ANDRE and CALISTA HASLUM have brought their 2-year-old daughter, EMMA, to the city to visit Andre's wealthy AUNT EMILY. Emma, however, has developed a cold and Calista stays behind at the hotel while Andre makes his apologies to Aunt Emily.
That evening, Andre and Calista leave a sleeping Emma in bed, and have dinner with Calista's old college friend, CELIA, in the hotel dining room. The hotel is robbed while they are dining, and when they return to their room, Emma is missing.
Detectives Goren and Eames are brought onto the case, and the clock begins ticking as they try to track down the missing child. Well-connected Aunt Emily and her assistant, GEORGE, visit the Major Case Squad to apply further pressure. She tells them that she provides financial support for the child, and that she too is fighting the clock: she's dying of a heart condition.
A stolen key-card, and glass fragments found at the crime scene lead the detectives to a Styrofoam factory and MARK CARSTON, the burglar. Under interrogation, Mark denies any connection to the kidnapping. When Goren leans on him to prove it, Carston gives up the location of a warehouse where he keeps all his stolen goods: he's a burglar, not a kidnapper.
Meanwhile, Andre tries to soothe Calista, his fragile wife. She's afraid that Emma may be dead, and she's also afraid that Andre will leave her. Andre gives her medication to calm her.
The aggrieved parents are given hope when Aunt Emily receives a ransom call. The kidnapper demands two million dollars. Eames wires up, and does the drop, while Goren listens repeatedly to the taped ransom call. The ransom caller shows up, grabs the money and disappears quickly in the subway. Goren, however, has found something on the tape, and it points to George, Emily's assistant. The cops bust in on George and his partner, STUART. They find the ransom money, but no Emma. George was taking advantage of a bad situation.
The detectives turn their attention to the parents themselves. Goren and Eames travel out of state to visit Andre's and Calista's home, where they find odd inconsistencies with a child's home. There may have been a child, they believe, but not recently. Their suspicions are confirmed when the little girl next door matches the photos of Emma given to them by Andre and Calista.
In the final scene of the episode, Goren confronts the parents. Calista believes Emma is alive. Goren unlocks the truth: Emma died six months ago when Calista accidentally killed her by leaving her in an overheated car while following Andre to a motel room, where he was meeting Celia. Andre, we learn, has been exploiting Calista's delusional state, and the need for her child, to continue receiving financial support from Aunt Emily.