A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital (6 page)

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
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waited more and more anxiously for their sister, Klaus and Sunny began to fear that the phrase Violet used was more appropriate than she ever would have guessed. As the first pale rays of the morning sun began to shine on the unfinished half of the hospital, the Baudelares grew more and more frightened that their sister would not live to see the day.

Chapter Eight

Heimlich Hospital is gone now, and will probably never be rebuilt. If you want to visit it, you have to convince a farmer to let you borrow his mule, for nobody in the surrounding area is willing to go within twelve miles of its wreckage, and once you arrive you can hardly blame them. The few scraps of the building that have survived are covered with a thick and prickly type of ivy called kudzu, which makes it difficult to see what the hospital looked like when the Baudelaires first arrived in the V.F.D. van. The confusing maps have been gnawed off the walls of the sagging staircases, so it is very hard to imagine how troublesome it was to find one's way through all of the areas of the building. And the intercom system has long since crumbled away, with only a handful of square speakers left sitting among the ashen rubble, so it is impossible to imagine just how unnerving it was when Klaus and Sunny heard the latest announcement from Mattathias. "Attention!" Mattathias announced. There were no intercom speakers installed in the unfinished half of the hospital, so the two younger Baudelaires had to listen very hard to hear the scratchy voice of their enemy coming from one of the outdoor speakers. "Attention! Attention! This is Mattathias, the Head of Human Resources. I am canceling the remainder of the hospital inspections. We have found what we were looking for." There was a pause as Mattathias moved away from the microphone, and as Klaus and Sunny listened very hard, they could hear the faint, faint noise of triumphant, high-pitched laughter coming from the Head of Human Resources. "Excuse me," he continued, when his giggling fit was over. "To continue, please be aware that two of the three Baudelaire murderers-- Klaus and Sun--I mean, Klyde and Susie Baudelaire--have been spotted in the hospital. If you see any children whom you recognize from The Daily Punctilio, please capture them and notify the police." Mattathias stopped talking and began to giggle again, until the children heard the voice of Esme Squalor whispering, "Darling, you forgot to turn off the intercom." Then there was a click, and everything was silent. "They caught her," Klaus said. Now that the sun had risen, it wasn't very cold in the half-finished section of the hospital, but the middle Baudelaire shivered nonetheless. "That's what Mattathias meant when he said that they had found what they were looking for." "Danger," Sunny said grimly. "She certainly is," Klaus said. "We have to rescue Violet before it's too late." "Virm," Sunny said, which meant "But we don't know where she is." "She must be somewhere in the hospital," Klaus said, "otherwise Mattathias wouldn't still be here. He and Esme are probably hoping to capture us, too." "Ranee," Sunny said. "And the file," Klaus agreed, taking page thirteen out of his pocket, where he had been storing it for safekeeping along with the scraps of the Quagmire notebooks. "Come on, Sunny. We've got to find our sister and get her out of there." "Lindersto," Sunny said. She meant "That'll be tough. We'll have to wander around the hospital looking for her, while other people will be wandering around the hospital, looking for us." "I know," Klaus said glumly. "If anyone recognizes us from The Daily Punctilio, we'll be in jail before we can help Violet." "Disguise?" Sunny said. "I don't know how," Klaus said, looking around the half-finished room. "All we have here is some flashlights and a few dropcloths. I suppose if we wrapped the dropcloths around us and put the flashlights on top of our heads, we could try to disguise ourselves as piles of construction materials." "Gidoost," Sunny said, which meant "But piles of construction materials don't wander around hospitals." "Then we'll have to walk into the hospital without disguises," Klaus said. "We'll just have to be extra careful." Sunny nodded emphatically, a word which here means "as if she thought being extra careful was a very good plan," and Klaus nodded emphatically back. But as they left the half-finished wing of the hospital, the two children felt less and less emphatic about what they were doing. Ever since that terrible day at the beach when Mr. Poe brought them news of the fire, all three Baudelaires had been extra careful all of the time. They had been extra careful when they lived with Count Olaf, and Sunny had still ended up dangling from a cage outside Olaf's tower room. They had been extra careful when they'd worked at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, and Klaus had still ended up hypnotized by Dr. Orwell. And now the Baudelaires had been as careful as they could possibly be, but the hospital had turned out to be as hostile an environment as anywhere the three children had ever lived. But just as Klaus and Sunny entered the finished half of Heimlich Hospital, their feet moving less and less emphatically and their hearts beating faster and faster, they heard something that soothed their savage breasts: "We are Volunteers Fighting Disease, And we're cheerful all day long. If someone said that we were sad, That person would be wrong. " There, coming around the corner, were the Volunteers Fighting Disease, walking down the hall singing their cheerful song and carrying enormous bunches of heart-shaped balloons. Klaus and Sunny looked at one another, and ran to catch up with the group. What better place to hide than among people who believed that no news was good news, and so didn't read the newspaper? "We visit people who are sick, And try to make them smile, Even if their noses bleed, Or if they cough up bile. " To the children's relief, the volunteers paid no attention as Klaus and Sunny infiltrated the group, a phrase which here means "sneaked into the middle of a singing crowd." An especially cheerful singer seemed to be the only one who noticed, and she immediately handed a balloon to each newcomer. Klaus and Sunny held the balloons in front of their faces, so that anybody passing by would see two volunteers with shiny, helium-filled hearts, instead of two accused criminals hiding in V.F.D. "Tra la la, Fiddle dee dee, Hope you get well soon. Ho ho ho, hee hee hee, Have a heart-shaped balloon." As the volunteers reached the chorus of the song, they marched into a hospital room in order to start giving a cheerful attitude to the patients. Inside the room, each lying uncomfortably in a metal bed, were a man with both legs in casts and a woman with both arms in bandages. Still singing, a man from V.F.D. handed one balloon to the man and tied another to the woman's cast, because she could not hold it with her broken arms. "Excuse me," said the man hoarsely, "could you please call a nurse for me? I was supposed to take some painkillers this morning, but nobody has come to give them to me." "And I'd like a glass of water," the woman said in a weak voice, "if it's not too much trouble." "Sorry," the bearded man replied, pausing for a moment to tune his guitar. "We don't have time to do things like that. We have to visit each and every room of the hospital, so we need to move quickly." "Besides," another volunteer said, giving the two patients a huge grin, "a cheerful attitude is a more effective way of fighting illness than painkillers, or a glass of water. So cheer up, and enjoy your balloon." The volunteer consulted a list he was holding. "Next on the patient list is a man named Bernard Rieux, in room 105 of the Plague Ward. Come on, brothers and sisters." The members of V.F.D. cheered, and continued the song as they left the room. Klaus and Sunny peered around the balloons they were holding and looked at one another in hope. "If we visit each and every room in the hospital," Klaus whispered to his sister, "we're sure to find Violet." "Mushulm," Sunny said, which meant "I agree, although it won't be pleasant to see all these sick people." "We visit people who are ill, And try to make them laugh, Even when the doctor says He must saw them in half." Bernard Rieux turned out to be a man with a nasty, hacking cough that shook his body so much he could scarcely hold his balloon, and it seemed to the two Baudelaire children that a good humidifier would have been a more effective way to fight this disease than a cheerful attitude. As the members of V.F.D. drowned out his cough with another verse of the song, Klaus and Sunny were tempted to run and find a humidifier and bring it back to Bernard Rieux's room, but they knew that Violet was in much more danger than someone with a cough, so they stayed hidden in the group. "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. " The next patient on the list was Cynthia Vane, a young woman with a terrible toothache who probably would have preferred something cold and easy to eat, instead of a heart-shaped balloon, but as sore as her mouth looked, the children dared not run and find her applesauce or an ice-cream snack. They knew she might have read The Daily Punctilio, in order to pass the hours in the hospital room, and might recognize them if they showed their faces. "Tra la la, Fiddle dee dee, Hope you get well soon. Ho ho ho, hee hee hee, Have a heart-shaped balloon. " On and on the volunteers marched, and Klaus and Sunny marched with them, but with every ho ho ho and hee hee hee their hearts sank lower and lower. The two Baudelaires followed the members of V.F.D. up and down the staircases of the hospital, and although they saw a great number of confusing maps, intercom speakers, and sick people, they did not catch a glimpse of their sister. They visited Room 201 and sang to Jonah Mapple, who was suffering from seasickness, and they gave a heartshaped balloon to Charley Anderson in Room 714, who had injured himself in an accident, and they visited Clarissa Dalloway, who did not seem to have anything wrong with her but was staring sadly out the window of Room 1308, but nowhere, in any of the rooms that the volunteers marched into, was Violet Baudelaire, who, Klaus and Sunny feared, was suffering more than any of the other patients. "Ceyune," Sunny said, as the volunteers walked up yet another staircase. She meant something along the lines of "We've been wandering around the hospital all morning, and we're no closer to rescuing our sister," and Klaus nodded grimly in agreement. "I know," Klaus said, "but the members of V.F.D. are going to visit every single person in Heimlich Hospital. We're sure to find Violet eventually." "Attention! Attention!" a voice announced, and the volunteers stopped singing and gathered around the nearest intercom speaker to hear what Mattathias had to say. "Attention!" Mattathias said. "Today is a very important day in the history of the hospital. In precisely one hour, a doctor here will perform the world's first cranioectomy on a fourteen-year-old girl. We all hope that this very dangerous operation is a complete success. That is all." "Violet," Sunny murmured to her brother. "I think so, too," Klaus said. "And I don't like the sound of that operation. 'Cranio' means 'head,' and 'ectomy' is a medical term for removing something." "Decap?" Sunny asked in a horrified whisper. She meant something like "Do you think they're going to cut off Violet's head?" "I don't know," Klaus said with a shudder, "but we can't wander around with these singing volunteers any longer. We've got to find her right away." "O.K.," a volunteer called, consulting the list. "The next patient is Emma Bovary in Room 2611. She has food poisoning, so she needs a particularly cheerful attitude." "Excuse me, brother," Klaus said to the volunteer, reluctantly using the term "brother" instead of "person I hardly know." "I was wondering if I could borrow your copy of the patient list." "Of course," the volunteer replied. "I don't like to read all these names of sick people, anyway. It's too depressing. I'd rather hold balloons." With a cheerful smile, the volunteer handed Klaus the long list of patients, and took the heart-shaped balloon out of his hands as the bearded man began the next verse of the song. "We sing to men with measles, And to women with the flu, And if you breathe in deadly germs, We'll probably sing to you. " With his face exposed, Klaus had to duck down behind Sunny's balloon to look at the list of the hospital's patients. "There are hundreds of people on this list," he said to his sister, "and it's organized by ward, not by name. We can't read it all here in the hallway, particularly when we both have to hide behind one balloon." "Damajat," Sunny said, pointing down the hall. By "Damajat," she meant something along the lines of "Let's hide in that supply closet over there," and sure enough, there was a door marked "Supply Closet" at the end of the hallway, past two doctors who had paused to chat beside one of the confusing maps. While the members of V.F.D. started in on the chorus of their song as they walked toward Emma Bovary's room, Klaus and Sunny separated themselves from the volunteers and walked carefully toward the closet, holding the balloon in front of both their faces as best they could. Luckily, the two doctors were too busy talking about a sporting event they had watched on television to notice two accused murderers sneaking down the hallway of their hospital, and 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 and Sunny were inside the closet. Like a church bell, a coffin, and a vat of melted chocolate, a supply closet is rarely a comfortable place to hide, and this supply closet was no exception. When they shut the door of the closet behind them, the two younger Baudelaires found themselves in a small, cramped room lit only by one flickering lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. On one wall was a row of white medical coats hanging from hooks, and on the opposite wall was a rusty sink where one could wash one's hands before examining a patient. The rest of the closet was full of huge cans of alphabet soup for patients' lunches, and small boxes of rubber bands, which the children could not imagine came in very handy in a hospital. "Well," Klaus said, "it's not comfortable, but at least nobody will find us in here." "Pesh," Sunny said, which meant something like "At least, until somebody needs rubber bands, alphabet soup, white medical coats, or clean hands." "Well, let's keep one eye on the door, to see if anyone comes in," Klaus said, "but let's keep the other eye on this list. It's very long, but now that we have a few moments to look it over, we should be able to spot Violet's name." "Right," Sunny said. Klaus placed the list on top of a can of soup, and hurriedly began to flip through its pages. As he had noticed, the list of patients was not organized alphabetically, but by ward, a word which here means "particular section of the hospital," so the two children had to look through every single page,
hoping to spot the name Violet Baudelaire among the typed names of sick people. But as they glanced at the list under the heading "Sore Throat Ward," perused the names on the "Broken Neck Ward" page, and combed through the names of all the people who were staying in the Ward for People with Nasty Rashes, Klaus and Sunny felt as if they were in a Ward for People with Sinking Stomachs, because Violet's name was nowhere to be found. As the lightbulb flickered above them, the two Baudelaires looked frantically at page after page of the list, but they found nothing that would help them locate their sister. "She's not here," Klaus said, putting down the last page of "Pneumonia Ward." "Violet's name is nowhere on the list. How are we going to find her in this huge hospital, if we can't figure out what ward she's in?" "Alias," Sunny said, which meant "Maybe she's listed under a different name." "That's true," Klaus said, looking at the list again. "After all, Mattathias's real name is Count Olaf. Maybe he made up a new name for Violet, so we couldn't rescue her. But which person is really Violet? She could be anyone from Mikhail Bulgakov to Haruki Murakami. What are we going to do? Somewhere in this hospital, they're getting ready to perform a completely unnecessary operation on our sister, and we--" Klaus was interrupted by the sound of crackly laughter, coming from over the Baudelaires' heads. The two children looked up and saw that a square intercom speaker had been installed on the ceiling. "Attention!" said Mattathias, when he was done laughing. "Dr. Flacutono, please report to the Surgical Ward. Dr. Flacutono, please report to the Surgical Ward to prepare for the cranioectomy." "Flacutono!" Sunny repeated. "I recognize that name, too," Klaus said. "That's the false name used by Count Olaf's associate when we lived in Paltryville." "Tiofreck!" Sunny said frantically. She meant "Violet's in grave danger--we have to find her immediately," but Klaus did not answer. Behind his glasses, his eyes were half closed, as they often were when he was trying to remember something he had read. "Flacutono," he muttered quietly. "Flac-u-to-no." Then he reached into his pocket, where he was keeping all the important papers the Baudelaires had gathered. "Al Funcoot," he said, and took out one of the pages of the Quagmire notebooks. It was the page that had written on it the words "Ana Gram"--a phrase that had not made any sense to the Baudelaires when they had looked at the pages together. Klaus looked at the Quagmire page, and then at the list of patients, and then at the page again. Then he looked at Sunny, and she could see his eyes grow wide behind his glasses, the way they always did when he had read something very difficult, and understood it at last. "I think I know how to find Violet," Klaus said slowly, "but we'll need your teeth, Sunny." "Ready," Sunny said, opening her mouth. Klaus smiled, and pointed to the stack of cans in the supply closet. "Open one of those cans of alphabet soup," he said, "and hurry."

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
10.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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