Authors: Robin Roseau
I couldn't remove my eyes from the video. I played it over and over.
"She's stunning." I said that at the end of each showing. Then, "Who is she? I have to meet her! Oh my god, look at her move. She's stunning!"
Finally, I began planning.
* * * *
Meeting her wasn't going to be easy. I didn't know who she was. I didn't have a name. I didn't know where she lived, not exactly, but I thought I could narrow that down. A few minutes with Google Earth helped with that process.
I didn't understand. Google Earth showed a loose cluster of buildings. Most were clearly houses, but three were something else. They were bigger. Office buildings perhaps?
It looked almost like a survivalist camp. I could see one of the buildings as some sort of headquarters and another as a barracks. But without on the ground surveillance, this could just be some sort of business park, one with very devoted employees who liked living a few minutes' walk from the office.
I looked from house to house. "Do you live here, Mysterious Stranger?" I wondered.
I contemplated the direct approach: drive right up with a frame from the video and ask the first person I saw, "Do you know this person? I'd like to meet her."
I didn't think that was likely to work.
But I had contacts. I had methods. In this day and age, fighting against our corporate overlords intent on raping and pillaging the earth, those of us on the front lines had to be willing to make hard choices.
I took a virtual trip to the county assessor's office. It took me two hours to work my way through their website. Why do government agencies always have the worst web sites? It might have been easier if I'd been able to find a street address to use, but Google Maps didn't have a useful street for nearly three miles.
But finally I found it. "Wolf Run Properties, Inc." The amount of land owned by Wolf Run was truly impressive.
How could a company I've never heard of own so much land? The name was reminiscent of some sort of environmentalist organization, but I knew of all the organizations, big and small.
That was my life, after all.
No way was there an unknown environmental organization big enough to own this land. They had to be something else.
So I did a search. I didn't find a single hit against "Wolf Run Properties", at least not based in Wisconsin. Almost by accident, I did find Wolf Run High School
. They didn't have a web site. Wolf Run Properties didn't appear to have a web site, either.
What is wrong with these people? Someone needed to pull them into the twenty-first century.
The school had an address in Madison, but Google Maps showed an office park.
Well, I hadn't
yet begun to do my research.
I went out to the corporate registry maintained by the Secretary of State for Wisconsin. I plugged in "Wolf Run Properties" and a few seconds later was happily given the corporate filing information.
I was well rewarded. The CEO for Wolf Run Properties was one Lara Burns. I used Google Maps to find the listed headquarters and realized it was the same office park as the high school.
Was everything a school? Why would a high school need so much land?
I did another land search. The owner of the office park: Wolf Run Properties.
I did more searches. I tried to discover if there were other companies using that office park as an address; that didn't get me anywhere. I tried to find other properties also owned by Wolf Run Properties, but the land registries didn't provide search capabilities that way.
I tried searches on Lara Burns. For the CEO of such a large holding company such as Wolf Run Properties, she was amazingly shy, cybernetically speaking.
I contemplated doing a background check. Nowadays, you could get background checks done on someone for a relatively small amount of money. But getting one done without the target finding out might be trickier. And I wasn't sure it was the shy Ms. Lara Burns I was trying to find, anyway. I had no reason to believe the woman whose image was etched in my mind was necessarily the CEO of Wolf Run Properties.
I had contacts. I had people who were better than I was at this. But I wasn't ready to bring anyone else into this. I wanted to find this woman myself. And I was at the limits of my own searching ability, at least via the Internet. It was time to do a little fieldwork.
* * * *
I parked my little grey Prius across the street from Lycaon Office Park. I had a cooler of supplies and my surveillance equipment, and I positioned the car so I could watch the entrance, maybe even getting photos of whoever came and went, without being obvious. I hoped.
While I waited, I did a lookup. It wasn't subtle. Lycaon was the Latinized form of an ancient Greek word for wolf. I thought perhaps I was in the right place.
It was a boring stakeout, but I was used to boring stakeouts. It wasn't my first, but in the past, I'd been watching for things like corporate drones engaged in environmental destruction or simply watching over an environmentally sensitive area, hoping to stop ill-informed but hopefully well meaning people from doing something stupid or destructive. Keeping an eye on the Lycaon entrance was child's play.
I was a little disappointed. Other than the office park itself, there were no company names visible. Looking through binoculars, I couldn't see company names on any of the four buildings. I would have done a drive through the small complex, but the entrance was gated, and the few ca
rs I saw drive in used a touch pad to open the gate.
Lycaon took its security seriously. But if I could break into a nuclear power plant during a protest
eight years ago, I was sure that Lycaon wouldn't be difficult. On the other hand, I wanted a friendly introduction, and getting caught breaking in wouldn't facilitate that. Getting caught watching their front door wouldn't do me much good, either, but it wasn't as bad as breaking in.
For such a healthy-looking office park, they received remarkably little traffic. I watched the traffic for four days, Monday through Thursday. I was there by seven AM each day and stayed until after six. I took photos of only twelve unique cars, five of them appearing every day and the other seven appearing sporadically. I also got photos of the drivers and, from time to time, front seat passengers. A few of the vehicles were SUVs, and it looked like there may have been rear seat passengers once or twice, but even uploading the photos into my computer each night, I wasn't entirely sure. I certainly didn't get sufficiently good photos to identify anyone other than the front seat
I was there for three days before I
saw her. She was driving a green SUV, and there was at least one other person with her. I got good photos. The SUV arrived shortly before three on Wednesday afternoon and didn't leave until nine.
I thought about following them, but if they were at all alert, they would spot me.
But looking through the photos that night, I stared at the woman's image.
"Who are you?" I asked. I shook my head.
I felt like a stalker. Okay, I was a stalker. But I had to meet her. Somehow.
I again contemplated just walking in the front door. But what story could I give? Hey, I have this video, and I find you fascinating. I wanted to get to know you better.
Yeah, that would go over well.
In the end, I didn't find her. She found me.
The students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted an environmental awareness rally on Friday and Saturday. As the local head of GreEN, the Green Environment Network, the organizers had contacted me, asking for GreEN's assistance with the event. I'd loaned them my staff of two as well as provided
my own recommendations during the planning stage. We helped provide materials and promised to staff a booth for the rally.
And so, I found my stalker activities curtailed
Friday and Saturday so I could attend the event.
The students, and more than a few professors and parents of students, were largely supportive. I
attended the entire duration of the rally, speaking with anyone who would listen, and organized my staff for extra support.
To call them "staff" was a misnomer. GreEN survive
d on donations and what few products we could sell at events like this. We had very little money, a pittance of which went to fund our headquarters -- my studio apartment in a cheap apartment building. My staff consisted of several unpaid volunteers, like-minded individuals who felt the corporate oligarchy was destroying the world. Every spring I went on a local recruiting drive for more volunteers, hosting a weekend-long training seminar at a resort in Door County. The resort owners donated use of the resort for the off-season weekend as a means of supporting our efforts.
My personal income came from a web site where I sold my wildlife photography and the occasional paid magazine article I wrote. GreEN couldn't afford a salary for me, but at least my apartment was paid for, and I could write off the mileage on my car as a tax deduction when I drove either for GreEN or to take photos.
"The students seem enthusiastic," Katy said to me in a lull between visitors.
"Those last two seemed very intense."
"Oh my god," she said. "You can say that again." Then she whispered conspiratorially. "I think they're lesbians."
That had been obvious.
"Does that bother you?" I asked her.
"No..." she said slowly. "I've just never met a lesbian before."
I didn't scoff, but it was difficult. Katy was perhaps thirty-five, a bored housewife with two children now in school.
"Did it freak you out?"
"No. There is room in Christ's house for all peoples."
Yeah, Katy was a little religious, but I didn't mind. She came to my recruiting weekend for the first time three years ago and said early in the weekend, "God gave us this planet and expects us to take care of it. I want to help people realize that." That was more than good enough for me. And she didn't let her religion get in the way of her belief in science, either. "God created these puzzles for us to solve," she'd once said. I didn't have a problem with that attitude, either.
"But did you see how big they were?" Katy asked. "They were both a couple of Amazons. At first, I thought they were sisters, but they weren't acting like sisters. But I don't get it."
"What don't you get?"
"Let's say you're attracted to women."
"Wouldn't you want her to look like a woman?"
"I think human attraction is boundless," I replied noncommittally. "But even then, those two had all the right curves."
They had, too, and if I weren't twice their age, and if they weren't so obviously smitten with each other, I might have been interested in either of them.
"Well, I suppose the one did," she said. "Her name was Scarlett. Isn't that just the best name? She said she's an architecture student, but she's devoted to
design that blends with nature." She paused. "They each bought one of our bags, and I gave them some of our materials. And they asked if we were going to be here tomorrow. I told them I wouldn't be, but GreEN would be. They said they might be back with more people." Then she began to bounce. "They gave us a donation!"
Donations were nice, and we would get a few from the students, but we weren't here for donations. We were here to spread the word. College students were usually very frugal with their money -- beer was more important than good causes -- but the students of today could be the donators of tomorrow, and campuses were a good place for recruits, even if they would later become too busy to stick to the causes that were once so important to them.
But Katy seemed especially excited. I raised an eyebrow.
"Fifty dollars!" she added. "That's on top of what they paid for the bags. I offered bumper stickers, too, but they declined."
I high-fived her. "Good job, Katy!" I said. "Whatever you said to them, keep it up!"
I didn't think Katy would be a permanent volunteer. She would get too involved in driving her children to soccer and little league and dance pageants and all the other things kids these days were doing. I kept hoping she'd bring her children to our events; it was never too early to educate. But the few times I hinted, she'd only said it would be too much to keep an eye on them while helping get the word out. I hadn't pushed.
Still, I was glad she was there that day.
More students stopped by, and I
lost the immediate chance to nudge Katy to a slightly less naïve position on love between two women.
* * * *
Saturday's weather started out threatening. I lugged our little pavilion to the rally. Katy was gone, and Kirby and Lilac were late. Kirby and Lilac were always late. But beggars couldn't be choosers, and I took the help I could get. I set up the pavilion myself then made two more trips to my car for folding tables and our three plastic bins of informational material, bumper stickers, environmentally friendly shopping bags, pins, and even a selection of tee-shirts. I was just finishing the setup when I heard Kirby and Lilac behind me.
Zoe," said Kirby. "We're sorry we're late. Traffic."
That's me, Zoe Young, at your service. Consider this a bow. You can buy my photography at Zoe Young Photography dot com. I appreciate your support.
But traffic, my ass. The only traffic they might have encountered was at the Starbucks counter. But as Lilac was holding a spare cup, which I knew was for me, I didn't complain.
"Chai tea," Lilac said. "And we brought scones."
I hugged them both. As I said, they were always late, but they were friendly and generous. Kirby was an artist, and he helped with some of our locally produced information. Lilac made the money in the couple, for what it was worth, and she was generous with it. Kirby was sweet and laid back. Lilac was vivacious and assertive and, it appeared, the more dominant in the relationship. But they were good company and put on a good face for GreEN.
Things were somewhat quiet in the morning, with a smattering of people stopping by our booth sporadically, but
the morning clouds faded. It turned into a beautiful day, and things picked up dramatically by lunch.
At one PM, I found myself facing a small group of earnest students who tried to argue that a little damage to the environment wasn't so bad when balanced against the economic good of the country. I managed to remain outwardly calm in the face of such a ludicrous statement
. I knew from past experience that people who make a comment like this were trying to convince themselves, and it wasn't the first time I'd encountered a position like that.
It just didn't usually come from college students.
"On the surface," I said, "that statement seems true. After all, we can't help but be at least a small drain on the environment. The clothes I wear are typically made of cotton and other natural fibers not native to Wisconsin, for instance. The farms where cotton is grown were carved out of once pristine wilderness. Trees were cut down to build homes. The cotton is transported in vehicles made of steel, mined from the earth and produced using energy also mined from the earth, and then transported on roads poured over land that was also once pristine wilderness."
"That's my point," said one of the boys. "We can't run around naked."
"Not in Wisconsin in the winter, anyway," one of the girls said. "As much as you might wish we could."
The boy leered at her
for a moment, but she turned away from him.
"The Earth can recover from some of this damage," I added, "but at some point, the Earth's ability to recover becomes overwhelmed. Our rivers and lakes become polluted. Even when they aren't polluted, lake water clarity can suffer simply from too many people cutting the grass down to the shoreline."
"Why does that ruin water clarity?"
"Runoff," I said. "Made worse if they use fertilizer to help the grass grow. The grasses and other vegetation used to filter the runoff, capturing sediment before it made it into the water.
And that doesn't even address the loss of biodiversity."
She nodded. It was a simplistic answer, but it was the most she was likely to understand.
They weren't entirely closed-minded. The one boy wanted to argue, but all of them actually listened to what I had to say, and when finally they moved on, I thought perhaps I had at least made all of them think.
"Zoe," said Lilac from behind me as soon as the students had moved on. "These people would like to meet you."
I took a breath to calm myself after the mini-debate with the students, smiled, and then turned around to greet the new people.
It was her.
We stared at each other, no one moving for a moment, then I stepped forward.
"This is Angel," Lilac said. "She and her girlfriend were here yesterday. They came back with... I'm sorry, I didn't catch everyone's name."
"I'm Angel," one of the women said, and I recognized her as one of the Amazonian students that had so flustered Katy yesterday. "This is Scarlett." I shook hands with both of them. Angel and Scarlett were clearly U-Madison stud
ents, I thought perhaps seniors or possibly recent graduates.
Then Angel gestured to one of the women, even taller than she was. "This is my
cousin, Lara. Her wife, Michaela, and my other cousin, Elisabeth."
I shook hands with all three. Lara and Michaela couldn't have been more opposite. Lara had to be six feet tall and built like a... well, I wasn't sure what she was built like. Her wife, on the other hand, was one of the shortest women I'd ever met, and exceedingly delicate in appearance besides. She had striking red hair and sharp features. But when we shook hands, her grip was firm.
But it was the other cousin, Elisabeth, who had fascinated me. It was Elisabeth I'd been stalking. We shook hands, and I couldn't take my eyes from her. She seemed to find me equally intriguing.
finally we released each other's hand.
I found my voice. "I'm so pleased you could come today," I said. I turned to Angel and her girlfriend, Scarlett. "Thank you so much for the incredibly generous donation yesterday. We'll put it to good use, I assure you."
"You're welcome," Scarlett said. "We're aware of the importance of educating the public about protecting the environment."
"You are, hmm?" I asked, hoping to elicit more.
"Yes," she said. She gestured to Michaela, the diminutive woman. "Michaela was our high school teacher. She taught us well."
"Oh?" I turned to Michaela. She smiled.
"I teach a science-heavy program," she said, "with an emphasis on conservation. My students learn everything I am able to cram into their heads about the natural sciences. Scarlett and Angel have been my favorite two students." She reached out and caressed one of them, then the other, and the affection between all of them was evident.
I asked a few questions and was amazed at the responses. Finally I said, "I can't believe you can teach so much science in high school. What about the other topics?"
"It's a pretty exclusive school," Lara said. "Admittance into Michaela's program is by invitation, and there's an extensive interviewing process. The students are exceedingly motivated."
"That's just because they all want to learn how to kayak," Michaela said.
Angel's grin broadened. "On Lake Superior. Michaela doesn't just teach science. She teaches everything. Canoeing, kayaking, camping both in the summer and winter.
We talked for a few more minutes about her science program. At the end, it was Lara who said, "We're very ecologically minded."
"Are you a teacher, too?" I asked.
"Oh no," she said. "I'm a business woman. But the school exists to teach the children of our employees, and so I'm on the school board."
"I see," I said. "It is uncommon to find business leaders who show much care for environmental causes."
"Lara is uncommon in a lot of ways," Michaela said with a smile up to her wife. I was again struck at the differences between them.
"Is this why you're here today?" I asked. "Did you want GreEN to provide guest lectures for your students?"
"Oh no," Lara said. "Scarlett and Angel had such interesting things to say about you when they got home last night. You can imagine Michaela's response. We just had to meet you. Tell us about your program."
I looked between them. Normally I was more than happy to talk about GreEN, but right now, I was far more curious about them. "Got home? Do they live with you?"