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Merchants of Menace
15-14-Merchants-of-Menace-csi-41208696-800-518
Season 15
Number 14
Writer Tom Mularz
Director Claudia Yarmy
Original Airdate January 25, 2015
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Next Episode: Hero to Zero

Merchants of Menace is the fourteenth episode in Season Fifteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis[]

The investigation of a dead body found in a car that once belonged to a serial killer takes the CSIs into the twisted business of "murderabilia."

Plot[]

Victim: Damon Harlow (deceased)

On the case: entire team

Patrons attend a "murderabilia" convention, where they have the opportunity to purchase collectibles from serial killers, including artwork and autographs. The main attraction up for bids is the car driven by Lucas Reem, aka "The Sin City Slasher." When the car is unveiled, a dead body is found in the driver's seat, but this is no prop.

Morgan and Russell arrive at the scene, where she explains that as long as the convicts don't profit off of the sales of the items, the practice is perfectly legal. The victim in the car is identified as Damon Harlow, who started the swap with his business partner, Alex Friel. Morgan recalls the killing spree that Lucas went on in the summer of 1995, when he killed ten women. Lucas confessed to the murders and was on death row for 20 years until just recently getting the needle. As the CSIs look around, they realize that they have a room full of suspects who are fixated on murder.

David Phillips puts the time of death at ten hours ago and notes that Damon suffered approximately a dozen stab wounds. Castoff and blood spatter indicates that Damon was already in the car when he was stabbed, and Morgan observes an odd blood pattern on the driver's side door, almost as if something brushed through it.

Alex tells Russell that he last had contact with Damon yesterday; however, the deceased didn't show up this morning to prep for the swap, nor did he answer Alex's calls. None of this concerned Alex, as Damon had problems with drinking and depression, both of which could take a hold of him for days. Alex adds that Damon had a temper and sometimes got into it with customers and other dealers; however, he was never violent.

Morgan photographs fingerprints on the car's dusty dashboard. When run, they come back to Nora Waters, the sister of one of Lucas' victims. The thought is that Nora came to the place where her sister's death was being celebrated and tried to put an end to it. Meanwhile, two young men sneak under the police tape and try to take a selfie next next to Damon's body and the car. Officer Mitchell offers to arrest the trespassers, but Greg lets them off with a warning, noting that one of them is from the small town of Dead Owl Creek.

When questioned by Sara, Nora flashes back to the night her sister was murdered. She was hiding in the bedroom closet when Lucas butchered Rachel Waters. Nora reveals that she and Damon had been dating for a year and that she loved him. She recalls reaching out to Damon online and admonishing him for his murderabilia hobby, but she admits to coming around once he informed her about the history and psychology of what he was doing. Nora says that she was in the car with Damon the morning before the swap and claims that she was at home in bed when his murder occurred.

Bruce Waters, Nora's father, goes to the police station and demands to know where his daughter is. Russell tells him that Nora's fingerprints were found at the scene of a homicide. When Damon's name is mentioned, Bruce admits that he knows him, adding that he profits from others' suffering. Bruce tells Russell that Nora is all he and his wife have left and that he'll do whatever he has to do to protect her.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins has counted 11 sharp-force injuries to Damon's chest and abdomen. One of them penetrated the heart, making the cause of death exsanguination. Nick observes that the stab wounds are wide, almost as if they were made with a chef's knife. It just so happens that a chef's knife was Lucas' weapon of choice during his murder spree. Doc Robbins finds a bone fragment in the body cavity that he believes is too discolored to be from a fresh break. X-rays showed that Damon was no stranger to violence, so it's possible the fragment is from a past injury.

Hodges analyzes the bone fragment and finds that it was hand-sharpened. It appears to be a tip from a larger piece, so it seems that the killer used a knife made out of bone. Nick notes that hunters will use knives made out of bone, but Henry informs him that the bone is actually human—and the DNA is a match to Lucas Reem. Someone turned a mass murderer into a murder weapon.

Nick theorizes that one of the convention attendees took a fragment of Lucas and committed a crime in a way to honor the serial killer. Morgan is on board with the theory, as she shows a Greg and Russell a news article about the convention. The article contains a photo of Damon standing behind his table with different items, one of which is a bone-bladed knife that is now unaccounted for. Any one of the attendees could've simply swiped the knife off the table. Alex had told police that he knew Damon was involved in some shady dealings, and the CSIs wonder if an after-hours deal went sideways and led to murder.

Nick believes that the knife was made from a part of Lucas' tibia; however, it's reported that Lucas wasn't missing any of his bones at the time of his execution. The tibia had to have been removed from him after death, and Russell questions the mortician, Roy Narvick. Roy confirms that Lucas' body was supposed to be cremated, but he admits that someone stole the body when he was otherwise occupied. The incident wasn't reported to the police, likely because Roy didn't want his reputation and business to suffer. However, he tells Russell that he found an empty liquor bottle outside the mortuary and kept it as evidence, figuring the body snatcher drank from it before pulling off the heist.

Roy gives the bottle to the police, and it's found that fingerprints on it come back to a local named Todd Spanna. Todd's claim to fame is that he "brought down Lucas Reem" by calling the police after observing the serial killer washing blood off his hands. While the truth about the takedown isn't very heroic, Todd has been milking his fame for years, selling t-shirts and autographed books about his experience. Todd tours different murderabilia conventions, and Finn and Nick believe he went after the ultimate souvenir—Lucas Reem himself.

Under interrogation, Todd denies killing Damon and also claims that he didn't steal Lucas' body. He tells Nick that any one of his enemies could've put the liquor bottle at the scene of the theft, explaining that he's the "antichrist" in the eyes of Lucas Reem worshipers. Though he doesn't know anyone crazy enough to steal a body, he leads Nick to a website dedicated to the "Blood Market," which sells the more "forbidden" items like snuff films and serial killer's remains.

Todd provides his username and password, and Finn logs into the website. She finds that there are actually eight knives made from Lucas' remains and that there's one user in particular trying to track them all down. The user goes by the username "DesertSky60," and it's discovered that the person behind the name is Bruce Waters, who is apparently chasing the relics of the man who killed his daughter. An online conversation shows another user directing Bruce to speak with Damon about procuring the knives; the interaction occurred one day before Damon was killed. Meanwhile, DNA from the tablecloth where the knife was snatched from comes back to one identifiable contributor: Bruce.

Bruce is nowhere to be found, and Russell wonders if he left town after he found out that his daughter was cleared of murder and released. Nora is brought in for questioning again, but she claims to not know where her father is. Sara theorizes that Bruce's search for Lucas' remains led him to Damon, and he snapped knowing that his only surviving daughter was dating someone who kept relics of Lucas Reem. Nora vehemently denies this, telling Sara that her father was upset about pieces of Lucas being available for sale. He went to Damon for help, and Damon set up a meet with a seller, with the deal being $20,000 for the relics. The meet has actually already happened, something Nora conveniently forgot to mention. She claims that this was the only chance to get the relics and destroy them, and she didn't want to stand in her father's way.

Nick and Sara head out to the location where the deal was supposed to have taken place. As they search the area, they come across Bruce's body; he's been stabbed at least ten times. Sara notes that the gun next to Bruce's body looks like it's never been loaded. The assumption is that Bruce didn't have the $20,000 and brought the gun to the meet as a scare tactic; however, the seller called Bruce's bluff. There's silver trace around the stab wounds on Bruce's body, and Sara pulls a long strand of something from his mouth.

The object in question is a strand of black suede, likely from a fringe jacket. An old photo of Lucas shows him wearing the same type of jacket, and a DNA contribution on the jacket comes back to the serial killer. There's somebody out there that's not only collecting Lucas' bones, but wearing his jacket, as well. Morgan remembers the blood smears from the car door at the first scene and guesses that they came from the fringes of the jacket; it appears that whoever killed Damon also killed Bruce. The running theory is that the killer knew he was being set up and that Bruce only wanted the relics in order to destroy them. Not happy about being played, the seller killed Damon for the betrayal and then killed Bruce at the meeting site.

Nick talks to Todd Spanna again, but Todd claims to not know who's in possession of the fringe jacket. When pressed, he says that he "might" know someone who could point them in the right direction. Nick wants to meet some of the Blood Market traders face-to-face, but obviously can't do so looking like a cop. He offers to go disguised as a collector, and Todd informs him about a party the traders are attending where they can show off their collections. Todd is still skeptical this plan is going to work, but Nick offers to bring the traders something that will "blow their minds."

Nick attends the gathering disguised as a collector from Albuquerque. Upon showing the man at the door what's in his briefcase, Nick is instructed to head upstairs and show it to a man named Gunnar. Nick soon introduces himself to Gunnar and reveals what he's brought to the party: the first miniature crime scene made by Natalie Davis, aka "The Miniature Killer." He then tells Gunnar that he's in town looking for Lucas Reem memorabilia, specifically bone-bladed knives. Gunnar introduces Nick to another gentleman named Jacob, who comes out wearing the fringe leather jacket. Jacob shows Nick the knives, but he can tell that something isn't right. He holds one of the knives to Nick's neck and threatens him. However, Nick performs a takedown move and pins Jacob to the ground just as other officers storm the place.

Under interrogation, Jacob indirectly confesses to the murders, proclaiming Lucas' spirit was reincarnated in him—"kindred souls finding each other." However, Finn receives a text message telling her that the fringe leather jacket is a cheap knockoff. She accuses Jacob of being a wannabe, and when he admits that he was just having a little fun and didn't kill anyone, Finn has him arrested for obstruction.

No traces of blood are found on the knives taken from Jacob, and DNA says that they weren't made from Lucas' bones. However, one of the knives was actually made out of human bone from a different serial killer. Gerald Palmer was executed in Ohio 15 years ago, and a certain Cleveland mortician handled the body after the execution: Roy Narvick. It appears that he lied earlier about Lucas' body being stolen, and Russell guesses that the mortician has been collecting bodies for years and turning them into souvenirs. He might even be murdering people to protect his collection.

Roy confidently tells Russell that what he's being doing is only a misdemeanor by Nevada law, punishable only by a hefty fine. However, Russell tells him that he's being questioned about the murders of two people, and he's sure something will be found when Roy's house and business are searched. Roy denies ever drawing blood from a living being and says he can provide an alibi for the times of the murders. He adds that he did sell one of the bone-bladed knives in question, and he's willing to make a trade: in exchange for forgiveness on his misdemeanors, he'll give up his customer list.

Roy's alibi checks out, and Morgan scans the customer list. One of the items sold is a "knife made from Lucas Reem bone with a silver-plated handle." This would match the silver trace found in Bruce's wounds earlier. The person who bought the knife also bought all the Lucas Reem knives on the list. Though there's no P.O. box listed, Greg recognizes the town the items were sent to: Dead Owl Creek, the residence of one of the guys from the convention who ducked under the crime scene tape.

Kyle Jessup is seen back at the convention admiring the Lucas Reem exhibit. Greg and some uniformed officers confront him, and it's revealed that the knives and the fringe jacket were found in the trunk of Kyle's car. Kyle proclaims that Lucas will live forever, and he admits to killing Damon and Bruce because they were trying to take Lucas away from him. When asked why he had returned to the scene of Damon's murder, Kyle replies that he wanted to make sure he hadn't dreamt it and that it was real. Greg points out that Kyle took two lives just to protect decaying bones.

In the police station, Russell tells Nora that they captured the man who killed her father. She takes little comfort in the fact that Kyle won't be able to hurt anyone else, as she was told the same thing after Lucas was arrested 20 years ago. Russell believes that relic hunting was Bruce's way of trying to end the nightmare, but he gave it new life, instead—his own.

Meanwhile, Kyle is arrested at the convention and hauled away in handcuffs. As Greg walks with him, the convention attendees snap photos of Kyle for their own personal collections. Kyle smiles, realizing that he's now a famous killer himself.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • Rob Estes as Todd Spanna
  • Dominic Hoffman as Roy Narvick
  • Greg Evigan as Bruce Waters
  • Richard Harmon as Kyle Jessup
  • Mekenna Melvin as Nora Waters
    • Sloane Coombs as Young Nora Waters
  • Skyler Stone as Alex Friel
  • Bobby Campo as Damon Harlow
  • Rodney Eastman as Jacob Warren
  • Joseph Buttler as Random Collector #1
  • Patrick Cox as Burly Guy
  • Haley Hauser as Rachel Waters
  • C.J. Hoff as Pasty Guy
  • George Jonson as Lucas Reem
  • Chris Kerson as Gunnar
  • Nate Shelkey as Random Collector #2
  • Marco Virgilio as Collector

Episode Title[]

  • The title is an obvious take on The Merchant of Venice, a play written by William Shakespeare.

Music[]

  • Am I Evil? by Metallica

Notes[]

  • Among the things being sold at the "murderabilia" convention are items that belonged to Syd Booth Goggle ("The Strip Strangler") and Kevin Greer ("The Blue Paint Killer"). One of the patrons is also wearing a shirt dedicated to Nate Haskell ("The Dick and Jane Killer").

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 15
The CSI EffectBuzz KillBad BloodThe Book of ShadowsGirls Gone WilderThe Twin ParadoxRoad to RecoveryRubbery HomicideLet's Make A DealDead RailsAngle of AttackDead WoodsThe Greater GoodMerchants of MenaceHero to ZeroThe Last RideUnder My SkinThe End GameImmortality


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