She is in the library when she hears it – breaking glass and an all-too-familiar crackle. For a moment she thinks she hears another sound, less familiar though equally distressing, but the fire is already spreading too fast for her to decide whether the laugh is a construct of her racing mind.
She grabs the book and holds it to her chest, racing out into the hall. “Bertrand!” she screams. There is no answer, and she spares a moment to be grateful that at least she sent the children to the beach today.
By now the rational part of her brain is screaming at her to go downstairs, where the smoke isn’t as thick, but when she turns the staircase is already engulfed in flames.
The last thing she sees before she passes out is the flames licking at the family Christmas portrait on the wall.
He races down the highway, probably farther above the speed limit than any volunteer should go, but this volunteer is running late for a vitally furtive date. He can’t believe that he misread the coded message. Now he has to drive all the way across town in ten minutes.
The light in front of the volunteer turns red, and he stops, drumming his fingers against the wheel impatiently. Even as pressed for time as he is, he would never go so far as to run a red light. And anyway, there’s another car in front of him.
Five impatient minutes later, he pulls up to Briny Beach and lets out a horrified gasp as he watches the man in the top hat help the Baudelaire children into his car.
He is too late. He knew it. He has to call Jacques right away.
Mr. Poe is unsure of what to say now. He had been bracing himself for tears, anger, some sort of outburst, but all three Baudelaire children are staring at him as if he just told them their parents are part of a secret organization. Perhaps he isn’t making himself clear enough.
“’Perished,’” he says, “means ‘killed.’”
“We know what the word ‘perished’ means,” Klaus says.
Mr. Poe has no idea how to answer that, so he explains the rest of the situation to them and leads them to his car.
He drives the children to his house, where they will stay for the next few days. Then he will take them to the man who calls himself O, and he will never have to talk to that awful man with the hooks for hands again.
Justice Strauss has never really wanted kids of her own, but when she sees the Baudelaires, she likes them at once. Perhaps it’s the polite way that the girl makes the introductions, or the boy’s comment on her title, or how they stand – all clustered together as if they are the only things holding each other up – but whatever it is, she feels a strong desire to help. She feels bad when she sees the way their faces fall when they see Olaf’s house.
Perhaps one day you could come over and help me with my gardening,” she says, in an attempt to cheer them up. It doesn’t seem to work, and she watches as they go glumly up the steps to her neighbor’s house.
They seem like nice kids. She hopes they will be okay.
As Violet follows Olaf down the hall, she remember hearing once that first impressions are often entirely wrong. Every step she takes in Olaf’s house, however, seems to prove just how entirely wrong that statement is.
Her fingers itch to pull out her ribbon and tie up her hair, imagining ways she could improve this place. For starters, she would put in better lighting. The system he has now is just lousy.
Then they reach their “bedroom” and all thoughts of rewiring go completely out of Violet’s head. This place is so horrible that she just wants to cry, but she is the oldest, and so she doesn’t. She simply holds her siblings tight, and doesn’t let go.
Klaus has never asked for much, just a book and a quiet place to read. Here, in Olaf’s messy, illiterate house, he has neither. When he and his sister’s go into Justice Strauss’s library – even though they’re only there for cookbooks, and later legal books – it’s like a long, cool drink of water in the desert.
The books in between, the ones he is able to borrow simply for his own enjoyment, are indescribable.
But none of this can compare with the moment he finally discovers what it is Olaf has in mind. For the first time, he can see his researching as an asset, instead of something that merely ostracizes him, a phrase which here means “separates him form his peers.” For the first time, he has a skill.
Sunny sits in the cage despondently, watching her equally morose sister perch uncomfortably on the grimy chair. If only she had been able to warn Violet, but this bad-tasting stuff that stops her from biting also keeps her from shouting. Not for the first time, Sunny wishes she were older. She wishes that she could always understand what people said. She wishes that everyone understood what she was saying. She wishes that she weren’t so often overlooked. She really wishes that she were too big to fit in a birdcage. But more than anything, Sunny wishes that she could help her family.
When the hook-handed man first pulled Violet over the windowsill, he was reminded for an instant of another dark-haired face (dark eyes behind triangular glasses resting on a pert snub nose), though they aren’t alike in anything but the determined expression.
“How pleasant that you could join us,” he said evilly, putting the memory out of his head.
Now he has to go get the bookworm up to the tower too. In his opinion, those three orphans were far too resourceful to be together, even locked in a tower and with one of them dangling out the window, but far be it from him to question the Boss’s decision. Besides, it will give him the opportunity to rudely awaken someone under great stress, one of his favorite pastimes.
Count Olaf presses the OFF button on the walkie-talkie and grimaces. That Violet is entirely too clever for her own good. Such a pretty face, though.
For a moment Olaf thinks of another pretty face that masked a clever mind, but he immediately banishes that thought to the back of his head. For now, he must focus on the matter at hand. Later, after all of this has been settled and her bratty siblings have been disposed of, then he and Violet will have time to . . . get to know each other better.
The jogger usually tried to avoid the dark house where that strange man with the eye on his ankle lives, but tonight for some reason he finds himself running down that street. He immediately crosses to the other side and unconsciously holds his breath.
Then he sees something that makes him pause. Is that a . . . birdcage hanging from the tower? He peers in closer, but he can’t see, and he’s not about to take one more step toward that house.
It’s nothing, he decides. Probably just some laundry. He jogs on, glancing back every few minutes. He will go home, read the paper, and go to bed. By the time the story about the fraudulous play is in the newspapers, he will have forgotten all about it.
The young woman with the white powder on her face watches Violet putting on her wedding dress. The girl’s face is distant, and the white-faced woman wonders what she is thinking.
Next to them, the other white-faced woman helps Klaus with a pinched expression. Before now, she has always been the one to play the heroine. Even though she knows it’s all just a trick, she’s still irritated.
Both women think, for the first time, that maybe there is another choice. Maybe they could live somewhere without Olaf, without arson and kidnapping and stealing.
But then the director calls the beginning of Act Three, and the women hurry to their places onstage.
The young girl shifts restlessly in her seat. Her parents said that they would take her to a fun performance for her birthday, but this show has been no fun at all. The first two acts have been nothing but boring dialogue and even more boring plot. She hoped that when it got to the actual wedding it would get more interesting, but now it’s just boring legal talk. She begins to tune it out, wondering what her grandmother will send her for her birthday.
The sound of gasps brings her back to the present, and she glances up at the stage. The actors appear to be arguing with one of the members of the audience, a small round man in a top hat. Are they trying audience participation now? It’s about three acts too late for that.
The girl gets up and heads for the bathroom. She has had enough of this lousy show.
Jacques puts down the Daily Punctilio and drops his head into his hands. Kit isn’t going to take this very well.
Mr. Poe hangs up the phone and turns back toward the Baudelaires. “Well, that takes care of that,” he says, grateful to have the whole thing behind him.
Violet remembers the cold voice in her ear and shudders. She knows that Mr. Poe is very, very wrong about that.
Klaus puts a hand on his sister’s knee comfortingly. He doesn’t know what has her so worried, but he’s willing to help her however she needs it.
Sunny glances up at her two siblings and gives a little sigh of contentment. Whatever the danger, she is back with her family, and that’s all that matters.
Justice Strauss paces back and forth in her library, then walks decisively over to the shelves. If she cannot help the Baudelaires, then perhaps there are other orphans out there in need of assistance.
Far away, in a small attic room, a mysterious man leans away from a typewriter and stretches. He flips through a couple of files, runs his finger down a sheet of paper to find a certain line, and then returns to his work. He hasn’t got a lot of time.