Valerie Messick returns home, and is disturbed when her husband Philip doesn't greet her. Upon entering, she finds his dying body in the middle of an overturned living room. Philip manages to point into a corner; two intruders are still there. They chase down Valerie as she flees.
Fontana and Green arrive. Philip died and Valerie is on death's door at the hospital. Fontana sees a photo of Philip with Jack Fatelli, a mob boss. The detectives go to the hospital next and talk to Dr. Brooks, who reports that, against all odds, Valerie survived. Brooks reports that another cop is already with Valerie. In the room, the detectives see Valerie in a bed and Bob Cerullo, a family friend, sitting besides her. Cerullo says that he's an ex-cop, and Valerie asks that Cerullo stay in the room while she talks to the cops. Valerie says that she saw two men, and would recognize one of them if she saw him again, but didn't know either of them. Cerullo asks for the interrogation to end, on account of Valerie's condition, but Fontana wants to ask one last question — did she or Philip no Fatelli? Cerullo answers for her, saying that Philip and Jack grew up together. Valerie says that Fatelli wouldn't attack her.
In the hall, Cerullo says that Philip wasn't mobbed up, but he hung out with Fatelli because they were old friends. He says that everyone from the old neighborhood, including him, Fatelli, and Philip, either went crooked or went legitimate. Philip was an accountant, and according to Cerullo, had no mafia connections. At the precinct, Green reports that the house was looted and further that Philip was an accountant for the Gambini family. Van Buren and the detectives wonder if Philip and Jack really were just friends, or if Philip was doing mob books. Green thinks it was the former, but Van Buren doubts it. She sends them to Philip's funeral to see who shows up.
Green, Fontana, and Officer Ostrover (a mob expert) watch people leaving the funeral home. A lot of mob people are there, as well as Cerullo. Ostrover says that Cerullo worked in the Organized Crime unit for a while, and a lot of Cerullo's old friends got arrested due to mob ties. Cerullo's old knowledge helped the unit. Fontana asks if Ostrover has a mob informant, and he directs the detectives to a guy named Greg Muggio. Muggio's been indicted for running a Ponzi scheme, and knows he's going to jail, so he's likely to be talkative.
Muggio says that Philip was clean and had no mob ties. Furthermore, he never made mistakes that would cause the mob to come after him. The mob liked Philip; he was everyone's friend.
"Whoever did it, you cops better hope you'd get to them first."
Van Buren tells the detectives that the loot from the Messick house showed up at a pawn shop. They got prints off of the loot belonging to a Darrell Dennehy. Dennehy has a long record of thefts and burglaries but no violent crimes before now. His address is fake, but he has a probation officer that he has to meet with weekly.
The probation officer, Ben Van Venton, reports that Dennehy has failed the maximum number of drug tests and hasn't applied for jobs. Dennehy has to come in within four hours to pass a drug test or his parole will be revoked. Four hours later, Dennehy does come in, and the detectives shove him against a wall. They drag him to the precinct. Dennehy claims amnesia or forgetfulness to their questions until they ask about the stereo. He says he got the stereo off the street, so they ask how his footprint got into the Messick brownstone. The detectives offer him a deal to flip on the other person. Dennehy cracks and says that he was the lookout, the driver, and helped carry the loot, but the other guy did all the killing. He names the other guy as Jay Fleckner.
The cops go to Fleckner's apartment and slip inside. Fleckner is washing and blow-drying the cash from the apartment, which is covered in blood. The detectives pull the plug on the blow dryer, then arrest Fleckner.
"Awful lot of blood in that water."
"Cut myself shaving."
—Joe Fontana and Jay Fleckner
At the station, Valerie picks Fleckner out of a line up.
Borgia tells McCoy that Fleckner was remanded and doesn't want to plead. McCoy lists the evidence — the bloody money, Valerie's ID, and Dennehy's confession. Borgia gets a call — it's Van Buren. At the precinct, Van Buren reports that marks were found on the bloody money that the techs couldn't identify. The money was passed to the federal government for analysis. The bills were marked to track a money-laundering scheme — they were used to buy drugs from a Gambino dealer, then passed to Messick for laundering. Unfortunately, the feds won't give the money back.
McCoy argues with a treasury representative. McCoy says they have to produce the money in court. The agent says that the lawyers must have more than just the money to make the case, but Borgia snaps that New York recovered the money during its own investigation. The agent says they'll have to wait a year.
"You could potentially be helping a man get away with murder."
"This cash has been filtering through drug rings, sex-slave operations and laundry outfits. Shutting those down could prevent twenty murders. I won't jeopardize that."
—Jack McCoy and the agent
Judge Julia Grayson is sympathetic to the lawyers and antagonistic towards Harvey Wellman, Fleckner's lawyer, but says that if they can't let the defense examine the bills, the bills are excluded. Borgia goes to offer Dennehy a deal, but Dennehy refuses. He says he's scared of mob retribution. He refuses an offer of identity concealment and a ten-year sentence reduction. When Borgia sees McCoy, he's unhappy that Messick is now their only evidence. He says that they'll want to present Messick's scars to the jury.
McCoy testifies about Philip dying and Fleckner attacking her. She's wearing a low-cut shirt such that the scars on her neck and upper torso are visible. Wellman brings up that Messick was nervous, distressed, and only saw her attacker for a few moments in a darkened room. He makes her admit that she's not completely sure that it was Fleckner who attacked her.
"I'm as certain as I could have been under the circumstances."
"With your vision hampered by your tears, is that what you mean? With your husband of fifteen years lying murdered by your side, is that what you mean?"
—Valerie Messick and Harvey Wellman
Messick apologizes to McCoy. She becomes offended when McCoy challenges her waffling on the ID. McCoy admits that they now have no real evidence or case. Soon, Fleckner is found not guilty. Both Valerie and Cerullo are in the courtroom, and Fleckner and Cerullo exchange glares. Later, Fleckner's body is found. The shooter was also the one who called it in, and he's still there — it's Bob Cerullo.
Cerullo is interrogated. His lawyer, Ernie Kruhulik, claims that Cerullo went to talk to Fleckner about intimidation of Messick, and to ensure that he didn't do it again. Cerullo takes over and says that he wanted to tell Fleckner that he (Cerullo) would be watching him, ready to arrest him if Fleckner put even a toe out of line. Cerullo claims that Fleckner pulled a gun, and Cerullo shot him in self defense.
"You realize we're gonna have to look into this."
"Yeah. I know. And you're gonna find it's a good shoot."
—Joe Fontana and Bob Cerullo
Messick says she wasn't aware of the meeting. She said that Fleckner stared at her during the trial and threatened her immediately after he was free.
Branch asks McCoy what he thinks about the shooting, and McCoy thinks that Cerullo had to know that Fleckner would become violent. Borgia reports that Cerullo visited Fleckner at Rikers during the trial. McCoy wonders why Fleckner even had a gun two days after being freed, and Branch reminds McCoy that Cerullo is a decorated ex-cop. McCoy brings up that Cerullo was friends with the Messicks, who were mob associates. Branch says that, to pull off an indictment, they'll need solid evidence.
Green tells Borgia that Cerullo had no other reason besides self defense to shoot Fleckner. Fontana and Green discuss Fleckner's gun, which matches the one used in an unsolved home invasion from several years ago. Fleckner fit the general description of the perpetrator. Detective Dumar worked the case, but he's dead now and had no known connection to Cerullo.
The detectives show the home invasion victim, Pauline Best, a photo array, but she says she was too high at the time to see much. Best tells the detectives that the case was solved, and wonders why they're asking questions. When Green says that the case is still open, she says that Detective Dumar told her differently. He said that the man confessed. Green asks if Best ever got her property back, she said no — Dumar had said it had all been pawned or spent.
Dumar's old captain, Tom Baden, tells the detectives that Dumar shot himself in the head. Fontana asks if Baden knew that Dumar was corrupt, and Baden says that it wouldn't surprise him. Baden doesn't recognize Fleckner, and says that Dumar was a lazy bum. Baden does recognize Cerullo — Cerullo found Dumar's body.
McCoy asks Borgia if Cerullo killed Dumar, and Borgia says that the records were spotty because everyone involved thought they were covering up a cop suicide. Dumar was investigated by Internal Affairs 4 times, all over shaking down robbery suspects. McCoy figures out that Dumar stole the money and a gun from some robbery suspect, and the gun made its way over to Fleckner — or Cerullo. McCoy and Borgia conclude that Cerullo got the gun from Dumar's body and planted it on Fleckner's body. McCoy wants Cerullo brought in.
Cerullo is furious over the indictment. After McCoy blows off Cerullo's list of commendations and offers a 20 year sentence, Cerullo says that he's cleared a lot of homicides. He threatens to testify in court that he made up evidence in a lot of his cases; McCoy would have to reopen over forty homicide convictions.
"If I'm on the stand, Mr. McCoy, my conscience may just start to eat at me. I may feel the need to purge myself of evidence I may have planted in those cases."
Cerullo says that it's not worth forty possible killers being released to lock up someone for killing a bad person like Fleckner. McCoy leaves in disgust.
Branch talks to the lawyers about the threat. Borgia says that there's no evidence that Cerullo ever actually tainted evidence or coerced anyone, but Branch points out that there will still be dozens of retrials. McCoy is undaunted, but admits that they need more evidence. McCoy and Borgia goes to talk to Valerie Messick, but she refuses to help them. She invokes her 5th amendment right to silence. Outside, McCoy orders the Messick house searched.
Fontana and Green tell Borgia that they found a transaction book in Messick's house. The forensic accountant is still decoding it, but they already found out that Cerullo sold guns and stolen loot to the mob, using Messick as a go-between. The notebook is extremely detailed, and Cerullo is identified by name and badge number — along with Dumar. Dumar and Cerullo were partners in selling stolen property, and Cerullo made more money once Dumar died.
McCoy talks to Kruhulik. He thinks that the jury will be stupid and will support Cerrulo, but McCoy says that he's calling Kruhulik's bluff — if Cerrulo perjures himself, Kruhulik is guilty of suborning perjury.
"...I'll take my client at his word."
"We're prepared to go to trial. If your client gets on the stand and lies, prepare to go to jail with him."
—Ernie Kruhulik and Jack McCoy
Cerullo testifies that he was scared, but visited Fleckner to make him leave Valerie alone. McCoy talks to Cerullo about Dumar, but Cerullo denies that Dumar was corrupt. McCoy offers a ballistics report tying Fleckner's gun to the home invasion, but Cerrulo says that the gun could have gotten to Fleckner in many ways. The ledger with Cerullo's bad number is brought up, but Cerullo just denies everyone. He maintains the self-defense claim, but McCoy reiterates that Fleckner's gun was linked to Cerrulo.
Kruhulik redirects, and Cerullo testifies that he faked evidence and coerced confessions to imprison many of Fleckner's associates. Judge Delano Burns overrules McCoy's objection, and Cerullo says that he framed a lot of criminals. He says that Fleckner knew him because Cerullo had sent so many of his (Fleckner's) friends to jail on bogus charges.
Borgia tells McCoy that the ledger had information on Valerie Messick; she has mob ties. The federal government wants to indict for a 20 year sentence, but they're willing to work with McCoy if he wants to make a deal.
Valerie and Wellman talk to McCoy. Wellman demands immunity, and wants Messick to talk only on the stand. McCoy agrees.
In court, Valerie testifies about Philip's mob ties, and also Cerullo's. Cerullo made a lot of money from selling stolen goods, money which stopped once Philip Messick died. McCoy asks about Cerrulo's motive; and Valerie admits that she asked Cerullo to kill Fleckner. She says that she asked him to kill Fleckner in the hospital. She further admits to throwing her own testimony so that Fleckner would be exonerated and Cerullo would be able to kill him.
"Bastard killed my husband, ruined my life! I just wanted him dead!"
Cerullo is speechless.
Later, Cerullo is convicted of murder. He mocks McCoy about all the cases he'll have to retry. Valerie leaves the courtroom alone. Later, McCoy reports that because of the immunity they gave her, they can't go after Valerie for anything. Borgia reports on the retrial motions. McCoy says that's the cost of doing business.