A woman knocks on an apartment door and calls for her sister, named Chelsea. A little girl, the woman's daughter, also asks for Chelsea, while a little boy remains silent. The door is unlocked, so the woman enters. She quickly sees Chelsea lying dead on the floor, so she rushes the children into the bathroom, then realizes that Chelsea's baby Nikki is missing.
An officer tells the detectives that the victim is named Chelsea Haggerty, and tells the detectives about Nikki's vanishing. The two detectives go to the sister, who says that she came by to drop off some baby clothes, but found Chelsea dead. She gives them a photograph of Nikki and tells them, when asked about the baby's father, that the father (named Steve Monroe) is a counselor at a drug house. Fontana sends an officer to bring Monroe to the apartment. The sister can't recall anyone having trouble with Chelsea. Green tells Chelsea that they'll be in touch; they may have follow-up questions.
The detectives go to a medical worker, who says that Chelsea was beaten, but it was suffocation that killed her. She died between noon and 2:00 PM. He also found drug marks on Chelsea's arm, but they're scarred over (and thus old). Fontana says he should keep looking; he'll probably find fresh ones.
At the apartment building, a neighbor says that he heard Chelsea arguing with someone at about 11:15 that morning. He thought it was Monroe, but he wasn't sure — and this would have been unusual, he said, since Monroe and Haggerty rarely fought. He couldn't make out the conversation. Another officer tells the detectives that Monroe showed up, so they go to see him.
Outside, Monroe is frantic.
"What about my son? Do you have any leads, do you have anything at all?"
Fontana assures Monroe that they won't give up until they find Nikki. Monroe tells them that Chelsea seemed normal the last time he saw her, at 9:00 that morning. Fontana says that he didn't see any rings on either Haggerty or Monroe, so Monroe says that they're engaged, but were trying to get money together for the marriage. He also says that they didn't have any problems between them, and when asked about Chelsea's drug history, says that she's been clean for a year — they actually met when Monroe became Chelsea's drug counselor. He insists that she didn't get back into the habit, or talk to anyone who she used to use drugs with. According to Monroe, she didn't have any other friends. Her place of employment was a dry cleaners shop. Green then asks him for an alibi. Monroe becomes angry, but Fontana says they have to rule him out first. Monroe complains more, but Green insists, so Monroe says he was at work.
At the precinct, Van Buren writes up an Amber Alert. Fontana comes in and says that a bloody fingerprint was found on the crib, but it doesn't match anyone in the system. Green, behind Fontana, says that the canvas only turned up the one neighbor who heard the argument. Monroe has no record.
"He seems like a pretty stand-up guy."
"Yeah, well so did Scott Peterson."
—Joe Fontana and Anita Van Buren
She wonders if Monroe was overwhelmed by the responsibility of a new baby. Fontana notes that Monroe and Haggerty were cash-strapped, and Green, reading from a toxicity report, says that Haggerty had crack in her lung tissue. Van Buren says that, if Haggerty was using drugs, Nikki could need medical care. Fontana responds that they checked local hospitals but haven't found anything so far. Another officer calls over that the Chief of Detectives wants to talk to Van Buren, so Van Buren tells the detectives to look up anyone caught using drugs with Chelsea when Chelsea was still on drugs — they might know who sold Chelsea her drugs.
Vincent Keys tells the detectives that he hasn't seen Chelsea in a long time. Keys was her old dealer, but Keys insists that he's been clean for six months.
"My kid brother got shot in January. The bullet was meant for me. Maybe it takes something like that to… I don't know… refocus you, or something."
His alibi is that he was at a high school in Harlem as part of a Scared Straight program. Fontana asks who Chelsea got drugs from if not him, so Keys says that a man named Frank sold them to her. He doesn't know Frank's last name, but knows that he and Chelsea were very close.
Chelsea's sister recalls a Frank Stoll that Chelsea dated a few years prior. Stoll, she says, is bad news, and he was the one who got Chelsea hooked on drugs. Chelsea only stopped when she overdosed and almost died. Fontana asks why she didn't mention this man before, but the sister says that Chelsea hasn't seen Stoll in over a year, so she didn't think he was relevant. She recalls that Frank used to be a dishwasher at a certain restaurant.
At the restaurant, the detectives talk to the owner. The owner says that Stoll called in sick, and that while Stoll's address is somewhere in his office, it would take a long time to find it amongst all the papers. Green says they can start looking. Meanwhile, Fontana sees another worker in the kitchen glance at them when Green mentions Stoll. He goes to talk to the worker. The worker is reluctant to talk, so Fontana offers him a roll of bills.
"I don't wanna get him jammed up."
"Maybe this will ease the pain."
—Worker and Joe Fontana
The worker says that Frank sees a woman at Shooters, a strip club/restaurant. He (the worker) doesn't know her name, but does know that she has large breasts, even for a Shooters employee.
The woman, Gina Devore, says that Stoll wouldn't hurt anyone. Green says that they aren't saying he did, but they want to talk to him. She tells them his home address, but Green says that he isn't there. Fontana asks if she wants to help them find the baby or not, and Devore says she does. Fontana tells her to call Stoll and tell him that she has some time, so he can come over.
"…make him an offer he can't refuse."
Devore protests that she's not a hooker, but Fontana says that they don't have time to worry about things like that. Devore agrees to the plan. Later, they arrest Stoll outside of Devore's place, taking him in on charges of unpaid parking tickets. He says that this is inane, but the detectives don't care. He feigns ignorance about the missing baby.
In an interrogation room, Green reads that Stoll has numerous narcotics arrests and convictions. Fontana says that Stoll has moved up to murder and kidnapping.
"Talk about failing upwards."
Stoll insists that he's innocent. Green asks why Stoll skipped work if he was innocent. Stoll claims that he knew he'd be a suspect, being the ex-boyfriend of Chelsea, and Fontana interjects that this is usually because they did it. Stoll says that he and Chelsea had no problems. Fontana catches on that this means he still saw her, which Stoll acknowledges. He says he hasn't seen Chelsea in months, but Green says that someone heard a man arguing with Chelsea that morning, and Fontana says they can use a voice lineup to confirm that it was Frank.
Frank admits to going to Chelsea's, claiming that he wanted to make sure she was okay with the baby. He denies that the argument was significant; he says that Chelsea just wanted him to leave because her sister was coming over, so he left. This happened by 11:30, and he doesn't know if anyone saw him come or go. Van Buren knocks, so Green goes to talk to her outside the room. Van Buren tells Green that another of Chelsea's neighbors responded to a canvas. The neighbor claims she saw a woman fleeing the apartment with a newborn child.
The woman tells the detectives that she saw a woman fleeing the apartment at about 11 with a newborn child. She describes the woman as looking pregnant — she was wearing maternity clothes — and of being about 40 years old. She gives a further physical description of the woman, but says she won't be able to pick her out of a lineup.
Monroe says that Chelsea didn't know other pregnant women. After some thought, he recalls one older pregnant women who was a customer at Chelsea's dry cleaners and who often gave pregnancy advice.
At the dry cleaners, the detectives ask about the pregnant woman. The two employees recall one woman who gave Chelsea a book and a stuffed animal. The woman's name was Arlene. The workers can't look up Arlene's last name or address without a receipt or a phone number, but the book is still at the shop. Green takes the book.
Fontana tells Van Buren that a fingerprint on the book matched one on the crib, but they haven't identified who made the print yet, and neither Monroe nor Chelsea's sister know anyone named Arlene. Green comes in, saying that a woman just reported that another woman tried to steal her daughter's baby last month. The detectives go to meet her.
The mother and daughter, Beverly and Lindsay Doyle, say that the woman called herself Arlene. Their description of the woman matches the one they already have of the woman who took Nikki. Lindsay says that she planned to meet her mom and have a picnic with the baby after work, but Arlene approached her and offered her a stuffed animal while she was waiting for Beverly. Lindsay and Arlene got to talking, they say, but then Lindsay's cell phone rang, and Arlene offered to hold Connor (the baby). Lindsay assented, but when she looked away to get her phone, Arlene took off with the baby. Fortunately, Beverly arrived at that moment and grabbed Connor back, and Arlene fled.
The detectives tell Van Buren that they found that everything Arlene has done, so far, has been in a very small radius — Chelsea's house, the park where Arlene met Lindsay, and the place where Arlene got her pregnancy supplies were all very close to each other. Arlene probably lives in that area. The trio discuss passing out leaflets and notifying the appropriate precincts. Suddenly, Van Buren recalls that the bear Arlene left Chelsea can only be bought at specialized stores. One of them is in the radius.
At the store, the manager says that they have two customers named Arlene in their system. One lives out by Long Island, but the other is local — Arlene Tarrington. They get her address, and Green says he'll call the DMV.
At the home of Arlene and Stuart Tarrington, the cops demand entrance. Stuart opens the door, and the cops show him a warrant for Arlene's arrest. He demands to know what's going on, so Green says they're looking for a child. Stuart says the only child around is the one his wife just gave birth to. When asked for where his wife gave birth, he names the hospital, but he wasn't there when she gave birth. The cops and Stuart find Arlene in a back room with a child.
"There he is. Our son, Stephen."
Stuart demands the birth certificate, but Arlene says nothing. The detectives and another officer identify Stephen as Nikki. The cops move to take the baby, restraining Stuart from interfering. Arlene begins to scream and cry, but the officers are able to take her baby without hurting her.
"He's supposed to be here with us!"
The Tarringtons are arrested.
McCoy tells Branch that Arlene tried to abduct a baby from a park a month ago, but when that failed, she focused on Chelsea. Branch is skeptical that Arlene murdered Chelsea just so she could kidnap Nikki, but Branch says that several witnesses described Arlene leaving the apartment building. McCoy wonders what happened to Arlene's baby, and Borgia says that the hospital Stuart named has no record of Arlene giving birth there.
"In fact, there's no evidence that Arlene was ever pregnant."
Branch doubts that Arlene could fool Stuart for so long, but Borgia points out that Stuart is often overseas. The two were near divorce until Arlene became pregnant, according to a neighbor. Borgia says she feels sorry for Arlene, but McCoy just says that Arlene murdered someone and kidnapped a child, so he doesn't feel bad for her. A messenger comes in to relay that Arlene's lawyer, Carolyn Walters, wants to talk.
Walters says that Arlene did come by Chelsea's house, but only to drop off a present. When she arrived, says Walters, Chelsea was already dead. The fingerprint was caused by Arlene feeling for a pulse. Arlene says that she was going to call the police, but they'd have taken the baby, and she thought she could give him a great life. McCoy asks if she thought of the baby's father Monroe, but she says that she wasn't thinking straight. McCoy asks who did kill Chelsea, and Arlene says she thought it was someone Chelsea knew from back when she did drugs. He then asks about abducting Connor Doyle, so Walters says she's moving to exclude that.
"No one can accuse you of not being prepared."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
—Jack McCoy and Carolyn Walters
Judge Michael Schneider hears the motion. Walters argues that Doyle is young and an unwed mother.
"The only reason McCoy is calling her is to portray my client as some kind of predator."
"Which she is."
—Carolyn Walters and Jack McCoy
Borgia says that Doyle's testimony demonstrates a pattern of conduct. Walters disagrees, but Schneider agrees with McCoy and shuts down Walters' attempts to protest.
Outside, Walters asks McCoy for a deal. McCoy says that Arlene's crime was terrible and deserves a lot of punishment, but Walters tells him to save his speeches for the jury. She says that Arlene didn't kill anyone, and they will be using an affirmative defense for the kidnapping — temporary insanity.
"Postpartum psychosis. Makes postpartum depression look like a day at the beach."
—Jack McCoy and Carolyn Walters
Borgia points out that there's no evidence of Arlene's pregnancy, so Walters says they have medical records showing that Arlene miscarried at seven months and subsequently have a psychotic break. McCoy cites the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned five children, tried this defense, and was convicted anyway. Walters says that Yates is getting a new trial.
"And Arlene Tarrington didn't kill anyone."
At a restaurant, Olivet says that she doubts that Arlene was in a psychotic state, but can't be sure. She talked with Arlene, who described several symptoms of the syndrome. McCoy points out that Arlene managed to plan and execute a murder-kidnapping, which, Olivet acknowledges, makes her seem rational and isn't consistent with the syndrome. Borgia asks if it matters that Arlene had a miscarriage instead of a live birth that died later, but Olivet says that Arlene was too far along in her pregnancy to rule out the syndrome.
"Thanks for nothing, Liz."
Olivet protests that psychology is subjective, but McCoy won't respond.
Stuart tells Borgia that he was overseas, but spoke to her frequently. He says he would have done something had he thought Arlene was crazy. He gets mad when Borgia asks if he thought she was crazy. Borgia calms him down, and he says that Arlene is complicated. Borgia asks if Arlene had a close friend.
"I am her best, and closest, friend."
"Mr. Tarrington, you didn't even know that she miscarried."
—Stuart Tarrington and Alexandra Borgia
Stuart says that this disaster has ruined his life, so he doesn't want Borgia to be guilting him. He refuses to say anymore.
McCoy tells Branch and Borgia that Arlene planned the crime down to the last detail, so even if she was psychotic, it didn't hinder her state of mind. All they have to do, he says, is prove that she can tell the difference between right and wrong. Branch says that they also need to show how an upper-class woman from a good neighborhood would do something like that. Borgia says that the baby was all that held together her marriage. Branch asks why she couldn't adopt, but Borgia says that, once Arlene chose to not tell Stuart about the miscarriage, she only had two months to work something out. Branch asks if they can prove intent to kill, so Borgia responds that Arlene couldn't have expected that Chelsea would just give her the child. McCoy adds that Arlene had a fully furnished nursery and had bought supplies for raising a baby a week before the crime, so she had intent. Branch says that the case sounds solid. Borgia, somewhat less confident, argues that jurors might sympathize with Arlene if they've miscarried or know someone who has. McCoy thinks this won't be a big problem, but Borgia says that she had a friend who had a double miscarriage of twins and wouldn't leave her house for weeks.
"But your friend didn't kill anybody, did she?"
They all leave.
In court, Lindsay testifies that Arlene was the woman who tried to take her child. Walters asks Lindsay how long she spoke with Arlene before Beverly showed up; Lindsay says that it was about 20 minutes. They talked about, Lindsay says, baby things. Walters asks if she told Arlene that she felt her life was ruined and she didn't want the baby; Lindsay says that she doesn't remember that. Walters asks if she remembers Arlene offering to find her son a good home if that was what she wanted; Lindsay denies remembering this. Walters keeps going.
"Then you probably don't remember asking how much money you could get for the baby."
McCoy objects but is overruled. Lindsay says she was not serious, but Walters says that it would be odd to joke about that. Lindsay says that she wasn't joking either; she was just out of it. Walters asks if she was suffering from depression. McCoy objects, but Walters withdraws the question. McCoy looks mad, and Borgia stunned.
Later, Borgia asks Lindsay what went wrong. Lindsay tries to claim that Walters just got her mixed up, but Borgia says that she wants the truth. Lindsay says that she can't tell the truth because her mother would kill her.
"If she finds out the truth, she'll totally lose it on me."
"Lindsay, this is a murder trial."
—Lindsay Doyle and Alexandra Borgia
After Borgia promises to deal with Beverly, L Indsay
agrees to talk. She says that Arlene offered her $50,000, and said she could find Connor a good home with wealthier parents. Lindsay was concerned that she had few resources and couldn't even afford a crib, so she thought about it seriously, but then said 'no.'
"I just couldn't go through with it."
McCoy vents at Borgia that she should have found this out earlier. Borgia protests that Doyle is sixteen years old and frightened of her mother. McCoy points out that, if Arlene tried to pay Lindsay, she may have offered Chelsea money too — and if she did, he'd prefer to know about it before Arlene testifies. Borgia says she'll look at Arlene's financials.
"Take more than a look."
Later that night, Borgia tells McCoy that Arlene's financial records showed nothing unusual, but her phone records indicated a call to Frank Stoll. Stoll, Borgia says, visited Chelsea the morning Chelsea dead. The two don't know why Arlene called him three days before the murder.
In Stoll's apartment, the detectives note a plasma TV. They ask how he paid for that.
"Oh, I didn't. I won it in a bet."
The detectives are slightly amused. Fontana demands the truth. He claims not to know Arlene, even saying that Arlene's call to him must have been a wrong number. Green then says that Stoll's boss told them that Arlene comes by monthly to pick up food donations, and Fontana adds that Stoll has been seen talking to her multiple times.
"That constitutes knowing in our neck of the woods."
Stoll tells them to leave, but Borgia says that, if he was involved, he'd do better to talk. Stoll gives up and says that Nikki is his baby. The others just look at each other.
Branch is surprised by the revelation. Borgia says that he filed a paternity suit, but results haven't come back yet. Branch says that Stoll has no grounds to bring the suit since Chelsea was married to someone else, but McCoy points out that Monroe and Chelsea weren't actually married. Branch wonders why Arlene hasn't blamed Stoll, but McCoy points out that turning in Stoll would implicate herself. As for money, Arlene's maid said that she kept large amounts of cash, and Stuart made over three million dollars a year, so Arlene could have hidden a large amount.
"What a world. Child loses his mother and now risks being taken away from the other father he's ever known."
Borgia says that Stoll would be a terrible father; after all, he may have already tried to sell Nikki to Arlene. McCoy wants to charge him. Branch says they don't have enough evidence, but Borgia and McCoy say that he had motive — money — and admitted to being in the apartment. Branch asks how they'll prove it, so they say they'll offer Arlene a deal to testify against him. Branch says that she'll collapse on the stand, but McCoy says he's willing to take the chance.
"We don't at least explore this, Stoll gets away with murder."
Branch warns that everything rests on McCoy.
McCoy and Borgia tells Walters that they think Arlene was involved in a conspiracy. They bring up Stoll's involvement. Arlene looks away when he's mentioned. Walters goes to talk to Arlene, and after they whisper, Walter (looking annoyed and resigned) says that they are listening. Borgia says that they know about the meetings at Stoll's restaurant and the phone call.
"A little elbow grease and I'm sure we can come up with more."
Walters asks for a deal, but McCoy says that Arlene has to talk first. Arlene states that Stoll promised that he could get her a baby, but Walters quickly shuts her up. McCoy then says that, if Arlene tells the truth and testifies against Stoll, he'll offer a 15-year sentence (the maximum sentence for kidnapping is 25 years). Walters asks for a 10-year sentence, but McCoy tells her that she is not in a position to bargain. Walters says that the jury might still go for the insanity defense.
"And if you were confident about that, you wouldn't be here."
"And if you didn't have concerns, you wouldn't be here either."
—Jack McCoy and Carolyn Walters
Borgia says that they want Stoll held responsible, and McCoy adds that 15 years is the best that Arlene can do for herself. Arlene and Walters confer, and then Arlene accepts the deal.
"Frank told me… that he'd gotten his ex-girlfriend pregnant. Said that they'd sell me the child for $50,000. And when I said that I wanted to see the baby's mother, he told me where Chelsea worked."
She didn't actually talk about the adoption with Chelsea; Frank, she says, warned her against it by saying that Chelsea didn't want to know who was getting her baby.
A few minutes later, McCoy says that Arlene has a good story, but he's not sure he believes it. Borgia says that everything makes sense with her testimony. McCoy points out that they hinted at what they think happened, so Arlene could just be making up some details to fill out her story. Borgia says they'll never know for sure what happened, but based on their histories, Stoll is more likely to have killed someone than Arlene. McCoy notes that Arlene has always conceded the kidnapping but never the murder. Borgia, when asked if she believes Arlene, says that she just doesn't think Arlene killed someone. Then a messenger brings in a file — Frank Stoll was Nikki's real father.
Monroe is stunned from the news.
"Nikki's not mine?"
Borgia confirms this. Monroe says that it must be a mistake, but McCoy rejects this. Monroe thinks that Chelsea would have told him.
"I can't believe this."
Monroe goes on a tear about how he's raised Nikki and Nikki knows him. He says that he's the only one there for Nikki. McCoy says that Stoll cant fight for custody anytime soon, since he's been arrested for murder. Borgia adds that Stoll has already been arrested and remanded. Monroe asks whether, if Stoll wins the case, he can file for paternity and win. The lawyers have to admit that this is a possibility.
"I guess you should be ready for that possibility."
Monroe is distraught.
"How do you prepare to lose your child, Mr. McCoy?"
In court, Arlene testifies that Stoll told her that he'd found homes for other babies with no problem, and that she was thrilled by his offer. She adds that he told her that he found young women on the street who had become pregnant, couldn't keep the child, and so wanted to send the child elsewhere.
"So he was a black-market baby broker of some sort?"
McCoy verifies that Arlene knew this was illegal, but Arlene says that she was desperate, and besides, it was Stoll's baby anyway. Stoll also told her, she says, that Chelsea had agreed to sell the baby if Stoll could find a good home for him. It cost her $50,000, she says.
"He said most of that would go to Chelsea."
She talks about how they set up the meeting during the phone call — Stoll was to go in and get the baby while Arlene waited outside. However, Arlene waited for Stoll in vain, until Stoll fled out of the apartment and told Arlene to flee. He told her that the baby was fine but that they had to get out of there. Arlene ignored his advice and went upstairs, where, she says, she found Chelsea's body. She didn't call 911 because it was too late to save Chelsea's life; instead, she grabbed Nikki and fled home.
"At that moment, I thought that he was mine."
She again says that she was desperate.
Monroe's lawyer, Daniel Tracer, points out that Arlene was indicted and tried for second-degree murder, that she claimed to be under the influence of a psychotic break, and that she admitted involvement in the crime. Arlene clarifies that she only admitted to kidnapping the child. Tracer then has Arlene admit that Walters even put a psychologist on the stand to confirm that Arlene was psychotic when she took the child. He says that it was only when Arlene thought she might be convicted of murder that she turned on Stoll. McCoy objects and Judge Esther Morrow sustains it.
Tracer then confirms that the sentence is lighter than she would have gotten had she been convicted, and that she only got the reduced sentence for agreeing to testify against Stoll. Tracer says that, if it wasn't for Arlene, Chelsea would still be alive. Arlene denies this, claiming that Stoll told her that Chelsea had agreed to give up the child and that she didn't know Stoll would hurt Chelsea. Tracer says this isn't true.
"But he didn't hurt her. You did."
Tracer says that Arlene snapped when Stoll told her that the deal had fallen through, and begins to talk about how Stuart and her friends were all expecting her to give birth. McCoy objects and is sustained.
"Is there a question in there, Mr. Tracer?"
Tracer asks if Arlene can prove that she was waiting outside when Stoll killed Chelsea — for instance, he asks, did anyone see her? She has to say that she can't prove it. Tracer insists that she wasn't outside but was inside, killing Chelsea in a psychotic rage.
"You smashed her in the head, and then smothered her. Frank Stoll wasn't even in the room. He had your $50,000, why should he stick around?"
"That's not what happened!"
"No? You set this whole tragedy in motion. You. And you alone."
—Daniel Tracer and Arlene Tarrington
Tracer says that all Stoll did was scam money from Arlene. Arlene begins to break down on the stand.
"He said that I could have the baby, it was supposed to be my baby, it was supposed to be mine…"
Tracer ends his cross-examination. Later, Stoll is found 'not guilty' of murder. In the audience, Monroe looks crush. Stoll looks relieved. Suddenly, Monroe bolts from the courtroom as McCoy watches.
Outside, the two lawyers commiserate.
"We took our shot."
"Colder for Steven Monroe."
—Alexandra Borgia and Jack McCoy
Borgia says that Monroe will have trouble if he fights to keep Nikki. McCoy predicts that Monroe will flee instead.
Later, the detectives are let into Monroe's apartment by a superintendent. The superintendent says that a lot of noise has been coming from Monroe's room during the past few days, like he was moving furniture or something. Entering the apartment, the detectives find that it's been stripped bare.
"Now this is why God created security deposits."
Monroe is gone, as is Nikki. Fontana muses that Monroe has a few hours head start and could be anywhere. Green finds a stuffed animal, which he flips over to Fontana.
Later, McCoy says that Stoll wants to know what's being done to find Nikki.
"Why, so he can sell him off to the highest bidder?"
Borgia says that the police have some leads on Monroe.
"Tell 'em to take the weekend off. Get a fresh start on Monday."
Branch leaves. The other two exchange a knowing look, then leave as well.