Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2009

A frightening tale of

A Different Kind of Predator

Cathy Palmer-Lister

illo by Dany Frolich

I didn't at first realize what was happening.  Stalkers are nutcases who follow movie stars and Anne Murray, right?  Wrong.  They walk among us.  They go to conventions, sit among us at fan club meetings, join us for supper after the Star Trek movie....


        At the time, I had got to know Nikki (not her real name) fairly well.  She was an accomplished costumer, but quiet and soft-spoken. She joined several SF clubs and even the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, as I did, so I saw her often.  The stalker, who became known as LaRose for reasons that will soon become obvious, was also a fairly quiet fellow who joined only one of the groups so I barely knew him. When he did speak up at meetings (always from the back of the room) there was a quiet sort of intensity about him, but that was not unusual for somebody trying to make a point in his second language.  Just an ordinary guy, like the rest of us, a fan of SF movies and TV shows.


        The trouble was already well under way when I first woke up to what was happening behind the scenes of the club I shall call Trekkers.  I remember standing on the steps after a meeting and getting involved in a discussion between Nikki and another friend whom I shall call Connie.  Nikki was disturbed because the club would not ban LaRose, but Connie was saying it was better that Nikki knew where he was and what he was doing.  It was at least a safe environment, and our meetings were during the day, and circumstances were such that he wasn't likely to be able to follow her home.  The president of the Trekkers reasoned that, "He pays his dues, so I cannot send him away." He thought the roses were funny. It was a shock to me, the first of several yet to come. Ummm, a female member tells you she is being stalked, followed around by a guy who started showing up every day at the fast food place where she worked to give her roses, and this is not cause for banning?  Connie said, "At least he is in the open this way." Yeah, I guess... But Nikki was thinking of quitting the club, does that make sense?  Lose a master costumer, keep a weirdo?


        The discussion on the steps happened because Nikki was having to wait until LaRose had been gone awhile, and her friends had taken a look to be sure he wasn't lurking around a corner to see what bus she took. This is not normal. And, come on, the guy was not a life member! Just refuse to renew his membership, at least. But no, LaRose was still welcome to the club meetings, as was another member who
had in fact been banned from MonSFFA meetings because of his violent tendencies.  After this creep had smashed a couple of things at meetings, and gone on about how much fun it was to have a party in the Mount Royal Cemetery, and then finding out about LaRose, I was considering quitting, too.  But Connie's point was valid:  Don't let them win – you also pay your membership fees, your voice is just as important.  Absolutely, but MY voice was not being listened to.  Was it because I was a woman and they were males? I don't like to think so, but the evidence was starting to point that way, and now here was Nikki standing on the stairs, scared that LaRose might learn where she lived.  Did no one care what was happening to her?  She was living in fear, but the guy in charge seemed to think there was no big deal.


        Finally, Nikki did quit the club, and she changed her job, and she moved, and eventually LaRose lost her trail.

        Months later, just before noon, the school secretary appeared at my classroom door, looking white as a sheet.  "There's a guy downstairs in the office wanting to talk to you." And then, trying to make light of it, "Have you lost your love?"  She handed me a business card: Lost Loves Detective Agency. What the ?????  We have detective agencies here? Well, of course, we must.  Never really thought about it before. Geez, detectives now, at the elementary school where I teach, when did I start showing up in a TV script?


        I got the kids off to lunch and with great trepidation, made my way to the principal's office where a fellow with a very bad cold was sniffling and snuffling.  Was this some sort of joke?  Lost Loves? Well, yes, somebody had lost his love, and did I know what had become of Nikki?  Not a joke.  Maybe a false agency, but this was not a joke.  Somebody had tracked me down, and found me at my workplace – my school, full of children.  My principal was not there, she worked two schools and as luck would have it, she was in the other. She would have made mincemeat of this sniffling excuse for a detective. I was furious, and ripped into him.  How did he find me? My phone number is unlisted, Internet was new then and I wasn't on it, not many fans knew what city I lived in, never mind where I taught school, but somehow Sniffles knew exactly where I taught.  Did he go looking for me at every school for miles around? And most importantly, who had hired him to look for Nikki?   He refused to answer. Just wanted to know where Nikki was living, couldn't I just give him her phone number? I told him most emphatically that I suspected LaRose, that Nikki was not a lost love, far from it, and if anything happened to Nikki, I was reporting him and his agency to the police.  He left, still sniffling, and me so angry and upset I couldn't eat.  I'm still angry, even as I am typing this.  Sniffles couldn't find Nikki, but could find out where I taught school, and me just a casual friend of hers? Suddenly, my world had become a very unsafe place to be.


        That afternoon, I spoke with my principal.  She had started her career as a social worker, and her advice was clear and succinct: Call the cops.


        First, though, I called Nikki to warn her it wasn't over, LaRose was still out there, don't answer questions from strangers. Then I called the detective agency and told the head honcho what I had told his minion, that I was holding him and his outfit personally responsible if Larose found Nikki, and that the cops were going to be informed of this unwelcome visit to my workplace. He refused to answer my questions, and he sniffled, too.  Hmmm, small office?


        Then I drove to the local police station. I was taken aback to realize I was speaking to the duty officer through thick, probably bullet-proof glass, in a probably deliberately tiny reception area that wouldn't accommodate a crowd of three.  But this is a bedroom community!  Kids, dogs, tulips in the parks, bicycle paths! Years later, I was to learn that all sorts had bedrooms in this town, including one of the province's most notorious gangsters, Mom Boucher.  Obviously, the cops knew what evil lurks in cheerful little cities where the mascot is a big skunk in a red tuque.


        I was afraid the police would not take me seriously. At that point, I was beginning to think only women feared stalkers, and men thought we were being hysterical, but he did take a very good look at the Lost Loves business card, and he listened patiently to my tale of Nikki and LaRose.
       

"First thing to do," said the cop speaking to me through some sort of grill that distorted his voice, "is find out if this is a genuine agency." He had his doubts, too, obviously. I learned that the Sûreté du Québec, our equivalent to the State Police keeps tabs on detective agencies.  "The 'Grand quartier général' is in Montreal on Parthenais."  (Well, of course it is, duh, that's where Kathy Reichs works. I am sometimes amazed at how inept I am at joining the dots.) "Then tell your friend to get an injunction."  Knowing Nikki, I had an idea that was not going to be easy. She wasn't one to make waves.


         I met Nikki soon after at an RASC meeting, something LaRose had not clued into, and Connie being also a member, our little group had a powwow.  Connie made plans to take her to the Sûreté, but Nikki wasn't sure about the injunction.  After all, he hadn't found her.  "Yet," I added.

       

Shortly after, Nikki dropped out of everything.  She was working, going back to school, and now busy renovating an old house she had bought, so fandom went to the back burner.  But I wonder, would she have dropped all her fannish activities if LaRose had not been making her life a misery? If the club had been more supportive?


        I never did find out if the agency was legit, and though Connie seemed to think she had, I don't believe Nikki made any move toward getting an injunction against LaRose.  I never saw LaRose after the Trekkers folded.  He also dropped out of fandom.  Maybe he never was into fandom much anyway, maybe his interest was only in Nikki. I think of him sometimes, when I read of stalkers in the press.  I know now that they don't just go after the John Lennons and Ann Murrays of the world.  I get so angry and frightened.  Where is he, who is he following about now? Does he still buy roses every day for his prey?  Because that's what these stalkers are, you know, predators, and anyone of us can become prey at anytime.

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