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Claire Jenson was out back in her favorite part of the garden, the section where she'd tossed seeds this past spring, nothing structured, nothing formal, just scattered here and there the way her grandmother had taught her, when the call came from Chicago telling her that her youngest daughter had been murdered.
She clutched her portable phone, her hands dry and cold in spite of the fact that it was early August and Illinois had been in the middle of a heat wave for over two weeks, thinking how out of place a call like that was on a day like this. This was no place for talk of death. This garden was alive.
Birds squabbled and chattered down at the end of the yard, where Barry had planted five flowering plums two years ago in honor of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. A rabbit scampered into a patch of sunflowers, where her nest and several babies waited. A hummingbird hovered over the tallest of the blood-red hollyhocks, the Atchison's new baby wailed next door, and it was almost time to go inside and start supper.
However, the steaks thawing on the counter would have to wait now. Tomorrow, as soon as she straightened out this horrible mistake, she'd get to them. But not now. Right now the thought of dinner made her nauseous, because somehow she'd to have to tell Lannie her sister was dead, and she had no idea how to go about it.
Only a year ago she'd had to sit both of her daughters down in a hospital corridor and tell them their father was gone, dead with a sudden heart attack. There'd been only the three of them after that, and now…somehow the thought couldn't fully form…she could onlythink…Two…
She stared at her hands and wiped them on her slacks, only half-noticing they were her clean white linen ones, and stood for a couple of minutes trying to focus, trying to understand, but where understanding had been, now there was only pain. She forced herself to walk into the house, into the kitchen where she tried to find her voice to call Lannie, but her glance moved toward a small framed handprint on the wall by the refrigerator that True had made fifteen years ago, when she was only four. The tiny handprint swam in front of her eyes as Claire found herself sinking to the floor and heard her own voice, a primal, anguished sound that only she could hear, coming from somewhere deep inside.
Not True. Oh, dear God, please, not my baby now. Please, not True…
* * * *
In Chicago's Twenty First District, Area One Police Headquarters at 29th and South Prairie, it was business as usual. Sergeant Detective Martin Slade of the Violent Crimes Division limped through the front door on his way back to his office. He was trying to ease the shooting pain in his knee, a reminder of his last perp chase through a junkyard years ago when he was still a street cop and also a reminder he wasn't getting any younger.
Three uniformed policemen occupied the main entrance, a long, narrow, but well-lit space with its entire left side taken up by the massive front desk. They were wrapping up their late afternoon shift paperwork. In spite of the age of computers, they still did their paperwork mainly by hand, to be hopefully translated into readable English and entered into the computer by the night shift records clerk.
The night shift cops, most of them younger men, straggled in one by one through the back door, wearing their own particular brand of uniform–jeans, tee shirts with slogans, scruffy tennis shoes for jumping fences and chasing drug dealers and armed robbers and wife abusers and child molesters.
Area One was fairly quiet this late Friday afternoon. The phones weren't ringing off the hook just yet, although this precinct, which covered the Hyde Park area and all along the south side lake front, would begin rockin' and rollin' as soon as the sun went down. That was a given. Weekends were always hell in Area One.
He headed toward the stairs and glanced into one of the small rooms to the right that doubled as a consultation-holding room. One lone young man, whose handcuffs had been attached to a ring in the wall, had been left for a few minutes to stare at his shoes and contemplate the error of his ways, while his arresting officers grabbed a cup of coffee in the small anteroom around the corner.
In the basement, Marty knew several of the night shift officers would already be sprawled, half-napping, over their schoolroom-type desks, awaiting their assignments. Life in the precinct was always interesting, even fun once in a while, but when he reached his office on the second floor he slumped into his chair with his head bowed, wondering for the hundredth time this month why he hadn't gone into architecture, as his father had wanted him to.
"Did they show up yet?"
Martin tore his gaze away from the photos of the young woman whose body had been found in her Hyde Park apartment the day before. He was still upset by them, although he'd been a Chicago cop for almost thirty of his fifty-one years and should have been used to photographs of corpses by now.
"Not yet," he said, eyeing Detective John Minelli, a tall man with thinning blonde hair, narrow lips and jaw line and opaque blue-gray eyes that most of the time were deliberately expressionless because they'd seen too much misery and death. "I called the victim's mother late yesterday afternoon, downstate in Lansberry. She's on her way now, I told her to come straight here. It's gotta be rough on her, she told me her husband died a year or so ago, and now there's only her and her oldest daughter.
John nodded. "You going to wait here till they arrive?"
Marty didn't want to. The last thing he wanted to do today was face another grieving mother. Mothers were always the worst, crying and demanding to know who the killer was this minute. In this case it was going to take a while, because other than the fact they were pretty sure at least one man had done it because of evidence of sexual activity and the method, there wasn't a clue to be found in the victim's apartment. No motive, either. According to the people they'd questioned so far, True Jenson was a nice, quiet young woman who went to work every day, did her job well, didn't socialize much, and hadn't, as far as her co-workers knew, dated anyone since she'd moved to Chicago to start her job six months ago.
"Yeah," he said, "I'll stick around. They should be here any time." His gaze moved back to the photos. "Look at this," he said, "she was only a baby. Nineteen years old, no sign of drugs, clean, sweet looking. What kind of a monster could do this to a kid like that?"
Copyright © 2003 by Beth Amerski
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Someone has murdered Claire Jensen's youngest daughter, and it may be someone she met in an Internet Chat Room. There are three separate men she had been talking to online and more than three people around her with compelling motives. Before long, Clair gets wrapped up in the case when she tries to find her daughter's chat partners, and it's up to Detective Marty Slade to sift the clues and figure out which of them killed True before he makes mother like daughter! Beth Anderson has written an eerily realistic and enormously satisfying mystery about the dangers that lurk in the corners of the World Wide Web, and let me tell you they're a lot creepier than any old spider! The mystery element is solid, with just the right amount of clues and suspects to keep the reader guessing at every turn and a dash of romance tossed in for good measure. Through it all, Anderson keeps it realistic and even makes her characters thoroughly irritating at times, which ultimately makes them more likeable. Ultimately, the ending is one that you don't expect and makes you hungry for more of Anderson's work. Murder Online just serves as one more reason to turn away from the tired storylines of mainstream mystery and seek small pubbed authors post haste!
Claire Jenson had just lost her husband a year earlier, and was trying to cope with that loss, when she receives a phone call saying that her youngest daughter, True, has been murdered in Chicago. How is she going to cope with this? How is she going to tell her other daughter? How are they going to make it through this together? Detective Marty Slade is assigned the case, and he takes it personally. True had not only been murdered, but unspeakable things had happened to her. He has to get this monster off the streets now. Unfortunately, through a totally chilling source, he later finds out this monster inhabits the chat rooms on the web, and it isn't going to be easy to find him. Not only are there three different suspects, there is also absolutely no cooperation coming forth from the local police. Add to these problems, Claire has determined that the police aren't working fast enough, and so she decides that she can find this killer faster herself. She is going to find him, no matter what. And she isn't going to listen to Marty, or to anyone else. Ms. Anderson has written a story that will scare you to death. This could very well be a true crime story, as it is happening each, and everyday in the world today. This book will carry you right through, from page one to the last page with chills running down your spine, and your stomach lurching for your throat. At the same time you can't put it down. You have to know what is happening. Ms. Anderson has captured the real world of the chat rooms. Do you ever really know who you are talking to? Are they really who they portray themselves to be, or are they cruising the Internet looking for their next victim? And are you going to be that victim? If you do become that person's victim, how are the authorities ever going to find out who harmed you? This is a very real, and very chilling story of what can, and does go on in the world of the chat rooms. I can't recommend enough that everyone read this wonderfully, written book. But don't read it with the lights down low, because you will be scared to death. And in this case that isn't all bad. Ms. Anderson has captured an ugly side of the Internet so realistically, but at the same time has woven a wonderful story around it, so well that it will be difficult (no impossible) to forget. And, in my opinion, no one ever should. And that takes real talent, which Ms. Anderson definitely has. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of 'Murder Online' today, and get ready for the ride of your life. You will be very happy you did.
Claire Jenson is the victim of loss. Just a year has passed since she lost her dear husband to a sudden death. Now she has to deal with the murder of her darling daughter True. Only this time she will not sit by and idly accept it. Claire is fighting mad at fate and the person who took her daughters life. Heading the investigation in Chicago, where her daughter was murdered, is Sergeant Detective Martin Slade. He doesn't have much to go on but he vows to find True's killer when he meets Claire. Something about her touches him deeply and he doesn't want to let her down. Claire decides to help the police whether they want her to or not. Through a series of leads she realizes that the murderer got to her daughter through the internet. She is bound and determined to flush him out into the open and bring her daughters murderer to justice. In the process she puts her own life on the line. Beth Anderson has written a chilling story of what could happen so very easily in real life. She will make you face the truth. How much do we really know about the people we talk to every day on the internet? Are they who they really tell us they are? Are they serial killers or perverts cruising the net for their next victim? MURDER ON LINE is so cleverly written that you won't know who to trust or when the next threat will pop up on Claire's computer. The lineup of characters that are on line are so deceptive you have no idea if they are the friends they claim to be. And when you meet them the first thing you will want to do is take a shower. They are that creepy! I can't recommend MURDER ON LINE enough. It's a fast paced and intelligent book. One thing you will definitely get from it is that not everything is what it seems to be when you are on line.