Authors: Lemony Snicket
which was a very good sign. The eldest Baudelaire needed to be as awake as she could be, because the items in the closet were looking less and less like supplies, and more and more like materials for an invention.
When Violet Baudelaire was five years old, she won her first invention contest with an automatic rolling pin she'd fashioned out of a broken window shade and six pairs of roller skates. As the judges placed the gold medal around her neck, one of them said to her, "I bet you could invent something with both hands tied behind your back," and Violet smiled proudly. She knew, of course, that the judge did not mean that he was going to tie her up, but merely that she was so skilled at inventing that she could probably build something even with substantial interference, a phrase which here means "something getting in her way." The eldest Baudelaire had proved the judge right dozens of times, of course, inventing everything from a lockpick to a welding torch with the substantial interference of being in a hurry and not having the right tools. But Violet thought she had never had as much substantial interference as the lingering effects of anesthesia as she squinted at the objects in the supply closet and tried to focus on what her siblings were saying. "Violet," Klaus said, "I know that the anesthesia hasn't completely worn off, but we need you to try to invent something." "Yes," Violet said faintly, rubbing her eyes with her hands. "I ... know." "We'll help you all we can," Klaus said. "Just tell us what to do. The fire is consuming this entire hospital, and we have to get out of here quickly." "Rallam," Sunny added, which meant "And Olaf's associates are chasing us." "Open ... the window," Violet said with difficulty, pointing to the window in the corner. Klaus helped Violet lean against the wall, so he could step over to the window without letting her fall. He opened the window and looked outside. "It looks like we're on the third floor," he said, "or maybe the fourth. There's smoke in the air, so it's hard to tell. We're not so high up, but it's still too far to jump." "Climb?" Sunny asked. "There's an intercom speaker right below us," Klaus said. "I suppose we could hang on to that and climb down to the bushes below, but we'd be climbing in front of a huge crowd. The doctors and nurses are helping the patients escape, and there's Hal, and that reporter from The Daily Punctilio and--" The middle Baudelaire was interrupted by a faint sound coming from outside the hospital. "We are Volunteers Fighting Disease, And we're cheerful all day long. If someone said that we were sad, That person would be wrong. " "And the Volunteers Fighting Disease," Klaus continued. "They're waiting at the entrance to the hospital, just like Mattathias told them to. Can you invent something to fly over them?" Violet frowned and closed her eyes, standing still for a moment as the volunteers continued singing. "We visit people who are sick, And try to make them smile, Even if their noses bleed, Or if they cough up bile. " "Violet?" Klaus asked. "You're not falling asleep again, are you?" "No," Violet said. "I'm ... thinking. We need ... to distract ... the crowd ... before we ... climb down." The children heard a faint roar from beyond the closet door. "Kesalf," Sunny said, which meant "That's Olaf's associate. It sounds like it's entering the Ward for People with Nasty Rashes. We'd better hurry." "Klaus," Violet said, and opened her eyes. "Open those boxes ... of rubber bands. Start to string . .. them together... to make ... a cord." "Tra la la, Fiddle dee dee, Hope you get well soon. Ho ho ho, hee hee hee, Have a heart-shaped balloon. " Klaus looked down and watched the volunteers giving balloons out to the hospital patients who had been evacuated from the hospital. "But how will we distract the crowd?" he asked. "I ... don't know," Violet admitted, and looked down at the floor. "I'm having ... trouble focusing my ... inventing skills." "Help," Sunny said. "Don't cry for help, Sunny," Klaus said. "No one will hear us." "Help," Sunny insisted, and took off her white medical coat. Opening her mouth wide, she bit down on the fabric, ripping a small strip off the coat with her teeth. Then she held up the strip of white cloth, and handed it to Violet. "Ribbon," she said, and Violet gave her a weary smile. With unsteady fingers, the eldest Baudelaire tied her hair up to keep it out of her eyes, using the thin strip of fabric instead of a hair ribbon. She closed her eyes again, and then nodded. "I know ... it's a bit silly," Violet said. "I think ... it did help, Sunny. Klaus ... get to work ... on the rubber bands. Sunny--can you open ... one of those cans of soup?" "Treen," Sunny said, which meant "Yes-- I opened one earlier, to help decode the anagrams." "Good," Violet replied. With her hair up in a ribbon--even if the ribbon was spurious--her voice sounded stronger and more confident. "We need ... an empty can ... as quickly as ... possible." "We visit people who are ill, And try to make them laugh, Even when the doctor says He must saw them in half. We sing and sing all night and day, And then we sing some more. We sing to boys with broken bones And girls whose throats are sore. " As the members of V.F.D. continued their cheerful song, the Baudelaires worked quickly. Klaus opened a box of rubber bands and began stringing them together, Sunny began to gnaw at the top of a can of soup, and Violet went to the sink and splashed water on her face to try to make herself as alert as possible. Finally, by the time the volunteers were singing "Tra la la, Fiddle dee dee, Hope you get well soon. Ho ho ho, hee hee hee, Have a heart-shaped balloon. " Klaus had a long cord of rubber bands curled at his feet like a snake, Sunny had taken the top off a can of soup and was pouring it down the sink, and Violet was staring anxiously at the bottom of the closet door, from which a very thin wisp of smoke was crawling out. "The fire is in the hallway," Violet said, as the children heard another roar from the hallway, "and so is Olaf's henchperson. We have only a few moments." "The cord is all ready," Klaus said, "but how can we distract the crowd with an empty soup can?" "It's not an empty soup can," Violet said, "not anymore. Now it's a spurious intercom. Sunny, poke one hole in the bottom of the can." "Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity," Sunny said, but she did as Violet asked and poked her sharpest tooth through the bottom of the can. "Now," Violet said, "you two hold this near the window. Don't let the crowd see it. They have to think my voice is coming out of the intercom." Klaus and Sunny held the empty soup can near the window, and Violet leaned in and stuck her head inside it, as if it were a mask. The eldest Baudelaire took a deep breath to gather her courage, and then she began to speak. From inside the can her voice sounded scratchy and faint, as if she were talking with a piece of aluminum foil over her mouth, which was precisely how she wanted to sound. "Attention!" Violet announced, before the volunteers could sing the verse about singing to men with measles. "This is Babs. Mattathias has resigned due to personal problems, so I am once again the Head of Human Resources. The Baudelaire murderers and arsonists have been spotted in the unfinished wing of the hospital. We require everyone's assistance in making sure they do not escape. Please rush over there right away. That is all." Violet pulled her head out of the can, and looked at her siblings. "Do you think it worked?" she asked. Sunny opened her mouth to answer, but she was interrupted by the voice of the bearded volunteer. "Did you hear that?" the children heard him say. "The criminals are over in the unfinished half of the hospital. Come on, everyone." "Maybe some of us should stay here at the front entrance, just in case," said a voice the Baudelaires recognized as Hal's. Violet stuck her head back into the can. "Attention!" she announced. "This is Babs, the Head of Human Resources. No one should stay at the front entrance to the hospital. It's too dangerous. Proceed at once to the unfinished wing. That is all." "I can see the headline now," said the reporter from The Daily Punctilio. "'MURDERERS CAPTURED IN UNFINISHED HALF OF HOSPITAL BY WELL-ORGANIZED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.' Wait until the readers of The Daily Punctilio see that!" There was a cheer from the crowd, which faded as they walked away from the front of Heimlich Hospital. "It worked," Violet said. "We fooled them. We're as good at tricking people as Olaf is." "And at disguises," Klaus said. "Anagrams," Sunny said. "And lying to people," Violet said, thinking of Hal, and the shopkeeper at Last Chance General Store and all the Volunteers Fighting Disease. "Maybe we're becoming villains after all." "Don't say that," Klaus said. "We're not villains. We're good people. We had to do tricky things in order to save our lives." "Olaf has to do tricky things," Violet said, "to save his life." "Different," Sunny said. "Maybe it's not different," Violet said sadly. "Maybe--" Violet was interrupted by an angry roar coming from just outside the closet door. Olaf's overweight assistant had reached the supply closet and was now fumbling at the door with its enormous hands. "We can discuss this later," Klaus said. "We have to get out of here right now." "We're not going to climb," Violet said, "not with such a skinny, rubbery cord. We're going to bounce." "Bounce?" Sunny asked doubtfully. "Plenty of people bounce from high places on long, rubbery cords just for fun," Violet said, "so I'm sure we can do it to escape. I'll tie the cord to the faucet with the Devil's Tongue knot, and we'll each take turns jumping out the window. The cord should catch us before we hit the ground, and bounce us up, and down, and up, and down, more and more gently each time. Eventually we'll get to the bottom safely, and then we'll toss it back up to the next person." "It sounds risky," Klaus said. "I'm not sure the cord is long enough." "It is risky," Violet agreed, "but not as risky as a fire." The associate rattled the door furiously, making a large crack right near the lock. Black smoke began to pour through the crack as if the assistant were pouring ink into the closet, as Violet hurriedly tied the cord to the faucet and then tugged on it to make sure it was secure. "I'll go first," she said. "I invented it, so I'd better test it." "No," Klaus said. "We're not taking turns." "Together," Sunny agreed. "If we all go down together," Violet said, "I'm not sure the cord will hold." "We're not leaving anyone behind," Klaus said firmly. "Not this time. Either we all escape, or none of us do." "But if none of us do," Violet said tearfully, "then there won't be any Baudelaires left. Olaf will have won." Klaus reached into his pocket and brought out a sheet of paper. He unfolded it, and his sisters could see that it was page thirteen of the Snicket file. He pointed to the photograph of the Baudelaire parents and the sentence that was printed below it. "'Because of the evidence discussed on page nine,'" he read out loud, "'experts now suspect that there may in fact be one survivor of the fire, but the survivor's whereabouts are unknown.' We've got to survive, too--so we can find out what happened, and bring Olaf to justice." "But if we take turns," Violet said frantically, "there's a better chance that one of us will survive." "We're not leaving anyone behind," Klaus said firmly. "That's what makes us different from Olaf." Violet thought for a moment, and nodded. "You're right," she said. Olaf's associate kicked at the door, and the crack grew bigger. The children could see a tiny orange light shining in the hallway and realized that the fire and the associate must have reached the door at the same time. "I'm scared," Violet said. "I'm frightened," Klaus said. "Sheer terror," Sunny said, and the associate kicked the door again, forcing a few sparks through the crack in the door. The Baudelaires looked at one another, and each child grabbed the rubber band cord with one hand. With their other hands they clasped one another, and then, without another word, they leaped out of the window of Heimlich Hospital. STOP There are many things in this world I do not know. I do not know how butterflies get out of their cocoons without damaging their wings. I do not know why anyone would boil vegetables when roasting them is tastier. I do not know how to make olive oil, and I do not know why dogs bark before an earthquake, and I do not know why some people voluntarily choose to climb mountains where it is freezing and difficult to breathe, or live in the suburbs, where the coffee is watery and all of the houses look alike. I do not know where the Baudelaire children are now, or if they are safe or if they are even alive. But there are some things I do know, and one of them is that the window of the supply closet in the Ward for People with Nasty Rashes of Heimlich Hospital was not on the third floor or the fourth floor, as Klaus had guessed. The window was on the second floor, so that when the three children dropped through the smoky air, clinging to the rubber band cord for dear life, Violet's invention worked perfectly. Like a yo-yo, the children bounced gently up and down, brushing their feet against one of the bushes planted in front of the hospital, and after a few bounces it was safe to drop to the ground and hug each other with relief. "We made it," Violet said. "It was a close call, but we survived." The Baudelaires looked behind them at the hospital, and saw just how close a call it had been. The building looked like a fiery ghost, with great bursts of flame coming from the windows, and oceans of smoke pouring from great gaping holes in the walls. The children could hear glass shattering as the windows burned away, and the crackle of wood as the floors fell through. It occurred to the children that their own house must have looked like this on the day it burned down, and they stepped back from the burning building and huddled together as the air grew thick with ashes and smoke, obscuring the hospital from view. "Where can we go?" Klaus asked, shouting over the roar of the fire. "Any minute now, the crowd will figure out that we're not in the unfinished half of the hospital, and return here." "Run!" Sunny shrieked. "But we can't even see where we're going!" Violet cried. "The whole area is filling up with smoke!" "Stay down!" Klaus said, dropping to the ground and beginning to crawl. "In The Encyclopedia of Escaping Arson, the author wrote that there's more oxygen closer to the ground, so we can breathe more easily. But we need to get to some kind of shelter right away." "Where will we find some kind of shelter, in this empty landscape?" Violet asked, crawling behind her brother. "The hospital is the only building for miles, and it's burning to the ground!" "I don't know," Klaus said, coughing loudly, "but we can't breathe in this smoke for long!" "Hurry up!" the Baudelaires heard a voice call out of the smoke. "This way!" A long, black shape emerged from the smoky air, and the