow lives of addicts. When Biscaine is killed with an ice pick to the skull, two worlds collide.
Johnny Gibson, whose life is squeezed through a junkie's needle, is wrongly charged and pressured to plead guilty to Biscaine's murder. Rico, a psychopathic killer longing for the moment in time when his victim will taste cold steel, chases Gibson through the justice system. Rico, however, doesn't respect the junkie's resolve, born inside a prison cell, to unravel a mystery buried deep in the bowels of the courthouse.
It is Johnny's newfound character, and Rico's steely determination to finish a contract, that propels them toward a lethal confrontation. But it is a courthouse revelation that causes Johnny to hesitate, maybe long enough for Rico to once again slip through the system.