With his cardigan sweaters, thrift-store slacks and librarian glasses, Michael Allen doesn't look the part of a rabble-rouser. But over the past year, his investigation of hundreds of curious land deals in north St. Louis led to front-page news. On his Web site, Ecology of Absence (www.eco-absence.org), Allen painstakingly documented how developer Paul McKee Jr. has assembled some 650 properties on the north side through various shell companies under names such as Blairmont and VHS Partners. Allen later reported on McKee's attempt to pass state legislation that would grant tax credits to developers who'd acquired tracts of land totaling more than 100 acres (read: him). McKee has yet to make public his plans for north city but has expressed frustration that Allen's exposure may now make it impossible for him to assemble additional properties. Kind of reminds you of the villain's final confession in those old episodes of Scooby-Doo
: "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!"