A woman rides a bus to an abandoned house where two men meet her. They take her inside and hold her underwater in a room filled with burning candles and a snake in a cage. Another man says that she's not ready, but the woman breaks free and tries to get out. She hides from the men and when they go by, she tries to get out through a shower stall. The door closes by itself and the stall fills with water, drowning her.
Perri and Jain arrive at the abandoned house to find Carl already looking into the girl's death. A vagrant discovered the corpse of Liza Valenti and reported it to the police. The coroner confirmed that Valenti had drowned, but there was no water in her lungs. Footsteps confirm there were three men in the house and Perri figures the death was homicide. However, Carl has noticed black candle wax, indicating a Satanic cult was involved. He also finds a symbol on a window, inscribed with anointing oil. Back at the office, Carl determines the symbol is a horned triskele, the "horns of death" and a powerful occult symbol. Perri notes the ritual in question involves virgin dwarves but Carl insists that the occult is involved.
One of the men involved at the house, Jack Mercer, is conducting a candlelight ceremony for Valenti when Carl, Jain, and Perri arrives. Another student, Devan, is a reporter with the school paper and notices him. He explains that Mercer was Valenti's boyfriend and hints that he'd like a job at the paper and can give Carl some help with his investigation and suggest Carl talk to Jack about the irony of Liza's death. A professor, Richard Carr, speaks up while the reporters talk to Mercer who says Liza was afraid of water. Carl shows him the symbol but Jack claims not to recognize it, and his friend Craig Boyer (who was also at the house) pulls him off and warns him they have to stand together and not speak to outsiders. As Craig walks off, Jack sees Devan watching him.
Back at the office, Jain goes over the photos he took and brings Carl in: there's an odd distortion on every picture of Jack. They blow up one of the photos and see what appears to be an image of a woman screaming in fear. Perri is skeptical and realizes that the symbol they saw was actually a partial image of three halos: the crest of the Three Society. The Society is a secret organization that initiates three members every year. The ritual was simply an initiation rite to force Liza to face her worst fear. Carl quickly figures Perri was in a secret society but she denies it, although she notes she went to a different school. However, she fervently denies there's anything there's anything sinister or elitist about such societies.
Carl and Perri confront Professor Carr who explains he was Jack's faculty adviser, and Mercer's alibi for the night of Liza's death. He denies having heard of the Three Society and scoffs at their claim he was involved. They hint that Jack might have said something to them but Carr sticks to his story. Carr meets with Jack and Craig, and Jack denies he said anything to the reporters. Jack begins to have second thoughts about maintaining his secrecy, and blames Carr. Jack says Liza refused to sleep with Carr and threatened to go to the administration, but the professor insists their vows are more important then anything. Carr leaves but as he walks down the street, he suddenly finds himself on the edge of a tall building. He staggers for a moment, then falls over. He clings to the edge for a few minutes, then plummets to his death. His body lies on the street... with no tall building in sight.
Carl and Perri sneak into the morgue to meet with Carl's contact, Alex Nyby. Carl pays him off with tickets to a Lakers game and Alex reveals that almost every bone in Carr's body was broken, and blood splatters in a 27' radius indicated Carr from a 50-story building, even though none was present. Carl wonders if Carr's greatest fear was heights, while Alex tries to get Perri to go on a date. She just snickers.
Carl and Perri visit Devan and wonder how he knew about Liza's worst fear. Devan reveals he and Jack were friends and Devan tried to get into the Three Society. Devan denies a motive of revenge and directs them to Craig, who was arrested for drug possession and suspicion of murder. It turns out that Liza had a powerful hallucinogenic in her blood at the time of her death, and Craig is a chemistry major. While they wait for the coroner's report on Carr's body, Carl wonders if the drug was simply part of the ritual and the deaths were an accident. Jain has photos of Craig at his booking and reveals that the same screaming image is on the photos. Filtering it, they determine the image is of a young boy. They take the image to Vincenzo and Perri plays devil's advocate, suggesting the victims literally imagined themselves to death, causing the injuries. Carl considers the idea but notes that it doesn't explain the photo image.
Jack visits Craig in jail but his friend accuses Jack of killing Carr and Liza. Craig says Jack is on his own as he refuses to go to prison over the murders. Vincenzo tells Carl a story about how a source set him up on a story and Vincenzo fell for it, and he suggests Carl try to look at the real truth and determine where the story starts.
In his jail cell, Craig is sleeping when a hissing sound comes from beneath his blanket. He wakes up to find himself wrapped in a giant boa constrictor that crushes the life out of him.
Carl does research on the history of the house and finds that a man named Charles Dunmore killed his family. Perri tells him about Craig's death and the fact that Carr's toxicology report was negative. Carl figures that the house is the key and calls Devan to ahve Jack meet them at the house. They reveal that eleven years ago Dunmore went berserk and Jack and the others unleashed a ghost. The older brother hid his younger brother while their father killed his wife. Dunmore then tried to find them, but gave up and hung himself. However, the younger brother had died of fright. Carl figures that the fear stayed behind, the ghost of an emotion, and the ritual brought it back. Jack doesn't believe them and stalks off, going back to his apartment. However, when he arrives there he finds his greatest fear waiting for him: Charles Dunmore. Back at the house, Jain spots some handprints in the concrete and realizes they were made by the Dunmore children: Gus and Jack. They realize that Jack Mercer was adopted.
Jack is running for his life against the ghost of his father but is finally cornered. However, Carl and the others arrive just in time and bring him out of his ensorcelled fear. Carl goes back to the house... and burns it to the ground.
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