Law and Order
CI, Episode 1.21
Production number: E2121
First aired: 28 April 2002
  th of 195 produced in CI  
th of 195 released in CI
  th of 1271 released in all  
Goren Deakins Faith.jpg
Teleplay By
Theresa Rebeck

Story By
Theresa Rebeck & Rene Balcer

Directed By
Ed Sherin

When an award-winning publisher is murdered after donating thousands to a sick girl, the investigation uncovers a fraud that a book editor cannot bring herself to accept.


Wealthy publisher Douglas Lafferty is murdered after a confrontation with the caretakers of a sick girl he has been trying to help. Detectives Goren and Eames follow a trail of money and medical supply purchases to a disabled girl, Erica, and her caretakers Barb and Toby. The detectives learn that Barb and Toby invented "Erica" to swindle people into giving donations. Lafferty was killed by Christine, a book editor that became devoted to "Erica" after editing a best-selling book about her struggles. She killed Lafferty for not believing in Erica.


A man and woman visit the house of a girl named Erica. Erica's two adult caretakers tell him he has to sign some sort of contract before seeing her. He insists that Erica agreed to see him but, after stepping into a back room to talk to Erica, her parents tell him that Erica is disappointed with him. They ask him to leave. The woman that arrived with the man asks if maybe she could persuade Erica to see the man, but the parents tell her Erica needs to rest.

Two prostitutes are walking down a street when a car behind them is set on fire. The body of the man that tried to see Erica is slumped in the car, and the body and car are engulfed in flames.

The victim is discovered to be Douglas Lafferty, a prestigious and wealthy publisher. At Lafferty's house, Goren finds a box of makeup, nail polish, and other beauty supplies, but no nail polish remover. He deduces that Lafferty was killed in his garage and the nail polish remover was used to set the fire. The deceased's computer files have been wiped but all his valuables and awards have remain untouched. Detectives discover that he's been withdrawn $116,000 in cash over six months. They ponder if a girlfriend was involved but note with skepticism that his address book and planner were also taken. Goren puts forth that killer was methodical but over-thought getting rid of the body. He notes that placing it in a car in a high crime area didn't put them off the killer's trail.

Lafferty's adult children come to the station to ID their father. His son says Lafferty had become difficult since their mother died. The sister assumes her father had become a sex addict because of where his body was found. The son also mentions that he saw his father at a jewelry store and assumed he was buying something for a girlfriend. At the jewelry store, they learn that Lafferty bought a lady's watch with an expansion band instead of a clasp. The store clerk suspects the recipient had a handicap with her right hand.

Erica's female caretaker, Barb, sits on a park bench with the woman whom Lafferty visited Erica's house with. She says they'll have to move because a donation check they received is not enough for Erica's current living arrangement. The woman says she'll try to do something about it, and Barb says she'll tell Erica.

Following a catalog they found at Lafferty's house, Goren and Eames check out a medical equipment store. They discover he'd ordered a custom wheelchair for a 14-year-old girl named Erica but never picked it up. An EMT at the store tells them that there's a book about Erica's trials and tribulations. The book's publisher turns out to be Christine, the woman that accompanied Lafferty to Erica's house and spoke with Barb about living arrangements for Erica. The detectives ask for Erica's address and phone number, but Christine only offers an e-mail address. It's revealed that Barb is Erica's foster mom and her male companion, Toby, is Erica's physical therapist.

At the station, Eames starts writing an e-mail to Erica while Goren recounts details from Erica's book. Erica supposedly suffers from ALS and has been receiving death threats related to her birth parents, who were sexually abusive and members of a violent drug gang. The detectives discover child welfare has no record of anyone like Erica. Out of nowhere, Lieutenant Deakins gets a call from Erica and they talk to her on speakerphone. Goren seems to "offend" Erica when he asks how ALS has affected her menstrual cycle. Erica calls the questions an "attack." Barb then comes on the phone and tells the detective they should feel ashamed. Goren believes that Erica feigned being offended because she didn't know what the right answer was. He knows Erica's a fake and that Lafferty died because he found out.

Eames poses as a graduate student to talk with Professor Cantler, who described Erica as having an "easy smile" in the introduction of her book. She asks if she could interview Erica for a thesis but Cantler confesses he couldn't actually meet with Erica even though he had been to her home. Eames then identifies herself a police officer, and she and Goren ask Cantler to Erica's house. The house is empty, and Goren notices that there are neither indentations on the floor from the bed nor a proper electrical hookup for the respirator Lafferty bought her. Cantler realizes the fraud and reveals he bought her a respirator, too. Goren tells Cantler he's not a fool for wanting to help people but that he should help them find "Erica". Cantler tells them about a pharmacy he went to when Erica's foster mom would ask him to pay for Erica's prescriptions.

At the pharmacy, Goren claims to be a friend of Cantler's and says he'll be paying for the prescriptions this time. Goren asks how he can trust the pharmacy will actually send the drugs. The pharmacist looks a bit uneasy and says Erica's foster mom picks up the drugs when they've been paid for. Goren asks to see Erica's prescriptions and they reveals themselves as cops when the pharmacists resists. Goren tells the pharmacist to have Erica's foster mom come in to pick up a "big donation" that came in just before closing time.

Cantler shares a restaurant meal with Christine, asking if she's even ever seen Erica herself. Cantler says he hopes they don't look like idiots when the news breaks but Christine refuses to lose faith in Erica.

Goren and Eames interrogate Erica's foster mom, Barb. It becomes apparent that Barb seems to be just as quick-witted as Erica was on the phone and even uses one of the same lines as Erica, saying "People can't destroy you unless you let them." Barb's lawyer appears and the detectives leave the interrogation room. Goren tells Eames, ADA Carver, and Deakins that while Barb invented Erica, she didn't kill Lafferty. They go over "Erica's" laptop and book revisions for clues.

Christine, Erica's publisher, is brought into Carver's office. Goren questions Christine's faith in Erica's existence and states that "Erica" restored Christine's faith in humanity after she had had an infertility scare. Christine is adamant that the book written by "Erica" was all Erica and that she herself didn't write a single word of it. Goren is convinced Christine is guilty of Lafferty's murder. Carver offers Christine a deal because he believes in the sincerity of her faith but Christine refuses to believe Erica is not real.

Goren and Eames visit Barb and Toby, who are both in prison, to offer them a deal. If they can get Christine to confess to the murder, they'll still be able to a collect $2 million supposedly promised to Erica in Lafferty's will.

Barb poses as "Erica" and calls Christine while detectives listen in. "Erica" claims that because Barb has been implicated in Lafferty's murder, the profits from Erica's book have been seized, and Erica would be unable to collect a $2 million life insurance policy that Lafferty left for Erica. She feigns tears and asks Christine what she's going to do with no money and no one to take care of her. Christine turns herself in to the police and confesses to Lafferty's murder.

Barb asks detectives if she and Toby will their $2 million inheritance, and Goren reveals there never was an inheritance.


Main cast

Guest cast



Detective: Lucy Hotpants there, thinks the guy died of spontaneous combustion.
Robert Goren: Right after he was spontaneously hit in the head.

Alexandra Eames: You don't want to know what I think.

Ron Carver: Cantler? The geneticist with the bestseller?
Robert Goren: Two bestsellers and four wives. Apparently the professor likes the ladies...and vice-a versa.
Alexandra Eames: You know us. We like men who play with the building blocks of life.

Barb Windemere: What's wrong with you that makes you want to destroy someone good like Erica?
Robert Goren: I'm just a natural born skeptic.

Background information and notes

  • In a technical goof, as Goren and Eames enter the office of Christine Wilkes, the boom mic briefly drops into frame.
  • Carver mentions his wife recommending the Through the Darkness book to him, which she had heard about through "some talk show book club", likely a reference to Oprah's Book Club. A few years after this episode aired, Oprah's Book Club would later recommend a memoir in 2005 that turned out to have been fabricated, "A Million Little Pieces", like the book this episode was centered around.
    • Carver mentioning his wife in this episode is slightly at odds with his behavior in an earlier episode "Phantom" where he is seen flirting with a female UN employee.
  • Other episodes in the Law & Order franchise with similar plots include the Law & Order episode "Sweetie" and the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Alta Kockers". Both of those episodes had involved the murders of the supposed authors of a memoir, when it turned out to be other another person's story. Through the Darkness, however, turned out to be a complete fabrication and the victim was someone who was trying prove that.
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