Outside a modest house surrounded by patches of snow, a gurney is being pulled out of a wagon marked "Illinois State Bureau of Investigation." Walking towards the door, Detective Samantha Harper grasps the top of her coat to protect herself from the biting Lake Michigan wind, stepping past the gurney and toward the house.
Sam enters the house, which is buzzing with police activity. This is her crime scene and the other cops nod at her. The house is a mess, as if someone left in a hurry.
On the back porch, Sam leans over two female corpses, both blonde, one in her 20s and the other in her early 30s, both dead a few weeks, but preserved by the cold. Sam lifts the eyelids on one of the dead females and finds total blackness. The woman's eyes have been dyed black.A little later, Sam questions the landlord, who tells Sam that the tenant said his name was Bob Wilson and he paid his rent in cash every month for two and a half years until he disappeared six weeks ago, though he had actually never met him. Sam spots the answering machine, blinking at the end of the table. It's a courtesy call from a representative at a resort in Florida confirming Bob Wilson's upcoming complementary stay (which he presumably got for visiting a Florida timeshare.).
Jim Longworth sits poolside, as the pool guy cleans and checks the chlorine levels. His phone rings and Callie tells him she had a minute and wanted to say "hi." Jim seems pleased. As they start to chat, Ray, who was outside mowing the lawn with Jeff, comes in through the door and asks Callie where the Super Soakers are. She tells him and Ray grabs them and leaves. Looking disappointed, Callie tells Longworth she has to go. They both hang on the connection for a moment and then end the call.
The pool cleaner walks up to Longworth and tells him that he notices that the pool hasn't had much use lately. Longworth looks at the pool, almost longingly, and says his friend's son used to come over a lot more. Longworth tells the pool guy he used to pay the cleaner's cousin online, but the pool guy says he isn't much of a computer guy, so Longworth agrees to pay him by check, saying he isn't a computer guy either.
The pool cleaner leaves and Longworth lies back down and closes his eyes. A shadow cuts across him, and without opening his eyes, he assumes it's the pool cleaner wanting to collect the check now. But it's not. Longworth opens his eyes to see Sam, her eyes washing over the bay and his backyard. Longworth just looks at her, completely surprised to see his old partner from Chicago. But there's no time to waste. Sam tells him that "he's back." Longworth knows exactly who she is talking about: The Northside Strangler. Sam tells Jim she's in Florida because she believes the killer is now there, having left Chicago.
Longworth is on the phone with Colleen Manus while he and Sam walk toward the entrance of Sun 'N Lakes Timeshare Resort. Longworth begins to explain The Northside Strangler and past case to Manus, but Sam interrupts and takes over, telling them that the Strangler has killed eight women and this is the first time he's killed for over two years.
"He's territorial. Six kills within the same eight square miles, then stops, imprisonment, maybe, injury, then kills again in the same zone with the same victimology and the same blacked out eyes. Then bolts in the middle of the night to visit timeshares in Florida. He's on the move and my guess is he's going to kill again, soon."
Manus, still on the phone with Longworth, tells him that he's going to have to keep an eye on Sam.
Longworth and Sam enter the resort and are greeted by Jared Nolan, one of the sales managers there, who mistakes them for a couple attending one of the resort's promotion presentations. They tell him that they're detectives looking for Bob Wilson, who they believe may have killed eight women and who may have attended one of the resort's presentations. Nolan, visibly concerned, heads over to the computer to see if he can find a Wilson's name in the system. According to his records, Wilson attended the promotion last week, but left right before lunch, when the guests get their photo IDs. Longworth and Sam exchange a look and ask if any of the female guests didn't return after lunch. Nolan searches the records and finds out that a Margaret Palmer didn't return after the first day. Sam's concern grows and she points out that Ms. Palmer sat through the boring presentation, but didn't return to collect the giveaways.
Nolan prints out a picture of Margaret Palmer and tells Longworth and Sam that she's staying at the Westin. Margaret who fits the profile: attractive, blonde, and young.
At the Westin Hotel, the hotel manager lets Sam and Longworth into Margaret's room, letting them know that, according to their records, she hasn't used her room key in two days. Sam walks into the bedroom, as Longworth spots shopping bags on the couch. He rummages through them. Suddenly, the door opens. Margaret Palmer, who uses a walking cane, freaks out at the sight of Longworth rifling through her things and pulls out a stun gun. Longworth tries to explain who he is and what he's doing there, but it's too late. Margaret aims at Longworth but fumbles with the device, stunning herself and dropping like a ton of bricks as Sam returns from the bedroom. They both look down at Margaret, sprawled out on the floor.
At the station in the conference room, Longworth, Sam, and Carlos stare at the wall, which is covered with photos of the eight victims from Chicago. Sam says that if they dug a little deeper, and found out that Margaret needed the assistance of a walking cane, they would have realized that she didn't fit the victimology of The Strangler's victims (he's never targeted the weak before). Sam and Longworth explain the case history to Carlos. There was never any DNA evidence found at any of the crime scenes, just cigarette ash, which makes them assume the killer is a smoker. There was also never any evidence linking the victims together. They all came from different backgrounds: schoolteachers, a social worker, a crossing guard, a speech therapist, stay-at-home moms, and a stripper.
Manus enters the conference room and sternly looks at Sam. She tells her that they got lucky because Margaret decided not to press charges. Not pleased, she looks at Sam and tells her that until she brings evidence that the Northside Strangler is in Florida, she's going to have to take her bodies (Longworth and Carlos) back.
Ray pulls up to Callie's house in a state of the art, fully loaded tow truck. Jeff comes out, happy to see his dad and surprised to see his dad's new vehicle. He jumps in the car as Callie steps out of the house, surprised at what she sees too. Ray, wearing a shirt with his name stitched on it, tells Callie that a friend of his let him take over the loan payments and the truck will officially be his in about two years. Ray tells her that he had to take some cash out of their joint account for gas and to get the loan payments started. He says he'll put the money back in the account by the end of the week. Callie nods, and tells him that's not a problem. Ray hops back in the truck with Jeff to go for a joy ride as Callie stands there, half smiling, watching them go.
Longworth, still in the conference room, stands in front of the photos of the victims. Sam joins him. She talks about how many times she's also stared at photos of the victims, trying to see what's she might have overlooked. Longworth said it didn't haunt him as much, since he's been away from Chicago. Longworth then asks Sam about her wedding. She says it didn't happen. When Longworth gestures to the rings on Sam's fingers, she says they were her grandmother's and she wears them because she's always loved them and they also help to keep the wolves at bay. Changing the subject, Sam then returns to talk of the killer. Sam mentions that she was sure something brought him to Florida, as there are two new victims after nearly four year. So something new has triggered his urge to kill — some kind of stressor.
Longworth asks Sam if she's kept tabs on Tommy Ray Haynes, a suspect in the murders. Sam tells Longworth that he's still in prison, doing 22 months down in Joliet for felony Elude to Evade. Longworth makes a crack about how Tommy always liked to run.
Sam questions The Strangler's patterns out loud: Why did he move to Florida? Why now? Then Longworth realizes something: every female guest has been accounted for, but not every female employee. That's what they have overlooked. He immediately gets on the phone with Daniel.
Longworth and Sam pull up to an apartment complex in Longworth's car. It's the home of Ashley Whitfield, an employee at the resort. They approach the door and notice that it's cracked open. Longworth and Sam cautiously enter the apartment and see a woman sitting on the couch. Her back is facing the detectives. Longworth calls out her name, but no answer. They both carefully walk around the couch to see Ashley, dead, her eyes blacked out.
Later that day, in Ashley's apartment, Carlos examines her neck and eyes as Longworth takes in the crime scene. Sam, who was interviewing a neighbor, tells Longworth and that the neighbor didn't see anything but did notice Ashley's car is missing. Sam finds this odd since The Strangler never stole the cars of his victims before. Longworth mentions that in Chicago you don't need a car to get around, but in Florida you do.
Daniel says he ran the source of the voicemail left at Bob Wilson's house. It wasn't from the timeshare company, it was from a call centre in New Delhi. Records indicate that they left the message five weeks ago, though there's no real way to track who exactly placed the call to Bob Wilson. Longworth then asks Daniel to get an APB on Ashley's car.
Carlos says that manual strangulation appears to be the cause of death, but he can't say for sure right now because her eyes were blackened out and that "you can tell so much by the eyes."
Sam notices there isn't the presence of cigarette ash at the scene, like there was at the killer's past crime scenes, and Longworth adds that the smell of cigarettes isn't present in the air either. Manus walks in, now obviously convinced that The Strangler is in Florida, and officially agrees to let Sam take on the case with Longworth. The detectives talk about how the killer tends to kill two women in the span of days and then guilt or remorse sets in and he stops. This indicates he will probably kill one more time and has likely already chosen his next victim.
Back at the Sun 'N Lakes Timeshare Resort, Longworth and Sam interview a gum-chewing Jared Nolan, telling him about Ashley and asking if they were close. A shocked Nolan tells them he didn't know her too well because she primarily taught water aerobics for a lot of different places in the area ndash; hotels, health clubs, and 55 and older planned communities.
Jared stops chewing, takes the brownish-grey gum out of his mouth and drops it in a napkin. Longworth notices the gum was Nicorette, and he asks Nolan how stopping smoking was going for him, adding that when he stopped smoking the cravings drove him crazy. Nolan agrees and heads off.
"You never smoked," Sam says to Longworth. He smiles and nods. Sam then realizes that in every other crime scene there was physical evidence that the killer was a smoker, except in the last one. That must indicate the killer has stopped smoking. Is that enough evidence to bring Nolan in? They agree that it's definitely enough to dig deeper.
Callie stands at an ATM and punches in a withdrawal of $100. The ATM beeps and the screen flashes "insufficient funds." She tries again, this time with a smaller amount, but encounters the same problem. Frustrated, she finally withdraws just $20 and turns just as Manus walks up behind her. After Callie goes on a short, aggravated rant about how she's working so hard and juggling everybody's life and schedule and not taking care of herself, Manus tells her she has an idea that may help the both of them and asks her to swing by the office the next day. Manus heads for her car, leaving Callie slightly confused yet intrigued.
Longworth, Sam, and Carlos stand over Ashley's body in the autopsy room as Carlos confirms that the cause of death was manual strangulation. Sam reads off the toxicology report, noticing that chloroform was also found in the victim's throat and lungs — similar to the other victims. Carlos adds that the blacked eyes were just done with regular food coloring. Carlos makes a quip about The Northside Strangler's moniker as Daniel walks in telling them that Tommy Ray Haynes, who Sam thought was still in prison, was released two months ago and according to DMV records, has a cousin living in Homestead, Florida, the very same town they're in.
Longworth and Sam sit parked outside Haynes' cousin's seedy bar, waiting for Haynes to show up. Sam talks about how Tommy Ray fits the profile of a true sociopath. Longworth thinks there is too much at stake to throw all their eggs into Tommy Ray's basket. The conversation then turns to Sam's almost-wedding. Sam reveals that the man she was supposed to marry, Richard, wasn't the right guy for her, hinting with her eyes that the right guy was actually Longworth. Just then, a white pickup pulls up to the bar. It's Haynes. Longworth and Sam quickly get out of the car and walk towards Haynes, who spots them and starts running.
Sam searches the dark alley, but doesn't see anything. Suddenly, Haynes bursts out of the dark, grabs Sam and flings her into three plastic garbage bins. Haynes takes off running, Sam recovers, takes aim, but he's gone. Haynes continues to run down an alley behind a row of small homes, each with a chain link fence, as Longworth turns the corner, right on his heels. Haynes leaps over a chain fence, with Longworth close behind him. Longworth pounces on Haynes and the two struggle on the ground.
Out of nowhere, a pitbull runs at them, barking viciously and biting both of their arms and legs. Haynes eventually frees himself, jumps back over the fence, and continues running. Longworth jumps over the fence too, and takes aim, but is unable to get a clear shot. Longworth runs down an alley and comes face-to-face with Sam, who was running from the opposite direction. The two take aim at each other, not recognizing each other in the dark. They then put their weapons away.
At the office, Sam and Longworth meet with Manus, who tells them they she has put out an alert on Haynes. She steps away to answer a call and Sam begins to inspect Longworth's injured arm. They share an innocent but flirtatious moment until Manus returns, telling them that Ashley's car was found.
At the car service station, Carlos kneels over Ashley's driver's seat looking for any forensic evidence left behind. On the passenger's side seat, Longworth finds a wad of tissue with a chewed-up piece of brownish-grey smoker's gum inside. Sam reports that the service guy says Ashley dropped off her car four days ago and never came back to pick it up. The guy also says he's never seen Haynes.
Carlos says Ashley wasn't a smoker. Longworth says that if Tommy Ray Haynes was trying to quit he was doing a really bad job of it because he reeked of cigarette smoke when he was chasing him.
Longworth sits across from a noticeably nervous Nolan inside the interrogation room. Longworth points out that Nolan lied about knowing Ashley and that he foundout that for th first three years of Nolan's employment, he worked out of the resort's corporate headquarters in Chicago, which places him in the same area the first murders took place..
Nolan is getting increasingly, and visibly, uncomfortable. Longworth grabs an envelope from the table and dumps out a number of fake credit cards and licenses. Nolan, realizing that he must either confess to his identity-theft crime or be taken in as a murderer, confesses that he's been using his job to get credit card information and then selling it. He tells Longworth that Ashley worked at Saw Grass Village, a 55-and-old community where her grandmother used to live. He befriended Ashley, then scammed her, stealing the names of all of the retirees who lived at the center so that he could steal information from these older, "soft targets."
Meanwhile, outside of the interrogation room, Manus talks to Callie about possible employment at the station, working part-time with Carlos as a forensic nurse. Sam walks towards them and Manus introduces the two. Sam tells Callie she used to work with Jim in Chicago. Callie notices how fondly Sam speaks of Longworth.
Longworth walks out of the interrogation room to find Sam and Callie standing together. Looking uncomfortable, he fills Sam and Manus in on what happened with Nolan.
Callie asks to speak to Jim alone. Manus and Sam leave and Callie questions Jim on Sam. He admits that he and Sam were together romantically for a while, but that it was a long time ago. Callie, upset that he never mentioned this past relationship to her, shakes her head. Longworth says Sam means nothing to her now, but Callie still wishes Jim would have mentioned her before. Looking apologetic, Longworth heads off.
Longworth and Sam walk by parked cars at Saw Grass Village. Longworth tells Sam, who's slightly unsure as to why they're there, that he has a hunch. Sam asks Longworth why he's never mentioned Callie before. She can obviously tell that the two are an item. But Longworth doesn't want to talk about it. He immediately stops in front of an old Buick with an Illinois license plate.Inside Saw Grass, a manager walks towards one of the houses with Longworth and Sam, talking about the owner of the car, Doris, who died just six weeks prior. They enter the house and are greeted by a wall covered in plaques in recognition of service and devotion to the blind. The manager says that she doesn't want to speak ill of the departed but that Ashley and her grandmother were the only ones who would handle Doris. She was devoted to helping the blind but wasn't the warmest person.
Longworth stops in front of a photo, his voice dropping. In the photo is an older woman with platinum blond hair and a scary plastered smile. Her eyes are viciously blacked out with marker. He picks up the photo and says, "Stresser we never saw before? The reason he's been killing? Off the top of my head, I'm going with mom."
Police process Doris' house as Carlos, Sam, and Longworth inspect the area, which is covered in some sort of white powder. Carlos says it's probably baking powder, considering the plate of homemade cookies on the table close by (that Longworth was starting to snack on).Longworth says their previous assumptions were wrong as to why the killer blacked out his victim's eyes. It wasn't shame, it was anger. Sam continues that the anger must stem from his mother's devotion to helping everybody but not him. She mentions Doris died in a hospice alone and no one came to visit her or claim the body. Ashley made all the arrangements.
Sam tells them that Doris had one son, Kevin Fowler, who's estranged. There's no record of him visiting her.Doris Fowler moves from Chicago, his anger dissipates and the killings stop. She's diagnosed with cancer, forcing contact with his mother, the pressure builds up again. Six weeks later she dies and the killings resume ndash; two in Chicago, and now in Florida. The pain of being denied his own mother's attention was so strong that he had to kill women who triggered the rage he had for his mother. But then his mother died, robbing him of the chance to kill her, so he had to kill others.
Ray and Jeff stand over several mixing bowls at the kitchen counter, cooking up some concoction. Callie enters and Jeff tells her that they're cooking Ray's famous three-cheese lasagna. Callie smiles, fondly remembering the dish, and wishes she could stay for some, but tells them she picked up an extra shift at work. Callie waits a moment before heading out, watching Jeff and his father spending time together.
Back at the office, Sam, eating an apple, is going over files the team has pulled up on Doris. According to her records, back in Chicago, she took in a number of foster kids. Haynes was in and out of foster care throughout Chicago during that same time. Longworth and Sam go through the photos of the victims, again pointing out their similar traits. They were all nurturers, except for the stripper, Crystal Benson. Longworth points out that it's not what they see in the victim, it's what the killer sees. He holds up a sexy stage photo of Crystal in a nurse uniform.
In the emergency room, Callie is preparing a tetanus shot. She moves towards the patient, readying the needle. Haynes leans forward on the gurney as she gives him the shot, his eyes cold and unnerving.As Longworth and Sam race to the hospital, Longworth mentions that maybe the killer followed him to Florida and knew who he was close to.
Daniel calls and says there's a stolen car at the hospital (he can tell by GPS). Longworth steps on the gas, wanting to making sure Callie is OK.
Longworth searches the hospital for Callie on a crowded floor. He asks a nurse whether she's seen Callie and she said about an hour ago. Ahead, Longworth spots something: Haynes, who sees Longworth and starts running.
Longworth chases Tommy Ray up the stairs, the echo of their footsteps reverberating. Haynes reaches the next floor and flings the door open. Longworth reaches the door and flings it open to chaos and screaming as Haynes shoves and pushes patients, hospital staff, anyone and everything out of his way. Haynes grabs a scalpel from an instrument tray and takes a nurse as a hostage for a moment, yelling for everyone to "stay back," but quickly lets her go and starts off running again.
Longworth sees a door off the hallway, and recognizes it as a shortcut. Haynes starts to make a run for it again, but a door next to him bursts open and Longworth tackles Haynes from the side and cuffs him. Sam runs up and takes hold of Haynes as Longworth gets up and starts his search again for Callie. He rushes around a corner and runs right into her. He quickly embraces her as Manus turns the corner, telling him that Haynes is in custody and that he should go celebrate. Longworth forces a smile, but something still isn't right.Longworth, in his car driving back to his house, talks to Carlos on the phone, who tells him he should go celebrate his victory with Sam. Longworth mentions that they are just going to relax at his house, catch some rays, and eat some lobster. Sam was going to be on the first plane back to Chicago in the morning. Carlos then tells Longworth that results finally came back on the white powder they found at the crime scene. It was diatomaceous earth, which is used for pool filtration. Suddenly, something clicks for Longworth as he steps on the gas.
Sam dives into the pool at Longworth's house. A few fluid strokes and she makes it to the other end, emerging from the water. She rings her hair and heads for an apple she left sitting on the table, catching a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye.
She turns around to see the pool guy standing right in front of her. Before she can react, the pool guy, Kevin Fowler, covers her nose and mouth with a handkerchief drenched in chloroform. Sam struggles, clawing and scratching at him, but the chloroform is too strong and knocks her out.
Kevin, who's standing behind an unconscious Sam, talks aloud about how Sam cared and how she knew what he was going through. Kevin, becoming even more unhinged, starts to strangle Sam. She wakes up and begins gasping for air. Her eyes, now open, have been blackened. Sam is seconds from death when a shot rings out and Kevin falls to the ground. Longworth rushes up, and stands over Kevin wounded on the ground. Kevin looks up, scared at what Longworth might do. For a moment, Longworth thinks about ending Kevin's deplorable life, but instead he puts his gun down and handcuffs him.
Moments later, police and medical personnel have converged around Longworth's house. Longworth stands with Manus, giving her the rundown of how Kevin started as his pool guy five weeks prior, replacing his "cousin," Longworth's old pool guy. He says that Kevin had killed a total of 9 people, including the pool guy. He also said Tommy Ray was in jail being charged with an unrelated murder.
Several feet away Carlos tends to Sam's eyes as she rests on a gurney. Longworth walks towards Sam as Carlos walks away. They recount the events of the day and Sam tells Longworth that she's going to be sticking around for a few more days to wrap up some things with the case. Longworth, surprised, but almost happy, holds her stare for a moment until she's led off by the medics.
In her kitchen, Callie opens the microwave and retrieves warmed up three-cheese lasagna, leftovers from Ray and Jeff's dinner. She holds up a note on the counter that reads "Hope you enjoy! Ray" She tastes the lasagna and savors it.