“And don't forget class, your first semester reports are due on Monday,” said Mr. Anderson followed by the groans of his students. The bell rang shortly afterward and the snap of books shutting and the shuffle of bags being filled, zipped, and collected, was immediate. As the well dressed students of the Ivy Ridge prep school passed by their journalism teacher, each one gave his or her version of a sigh at the imminent due date on a large portion of their semester grade. Never mind that they had weeks to complete the project.
All the students had vacated the class room save for one. A single rather morose looking young girl sat at her desk still with notebook open, jotting at notes, seemingly last minute ideas coming to mind. “What is it today, Miss Meadows?” asked the professor as he leaned against his desk, observing the troubled student by the look of her furrowed brows. The agitation reached beyond her face down to the stooped shoulders of her blue sweater, the shifting of her hips in her short blue skirt, the scratching at the sheer barely black pantyhose that encased her long slender legs, even the way she wiggled her toes against their nylon prison all the while having slipped out of her school dress shoes, an Ivy Ridge Prep dress code violation it might be noteworthy to add. The professor chose not to call her out on the infraction at this moment. The pretty young girl appeared not to hear her journalism teacher's question, as she frustratingly struggled with some inner demon while scribbling in her notebook. Mr. Anderson tried another approach. “Miss Meadows, you're aware it is a violation for girls to remove their shoes in the classroom?”
Pausing in her scribblings, the girl's cheeks stained pink, and her toes searched blindly beneath the desk for her shoes, sneakily snaking back into them, with the help of her slender fingers, slipping the back up over her heels. “Sorry!” she squeaked, causing her cheeks to grow an even darker pink. Truthfully she probably wasn't even aware that her devilish feet had shod the confines of her dress shoes, or even that her toes were seeking the exit to the all encompassing nylons that surrounded them. She had been so involved in her contemplations that the instincts of her adventuresome spirit must have allowed her body to secretly fight the confines of her girlish attire.
“It's just not very ladylike, Miss Meadows. Plus, we wouldn't want to see you getting a run in your stockings,” added Mr Anderson, trying to instill the good values that came with being a student at the prestigious and highly elite Ivy Ridge Prep Academy.
“Heaven forbid,” mumbled the girl under her breath at the shocking thought at getting a run in her poor stockings, a dreadful key feature in a girl's dress code at the Academy. As if the nylons heard her comment they responded vengefully with an itch that run the lengths of her long thighs. The girl desperately scratched for relief and the stockings, satisfied with their vengeance on the petulant young girl, seemingly smiled.
Her sarcastic mumble was lost on her professor. “What was that?” he asked.
“Nothing,” replied the girl with a sigh. She surrendered inwardly to her fate that she would be a prisoner for pantyhose until the day she left the dreaded halls of Ivy Ridge Prep.
“I see,” added Mr Anderson absently approaching her desk to see what is was that she was working on. Scribbled notes, addresses, dates, locations, names, what appeared to be quotes, newspaper clippings, and even a couple photos were scattered over the small desk she was working at. “I thought we had agreed that this was a little out of your league, Dawn.”
With her mind still engrossed on the subject that scattered her desk, Dawn hardly realized the professor had approached to see her work. Scandalized, she protectively drew her slender arms around the pile of work, ushering it together into a disorganized pile at the center of her desk, huddling over it protectively. “You don't think it's a problem?” she responded defiantly looking up at her teacher, while brushing errant strands of her lovely blond hair from smooth face and fierce green eyes.
“I do think it's a problem,” agreed Mr Anderson. “I just don't think it's an appropriate subject for your semester story,” he added undoing his agreement.
“So what, I'm supposed to cover cats getting stuck in trees, or the arts and crafts field of old ladies?”
“Now I didn't say that either. And I can hear the frustration in your voice, Dawn, but there is a middle ground in journalism. I'm not saying that you have to do a light cute and fluffy piece for your story. I can certainly tell your passion for truth and justice won't ever allow you to cover the 'cats stuck in trees' as you say. But I also think you need to understand that this story you're trying to follow is out of your league,” coached Mr Anderson. “At this time,” he amended.
“That's not fair, I've got all this information, and I've obviously it's leading to something very very big. You cannot just say that because I am in high school that this story is out of my league,” she argued.
“Once again, you are correct. The stuff you have gathered here is good, and it if I had a bit more time to look it over, I might agree with you that it is certainly leading to something corrupt, but at the same time Dawn, you are still and high school, and however difficult it is to hear, that is a factor. I mean, if you're struggling to stay in your school uniform, how are you going to to handle representing the academy on an official assignment,” Mr Anderson returned with the heavy truth.
“What if I promise to adhere to all school policies and put on my best behavior. I promise not to embarrass the school!” Dawn began to beg.
“Without getting past the dress code issues, Dawn, we haven't even gotten to the possibilities for danger here. The department is never going to allow me to authorize a student to investigate a story that could very well prove to be dangerous, and then have the academy's name linked to the matter,” replied the professor in a tone that intended to the settle things.
Hearing this tone in his voice, Dawn sighed, “fine.” With an unhidden pout to her lips, she shoveled the pile of her research into her bag and half heartedly got up from the desk and headed for the school common to stew over her injured ego during lunch. When she got to her favorite spot under the willow tree in the school commons, Dawn found a few of her classmates gathered there, among them, Hannah. It's not to say that Hannah and Dawn were enemies, but a rivalry existed. Whether born out of competition, jealousy, or a cocktail of the darker human driving forces, Hannah subtly did not like Dawn. She was just as pretty, just as rich, and arguably just as good a reporter. Perhaps this was just the problem. Having somebody so similar to you can begin to feel like an irritation. And while Dawn did not outwardly foster hostile feelings toward Hannah, her polite and cheery demeanor toward Hannah might have been mistaken for a subtle poke at Hannah's more quick to flare temper. After all, nothing is more irritating in a competitor than when they trump you by just being a better person. Dawn would have enjoyed that little secret pleasure, Hannah believed. The other girls that Hannah complained about this “Goodwill Dawn” persona to shrugged it off and told Hannah she was over analyzing a situation and to remember that Dawn had lost her parents only a year prior to a tragic accident. Ever since Dawn had lived alone in the giant Meadows estate with only the caretakers. She drove her green jaguar to and from school and mostly kept her happy face on, never quite liking to talk about the loss of her parents to the other girls. This explanation often got Hannah to pull back on her jealous remarks toward Dawn's good person, but it never quite settled the matter to her internally. The rivalry to her, was very real between the two, and always simmered just below the surface, and Hannah knew even when others dismissed her accusations, that both girls were aware of it, and fostered it in their own private ways.
“Hey Dawn,” greeted the small group of girls sitting under the willow tree. They had their lunches open before them, nibbling away in the light spring breeze. Hannah noted the morose composure that Dawn was presenting, and recalled that she had stayed late to talk with Mr. Anderson. “What happened with the professor?” she asked.
“Huh? Oh, I had another go with him about my story on the chemical factory,” replied Dawn flatly.
“Doesn't sound like it went so well,” consoled Hannah, not betraying the pleasure of victory she was feeling.
“No, it did not, and I cannot believe that he is treating me this way! I have so much evidence gathered that I can nearly prove that they are breaking a number of laws, endangering the environment in their disposal methods, paying politicians to look the other way, and possibly even endangering human life the waste they are creating.” The emotions bubbled up after Hannah opened the door for Dawn to speak her mind.
“So what's the problem?” asked Hannah.
“Well, I need to get some first hand account of the facility. I need pictures. I need to get inside and get some pictures.”
“But, Mr Anderson has forbidden me to continue my investigation. He's trying the to cover the school's behind. He gave me some line about embarrassing the school if I did not follow procedures, or make a bad impression on the Academy if I was out of dress code. He basically said I was too young and naive for a story this big and potentially dangerous,” sighed Dawn.
“You think it could be dangerous?” asked Hannah.
“I dunno,” Dawn paused. “I guess I had not really thought about it until now.”
“Well I say you do it,” exclaimed Hannah.
“I say you do it. Right now. Get over to that factory and get the evidence you need to shut them down for good. That is what a true reporter would do. You cannot let truth or justice be trampled just because the board members of Ivy Ridge are worried about one of their girls being spotted with a run in her stockings. In your line of work, you're going to have to get used to getting a few runs in your stockings.” Hannah trumpeted her inspirational speech.
All the girls sitting around the willow tree were entranced by Hannah's words, including Dawn who after many moments of contemplative silence responded. “You know, Hannah, you're right. I cannot let this one go. High school girl or not, I am going to bring about a little truth and justice. I'm going to go get a few runs in my stockings,” she said borrowing Hannah's metaphor with a smirk. “Let the old fat cats on the board and even Mr Anderson deal with the embarrassment on the precious reputation.” Dawn stood defiantly while the girls at the picnic table rallied a cheer for Dawn's courage. Hannah folded her arms across her chest and nodded in approval at Dawn.
After Dawn had left to go to her car, the swelling proud feelings slowly dissipated among the girls, and some of them began to get back to reality, and began to ask what if Dawn was making a mistake and what if there really was danger, what if she herself was putting herself in danger? Hannah wound them safely back around her finger by telling them that a true reporter does not let herself be stopped over such trivial matters. Dawn was showing the courage that a great reporter has. Danger cannot stop truth and justice. What Hannah kept to herself was that a young girl needs to be careful not to get too many runs in her stockings, lest she expire. This grim metaphor Hannah kept to herself with an inward smile at the danger that she had just convinced her rival to throw herself into.
The growl of Dawn's green jaguar engine eased to a soft purr as she parked discreetly near the “Chem-Riot” facility. The factory was the headquarters of operations for a corporation headed by the Riot family, specializing in fuel and energy solutions. The facility was on the outskirts of the city, near a large body of water that was victim to its waste, which Dawn was certain was more dangerous than the reports submitted to auditors detailed.
An opportune low and open window featuring a crate beneath it was a testament to Dawn's luck and provided the teenage sleuth her clandestine entrance to the facility. While she could have used the door, she was hoping to keep her visit regarded as more of an unknown visit. After checking to make sure that she had her tiny digital camera, Dawn scrambled up the box and in through the rusty old window, doing her very best to keep the red rust from soiling her crisp blue sweater and skirt or getting too many runs in her off black pantyhose. Before lowering herself down on the inside of the building, she slipped her school dress shoes off her little feet, and dropped them back outside onto the grass. Dropping down onto her stocking feet allowed her a silent entrance and mobility in the factory. From the looks of the floor, it was going to be hell on her stocking clad feet, but knowing she had a drawer full of them back at home due to the evilness of her school's strict dress code gave her solace in ruining this one pair.
Turning around to begin her investigation, Dawn bumped headlong into the chest of a very large and seemingly very unfriendly security guard. Brushing the stray blond locks out of her face, she looked up at him saucer green eyes. Grabbing her roughly by the arm, he waited for no explanation and hustled her along with little regard for her barefoot circumstance or the squeaks and whimpers she let out as the unfriendly floor punished her. Arriving at the office room of the factory, Dawn was ushered through the door and forced into a chair by the security guard. A very important looking man sat behind the desk and was eying Dawn with grim suspicion. She suddenly felt very vulnerable without her shoes. Such a small detail in her entire school uniform, but their lack left her feeling very incomplete in a polished blue sweater and skirt combination, paired with her barely black pantyhose. She curled her toes as if embarrassed to show off her feet. It made her feel very naive, small, and at this person's mercy. It was amazing the power a pair of shoes had, and the weakness they left in their absence!
“Who are you?” asked the man sitting behind the desk after looking a squirming Dawn up and down for many long and silent moments. Dawn swallowed and took a deep breath.
“I'm... I'm... my name is Dawn Meadows, I'm a student at the Ivy Ridge Prep Academy, I'm studying journalism, I'm doing... I'm doing a story on your factory... I'm sorry... to not have called ahead,” stammered Dawn.
“A teenage reporter? Can we get this verified?” asked the man with raised eyebrows.
“Verified? Umm...” Dawn licked her lips, mind racing. “Yes! I mean, of course, if I could just make a call!” she replied, heart racing. The man acquiesced her request by sliding the desk phone in front of her, gesturing for her use. Taking a deep breath, Dawn picked up the phone, wishing she could hide the fact that her hand was visibly trembling. Dialing she listened to the rings on the other end, and spoke when the person answered. The conversation went back and forth several times and eventually Dawn's face took on a defeated look. She had contacted Mr. Anderson in hopes for him vouching for her as a student of the Academy but unfortunately for her, Hannah had apparently already gone to him on the matter and revealed that she had gone off to complete her investigation even after his direct forbidding. Expecting that she would call when she landed herself in trouble, Mr Anderson refused her request for backing of the Academy and that she should have known better.
Before hanging up the phone, the office manager had ushered Dawn to give him the phone. In her defeated daze, she could not help but hand the receiver over. The manager simply asked to whom was he speaking and if indeed this young girl was a student of the Ivy Ridge Prep Academy. Mr Anderson replied to the manager's question with inquiries of his own regarding the girl's attire. He asked how she was dressed, the state of her clothing, including if she was wearing shoes and the status of her nylons. At these questions, the manager had his guards grab Dawn's slender pantyhose clad legs which sent the poor young girl into a panic, and had them inspect the soles of her stocking feet. This inspection revealed the numerous runs that had opened up on her soles as a result of her being marched through the factory barefoot.
After relaying this report to Mr. Anderson, the manager listened to his reply which was that the Ivy Ridge Prep Academy was an esteemed private school with a strong reputation and strict guidelines. He assured the manager that the girls of the Academy knew these guidelines and always represented the Academy with the ladylike grace and image that was expected. From the description given of Dawn's personal appearance, she most certainly could not be a student from Ivy Ridge.
While Dawn could not hear what Mr. Anderson was saying to the factory manager, she could guess after being grabbed bodily by the guards and inspected, and by the grim facial expression of the man on the phone that the news wasn't good. In a desperate attempt to help her case, she was fumbling with her purse, pulling forth a stretchy and wrinkly pair of nylons, in hopes of being allowed a second chance at her impression if she could just be excused for a moment to change into them. Her hands shook so badly however, that she dropped them on the floor. Cursing herself, she bent down to pick them up, but when she stood up, she found two grim face security guards surrounding her. They each grabbed an arm and painfully hustled her out of the office without so much as a word. One had a large coil of rope slung over his shoulder with a nasty looking metal hook on the end of it.
The factory manager stood in the threshold of his doorway as Dawn was unceremoniously marched away. “I'm not sure what you were hoping to uncover here today with your clandestine visit, but it would only be fair of me to give you a story that you most certainly would have liked to have revealed to the public!” he called after her. Whatever he was referring to, Dawn did not like the sound of it, and she was dreadfully sure it had something to do with the coil of rope with the nasty hook hanging over the guard's shoulder.
Dawn was marched down a catwalk that ran over a giant iron vat that was filled with a bubbling green liquid. The smell was horrifying matched with an oppressive heat that rose up, warming the metal catwalk above. The guard with the rope began attaching it to a small mechanical crane, while the other gripped Dawn around the arms from behind holding her in a fruitless struggle, despited her best attempts to kick and squirm free. All the while she could not take her gaze off the hook, the crane, suspended over the vat of toxic waste. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize what was happening, but the truth of the matter made Dawn's stomach shrivel. It was too horrifying to think, to imagine.
She was shaken from her denial when the guard who had been attaching the rope, approached her in the clutches of his partner. Reaching forth, he grabbed a fistful of her long blond hair and dragged her over to the dangling hook. Dawn cried out in pain as she tried to move willingly in the direction to reduce the strain on her scalp and the searing pain, but the shock and unexpectedness of the act caught her off guard, and she always seemed two steps behind, her poor scalp paying heavily for her slowness to react. Ignoring Dawn's begging and pleas, the guard wrapped the length of her hair around the hook again and again.
With no apology for his actions toward the scared tear filled green eyes, the guard gave Dawn's slender body a shove off the catwalk where she was suddenly dangling in unimaginable horror over a scalding vat of green toxic waste by nothing more than the silky long twirl of her blond hair! The cruelty in the physics of gravity caused such a pain to explode in her head at having to support the full weight of her slender body by nothing more than her hair that her vision was reduced to flashing spots before her eyes. Dawn let out a cry of agony as she scrambled with her arms above her head, grabbing at the iron hook with her slender hands and well manicured nails, desperate to get a hold of it, and pull with all the strength she could muster. If only she could pull herself up to relieve the agonizing pull on her scalp, alas the slender arms she had to work with were pretty, not practical, and a terrible time to figure this out. This truth did not deter her from trying with all her might as only hanging by your hair can inspire.
As if her woes could not get any greater, one of the guards pushed a button up on the catwalk that caused a groaning noise followed by the very real sensation that she was being lowered toward the vat of scalding toxic waste. While trying to relieve the pressure on her scalp, Dawn pulled her legs up as high as she could, trying to keep her pantyhose clad toes from dipping into the deadly vat. This strain on her body only furthered her exhaustion, but her fear and wide screaming mouth drove her body to give all it could in this moment of peril. No matter how she curled her legs into a fetal position, Dawn's delicate stocking feet dipped beneath the surface of the toxic waste with a shocking burn. She kicked her legs defiantly beneath the scalding surface of the thick toxic waste, the nylons encasing her long slender legs just soaking up the deadly stuff, cooking the doomed sleuth.
Moments later, only her head and shoulders were still above the surface of the vat. Her breasts heaved with less intensity as her body had given way to exhaustion. She had not fight left in her and her arms had given up the fight to free her hair, and dropped to her sides, beneath the deadly surface. Hanging by just her hair now, her neck was pulled taught, her pulse weak and inconsistent. Her jaw no longer screamed, had gone slack, and her green eyes, rolled in her head. The toxic waste continued to cook her as she was slowly lowered beneath the surface, the last thing to go under was the iron hook with her long blond hair roped tightly around it.
“And here you can see the dangers of not following the safety regulations in a factory. In this photo we see the bones that were fished out of this vat after a female inspection employee failed to follow the stated guidelines and accidentally fell into the vat. Comically enough as you can also see in this photo the female was fully dissolved by the vat compound except for her pantyhose, as seen hanging on the line. Thank you,” concluded the young female student, taking her seat. The class applauded.
“Thank you, Hannah, for your report on the importance and dangers of following safety regulations in the factories of America,” said Mr. Anderson in response to her semester project. Curiously, though nobody said anything about it, the seat of Dawn Meadows had been empty for the past few weeks.