بخش 03

مجموعه: مجموعه بدبیاری ها / کتاب: بیمارستان خطرناک / فصل 3

بخش 03

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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 Esmé 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 Esmé are probably hoping to capture us, too.”

“Rance,” 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 heart-shaped 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-uto-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.”


“Recazier?” Sunny asked dumbfoundedly. The word “dumbfoundedly” here means “wondering why in the world Klaus wanted to eat alphabet soup at a time like this,” and “Recazier?” here means “Klaus, why in the world do you want to eat alphabet soup at a time like this?”

“We’re not going to eat it,” Klaus said, handing Sunny one of the cans. “We’re going to pour just about all of it down the sink.”

“Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity,” Sunny said, which you will probably recall means something along the lines of “I must admit I don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on.” Sunny had now said this particular thing three times over the course of her life, and she was beginning to wonder if this was something she was only going to say more and more as she grew older.

“The last time you said that,” Klaus said with a smile, “the three of us were trying to figure out the pages the Quagmires left behind.” He held out a page for Sunny to see, and then pointed to the words “Ana Gram.” “We thought this was someone’s name,” Klaus said, “but it’s really a kind of code. An anagram is when you move the letters around in one or more words to make another word or words.”

“Still pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity,” Sunny said with a sigh.

“I’ll give you an example,” Klaus said. “It’s the example the Quagmires found. Look, on the same page they wrote ‘Al Funcoot.’ That’s the name of the man who wrote The Marvelous Marriage, that dreadful play Count Olaf forced us to participate in.”

“Yuck,” Sunny said, which meant “Don’t remind me.”

“But look,” Klaus said. “‘Al Funcoot’ has all the same letters as ‘Count Olaf.’ Olaf just rearranged the letters in his name to hide the fact that he really wrote the play himself. You see?”

“Phromein,” Sunny said, which meant something like “I think I understand, but it’s difficult for someone as young as myself.”

“It’s difficult for me, too,” Klaus said. “That’s why the alphabet soup will come in handy. Count Olaf uses anagrams when he wants to hide something, and right now he’s hiding our sister. I bet she’s somewhere on this list, but her name’s been scrambled up. The soup is going to help unscramble her.”

“But how?” Sunny asked.

“It’s difficult to figure out anagrams if you can’t move the letters around,” Klaus said. “Normally, alphabet blocks or lettered tiles would be perfect, but alphabet noodles will do in a pinch. Now, hurry and open a can of soup.”

Sunny grinned, showing all of her sharp, sharp teeth, and then swung her head down onto the can of soup, remembering the day she had learned to open cans all by herself. It was not that long ago, although it felt like it was in the very distant past, because it was before the Baudelaire mansion burned down, when the entire family was happy and together. It was the Baudelaires’ mother’s birthday, and she was sleeping late while everyone baked a cake for her. Violet was beating the eggs, butter, and sugar with a mixing device she had invented herself. Klaus was sifting the flour with the cinnamon, pausing every few minutes to wipe his glasses. And the Baudelaires’ father was making his famous cream-cheese frosting, which would be spread thickly on top of the cake. All was going well until the electric can opener broke, and Violet didn’t have the proper tools to fix it. The Baudelaires’ father desperately needed to open a can of condensed milk to make his frosting, and for a moment it looked like the cake was going to be ruined. But Sunny—who had been playing quietly on the floor this whole time—said her first word, “Bite,” and bit down on the can, poking four small holes so the sweet, thick milk could pour out. The Baudelaires laughed and applauded, and the children’s mother came downstairs, and from then on they used Sunny whenever they needed to open a can of anything, except for beets. Now, as the youngest Baudelaire bit along the edge of the can of alphabet soup, she wondered if one of her parents had really survived the fire, and if she dared get her hopes up just because of one sentence on page thirteen of the Snicket file. Sunny wondered if the Baudelaire family would ever be together again, laughing and clapping and working together to make something sweet and delicious.

“All done,” Sunny said finally.

“Good work, Sunny,” Klaus said. “Now, let’s try to find alphabet noodles that spell Violet’s name.”

“V?” Sunny asked.

“That’s right,” Klaus said. “V-I-O-L-E-TB-A-U-D-E-L-A-I-R-E.”

The two younger Baudelaires reached into the can of soup and sorted through the diced carrots, chopped celery, blanched potatoes, roasted peppers, and steamed peas, which were all in a rich and creamy broth made from a secret blend of herbs and spices, to find the noodles they needed. The soup was cold from sitting in the closet for months and months, and occasionally they would find the right letter only to have it fall into pieces, or slip from their clammy fingers back into the can, but before too long they had found a V, an I, an O, an L, an E, a T, a B, an A, a U, a D, another E, another L, another A, another I, an R, and a bit of carrot they decided to use when a third E was not to be found.

“Now,” Klaus said, after they laid all of the noodles on top of another can so they could move them around. “Let’s take another look at the list of patients. Mattathias announced that the operation would take place in the Surgical Ward, so let’s look in that section of the list, and try to see if any names look like good bets.”

Sunny poured the rest of soup into the sink and nodded in agreement, and Klaus hurriedly found the Surgical Ward section of the list and read the names of the patients:













“Goodness!” Klaus said. “Every single patient on the list has a name that looks like an anagram. How in the world can we sort through all these names before it’s too late?”

“V!” Sunny said.

“You’re right,” Klaus said. “Any name that doesn’t have a V in it can’t be an anagram of ‘Violet Baudelaire.’ We could cross those off the list—if we had a pen, that is.”

Sunny reached thoughtfully into one of the white medical coats, wondering what doctors might keep in their pockets. She found a surgical mask, which is perfect for covering one’s face, and a pair of rubber gloves, that are perfect for protecting one’s hands, and at the very bottom of the pocket she found a ballpoint pen, which is perfect for crossing out names which aren’t the anagrams you’re looking for. With a grin, Sunny handed the pen to Klaus, who quickly crossed out the names without Vs. Now the list looked like this:













“That makes it much easier,” Klaus said. “Now, let’s move around the letters in Violet’s name and see if we can spell out ‘Albert E. Deviloeia.’”

Working carefully to avoid breaking them, Klaus began to move the noodles he and Sunny had taken out of the soup, and soon learned that ‘Albert E. Deviloeia’ and “Violet Baudelaire” were not quite anagrams. They were close, but they did not have the exact same letters in their names.

“Albert E. Deviloeia must be an actual sick person,” Klaus said in disappointment. “Let’s try to spell out ‘Ada O. Übervillet.’”

Once again, the supply closet was filled with the sound of shifting noodles, a faint and damp sound that made the children think of something slimy emerging from a swamp. It was, however, a far nicer sound than the one that interrupted their anagram decoding.

“Attention! Attention!” Mattathias’s voice sounded particularly snide as it called for attention from the square speaker over the Baudelaires’ heads. “The Surgical Ward will now be closed for the cranioectomy. Only Dr. Flacutono and his associates will be allowed into the ward until the patient is dead—I mean, until the operation is over. That is all.”

“Velocity!” Sunny shrieked.

“I know we have to hurry!” Klaus cried. “I’m moving these noodles as quickly as I can! Ada O. Übervillet isn’t right, either!” He turned to the list of patients again to see who was next, and accidentally hit a noodle with his elbow, knocking it to the floor with a moist splat. Sunny picked it up for him, but the fall had split it into two pieces. Instead of an O, the Baudelaires now had a pair of parentheses.

“That’s O.K.,” Klaus said hurriedly. “The next name on the list is Ed Valiantbrue, which doesn’t have an O in it anyway.”

“O!” Sunny shrieked.

“O!” Klaus agreed.

“O!” Sunny insisted.

“Oh!” Klaus cried. “I see what you mean! If it doesn’t have an O in it, it can’t be an anagram of Violet Baudelaire. That only leaves one name on the list: Laura V. Bleediotie. That must be the one we’re looking for.”

“Check!” Sunny said, and held her breath as Klaus moved the noodles around. In a few seconds, the name of the eldest Baudelaire sister had been transformed into Laura V. Bleediotie, except for the O, which Sunny still held in pieces in her tiny fist, and the last E, which was still a piece of carrot.

“It’s her, all right,” Klaus said, with a grin of triumph. “We’ve found Violet.”

“Asklu,” Sunny said, which meant “We never would have found her if you hadn’t figured out that Olaf was using anagrams.”

“It was really the Quagmire triplets who figured it out,” Klaus said, holding up the notebook page, “and it was you who opened the cans of soup, which made it much easier. But before we congratulate ourselves, let’s rescue our sister.” Klaus took a look at the list of patients. “We’ll find ‘Laura V. Bleediotie’ in Room 922 of the Surgical Ward.”

“Gwito,” Sunny pointed out, which meant “But Mattathias closed the Surgical Ward.”

“Then we’ll have to open it,” Klaus said grimly, and took a good look around the supply closet. “Let’s put on those white medical coats,” he said. “Maybe if we look like doctors, we can get into the ward. We can use these surgical masks in the pocket to hide our faces—just like Olaf’s associate did at the lumbermill.”

“Quagmire,” Sunny said doubtfully, which meant “When the Quagmires used disguises, they didn’t fool Olaf.”

“But when Olaf used disguises,” Klaus said, “he fooled everyone.”

“Us,” Sunny said.

“Except us,” Klaus agreed, “but we don’t have to fool ourselves.”

“True,” Sunny said, and reached for two white coats. Because most doctors are adults, the white coats were far too big for the children, who were reminded of the enormous pinstripe suits Esmé Squalor had purchased for them when she had been their guardian. Klaus helped Sunny roll up the sleeves of her coat, and Sunny helped Klaus tie his mask around his face, and in a few moments the children were finished putting on their disguises.

“Let’s go,” Klaus said, and put his hand on the door of the supply closet. But he did not open it. Instead he turned back to his sister, and the two Baudelaires looked at each other. Even though the siblings were wearing white coats, and had surgical masks on their faces, they did not look like doctors. They looked like two children in white coats with surgical masks on their faces. Their disguises looked spurious—a word which here means “nothing at all like a real doctor”—and yet they were no more spurious than the disguises that Olaf had been using since his first attempt to steal the Baudelaire fortune. Klaus and Sunny looked at one another and hoped that Olaf’s methods would work for them, and help them steal their sister, and without another word, they opened the door and stepped out of the supply closet.

“Douth?” Sunny asked, which meant “But how are we going to find the Surgical Ward, when the maps of this hospital are so confusing?”

“We’ll have to find someone who is going there,” Klaus said. “Look for somebody who looks like they’re on their way to the Surgical Ward.”

“Silata,” Sunny said. She meant something along the lines of “But there are so many people here,” and she was right. Although the Volunteers Fighting Disease were nowhere to be seen, the hallways of Heimlich Hospital were full of people. A hospital needs many different people and many different types of equipment in order to work properly, and as Klaus and Sunny tried to find the Surgical Ward they saw all sorts of hospital employees and devices hurrying through the halls. There were physicians carrying stethoscopes, hurrying to listen to people’s heartbeats, and there were obstetricians carrying babies, hurrying to deliver people’s children. There were radiologists carrying X-ray machines, hurrying to view people’s insides, and there were optic surgeons carrying laser-driven technology, hurrying to get inside people’s views. There were nurses carrying hypodermic needles, hurrying to give people shots, and there were administrators carrying clipboards, hurrying to catch up on important paperwork. But no matter where the Baudelaires looked, they couldn’t see anyone who seemed to be hurrying to the Surgical Ward.

“I don’t see any surgeons,” Klaus said in desperation.

“Peipix,” Sunny said, which meant “Me neither.”

“Out of my way, everybody!” demanded a voice at the end of the hallway. “I’m a surgical assistant, carrying equipment for Dr. Flacutono!”

The other employees of the hospital stopped and cleared the way for the person who had spoken, a tall person dressed in a white lab coat and a surgical mask who was coming down the hallway in odd, tottering steps.

“I’ve got to get to the Surgical Ward right away!” the person called, walking past the Baudelaires without even glancing at them. But Klaus and Sunny glanced at this person. They saw, beneath the bottom hem of the white coat, the pair of shoes with stiletto heels that this person was wearing, and they saw the handbag in the shape of an eye that the person was holding in one hand. The children saw the black veil of the person’s hat, which was hanging in front of the surgical mask, and they saw blotches of lipstick, which had soaked through from the person’s lips and were staining the bottom of the mask.

The person, of course, was pretending to be a surgical assistant, and she was carrying something that was pretending to be a piece of surgical equipment, but the children did not need more than a glance to see through both of these spurious disguises. As they watched the person tottering down the hallway, the two Baudelaires knew at once that she was really Esmé Squalor, the villainous girlfriend of Count Olaf. And as they looked at the thing she was carrying, glinting in the light of the hospital hallway, the two Baudelaires knew that it was nothing more than a large rusty knife, with a long row of jagged teeth, just perfect for a cranioectomy.


At this point in the dreadful story I am writing, I must interrupt for a moment and describe something that happened to a good friend of mine named Mr. Sirin. Mr. Sirin was a lepidopterist, a word which usually means “a person who studies butterflies.”

In this case, however, the word “lepidopterist” means “a man who was being pursued by angry government officials,” and on the night I am telling you about they were right on his heels. Mr. Sirin looked back to see how close they were—four officers in their bright-pink uniforms, with small flashlights in their left hands and large nets in their right—and realized that in a moment they would catch up, and arrest him and his six favorite butterflies, which were frantically flapping alongside him. Mr. Sirin did not care much if he was captured—he had been in prison four and a half times over the course of his long and complicated life—but he cared very much about the butterflies. He realized that these six delicate insects would undoubtedly perish in bug prison, where poisonous spiders, stinging bees, and other criminals would rip them to shreds. So, as the secret police closed in, Mr. Sirin opened his mouth as wide as he could and swallowed all six butterflies whole, quickly placing them in the dark but safe confines of his empty stomach. It was not a pleasant feeling to have these six insects living inside him, but Mr. Sirin kept them there for three years, eating only the lightest foods served in prison so as not to crush the insects with a clump of broccoli or a baked potato. When his prison sentence was over, Mr. Sirin burped up the grateful butterflies and resumed his lepidoptery work in a community that was much more friendly to scientists and their specimens.

I am telling you this story not just to reveal the courage and imagination of one of my dearest friends, but to help you imagine how Klaus and Sunny felt as they watched Esmé Squalor, disguised as an associate of Dr. Flacutono, walk down the hallway of Heimlich Hospital carrying the long, rusty knife disguised as a surgical tool to be used on Violet. The two youngsters realized that their only chance of finding the Surgical Ward and rescuing their sister was to try and fool this greedy and stiletto-heeled villain, but as they approached her, like Mr. Sirin during his fifth and final prison sentence, the two Baudelaires felt the unpleasant fluttering of butterflies in their stomachs.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Klaus said, trying to sound less like a thirteen-year-old boy and more like someone who had graduated from medical school. “Did you say you were an associate of Dr. Flacutono?”

“If you’re someone with a hearing problem,” Esmé said rudely, “don’t bother me. Go to the Ear Ward.”

“I’m not someone with a hearing problem,” Klaus said. “This woman and I are associates of Dr. Flacutono.”

Esmé stopped in the middle of stabbing the floor, and stared down at the two siblings. Klaus and Sunny could see her eyes shining behind the veil of her fashionable hat as she regarded the children before replying.

“I was just wondering where you were,” she said. “Come along with me, and I’ll take you to the patient.”

“Patsy,” Sunny said.

“What she is saying,” Klaus said quickly, “is that we’re very concerned about Laura V. Bleediotie.”

“Well, you won’t be concerned for long,” Esmé replied, leading the children around a corner to another hallway. “Here, you carry the knife.”

The evil girlfriend handed Klaus the rusty blade, and leaned in closely to talk with him. “I’m glad you two are here,” she whispered. “The brat’s little brother and sister haven’t been captured yet, and we still don’t have the file on the Snicket fires. The authorities removed it for their investigation. The boss says we might have to torch the place.”

“Torch?” Sunny asked.

“Mattathias will take care of that part,” Esmé said, looking around the hallway to make sure no one could hear them. “All you have to do is assist with the surgery. Let’s hurry up.”

Esmé walked up a stairway as fast as her shoes could carry her, and the children followed nervously behind her, Klaus holding the rusty, jagged knife. With every door they opened, every hallway they walked down, and every staircase they ascended, the youngsters were afraid that at any moment Esmé would see through their disguises and realize who they were. But the greedy woman was too busy pausing to yank the blades of the stiletto heels out of the floor to notice that the two additional associates of Dr. Flacutono bore a very strong resemblance to the children she was trying to capture. Finally, Esmé led the Baudelaires to a door marked “Surgical Ward,” which was being guarded by someone the children recognized at once. The guard was wearing a coat which read “Heimlich Hospital” and a cap that had the word “GUARD” printed on it in big black print, but Klaus and Sunny could see that this was another spurious disguise. The siblings had seen this person at Damocles Dock, when poor Aunt Josephine had been their guardian, and they’d had to cook for this person when they’d been living with Count Olaf. The spurious guard was an enormous person who looked like neither a man nor a woman, and who had been assisting Count Olaf with his nefarious schemes for as long as the Baudelaires had been escaping from them. The person looked at the children, and the children look back at him or her, certain that they would be recognized. But Olaf’s assistant merely nodded and opened the door.

“They’ve already anesthetized the bratty orphan,” Esmé said, “so you ladies merely need to go to her room and bring her to the operating theater. I’m going to try to find that sniveling bookworm and that stupid baby with the oversized teeth. Mattathias says I get to choose which one to keep alive in order to force Mr. Poe to give us the fortune, and which one I get to rip to shreds.”

“Good,” Klaus said, trying to sound fierce and villainous. “I’m so tired of chasing those kids around.”

“Me, too,” Esmé said, and the enormous assistant nodded in agreement. “But I’m sure this will be the last time. Once we’ve destroyed the file, nobody can accuse us of any crimes, and once we murder the orphans, the fortune will be ours.”

The villainous woman paused and looked around her to make sure no one was listening, and then, satisfied that no one could hear her, she laughed wildly in triumph. The enormous assistant laughed, too, an odd laugh that sounded like a squeal and a howl at the same time, and the two Baudelaire youngsters tilted back their masked faces and made noises as if they were laughing, too, although their laughter was as spurious as their disguises. Klaus and Sunny felt more like being sick than laughing as they pretended to be as greedy and evil as Count Olaf and his troupe. It had never occurred to the children how these terrible people acted when they didn’t have to pretend to be nice, and the two siblings were horrified to hear all the bloodthirsty things Esmé had said. Watching Esmé and the enormous assistant laugh together made the butterflies in the Baudelaire stomachs flutter all the more, and the youngsters were relieved when Esmé finally stopped laughing, and ushered the children into the Surgical Ward.

“I’ll leave you ladies in the hands of our associates,” she said, and the Baudelaires immediately saw with horror what she meant. Esmé shut the door behind them, and the children found themselves facing two more of Count Olaf’s wicked associates.

“Well, hello there,” the first one said in a sinister voice, pointing at the two children with an odd-looking hand. One of the fingers was curved at an odd angle while the others hung limp, like socks hung out to dry, and Klaus and Sunny could see at once that this was the associate of Olaf who had hooks instead of hands, wearing rubber gloves to hide his unusual and dangerous appendages. Behind him was a man whose hands were not as familiar, but Klaus and Sunny recognized him just as easily, due to the hideous wig he was wearing on his head. The wig was so limp, white, and curly that it looked like a heap of dead worms, which is not the sort of wig one forgets. The children had certainly not forgotten it from when they had been living in Paltryville, and realized at once that this person was the bald man with the long nose who had been assisting Count Olaf since the Baudelaires’ troubles began. The hook-handed man and the bald man with the long nose were among the nastiest members of Olaf’s troupe, but unlike the majority of nasty people of this earth, they were also quite clever, and the two young siblings felt the butterfly feeling in their stomachs increase exponentially—a phrase which here means “get much, much worse”—as they waited to see if these two associates were clever enough to see through the children’s disguises.

“I can see through your disguise,” the hook-handed man continued, and placed one of his spurious hands on Klaus’s shoulder.

“Me, too,” the bald man said, “but I don’t think anyone else will. I don’t know how you ladies managed to do it, but you look much shorter in those white coats.”

“And your faces don’t look as pale in those surgical masks,” the hook-handed man agreed. “These are the best disguises Olaf—I mean Mattathias—has ever cooked up.”

“We don’t have time for all this talking,” Klaus said, hoping that the associates wouldn’t recognize his voice, either. “We’ve got to get to Room 922 right away.”

“You’re right, of course,” the hook-handed man said. “Follow us.”

The two associates began walking down the hallway of the Surgical Ward as Klaus and Sunny looked at one another in relief.

“Gwit,” Sunny murmured, which meant “They didn’t recognize us either.”

“I know,” Klaus replied in a whisper. “They think we’re the two powder-faced women, disguised as associates of Dr. Flacutono, instead of two children disguised as the two powder-faced women disguised as associates of Dr. Flacutono.”

“Stop all that whispering about disguises,” the bald man said. “If anyone hears you, it’ll be the end of us.”

“Instead of the end of Laura V. Bleediotie,” the hook-handed man said with a sneer. “I’ve been waiting to get hooks on her since she escaped from marrying Mattathias.”

“Trapped,” Sunny said, sneering as best she could.

“Trapped is right,” the bald man said. “I already gave her the anesthetic, so she’s unconscious. All we have to do is lead her to the operating theater, and you can saw her head off.”

“I still don’t understand why we have to murder her in front of all those doctors,” the hook-handed man said.

“So it can look like an accident, you idiot,” the bald man snarled in reply.

“I’m not an idiot,” the hook-handed man said, stopping to glare at his fellow associate. “I’m physically handicapped.”

“Just because you’re physically handicapped doesn’t mean you’re mentally clever,” the bald man said.

“And just because you’re wearing an ugly wig,” the hook-handed man said, “doesn’t mean you can insult me.”

“Stop all this arguing!” Klaus said. “The sooner we can operate on Laura V. Bleediotie, the sooner we’ll all be rich.”

“Yes!” Sunny said.

The two criminals looked down at the Baudelaires, and then nodded at one another sheepishly. “The ladies are right,” the hook-handed man said. “We shouldn’t behave unprofessionally, just because it’s been a very stressful time at work.”

“I know,” the bald man said with a sigh. “It seems like we’ve been following these three orphans forever, only to have them slip out of our grasp at the last minute. Let’s just focus on getting the job done, and work out our personal problems later. Well, here we are.”

The four disguised people had reached the end of a hallway and were standing in front of a door marked “Room 922,” with the name “Laura V. Bleediotie” scrawled on a piece of paper and taped beneath. The bald man took a key out of the pocket in his medical coat, and unlocked the door with a triumphant grin. “Here she is,” he said. “Our little sleeping beauty.”

The door opened with a long, whiny creak, and the children stepped inside the room, which was square and small and had heavy shades over the windows, making it quite dark inside. But even in the dim light the children could see their sister, and they almost gasped at how dreadful she looked.

When the bald associate had mentioned a sleeping beauty, he was referring to a fairy tale that you have probably heard one thousand times. Like all fairy tales, the story of Sleeping Beauty begins with “Once upon a time,” and continues with a foolish young princess who makes a witch very angry, and then takes a nap until her boyfriend wakes her up with a kiss and insists on getting married, at which point the story ends with the phrase “happily ever after.” The story is usually illustrated with fancy drawings of the napping princess, who always looks very glamorous and elegant, with her hair neatly combed and a long silk gown keeping her comfortable as she snores away for years and years. But when Klaus and Sunny saw Violet in Room 922, it looked nothing like a fairy tale.

The eldest Baudelaire was lying on a gurney, which is a metal bed with wheels, used in hospitals to move patients around. This particular gurney was as rusty as the knife Klaus was holding, and its sheets were ripped and soiled. Olaf’s associates had put her into a white gown as filthy as the sheets, and had twisted her legs together like vines. Her hair had been messily thrown over her eyes so that no one would recognize her face from The Daily Punctilio, and her arms hung loosely from her body, one of them almost touching the floor of the room with one limp finger. Her face was pale, as pale and empty as the surface of the moon, and her mouth was open slightly in a vacant frown, as if she were dreaming of being pricked with a pin. Violet looked like she had dropped onto the gurney from a great height, and if it were not for the slow and steady rise of her chest as she breathed, it would have looked like she had not survived the fall. Klaus and Sunny looked at her in horrified silence, trying not to cry as they gazed at their helpless sister.

“She’s a pretty one,” the hook-handed man said, “even when she’s unconscious.”

“She’s clever, too,” the bald man said, “although her clever little brain won’t do her any good when her head has been sawed off.”

“Let’s hurry up and go to the operating theater,” the hook-handed man said, beginning to move the gurney out of the room. “Mattathias said the anesthetic would last for only a little while, so we’d best start the cranioectomy.”

“I wouldn’t mind if she woke up in the middle of it,” the bald man said with a giggle, “but I suppose that would ruin the plan. You ladies take the head end. I don’t like to look at her when she’s frowning like that.”

“And don’t forget the knife,” the hook-handed man said. “Dr. Flacutono and I will be supervising, but you two will actually perform the operation.”

The two children nodded, afraid that if they tried to speak, the two henchmen would hear how anxious they were and become suspicious. In silence they took their places at the gurney where their sister lay without moving. The Baudelaires wanted to gently shake her by the shoulders, or whisper in her ear, or even just brush the hair away from her eyes—anything at all to help their unconscious sibling. But the two youngsters knew that any affectionate gesture would give away their disguise, so they just walked alongside the gurney, clutching the rusty knife, as the two men led the way out of Room 922 and through the halls of the Surgical Ward. With every step, Klaus and Sunny watched their sister carefully, hoping for a sign that the anesthesia was wearing off, but Violet’s face remained as still and blank as the sheet of paper on which I am printing this story.

Although her siblings preferred to think about her inventing abilities and conversational skills rather than her physical apperance, it was true, as the hook-handed man had said, that Violet was a pretty one, and if her hair had been neatly combed, instead of all tangled up, and she had been dressed in something elegant and glamorous, instead of a stained gown, she might indeed have looked like an illustration from “Sleeping Beauty.” But the two younger Baudelaires did not feel like characters in a fairy tale. The unfortunate events in their lives had not begun with “Once upon a time,” but with the terrible fire that had destroyed their home, and as Olaf’s associates led them to a square metal door at the end of the hallway, Klaus and Sunny feared that their lives would not end like a fairy tale either. The label on the door read “Operating Theater,” and as the hook-handed man opened it with one curved glove, the two children could not imagine that their story would end with “happily ever after.”

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