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A Night At The Movies

By Patti Vickers
Posted at April 13, 2003 - 2:17 PM GMT

Synopsis:

A movie theatre usher approaches a male patron after the show has begun, because the patron’s cell phone is ringing. When the man is unresponsive, the usher taps him on the shoulder. He slumps forward and bleeds from the mouth into his popcorn.

Gil and Catherine meet Detective Brass at the theatre. Commenting that Thursday is “Film Noir Night” at the Art House Movie Theatre, Brass does his impression of a film noir cop, describing the crime scene, noting that no one heard anything – no scream, nothing to indicate a struggle. The other patrons, however, did hear his cell phone ring three times.

Robbins is called into the scene to examine the body. He indicates that there is a puncture wound at the back of the victim’s neck, and markings around his mouth. The bruising around the victim’s mouth seems to suggest that someone approached the victim from behind had his or her hand over his mouth. Grissom sees a small red line on his neck, leading the team to speculate that a chain or some other similar item may have been torn off the victim. Catherine begins to check out the floor of the theatre and finds a screwdriver, which appears to have blood on it. Brass re-enters the theatre, having been out in the lobby talking to the rest of the theatregoers. He indicates that he has located a witness.

Grissom accompanies Brass to speak to his “witness”, a twenty-something movie buff. When asked what he saw, the young man says that he noticed a woman leaving during the gunfight in the movie. He thought it was odd, since it is the best part of the film. When asked to describe her he says that she was tall, with red hair and “not old”.

Meanwhile, Nick, Sara and Warrick meet Detective O’Riley out at a warehouse, the scene of a gunshot fatality. O’Riley remarks that he hopes the CSIs brought a lot of extra supplies and have a lot of time – the crime scene looks like a war zone. The CSIs are shocked as the door to the warehouse is opened and they can see the sun streaming through what looks like hundreds of bullet holes in the walls.

A young male is lying face down on the warehouse floor. His driver’s permit indicates that he is 15 ½ years old and named Timmy McCallum. He is surrounded by bullet casings, but amazingly only has one bullet wound, which is in the chest.

Catherine has taken the screwdriver she found at the movie theatre back to the lab for review. Noting that is it is covered in blood, soda, popcorn and carpet fibres, Greg Sanders, and another lab tech, Julie, begin to work on the screwdriver – Greg works on the blood trying to match it to the victim’s, who has been identified as Gus Sugarman, while Julie uses ninhydrin (a chemical which reacts with amino acids) to try and lift any prints that may be on the weapon.

Grissom begins to review the records from Mr. Sugarman’s cell phone. The phone company unblocks all the previously noted private numbers for the purposes of the investigation. He notes that at 10:38, two minutes before the start of the movie, Sugarman made a 26-second call. Because the length of the call is so short, Grissom guesses that Sugarman got someone’s answering machine. Interestingly, though, the person he tried to reach called him back three times in a row, at 11:26, 11:27 and 11:28.

Sara, Nick and Warrick split up their crime scene: Sara takes outside, Nick takes the walls, and Warrick takes the floor. Sara notes and photographs tire tracks and footprints outside warehouse. Rounding the back, she also sees a makeshift ladder leading to the roof, which she climbs. On the roof, Sara finds a piece of bamboo, which she tags as evidence and brings down with her. In the interim, Nick is inserting small rods into the many bullet holes in the warehouse walls – when done, he notes there are 109 holes. Warrick bags beer bottles found at the scene, and numbers each one of the bullet casing found on the floor. He also finds shards of glass next to some tiny pieces of black plastic.

Catherine and Grissom arrive at the house of the woman who called Sugarman. Her name is Audrey Hilden, and she matches the description of the woman seen leaving the theatre. When asked about the calls, she tells them that Gus Sugarman was her dentist. He had asked her out on a date, but she stood him up. She was screening her calls when Sugarman called her, but after an attack of conscience, she called him back, hoping to get his voice mail and leave an apology message. Gil notices a schedule for the Art House Movie Theatre posted on a bulletin board in Ms. Hilden’s house.

Robbins and Brown, meanwhile, attend to the autopsy of Timmy McCallum. His body is peppered with small, round bruises of unknown origin. There is also large scabbing on his elbows and knees, which Robbins chalks up to “boys will be boys”. There is no gun shot residue on his body or clothing, indicating he was shot from a distance. Measuring the degree of the path the bullet took in his body, Warrick figures out that Timmy was shot from above.

Catherine, Gil and Brass regroup to discuss their case: The blood on the screwdriver is their victim’s and the ninhydrin process managed to reveal a palm print. Unfortunately, the print is smooth, indicating the killer was wearing gloves. Most interestingly, however, Brass has uncovered that Audrey Hilden had filed a lawsuit against Gus Sugarman, claiming he assaulted her while she was under anaesthetic. Sugarman counter sued, and Audrey dropped her case. Catherine is immediately suspicious – after all, why would someone agree to go out on a date with someone they had accused of molesting them?

Back at the lab, Sara is working on the most puzzling piece of evidence: the bamboo. Warrick interrupts her work to let her know what he has learned from the pictures she took of the footprints. By measuring the prints and examining the treads, Warrick has determined that five people went into the warehouse and four ran out. Sara admits that she has been unable to locate any fingerprints on the bamboo, and Warrick proposes they check it for gun shot residue. When that test comes up negative, Warrick suggests Sara abandon the bamboo. Not one to give up, Sara takes it to Trace, hoping that will reveal some hidden forensic detail.

Back at the movie theatre, Brass, Catherine and Gil question the usher who was on duty the previous night. He says that while he was taking a small break to get a drink, he noticed a tall redhead leave the theatre and make a phone call on the payphone in the lobby. Brass leaves to check out the phone records. Catherine asks if the usher noticed anything else, such as whether or not the woman was wearing gloves. Yes, she was, the usher says, which he thought was weird since was over 70 degrees that day. He also noticed that she threw something in the trash and then left the building completely.

Gil and Catherine catch up with the cleaning crew in the actual theatre. There they notice one of the workers wearing leather gloves, which she apparently had picked from the trash. Believing they belong to the killer, Gil offers the worker cash in exchange for the gloves, which she surrenders.

Greg has completed the DNA testing of the beer bottles found at the scene of Timmy McCallum’s shooting. He tells Nick that one of the bottles has Timmy’s DNA but, more importantly, another one has the DNA of a relative of Timmy’s, most likely a brother. Interesting news, since Warrick is about to step into an interview room with Timmy’s mom and his older brother, Kevin.

Mrs. McCallum admits that she knows Timmy drives the family minivan without her, despite the fact that his learner’s permit requires an adult to be in the car. She says that, due to her work schedule, Kevin often drives with Timmy. Kevin denies having any knowledge of the warehouse, even when confronted with the DNA evidence. He says that he bought Timmy and his friends the beer, and had taken a couple swigs out of one of the bottles. Believing more can be learned from Kevin, Warrick asks Mrs. McCallum’s permission for Kevin to stay and to examine the vehicle.

In Trace, the bamboo is looked at in detail and is found to have spiral gouges on it, from one end to the other. The glass from the scene has also been examined. It is coated with crystallized calcium chloride, which is common in glass used in high-end camera lenses.

Greg has examined the gloves suspected to be the killer’s. Because the cleaning staff was using ammonia, any evidence on the interior lining of the gloves, such as epithelial skin cells, was destroyed the moment the cleaning lady put the gloves on. However, they are able to “print” the gloves and determine that the palm print found on the murder weapon indeed was made by someone wearing the gloves. In addition, a similar impression has been found on the pay phone in the lobby of the theatre and it, too, matches the gloves.

Brass has pulled the phone records from the payphone and found out that someone called Audrey Hilden’s house from that phone at 11:25. Remembering that Audrey called Sugerman from home at 11:26, they realize she can’t be the killer. Suspecting that she may still have something to do with it, Brass, Catherine and Gil decide to go back to Ms. Hilden’s house to have a further discussion with her.

After knocking at her door, the team hears the buzzing of a phone off the hook inside Audrey’s house. They go around back and see that a sliding glass door has been left unlocked. Cautiously, they enter the house, and find Audrey, hanging from an upper railing, an extension cord wrapped around her neck and a gold necklace lying by her feet. Brass calls the death in, while Grissom examines the body and Catherine heads up the stairs to look at the area around the railing.

During the initial investigation, Grissom sees post mortem bruising around Audrey’s neck. He also sees another set of marks around her neck under the extension cord. This leads him to believe that she was strangled first and then hung. In addition, he notes there are carpet fibres stuck to the heels of her shoes, which indicates that she was dragged across the floor.

Upon further investigation, Grissom observes that the movie schedule is missing from Audrey’s bulletin board. Catherine checks the living room trash for the schedule, while Grissom heads into the bathroom. The trashcan doesn’t reveal anything, but noting that the floor is wet, Grissom plunges the toilet and sees the bright pink schedule stuck in the bowl. He retrieves it for examination back at the lab.

Warrick begins his review of the McCallum’s minivan. The tires match the photo of the treads taken at the scene – but this isn’t surprising. After all, Timmy often drove the van. Warrick finds a ripped up beer case in the back of the van, with a price tag on it from Jenko’s Liquor. He also finds what appears to be blood on the driver’s side arm rest. Spraying it with luminol, he discovers that it is, in fact, blood.

Meanwhile, Detective O’Riley is talking to Kevin. Nick is watching the interrogation from outside the room. After he and Warrick swap notes – he tells Warrick that all the bullets fired came from the same 9mm semi-automatic weapon and Warrick tells him about the blood – they decide to talk to Kevin themselves. Noticing blood coming through his shirt on his arm, they ask Kevin to show them the wound. Kevin reluctantly complies and shows them what appears to be a wound caused by a grazing bullet. Additionally, they ask him to remove his shirt and when he does, they see small, round bruises, matching the ones found on his brother’s body. After that, Kevin clams up and refuses to talk anymore.

Catherine and Gil have dried out the movie schedule found at Audrey’s house and are examining it using digital software, designed to help investigators see smeared ink. Written above the advertisement for “Strangers on a Train” is the odd phrase “Sphere E4-117”. Catherine surmises that “Sphere” may indicate the Sphere Hotel. E4-117 isn’t a room number, and after suggesting locker number, Gil and Catherine believe it may be a parking spot.

Assigned E4-117as a parking spot is club manager Anthony Haines. Shown a picture of Audrey Hilden, he doesn’t recognize her. While Catherine questions him further, Gil looks around the group dressing room of dancers at the Sphere Showroom. Spotting another bright pink Art House schedule, Gil asks Mr. Haines which dancer uses the dressing area he’s pointing to. Haines indicates Kelly Goodson uses that particular table. Looking closer, Gil notices a business card from the law firm Langly & Langly tucked into the side of her mirror.

Kelly enters the dressing room while Gil is looking at her open locker. She pulls of a red wig to reveal long blond hair. Curious, Gil asks her about the wig and if she ever wears it out. Complaining that she never gets to go out with her work schedule, she begins to rub her legs with a series of muscle creams. Amazed at the concoction she creates, Gil takes note of the three different ointments Kelly is using.

Sara inputs all the trajectories of all 109 bullets found at the warehouse into a computer simulation. She and Warrick review the simulation and discover that all the bullets seem to be coming from one long pole from near the centre of the warehouse. This could be where the bamboo fits in, Sara theorizes. Adding up all their clues, Sara and Warrick summarize the case. Still unable to figure out what has happened, they realize they are at the end of the road, forensically speaking.

Having pulled the surveillance tapes from Jenko’s Liquor, Nick has B&W stills made of the time that Kevin was in Jenko’s buying the beer. Looking closely at the stills, they discover that three other young men accompanied Kevin and Timmy into the store. One of the young men had a video camera with him, which may account for the lens glass found at the warehouse.

Grissom sits at a lab table, surrounded by tubes of three different muscle ointments. Catherine walks in and they discuss Kelly Goodson. As Grissom is examining the gloves, extension cord and gold chain for traces of the creams, Catherine tells him that, like Audrey Hilden, Kelly Goodson had recently filed suit against someone for sexual harassment. That someone was, unsurprisingly, Anthony Haines. Once she found this out, Catherine dug deeper and discovered Audrey and Kelly had used the same law firm, Langly & Langly, in each of their cases. Believing that Audrey and Kelly had met at their lawyer’s office, Catherine and Gil speculate that the two women discussed their respective problems and decided to help each other get rid of the causes – Gus Sugarman and Anthony Haines.

The other kids who accompanied Kevin and Timmy into Jenko’s have been identified and called in for questioning. Each of them has bruises identical to Timmy’s and are reluctant to talk. One of the boys, however, admits that he got a black eye after Timmy shot out the lens in his video camera with a gun they “found”. From that point, the CSIs simply tell the boys they can talk or they will simply found out what they want from the videotape.

Faced with this, Kevin begins to tell them what happened. It appears that, in their boredom, each of the boys came up with stupid Jackass like stunts to perform on camera. The first one was “Speedway Surfing”, where each of the boys stood atop a speeding vehicle and surfed along the highway. Next was “Human 150 yard Marker”, where they all took turns standing in front of someone, who shot golf balls at them, which is how they ended up with the round bruises. Timmy’s choice was “Bamboo Russian Roulette”. At the warehouse, they all took turns going up to the roof, inserting the bamboo stick into the warehouse and sliding the semi-automatic down the bamboo. The notches on the bamboo caused the gun to randomly shoot into the warehouse. Timmy was killed during his brother’s turn.

Grissom and Catherine meet with Kelly, to tell her their theory in the deaths of both Gus Sugarman and Audrey Hilden. Like in the movie “Strangers on Train”, they believe Kelly and Audrey made a deal to kill the men that had sexually harassed the other. Since each of the men would be a stranger to his killer, it would be difficult to trace Kelly and Audrey to the murders – they would be committing the perfect crime as is theorized in the movie. Audrey had never really intended to go through with the murders, but Kelly killed Gus Sugarman and called Audrey to let her know it was done. When Audrey refused to kill Haines, an angry Kelly killed Audrey. Confronted with their theory, Kelly denies any wrongdoing. Gil tells her that they have found traces of her muscle cream on the gloves, extension cord and gold necklace. It appears that Kelly is caught after all.

Analysis:

This was one busy episode, full with two very heavy cases. It was also a fabulous episode, one of the strongest of the season, I think. The two cases paralleled each other nicely – both deaths being inspired, if you will, from some sort of media.

Something that stood out for me this week was the music. Especially in the opening scenes, they took advantage of their own plot, and gave us interesting, very film noir-y music. It helped set the mood and contrasted well with their later choices. CSI hasn’t terribly often used music with vocals mid-way through an episode – they did this time, and it really worked. It helped juxtapose the two cases.

It was also nice seeing a lot of the manual and, in some cases, tedious work that goes along with forensics. Nick climbed the walls in the warehouse for hours, inserting trajectory rods into the bullet holes. Warrick walked around that warehouse floor, also for hours, cataloguing each casing. And poor Sara spent an entire day inputting the trajectories from all 109 bullets into a computer, the end result of which was a 20 second “light show”, as she called it. Forensics, as I understand it, can be tedious and time-consuming. And, as in this case, ultimately fruitless.

The fact that forensics can’t solve every case isn’t a theme that’s been explored often in CSI. It’s usually about the science – the science is unbiased and therefore always reveals the truth. While Grissom and Catherine’s case was ultimately broken by science, it still required a keen sense of observation and knowledge of more than just scientific fact. Grissom’s knowledge of pop culture is what led the investigators to form the theory they did. After the theory was in place, they then looked at the evidence to fill in the holes. On the other hand, Timmy’s death was not solved by science. Ultimately, it took a confession from the parties involved.

This episode walked a fine line – it could have turned into a “let’s-blame-the-media” type of thing. After all, kids have been killed, performing Jackass-like stunts. Since no one has every accused Hitchcock of inspiring a murder, pairing this case with the "Strangers on a Train" scenario, it may force some people to look at the nasty truth: People are responsible for their own actions, no matter what the outcome. Listening to heavy metal music, watching idiotic stunt-filled television shows, reading news reports about murder – they’re all the same. It’s what you do with the knowledge gained by being a media consumer that matters. And I think that’s what this episode delicately said. No one disputed the responsibility of the parties involved here, no matter what their inspiration seemed to be. Well, no one disputed it at this point – in court, of course, it may be a different case. Literally.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Patti Vickers reviews CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami episodes for CSI Files.

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