A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital (5 page)

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
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Chapter Seven

"I never thought I'd live to see the day," Violet said, and took another look at page thirteen of the file. The Baudelaire parents looked back at her, and for a moment it seemed to Violet her father would step out of the photograph and say, "There you are, Ed. Where have you been?" Ed was short for Thomas Alva Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, and it was a special nickname only used by her father, but the man in the photograph did not move, of course, but only stood smiling in front of 667 Dark Avenue. "Me neither," Klaus said. "I never thought we'd see our parents again." The middle Baudelaire looked at his mother's coat, which had a secret pocket on the inside. In the secret pocket, she often kept a small pocket dictionary, which she would take out whenever she encountered a word she did not know. Because Klaus was so interested in reading, she had promised that someday she would give the pocket dictionary to him, and now it seemed to Klaus that his mother was about to reach into her coat and put the small, leatherbound book in his hand. "Neither me," Sunny said. She looked at her parents' smiles, and suddenly remembered, for the first time since the fire, a song that her mother and father used to sing together, when it was time for Sunny to go to sleep. The song was called "The Butcher Boy," and the Baudelaire parents would take turns singing the verses, her mother singing in her breathy, high voice, and her father in his, which was as low and deep as a foghorn. "The Butcher Boy" was the perfect way for Sunny to end the day, safe and cozy in the Baudelaire crib. "This photograph must have been taken a long time ago," Violet said. "Look how much younger they look. They aren't even wearing their wedding rings." "'Because of the evidence discussed on page nine,'" Klaus said, reading the sentence typed above the photograph, "'experts now suspect that there may in fact be one survivor of the fire, but the survivor's whereabouts are unknown.'" He stopped, and looked at his sisters. "What does that mean?" he said, in a very faint voice. "Does that mean one of our parents is still alive?" "Well, well, well," said a familiar and sneering voice, and the children heard the odd, tottering footsteps walk straight toward them. "Look what we have here." The Baudelaire orphans had been so shocked by what they had found that they had forgotten about the person breaking into the Library of Records, and now they looked up to see a tall skinny figure walking down the B aisle STOP. It was a person they had seen recently, and one they had hoped never to see again. There are many different ways of describing this person, including "Count Olaf's girlfriend," "the Baudelaire children's former guardian," "the city's sixth most important financial advisor," "a former resident of 667 Dark Avenue," and several phrases that are far too nasty to be placed in a book. But the name she preferred was the one that came snarling out of her lipsticked mouth. "I am Esme Gigi Geniveve Squalor," said Esme Gigi Geniveve Squalor, as if the Baudelaires would ever forget her, no matter how hard they tried. She stopped walking and stood in front of the Baudelaires, who saw immediately why her footsteps had been so odd and tottering. For as long as the children had known her, Esme Squalor had been a slave to fashion, a phrase which here means "dressed in incredibly expensive, and often incredibly absurd, outfits." This evening she was wearing a long coat made from the fur of a number of animals that had been killed in particularly unpleasant ways, and she was carrying a handbag shaped like an eye, just like the tattoo her boyfriend had on his left ankle. She wore a hat with a small veil that hung in front of her face, as if she had blown her nose with a black lacy handkerchief, and then forgotten to remove it, and on her feet she had a pair of shoes with stiletto heels. A stiletto is a small, slender knife resembling a dagger, such as might be carried by a carnival performer or a murderer, and the word "stiletto" has been used to describe a woman's shoe with a very long and narrow heel. In this case, however, the phrase "shoes with stiletto heels" actually refers to a pair of shoes made with a small, slender knife where each heel should be. The stilettos were pointing straight down, so that Esme viciously stabbed the floor of the Library of Records with each step, and occasionally the stilettos stuck, so the wicked woman had to pause and yank them out of the floor, which explained why her footsteps were so odd and tottering. These shoes happened to be the absolute latest fashion, but the Baudelaires had more important things to do than leaf through magazines describing what was in and what was out, so they could only stare at Esme's shoes and wonder why she was wearing footwear that was so violent and impractical. "This is a pleasant surprise," Esme said. "Olaf asked me to break in here and destroy the Baudelaire file, but now we can destroy the Baudelaires as well." The children looked at each other in shock. "You and Olaf know about the file?" Violet asked. Esme laughed in a particularly nasty way, and, from behind her veil, smiled a particularly nasty smile. "Of course we know about it," she snarled. "That's why I'm here--to destroy all thirteen pages." She took one odd, tottering step toward the Baudelaires. "That's why we destroyed Jacques Snicket." She took another stabbing step down the aisle. "And that's why we're going to destroy you." She looked down at her shoe and shook her foot wildly to get the blade out of the library floor. "Heimlich Hospital is about to have three new patients," she said, "but I'm afraid it'll be too late for any doctor to save their lives." Klaus stood up, and followed his sisters as they began to step away from the slave to fashion who was moving slowly toward them. "Who survived the fire?" he asked Esme, holding up the page from the file. "Is one of our parents alive?" Esme frowned, and teetered on her stiletto heels as she tried to snatch the page away. "Did you read the file?'" she demanded in a terrible voice. " What does the file say?" "You'll never find out!" Violet cried, and turned to her siblings. "Run!" The Baudelaires ran, straight down the aisle past the rest of the B files, rounding the corner past the cabinet that read "Byron to Byzantine" and around to the section of the library where all of the C files were stored. "We're running the wrong way," Klaus said. "Egress," Sunny agreed, which meant something along the lines of, "Klaus is right--the exit is the other way." "So is Esme," Violet replied. "Somehow, we'll have to go around her." "I'm coming for you!" Esme cried, her voice coming over the top of the file cabinets. "You'll never escape, orphans!" The Baudelaires paused at the cabinet reading "Conch to Condy's Fluid," which are a fancy seashell and a complex chemical compound, and listened as Esme's heels clattered in pursuit. "We're lucky she's wearing those ridiculous shoes," Klaus said. "We can run much faster than she can." "As long as she doesn't think of taking them off," Violet said. "She's almost as clever as she is greedy." "Shh!" Sunny said, and the Baudelaires listened as Esme's footsteps abruptly stopped. The children huddled together as they heard Olaf's girlfriend mutter to herself for a moment, and then the three youngsters began to hear a terrifying sequence of sounds. There was a long, screechy creak, and then a booming crash, and then another long, screechy creak, and another booming crash, and the pair of sounds continued, getting louder and louder. The youngsters looked at one another in puzzlement, and then, just in the nick of time, the oldest Baudelaire figured out what the sound was. "She's knocking over the file cabinets!" Violet cried, pointing over the top of Confetti to Consecration. "They're toppling over like dominos!" Klaus and Sunny looked where their sister was pointing and saw that she was right. Esme had pushed over one file cabinet, which had pushed over another, which had pushed over another, and now the heavy metal cabinets were crashing toward the children like a wave crashing on the shore. Violet grabbed her siblings and pulled them out of the path of a falling file cabinet. With a creak and a crash, the cabinet fell to the floor, right where they had been standing. The three children breathed a sigh of relief, having just narrowly avoided being crushed beneath files on congruent triangles, coniferous trees, conjugated verbs, and two hundred other topics. "I'm going to flatten you!" Esme called, starting on another line of cabinets. "Olaf and I are going to have a romantic breakfast of Baudelaire pancakes!" "Run!" Sunny cried, but her siblings needed no urging. The three children hurried down the rest of the C aisle, as the cabinets creaked and crashed all around them. "Where can we go?" Violet cried. "To the D aisle!" Klaus answered, but changed his mind as he saw another row of cabinets begin to topple. "No! The E aisle!" "B?" Violet asked, finding it difficult to hear over the sounds of the cabinets. "E!" Klaus cried. "E as in Exit!" The Baudelaires ran down E as in Exit, but when they reached the last cabinet, the row was becoming F as in Falling File Cabinets, G as in Go the Other Way! and H as in How in the World Are We Going to Escape? Before long, the children found themselves as far from the anteroom door as they possibly could be. As the cabinets crashed around them, and Esme cackled wildly and stabbed the floor in pursuit, the three youngsters found themselves in the area of the Library of Records where information was deposited. As the room creaked and crashed around them, the siblings looked first at the basket of papers, then at the bowl of paper clips, then the mouth of the chute, and finally at one another. "Violet," Klaus said hesitantly, "do you think you can invent something out of paper clips and a basket that could help us get out of here?" "I don't have to," Violet said. "That chute will serve as an exit." "But you won't fit in there," Klaus said. "I'm not even sure I will." "You're never going to get out of this room alive, you imbeciles!" Esme cried, using a horrible word in her horrible voice. "We'll have to try," Violet said. "Sunny, go first." "Prapil," Sunny said doubtfully, but she went first, crawling easily into the chute and staring out through the darkness at her siblings. "Now you, Klaus," Violet said, and Klaus, removing his glasses so they wouldn't break, followed his sister. It was a tight fit, and it took some manuevering, but eventually the middle Baudelaire worked his way through the mouth of the chute. "This won't work," Klaus said to Violet, peering around him. "It'll be tough to crawl up through the chute, the way it's slanted. Besides, there's no way you'll fit." "Then I'll find another way," Violet said. Her voice was calm, but Klaus and Sunny could see, through the hole in the wall, that her eyes were wide with fear. "That's out of the question," Klaus said. "We'll climb back out, and the three of us will escape together." "We can't risk it," Violet said. "Esme won't catch all of us, not if we split up. You two take page thirteen and go up the chute, and I'll get out another way. We'll meet up in the unfinished wing." "No!" Sunny cried. "Sunny's right," Klaus said. "This is what happened with the Quagmires, remember? When we left them behind, they were snatched away." "The Quagmires are safe now," Violet reminded him. "Don't worry, I'll invent a solution." The eldest Baudelaire gave her siblings a small smile, and reached into her pocket so she could tie up her hair and put the levers and gears of her inventing mind into motion. But there was no ribbon in her pocket. As her trembling fingers explored her empty pocket, she remembered she had used her ribbon to fool Hal with a fake loop of keys. Violet felt a quiver in her stomach as she remembered, but she had no time to feel bad about the trick she had played. With sudden horror, she heard a creak right behind her, and she jumped out of the way just in time to avoid the crash. A file cabinet labeled "Linguistics to Lions" fell against the wall, blocking the mouth of the chute. "Violet!" Sunny cried. She and her brother tried to push the cabinet aside, but the strength of a thirteen-year-old boy and his baby sister were no match against a metal case holding files on everything from the history of language to a large carnivorous feline found in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of India. "I'm O.K.," Violet called back. "Not for long you're not!" Esme snarled, from a few aisles over. Klaus and Sunny sat in the dark chute and heard their sister's faint voice as she called to them. "Leave me here!" she insisted. "I'll meet you back in our filthy, cold, inappropriate home." The two younger Baudelaires huddled together at the entrance of the chute, but it is useless for me to describe to you how desperate and terrified they felt. There is no reason to describe how horrible it was to hear Violet's frantic footsteps across the Library of Records, or the odd, tottering ones of Esme as she pursued the eldest Baudelaire in her stiletto heels, creaking and crashing file cabinets with every stabbing step. It is unnecessary to describe the cramped and difficult journey Klaus and Sunny made up the chute, which was slanted so steeply that it felt to the two orphans like they were crawling up a large mountain covered in ice instead of a fairly short chute used for depositing information. It is ineffectual to describe how the two children felt when they finally reached the end of the chute, which was another hole, carved into the outside wall of Heimlich Hospital, and found that Hal was right when he said it was to be a particularly cold evening. And it is absolutely futile--a word which here means "useless, unnecessary, and ineffectual, because there is no reason for it"--to describe how they felt as they sat in the half-finished section of the hospital, with dropcloths wrapped around them to keep them warm and flashlights lit around them to keep them company, and waited for Violet to show up, because Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire were not thinking of these things. The two younger Baudelaires sat together, clutching page thirteen of the Baudelaire file, as the night grew later and later, but they were not thinking about the noises they heard coming from the Library of Records, or about the journey up the chute or even about the icy breeze as it blew through the plastic sheets and chilled the Baudelaire bones. Klaus and Sunny were thinking about what Violet had said, when she saw the piece of paper they were clutching now. "I never thought I'd live to see the day," Violet had said, and her two siblings knew that the phrase was just another way of saying "I'm very surprised" or "I'm extremely flabbergasted" or "This blows my mind beyond belief." But now, as the two Baudelaires

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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