January 21st, 2008
Title: Mount Fraught Syndrome: Chapter 8
Summary: Plans are made, and Violet makes a breakthrough.
Author's Notes: Wow, it's been a month. Apologies to whoever's still following this...
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven
“Isn’t there anything we can do?”
“I’m sorry.” Uncle Monty looked down at the eggs he was scrambling for Klaus, so regretfully that Klaus felt guilty for asking the question again. “Jacques insisted that you shouldn’t leave the house, and I agree with him. You can’t be seen right now. He didn’t even want me to show you the Reptile Room, in case someone saw you through the walls, but I think that should be okay as long as you’re disguised.”
“So we just have to wait for him to get back?” Klaus paused in his pacing around the kitchen and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I know you’re right, I’m just frustrated. The thought of Violet alone with him… I want to do something. I feel so useless.”
Sunny slapped a hand against the table. “Tidot,” she said, through a mouthful of toast. Me too.
“You’re not useless at all. In fact –” Uncle Monty broke off, poking the eggs with a spoon. “Are these cooked enough for you?” Klaus nodded, and he switched off the heat. “Good. As I was saying, there’s plenty you can do to help here.”
“But –” Klaus snapped his mouth shut – he’d been on the point of saying but I want to be helping Violet, which would have been horribly ungrateful and not exactly what he meant anyway. He would be glad to help Uncle Monty, it wasn’t as though he was a slave driver like Olaf, but herpetological assistance wouldn’t be enough to distract him from his sister.
“Of course, you’d both like to go out and rescue your sister right now,” Uncle Monty said, spooning the eggs onto a plate. “But just because you’re stuck in the house doesn’t mean you can’t do anything useful. The three of us – four, when Gustav’s here – need to figure out what happens afterwards. Do sit down.”
Klaus sat down next to Sunny. Uncle Monty passed him his eggs, before sitting as well and knocking the top off his own boiled egg with a spoon. “What happens afterwards?” Klaus asked.
Uncle Monty tapped some salt into his egg. “I’m afraid you won’t all be safe once Violet’s rescued,” he said. “Count Olaf isn’t likely to give up. You’ll have to lie low, somewhere he won’t think to look for you.”
Sunny dropped her handful of toast. “Petu?” she whispered – Won’t he ever leave us alone? Klaus knew how she felt. He wasn’t sure he could eat his breakfast now either.
“Which is why,” Uncle Monty went on, “I’m taking you to Peru.”
“Not for good,” Uncle Monty explained hastily, “just a month or so. The Herpetological Society is planning an expedition. Gustav and I already have tickets, and I can easily get hold of three more. We should be away for long enough to throw Olaf off the scent, and if he does follow us, hopefully he’ll be torn apart by something vicious. That was a joke,” he added, seeing Klaus’ expression. “Although I’ll admit it would be satisfying.”
“Yep,” Sunny agreed, darkly.
Klaus put a hand to his whirling head. Somehow, he’d never considered what would happen after Violet returned. The task of rescuing her seemed so vast that he couldn’t imagine anything beyond it. But Olaf would try to follow them, wouldn’t he…?
“I don’t suppose we have a choice,” he said, and then realised his mistake in Uncle Monty’s hurt expression. “No, that’s not what I meant! I’d love to go to Peru, I just mean you’re right. We’ll still have to hide, even then…”
Uncle Monty reached across the table and patted Klaus’ hand. “It won’t last forever,” he said, quietly. “Hardly anything does.”
Klaus didn’t answer. I feel as though it’s already lasted forever…
“Caba?” Sunny asked.
“Good question.” Klaus blinked. “What is it you said we could do to help now?”
“Oh, yes.” Uncle Monty shook his head. “I haven’t explained yet, have I…? I need your help, Klaus, to read up on the area we’ll be visiting. There are plenty of books in my library, but someone needs to look through them all and make detailed notes. And Sunny, I need your biting skills to divide a very long rope into shorter, more manageable pieces. At the moment it’s just too long to do anything with. Does that sound reasonable to you?” he added, looking a little anxious. Klaus suspected Jacques had gone into great detail last night about all the work they’d been forced to do. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on you…”
“It sounds fine,” Klaus assured him. “Better than fine. It sounds perfect.”
Sunny bared her teeth. “Tendla,” she said, which meant something like I’m always glad to have a chance to use my talents.
Uncle Monty smiled, apparently getting the gist of this. “Excellent,” he said, clapping his hands together. “In that case, after breakfast I’ll find you some disguises – wide-brimmed hats should do for now, no one has reason to suspect you’re here yet – and then I can show you round the Reptile Room. We’ll get started right away.”
“The sooner the better.” Klaus tried a smile. It came surprisingly easily. Having something useful to do, finally, was a big relief, and while making detailed notes about Peruvian wildlife might seem like a chore to Uncle Monty, to Klaus it sounded like the most fun he’d had in months. Sunny appeared to feel the same about her job. She was certainly biting into her toast with a lot more enthusiasm.
We’re not helpless any more, Klaus realised. Sunny saw his smile and looked surprised at first, then grinned back.
And we’re not going to be helpless again.
The grinding metal was the only noise in the room. Violet was barely even breathing. One more pin… She forced herself to pause, inhale, exhale, hold her hand still, not let it shake. There’d been another bowl of oatmeal when she woke up, but one bowl a day wouldn’t be enough and she thought she could feel her arms weakening.
Is that all he’s planning to feed me, or was I being punished yesterday and that’s why I didn’t get any more? Should I steal something from the kitchen? What if…? She shook her head. Focus! The door first. Everything else can wait.
The wire found the last pin. Slowly Violet pushed, slowly the mechanism twisted and ground. Crr… crr…
Violet fell back, panting, staring at the lock. There. The door was opened. She’d done it. She could go.
She gripped the handle and stood up, damp palm sliding on the metal. The handle turned (distant, mechanical hands) the door swung open, thin beams of dull light sliding in from the corridor outside…
He’s out there.
Violet slammed the door and leaned against it trembling, cold sweat itching under her bandage. What am I doing? Don’t be stupid…
No, he’s out there. Waiting for me. I can’t leave, he’ll find me, he’ll catch me and I’ll be in so much trouble…
“He’s not home,” she told herself, swallowing dry-throated. “He goes out during the days. He won’t be here.”
He was yesterday. How do I know? How do I know he isn’t waiting right now…?
Violet slapped herself across the face. Not hard, but enough to reawaken yesterday’s bruise, set it burning across her cheek. “I don’t know,” she hissed, jaw clenched against the pain. “Maybe he is out there, and maybe he will catch me and maybe I’ll be dead within the week no matter what I do now, but I did not go to all this trouble to just give up!”
She flung the door open with all the strength in her arm and stood there, blinking in the light.
Nothing happened. No one came running. The ceiling didn’t fall in.
“Right,” Violet muttered. She smoothed a wrinkle out of her skirt. “I’ll try his bedroom first, I guess…”
It never occurred to me that this is why Monty was whisking them off to Peru as soon as they arrived, but it makes tremendously more sense that way.
We should be away for long enough to throw Olaf off the scent, and if he does follow us, hopefully he’ll be torn apart by something vicious.
Incredibly Snickety line.
Hurray for Violet! Only I've forgotten what she's looking for...