In the past, 11-year-old Emerson Cod gets in to trouble at school and is taken to the principal’s office repeatedly. The specialists try to figure out why a boy with a respect for rules and regulations is getting into trouble. What they never discover is that Emerson is in love with Principal Eleanor Swindle. And he learns that loves makes you stupid.
In the present, Randy pays the Pie Hole a visit to chat with Olive. Chuck thinks it’s sweet that they’re together, and Ned hopes it works out given he accidentally made Olive’s situation worse. Chuck insists that their love is hearty and it’s survived despite everything they’ve gone through. However, they turn to see Randy leaving. Olive explains that she decided to call it quits. Chuck brings Randy back and explains that Olive dumped him. He knows that she was stuck on Ned and Chuck warns that Olive is nervous about giving her heart to someone else. Meanwhile, Ned tries to talk to Olive, and she realizes she seeks out poor relationships because she’s afraid of commitment. She decides to have a fling with Randy to get over her rebound from Ned.
Emerson returns to his office to find his girlfriend Simone Hundin waiting for him. She left for a canine cavalcade but assures Emerson she isn’t going anywhere for good. She’s found his pop-up book about his missing daughter and hopes he’ll explain. He doesn’t, and Simone reminds him they agreed to be honest and she doesn’t want to be surprised. A woman comes in: Amelia Stingwell, sister of Roland “Rollie” Stingwell, owner of the Papen County Dam. They haven’t spoken for nine years. Amelia tells him that Rollie was killed the previous night, and she wants the best detective in town. The killer took the rare and valuable Dam Ruby. Rollie always had it with him, and Amelia figures the killer has it. She reminds Emerson that solving Rollie’s murder is the least he could do. Once she leaves, Simone demands answers but Emerson says it was nothing.
The facts were these: Rollie was last seen by his assistant Trish. No one saw him again until the next morning when his body was found a half mile from the dam, his neck twisted around.
Emerson, Chuck, and Ned go to the morgue and the latter resurrects Rollie. Rollie recognizes Emerson and accuses him of stealing the love of his life. He says he trusted Emerson, and Emerson notes that he couldn’t steal something that never belonged to Rollie. Rollie says his anger has gone and he admits he could never make the woman love him. Emerson says he couldn’t either. Rollie says that Lila Robinson killed him and Ned quickly kills him again before the minute elapses. Chuck wonders who Lila is and Emerson explains it’s the mother of his daughter, who abducted her.
The trio goes back to the Pie Hole and Emerson admits he didn’t tell them because they can’t keep secrets from each other. Ned convinces Emerson to tell them and he explains that he’s spent seven years trying to find Lila. She’s a grafter who can vanish with ease and he’s never found her. Ned and Chuck insist on helping and Emerson agrees to give it one more shot. Emerson tells them his daughter’s name was Chuck.
The facts were these: Rollie hired Emerson to tail his fiancée, Lily using a fake name. Lily was simply taking trips to be alone reading David Thoreau and avoid the hubbub of wedding planning. She spotted Emerson and shared her solitude with him, and Emerson went along at first. Lily finally told him the truth, that she was there to steal the Dam Ruby. Emerson returned Rollie’s money and informed him that Lila was pregnant. Rollie warned them that if he ever discovered Lila grifting again, he’d make sure she went to prison for good. Lila promised to stay good while Rollie built the Papen County Dam.
The trio goes to the dam where they discover it has a photo-matic machine that takes photos of everyone that arrives. Emerson explains that Lila gave into her nature, broke into Rollie’s house, failed to find the Dam Ruby, and took $50,000 and her and Emerson’s daughter. He admits he was blinded by love.
They find a picture of Lila and show it to Trish. Trish says the woman met with Rollie a few hours before he died. She told the police, but they’re more interested about Rollie renegotiating re-piping contracts. Trish has her own theory: a local company dumped toxic chemicals into the reservoir. Emerson spots Rollie’s private entrance, which leads out through the dam. As Emerson goes to investigate, Chuck and Ned listen to Trish’s story.
Inside the dam, Emerson crosses paths with Police Detective Puget. Puget has plenty of suspects, including the re-piping contractors and the farmers whose water Rollie dammed up. Emerson suggests he check out Lila, and Puget is suspicious that the private investigator is helping him for once. Emerson insists he wants justice no matter what and tells him to act fast.
Back at his office, Emerson finds Simone waiting for him. He prepares to tell her about Penny but Simone wants to go first. She apologizes and Lila steps out of the shadows with a gun. Lila tricked Simone and explains that she wants Emerson to prove her innocence. In return she’ll let him see Penny. She tells him to hang a red lantern in his window when he’s ready, but she’ll flee with Penny if there’s any sign of police involvement. Simone doesn’t believe her and Emerson prepares to take the gun, but Lila doses them with horse tranquilizer and leaves.
After Emerson wakes her up, he goes to talk to all the angry farmers and Simone goes to the Pie Hole to tell Ned and Chuck what happened. Simone is convinced that Lila is playing Emerson. Ned doesn’t believe it but Chuck insists they should be there for him no matter what. Simone refuses to blind herself to the truth and decides to bite back. Chuck decides to go after her. Meanwhile, Olive invites Randy back and apologizes for the mixed signals. He wonders if she’s using him as rebound guy and she denies it. Randy accepts that but warns he’s been through it before. Olive then goes over to Ned and says that she figures Randy will do the trick and help her get over Ned. Ned asks her if love can make you go crazy and she points out she went to a nunnery. Ned wishes her well on her date. Ned then goes with Chuck to help Emerson.
Emerson, Ned, and Chuck interview the 29th farmer that today, and talk to Michael Brunt. Since the dam was built, Brunt can barely afford the rent and the water fees. He offers Chuck flowers and admits that he would have killed Rollie years ago when he was freshly angry. Now there’s nothing he can do. The re-piping contracts would go through the mayor so there would have been no motive to kill Rollie over them. Chuck suggests they check out Trish’s pollution angle no matter how crazy it is, and it’s all they have left.
The trio goes to the Pie Hole to meet with the polluting company’s Mennonite lawyers. Thanks to their personal commitment not to lie, they admit their company spilled toxic waste into the reservoir. Fortunately, it was only waste that causes things to glow in the dark. Once they leave, everyone is forced to admit that Lila is the only suspect. Emerson refuses to consider it, fearing that Lila may tell an accomplice to get rid of Penny if she’s in danger of being caught. He plans to do whatever it takes to prove Lila innocent and see Penny. After he leaves, Olive says that they have to help.
Someone lights a lantern in Emerson’s window. Olive arrives and comes in. Lila is there and asks who sent the signal. Simone comes in with a gun and figures that Lila is bluffing. She figures Lila ditched her daughter years ago and came back for the Dam Ruby. Lila claims she met with Rollie and gave him back all the money she stole. Further, she insists that that since having Penny, she’s grown a conscience. Olive butts in, distracting Simone long enough for Lila to go for the gun. Olive ends up with it but drops the bullets. Simone grabs Lila’s horse tranquilizer but the grafter escapes before Simone can use it. It becomes clear that Olive, Randy, and Simone set up the whole thing. Olive and Randy follow Simone, while Ned and Chuck hide in her car and Simone goes to find Emerson.
Emerson is at the dam checking the photo-matic machine. Puget is there and has found the photo of Lila. Emerson tries to bluff it out but Puget reveals there’s a second photo showing Lila leaving a half hour after Trish last saw Rollie. Puget leaves, assuring Emerson they’ll have Lila in custody by morning. Emerson despairs of ever seeing his daughter until he notices the pipe schematics on the wall. Simone arrives and apologizes for leaving, but he’s happy she’s there now. He has her come with him into the pipe network.
As they hide in the trunk, Chuck admits that she’s worried that their love is so hard. She wonders if loving something is worth it if you have more to lose. Ned insists it’s for the best. Lila opens the trunk and points a gun at them, noting that it’s not a good idea to talk when you’re hiding in the trunk of a car.
Olive and Randy lose Lila’s trail and go back to the Pie Hole. Olive tells him that he was right and she did want to use him. Now she admits she can’t do it and she’s been through a lot. Randy is willing to take the chance. Randy kisses her and she says it’s brilliant. They’re interrupted when Ned and Chuck, stripped to their underclothes. They explain that Lila took their clothes and left them at the side of the road. As they turn off the lights to go to the damn, Ned notices that Brunt’s flowers are glowing in the dark.
Emerson and Simone enter Rollie’s office and find glow-in-the-dark flowers delivered the same day that Rollie was murdered. On the map, Brunt’s farm is at the center of the leaking pipe renovation project. Brunt was getting free water without Rollin’s knowledge, but the repiping contract would have cut it off. The glow-in-the-dark water got into his flowers via the leak. Brunt came in disguised as a flower deliveryman but heard Lila and Rollie arguing. He came up with a new plan: frame Lila, steal the Dam Ruby, and kill Rollie. That leaves the picture of Lila leaving the dam after Rollie’s murder.
Emerson takes Simone down the secret passageway. he explains that Brunt set up a water pipe and made a noise where Rollie could hear it. Emerson falters but Simone sees Lila locking them into the pipe. The figure turns to reveal it’s Michael Brunt in disguise. He reveals that Rollie hid the Dam Ruby so he came back to find it, disguised as Lila. Brunt opens the water valve and runs. Emerson finds the Dam Ruby, hidden in a crevasse. However, the water is rushing toward them. They run to the end of the tunnel which lets out onto the dam. Fortunately Simone spots a ledge to the side and pulls Emerson to safety.
The facts were these: Rollie was cornered and hid the Dam Ruby. The water smashed him out of the tunnel and blasted him a half mile away. The disguised Brunt let the photo-matic take his picture on the way out.
Ned and Chuck capture Brunt as he escapes. Emerson gives Amelia the Dam Ruby and collects his money as well.
Emerson meets with Lila on a country road, alone. Lila thanks him for clearing his name and he suggests that Penny needs some normalcy. Lila says that Penny has a normal life, including braces. She plans to make sure Penny’s life is always on the straight-and-narrow. Emerson figures she’s lying and says it’s his turn to be a parent. He promises to get the police to drop the kidnapping charges. Lila agrees and admits she’s out of money. Emerson generously gives her his car, just as she was counting on. As she walks away, she admits she might have been a fool for leaving him. Emerson approaches the car.. and finds a dummy. Lila sabotaged the car. As she goes, Penny waves to Emerson and he waves back, and he figures that maybe Lila does love her.
Later, Emerson gets word that a publisher will print Lil’ Gum Shoe and he figures Penny will one day find him. Share this article with your friends