A prostitute is yelling a man (the murderer is unseen), suddenly he chokes her and hits her on the head with the vase. The jainitor (Mealie) discovers the body and reports to the landlord, Rice Weedon. Det. Lieut. Virgil Tibbs of the San Francisco homicide squad receives an anonymous phone call (Rice Weedon) accusing his close friend, community activist Rev. Logan Sharpe, of murdering a prostitute, Joy Sturges. The detective questions the clergyman, who admits having visited the victim to bestow pastoral counsel. Other suspects include Rice Weedon, a landlord, pimp, and drug dealer, and Woody Garfield, the victim's protector.
Tibbs believe Weedon is the prostitute murderer because his suspicion when he shoots in self-defense doing the chase. Again confronted by Tibbs, Sharpe confesses his guilt, revealing that the prostitute had mocked his sexual prowess, and begging Tibbs to defer arrest until after a referendum on a community control issue Sharpe supports. When the officer refuses, the activist throws himself under a passing truck..