Dante's Stars

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of these characters and make no profit from this story.

Warning: This is a V/K fic. I regard flamers as masochists. Please don't torture yourself to no purpose and waste your time, if you already know that you oppose the featured pairing. I repeat: THIS IS A V/K FIC. If that bothers you, kindly exit and be on your way.

Author's note: The story is set in Movieverse, but I am attempting to incorporate some aspects of the books as well. I hope it will prove enjoyable to fans of both categories. Rated "M " for later chapters.

The Baudelaires were dead.

"A horrible calamity," the headlines screamed. "A capsized ferry." Thirty people had drowned, including two teenagers and a small child- the Baudelaire orphans.

The newspapers had published their names in a list of the deceased, yet he could not quite believe they were gone. And so he had come to see for himself. He adjusted the collar of his trench coat as he stood in the lingering trails of fog at the water's edge. He'd always been fond of the docks, the haze of smoky gloom and the nameless, itinerant sailors who asked no questions of him. Now he could only wait, watching as the rescue crews dredged the black water with nets, like morbid fishermen, and brought in corpse after corpse. But there were no children, no young people, among the deceased.

Another boat pulled into the harbor, with still more rescuers and victims of the accident. "That's the last of them," one of the disembarking workers remarked.

"You're certain there are no more?" he asked, with a concern that seemed genuine to the weary crewmen.

" 'Fraid not. The ones we didn't find were washed out to sea. It's a damn shame."

"Such a waste," he agreed, apparently lost in thought.

The mariners left him then, off to drink away the day's sorrow in a nearby pub. And he was alone.

"A waste indeed," he grumbled to himself. His tireless search for those impudent brats, who managed to evade him time and again; the many sleepless nights he'd spent devising his plans to snare them; the crafty disguises he'd so masterfully fashioned. All had come to nothing, as useless as the rickety hulk of a ferry that still remained, half-submerged, in the choppy water.

A cold wind blew over the shipyard, and he left the grisly scene in apathy. At length, he reached the end of the piers, where a labyrinth of narrow roads and alleyways led back into the heart of the city.

He was about to turn down one dark street when his gaze was drawn to an old, wooden storage shed, not two yards from where he stood. In the dying light, something flittered on the rough planks of the shed wall, catching his eye- a black satin ribbon, snagged on a protruding nail. The ribbon flapped about in the air like a fish trapped in a net, and he moved to seize hold of it.

Upon examining the flimsy bit of fabric, he grinned. And his shiny, shiny eyes were full of malevolent triumph, thinking of a lovely, if troublesome, girl who owned just such a ribbon.

Curiously, this one even bore the same frayed edges and slight rips in three places. He laid it across the fingers of his right hand, palm turned upward; exactly where he'd once grabbed it, to tear it from her smooth, auburn hair. He still remembered her cry and the frightened look in her eyes, though it had been fleeting.

Violet Baudelaire would never fear for herself as much as she feared for her siblings. They were all three the same, so foolishly loyal to one another, so predictably selfless. It was the fatal flaw in the Baudelaire's alliance, a weakness that had proven quite useful to him before. Threaten the life of one and the others would do as he wished; it was simple enough. If Violet lived, he did not doubt that Klaus and Sunny would be with her.

He held the ribbon to his nose, inhaled the scent of sand and salty seawater... and her. This ribbon belonged to Violet, as sure as the bleak night that descended around him now. How had it come to be here, so far from the site of the accident? There were no children among the recovered dead...

Now, as he looked closer, he could see three sets of footprints in the mud and the sand, footprints trailing from the water's edge into the dank, dark alley behind him. One set was tiny- made by a child, no doubt. It ended near the very spot where he'd found the ribbon. There were two small imprints, like skid marks on the muddy ground, as though the youngster had been picked up in a hurry.

"So, they thought they could fool me," he muttered to himself, giving off the appearance of a man deranged. With a harsh laugh, he stuffed the ribbon into his coat pocket. It belonged to him now, just as she would. Perhaps, in his gracious generosity, he might return it to her...as a wedding gift...

Thoughts of Violet swirled in his head. The pure white wedding dress she'd worn that day...The way her eyes had glistened with tears...His own jubilation as he'd waved the marriage certificate before the audience, knowing that he would have the girl and her fortune and no one would stop him...

But then the document turned to ash in his hand, and the face of her brother was there, grinning victoriously behind a huge glass eye.

How ironic, he mused, that his own fire-starting device had been turned against him. What terrible humiliations he'd suffered because of those children; to have victory so near, only to see his designs thwarted again and again.

This time would be different. There would be no more disguises, no more failures...

He had scant knowledge of their whereabouts, but this concerned him little. Only death could put the Baudelaires beyond his reach. And they were very much alive.

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