Two men examine the entrance to Stroker's Bar. One asks if they're in the right place, and the other tells him not to go in — the bar they want is one block over. A large group of bikers and their girlfriends leave the bar and motorcycle away. Then one other man exits the bar, holding his hands to his stomach. He has a bloody wound there, and quickly collapses.
A cop tells Briscoe and Curtis that almost everyone fled once the cops began to show up. The medical examiner shows the detectives the body, including the large wound in the gut. The body has only a shirt and jeans, and isn't wearing a leather jacket, unlike all the bikers. Briscoe ID's the corpse from his ID card in his wallet — the body's name is Tom Bell, and he was an NYU student.
"Guess he decided to see how the other half lives."
"It doesn't live very long."
—Reynaldo Curtis and Lennie Briscoe
Curtis asks if he should canvas the area, but Briscoe says that no one is around. He tells Curtis that they'll interview the people left in the bar.
The detectives walk past a body on the ground; a cop says that he's just a drunk who passed out, not another victim. She adds that there's a large blood trail to the front and a small one to the back door, and Briscoe points out that this implies another victim. He asks the bartender what happened, but the bartender says he was getting a case of beer from the basement when the attacked happened. Curtis asks another patron, who says he was throwing up in the bathroom. Then the drunkard wakes up.
"Oh! It rises!"
The guy on the ground claims not to remember anything. He asks for a beer, but the bartender says they're closed. The drunkard jokes that the cops won't be able to do anything if the bartender pours a beer past last call. The cops are annoyed, but don't say anything.
In interrogation, the drunkard continues to mouth off to Curtis. After Curtis repeatedly demands his name, he says that he's called Mountain.
"That's your name?"
"That's my last name. First name's Rocky."
—Reynaldo Curtis and Mountain
In Van Buren's office, Van Buren asks Briscoe how Curtis is doing. Briscoe says that he's slowly learning but is still too impulsive; he wanted to fight Mountain at the bar. Van Buren says that no one found the murder weapon yet, and another witness showed up but he doesn't want the bikers to see him.
A patron talks to Briscoe. He was trying to find a theater but got lost and had to go to the bathroom. When he entered, he heard someone yelling at Bell, though he didn't see who it was. When he left the bathroom, he saw Bell bleeding and his girlfriend screaming. He describes the girlfriend as best he can.
Curtis tells Briscoe and Van Buren that everyone is claiming amnesia. Van Buren says that they can probably hold some of them on outstanding warrants. She gets a phone call, but before she can finish, Tom's father Louis bursts in. Van Buren tells Louis to go home, but he insists on staying and helping. Briscoe asks about the girlfriend, and Louis names her as Caridad Montero. He calls her trash.
"Is she pretty?"
"I'm sure my son thought so."
—Lennie Briscoe and Louis Bell
At her apartment, Montero tells the police that she was with Tommy the night before. She would have called the police, she says, but she didn't know or see anything. They ask what happened; she says that Tommy wanted to go to that bar so that he could buy a motorcycle. Caridad went to the bathroom, and when she got out Tommy was already almost dead. She fled. Briscoe is skeptical that she really missed the whole thing, and questions her if she recognized anyone there. She deduces that Louis sent them to talk to her, and mocks his belief that she's a poor Puetro Rican and therefore worthless. She talks to Curtis in Spanish.
Outside, Briscoe asks what she said, and Curtis says that she just repeated that she didn't see anything; she was scared and fled right away. Briscoe still doubts her.
A lab technician says that the front blood trail matches Tommy; the back blood trail is unknown. He shows the cops the murder weapon, an oil-can opener with the guard cut off. It has a hollow rectangular body and a large spike at one end. Curtis wonders why someone had one, and Briscoe says that it can be used as a beer tool — impale the can, then drink through the hollow shaft.
"Great for chugging."
Over lunch, Curtis asks Briscoe if he knows about beer bongs. They discuss different tools used in drinking games, until Curtis clamps up and apologizes. Briscoe is confused, then realizes that Curtis researched him and learned about his history as an alcoholic.
"You checked me out."
"You checked me out."
—Lennie Briscoe and Reynaldo Curtis
Curtis says it was the logical thing to do.
"Oh, well. As long as it was logical."
Briscoe asks what Curtis learned. Curtis says that Briscoe was a good cop, but became an alcoholic, and while he's sobered up there's no consensus on whether or not he's permanently better. Briscoe bemoans Curtis's lack of tact, then says they should find out who Bell was supposed to meet at the bar.
At Tommy's apartment, they talk to Tommy's roommate. Briscoe notes a plethora of phones, and the roommate says that one was for Tommy's modem. Curtis goes to check that one out. The roommate says that Tommy's only visitor the previous day was Louis Bell, who came by to yell at Tommy about his meandering life and his poor choices in friends. He said he'd cut Tommy off if he didn't dump Caridad and devote himself to school; Tommy refused anyway. He finds a list of motorcycles for sale, and Curtis goes to the website that the list came from. Tommy has a biker message board in his address book, which includes the list of bikes and a newsletter called the "New York Slime," which discusses biker activity. Curtis finds an email from a guy named Axel saying he'll bring his bike to Strokers the previous night.
The cops talk to Axel, an older guy who says that he's a RUBR — Rich Urban Biker. He says that he was going to sell a bike to Tommy Bell for $5500, but Tommy never showed, so Axel left at 10:30 and went to dinner at midnight with some friends from Virginia. Briscoe says that Axel left very early to make a midnight dinner appointment, and Axel says that the mood turned unpleasant. Some Yankee Rebels, members of a biker gang of the same name, arrived, so Axel left.
At the Yankee Rebels clubhouse, the cops knock on the door.
"Think there's a secret knock?"
—Reynaldo Curtis and Lennie Briscoe
Mountain opens the door, claiming to be the door guard. Some other guys come out behind Mountain, led by a man called Igor. Briscoe asks who was at Strokers the previous night, but Igor calls Curtis a racial slur and refuses to talk to him. Curtis drags Igor against the wall and puts his gun to Igor's head. The other members of the gang file out and surround Curtis and Briscoe. Briscoe talks Curtis down, and the two retreat. Later, Briscoe chews Curtis out. Curtis says that he was just using his best judgement, but Briscoe says he's too green to have good judgement yet. Curtis then argues that they wouldn't get any respect unless they played hardball, but Brsicoe points out that playing hardball didn't work. Curtis asks, sarcastically, if Briscoe thinks that he can talk his way out of every 'jam.' Briscoe points out that there wasn't a jam until the slur and Curtis's reaction.
"My goal? No jams."
Later, Curtis looks up the New York Slime newsletter to see if the journalist wrote about the murder of Bell. The person did, and mentions that Caridad had to dive for cover when her new boyfriend, Bell, got stabbed. Briscoe points out that Caridad said she was in the bathroom during the incident.
In interrogation, Caridad tries playing dumb, and then tries talking to Curtis in Spanish again, but the cops don't believe anything she says. She says that she's scared that she'll be attacked and maybe killed for snitching. They offer her protection, and Curtis says that she can help put away Tommy's killers, but Caridad claims that Tommy was just a short-term boyfriend, not her husband. She won't endanger her life to catch his killer.
The cops talk about what to do next. Curtis says he can work on Caridad, but Van Buren dismisses this. She points out that the newsletter refers to Bell as Caridad's new boyfriend, implying that she has an ex. She tells Curtis to ask Caridad's girl friends and neighbors to see if anyone knows her ex-boyfriend.
Caridad talks to two girls near Caridad's apartment. The girls, Rosa and Maria, describe the boyfriend and remember that he wore a Yankee Rebels leather jacket, which Caridad also wore at times. They recall that he had a Russian name, and they recognize the name as Igor when Curtis brings it up.
Igor, in interrogation, is defiant. He says he didn't do anything, then spits on the floor. Briscoe points out that his replacement in Caridad's life, Tommy, died at a bar with a bunch of Yankee Rebels. Igor says that he wasn't jealous. He says that he had a few of the other Rebels have sex with her; after that, she was persona non grata in the club.
Briscoe says that they still have no evidence or witnesses against Igor. Van Buren asks what Curtis is doing; Briscoe says that he's emailing the New York Slime writer to try to draw him out. Briscoe adds that he himself doesn't know much about computers.
"Me, I used a computer once. Lost 27 straight games of Solitaire."
Briscoe waits until Curtis is done, then says that they should talk to someone in person. He leaves, and Curtis remarks to Van Buren that Briscoe doesn't like him. She gives him a knowing look, then walks off.
The cops talk to the bartender again. He's reluctant to speak until Briscoe threatens to shut him down for a week. He remembers that Igor was in the bar, but backs up Igor's lack of jealousy.
"She's used goods."
He confirms that Igor didn't care at all about Caridad anymore. Later, in the car, Curtis gets an email from the New York Slime writer offering to meet that night. But when they go to the specified apartment door, they wind up on the roof of a building. Curtis apologizes, and Briscoe says they should find the guy and see how he likes their practical jokes. Curtis says he can find the guy who owns the message board.
The owner, Curren, shows the cops around his garage. He says that New York Slime is really popular, and he gives the cops printouts of the newsletter. He doesn't know the author, who goes by the nickname The Phantom. Curtis observes that there was a two week break in newsletter updates, after which Phantom posted about a guy named Stiletto wrecking his bike in Columbia county and winding up in the hospital. Briscoe recalls that Stiletto was in an earlier newsletter, and guesses that Phantom is Stiletto.
Briscoe checks the Columbia County hospitals and finds one person with bike-crash injuries in the time that Phantom wasn't writing — Milton Stillman. There's no address, but his blood type matches that of the blood trail out the back door at Strokers. Briscoe says that Stillman could be the killer. Curtis gets an email from Stillman mocking him for going to the phony address. Briscoe wonders if they can trace the email.
A technician says that the account sending the emails belongs to a pediatrist in White Plains; Curtis concludes that Stillman is hacking into that account. After some technical talk, Curtis and the technician say that Stillman's modem is within a mile of 103rd and Broadway — they can trace the phone he uses. The technician adds that they have a 'cellular scope' which can narrow down the address more precisely as long as they can keep Stillman chatting with them. Briscoe has no idea what's going on, but goes along with it.
In the car, the technician gestures around with a radio antenna and directs Briscoe to go 'straight.'
"He says we're cyberspace morons."
"Say something moronic."
—Reynaldo Curtis and Lennie Briscoe
They eventually find the apartment building where the signal is coming from, and then locate the apartment. Curtis sends Stillman an email saying that they're at his place and he's under arrest. Stillman opens the door, confirming the cops are in the right place. Briscoe is visibly impressed by Curtis's strategy, and he goes to arrest Stillman.
In jail, Stillman and his attorney, Andrew Maynard, meet with Kincaid and McCoy. The attorney wonders what they're charging Stillman with, and McCoy says that a murder charge is a possibility. McCoy reveals that he knows Stillman's aliases. When Maynard asks how Stillman could possibly be a murderer, Kincaid points out that his newsletter puts him at the bar when Bell was killed, and he has a small wound in his back matching the oil-can opener used to kill Bell. Stillman points out that he can't reach that spot in his back. Maynard thinks the theory is ludicrous.
"So you're saying that he killed this kid, and then he felt so bad about it that he tried to commit suicide by throwing an oil-can opener up in the air and then lying down so it hit him in his back?"
McCoy says that Bell might have grabbed the weapon and wounded Stillman during the fight. Maynard and Stillman argue that the killer accidentally nicked Stillman while killing Bell. McCoy asks who the killer was, but Stillman says he won't tell. He claims that he's a journalist, and doesn't have to reveal his sources because of the press shield laws.
Schiff reports that Louis Bell is using the media to demand justice for his son's murder. When Kincaid tells him the problem, Schiff says that only professional journalists have the privilege to shield sources. He asks if the newsletter pays him. McCoy says no, but he has sold a few articles to an actual magazine. But when McCoy says that Judge Alice Connors is hearing the motion, Schiff relaxes — Connors isn't technically savvy and will be disinclined to see articles for a bulletin board as actual news articles.
In court, a Dr. Farnsworth testifies that Stillman's articles are real news. He says the issue isn't where the articles appear but what purpose they serve; people interested in biker affairs read them, ergo they are news. Kincaid gets him to admit that his university doesn't offer any courses in bulletin board journalism. Farnsworth protests that electronic news agencies are just new; when television was first invented a lot of journalists didn't think that the TV was real news either. Kincaid points out that Farnsworth just implied that a lot of other journalists wouldn't think of Stillman's activities as news. Then Kincaid reads a profane excerpt from the article.
"'Then we all went out to hunt sluts and score some brews.' Is that journalism, Dr. Farnsworth?"
But Farnsworth maintains that even bad journalism is still protected, and must be, or else censorship will be the result.
Outside, McCoy says that a New York Times editor is testifying for Stillman tomorrow. He frets that Stillman could win, and orders Kincaid to try to get Caridad to testify. He also praises Kincaid's cross-examination.
"You made hunting sluts sound like a capital crime."
At work, Caridad maintains that she'll be killed if she testifies. Even if she can stay in a hotel, she still has to go in to work. She insists that Bell's murder matters to her, but she wants to stay alive.
Louis Bell yells at Schiff about the investigation stalling. Councilman Jack Rabe is with him, and he tells Schiff that Bell deserves answers. McCoy and Kincaid come in. McCoy says that he thinks they'll beat Stillman's motion, and Bell complains that Stillman's rights seem to be trumping his son's. He tells them to frighten Caridad more than the gang does. Schiff tells Bell and Rabe that he'll use all of his office's powers to find the murderer, and Rabe warns Schiff that failure will have severe consequences. After they leave, McCoy complains about being thrown to the wolves so that Schiff can keep his influence with Bell's powerful friends. He authorizes the lawyers to give Caridad whatever she wants in return for her testimony, and tells them to win the motion the next day.
In court, McCoy argues that, even if Stillman can protect his sources, he must still testify as to what he saw and heard himself. Maynard says that Stillman didn't see anything; he was wounded in the back, ergo his back was turned during the incident, and he only found out what had happened later from his sources. McCoy says that the shield laws only apply when the sources know they're talking to a reporter; in this case, they most likely thought Stillman was just another bar patron. Connors says she'll rule soon. Then Kincaid comes in, saying that Caridad agreed to testify in return for favors.
In the hotel, Caridad complains about the poor accommodations. She confirms that they'll set her up in Miami, and she gives her statement. She says that Igor, real name Daniel Smith, killed Tommy in a jealous rage. She maintains this even when Kincaid points out that Igor didn't seem jealous.
"Maybe he was so drunk he forgot he didn't care."
McCoy tells Schiff that Caridad has already lied and is now implicating her ex-boyfriend, so the grand jury might not believe her. Schiff says that Connors made her ruling, which says that Stillman doesn't need to reveal what his sources told him but does have to testify to what he himself witnessed. McCoy frets that Stillman won't wave immunity, so he can't be charged with anything that he confesses to. McCoy is worried that Stillman might have done it and will use the immunity to admit to it without being charged. After Schiff questions him, he admits that he doesn't think Stillman really did it, so Schiff orders him to make Stillman testify and move things along.
In court, Stillman admits that he was at the bar, along with Tommy, Caridad, and Igor. He tries to avoid answering a question, but stops trying when McCoy threatens a contempt citation. He says that Igor said something to Tommy, but he couldn't tell if Tommy responded — Tommy's jacket collar was up. But then Stillman says that Igor didn't kill Bell — he, Stillman, did. McCoy can only stare.
At the hotel, Caridad insists that she's telling the truth. After some arguing, she admits that Stillman was in the bar, but says that Stillman isn't brave enough to kill a bug, and that Igor must have threatened him into confessing. McCoy tells her that she's testifying the next day.
Caridad testifies that Igor, her ex-boyfriend, stabbed Tommy with the oil-can opener. A member of the grand jury, Mr. Lang, wonders if Caridad and Igor parted on good terms. McCoy says that the question is immaterial. He dismisses Caridad and has the grand jury take a break, and Lang approaches him to say that some of the jury members think Stillman did it. Walking out, he tells Kincaid that he still wants to know how and why Igor killed Tommy. Then Kincaid remembers that Stillman testified that Tommy's jacket collar was up, but Tommy had no jacket when he was found. McCoy thinks the motive was robbery.
Tommy's roommate says that Tommy had a motorcycle jacket, and other biker gear. He shows Kincaid the jacket in the closet. Tommy wore a different jacket to the bar — the roommate says that Tommy left that night without a jacket. He tells Kincaid where Tommy bought the jacket in the closet.
At Cycletron, the proprietor says that he was closed the night of the murder, and there's nowhere else around to get a motorcycle jacket, so Tommy couldn't have bought one that night. He tries to sell Kincaid a jacket, and she seems to like it. She asks for jackets with biker club insignia, but the shopkeeper says that the clubs assault anyone who isn't a club member that tries wearing their jackets.
McCoy argues that Igor killed Tommy because Tommy wore a Yankee Rebels jacket. Schiff points out that they don't have proof that Tommy was wearing a Rebels jacket, but Kincaid points out that Tommy stopped at Caridad's, and Caridad was said to wear such a jacket by Maria and Rose. Schiff demands to know if Tommy was wearing the jacket. Kincaid says they'll find out. McCoy argues that they might be closer to an answer if they didn't have to keep reporting in.
"We might have found out already if we didn't have to keep popping in here every hour to report."
"You'll report here whenever I tell you to."
—Jack McCoy and Adam Schiff
Schiff says that Tommy must not have known that it was dangerous to wear a Yankee Rebels jacket, and wonders if Caridad knew. McCoy says she must have.
Louis tells McCoy that Caridad should have been crazy about Tommy but wasn't. McCoy asks if Louis really did try to convince Tommy to break up with Caridad that night, and Louis says he offered Tommy $10,000 to stop seeing her.
"He liked money. It runs in the family."
He says that Tommy turned him down, but McCoy points out that Tommy went to the bar to by a $5000 motorcycle. They realize that Tommy must have changed his mind and broken up with Caridad to get the money.
In McCoy's office, McCoy says they can provide witnesses to show that Caridad gave Tommy her jacket, knowing that it could get him killed. He threatens a murder charge. When Caridad doesn't believe this is possible, since she didn't kill anyone, McCoy says that her actions were reckless enough to qualify as murder. She wants her lawyer, but Kincaid says that Igor will try to cut a deal first. She admits to what happened. Tommy broke up with her to get money,
"Tommy didn't want to be poor. He just liked to play poor and screw poor."
Tommy told Caridad about the bribe. Caridad said she'd go to Strokers with him to get the bike, and said he'd fit in better with her old jacket. He loved it. She insists that she thought that Tommy might get beaten up but didn't think he'd die. Unfortunately, Igor was there and some of the other bikers joked about Tommy being a Yankee Rebel. Igor got mad and stabbed Tommy, then took the jacket.
"He said there was no way Tommy deserved to be buried in it."
Caridad sobs that Igor passed her around to all the guys, and Tommy dumped her for a motorcycle. She's not sorry that Tommy is dead and Igor is going to jail.
The police arrive at the Yankee Rebels clubhouse. Curtis seizes Igor, and he and Briscoe arrest him. Later, McCoy says that Igor is being charged with murder, Stillman with perjury, and Caridad pleaded to reckless endangerment. Schiff praises McCoy for catching the criminals.
"Something for everybody. Except the victim."