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In a report, the officer noted that, while Courtney and Steven insisted that his role was obvious, Zonis’ name barely appeared in the folder full of printouts and CDs that they had with them.

The officer assigned them a case number and advised them not to have any more contact with Zonis.

The messages came from a wide range of addresses, and some appeared to be Steven. One to Steven’s grandmother warned that her house might burn down, with her in it, if she didn’t stay out of the Allens’ lives.

There were so many calls to the dental office where Courtney worked that the receptionists started to keep a log: “Called and said, ‘Put that dumb cunt Courtney on the phone,’ ” one of them wrote in neat, bubbly handwriting.

She rushed to the door alongside her dogs, a pair of eager Norwegian elkhounds, to greet them. Emails rained down in their inboxes; some called Courtney a cunt, whore, and bitch, and one they felt was a death threat.

Three days earlier, Courtney and her husband, Steven, had gone to the police headquarters in Kent, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, and reported that, for the past few months, they had been the victims of a campaign of online harassment.

The couple—now in their mid-thirties, with a house full of fantasy books and clay dragons that Courtney sculpted—were avid players of , an empire- and alliance-­building browser game set in ancient Greece.

One day a player in an opposing alliance asked if he could join theirs. This was Courtney’s first introduction to Todd Zonis and she liked him from the start: “He was crude and rude and I thought it was actually kind of funny,” she says. As she recalls it, Zonis sent her a note on the game’s messaging service to say he had once owned a shark, and from there the conversation took off. She shared pictures of her elkhounds; Zonis sent ones of his tortoise. Both were married, but “it just kind of grew from there,” Courtney remembers.

’ ” At one point Courtney created a Google Voice number to ask, “If I talk to you, will you leave me alone?” Instead, dozens of voicemails poured in: “Do you think I’m ever going away? “Now that my private investigator went and got all the tax information?There’s no job either one of you guys can have that I won’t know about and be there.”The Kent police officer who took the Allens’ statement seemed unsure of what to make of their story.He “appeared appropriately attached to his mother and Detective Lorette and I had no concerns.”But Courtney’s concerns were mounting. The message included the car’s vehicle identification number.The day before, she had gotten an email to an account she only used for spam. Courtney had started having nightmares; just going outside made her afraid.