James Hogan asks Lilly to look into the 1985 murder case of his uncle, a young mill worker, when a recent parolee admitted to stealing money off the victim's body.
November 6, 1984. In the seat of his truck, Joe Young gives his wife a birthday card with a drawing of the expectant couple. The two share a kiss before his wife gives Joe his lunchbox and drives off in his truck. Joe works at Johnstone Carpets factory and meets up with his best friends Monty and Butch at the lunch truck. Monty is convinced that Joe is going to get his promotion, that’s why he took back his own application. Just then, the big boss Johnstone pulls up to the mill. Butch thinks the rumours are true: all the other textile miles are closing down. Joe assures him that everything will be ok and the three go in to start work. Late at night at the gas station, the body of Joe lies near his truck in the pouring rain. A detective files away Joe’s case box. August, 85.
The door to the prison opens and in walks Lily and Scotty. Scotty hopes that this was worth the two hour trip. Lily checked the records: there was a Joe Young that was killed in ’85. James Hogan is the dead guy’s nephew. Scotty thinks that Lily and James have a soft spot for each other, despite the fact that Lily put James away for his grandmother’s murder last year; she still keeps a drawer full of his ”love letters”. James Hogan tells Lily that during counselling (while the guys were admitting to the group the lowest thing they’d ever done); he finds out that an older guy named Ham Dunn is from the old neighbourhood, Kensington. One night he had come across a dead body at the local gas station, (which James realizes was his uncle), but instead of reporting it to the police, Ham raided Joe’s pockets and sneaked away with $20. Cops back then thought Joe had been murdered in a stickup gone wrong. Therefore, the motive was not robbery. James tells Scotty that Ham Dunn isn’t here: he got released last week. Scotty goes to find out where Ham went, leaving Lily and James alone. James asks Lily if she’s been getting his letters. He’s worried that the letters came off as creepy, but Lily assures him that the letters were nice. Then why doesn’t Lily ever write back?
In the vault, the team is going over Joe’s file. He was stabbed once in chest with a double edged blade. There weren’t any suspects: cops thought Joe died because of what he had in his wallet. Stillman notes that Kensington was the industrial heart of the city back in the 80’s, but 153 Cold Case Episode Guide then the textile miles closed down, and it was a downward slide after that. Unfortunately, the gas attendant hadn’t been very helpful either, and the job went cold, fast. At the halfway house, Scotty and Lily talk to Ham Dunn. He doesn’t start his job until next week, so right now he’s living the times that were taken away from him. It wasn’t his fault he stole the ATM and buried the machine in his backyard: it was Kensington. Cleaning Joe out was the hardest thing Ham had ever done—he worked with Joe every day for 10 years.
Flashback Ham Dunn is supervising all of the workers. He sees Johnstone shaking hands with a couple of guys in business suits and tells Joe that can’t be good. Johnstone calls a meeting with all the workers. Everyone knows that the non-union mills in the south are putting the mills up north out of business. Johnstone doesn’t plan on retiring anybody, or cutting back hours. Joe is optimistic: the one thing they’re not doing in the south, is making better carpets than them. The other workers agree. Johnstone assures everyone that nobody is going anywhere: he’s staying in Kensington. As the meeting breaks up, Joe is optimistic since Johnstone gave them his word, but Ham tells him that he better pull out, before there are no jobs left. Flashback to Present Ham tells the two that he had a gut feeling that the mill was going to close down: a month later it did. He could carve a side of beef, so he got a job at the local supermarket. However, those 3 weren’t so lucky. However, Ham was on extended credit to almost everyone, so in the end, he was broke too. Vera and Jeffries talk to Mary. She can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt Joe. The closing of the mills changed Joe, but not in a way one would think. Mary drove out as soon as she heard the news...and found Joe in a good mood.
Flashback Mary finds Joe with Butch and Monty. Joe and Butch assure her that everything is going to be alright: for years Monty has had this idea for a cab company. Butch even has a car they can use. They just need an $1100 down payment to get things rolling. Joe knows that Monty’s done his homework. He asks Mary if it’s alright to invest the $1200 in savings they have. Butch jokes that Monty’s Plan A better work, because his plan B is to go rip off Johnstone’s house. Well, if Butch and Monty are supported by Joe, then they have Mary’s support as well. The group shake on it. Flashback to Present The taxi business never got off the ground. Joe told Mary that it was his fault, something about not reading the fine print and messing up on the payments. Monty and Butch must have really hated Joe after that: the summer Joe died, everyone walked behind Joe’s casket. Everyone except his two best friends. The next morning, Lily gets an early morning call from a Mark Phillips, NYPD. He’s looking for Christina. And Lily can’t tell Phillips where her sister is if he doesn’t tell her what this is about. Scotty visits Monty out on the job. Monty says the taxi idea didn’t fly because of him.
Flashback Joe and Butch are getting their last paycheques. There’s one new job opening: an evictions officer. Monty walks in. Joe is optimistic: if everything goes right, they can be pulling in fares by the top of next week. But Monty has chickened out again. He’s already started his new job at his uncle’s shoe repair shop. Monty yells and leaves in a fit of rage. Flashback to Present Monty tells Scotty that Butch was the one who did all the yelling, but Joe’s silent spoke the most. When Joe died, he knew that Joe wouldn’t have wanted him to be at his funeral, and he respected that. Down at the station, Butch shows up. Vera tells Lily that her ”boyfriend” is on the phone. Again. Stillman tells her to tie that up while he and Vera talk to Butch. James knows that there’s boundaries he can’t cross with the letters and the phone calls, but he had forgotten to ask Lily something when she was here. He wants to know who hurt her; she seems different. He’s happy to hear that Lily and the team are just tracking down Joe’s friends. He knows Monty: he showed James around the mill when he was 14 and told James that he was going to die in the mills, so it would be better for James to keep his nose in the books. Before Lily hangs up, he wants to know about last year when she said she was his girl at the train stop. Lily tells him that it wasn’t a trick; it just meant that they were friends. James tells Lily that her heart’s good and hopes that she can find someone she can talk to. Vera and Stillman tell Butch that Monty chose (out of respect) not to go to Joe’s funeral because of the cab deal. Butch didn’t go to the funeral because he lost respect for Joe: he turned out to be a bigger fake than Monty, after what he did to Butch’s sister.
Flashback Butch arrives at his sister’s apartment only to find movers removing all the furniture. Joan tells Butch that they fell behind on rent and are getting evicted. Joe comes down the stairs and Butch finds out that he’s taken that eviction job. He needs this job: the baby’s due, Mary’s got to be able to afford bread, soap, etc. A car pulls up outside and Tom (Joan’s husband) pulls up and tells Joe to get out, but not before punching him in the face and running upstairs to look for his Winchester. Flashback to Present Joan and Tom were out on the street that night, so that’s why Butch didn’t really feel like going to Joe’s funeral. Scotty and Lily talk to Tom. Not everyone threatened Joe with a Winchester or spent 2 months in a hospital. Tom doesn’t deny that he was having mood swings. He still saw Joe regularly after that: every Wednesdays they would meet up and play cards. Everyone there had a reason to hate someone else. It was then that the game took on a whole new tone. Flashback The five guys are sitting at Joe’s table. Monty’s uncle’s shop went bust, and Joe quit the evictions job, so all of them are out on the street. Monty chickens out and folds, so its just Ham and Joe left. Ham sees Joe two dollars, and raises him a hundred. Joe, Monty and Butch pool together their money to match the 100. Ham gets a flush, jack high, but Joe beats him. Ham insists that Joe cheated and wants his money back, and knocks all the money off the table before leaving in a huff.
Flashback to Present After that game, Joe was dead. He doesn’t know if that was a real threat from Ham: it was desperate times. The next morning Lily meets up with Christiana. She’s made some calls and found out that Christina’s involved with credit card fraud. Christina insists that it’s not her; it was her boss at the flower shop where she worked. She tells Christina that she can do whatever she wants: Lily just doesn’t want anymore early morning visits with the NYPD. Scotty and Jeffries visit Ham again. They know he pushed Joe into making that bet and whining when he wanted his money back. Ham insists that Joe owed him money, they all did. That gives him more motive to kill Joe. He can give them a reason why he didn’t hunt Joe down, but he doesn’t want to, because it’s embarrassing. Flashback Ham and his wife Patty go to Joe’s house to get their money back. After hearing how much money Joe has won from playing poker, the two women argue. Patty finally finds out that Joe didn’t cheat during poker. She tells him that he should’ve quit the mill when Ham told him about the contracts. Told him what? Ham now tells Joe that he knew Johnstone was selling. The day before Johnstone made his big speech, he saw the paperwork in his office. Johnstone lied to everyone that day, ”without so much as a flinch.” Joe tells Ham that it’s time for plan B. Flashback to Present Ham tells the two detectives that Joe looked like someone had hit him in the gut. If Joe had one fault, it was trusting people whenever they gave their word. Ham doesn’t know what plan B was, but Jeffries does.
Back at the station, Vera and Jeffries question Butch about Plan B. They’ve checked police records from ’85, one of the neighbours reported seeing Joe’s truck leave the house with two other guys in the front. If all they did was break into the house, then Butch has nothing to worry about in the way of Joe’s murder. Butch finally admits that maybe they did a little trespassing. Flashback Joe, Monty and Butch arrive outside of the Johnstone mansion, making a list of all the things they can steal and sell. Joe is amazed to find the door unlocked. The three enter the house only to find Johnstone gone and the house empty. The guys spot the chandelier left and try to steal it, only to fall back down. They amuse over their pitiful state, trying to steal a light fixture. Flashback to Present Butch tells the detectives that after that, he and Monty went out drinking and that was the last they ever saw of Joe. Stillman enters and tells Scotty and Lily that Monty’s wife just called. He left her a note saying that he was going off to die. They wonder where a guy like Monty would go to end his life. Lily remembers what James told her about Monty, that he would ”live and die in the mills”.
Scotty and Lily enter the abandoned mill to find Monty with the double edge blade: the murder weapon. He doesn’t want to talk about Joe, so the two get Monty to talk about Butch. Monty and Butch aren’t really tight anymore, since Monty views Butch as a ghost, a reminder of his past, just like the mill is. Monty wishes he could have been more like Joe who was content. Joe had once told Monty that it was a gift, being able to dream up stuff, but Monty knows that he’s got problems, a dreamer and a chicken in the same body. He puts the blade to his neck. Lily tells Monty not to take the easy way out, but Scotty suddenly wants him to do it. He wants to see, no witness Monty take that last step, off of the bridge, knowing he won’t be in this world anymore. Scotty knows that the ones left behind will have so many answers, and maybe if he watches Monty kill himself, then he’ll be able to help his family. Monty doesn’t want Scotty to help his family, that’s his job. Then Monty has to choose. Sobbing, Monty slowly lowers the blade and puts it aside. He’s chickened out again, but Scotty assures him that he’s facing up. There was only one time that Monty wasn’t chicken, and it was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Flashback Joe’s truck is leaving the Johnstone mansion. All the guys are silent. At the gas station, Butch goes inside to pay but Monty tells him that he’s got it. Instead of being the usual joke, Butch challenges Monty. My money not good enough for you? You’re the one with money to spare? Joe goes inside to pay, but the three guys end up arguing. Butch teases Monty about being a chicken to which Monty pulls out the knife, telling Butch to take it back. Joe stands in between the two to try and break up the argument. Monty threatens to cut out Butch’s tongue, and he laughs, telling Monty for once, to do something brave. Joe yells at them to stick together. Finally, Monty lowers the knife and Joe turns around just as Monty starts making chicken noises. In his anger, Monty charges at Butch but ends up accidentally stabbing Joe instead. After seeing that Joe is dead, the two guys bolt, leaving him lying in the rain. Flashback to Present Lily and Scotty lead Monty out of the mill. Flashback to Joe working in the mill. Vera handcuffs and escorts Butch out of the interrogation room. Flashback to the three friends laughing outside of the mill. Ham Dunn is playing poker with a group of guys. He loses and tries taking back the money. Mary Young thanks Jeffries for all their work. She flips through a photo album of her and Joe. Lily files away Joe’s closed case box. James is in his cell, thinking of Lily. Lily takes out all of James’ letters and starts writing a reply.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- Nicki Aycox as Christina Rush
- Silas Weir Mitchell as James Hogan
- Brett Rickaby as Monty Fineman (2005)
- Jay Acovone as Tom Collison (2005)
- Chad Allen as Monty Fineman (1985)
- Jerry Kernion as Ham Dunn (1985)
- Daniel Roebuck as Butch Beard (2005)
- Alex Sol as Butch Beard (1985)
- Bradley Stryker as Joe Young (1985)
- Patti Tippo as Mary Young (2005)
- Dawn Cody as Mary Young (1985)
- John Colton as Bob Johnstone (1985)
- Zack DiLiberto as Tom Collison (1985)
- Whitney Leigh as Female Clerk (1985)
- Marin Van Vleck as Joan Collison (1985)
- No ghost appearance, only flashbacks.
All songs are performed by John Mellencamp
- Jack and Diane
- Walk Tall
- Face Of The Nation
- Hand To Hold On To
- Between A Laugh And A Tear
- Crumblin' Down
- Lonely Ol' Night
- Hurts So Good
- Authority Song
- Closing Song: Small Town