Case #5.18: "Under the Influence"

From the title, this will be another chapter in the "Drugs and underage drinking are bad" book. The episode opens at a homeless encampment. One of the homeless men hears a cat's screeching meow, followed by a thud. He heads to the darkened alley to investigate. Clearly he never saw a horror movie in his more fortunate days.

Several guys in black ski masks suddenly appear and force the homeless man to the ground. A girl in a ski mask uses the tip of a knife to trace a circle around the dogpile. She watches the boys hit the homeless man with a disturbing smile on her face and chants, "666." Of course! In the era of the McMartin Preschool trial, no cop show would be complete without an episode about Satanism.

Anyway, a second homeless man with a ginger cat stumbles onto the scene. He's horrified by what is happening. The teens force up their victim's shirt and spraypaint a pentagram on his back. The second homeless man goes to the encampment for reinforcements. One of the men shouts "Hey!" and the teens disperse. Their victim, nicknamed Sports, is unconscious. A homeless man who looks suspiciously like Captain Rufus tries to go into the nearby Hope Mission for help, but the door is locked. I guess it's the captain's turn to see how the other half lives. Sports' friend is holding him in a semi-sitting position. Rufus steadies him and finds the pentagram. Theme song.

Thunder rumbles ominously as Mac and Rufus enter the Chapel. Sports is not the first homeless person to have been attacked by this gang. All the prior victims reported the gang comes out of nowhere, the members don't say a word, and then they disappear. Mac makes a spooky noise. "Is that your professional opinion, Officer McCann?" asks Cap'n Rufus, "I don't care if they dress up in black robes and run around reciting incantations. They're attacking people." He reminds Mac that the homeless population makes for perfect victims; nobody to notice they're missing, much less report it.

Mac will be going undercover at Douglas High, which runs an outreach program that provides teen volunteers for Hope Mission. Maybe the junior Satanists have a key to the shelter or they're just using their volunteer work to look for victims. Cap'n Rufus tells Mac to be subtle about his interest in devil worship. Mac has a plan: During the first assembly he has to attend, "I'll fall to my knees and proclaim I'm Satan's child." "Excellent," Cap'n Rufus whispers sarcastically.

At Douglas High, a jock named Alan presents a girl with an illustration he mounted on cardboard using a glue stick. It depicts Priscilla James, a witch who lived in Boston during the 17th century. Is he sure he doesn't mean Salem? Alan asks if he can come to that night's meeting. "I said I'd think about it," says the girl. Alan reminds her that he did a big favor by getting her the key to the mission. She agrees to give him a chance. The unnamed girl is pretty average looking and not wearing over-the-top Goth fashion. Not even black lipstick. Alan throws away the Priscilla James picture.

In English class, the teacher discusses how the themes in Paradise Lost mimic those found in the original Star Wars trilogy. You'll have to draw your own conclusions about that; I've never read the book nor seen any of the Star Wars saga. The book, according to the teacher, features the Devil trying to get "back into Heaven, just like the rest of us." Mac disagrees, "The Devil doesn't wanna get back into Heaven; he's got the whole damn world in his hands." He lays out his proof that the devil's having fun in the 1990s: drive-by shooting, babies with AIDS, crack, and "worse, fat chicks in tank tops."

Mac's classmates snicker. Mac speculates that the Devil doesn't have horns or is actually female. The unnamed Satanist girl from earlier watches him interestedly. "I don't why anyone's planning for tomorrow when they can party today," Mac concludes. A few kids clap. The bell rings. Satanist Girl follows Mac to her locker and introduces herself as Stephanie AKA Stevie. Given that my Big in my sorority was named Stevie, this girl will be known as Stephanie in this recap. She invites him to come to an abandoned warehouse on 5th Street that night. Stephanie guarantees Mac the time of his life.

Alan asks if Mac has a crush on Stephanie. Mac likes them "a little less man-eater." Who can blame him after the crazy chick? Alan thinks Stephanie is perfect and asks if Mac was invited to the meeting. Mac wants to know what goes on at them. Alan has no idea; tonight will be his first time. 

At Hope Mission, Cap'n Rufus sits down to dinner with Sports' friend Paulie and the ginger cat. Creatively, its name is Cat. Alan comes in and greets his mother, who's serving food. He asks for an advance on his allowance; his mom gave it to him 2 days ago. Alan cryptically tells her he had surprise expenses. She agrees to give him $20. Alan tells his mom he'll be out late with friends.

"Not those awful people I saw you with at school?" asks Mom. Alan tells her about his new friend Tony AKA Mac. Mom wants the new friend to come over. "So you can pass judgment on him?" asks Alan. Mom won't give him $20 until Alan agrees to bring his friend over, so he caves.

At the abandoned warehouse, the meeting begins with the teens sharing the worst thing they've heard or done that week. A girl gleefully describes a case of a mother running over her own baby with a car. A boy told his father about his mother having an affair. Another girl happily chirps that she read about a girl who died in a drive-by at her own 4th birthday party. It's Mac's turn: "In the last 5 minutes, there's been a rape, a murder, and a drunk driving violation." Not sure if those are daily time-based stats or what he heard on the police scanner driving over. Stephanie wants it to be more personal. Mac changes the story so that he was the one who committed rape/murder and a DUI.

Stephanie tells him that's not funny. Nothing anyone else said at the meeting has been remotely funny, so what's the big deal? Mac assures her he wants to be at the meeting.

Moving right along, it's time for old business. Nice to know that even Satanists follow Robert's Rules of Order. Stephanie reminds the group that their last spell was interrupted. The Stanford Admissions Committee is meeting this week, so their next mission has to be soon "or else I won't get into Stanford early." Mac asks if he'll be on the call list. "Such an eager little beaver," Stephanie says creepily. Mac and Alan can't go because they haven't been initiated yet. Both boys request to be initiated that night. 

Everyone has to cut their finger with a ceremonial dagger while chanting "666." The dagger blade is run through a candle flame in between members. Mac looks deeply weirded out by the whole business and I don't blame him. Mac is second to last. Instead of cutting himself, Alan opts to burn his hand on a lightbulb. Mac knocks Alan's arm away. "Hey, I decide when it's enough!" says Stephanie, kissing Alan's burnt palm.

In Cap'n Rufus' office, Mac tells him these kids are sick, not to mention stupid. He can't understand what makes people do things like that. "A cult wants to mark you, make you do something you can't take back," says Cap'n Rufus, adding more grey to his beard for his undercover work. Mac says that papercuts heal. Rufus recognizes Alan's name. His mom volunteers at Hope Mission, so she must have a key. He tells Mac to get close to Alan and Stephanie. Mac doesn't want to get that close to her. 

Mac parks his Jeep in front of Alan's house. From outside, he can hear Alan's mom, Mrs. Michaels, screaming at her son. It's not too much to ask that she knows where he is and when he's coming home. Alan argues back that he's a grown-ass man. Mrs. Michaels confronts him about the burn. Alan wishes his dad had better taste in women. Mrs. Michaels slaps him.

The doorbell rings. Mrs. Michaels lets Mac in and tells him, "Alan doesn't think it's appropriate that I meet his friend." Mac wishes his parents were like that and instantly wins Mrs. Michaels' approval. She leaves. What the hell was the point of making him come over if she's not gonna stay?

Alan gripes about his mom. She got a kit from "the tough love people" that supposedly allows parents to dust their kids' things for drug residue. She even wanted him to do a drug test last month. She also went through his tape collection. Mac suggests Alan let his mom in on some things to build trust. They leave for school.

Alan shares another story about his mom. During freshman year, he had a friend named Clay. Hopefully his last name wasn't Morrow. Alan and Clay were inseparable until the day Mrs. Michaels called Clay's parents and told them Clay was a bad influence. Clay's parents told him to stop hanging out with Alan because his mom was crazy. Clay told everyone why he wasn't allowed to hang out with Alan anymore.

Alan has a reoccurring nightmare about his mother following him everywhere until she's the only person who'll have anything to do with him. "She at it again?" Stephanie has joined the conversation. She says Alan's mom doesn't love him, just wants to dominate him. Alan agrees with Stephanie. Stephanie says Alan needs to take his power back and "the group can help you if you help the group. We need a sacrifice." They'll do it tonight at the warehouse.

Mac thinks what he said in English class is a long way from getting involved in a blood sacrifice. Stephanie tells him that he'll be at the warehouse or he'll have to quit the group. She also warns, "Don't keep Alan from attaining what he wants." 

Stephanie finds Alan moping by himself in the English classroom. She acknowledges that what she's asking him to do is scary. Sacrifices gets easier, she promises. Alan will have to do the sacrifice himself. She says it's no different than swatting a mosquito. Alan can have anything he wants. She kisses him.

At Hope Mission, Paulie is worried because Cat is missing. Oh God no. Cap'n Rufus thinks "she probably found some tom to make whoopie with." If only. After dinner, Cap'n Rufus will help Paulie look for Cat.

As a cat lover, I can't bring myself to transcribe what will probably happen next. The cat scratches Mac when he takes it out of the pillowcase and runs away, escaping with her life. "Damn you, damn you to hell!" Stephanie screeches at Mac. But to you people, isn't hell a good thing? 

At school the next day, Alan apologizes about the cat. Stephanie doesn't want to hear it; she got wait-listed by Stanford. If the sacrifice had happened, she would've gotten an acceptance letter. Stephanie needs someone she can count on. "You can count on me," says Alan. Mac tries to apologize about the cat; he didn't want Alan doing someone he didn't want to. Alan argues that he wanted to do it.

Chapel. Cap'n Rufus hopes the case will be over soon; he can't stand how bad his clothes smell. Mac suggests Judy can fill in after her vacation. Rufus doesn't plan on being on the streets that long. Mac tells the captain he's trying to keep Alan from being sucked any further into the cult. Cap'n Rufus reminds him that he's not a psychiatrist or a social worker. Juvie will see he gets the mental health help he desperately needs.

Stephanie is what's luring Alan into the cult and Mac is "afraid she's offering something I can't." Cap'n Rufus has a way around that: get Stephanie to offer herself to Mac. "She's a high school kid," Mac protests. Cap'n Rufus never said he had to accept the offer. After all, he's not running a stud farm.

At school, Mac tries to get Stephanie to give him another chance in the group. "That's the difference between leaders and sheep. I do what the others won't," says Stephanie. She doesn't want to end up like her parents. Her mom and dad both work hard, go to church, and are model citizens, but they aren't rich or powerful: "It's boring. It's like being with the living dead." Stephanie doesn't want to wait to get to Heaven to be rewarded; she wants an Oompa-Loompah now, Daddy, now!

Stephanie tells Mac he has to decide what he wants. Mac wants her. She'll meet him at the warehouse tonight, just the two of them. What a romantic date!

Mac drops by Alan's house. Mrs. Michaels answers the door and greets him pleasantly. Mac asks if Alan is around. Mrs. Michaels hasn't seen him all day and asks if something is wrong. She tells him that he's moody and distracted. She's glad he has a friend like Mac.

At the warehouse, Stephanie pours something flammable in a circle around where she and Mac are standing and drops a match. She tells him to take off his shirt, then traces one of her long red nails down his torso, stopping at his belt buckle. Stephanie wants Mac to take his pants off. Mac hesitates, but eventually does. "I'm in control. Are you?" Stephanie asks creepily. She shrugs off her long black robe. She's naked underneath. Stephanie wraps her arms around him. Unseen by both of them, Alan has come to the warehouse and caught them together.

Mac fills Cap'n Rufus in on the night's events, calling it "a valentine from Dracula." When he gets to the disrobing, Rufus asks, "I'm not gonna have to arrest you for statutory rape, am I?" Mac says no. Rufus tells him to stick with it; sooner or later, she'll do something illegal. 

At Mac's locker, Stephanie asks if he dreamed about her. Mac did. In the dream, they were married with kids and a station wagon; Stephanie was PTA president. To her, that sounds like a nightmare. She kisses him. There's another meeting tonight. Mac tries to talk to Alan. Alan insists there's no hard feelings and will see him at the meeting.

Alan goes outside and tells Stephanie he wants to do something different, something nobody in the group has done before. Stephanie purrs that she underestimated him.

Paulie and Cap'n Rufus eat at Hope Mission. Paulie is overjoyed that he found Cat.

Alan is absent from the warehouse meeting. Stephanie explains that he's on his own special mission tonight. I've got a bad feeling about this. So does Mac. They all don black gloves and ski masks. The teens head to the alley to beat up another homeless person. They're surprised when their intended victim pulls a gun; it's Cap'n Rufus. Mac takes off his own ski mask, then Stephanie's: "Looks like you're not going to Stanford. Looks like you're going to jail." 

Stephanie is angry about the betrayal. Mac asks where Alan is. Stephanie laughs maniacally: "Who does he hate? Who does he want to harm?" Mac races to Alan's house and gets out of the Jeep with his gun drawn. Mac has to force the door.

Inside, Alan is sitting next to the fireplace, holding a revolver. Alan can't decide what's a greater evil: committing murder or suicide. Alan is leaning toward killing himself; he doesn't want to go to prison or see a shrink. He wanted to show Stephanie how much he loves her. Alan considered killing Mac, then switched to his mother. But he decided "acting like a mom" wasn't enough to die for.

Alan mopes that Stephanie is "just like all the other organized religions. She makes promises but never delivers." He asks why Mac has a gun. Mac explains that he's a cop. Alan wants to know if Stephanie was arrested. Mac confirms. Alan drops his gun. Mac tells the teen that he didn't have to prove anything to Stephanie; she used him. 

Mac turns in the paperwork on the case to Cap'n Rufus. Rufus asks if Mac wants to join him for pizza and beer. Mac would rather see a movie, escape from reality and all the demented things he witnessed. Cap'n Rufus asks what movie Mac is planning to see. "Triple feature. Nightmare on Elm Street 1-3," Mac says. Ironic because Johnny Depp was in the first one. Cap'n Rufus is up for it. When they open the Chapel doors, they're blasted by wind and blowing leaves. Spooky organ music ends the episode.

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