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Cyber
Red Crone
Red Crone 2
Season 2
Number 4
Writer Denise Hahn
Director Brad Tanenbaum
Original Airdate October 25, 2015
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Previous Episode: Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes
Next Episode: Hack E.R.

Red Crone is the fourth episode in Season Two of CSI: Cyber.

Synopsis[]

The Cyber team investigates a child abduction case inspired by a myth where an abductor lures children through a cell phone app.

Plot[]

Script kiddie - an unskilled hacker who uses programs and exploits written by others.

In Richmond, Virginia, brothers Jacob and Luke Sullivan have gone missing. Agent Rosalyn Pierce of the Violent Crime Squad enlists Krumitz to take a closer look at the team's best lead, a phone found in a fountain near the scene. Krumitz is able to access the phone, but is startled when a picture of a red, demonic-looking creature appears on the screen.

The creature is identified as Red Crone, an Internet horror meme that's gone viral in the last six months. As the folklore goes, Red Crone is an old woman with supernatural powers. Krumitz determines that someone hid malicious code inside the pixels of the JPEG, infecting Luke's phone with malware. An image search leads the team to "Red Crone's Forest," a forum where the users add content to add to the character's lore. One of the posts on the site is a video taken by the Jacob and Luke, where they're excited that they're going out to meet Red Crone. They proclaim themselves the "Chosen Ones" and bid everyone farewell. Since Red Crone is a fictional character, the boys are going out to meet a complete stranger.

Nelson discovers that when Luke saved the photo to his phone, an executable downloaded an app without him even knowing. The app, called Eye of Red Crone, turns out to be a black-and-white lens filter akin to a horror movie. Though it seems to be used for taking pictures, there's no camera button on the app. Meanwhile, Raven finds that Jacob and Luke were heavy users on the Red Crone fan site. There's been a huge spike of activity in the Richmond area over the last month, with users claiming that they're seen Red Crone in places such as a cemetery and an abandoned hotel.

Avery and Elijah speak with the boys' mother, who doesn't recall hearing them mention Red Crone before. Elijah takes a closer look at the video the boys posted and sees them stuffing what appears to be a map into their backpack. He uses the printer in the house and prints the last thing the boys did—a photo of a haunted house. It appears to be an invitation, as the words on the photo read: "You have been chosen. Enter the wilderness if you dare." Avery questions why Luke's phone was found in a fountain in Richmond if the boys were heading into the wilderness.

Krumitz and Russell head to the fountain in question, which is the last known location of Jacob and Luke. According to cell tower data, both of their phones dropped off the network at this spot right around 6:00 PM. While Luke's phone was found, Jacob's was never recovered. Russell spots blue transfer on the fountain that matches Luke's phone. Luke's call history shows that he tried calling his mother just before the phone went dead, and evidence photos show that the phone was badly destroyed in a struggle.

The printer cache shows that the invitation was printed directly from the Red Crone fan site. A link was sent to directly to Jacob in the comments section by a user with the handle "Crone805." An attached message reads: "To fulfill your destiny, you must view the world through my eyes." Nelson uses the Eye of Red Crone app and notices that the "camera" keeps auto-focusing as if it's searching for something. Raven realizes that they're supposed to hold the viewfinder up to the invitation. The app is actually a decoder, revealing a message that reads: "If you are truly the chosen one, go to where the serpents feed. Stand with your feet at the water's edge and they will show you the way."

The target has preprogrammed the decoder app with certain trigger images that can be any two-dimensional or three-dimensional object in the real world; when a required image is found, a secret message is decoded. One of the objects is the fountain itself, called Serpent Ridge Fountain; a snake adorns the top of it. Elijah and Krumitz are unsuccessful when trying to unlock the next clue, and a search of Red Crone mythology mentions the "water's edge" as the lake the creature and her children would go to at sunset. Krumitz changes the tablet's internal clock to make it think that it's sunset and another message appears: "Touch my hand if you have the courage to be invisible. No cheating." When a beckoning hand is touched on the app, the tablet is put into airplane mode, making the user untraceable. It's noted that Luke tried calling his mother before the boys went missing, something he couldn't do in airplane mode. A flashback shows Luke calling his mother because he wanted to go home; however, Jacob saw this as "cheating" and smacked Luke's phone into the fountain, breaking it. Another message soon appears: "Follow the blackbird to where the bodies lie. If you listen closely, a young blood cries." A blackbird appears on the screen mimicking a compass, while the riddle will tell the boys where to stop. This is a virtual treasure hunt; however, it's luring the boys into a trap.

Back at headquarters, Raven discovers that Crone805 is behind all the posts on the site about Red Crone sightings in Richmond. He's hidden himself behind a virtual private network (VPN) that's untraceable. While this requires a bit of skill to do, Avery points out that the target didn't write the exploit that put malware on Luke's phone. Russian hackers have been selling it on the Deep Web for $100, meaning their target is an unskilled hacker. Artwork has also been uploaded to the fan site, and Russell wonders if the target is an artist. This leaves Avery to deduce that their target is a male who is trolling the Internet looking for kids obsessed with Red Crone.

The clue ("where the bodies lie") leads the team to a cemetery. Elijah soon discovers a headstone with the name "Youngblood" on it that belongs to a child who died young. The decoder reveals another clue: "Along with your blood, it's your soul I crave. Leave a token of your loyalty to prove you're brave." While there appears to be no token, Elijah spots blood on the ground nearby. Russell uses a hyperspectral lens, which can measure the oxygen level in the blood and tell how long blood has been outside of the body. The results show that the blood is less than an hour old, which means the boys can't be far.

Avery and Elijah follow a blood trail and happen upon another boy lying in the grass; he has a deep cut on his hand. The boy, Timmy, is adamant that he keeps going and makes it to the end. He tells Avery that Red Crone sent him a present (the app) and was deemed the "Chosen One." Timmy says that he hasn't seen any other children, nor has he spoken to anyone about Red Crone. Elijah calls the paramedics, and Timmy is taken to the hospital before he can finish his quest.

Avery is worried, as Timmy was invested in the Red Crone legend to the point of delusion. With the children being asked to prove their devotion at each step, they'll become more brainwashed along the way and possibly hurt themselves more than Timmy did. Russell relays to Avery that he found dried blood on the headstone; if it belongs to Jacob or Luke, the boys could be more than eight hours away. Avery comments that they need a way to skip to the end of the game without solving all of the riddles in the middle.

Nelson analyzes the code for the app and finds a bunch of leftover dead code, which means the target built the treasure hunt off the framework of another app. The other app used was a game called Panda Pavilion; code was then written on top of it. It's found that there were only 34 copies of the game sold due to competition. This would seem to mean that the target is one of the 34 people who paid for the app, hopefully with his credit card. Nelson peruses a list of buyers and finds one in the Richmond area—Oliver Crispin.

A search of Oliver's apartment shows that he keeps drawings of Red Crone and innocent-looking children on his wall. The images of Red Crone are seen through a child's eyes, leading Avery to deduce that Oliver is a non-contact pedophile. He's never physically acted on his urges, but he's planning to act on them by luring Jacob and Luke to his hideout. Avery believes that the treasure hunt is his foreplay. Krumitz finds an email on Oliver's computer calling Oliver into court, where he's a court illustrator. Court is still in session, but the session ends before Elijah and his SWAT team can find Oliver and detain him.

Attempts to track Oliver's cell phone are unsuccessful, as his cell plan was recently canceled. Photos of five trigger images from the treasure hunt were found on Oliver's computer, and Nelson and Raven map out the trail using metadata from the photos. The boys' final destination is determined to be Stony Creek State Park; however, Nelson can't get the decoder to work on the trigger image—an eye carved into a tree. He sends the GPS coordinates to Elijah; the team will have to figure things out from there.

Russell analyzes the photo of the carving, determining that the tree in question is suffering from oak wilt due to the fungus seen in the photo. The team finds the tree, and Luke's hat is found under a pile of leaves nearby. Krumitz holds the decoder up to the carving and gets another clue: "Welcome to the wilderness, you're almost there. I can sense your soul around me, come to my playground if you dare." The new compass heading leads the team to an abandoned schoolhouse, but neither Oliver nor the boys are there.

The schoolhouse is the only structure for the next 18 miles, and Avery knows that they've missed something. Russell believes they need to take a step back and think like a child. He gets down to a child's height and points the decoder at the carving again. This time, it reveals a different message: "Welcome to the wilderness, be afraid of the night. I can sense your soul around me, search the woods for red light." There are two riddles: one for adults and one for kids. The decoder is using the gyroscope in the tablet to distinguish between an adult's perspective and a kid's, thereby allowing Oliver to throw adults (and law enforcement) off his trail.

Jacob and Luke reach Oliver's lair, where they're told that "Red Crone is waiting for them." They're soon seen wearing the white nightgowns that Oliver laid out for them. When it's apparent that Oliver is the only other person in the building, the boys start to realize their mistake and back away from the pedophile.

A search of the area surrounding the new compass heading leads the team to an abandoned theater. Elijah enters the building without backup despite Avery's pleas for him to wait. He finds Oliver and is directed to the bathroom, where the boys are found unharmed. Elijah drags Oliver into the theater's lobby area; when Oliver says that the "boys wanted it," Elijah beats him until Avery and the SWAT team intervene. Jacob and Elijah are reunited with their parents, while Krumitz gives Agent Price the good news over the phone.

Avery admonishes Elijah for not waiting for backup, putting himself in danger, and beating a suspect. She takes him out of the field until he can work out his personal issues, which stem from his father denying to get treated for his cancer.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Gregg Henry as Calvin Mundo
  • Jenny Cooper as Karen Sullivan
  • Mckenna Grace as Michelle Mundo
  • Fred Koehler as Oliver Crispin
  • Nishi Munshi as Rosalyn Price
  • Elisha Henig as Timmy Martola
  • Albert Kuo as ND Tech
  • Michael Leone as Luke Sullivan
  • John Montana as Judge
  • Dartanian Sloan as Jacob Sullivan
  • Brittany Beery as Alex Barnes
  • Cody Buchanan as Cyber Technician

See Also[]

CSI:Cyber Season 2
Why-FiHeart MeBrown Eyes, Blue EyesRed CroneHack E.R.Gone in 6 SecondsCorrupted MemoryPythoniWitnessShades of Grey404: Flight Not FoundGoing ViralThe Walking DeadFit-and-RunPython's Revenge5 Deadly SinsFlash SquadLegacy
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