Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the case of a man and his young son found with their throats slit in a park.
As Goren and Eames begin their investigation, they discover that a number of adolescent boys have disappeared from the same neighborhood. They also learn that these kids showed up at school after being beaten, then dropped out of sight shortly afterward; the explanation is that they have moved away. Further investigation reveals that they were murdered and their bodies were dumped. A test of a shoe found by a body indicates that it has been exposed to liquid nitrogen, which can be used to destroy bicycle locks by freezing them. When the locals refuse to cooperate with the investigation, the detectives begin to think that the boys are being used by someone to operate a bicycle theft ring. Their attention shifts to Jojo Rios, a major community contributor who runs 16 One Recording Studios; a place where local kids hang out.
When his apprentice, Frankie, is being investigated by the police for his involvement in the young boy's murder, Jojo hands him a package of cyanide and tells him that he knows he will do the right thing if is captured. Shortly after being arrested by the detectives, Frankie starts to recite quotes from Marcus Aurelius before suffering a seizure due to the poison he was given. While waiting in the hospital, Goren realizes the significance of the studio's name, which is a reference to the year Marcus Aurelius became Emperor of Rome (161 A.D.) Frankie dies, but the police get a gag order to keep the news from reaching Jojo.
Two more kids are then arrested. While interrogating one of them, Benny, Goren learns Jojo's background: "Came from Cuba at night. His boat sank, and everybody drowned, except him. He made it because he's strong." Goren theorizes that Jojo has brainwashed the boys in order to train them more effectively, using Roman philosophy and military discipline to keep them in line. Goren and Eames then go to the studio to confront him about Frankie. Jojo tells the detectives that he owes the kids nothing, especially not loyalty.
As the detectives turn to leave, Jojo spots Goren adjusting a control on a CD burner and pulls a disc out of it. He angrily accuses them of trying to record the conversation, then breaks the disc and escorts them outside. When they reach the sidewalk, though, Jojo learns that he has in fact been bugged thanks to a wireless microphone/transmitter the detectives smuggled in. Benny, sitting in a parked van, has heard the entire talk and confronts Jojo, who is put under arrest.