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Dune and Gloom
Dune and Gloom.jpg
Season 12
Number 21
Writer Tom Mularz
Director Jeffrey Hunt
Original Airdate May 2, 2012
Navigation
Previous Episode: Altered Stakes
Next Episode: Homecoming

Dune and Gloom is the twenty-first episode in season twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a bomb kills an off-road race truck driver mid-race, the CSI team is called on the scene to investigate why. The case leads from threats against an oil company manager, lethal competition, and possible anti-government domestic terrorists.

Plot

Victim: Jack Breslin (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Louis Vartann

In the middle of the Mojave Desert, a driver participating in an Off-Road Championship drives up on a flaming truck on its side. The driver in the car has been burned to a crisp, but the car's co-driver is missing. Bo Martin, the race manager, tells Nick and Russell that there were two people in the truck when the race started, so the CSIs are looking at an 80-mile-an-hour missing persons case.

The immediate area is canvassed, but the co-driver is nowhere to be found. Morgan and Sara search further, eventually finding the co-driver's helmet. They also come across a large piece of fiberglass that's been run over by another truck in the race, indicating that someone drove by the flaming wreck and didn't stop or radio for help. A piece of the fuel tank is also found; there's a suspension link arrow going right through it. Sara theorizes that the tank broke during the race, causing the explosion when the truck hit the ground.

The truck is entered into the race by team named "A Pharaoh's Motorists." The co-drivers are Tim and Paul White, while the team's manager is a Doug White. Upon reaching the pit area, Nick and Russell find that the area where the team set up shop has been vacated; even the trailer is nowhere in sight. The team left in a hurry.

Det. Vartann discovers that the names used by the team in question are all aliases. When Finn and Morgan process the body, they find evidence that the victim was wearing a silk-screened t-shirt. The logo on the shirt has been melted, but the CSIs believe that they can reconstruct it. Back at the race site, Nick and Russell meet Kathy Veck, the CEO of Veck Oil. She's one of the event's premier racers, as well as a very generous sponsor. Kathy is irate that the race has been postponed, and tells Nick and Russell that she was so far ahead in the race that she never saw any kind of accident occur behind her.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as a basal skull fracture, where the fractures sever blood vessels near the spinal cord, resulting in massive hemorrhaging. Put simply, the driver was already dead before the fire consumed him. Doc Robbins also finds odd growths on parts of the victim's body that present as Urbach-Wiethe disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes waxy obstructions to grow throughout the body. He tells Sara that, in this case, the growths covered the region of the victim's brain controlling memory and emotional response. This could have resulted in their victim being fearless.

Finn and Morgan reconstruct the melted silkscreen logo and find that it's for the 530th Airborne Battalion. A search of the online military album reveals that the victim's real name is Jack Breslin. Nothing important is found in Jack's apartment; however, an intriguing voice mail is found on his phone. Someone calling from a disposable cell phone left a voicemail telling Jack that "they're onto us" and warning him not to race.

Greg analyzes the debris field and concludes that explosion wasn't an accident, as the field is way too big. He tells Sara that based on the energy released from the blast, they're looking at more than just fuel igniting. The culprit could quite possibly be an explosive, which would explain the indentation in the bottom of the fuel tank. When combining this fact with the truck's momentum, Greg concludes that the actual point of detonation was 100 feet back from where the CSIs originally thought. This would explain why an initiator or switch wasn't found at the scene; they were looking in the wrong spot. Nitroglycerine residue is found on the various truck parts, confirming that a bomb was responsible for the blast. Sara doesn't see why someone would go to all this trouble for a weekend race, but Greg wonders if someone in the race was the target.

Greg and Morgan go back to the scene with a metal detector. They eventually uncover a detonator with an RF receiver on it, indicating that the bomb was detonated remotely and was likely done so from a distance. Greg also finds a large metal fragment buried under the dirt. There's a VIN number on the fragment, and his belief is that it isn't part of the bomb. He hasn't gotten any leads from the other serialized parts on the truck, but this could change things.

Sara questions Art Weber; the fragment Greg found in the desert is a match to an oil pan that originated from Art's truck. He recalls that upon leaving the hospital following his wife's death, he found his truck leaking oil. Suddenly, a few good Samaritans appeared, bought him a new oil pump and fuel pan, and installed them into the truck. Art recognizes Jack Breslin from his photo, telling Sara that the guy with him was wearing glasses. He adds that while they were working on the truck, Jack told Art that they were "going to make him a part of something really special." This struck Art as an odd thing to say. He tells Sara that the men never identified themselves by name.

The RF receiver found at the crash site is too common to trace; however, the tire treads from the vehicle that drove over the debris at the crash site are unique. They belong to a model of tire that hasn't been commercially released yet, and they've only been demoed to a few select racing teams - one of which is the Veck Oil Race Team.

When interrogated, Kathy Veck admits to "misremembering" the events of the accident. She recalls driving past the flaming wreckage, assuming the driver was going to be alright. Russell accuses of her of knocking off the competition in order to win the race, something she denies. When told that Jack's truck was targeted with a bomb, Kathy replies that as the CEO of a petroleum company, she, too, has a target on her back. She shows Russell some of the hundreds of hate e-mails she receives per day, most of which are veiled death threats.

Russell goes through some of the e-mails, telling Ecklie that signs point to the attack as possibly being domestic terrorism. Henry isolates the background noise in the message on Jack's voice mail, discovering that a movie was playing in the background. The out-of-circulation movie is being shown on-demand in just ten Vegas hotels, and only one hotel had the customer rent the movie at the same time the voice mail was sent out.

The hotel room is registered to Doug White, the same alias used by the captain of the Pharaoh's Motorists team. Inside the empty room, Finn and Vartann find pictures of Kathy and other CEOs that the group seems to have a vendetta against. Luggage tags identify the other two members of the team as Malcolm Platt and Clive Morris, and anarchist propaganda is found. Finn and Vartann are alerted to a noise in the bathroom, where they find Clive sneaking into the apartment. Upon being arrested, he warns that there more like him and they won't be stopped.

A clearly agitated Clive is interrogated by Russell and Sara. He says that he stands in solidarity with all people targeted by government control and economic violence, vowing to go to battle whenever called upon. Clive then becomes fixated on the security camera in the room and, oddly enough, Russell's glasses.

Images from Clive's laptop show pictures of Kathy, as well as local government buildings. The guys seemingly entered the race anonymously for the opportunity to blow Kathy up, but failed spectacularly. Clive is ruled out as the mastermind, as he has no injuries and no bomb residue was found on his hands. Russell changes his earlier tune, thinking that this isn't domestic terrorism. He explains that there was no bomb-making material in the hotel room, and Clive's mannerisms didn't exactly scream "mastermind terrorist." Morgan discovers that Jack, Clive and Malcolm all wandered off from the psych ward of Desert Palm Hospital.

At the hospital, Dr. Amy Berkman tells Sara that the three patients referred to themselves as "The Three Musketeers." Jack was diagnosed with Urbach-Wiethe syndrome, Clive was paranoid and Malcolm was schizophrenic, suffering from delusions of grandeur. The thing that brought the three friends together was auto racing, which they would watch every weekend. Dr. Berkman believes that Malcolm is the leader of the group and mentions that he called his mother two days ago from a pay phone, telling her that he was on some kind of mission.

Malcolm's rap sheet lists three attempted auto thefts and three attempted assaults. His delusions of being rich and owning fast cars led him to stealing cars from dealerships under the guise of test-driving them. Bothered by the odd 'A' in "A Pharaoh's Motorists," Russell rearranges the letters and finds that they spell Athos, Porthos and Aramis - the Three Musketeers. He tells Sara that these guys aren't a sleeper cell, but he can't explain the bomb just yet. Clive's paranoid personality disorder and fixation on Russell's glasses (thinking they were cameras) also doesn't scream "killer" to him.

Henry finds that some of the recent hate emails sent to Kathy were sent by Malcolm. The most recent one was sent an hour ago from the middle of nowhere - the middle of the race location. Nick, Vartann and some uniformed officers head to the race, and are informed that Kathy never showed up at the starting line. However, her camp is still there. There's blood on the steps of her trailer and inside, they find several crew members shot dead. Malcolm is there, and he's been shot, as well. Before dying, he tells Nick that Kathy has been taken and that someone is going to kill her.

The assumption is that whoever took Kathy also took her truck. An empty box of dynamite was found next to Kathy's pit, and a box contains 20 sticks. The team wonders who the kidnapper is, as the Three Musketeers are accounted for. Finn remembers that there was a Fourth Musketeer, meaning someone is pulling the strings.

Russell and Sara question Clive again. He's adamant that he and his friends only wanted to win the race, and Russell guesses that none of them knew there was a bomb under the truck. Clive says that he saw Kathy and her goons staring them down the night before the race, and he knew they weren't going to win. He left the voice mail on Jack's phone warning him not to go through with the race. When pressed, Clive admits that entering the truck into the race was the idea of the Fourth Musketeer, who helped them build the truck. Clive remembers the man telling the three friends that they were going to be a part of something special - the same words Art Weber uttered to Sara earlier.

Sara can't believe that she fell for Art's sob story, but she focuses back on the case. Greg uncovers that Art is a retired engineer who used to work at Ferndale Mining Company, a subsidiary of Veck Oil International. Furthermore, the serial number on the empty box of dynamite traces back to the mining company. Greg's math shows that Art used two sticks of dynamite on the first bomb, meaning there's still 18 sticks unaccounted for - more than enough to take down a building. A web search turns up a video of Art ranting about his company terminating his health insurance, which caused his wife to die and caused him to go bankrupt.

Art blames Kathy for his current circumstances. He knew she would be in the desert racing alone, and he just happened to meet three racing enthusiasts who could be easily manipulated. Their truck was secretly turned into a bomb on wheels, but Art missed his target when he detonated the bomb. The team figures that he switched gears and kidnapped Kathy in order to make an even bigger statement.

The police stop Art before he can drive his dynamite-rigged truck into Veck Oil's headquarters; Kathy is in the front passenger's seat. Russell gets Art to calm down by having Clive speak to him. Clive convinces Art to stop the insanity, let Kathy go and give himself up. Back at the lab, Russell shows compassion for Clive, telling Sara that he found two people with whom he shared a common dream with, only to have it destroyed by someone lurking in the shadows.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Notes

  • Despite being credited on this site and on IMDb, Paul Guilfoyle (Brass) does not actually appear in this episode.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 12
73 SecondsTell-Tale HeartsBittersweetMaid ManCSI DownFreaks & GeeksBrain DoeCrime After CrimeZipperedGenetic DisorderMs. Willows RegretsWillows in the WindTressed to KillSeeing RedStealing HomeCSI UnpluggedTrends with BenefitsMalice in WonderlandSplit DecisionsAltered StakesDune and GloomHomecoming
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